Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Iraq warned by US that Mosul Dam at risk of collapse

WASHINGTON - The top US military commander in Iraq warned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in May that the country's biggest dam, just up the Tigris River from the northern city of Mosul, is at risk of collapse, putting the city's 1.7 million people in danger of being inundated by a 65-foot flood wave.

The letter from Army General David H. Petraeus, cosigned by the US ambassador to Iraq, is included in an audit to be published today. The report found that little or no progress has been made to shore up the Mosul Dam since the May warning, largely because a $27-million project funded by US reconstruction money has been plagued by mismanagement and possible fraud.

Although the new report falls short of saying that a collapse could be imminent, the auditors exhort the US Embassy to quickly put in place a new plan to shore up the dam.

The audit noted that a study completed more than three years ago found "the risks are high" that the dam could fail.

The May 3 letter from Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the US Army Corps of Engineers had warned US forces in December that they should move any American equipment away from the Tigris River floodplain near Mosul because of the dam's instability.

Petraeus and Crocker wrote that the warning applied to Iraqi civilians as well and urged Maliki to make the safety of the dam "a national priority" for the government.

"A catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam would result in flooding along the Tigris River all the way to Baghdad," more than 200 miles south of Mosul, the letter warned. "Assuming a worst-case scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul Dam filled to its maximum operating level could result in a flood wave 20 meters (more than 65 feet) deep at the city of Mosul, which would result in a significant loss of life and property."

The report, written by the US government's Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, found multiple failures in several of the 21 contracts awarded last year to repair the dam, including faulty construction and delivery of improper parts, and projects that were incomplete despite full payments.

The report did not detail the nationalities of the companies that had been awarded the contracts.

The dam, more than 2 miles wide, has been a problem for Iraqi engineers since it was completed under Saddam Hussein's regime in 1984. It was built in an area of shifting earth, which caused seepage within months of its completion and led investigators to determine that "the Mosul Dam site was fundamentally flawed."


Great, now Al Queda can add the dam to thier target list.

I would.

From Iraq with love..

Ok this is just my own conspiratorial ramblings.

But has anyone noticed the outbreak of Staph infections spreading throughout the schools?

I guess this is one of those "is it just me?" things, but I think that the resistant strain that is spreading like wildfire is coming from Iraq. I think that troops coming home, or visiting home are carrying this strain back from the hospitals, and or bases in Iraq. Furthermore I think that the CDC knows all about it. I mean usually Dr. Gerberding the director would be all over an outbreak like this one. Yet she is strangely absent from the spotlight. The only reason that I can think of is that the administration does not what to fuel any fear of returning soldiers, something that could become a weapon in the hands of the anti war people.

I of course do not want to hand ammunition to anyone. But come on, if there is a problem I think there could be easy solutions like isolating everyone that comes back for a few days to make sure they are clear before letting them in with the general population. Something that would be much better than just hiding the truth and letting a serious problem fester.

I can just see a few more kids dieing before a scandal breaks out being like handing nukes to the anti war people.

Turkey: Fighting With Kurds Will Surge

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey's prime minister said Tuesday increased military action against separatist Kurdish rebels was "unavoidable" and pressed the United States for a crackdown on guerrilla bases in northern Iraq.

Turkish helicopters pounded rebel positions near the border with rockets for a second day and Turkey brought in troops by the truckload in an operation against mountainside emplacements.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his party in parliament "it is now unavoidable that Turkey will have to go through a more intensive military process."

But he also suggested he was not seeking an immediate cross-border offensive against the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, holed up in bases in northern Iraq. "The responsibility of leadership does not allow for narrow mindedness, haste or heroism," he said.

"We must remember that Turkey is part of this world and diplomacy has certain requirements," Erdogan added, suggesting the world expected Turkey to exhaust all nonmilitary options.

Erdogan flies to Washington on Nov. 5 for talks with President Bush that could be key to whether Turkey carries out its threat of a major military incursion. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also expected in Turkey later this week.

"We will openly express that we expect urgent steps from the United States, which is our strategic partner and ally and has a special responsibility regarding Iraq," Erdogan said.

The United States, Iraq and other countries have been calling on Turkey to refrain from a cross-border campaign, which could throw one of the few stable areas in Iraq into chaos. A Turkish incursion would also put the United States in an awkward position with key allies: NATO-member Turkey, the Baghdad government and the self-governing Iraqi Kurds in the north.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Bush's discussions with Erdogan would include "the fight against terrorism - in particular our joint efforts to counter the PKK."

Turkish Cobra attack helicopters blasted suspected PKK targets in the Mount Cudi area, near the southeastern border with Iraq for a second day, trying to hunt down some 100 rebels believed to be hiding in mountainside caves, the private Dogan news agency reported.

The fighting has claimed the lives of three Turkish soldiers and six guerrillas, local news reports said.

Transport helicopters flew in commando units to block possible rebel escape routes on Cudi, Dogan reported.

An AP Television News cameraman said attack helicopters escorted four Black Hawk helicopters on Cudi, as they airlifted soldiers to the mountain and picked others up. Smoke could be seen rising from areas that had been hit in the attacks.

Dogan reported a 100-vehicle military convoy traveling from Cizre toward the border.

A Kurdish political party warned that the fighting threatened to increase animosity between the Turkish and Kurdish populations in Turkey.

Turkey is "moving toward a dangerous war in our region which will seriously damage historical relations between Turks and Kurds," Nurettin Demirtas, a senior party official, told reporters.

Erdogan's Cabinet scheduled a meeting for Wednesday to discuss possible economic measures against groups supporting the Kurdish rebels.

Deputy Prime Minister Hayati Yazici said Turkey was considering a series of sanctions against the self-governing Kurdish administration in Iraq's north.

Yazici would not give any details, but the Iraqi region is heavily reliant on Turkish electricity and food imports, as well as Turkish investment in construction. There has been talk of shutting down the Habur border crossing - the only vehicular route into Iraq from Turkey.

Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the Iraqi Kurd regional government, complained that economic sanctions "would represent a collective punishment against Kurdistan's people."

He warned that Turkey and the U.S. Army also would suffer if the border crossing was closed. About 70 percent of U.S. air cargo headed for Iraq goes through Turkey, as does about one-third of the fuel used by the U.S. military there.

Massoud Barzani, the leader of Iraq's Kurdish region, called for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

"We believe that military action is not the solution. We are not part of this problem and we will not allow anyone to drag us into a war that is not our war," Barzani said at a news conference after a meeting of the regional parliament in Irbil.

At least 46 people have been killed by the PKK in Turkey over the past month, according to government and media reports. Those included at least 30 Turkish soldiers killed in two ambushes that were the boldest attacks in years and increased domestic pressure on Erdogan to act.


Sure it's unavoidable, as long as Turkey refuses to deal with it's own racism and hostility to the Kurds. As long as Turkey refuses to change there will always be the unavoidability of war with the Kurds.

I think I will start to petition the EU to fail Turkey's application for membership. They already have had the Inquisition, and the Final Solution, they don't need another holocaust within the borders of the EU.

CMA Draft

"Today we did a CMA (Community Medical Assistance) project in a remote village outside of town. It was a great opportunity to give out a bunch of the donations that I received. A ton of 6 M.I.K. 2.0 readers have sent me medical supplies, toys, candies, and school supplies. I loaded a picture book on the right hand column where you can view a lot more of the pics from today. I encourage everyone to continue sending me stuff. I will personally hand deliver them and always include pics. These 2 children below were some of the ones that benefited from your kindness."
6 Months in Kabul

Monday, October 29, 2007

Iraq's Endangered Christians Promised Protection

Iraq’s prime minister vowed Saturday to protect and support the country’s rapidly diminishing Christian population which has been fleeing the sectarian violence in the country.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki affirmed the Iraqi government’s determination to defend the endangered Christian community after receiving the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, Emmanuel III Delly, according to The Associated Press.
Delly, who is the head of the Chaldean Church in Iraq and spiritual leader to all Chaldeans, has pressed for more protection of Iraq’s Christian minority from violence.

In response, Iraq’s prime minister pledged to stop the outflow of Iraqi Christians.

The Christian population in Iraq, composed mostly of Chaldeans, is only about 600,000, down from 1.2 million before the 2003 U.S.-led offensive. And while Christians now account for only about three percent of Iraq’s population, they make up nearly half of all the refugees fleeing the country, according to estimates by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nearly 2.2 million Iraqis have left the country.

“While all Iraqis are threatened by violence, the non-Muslim minorities face particularized forms of harassment and abuse; what is more, these groups appear to suffer a degree of violent attacks and other human rights abuses disproportionate to their numbers,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last month.

USCIRF – the bipartisan U.S. government task force responsible for monitoring religious freedom in the world – has warned of a possible “extinction” of certain Iraqi Christian communities, such as the Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, if the U.S. government does not intervene and protect Iraq’s Christians.

“The situation for the non-Muslim minority communities in Iraq has gone beyond critical,” USCIRF emphasized.

A key concern is that Christians have been increasingly the target of sectarian violence by both Sunni and Shiite Islamists, as well as criminal gangs. An alarmingly high number of Iraqi Christians are kidnapped for ransom because of false perception that Christians have money – as some own shops or have relatives abroad.

Also, Islamic extremists label Iraqi Christians as “crusaders” loyal to U.S. troops and thus target them, according to AP.

