Saturday, October 18, 2003

AMERICANS ARE TIRED

Of the ceaseless fighting in the middle east.

Take a couple of minutes to read this entire article by Victor Davis Hanson, a writer I admire for his ability to bring things into clear focus.

The complete text is here.

Here are some excerpts...
Various Syrian foreign ministers, speaking on behalf of a recognized terrorist state, recently warned Israel for fostering "instability" throughout the region by taking out the supposedly empty infrastructure of a killers' training base on Syrian soil. Eliminating such a haven is now deemed inflammatory; habitually blowing up innocent children in Haifa is accepted as pretty much normal business in the Middle East.

Occupy an entire country like Lebanon and the world snores, but bomb a terrorist camp and it snarls. Still, for all the bluster on spec, the "Arab world" is not sure it wishes to send its jets to sure paradise merely to avenge the honor of Bashar al Assad, who can't even provide air cover for the murderers' base that he subsidizes and whose ruins are off-limits to reporters. Disgusted with all this, most Americans flip the channel when any spokesman from the "Arab League" appears on screen to warn about "repercussions" to come...

Still, if only Israel would dismantle those pesky settlements, Europeans and many Americans sigh — blissfully forgetting that three wars were fought when the West Bank was under Arab sovereignty or that far more Arabs live in peace in Israel than the number of Jews who reside in fear on the West Bank.

All the while Europe shouts "Sharon this, Sharon that," but privately wonders, "Why should we have to insist on civilized behavior from Israel's neighbors, when the Jews are so few, their country so small, and their nation so young — without oil, terrorists, and millions of expatriates on our shores?"

Allow the burning of a synagogue in Paris or the toppling of a Jewish gravestone in Munich and you get a reasoned plea for tolerance from the local rabbi; clamp down on Islamic fundamentalists in Frankfurt or Marseilles and you may get a riot or bomb...

In short, the world knows that North Korea, Iran, and the fanatic regimes in the Middle East are time bombs that could ignite a catastrophe such as we have not seen since World War II. But much of the world also seems to think that the painful remedies for these tragedies on the horizon — principled deterrence in the here and now or perhaps even preemptive action when reasoned warnings fail — are far worse.

So they take the coward's way out and leave it to America: simultaneously blaming us for inaction in Liberia and for action in Iraq; sort of empathizing with us when we suffer 3,000 citizens murdered, but angry when we take steps to retaliate; complaining that they are asked to help clean up the mess in postwar Afghanistan and Iraq, yet relieved that they were never obligated to end the mess of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein in the first place.

The central task of this present administration must be to convince Americans to shoulder these thankless tasks that are so critical for both world peace and our own national security, especially when the immediate costs so often cloud the more abstract and long-term benefits. It is not easy when our best are wounded or killed for a cause so commonly mischaracterized. Federal budget deficits due to rising entitlements, waste, mismanagement, and assorted questionable programs are instead much more easily blamed on military costs and foreign aid...

In sum, Americans as a rule don't mind sacrificing to ensure a better world abroad. But they do care when there is so little psychological recompense for such engagement, and so much hypocrisy from Germany, France, and the Middle East. Seasoned diplomats would warn us that such are the wages of being the world's "hyperpower," and scoff at an emotional need for thanks in a tough world that operates on Realpolitik.

Maybe. But, as I gauge current American public opinion, there is a rising weariness of the insanity abroad, and it will only grow unless administration spokesmen habitually address — weekly, daily, even hourly — such exasperations and counter them by appealing to the innate American sense of idealism and generosity...

Most Americans, tragically so, do not find from 30-second film clips that the Iraqi people are all that sympathetic a lot, but rather — after the war, the looting, the suicide bombings, and the complaining — that they are not worth the billions of dollars and the lost lives. And it is precisely that innate unease with ingratitude that the Democrats and the press have tapped into, at last finding some resonance with the American people.


Emphasis added.

Really - read it all.
IRONY

The UN insisted upon being given a larger role in Iraq.

It was.

Now this.
Despite a new resolution giving the United Nations a bigger role in Iraq, the organization won't beef up the skeleton staff still in the country after two bombings because of security concerns, a U.N. spokesman said Friday.
OUR FRIENDS IN ASIA ARE STEPPING UP

And so have those in Eastern Europe.

So who's missing?
South Korea pledged on Saturday to dispatch additional troops to Iraq and to send $200 million to help rebuild the country in a plan that bolsters U.S. efforts to establish a broader coalition...

The decision on Friday came after months of hand-wringing on the issue by Roh, whose decision appeared to be heavily influenced by the unanimous adoption this week of a U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq. The resolution called for the establishment of a multinational force led by the United States, and appealed to U.N. members to provide troops and money to help support the occupation of Iraq.

The decision also follows a pledge by Japan to send a small contingent of troops and $1.5 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq.



A GLIMPSE OF THE US ARMY HOSPITAL IN LANDSTUHL GERMANY
Air Force 1st Lt. Tina Hall, a nurse at Landstuhl, has gone out of her way in recent months to provide what she calls "the little things that make a difference" -- wished-for meals of Burger King or southern fried chicken, or moving battle buddies into the same room.