“[F]requent sectarian violence, including attacks on religious places of worship, hampered the ability to practice religion freely,” stated the annual International Religious Freedom Report released by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in September.

“Christians also reported that Islamic extremists warned Christians living in Baghdad's Dora district to convert, leave, or be killed,” it further noted.

Persecutions include church bombs, death threats, and actual murders.

“Religious liberty is deeply rooted in our principles and history as a nation, and it is our belief in this universal human right that leads us into the world to support all who want to secure this right in this lives and in their countries,” Rice said at the release of the International Religious Freedom Report.

“Freedom of religion is also integral to our efforts to combat the ideology of hatred and religious intolerance that fuels global terrorism," she added.

The largest Christian communities are located in the north in Mosul, Erbil, Dohuk, and Kirkuk.


I'm sure. The only way to protect any community is to protect all communities equally. Something they are just not willing or able to do. So this assurance and 50 cents will buy a cup of coffee

Egypt to Build Nuclear Plants

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Egypt's president announced plans Monday to build several nuclear power plants - the latest in a string of ambitious such proposals from moderate Arab countries. The United States immediately welcomed the plan, in a sharp contrast to what it called nuclear "cheating" by Iran.

President Hosni Mubarak said the aim was to diversify Egypt's energy resources and preserve its oil and gas reserves for future generations. In a televised speech, he pledged Egypt would work with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency at all times and would not seek a nuclear bomb.

But Mubarak also made clear there were strategic reasons for the program, calling secure sources of energy "an integral part of Egypt's national security system."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. would not object to the program as long as Egypt adhered to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines.

"The problem has arisen, specifically in the case of Iran, where you have a country that has made certain commitments, and in our view and the shared view of many ... (is) cheating on those obligations," he said.

"For those states who want to pursue peaceful nuclear energy ... that's not a problem for us," McCormack said. "Those are countries that we can work with."

The United States accuses Iran of using the cover of a peaceful nuclear program to secretly work toward building a bomb, an allegation Iran denies. Iran asserts it has a right to peaceful nuclear power and needs it to meet its economy's voracious energy needs.

Iran's program has prompted a slew of Mideast countries to announce plans of their own - in part simply to blunt Tehran's rising regional influence.

"A lot of this is political and strategic," said Jon Wolfsthal, a nonproliferation expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Egypt is highly sensitive to the fact that Iran hopes to open its Bushehr nuclear plant next year, said Mohamed Abdel-Salam, director of the regional security program at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

"(Iran's) regional role, as well as Iran's political use of the nuclear issue, have added to Egypt's sensitivity," he said. Other Arab countries' recent nuclear announcements "added extra pressure on Egypt not to delay any more."

Jordan, Turkey and several Gulf Arab countries have announced in recent months that they are interested in developing nuclear power programs, and Yemen's government signed a deal with a U.S. company in September to build civilian nuclear plants over the next 10 years.

Algeria also signed a cooperation accord with the United States on civil nuclear energy in June, and Morocco announced a deal last week under which France will help develop nuclear reactors there.

Despite the declarations of peaceful intentions, there are worries the countries could be taking the first steps toward a dangerous proliferation in the volatile Mideast.

Such fears intensified when Israel launched a Sept. 6 airstrike against Syria, a country allied with Iran that the United States accuses of supporting terrorism.

U.S. officials have been quoted in news reports as saying the strike targeted a North Korean-style structure that could have been used for the start of a nuclear reactor.

Syria denies that it has a secret nuclear program, and says the building was an unused military facility.

Israel has not officially commented on the raid or acknowledged carrying it out.

But Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, this weekend criticized Israel and the U.S. for failing to provide the IAEA with any evidence backing up the claim of a Syrian nuclear program.

Following a policy it calls "nuclear ambiguity," Israel has never confirmed nor denied having a nuclear weapons program itself.

Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at an Israeli nuclear plant, spent 18 years in prison after giving details of the country's atomic program to a British newspaper in 1986. His information led many outside experts to conclude that Israel has the world's sixth-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Egypt's envoy to the United Nations, Magid Abdel Fattah, warned later Monday that Israel's refusal to join IAEA's Non-Proliferation Treaty endangers the entire Middle East.

Because of Israel's ambiguity, its nuclear installations are not subject to comprehensive guarantees and such a situation "threatens an arms race that jeopardizes security and stability of the region," Fattah was quoted by the state MENA news agency as saying.

Egypt first announced a year ago that it was seeking to restart a nuclear program that was publicly shelved in the aftermath of the 1986 accident at the Soviet nuclear plant in Chernobyl.

Mubarak offered no timetable Monday, but a year ago, Hassan Yunis, the minister of electricity and energy, said Egypt could have an operational nuclear power plant within 10 years.

Egypt has conducted nuclear experiments for research purposes on a very small scale for the past four decades, at a reactor northeast of Cairo, but they have not included the key process of uranium enrichment, the IAEA says.

Abdel-Salam said Egypt has extensively studied a site for a plant, at El-Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast west of Alexandria, and predicted a facility could be built within three years.

Outside experts were more conservative, with Wolfsthal saying a decade or longer was more likely. Egypt will almost certainly have to rely on extensive foreign help to build a plant, he said.


Bloggers, soldiers recount Iraq's front lines

Nearly 40 journalists, soldiers, Marines, activists, authors, bloggers, filmmakers, professors and dedicated students gathered on campus this weekend to discuss coverage of the war in Iraq and the importance of first-hand accounts of war as keys to the public's understanding of the war.

"Front Lines, First Person: Iraq War Stories," a two-day conference sponsored by the Watson Institute for International Studies, brought together some of the world's most celebrated chroniclers of war and packed them into the Joukowsky Forum for hours of discussion and debate, hoping to create "bridges for conversation" across the fault lines between soldiers and civilians.

"Progress doesn't take place in the university, in the military or in political circles through blind consent," said Professor of International Studies James Der Derian, one of the conference's organizers. "It only happens through contestation - dissent with a willingness to listen to the other."

Six two-hour sessions Friday and Saturday allowed attendees to hear a wide range of perspectives from 20 panelists, including award-winning blogger and Iraq war veteran Colby Buzzell, military blogger Matthew Burden - aka "Blackfive" - and Deborah Scranton '84, whose recent film "The War Tapes" won the Tribeca Film Festival's "Best Documentary" honors and was shortlisted for an Oscar nomination.

In a Saturday morning session on "Reporters and Rapport," Charles Monroe-Kane, a producer for National Public Radio, praised public media outlets such as NPR over commercially owned media outlets for capturing more personal, in-depth war stories without being "beholden to a Pepsi commercial."

Members of the Senate, when they approved the use of force in Iraq and, especially, in Afghanistan, had little information about what they were voting on, former Sen. Lincoln Chafee '75, now a fellow at the Watson Institute, said during a Friday panel called "The Ground Truth from Iraq to the Beltway and Back." He said he went to Iraq twice after the invasion to get a first-hand view of the country, instead of the watered-down version shown to politicians. But the second time, he said, the situation was so dangerous that it was difficult to gather good information.

Sgt. 1st Class Toby Nunn, a Canadian citizen currently serving with the U.S. Army, spoke in a live videocast from his base in Iraq about his desire to earn U.S. citizenship through military service, during a Friday session on "What Stories Do and Don't Get Told and Why."

Brian Palmer '86, an independent journalist and filmmaker, showed clips of his first film "Full Disclosure: A Reporter's Journey Toward Truth" and spoke about the importance of context in war reporting during the Saturday morning session.

Eric Rodriguez '08, who served with the Army in Iraq during 2003 and 2004, recalled his brigade's humanitarian missions and the comfort and security that serving in the army gave him at the conference's first session, "The Ground Truth."

But most conference attendees interviewed by The Herald said the true value of the conference wasn't in the speeches but in the long question-and-answer periods that followed each session and in unstructured conversations held during breaks.

The second session on Friday - "What Stories Do and Don't Get Told and Why" - ended in a heated discussion about why the personal stories of soldiers often aren't told to the public.

Col. David Lapan, a representative of U.S. Marine Corps Public Affairs, pointed to "a desperate lack of ground-level narratives" in media coverage of the war. But most journalists in the audience didn't seem to believe him.

"Do you guys really want us to interview these people?" Monroe-Kane asked Lapan. "(The military) doesn't really want me to ask an African-American woman who is the first combat helicopter pilot in Afghanistan what it's really like - they want the hero story. ... They don't really want to debate about women in combat, they don't really want to debate about sexism."

"We don't want to debate about women in combat because that's law," Lapan shot back.

But before Monroe-Kane could respond, author Erin Solaro jumped in to contest what she said are inconsistent and sexist rules governing female participation in military operations, and a shouting match ensued.

"Female soldiers run missions you won't let female Marines run," Solaro said. "You'll borrow them from the Army and stick them in the same damn infantry battalion." Lapan denied the charge as the heated debate continued.

The dust settled briefly as Monroe-Kane expanded on his earlier point about a lack of media access to soldiers.

"If the only way I can get to you is to be an embed - and now I'm relying on you to save my life - that's not journalism," he said.

"I beg to disagree," Palmer, the independent journalist who has been embedded with military units, said. The shouting resumed.

Though the Joukowsky Forum was filled with journalists and soldiers eager to have their voices heard, Brown students in attendance made contributions to the discussion. Students from INTL 1800E: "The Good Fight: Documentary Work and Social Change" - co-taught by Scranton and fellow event organizer and Associate Professor of International Studies Keith Brown - were required to sit in on the conference for an assignment.

During Nunn's videocast from Iraq, Jing Xu '10 drew nods of approval from the audience with her question to the soldier.

"I don't think any of us doubt that you earned your citizenship," she said. "But how do you feel about the fact that the profession that you chose separates you from what most people in the society - what other citizens - can relate to?"

"I never really thought about feeling like I've been separated from this society because I became a soldier," Nunn responded. "I don't think being Sgt. 1st Class Toby Nunn is the extent of my identity."

In a later Saturday event, on antiwar activism, International Relations concentrator Lena Buell '08 capped off the session with a question about verifying content from blogs.

"If we can no longer trust the mainstream media, who are held accountable for everything they publish," Buell asked, "how do we deal with the question of accountability in this sphere of new media?"

"The common criticism of blogs is that they don't have editors," said Der Derian, who has conducted extensive research on new media. "But in some ways, because of the proliferation of blogs, you have 10,000 editors - blogs, checking blogs, checking blogs."

Burden agreed that readers hold blogs accountable. "I can't tell you how many times I get asked to fact-check a story," he said. "I probably have some e-mail right now about it."

The conference also produced several head-turning moments, ranging from controversial questions to odd comments from panelists.

Jason Hartley, a member of the Army National Guard who published a blog and book about his experiences in Iraq, graphically described the first time he encountered bullet wounds during the war at the Friday session.

"This guy has a wound in his leg and it's bleeding badly," Hartley said. "I see the wound, and the first thing that comes to my mind is 'vagina' and 'sushi.' "

Confused faces and stifled laughter filled the room.

"Grossly inappropriate, right?" Hartley said.

A more tense moment arose on Saturday during the first part of a two-part session on "Amplifying Voices and Activism." Associate Professor of Anthropology Matthew Gutmann and Professor of Anthropology Catherine Lutz, collaborators on an oral history of Iraq war veterans who oppose the war, were fielding questions about their book when Scranton raised her hand from the back of the room.

After telling the story of an interviewee of hers who turned out to be making fraudulent claims about his time at war, Scranton posed a question to Gutmann: "Non-confrontationally, how do you verify those voices of dissent to know that they've actually been there and done these things, and that they're not just making it up?"

"You do it the same way you would with any oral history," Gutmann replied. "How do I know that any stories are actually true?"

But Scranton pressed Gutmann further, pointing out that he had not done the interviews himself and seeming to imply that the left-leaning academic community might give "a more open reception to dissenting voices."

"You're questioning the veracity of these voices and no other voices we've heard in the last two days," Lutz said. "It's very interesting to me. You're framing it as this is a left-liberal audience, the students are going to be willing to believe this but not other things, but why didn't those students or anybody else question those other soldiers' words?"

Scranton told The Herald after the exchange that she didn't intend to question the integrity of Gutmann or Lutz, but she also pointed out that their book was the only work presented at the conference that didn't make use of first-hand accounts.

"Their project was the only work based on interviews someone else had done," Scranton said. "For me, with 'The War Tapes,' I did it." Gutmann, who said he felt the conference was skewed toward pro-war and ambivalent viewpoints, told The Herald that it was the circumstances of the question and not the question itself that disappointed him.

"The question in and of itself was fine, but why was it asked in that way just towards me?" he said. "I don't think it's an accident."

Almost every exchange during the two-day conference involved disagreement of some kind, but Saturday's early session, titled "Reporters and Rapport," featured a question-and-answer session during which nearly everyone agreed on the importance of context in reporting.

Palmer showed an eight-minute clip of fighting he shot during his time in Iraq that ended with a soldier shooting a downed Iraqi twice in the head. Palmer said the mainstream media would likely only show the last seconds of the clip to make soldiers out to be cruel warmongers. But, as the entire clip showed, the Iraqi had posed a dangerous threat to the soldiers.

Monroe-Kane agreed.

"That clip has to be eight minutes," he said. "But, by God, the commercial media only picks up the last 40 seconds."

As Saturday evening arrived and panelists began to depart, most said the conference had been a positive experience.

"A lot of the kids in the class were talking about how it's the best thing we've done at Brown," Buell, the student who asked about blogs' credibility, said. "It was enlightening to have all sorts of opinions in a room together, with each side forced to listen to the other side."

Der Derian agreed.

"There's been a lot of ideas but also a lot of emotions shared that you don't normally see in an academic setting," he said. "Some toes might have been stepped on, but people are going away saying it is the best opportunity they've had to learn about these issues. Some have even said it's the best event, period, they've attended on the war."

Buzzell on blogging the war

Colby Buzzell is a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who maintained a blog while at war in 2003 and 2004. His entries and some of his other thoughts were compiled into a book called "My War: Killing Time in Iraq," which won the 2007 Lulu Blooker Prize.

Buzzell, a panelist at the weekend's "Front Lines, First Person: Iraq War Stories" conference held by the Watson Institute for International Studies, sat down with The Herald to talk about war, blogs and the future.

Herald: How did you get started blogging about the war?

Buzzell: I was in Iraq as an infantry soldier when I found out about blogs from an article in Time Magazine. I really decided to start the blog out of boredom.

The tone of your blog is very much like that of a diary. How does it feel to have your personal thoughts printed and read by thousands of readers?

It's like somebody writing a diary and having it published, and having everyone criticize it, analyze it and dissect it. But I wanted to write honestly. I kept a journal when I was in Iraq and then stopped writing, so when I started to blog it was the same style of writing. You think to yourself, 'No one's going to read this,' but now they are.

Did you encounter any opposition from the U.S. Army for your candidness?

Yeah. This is the first war where soldiers have been online, and they were nervous about this soldier who was writing about the war from the front lines. In a way, I became an embedded journalist without knowing or trying, so they were kind of nervous about that because they had no control about what I saw or said.

How did it feel to go from "killing time in Iraq," part of your book's title, to killing in Iraq, the object of its pun?

There's not one truth, there's not one answer, there's dual meanings to everything - triple meanings to everything. It was the most boring experience I've ever experienced, but at the same time it was the most exciting experience.

Now that you've returned, you write periodically for Esquire magazine. Is journalism your new profession?

No, I'm not a journalist, I'm a writer. An aspiring writer. You have to go to school to be a journalist. I just write stories, man. I don't know what I do. I just write about what I see and what I experience.

The late great novelist Kurt Vonnegut personally endorsed "My War: Killing Time in Iraq," saying it "is nothing less than the soul of an extremely interesting human being at war on our behalf in Iraq." How does it feel to have one of the greatest authors of our time show such respect for your work?

I'm speechless. I don't know what to say. When I got the quote I was completely floored - that's possibly one of the coolest things that's ever happened to me.


The security file in Karbala changed nothing about the occupation

"The US occupying forces handed over the security file of the city of Karbala to the Iraqi authorities in that city today. Karbala is about 120 KM south east Baghdad. It is one of the holy cities for Muslims all over the world in view of the tomb of Imam Hussein who is the grand son of Prophet Muhammad (peace be up on them)."
I know I'm always taking sams threats seriously, but I think this time he's just bluffing. They have no way to strike us here at home. They only wish they did.

Welcome Back to "The Suck"

"Time warp. I'm back in Afghanistan, arriving at a little after 0100 local time last night. Ouch. Miserably long flights, a night in lovely Kuwait, and then a typically monumentally uncomfortable C-17 flight back into Bagram. I was secretly hoping my team would be out in The Valley and would have to come and get me in their own good time so that I could sleep forever.

Alas, twas not to be. "
Bill and Bob's

Finally! M-16s! Bye, Bye Kalashnikov!

"Pictures from today's "Security Handover" ceremony in Karbala Province (via nahrain.com)--attended by PM Nouri al-Maliki--show a curious sight: Iraqi soldiers carrying M-16s!

It has been recently decided by the US military and the Iraq Ministry of Defense to phase-out the Kalashnikov as Iraq's basic infantry weapon, and to substitute it with the M-16.

The Kalashnikov is a great battlefield weapon, especially suited for Iraq's climate (...lots of sandstorms), but it was, how shall I put it, too cheap-looking. It was a symbol of a defunct Soviet past and the schooling of Iraq's military in the craft of Soviet warmaking. It also made no distinction between the legal military and the insurgency; both sides carried the Kalashnikov."
Talisman Gate

Sunday, October 28, 2007


"The interest of the Progressive Historians has been piqued by YJA-STAR şehîd Devrim Siirt. Take a peek at the commentary by Gordon Taylor at the following links:

Moonlight in the Mountains

More Moonlight


The Friends of Aynur

Turkish Army Captives

The Edge of Catastrophe

Okay, I confess that I have absolutely no idea what makes mainstream journalists tick--except the possibility of their getting a regular paycheck--and I'm suspicious when the old reactionary news services report accurately anything in the Kurdish world. The BBC must have someone running all over North and South Kurdistan, though, because they have another piece out, this time on PKK's neighbors in South Kurdistan:"

It's All Quiet In Basra, Right?

"A few hours after the attack on Al-Faraheedi Private High School in Basra last week, Queen Amidala sent me the following e-mail form Basra:
Today, an explosion targeted the students of Al-Faraheedi private high school in Basra.