"I very much appreciate that they do not mind dedicating themselves to their country," Hall said.

Such efforts were not lost on Sgt. Michael Sparks, 24, recovering from a shrapnel wound to his shoulder suffered in a mortar attack on his convoy in northern Iraq.

"The Landstuhl nurses, staff, techs -- they're all awesome," he said. "When you get here, you still have bad dreams and the nurses, they come in and talk to you."
OREGON REPRESENTATIVE SEES IT FIRST HAND
Yes, he knows about body bags, and they're not throw-away words in an antiwar statement. But he also knows about the other -- the larger, less-reported -- parts of the Iraq story. And he returned home with a new appreciation of the progress in Iraq and a deeper commitment to what the United States and other nations are doing there.

Walden talked to soldiers in the 82nd and soldiers from Oregon -- away from the brass. "Nearly every soldier I talked to agreed with the mission, and that what we were doing was the right thing." he said. "Nearly every one of them, however, also wanted to come home. But after you've been there five, six, seven months, in heat that hit 140 degrees, living in . . . adequate conditions but not something you'd prefer, is it any wonder?"

It's a far more perilous environment than Walden realized before his visit. The soldiers told of being shot at regularly when they head out each night. "In those neighborhoods where there are still Saddam loyalists . . . it's very difficult and dangerous work, says Walden. "But, having said that, everywhere I went, the common percentage (that) the troops threw out was 90 to 95 percent of the Iraqis support us being there. I think the most powerful part of the trip for me was knowing and hearing directly from the soldiers that every day it's getting better for them, even though we see these attacks."

ONE OF OURS!
Anita Holtz is probably the happiest mom in Marshfield this week.

Her son, Jim, is home on military leave from Iraq.

"I took two days off this week and just plan to spend time with him," she said. "So many people just want to see him."
Jim Holtz, 20, is a maintenance technician in the Army's 1st Armored Division based in Giessen, Germany. He's been in Baghdad since the beginning of June, helping rebuild.

Upon returning home, Wisconsin's fall temperatures were a shock.

"I came back here, I walked off that plane and I shivered," he said. "You're always sweating, it's always hot (in Baghdad). You get used to it."
THE MEDIA FILTER
But U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. George Krivo complains the media focus too heavily on the simmering guerrilla war. Some soldiers are ''frustrated because much of the incredible progress that is being made in the vast majority of the country seems to go un- or underreported,'' he said. Another colonel, James Otwell, protested that, for example, ''no media at all covered the arrival of 100 new fire trucks in Baghdad.''

Some of the loudest complaints focus on what American officials say is poor news coverage of the U.S. rehabilitation of more than 1,000 Iraqi schools.

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said it was only by coming to Iraq that he learned of the program. ''I was not told by the media in my country that thousands and hundreds of (Iraqi) children went back to school this week,'' he complained Oct. 6.

Concluded his delegation's leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., ''Journalism schools teach that news means bad news.''
IRAQI SWAT TEAM TRAINING
The Emergency Service Unit is not quite a success story yet. Taught to use outdated police techniques and procedures that police officers in the U.S. abandoned in the 1960s, they must now learn "basic law enforcement," Routh says. Most of them have not practiced shooting since they graduated from the Baghdad Police Academy more than a decade ago. And Routh wonders whether they are in good enough shape to carry the 65 pounds of protective gear and equipment he normally uses as a police officer in Hannibal, Mo.

"Before the war, we only had some bull -- training," says Capt. Ahmed Ahmed, who has been a police officer for 11 years. Pointing at a bottle of water on a desk in the corner of his small office, he elaborated: "I'm a captain, but if I wanted to shoot at this bottle I would probably miss."

Under Saddam Hussein, he said, he and other police officers from his unit were ordered to learn to climb palm trees so they could chop off withering fronds.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18th. The 160th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

The forecast in Baghdad is for a high of 93 and a low of 69 - that low has got to be freezing by their standards. And they actually had rain the other day for the first time since mid June.

And speaking of freezing - Giessen dropped below the freezing mark last night for the first time this season.

Friday, October 17, 2003

OFF TOPIC

But interesting.
Now, a small but carefully controlled study offers a strong hint that maybe Atkins was right: People on low-carb, high-fat diets actually can eat more.

The study, directed by Penelope Greene of the Harvard School of Public Health and presented at a meeting here this week of the American Association for the Study of Obesity, found that people eating an extra 300 calories a day on a very low-carb regimen lost just as much during a 12-week study as those on a standard lowfat diet.

Over the course of the study, they consumed an extra 25,000 calories. That should have added up to about seven pounds. But for some reason, it did not.

"There does indeed seem to be something about a low-carb diet that says you can eat more calories and lose a similar amount of weight," Greene said.

That strikes at one of the most revered beliefs in nutrition: A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. It does not matter whether they come from bacon or mashed potatoes; they all go on the waistline in just the same way.