Scores of students were injured or killed in this attack. Nobody knows what the attacker's target was: the students or the concept of a private school.
So, I looked around for more details. Unfortunately, I couldn't find more details other than what the Queen sent me. Then, I saw this photo on the BBC's pictures of the day and couldn't help but think of the movie, "All Quiet on the Western Front.""
Fayrouz in Beaumont

The Strong Horse in Counterinsurgency

"...Bill Ardolino had a recent interview with an interpreter for the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines in Fallujah, the last significant battle for Anbar (Operation Alljah). The interpreter had this interesting observation about the Marines with whom he had spent much of the last seven months of his life: “They are so patient. And they can fight outside of their country overseas, and I don’t think al Qaeda or someone else can fight like Marines, overseas and so distant from home.”

Ledeen concludes his perspective on the reasons for the winning strategy in Anbar, by saying that “We were the stronger horse, and the Iraqis recognized it.” Ledeen is not merely bragging about the capabilities or accomplishments of the Marines in Anbar, although there are plenty of reasons to do that. The point goes further, and is the hinge upon which all of counterinsurgency turns. Winning hearts and minds has to be about showing and using the strength to pacify a population, bring security to its people, and surgically defeat the enemies amongst them."
The Captain's Journal

Cautious tranquility, tourists continue their tours along Iraqi-Turkish borders

Duhuk, Oct 18, (VOI) – Relative tranquility prevails at Iraq's cross border regions with tourists flocking to the northern province of Duhuk, despite the mobilization of Turkish troops and a recent parliamentary vote endorsing military operations in Iraqi territories to hunt down separatists of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Col. Hussein Tamr, the chief of the border guard forces in Duhuk, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI), "No Turkish shelling of cross border regions has been reported since last Sunday."

At a late hour on Saturday, several parts of Duhuk came under artillery fire for two
hours, in an obvious escalation by Turkish forces which threatened to launch a massive incursion into northern Iraq.

Yesterday the Turkish parliament voted and approved on a government memo authorizing the army to pursue Kurdish separatists inside Iraq.
Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani called on Turkey to adopt a peaceful solution to the crisis and to avoid the military approach.

While expressing their concerns about imminent military strike against several parts of Iraq's Kurdistan, several residents said that the region is in a state of "cautious tranquility."

Muhammad Saleh, a 52-year-old farmer in Barkh village in Zakho district, told VOI that local residents are expecting military interference within the coming few days.

Wahid Kisty, 45, a government employee from the cross border village of Kista in al-Imadiya district, said, "Our area was not bombed during the past two days, but we are scared of the thought that Turkish missiles may drop on our heads."

"We urge the world and the Iraqi government to interfere to put an end to these operations. We have no relationship whatsoever with the PKK, which does not attack Turks from our land," Wahid added.

Disregarding the tense political situation in Duhuk, Iraqi tourists are flooding into areas less than two km from the international borders with Turkey.
Sahar Diyaa, a tourist company coordinator guiding a group of tourists in the province, said, "During the past months, our company organized over 20 trips to this area despite sporadic Turkish artillery shelling."

"We reject Turkish threats. A threat to the Kurdistan region is a threat to Iraq," she added.

Munthir al-Dawwaf, a 50-year-old engineer from Baghdad who came to visit the tourist sites in Duhuk, indicated, "We want to live in peace on our land and we pray for Iraq's stability."

Meanwhile, Firyal Victor, a house wife, said, "We Iraqis: Muslims, Christians, Arabs and Kurds, live together and share one destiny. Some people from outside Iraq do not want this coexistence."

Voices of Iraq

New news outlet recommended by Zeyad

Countercolumn Flashback

"I wrote this back in 2005, but had forgotten about it until today.

I was having a conversation with my Dad about Al Anbar and the recent positive news coming from most of Iraq. Or lack of news, anyway. And I said that my assessment was that the recent progress wasn't due so much from the additional troops in the surge as it was with the way they were being employed.

Under the old management, American troops didn't live in the communities they operated in. They quartered in large FOBs across town, and "commuted to work." Too much was done mounted, and you had units that had "Death Before Dismount" posted on signs around the FOB and on their vehicles. "

Friday, October 26, 2007

Q:What do you call an Iraqi with a sheep under one arm and a chicken under the other?

A: Bisexual.
Peter H | 10.25.07 - 12:51 pm | #

Sorry, but I just had too.

Missed opportunity for peace with Iran

"I'm watching an excellent Frontline special on Iran right now. Frontline interviewed many experts and key people, including Vali Nasr. The reformists in Iran, led by Mohammed Khatami, wanted to normalize relations with the US. Dubya basically gave Khatami and the reformists the cold shoulder and rejected a key peace offer in 2005. Washington apparently saw the reformists as politically weak and unable to deliver. This may have been Bush's biggest blunder in American relations with Iran.
Watch the full program here."
Iraqi Mojo
Actually I disagree. These so called reformers only pretend reforms. They only do so to keep up the appearance of reform they know all to well they have no power to affect, nor would they ever take the steps necessary to put real reforms in place. I think the Clinton years was the proof of that. Had they really wanted to move even a step forward, they had all the opportunity to do so. All they did was dance in place.

A Tale of al-Qaeda Tow Tribes and a Militia, Contd.

"For some time I've been hearing some debate, that in many cases involved warnings, about the possible negative consequences of US troops and Iraqi government allying with Sunni tribes in fighting al-Qaeda. Honestly I wasn't inclined to comment on this since I thought it was a no-brainer—those tribal fighters are fighting al-Qaeda like no one else did and the change in Anbar testifies for their effectiveness.

But then someone sent me this video and asked for feedback; so here it is…
Now believe it or not this video talks about the very same part of Iraq where an earlier story we reported was taking place [earlier follow up here] Small world, isn't it? the significance of that story and the sequence of development does not arise from the magnitude of the local course of events but from the fact that these have close resemblance to many other situations in spots with mixed populations cursed by the presence and activity of both al-Qaeda and Shia militias."

Weapons Cache Captured

"Someone ratted out on some moojies, and so US troops bagged a weapons cache with 120 fully-assembled explosively-formed projectiles, with the copper plates for 120 more.

If they caught the guy who lived at the house, and he's not a uniformed serviceman entitled to CAT III Geneva Convention protection status (I doubt he is), then I have no particular problem with waterboarding his ass and working the chain of possession all the way back to Teheran."
This is one of those where I have to agree with Jason or whoever. You walk in and find someone sitting on a stash like that, and you do what you have to do. Period.
The problem is, you never find someone sitting on these stashes, and when you do, they don't even know what it is they are sitting on. so rarely is it when you find such a thing and also find the people that know what it is, all sitting in the same room.

The problem with the fucktards is that they will just say that the Iranians are there to counter the US...bla, bla, bla. So don't hold your breath

Just whining

"Breathing slowly.. In and out..that's what I have to do to keep myself from crying, and stay alive.
I'm more depressed than I've ever been in the last year I think.
It's weird. I thought going to college would be all I need.


Most of the lecturers this year are very educated, mostly professors with PhDs. I feel stupid. Is it possible that I have forgot so much of what I've studied before, or is it that my brain needs to be reactivated? I am so not used to keeping silent and having no answers..

Our classroom is in the 2nd floor, we have to go up 44 steps to get to it, down 44 steps to see people, we're so isolated.. We do this more than 3 times a day, my legs are killing me now."
A Star From Mosul
Looks like Mosul had flared way up. Custer's last stand? Or a look at what still awaits?

Why I AM a MilBlog

"When I started having issues about my blog a short time ago, I was told to get rid of it. I urgently researched dozens of MilBlogs, rules, regulations, advice and encouraging articles about Military Bloggers. Though I like to write about me, I sometimes write about my passions as they affect me.

One name kept popping up regarding frontline MilBloggers, Badger6. Everywhere I turned, Badger6 was referenced as both a problem and a cure. So, I emailed him and asked his advice on the matter and sought his guidance. I knew he was a busy soldier and quite frankly, never thought I'd hear from him."
This War and Me

Thursday, October 25, 2007

No Fast Delivery of Ray Gun to Iraq

QUANTICO, Va. (AP) — There's no doubt this oversized ray gun can deliver the heat. The question is, how soon can the weapon, which neither kills nor maims, be delivered to Iraq?

At a rain-soaked demonstration of the crowd-dispersal tool here Thursday, military officials said one could be deployed early next year. But others still need to be built and undergo more testing before being shipped, a slow-going process at odds with urgent demands from U.S. commanders for the device.

What the troops may see as needless delays, Pentagon officials view as necessary steps toward fielding a weapon never used before in combat. The device, known as the Active Denial System, uses energy beams instead of bullets and lets soldiers break up unruly crowds without guns.

That means fewer civilian casualties, a key ingredient to success in Iraq.

"We've been perfecting the art of the lethal since Cain and Abel," said Marine Corps Col. Kirk Hymes, director of the Defense Department's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

The goal now, he said, is to provide U.S. troops in hostile environments with a way to respond that is more potent than shouting but less final than shooting. To do so in a package that is safe, mobile and sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of combat shouldn't be rushed.

"We don't want to hand the operating forces a science project," Hymes said.

The denial system just completed a lengthy demonstration phase and is expected to receive a $25 million boost once Congress approves an Iraq war supplemental spending bill. The money will be used to buy five "Silent Guardians," a commercial version of the denial system built by defense contractor Raytheon.

"The systems themselves could be manufactured more than likely within 12 months if everything goes according to what Raytheon tells us," Hymes said.

An existing test unit, known as System 2, sits on a flatbed truck and will be the first to go to Iraq.