"It doesn't make sense, does it?" said Barbara Rolls of Pennsylvania State University. "It violates the laws of thermodynamics. No one has ever found any miraculous metabolic effects."

In the study, 21 overweight volunteers were divided into three categories: Two groups were randomly assigned to either lowfat or low-carb diets with 1,500 calories for women and 1,800 for men; a third group was also low-carb but got an extra 300 calories a day.

The study was unique because all the food was prepared at an upscale Italian restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, so researchers knew exactly what they ate. Most earlier studies simply sent people home with diet plans to follow as best they could...

Everyone's food looked similar but was cooked to different recipes. The low-carb meals were 5 percent carbohydrate, 15 percent protein and 65 percent fat. The rest got 55 percent carbohydrate, 15 percent protein and 30 percent fat.

In the end, everyone lost weight. Those on the lower-cal, low-carb regimen took off 23 pounds, while people who got the same calories on the lowfat approach lost 17 pounds. The big surprise, though, was that volunteers getting the extra 300 calories a day of low-carb food lost 20 pounds.

"It's very intriguing, but it raises more questions than it answers," said Gary Foster of the University of Pennsylvania. "There is lots of data to suggest this shouldn't be true."

VERY, VERY COOL
Twenty-year-old Theodora -- who he married only three days before leaving for active Army duty -- ran to him and jumped into his arms.

It was their first kiss since January.

The emotional scene was set a few minutes earlier, when the pilot on his U.S. Airways flight announced a Florida National Guard soldier serving in Iraq was on board and about to see his wife and baby son for the first time in nine months.

The pilot asked other passengers to wait 10 minutes before leaving the plane, to give the soldier a head start down the concourse.

The plane erupted in applause as DeSantis, 21, made his way down the aisle.

One passenger slipped him $100 for his homecoming dinner. Flight attendants gave him a bottle of champagne.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER?

Just fix it.
President Bush's interviews on Monday with local and regional news outlets — bypassing the major national networks — are, in the words of CBS reporter John Roberts, the "equivalent of a declaration of war aimed at the national media."

ABC's Peter Jennings said Mr. Bush "is not the first President to be unhappy with the coverage of America at war."

Another such president, it seems, is the president of Jennings' own news division, David Westin.

Westin announced in a memo to ABC employees that he's "been troubled for some time about the reporting... on the situation in Iraq. We often seem to be captive to the individual dramatic incident — and... subject to one that comes with great video."

He says ABC will now try to tell the rest of the story.

WHY THE UN VOTE MATTERED

It stuffs a sock in the mouths of those hollering for "UN legitimacy".

Can we get a very large sock for Sen. Kennedy?
Japan, which is planning to send troops to Iraq, on Friday welcomed the unanimous adoption by the U.N. Security Council of a resolution aimed at getting soldiers and cash for the war-ravaged Iraq.

Japanese officials said the adoption of the U.N. resolution would help clear the way for Tokyo to dispatch troops to Iraq...

The main opposition Democratic Party had said Japan should not send troops to Iraq without a U.N. resolution.
READ THE FINE PRINT

I'm not sure this is a bad thing. The money will still go. And if France, Germany, Russia and Saudi Arabia attempt to claim billions of Saddam's Hussein's debt from the new US-liberated Iraq, then we can collect ours first.

But if they forgive the lions' of Hussein's debt, then so will we.

The result being the US taxpayer doesn't lose more ground to the French taxpayer in taking responsibilty for the liberation of Iraq.
Defying a muscled lobbying effort by President George W. Bush to get Congress to grant Iraq $20.3 billion for reconstruction, bipartisan senators yesterday narrowly forced a change to make some of that money a loan...

The showdown amendment would grant Iraq more than $10 billion outright and make the other $10 billion a loan. That loan would convert back to a grant if Iraq's creditors that are owed more than $125 billion - France, Germany, Russia and Saudi Arabia - forgive 90 percent of that debt.

Loan proponents said it would give Iraq a stake in its own future and ensure U.S. taxpayers do not finance Saddam Hussein's debt.

"AN INORDINATE AMOUNT OF AMMUNITION"

This certainly complicates things...
When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in March, what they found astounded them: The country was a vast munitions dump, a problem that American military planners had seriously underestimated.

The U.S. military's chief engineer in Iraq said Thursday that up to 1 million tons of bombs, artillery shells, land mines and other munitions were scattered in storage dumps and bunkers across the country.

"We think our initial estimate of 600,000 tons is low," Brig. Gen. Larry Davis said. "We think 600,000 tons could be as much as 1 million tons. They had an inordinate amount of ammunition in this country."

The impact of which can be found here:

The two most recent suicide bombings here and virtually every other attack on American soldiers and Iraqis were carried out with explosives and materiel taken from Saddam Hussein's former weapons dumps, which are much larger than previously estimated and remain, for the most part, unguarded by U.S. troops, allied officials said Monday.
SCORE ANOTHER ONE FOR OUR SIDE
Police in the Iraqi town of Irbil have foiled an attempted car bombing.