While delivery schedules might be murky, there's no denying the system's punch. To be hit by the invisible beam is to feel the intense heat of a suddenly opened furnace. The instant reaction is to move. Fast.

At Quantico, a Marine Corps base south of Washington, a test unit mounted on a Humvee stung reporters and military personnel who volunteered to enter a circle marked off by orange traffic cones.

The system is a directed-energy device, although not a laser or a microwave. It uses a large, dish-shaped antenna and a long, V-shaped arm to send an invisible beam of waves to a target as far away as 500 yards.

With the unit mounted on the back of a vehicle, U.S. troops can operate a safe distance from rocks, Molotov cocktails and small-arms fire.

The beam penetrates the skin slightly, just enough to cause intense pain. The beam goes through clothing as well as windows, but can be blocked by thicker materials, such as metal, wood or concrete.

Hymes said hiding behind a car or a sheet of plywood might temporarily protect a person. But in doing so, potential combatants "effectively render themselves immobile trying to get out of the way," he said.

The most determined volunteer lasted only a few seconds Thursday. The stinging was done by Senior Airman Robert Hudspeth, a 21-year-old senior airman from Florida. Sitting in the Humvee nearly 800 yards away from the circle, Hudspeth used a joy stick and a computer screen to send the beam on its way.

"It's pretty simple to use," said Hudspeth, who's been training on the denial system for the past three months. "You control everything from this computer."

There's been no shortage of commanders asking for the tool.

In August 2003, Richard Natonski, a Marine Corps brigadier general who had just returned from Iraq, filed an "urgent" request with officials in Washington for the energy-beam device.

A year later, Natonski, by then promoted to major general, again asked for the system, saying a compact and mobile version was "urgently needed," particularly in urban settings.

In October 2004, the commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force "enthusiastically" endorsed Natonski's request. Lt. Gen. James Amos said it was "critical" for Marines in Iraq to have the system.

American commanders in Iraq also have asked to buy Raytheon's device.

A Dec. 1, 2006, urgent request signed by Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Robert Neller sought eight Silent Guardians.

Neller, then the deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, called the lack of such a non-lethal weapon a "chronic deficiency" that "will continue to harm" efforts to resolve showdowns with as little firepower as possible.

On the Net:

Scotty, set your phaser to stun

I Wasn't Prepared For...

"I had to hurry to get to Atlanta by 1300 today so that I could in-process for a flight that boards at 1815 this evening. Typical. Hurry up and wait. God bless the United States Army.

The wonderful people of the USO provide free wireless internet, which I am now gratefully using to post to the Adventure as I wait for my flight back to the war.

I had prepared for saying goodbye to my children. I set a calm and cheerful example, and being prepared for it kept my emotions more manageable. My kids did pretty well with it, and I'm pretty sure that being calm myself really made a difference for them. I was prepared to say goodbye to my family. It's not easy, but it's something that you know is coming. It's not a surprise, like when you know that you're going to get an innoculation... the pain isn't a surprise."
Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure
Thanks Lynnis for the link

I thought people hated the war and Soldiers?

What NOT to send

"As Danny and I were cleaning the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) yesterday, we sorted through several boxes trying to organize the contents of care packages we have received. We realized that many people and organizations send necessities when they aren't sure what we needed. As the war has gone on, more and more things are available to soldiers on the frontlines now that weren't available when we started.

Many people have asked me lately what I need or want, what we need. Danny and I discussed it as we sorted though the plethora of goodies. The holidays are coming up and many people and groups are gearing up to send us care packages to show their support. We GREATLY appreciate the support of those back home and would never discourage that! We did however, come up with an urgent list of items we DO NOT need."
This War and Me

Seniors 4 Soldiers

"One of the faithful readers of Sam’s blog is a lady named Amanda. She is with an organization called Seniors 4 Soldiers which is based out of Lincoln California just north east of Sacramento. This organization is dedicated to serving severely wounded troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Financial assistance includes but is not limited to:
Special housing retro-fits to adjust to life with a disability
Financial assistance with medical bills
Educational assistance
Occupational Training and life skills assistance
Physical therapy
Personal and Family Counseling
Please take a few minutes to look over Seniors 4 Soldiers web site. This organization is a non-profit 501(c) (3) created solely to generate financial assistance for our wounded soldiers as they begin to adapt to a new way life.

Sam’s medical status:"
Sgt. Samuel Nichols, USMC
This one follows the recovery of an injured Marine

didn't plan to do this in Iraq...

"Ugg I have phone watch...it's a stupid post that was invented to punish certain people, now we all have to do it. I sleep next to a phone in the office, if it rings I have to go wake up the Major....but if the phone doesn't wake me up, it will automatically forward to his room anyway, completely pointless."
Longest Drill Weekend Ever
New milblog.

Bigger is not better....an email from Seth

"Jan and I had the pleasure of an early morning phone call with the boys. We did a conference call with Seth and Eli on seperate computers so we could all talk. Always a nice way to start the day! According to the boys they've developed a nice routine when they are on the base. They're working out in the gym each evening after supper, showering, shaving and then returning to their room for a movie before retiring. They're back on the base until this weekend when they will head out again. I'm sure most of you have seen Seth's most recent email, but here it is:"
American Soldiers
`This is one of the new series of soldiers family blogs I have been following of late. Sorry for the delay in posting links, I'll be getting to the others shortly. If you don't see new posting complain loudly.

Swimming With The Fishes

"Good afternoon. LtCol Peters and a few of my office mates returned from the new clinic this afternoon. LtCol Peters took what I think is my favorite picture of this entire trip. They were leaving from the clinic when this child on this donkey passed them by. Look closely and you can see that he is saluting the convoy."
6 Months in Kabul

Leaks and Recriminations

"Someone yesterday leaked documents of interviews between “Shock Troops” diarist Scott Thomas Beauchamp, editorial and legal representatives of The New Republic (TNR), as well as excerpts from the official Army investigation into Beauchamp’s conduct in publishing his “stories” at TNR.
As soon as these leaked documents appeared at the Drudge Report, conservative bloggers with long-time interest in the controversy and scandal jumped all over the story. Many bloggers on the right echoed Matt Drudge’s claim – apparently since retracted – that the documents constituted evidence of a complete retraction by Beauchamp, and included an admission by Beauchamp that he had fabricated the hoariest details of his discredited accounts."
The retracted Drudge report is posted here

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Report: 'World at peak oil output'

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The world has reached the point of maximum oil output and production levels will halve by 2030 -- a situation that will eventually lead to war and disaster, a report claims.

The German-based Energy Watch Group released a report Tuesday saying the world's oil production peaked in 2006 and from now on will drop by around 3 percent a year. It says that by as early as 2030, the global availability of oil will be half of what it was at its peak.

"It's a very serious result," said Hans-Josef Fell, a German lawmaker from the environmentalist Green Party who commissioned the report. "I fear the world will come into a big economic crisis in the coming years."

The report warns that coal, uranium, and other key fossil fuels are also in declining supply. It predicts the fall in fossil fuel production will bring with it the threat of war, humanitarian disaster, and general social unrest.

But Leo Drollas, who leads oil and gas market analysis and forecasting at the Center for Global Energy Studies in London, said there are plenty of supplies and no looming crisis. He said the report sounds like "scaremongering."

Drollas says production could still slow one day, but only because new reserves will be considered too difficult or expensive to extract.

"Oil could be left in the ground and we could move on to another fuel in the future, not because we're running out of oil but because, economically speaking, it is not worth extracting the oil," Drollas said.

The debate comes as oil prices have hovered at record level. Wednesday morning, NYMEX crude was listed at $84.96 a barrel; oil prices topped $90 a barrel last week.

Analysts do agree, however, that oil prices could continue to rise, especially if there is further instability in the Middle East.


Sending The World A Message On Genocide

Now playing on Capitol Hill: a political drama over whether Turkey deserves denunciation for its mass deportation and murder of Armenians starting in 1915, otherwise known as genocide.

Initiated by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, this symbolic vote has sparked more than symbolic anger from at the White House -- and from the Turkish government itself. The Bush administration insists that now is the not the time to be offending Turkey, which borders Iraq and provides the United States with key access routes in its war on terror.

Then there are ordinary people like my sister. More accustomed to condemning President Bush, she too frowns on the anti-genocide resolution. "How would it benefit the U.S.?" she asked me bluntly in an e-mail last week. Her question was not that of an American wanting to protect her country's best interests, but that of a Canadian who does not trust the motives of her narcissistic neighbor. I told my sister I would get back to her.

The timing of this resolution should raise questions -- all the more so because of who initiated it: Democrats in Congress. They are the gang for whom success in today's Iraq, not slaughter in yesterday's Turkey, is the signal issue in America. HBO's Bill Maher nailed that point when he quipped, "This is why the voters gave control of the House to the Democrats. To send a stern message to the Ottoman Empire."

Still, there is at least one important reason to recognize the Armenian genocide now, and it relates directly to America's implosion in Iraq: Democracy has been redefined not just in the Middle East, but also in the United States. These days, American politicians must pay attention to "voters" who live well beyond their shores.

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has put it, "Some of the things that are harmful to our troops relate to values -- Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, torture.... Our troops are well-served when we declare who we are as a country and increase the respect that people have for us as a nation."

Hers is a subtle argument about the need for the United States to reclaim the moral high ground on human rights. It might be too subtle for most Americans who, let us face it, have little concern for what may or may not have happened countless miles away more than three generations ago -- especially if the debate harms U.S. troops right now.

But Ms. Pelosi's argument is not meant for Americans. It is intended for an international audience.

America remains the only country in the world with a universal constituency. Domestic politics in the United States often have a profound effect in every corner of the earth, from determining immigration flows and investment patterns to handing leaders and their heirs the excuses they crave to blur the lines between God and government.

The same cannot be said of domestic politics in modern, multicultural entrepots such as India, Britain, or China. Nor do domestic politics in feisty, fiery states like Iran and Israel set precedents for the rest of us. Not yet, anyway.

No wonder so much of the world seethes that only Americans can vote for the next president of the United States. I hear it from young Muslims whenever I travel to Europe. And it is not just Muslims who express a sense of disenfranchisement. In my home of Canada, a regular columnist for the newspaper of record recently suggested that Al Gore would be president if people outside of the United States could cast ballots.

How many countries enjoy a reach so long and far that non-citizens would care enough to want a say in its leader -- or journalists would care enough to speculate how the rest of the world would vote?

America's universal constituency is what House Democrats are acknowledging in their Armenian genocide resolution.

Doubtless, I am about to be accused of naiveté. Left-wing critics will sniff that this condemnation is a pretext to milk campaign contributions from Armenian genocide survivors, who, like their Jewish counterparts, are dying off. And, bonus, worshipping at the altar of their potent lobbies has its rewards, after all.

Right-wing detractors will sneer that this move is meant to undermine the war on terror by alienating a crucial ally, even if unintentionally. Indeed, many House Democrats have begun wavering on the anti-genocide measure because of Turkey's threat to block its borders to American war planners should any vote pass.

That threat may be moot: With tensions escalating between military conflict now looming between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the border that Washington desperately needs to be free and clear is not. Ankara has been moving tanks, troops, and choppers to the Turkey-Iraq border. America's priorities do not count nearly as much as they did a week ago, genocide resolution or no genocide resolution.

Which brings us back to the original case for pronouncing on the Armenian slaughter -- a moral case.

The question for Americans ought to be: Since when is it wrong to speak out against genocide, however many years have elapsed? People of good conscience continued raising their voices against slavery in the United States well after abolition. Are they reckless or sinister for offending many Americans? In any event, is causing offense a reason to stop remembering?

Here is the question for Turks: Why should your history be immune to America's judgment when, according to surveys of global attitudes about the United States, you as a nation are among the most anti-American (read: judgmental) in all of the Muslim world?

Finally, a question for my sister in Vancouver who suspects American intentions: As a voter in that massive caucus called international public opinion, are you ready to credit some United States legislators for maturing?

I am not sure. Canadians take smug glee in the claim that only one-third of United States Congress members have passports. It is an old rumor that Democrats, at least, are striving to shed.

Will non-Americans meet them half way, or will we continue to charge them all with tribalism in order to appease a deeper insecurity within our own nations?

The campaign is on. Welcome to democracy.

CBS News

Editorial: U.S. self-inflicted wounds in Iraq

The ever-growing loss of life in the Iraq war is hard for many Americans to accept with equanimity. But what is also unacceptable in that war is the siphoning of billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayers' funds in outright fraud or administrative incompetence. That's outrageous and must not continue.

The latest evidence of such fiscal abuse and unaccountability surfaced this week in two separate reports ripping apart the State Department's oversight of a $1.2 billion contract for training Iraqi police. The program, run by a private American company, DynCorp, was so badly managed that a government audit could not figure out how the money was spent. And the State Department's own review found that it would take up to five years to sort out missing invoices and demand repayment from DynCorp for unjustified expenses.

Such expenses include the purchase of a $1.8 million X-ray scanner that was never used, and $4 million for 20 luxury trailers and an Olympic-sized swimming pool for company representatives - funds that were intended to build an Iraqi police compound. That's just the start. DynCorp, the State Department's largest contractor, claims no intentional fraud was involved. But then what borders on criminality is the department's own ineptness.

Training Iraqi police to take up security tasks now shouldered by U.S. troops is a key part of our strategy in Iraq. The waste and possible fraud uncovered by these reports undermine that goal. They are self-inflicted wounds.

The saddest part I see in this report is not that there is this type of fraud. The sad part is that I have been reading about it on the blogs for the last four years, and they are just getting around to discovering it today. That is the sad part, and the deepest wound of all.

Head of Iraqi Kurdish security speaks to Al Jazeera - 23 Oct


"Well we are getting settled in here and the old crew is filtering out. We have been out several times to other local US bases our Iraqi Partner Force HQ and their training camp. The Iraqis play very good hosts and always have lunch prepared for us, and/or Chai (tea) depending on the time of day. So far it has just been meet and greet type stuff, and the Iraqis are always asking for more support from us, even though our focus is to teach them to stand on their own (so we can stop coming here.) But it seems that this unit gets very little support from Baghdad, and according to the commander of this battalion sized element, the main reason is they refuse to function as an extension of the Dawa party. Of course, everyone here has an agenda and we have to be careful about taking anything at face value. People will say “Well, that’s how Arabs are.” But I saw the saw thing in Bosnia, and you get the same thing dealing with Organized Crime in the States. People only give you information if they get something out of it – the trick is to figure out how they stand to gain. Come to think of it I have had the same experience in consulting."
Sergeant Grumpy


"I have read so much garbage about the situation with Northern Kurds and PKK in the last couple of weeks that there is no point in even responding to it all. Take a browse through Technorati or Google Blog search with the terms "Kurds," "Kurdistan," or "PKK," and you'll see exactly what I mean. What is most striking about posts on the situation is the extremely high level of ignorance displayed by most who write on the subject. None of these writers has any context; they know nothing about the Dirty War; they don't even know that there are 20 million Kurds in Southeast Turkey.

Most of these are blowing their opinions out of their asses, and are totally bereft of any knowledge of the Kurdish reality in The Southeast--except, of course, for one particular blogger from The Netherlands, who admits he has a Turkish girlfriend, in which case we know from what part of his anatomy he opines. Then we have the propagandists for the extreme Right, neocon elements (like the freaks at Pajamas Media), or the nutcases on what passes for the Left (like the lemmings at Daily Kos)."

Iraq's Kurd Vow to Fight Turkish Troops

DERISHKIT, Iraq (AP) — Two Turkish jet fighters streaked across the mountain peaks near this border village Wednesday as part of an expanding military force gathered to pressure Kurdish rebels to abandon their hideouts in northern Iraq.

Residents claimed the planes were on a bombing run to hit a site about four miles inside Iraq, but could offer no details to back up their assertion. If true, however, the airstrike would mark a notable escalation of Turkish tactics against the Kurdish rebels.

The overflight came after three days of artillery shelling from inside Turkey at this area along the Zey-Gowra River, said Jalal Salman, the 45-year-old principal of the local school, and five other villagers.

Turkey's government has warned it will launch an offensive into northern Iraq if Iraqi authorities don't move against bases used by the Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged a more than two-decade fight for autonomy in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey.

Officials in Iraq's Kurdish region say there are no PKK bases, at least in populated areas under government control.

Local officials said the Turkish artillery fire had mostly hit orchards, roads, mountainsides and, in one case, a tourist restaurant in a cave. So far there were no casualties in this area, they said.

Five other Derishkit residents joined Salman and gestured toward a Turkish military post on a hilltop in the neighboring town of Khani-Mase. An armored vehicle stood on the heights, its gun pointing down the slope. The post is one of five bases established inside this part of Iraq in the mid-1990s with Iraqi Kurd agreement as part of Turkey's war against PKK separatists.

Salman said villagers were not intimidated by the base's soldiers, who they said sometimes fired machine guns at people gathering firewood on the slopes below.

They also said they won't hesitate to wage war on Turkish troops if an invasion comes.

"There will be a guerrilla war, and we will take up arms," Salman said as the other men nodded in agreement. "What else can we do? They are bombing us. They are committing aggression."

Popular anger at Turkey seems to be growing in northern Iraq, along with quiet preparations for conflict. There have been large demonstrations in the region's major cities, and television reports on a Kurdish protest in Turkey's capital riveted viewers here.

According to a report in one Kurdish newspaper, people living near one of the largest Turkish bases in northern Iraq threatened to attack the post if the Turkish army continued to fire artillery at the area.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish regional government has moved in units of its Peshmerga Defense Forces from the region's south. More than 100 of the fighters arrived aboard white buses Tuesday morning in Dohuk, capital of the region.

Smaller units of Peshmerga mustered in mosques and schools near the border, which they usually avoid because of the risk of clashes with Turkish troops. Several convoys of white SUVs, evidently carrying high-ranking Peshmerga commanders, were seen traveling in the area.

Muhammed Mohsin, an official with northern Iraq's dominant Kurdish Democratic Party in the Amadiya border area, said more than 50 villages in his area had been bombarded by Turkish artillery in recent days but no casualties had been reported.

Mohsin, one of the most influential political figures in Amadiya, said residents and the Peshmerga have laid plans for fighting any Turkish incursion.

"Our tactic is partisan fighting, a partisan conflict," he said. "If they attack, we are going to launch a partisan war against them."

Mohsin insisted there are no PKK camps in the Amadiya area.

But he also said dozens or hundreds of villages near the border had been evacuated and burned during Saddam Hussein campaign against Kurds and most remained empty. The Kurdish regional government has no control over this "no man's land," he said.