U.S. officials say the driver of a car packed with 220 pounds of explosives was shot and killed as he approached the local police ministry office.

The vehicle didn't explode.
MAKING THEIR OWN FUN
Friday night is party night at Delta House.

Chicken is grilling in the barbecue pit, drinks are chilling in the cooler, tunes are blasting on a boombox, and guys have stripped off their shirts to play beach volleyball or sink into the pool...

Welcome to the home of Battery D, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, whose 155 members patrol some of the nastiest parts of Iraq all week but still find time to relax at a Friday night blowout.

“This is a big morale booster,” said Sgt. Rodderick Johnson, 21, of Atmoor, Ala., a Battery D soldier. “[Tonight] not everybody’s thinking about their jobs.”...

...They bought two large kiddie wading pools from a merchant in Kirkuk, fortified them with sandbags and filled the pools with water. Within a few hours, the battery had instant relief from the 125-degree desert heat in late August.

Mitchell’s cooling-off scheme grew when he saw a pyramid-shaped bunker outside the barracks’ back door.

He persuaded some engineers to dig a small pit next to the bunker, then lined the hole and the sloping face of the bunker with plastic tarps to hold water. They ran a hose to the top of the pyramid, and opened what is probably Iraq’s only water slide.

WHAT IS MORALE ANYWAY?
Brass and troops use the word all the time. Defining it is more difficult.

Is it the willingness to die for one’s country? The conviction that what one is doing is important? The glee of soldiers when a new batch of DVDs hits the exchange?

“I think it’s a tough one for me to answer. The answer is squishy,” said Col. David MacEwen, senior officer charged with Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation in Iraq. “Is it things or is it a feeling? I don’t think it’s things. I think what contributes to it are ‘Do my leaders, does my service and my country and does my family care about me?’”...

“It’s really a multifaceted concept,” said retired Lt. Col. Daniel Smith, who served in intelligence, as a military attachĂ© and as a West Point instructor and is former chief of research for the Center for Defense Information. “One is a sense among the troops themselves that what they are doing is worth the effort and the sacrifice. And that’s fundamental going in. Also fundamental is the sense that the population of the country as a whole supports what they’re doing.”

Interesting discussion...and several more definitions here.

It appears the definition of morale is a personal one. My definition tends to agree with LTC (Retired) Smith. And if I were to try to quantify it I think the formula would look like this:

Sense of "adequacy of purpose" (including confidence in the chain of command, commitment to the mission, belief that the mission is worthwhile, and a sense that one is doing what they signed up to do) divided by comfort level (takes into account living conditions, camaraderie, ability to contact loved ones at home, food and showers and such.)

So long as the perceived mathematical result of that equation is 1 or more (that is the mission is worth what I'm going through to accomplish it), then morale will be "average" or better.

Meanwhile, here is another way of looking at the morale quesion:

...troops who believe in what they are doing and consider themselves well-trained to do it report the highest morale in the country.

Their gung-ho spirit seems to transcend hardships like not having air conditioning, chow halls or proper showers. Many expected their job in Iraq to be difficult.

“Even though we do not have access to certain things like a game room or a morale trip, I don’t think any of us expect these things,” said Marine Lance Corp. Gabriel Prado of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines at Twin Towers, a camp near Diwaniyah. “We’re here to get our job done so we can go home.”

GROUND TRUTH

Read about the varying conditions under which the soldiers live in Iraq.

Some things to think about as you do...

1. Yesterday we learned that one-third of soldiers polled rated their morale as low. Given what you read here...seems fairly remarkable.

2. CPT Patti and her crew, while certainly not living in the luxury palaces, have it better than many. But then, that's the thing in the Army...you don't want to compare because someone will always have it better, some will have it worse.

3. When this poll was taken CPT Patti's gang didn't have their internet cafe, gym or game room establshed yet.

4. Do you find it interesting as I do that Reuters, AP, CNN never tell you this stuff. Were it not for the Stars & Stripes newspaper, we would not have this sort of information.
When Pfc. Alan Shaffer wakes up each morning in his camp near the Tigris River, he looks up and sees the stars. He grabs an MRE for his morning chow; for a toilet he uses a slit trench in the grassy field not far from where he sleeps. A shower to wash off the sweat? Only in his dreams...

Forty miles downstream in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, Spc. Dennis Kerr also lives in a camp overlooking the Tigris. But his digs are quite different.

Kerr, 20, of Sparks, Nev., plays trumpet in the 4th Infantry Division band. When he wakes up on his cot, in air-conditioned comfort, he sees an elaborate crystal chandelier and he pads across a marble floor to a latrine with gold-plated fixtures. Then he eats a plate heaped with bacon or sausage and scrambled eggs, topped off with fresh fruit and chilled juice in a Kellogg Brown & Root chow tent...

Still, they found their camps lacking a lot of the basics. Asked to rate their camp facilities on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest:

82 percent of soldiers gave their toilets a rating of 3 or lower.