The area consists of range after range of arid mountains topped by sawtooth rocks, towering over narrow, twisting river valleys. "A million men could hide in those mountains," Mohsin said.

Many Iraqi Kurd officials suspect Turkey's real aim is to try to destabilize northern Iraq, the most peaceful part of the country, to discourage separatist sentiment among the millions of Kurds living in southeastern Turkey.

The PKK has been fighting against the Turkish government since 1984 in a war that has caused 30,000 deaths. While it previously demanded a separate Kurdish state in Turkey's southeast, it more recently has called for an autonomous region — similar to the region that the Kurds have in northern Iraq.

While the United States and Iraq's central government in Baghdad have labeled the PKK a terrorist organization, most Iraqi Kurds appear to regard its guerrillas as freedom fighters. They accuse the Turkish government of a long history of suppressing the Kurdish language and culture.

Many people here look to the United States to prevent Turkey from launching a major offensive into Iraq, some suggesting that Washington should respond with military force to any incursion.

"The U.S. is an occupying power," said Fahmi Salman, another regional Kurdistan Democratic Party official in Adamiya. "It is the duty of the United States to defend Kurdistan."

Salman said that even if the Americans don't help, the Kurds are prepared to defend their homes.

"The Kurds don't like war fighting," he said. "But if this happens, it will be a popular war. It will be against the people, and the people will fight."


I hate to say it, but I support the Kurds.

Down with America!!


The DRUDGE REPORT has obtained internal documents from the investigation of THE NEW REPUBLIC'S "Baghdad Diarist", Scott Thomas Beauchamp, an Army private turned war correspondent who reported tales of military malfeasance from the Iraq War front.

The documents appear to expose that once the veracity of Beauchamp's diaries were called into question, and an Army investigation ensued, THE NEW REPUBLIC has failed to publicly account for publishing slanderous falsehoods about the U.S. military in a time of war.

Document 1: Beauchamp Refuses to Stand by Story (Beauchamp Transcript Part 1)

THE NEW REPUBLIC has been standing behind the stories from their Baghdad Diarist, Scott Thomas Beauchamp, since questions were first raised about their accuracy over the summer. On August 10, the editors at TNR accused the Army of "stonewalling" their investigation into the stories by preventing them from speaking with Beauchamp. The DRUDGE REPORT has since obtained the transcript of a September 7 call between TNR editor Frank Foer, TNR executive editor Peter Scoblic, and Private Beauchamp. During the call, Beauchamp declines to stand by his stories, telling his editors that "I just want it to end. I'm not going to talk to anyone about anything really." The editors respond that "we just can't, in good conscience, continue to defend the piece" without an explanation, but Beauchamp responds only that he "doesn't care what the public thinks." The editors then ask Beauchamp to cancel scheduled interviews with the WASHINGTON POST and NEWSWEEK.

Document 2: Beauchamp Admits to "Gross Exaggerations and Inaccurate Allegations" (Beauchamp Transcript Part 2)

The DRUDGE REPORT has also obtained a signed "Memorandum for Record" in which Beauchamp recants his stories and concedes the facts of the Army's investigation -- that his stories contained "gross exaggerations and inaccurate allegations of misconduct" by his fellow soldiers.

Document 3: Army Investigation: Tales "Completely Fabricated," Beauchamp Wanted to be Hemingway

The third document obtained by the DRUDGE REPORT is the Army's official report on the investigation into the allegations made by Private Beauchamp. The Army concluded that Beauchamp had "completely fabricated" the story of mocking a disfigured woman, that his description of a "Saddam-era dumping ground" was false, and that claims that he and his men had deliberately targeted dogs with their armored vehicles was "completely unfounded." Further the report stated "that Private Beauchamp desired to use his experiences to enhance his writing and provide legitimacy to his work possibly becoming the next Hemingway."

The report concludes that "Private Beauchamp takes small bits of truth and twists and exaggerates them into fictional accounts that he puts forth as the whole truth for public consumption."


Which is of course the only thing he is allowed to do. If he were to post the exact truth about anything he saw in Iraq he would be court martial for violating OPSEC.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Iraq Sniper Attacks Quadruple (Updated)

Sniper attacks in Iraq "have increased steadily during the past year, with the number of attacks quadrupling," the Pentagon says. DANGER ROOM pal Catherine Macrae Hockmuth made the catch, after combing through the Defense Department's request for another $42 billion to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I know. Last month, in the Iraqi town of Tarmiyah, I spent time with soldiers who'd been hit with roadside bombs -- and stalked by a professional-grade sniper. The explosives were treated as a fact of life; no one seemed to give 'em that much thought, even after a convoy was hit. But the sniper, he was different. He had killed two soldiers, and wounded seven more. And, as a result, soldiers in Tarmiyah were spooked to go outside, even for a few minutes. Just about the first war story anybody told me was about a close encounter with the shooter.

Thankfully, the sniper seems to have gone into hiding. But the Pentagon is warning of "a shift in enemy tactics that increases the number of sniper attacks could potentially inflict even more casualties than IEDs."
To guard against such a shift, the Amendment includes $1.4 billion for a full suite of counter-sniper capabilities designed to prevent, survive, and react to sniper attacks. This includes enhanced optics, soldier protection, active sniper defeat systems, sensors, concealment, and development of new tactics.

I wonder whether those "new tactics" will include controversial moves like this?

Anyway, by the end of their tour, soldiers in Tarmiyah should be able to get information from acoustic sniper-detection systems sent directly to their next-gen soldier suits. Meanwhile, DARPA has launched a break-neck program to use lasers to snop snipers before they fire.

UPDATE: Dan points out that the Army is looking to put sniper-detectors on riverine patrol boats.


Monday, October 22, 2007


One stares in dumb amazement at the war front because, incredibly, front-page news in the past few days has had to do with what did or did not happen almost a hundred years ago. More exactly, what should what happened a hundred years ago be called?

The quarrel, put simply, is over the question, What do we call what was done to the Armenians by the Turks in the early years of World War I? The matter of interest is the persecution of the Armenians by the Young Turks and ancillaries in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, when the map of the Middle East was changing.
The dispute hit the front pages when a congressional resolution affirming that the events of 1915-1917 constituted genocide appeared likely to pass in the House of Representatives. The Turkish government reacted strongly, and President Bush urged Congress not to drive this wedge between the United States and an important ally in the region.

It may be of historical terminological interest what to call the Young Turks' action. But it is worthwhile to remember that it has been dubbed a "genocide" for many years, even though there has been technical resistance to the use of the holy word. A Polish-born lawyer named Raphael Lemkin coined the term "genocide" in 1943. "I became interested in genocide," he said, "because it happened so many times." His writings before World War II had concentrated heavily on the events in Armenia. More than one international organization has conducted studies of those events, each in turn determining that the term "genocide" accurately describes what has also been called a "massacre."

True, Lemkin did not have dispositive authority on the correct use of the word, and after the Nazi Holocaust became widely known, there were those who insisted that the Turkish holocaust should not be thought a member of the same family. Their point has been that Hitler's war against the Jews was ethnic and cultural, while the Turkish assault on the Armenians had to do with more conventional geopolitical issues. The Turks themselves contended that the Armenians were a fifth column working on behalf of the Russian Empire.

The questions are not uninteresting, but that they should have a bearing on the Iraq war seems strange until one studies the geography of the region. The interfaces are in the northeastern part of Iraq, the area known as South Kurdistan. There we have an irredentist passion among some Kurdish militants to sever formal ties to the government of Iraq, in favor of a new-old nation unified by cultural and historical factors. And, not incidentally, by physical control of rich oil deposits.

The Turks do not wish a new state bulging up between them and Iraq -- especially because their own Kurds would surely be emboldened if the Iraqi Kurds were successful. The situation could get "ugly," one U.S. military officer is quoted as saying, if Turkey were to send troops across the border to deal with Kurdish militants inside Iraq.

It was into this tense situation that the House resolution erupted. Every day one member of Congress or another associates himself with, or dissociates himself from, the resolution classifying as genocidal the Turkish activity of 90 years ago.

We are asked to believe that the Turkish high command judges it more important to resist such classification affirmed by an ally than to pursue the common aims in the region. On the moral point, there is no way in which Turkey can advance its credentials by trivializing what in fact was done to the Armenians, more than 1 million of them having been killed, allowed to starve, or exiled. But this ought not to be a quarrel that affects contemporary points of contention in Iraq. Those who linger with the muse of Clio are giving no aid whatever to the dead Armenians, but are jeopardizing our Iraq enterprise by provoking Turkish hubris.

The implications of this breach are horrendous. Turkey is a NATO power, and if it were to act singularly it would damage a military-political venture in which the United States -- the father and mainstay of NATO -- is engaged at high pitch.

It is almost always relevant to ask the classical question, Cui bono? Who stands to gain?

No postmortem aid to the dead Armenians is in prospect. On the other hand, the Turks can't permanently commandeer the historical classification of actions by one state against a cultural or ethnic minority. So is it a matter of pride?

We are constantly being told about the high-octane pride of Turks, Kurds, Iraqis, whomever. Is the congressional resolution simply an exercise in American pride?


I do not believe it's a matter of pride at all. In the ME everyone pretends, Iraqis pretended that there were no sectarian divide, so they were not Sunni or Shi'a, they were Sushi. well we can all see just how well that turned out. And now the Turks want to continue to pretend that there is equality in Turkey, they want to pretend that there was not a genocide, they want to pretend that Iraqi Kurdistan is still under the dominion of arabs.