73 percent rated their hand-washing facilities 3 or lower.

79 percent rated their gyms 3 or lower.

82 percent rated their telephone service 3 or lower, and almost half rated it 1.

66 percent rated their e-mail access 3 or lower.

Overwhelming majorities, ranging from 64 percent to 85 percent, said they had no access to a library, a game room, MWR trips, AFN television or USO services.

“We are a country at war,” said Sgt. William Hutchens, a 13-year veteran serving with the 82nd Airborne Division. “We are soldiers, and it is expected that conditions will be rough.”...

Battery D’s one hot meal per day is trucked in by convoy. It’s got no radio, no Internet, no telephone. Entertainment is limited to a DVDs, a few board games and some donated books.

Yet the soldiers here almost all say they’re happy. They’ve built themselves bunkbeds out of scrap wood, and they’ve got indoor showers and toilets. It’s the fifth place they’ve lived since parachuting into Iraq early in the war.

“This is by far the best,” Marcantonio said. “I’m hoping we can stay here until the mission is completed.”

Read the whole thing...you'll have a much better understanding of how the troops live.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17th. The 159th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

ACCORDING TO THE ARMY TIMES EVERYONE HAS TO SOLDIER

Army Times is a subscription site, but here are some excerpts outlining GEN Schoomaker's plan.
“Everybody in the United States Army’s gotta be a soldier first,” Gen. Peter Schoomaker told reporters during an Oct. 7 roundtable meeting with reporters in Washington.

The specialization of jobs in the Army pulled the service away from the notion that every soldier must be grounded in basic combat skills, he said. But Iraq has demonstrated that no matter what a soldier’s military occupational specialty is, he must be able to conduct basic combat tasks in order to defend himself and his unit.

“We’ve dismounted artillerymen in Iraq, and we’ve got them performing ground functions — infantry functions, MP functions,” Schoomaker said. “Everybody’s got to be able to do that … Everybody’s a rifleman first.”
* * *
*Every soldier will be required to qualify on his or her individual weapon twice a year, [Gen.] Byrnes said. The current Army standard requires soldiers to qualify only once a year, although some commanders have their troops qualify more frequently.

*New recruits will qualify on their individual weapons in basic training and then again in advanced individual training, Byrnes added. Until now, qualification in basic training only was the standard.

*Every soldier, regardless of MOS and unit, will conduct at least one live-fire combat drill a year. For higher headquarters rear-echelon units, it might include reacting to an ambush, Byrnes said.

Interestingly the story also says this:

Gen. Schoomaker has had enough of rotating senior commanders out of combat while their troops stay behind.

This policy has infuriated many in the Army, especially the outgoing commanders, who feel it forces them to abandon their troops just when their soldiers need them most.

Schoomaker is sympathetic to those who feel the policy should be changed, and has told the units preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan that he does not want midtour changes of command. Staying with a unit until it redeploys is “a fundamental role of leadership,” he told reporters.

I'm not sure what to make of the term "senior commanders". Will that include CPT Patti? She is at the most junior level there is to be called "Commander".

Of course, when I know, you'll know.


(via Instapundit)
HOW THE TROOPS MAKE THEIR OWN FUN
Troops seem to particularly enjoy taking advantage of Saddam’s massive personal infrastructure to make life more comfortable.

In Baghdad, for example, home to the headquarters of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Division, soldiers enjoy nightly movies in the world-class movie theater Saddam built for his secret police. Popcorn is free, and Sunday is double-feature day.

IRAQ MUST FAIL

Good piece.
Senator Carl Levin, D-MI, came to my town. He came to speak to political science majors at our local college. What did he tell these college kids? “We {America} shouldn’t be there, {in Iraq} as a controlling power.” He scoffed at the money requested by President Bush to help the fledging democracy rebuild. In short, it sounded as though he wants Iraq to fail.

If Iraq fails, Bush fails. If Bush fails, Democrats win. He didn’t seem to care about the fate of the Iraq people or the benefit of having a stable and democratic Iraq in the Middle East. That was not a priority. The important factor for him was to convince these young people that Republicans are leading the country into ruin. Only Democrats can rescue the country from certain disaster. Only Democrats can get the U.S. back in the good graces of world opinion.

In short, the Bush Administration must fail...

When President Bush placed North Korea in the axis of evil, he knew they had nuclear weapons. He knew they had them because of the failed policy of democrat Bill Clinton. The Democrats howled and screamed in fury. Clinton’s policy was working. They claimed that North Korea, upon hearing the insult and in a fit of anger, ran to the basement and made those weapons overnight. Even though North Korea gleefully admitted they had these weapons for years, the Democrats dismiss that admission. In the face of a national threat to the continental United States, they vehemently deny their policy of appeasement failed...

I have heard Senator John Kerry repeat over and over that the unemployment rate is the highest it’s been “since Herbert Hoover.” This is simply a lie.

In September 2003, unemployment was 6.1. Under Bill Clinton in June of 1993, it was 7.0. In December of 1982 it hit 10.8 before President Reagan was able to turn around the disaster called the Carter Administration.