You can see for yourself just how important is to them to be able to keep up the appearances. But the world is changing, Turkey needs to change with it. If they ever want a real chance to join the EU they will just have to move from their old positions.

We should help our allies to see beyond their nose.

the last thing we should do is let the Armenians rest. We should rattle the cage as hard as we can while we still have a chance. If not we will lose the Kurds, the Iraqis, Turks, and any chance of helping the ME for years to come. Draw a line or risk losing it all.

The future is on the line. Chose wisely

Kurds symbolize Iraq's challenge

NEW YORK -- Those who know even a little bit about the ethnic and political stew that is Iraq know that the northern, Kurdish region of that country has been a bastion of relative calm since the United States-led invasion of 2003. Indeed, at the time U.S. forces entered Iraq, it was the only part of that nation that was already largely free from Saddam Hussein's rule.

So the fact that the Kurdistan Region is now at the forefront of a new threat to Iraq's stability demonstrates once again just how complex the Iraq picture is, both within that country and for the nations bordering it.

For the moment, the threat does not come from Iran or Syria but rather Turkey, a U.S. ally. You may remember that, in the days leading up to the American invasion, Turkey refused to allow the United States to use its territory to mount an incursion of Iraq from the north. During that same period, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell felt compelled to warn Turkey not to launch a simultaneous invasion of Iraq.

Turkey's view of Iraq has been and continues to be complicated by the threat it perceives from the Kurds -- some of whom live in Turkey and some of whom live in northern Iraq, a result of the division of the Ottoman Empire early in the 20th century. Turkey has long tried to suppress drives for Kurdish autonomy within its own borders and worries that Kurdish independence from Iraq would further fuel the secessionist tendencies of its internal Kurdish population.

This is one of the reasons that the various calls for partition of Iraq -- Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shias in the south -- have not gained much traction, despite the sectarian and ethnic violence that has raged for the past few years. To allow such a thing, the White House knows, would be to invite the ire of a key regional ally.

Now, though, Turkey is turning up the pressure on Iraq and the United States, even though partition isn't even on the table. Amid Turkish claims that Kurdish rebels are using Iraq as a staging ground for cross-border attacks, the Turkish parliament has voted overwhelmingly to authorize strikes against these rebels in Iraq.

Such an action, if taken, would represent a major blow to U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq and, ultimately, withdraw U.S. forces in substantial numbers. To get a sense of what a mess this could become, one might consider the following: How would U.S. forces in northern Iraq react to a Turkish invasion? How would Iraq's military react? How might the Kurds react to a potential influx into their region of Iraqi government forces, many of whom would be Shia and Sunni? And finally, would such an invasion pull Iran, which has its own grievances against the Kurds, deeper into Iraq?

At a time when there are claims of U.S. success against al-Qaida in Iraq, the present situation serves as a reminder that the ethnic-sectarian puzzle in that country has been and remains the key to any hopes for peace. Because the Kurdish region has not been a hotbed of violence, it has been easy for Americans to overlook. But as the home to much of Iraq's oil wealth, it is central to attempts to unite Iraq. And it remains squarely in the sights of an ally that could strike as devastating a blow to U.S. efforts in Iraq as any enemy.


Victory in Iraq, it would seem, is not an option our allies, nor our enemies, are willing to consider.

Frisco soldier's blog reflects how Iraq changed him

FRISCO – Three years ago, Alex Horton joined the Army knowing he would go to war and hoping he'd find adventure. He did. The high-school kid from Frisco who quoted dialogue from Patton verbatim learned quickly that it was nothing like the movies.

During his 15 months in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade, Spc. Horton, 21, faced sniper attacks, improvised explosive devices, moments of horror and the age-old tedium and Catch-22 absurdities of military life. He chronicled what he saw in his blog, Army of Dude, a Web-based journal that, in simple, eloquent prose, depicts the war as seen from a front-row seat.
The blog also is a road map of a young man's transformation in the crucible of war. He learned that soldiers fight for each other, not for policy or politics. That life changes in a flash. That friends die. And he came to believe that war, this war, is a waste of time, money and blood.

"I am not a spokesman for my generation or all soldiers or anyone else. I volunteered and I knew what I was getting into," he said in an interview at his parents' home while on leave. "But when I got to Iraq, I saw that our efforts were contrary to why we were told we went there and what we hoped to accomplish. I am not anti-war; I'm anti-Iraq-war."

Such glimpses into wartime experiences are no longer the territory of letters home or personal diaries. Troops in combat and those recently returned now fill the Web with their observations. Wired magazine estimates that there are 1,200 active military blogs.

Spc. Horton said his superiors never tried to censor his efforts, although the Army this spring imposed tougher restrictions on military blogs.

Phillip Carter, an Iraq war veteran whose blog, Intel Dump, explores a variety of military and political issues, sees the growth of military blogs, called "milblogs," as something far more expressive than the long tradition of griping in the military.

"Disillusionment is in evidence in any war. But now, soldiers coming back home find their disillusionment mirrors the American public's ambivalence with the war," he said. "These soldiers want to add to the public discourse. They want their stories told. They were there. They experienced it. Who better to tell the tale?"

Reflecting darker days

Spc. Horton started his blog before his deployment, ridiculing the ironies of Army life, the hurry-up-and-wait attitudes and the occasional goofiness of the military.

After his brigade deployed to Kuwait, then crossed the line into Iraq in June 2006, his writing rapidly became less funny. "When we saw what we were doing applied in terms of life and death in Iraq, that's when the blog changed," he said.

"At the beginning, you feel like you're invincible and if anything bad happens, it's going to happen to some other guy. Then when people start to get hurt and killed, you think to yourself, I better look out or I'll be next," he wrote in his blog. "The final stage comes after the second one wears on you after a while. Your thought is, I'm going to die next unless I make it out of here as soon as possible."

Some of the worst days occurred when friends were killed in a fierce firefight in Baqouba. Or in the long moments of terror while he was pinned down by machine-gun fire. Or in the sense that time and American life had simply passed them by.

When the brigade's 12-month tour was extended by three months in July, Spc. Horton and his buddies felt as though no one was ever going home. "We had people who had never seen the babies who were born after we deployed. A month after the extension, I remember squatting in the dust with a guy who said, " 'Well, I could be in college right now.' "

Army watching trend

The military has long danced around how best to balance the Web's instant communication between deployed soldiers and the folks back home and its potential threats to operational security for those in harm's way.

On April 19, the Army tightened operations security regulations to require soldiers to clear all blog entries and e-mails with a superior officer, the strongest restriction of military Internet use since the Iraq war began.

But the Army's own review of military blogs found more problems with official military Web sites than with milblogs, according to Wired magazine.

Mr. Carter said most commanders have no problem with soldier blogs as long as they don't reveal sensitive combat plans or divulge secret material.

"The thoughtful officers and senior enlisted are all for it," he said. "They trust their soldiers to tell the truth, as unpleasant as it may be. In these times, the unvarnished truth is best."

Spc. Horton stressed that his commanders and sergeants never complained about his blog or warned him to tone things down. "Officers and NCOs alike told me they read it and liked it," he said. "Even the angry parts. The guys in my platoon told me that I wrote what they'd been thinking."

Spc. Josh Martell, who served with Spc. Horton in the 3rd Styker Brigade, agreed. "Speaking on behalf of the platoon, we love his writing and are behind him 100%," he wrote in an e-mail.

The Army is listening. Maj. Elizabeth L. Robbins of the Army's Combined Arms Center recently proposed that the Army encourage more use of blogs to open communications between the military and the public.

"The Army position should be that while we seek to protect operational security and individual privacy, we have nothing to hide, much to communicate and we are comprised of over a million uniformed individuals with over a million perspectives," she said.

Back home

At the end of November, Spc. Horton will become civilian Alex again.

He plans to go to school in Texas, maybe study English or journalism, and get on with his life. His time as an infantryman was not all negative, he said.

"On a good note, I take things less for granted and I'm a little more understanding, maybe a little more serious," he said. "I'm still not comfortable in crowds, like a mall or a bar, and noisy places are a problem. But ... I can tell the difference between here and Iraq. It's not hard at all."

He never saw the blog as therapy. "I just felt it was better to write it and have people understand exactly what we saw there, what we were doing. People in the States don't have a clue what's going on."

His parents, Jeff and Robin Horton of Frisco, are his most rabid fans. Army of Dude kept them connected to a son in a faraway, dangerous place. They could send love and ease fears in the comments section.

"Outwardly, he's not much changed, but in five minutes after he got home, I could tell how much he had grown up," Mr. Horton said. "His experiences tapped deep wells of strength. He learned to love and cherish his fellow soldiers and learned to grieve."

If nothing else, Spc. Horton hopes his blog helps educate the larger public that so much of the war's burden has fallen on the soldiers' backs.

In his last entry, he wrote about the joy and confusion of being home. And the sense that civilians didn't know or care about what young soldiers had seen and done.

"Now we're a military at war, with less than 1% of the population in uniform. Unless you have a friend or family member in the military, it's a separate reality," he wrote.

"In airports and in living rooms, you can see for yourself the effect in the eyes of a soldier at war for fifteen months at a time, hidden behind a smile that conceals a secret: you'll never quite understand what we did there. Like Atlas, we carry the immense burden of the country on our shoulders, waiting for the day seemingly long into the future when the American people say, that will do."

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