But the lie is repeated over and over to try and convince the people that Bush’s economic plan is not working. All indicators say otherwise. The Stock Market is once again approaching 10,000, but they perpetuate the lie that we are in dire straights to frighten the uninformed. They pray for a self fulfilling prophesy. They want the economy to fail.

THE COMMAND SERGEANT MAJOR CUTS TO THE CHASE

But then, he's probably in that two-thirds minority whose morale is OK...
I am from Troutdale but currently serving with the Oregon Army National Guard in Southwest Asia. My battalion is operating in both Iraq and Kuwait.

I have been following the best I can the articles on soldiers deployed for war with less-than-adequate equipment. I do not know what Army they are talking about; it is not the U.S. Army.

I am not going to say that things are perfect, but those units that went into harm's way are equipped with the good equipment. The Commentary article "Army should take flak on old vests" (Oct. 5) did not give a fair assessment of the body armor situation. No one in the Army is using Vietnam-style anything, let alone body armor.

We all have current-generation body armor.

Meanwhile, Matthew Duckworth (Letters, Oct. 12) wrote that his brother was "forced to buy size 9 desert combat boots and summer-weight uniforms . . . at the post exchange because neither was available through the army supply system when he arrived for duty."

No, he was not. There are many soldiers who, because the Army was deploying so many soldiers at once and had a backlog of supplies, are wearing standard-issue combat boots or jungle boots. No one was forced to buy anything.

People will do and say just about anything to badmouth our Army and our government. There is always, as Paul Harvey is famous for saying, "The rest of the story."

GERALD J. SCHLEINING JR. Command sergeant major 1st Battalion 162nd Infantry Oregon Army National Guard

THE GLASS IS ONE THIRD EMPTY
ABC Headline:

Survey: U.S. Troops Suffering Low Morale

Then to the numbers

Asked about their personal morale, 34 percent rated it as "low" or "very low," 27 percent said it was "high" or "very high," and virtually all the rest called it "average."

Two out of three respond average or better and ABC leads with the "low morale" headlines.

Sheesh.
NOW WHICH IS HE? FRENCH, GERMAN OR RUSSIAN?
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, the Senate's most influential liberal voice, will announce Thursday he intends to vote against President Bush's $87 billion spending request for Iraq.

"When the roll is called on this $87 billion legislation, which provides no effective conditions for genuine international participation and a clear change in policy in Iraq, I intend to vote no," Kennedy will say, according to a copy of his upcoming floor speech obtained by CNN.

TOWEL PLEASE, MY HANDS ARE DRIPPING

Realizing they can't get their way the AOW (Axis...) chooses instead the path of Pontius Pilate.
Russia, France and Germany have agreed they will give no extra aid to Iraq because a U.N. Security Council resolution on the country's future is still not adequate, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says.

Schroeder told a news conference on Thursday after conferring in a three-way telephone conference with French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin that they had agreed to vote for the U.S. resolution because it showed some progress and for the sake of Security Council unity.

But he added: "The progress in our view is still not an adequate response to the situation on the ground in Iraq, and on those grounds, we do not see ourselves in a position to play a military role there...or to make a further material contribution beyond what has already been agreed."

Translation: Go ahead and do what you (USA) are already doing...just don't come asking any help from us."

Thanks guys...no help is the best we could hope for...at least you got out of our way.

Meanwhile - want to see what the resolution says? in its 5th version?


The resolution confirms that for the time being the Coalition Provisional Authority will remain the over-arching power in Iraq, although it stresses that the transfer of sovereignty and government back to the Iraqi people will happen as soon as practicable.

The United Nations is promised a strengthened vital role in the political and economic reconstruction process, but only as circumstances, particularly security, permit.

Still missing is a clear timetable, with dates, for a transfer of power and anything like the more dominant role that the UN had sought.

Not a helluva lotta difference from version number 1.

Thanks for the foot dragging guys
.
PERHAPS FIRST AMONG THOSE WHO STILL DON'T GET IT...

Syria.
A small group of people trying to cross into Iraq from Syria clashed with U.S. forces and a U.S. military helicopter had to land after coming under small-arms fire, the U.S. military said yesterday.

The people, whom the military called "infiltrators," were all killed or captured in the firefight late Tuesday night far from any major border crossing, a military spokesman said. There were no American casualties.

Syria later denied there had been any infiltration attempt from its territory.

"The news about people infiltrating to Iraq from Syria are fake. This is not the first time such allegations are made," the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) quoted a government official as saying.

HANG 'EM
American officials in Baghdad have identified at least 30 people in business in the United States who investigators say they suspect sold tens of millions of dollars in military supplies to Iraq before the war.

Atop the list of those identified in the wide-ranging investigation is a father-son team from San Diego charged Wednesday with selling gunboats to Saddam Hussein's government. Officials said they believed that the two San Diego businessmen, natives of Iraq, delivered and helped to assemble three 85-foot-long patrol boats, armed with machine guns, as part of an $11 million contract with Saddam's military.
CNN DIDN'T INTERVIEW THIS GUY EITHER

But you will be pleased to read his story. It is another one worth clicking through to see the whole thing.
But more than just another teahouse intellectual, Pasha — he prefers his grandfather's title for his last name — is part of a new generation of young Baghdadis willing to place their faith in the U.S. and their future in a reconstructed nation.

"I keep telling journalists how grateful we are that the Coalition removed Saddam, but the media — especially European media — only wants anti-American views," says Pasha, whose grandfather, Nuri al-Said, was prime minister of Iraq until he was deposed and murdered in 1958.

Like many of Baghdad's English-speaking artists, Pasha is often confused by the animosity shown by much of the world toward Iraqi's liberation. "Don't they understand what freedom means to us? Don't they see many of us cooperating with the Americans to rebuild our country?"

That last question has particular significance for Pasha. Despite his air of bohemianism — and his religious views — the young man is engaged in one of present-day Iraq's most crucial tasks: translating for the U.S. military. Working at night, Pasha accompanies American soldiers on an array of missions — from standard patrols to raids on fedayeen hideouts. Over the months he has developed a close relationship with GIs, whom he tends to call "my guys." (The soldiers, in turn, have chided Pasha for being "too perfect" and jokingly call him their "Wahhabi spy.")

Part of this bond is Pasha's belief that America is bringing democracy to Iraq; part is the nature of the GIs themselves.

"At first I was amazed when soldiers called me 'sir,'" he recalls. "Having lived for years in a police state, I couldn't imagine someone in uniform treating me with respect."

SPY STORIES

Real world. Very interesting.

Read the whole story here to see what the CIA did to help us walk into Baghdad.
From the beginning, al-Jaburi's primary mission had been to scope out Saddam International Airport, one of the keys to taking Baghdad. Ahmed had a way in. He had a friend, "Mahmoud," who he says commanded the SSO's 3rd Battalion and was in charge of airport security. Ahmed knew Mahmoud had cursed Saddam privately, so he took him out for drinks, drawing him out on his views. The airport commander was sufficiently negative about Saddam to warrant a three-way drinking date with al-Jaburi. At a third session, al-Jaburi asked Mahmoud to cooperate and offered him $15,000. The commander, al-Jaburi says, agreed to help.

At sundown on March 23, with the war raging in the south and Baghdad under nightly bombardment, the airport commander drove al-Jaburi, in a military uniform, and Mashadani, bearing his mukhabarat ID, into the airport compound. In an SSO car, the trio crisscrossed the tarmac, mapping every building and bunker, counting every soldier and weapon they could see. Following the CIA's instructions, they repeated the exercise three times over three nights to confirm their sketches. By the time they had finished, U.S. battle planners had a detailed picture of the situation at the airport, from the weak points in the Iraqi defenses to the safest landing zones for American choppers.

On March 26 an exhausted al-Jaburi took a break to visit his family in his hometown near Tikrit. The next day his brother, an engineer at the Bayji oil refinery, was summoned to the plant to remove documents before the Americans got there. Al-Jaburi decided to go too, hoping to get papers of use to the U.S. It was a trap. Saddam's secret police surrounded al-Jaburi's car. He learned later that they had acted on a tip from one of his relatives eager to collect a reward. Taken to Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, the last stop for many of the regime's opponents, al-Jaburi was sure he was going to die. His jailers, he said, placed a hood over his head and hung him from the ceiling by his arms, which were bound behind him. They hit him repeatedly with wire cords and clubs, smashing his feet.

HYUNDAI TAKING OVER IRAQ
15 October is the day that Saddam Hussein's face will disappear from Iraqi banknotes. A new dinar of large denominations will be introduced to bring the economy back on track. Meanwhile, the trade in second-hand cars and electronic gadgets is flourishing like never before...

Korean businessman Yang Kun Kim has been doing business with Iraq for four years. He started off selling spare parts to a factory manufacturing car-batteries, which weren't covered by the UN embargo at the time. Now, he's exporting complete cars.

"It's estimated that some 60,000 cars have been shipped to Iraq from South Korea alone. The main difference compared to a year ago is that we no longer do any business with the government, which basically doesn't exist at present. So, we're now focusing on the private sector."

Mr Kim is upbeat about the future. "Living standards are set to go up steadily," he says. His Iraqi business partner "Khaled" adds that most entrepreneurs have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. "Iraqi just isn't stable enough, certainly not here. And it won't be for some time to come."

OH OH, BIG WORK

Sorry about being late again today. Got a call from the facility engineers who said they needed to get into my apartment as there is evidence in the basement that water is leaking, perhaps from my tub.

So I arrange to get here and the plumber, who speaks a little English, looks at an access panel under the tub (if you understand German tiling techniques this makes sense) then finally pops up, shakes his head and says. "Oh oh, big work!.

Which I presume means removal of the tub, which is all tiled into the wall, apply the fix, then retile my bathroom. Sounds like a three day job to me.

I'm happy, I can assure you.
SOMEONE CALL THE SUPER

Garvin has moved into the 62-room palace, albeit into one of the facility’s main-floor bathrooms. But that’s not as bad as it might seem, since the two-room bathroom is larger than many motel rooms and has enough space for a full-sized bed and all his gear.

It’s so large that Garvin’s “office” is the bathroom’s waiting room.

He spends most of his days, and all of his nights, at the palace, where he has also become the de facto palace security guard.

“I’ll get up in the middle of the night and take a walk and make sure nobody’s taking down one of the chandeliers,” he said.

Visitors, whether Iraqi or American, sometimes want souvenirs from the palace.

“We get a lot of visitors here,” he said. “I don’t mind that, but some people come and want to take things. That’ll just destroy the place.”

What Garvin knows, but many people don’t, is that what appear to be gold-plated faucets and dozens of crystal chandeliers really aren’t.

“It looks nice, but it’s plastic and tin,” he said. “The [current] fixtures ... [seemingly] went to the cheapest bidder.”

Despite knowing the palace’s secrets, Garvin is still awed by the place.

“If you think about how many man-hours it took to build it, it’s phenomenal,” he said. “Why one person would need all this room is unbelievable.”

So far, none of the palace’s former residents have come back to explain why.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16th. The 158th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

PROGRESS

And not only is it good for Iraq...its good for us.
Your car could be running on gasoline made from Iraqi oil.

ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips both imported Iraqi crude to California in August, according to a filing Tuesday by the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy.

The shipments mark the first time that Iraqi oil has reached California shores since the United States launched its invasion to unseat Saddam Hussein in March. It also represents a big step toward normalcy for California drivers.

Before the war, Iraq had been California's biggest source of foreign oil. It accounted for 20.1 percent of all the state's imports in 2002, or 6.09 percent of total supplies.

THE FORM LETTER SOURCE FOUND

Correctly criticised for organizing a campaign to send identical letters of positive news from the front, the boss takes responsibility for the actions of his soldiers.

Of course, the loudest criticisms are coming from those who are delivering uniformly bad news from the same area.

An Army battalion commander has taken responsibility for a public-relations campaign that sent hundreds of identical letters to hometown newspapers promoting his soldiers' rebuilding efforts in Iraq.
Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo said he wanted to highlight his unit's work and "share that pride with people back home."

Army officials revealed Tuesday that 500 identical form letters were sent to newspapers across the country with different signatures. They said the mass mailing was the wrong way of getting the message out, but they didn't know whether the commander would be disciplined.

"It sounded like a good idea at their level, (but) it's just not the way to do business. They're not going to do that again," said Lt. Col. Bill MacDonald, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division, which is leading operations in north-central Iraq.

And when you understand the soldiers' frustration and the purity of their intent and the naivete of their actions, I think we can give them a break.

"My understanding is that it was an initiative taken by members of a unit because what they were seeing in the newspapers did not match what they were seeing in Iraq," said Air Force Colonel Jay DeFrank, a Pentagon spokesman.

"So they decided what they would do is send in a letter to media in each of their hometowns," he said.

"They got the best writer in the unit and had him draft a letter each of them would sign and send to his hometown media," he said.

If the only spokesman for your best work can do nothing but find fault, you think you might see about an alternative spokesman?

Me too.
DUDE - YOU ARE SO BUSTED
US forces in Iraq have captured one of the most senior members of Ansar al-Islam, an extremist group suspected of having ties to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, US defence officials said...

The officials said Hawleri is thought to be the third-ranking official in Ansar al-Islam, most of whose fighters were believed to have fled their stronghold in northern Iraq before US forces invaded in March. US and Kurdish forces destroyed the group’s main base in the early weeks of the war.

Ansar had taken control of a slice of the Kurdish-controlled area near the Iranian border, enforcing a version of Islam only slightly less stringent than the Taliban in Afghanistan in mountain strongholds outside areas of Iraq controlled by government forces.

JAPAN STEPS UP

Let's see...this is the only country in the world ever to suffer the devestation of nuclear warfare, delivered of course by the USA. They have stepped up.

And how much has been offered by the Europeans whom we also liberated from a brutal dictator?

Presque rien.
Lavishing gifts on visitors is a Japanese tradition and U.S. President George W. Bush's planned trip to Tokyo this week has already netted him one of his most coveted souvenirs -- a $1.5 billion cash pledge for Iraq.

But a more controversial item on Washington's wish list -- a concrete plan to send Japanese troops -- is still under wraps for fear of worrying voters ahead of Japan's November 9 election.

''Stability in the region is directly linked to the interests of our country, which relies on the Middle East for almost 90 percent of its oil imports,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told reporters after announcing the Iraq aid.
YEAH, I WOULD THINK SO
In almost identical headlines, Turkish newspapers Wednesday declared that the suicide bombing at the Turkish embassy in Baghdad was meant to discourage Turkey from sending troops to Iraq.

"A warning bomb," the mass-circulation daily Hurriyet said on its front page, describing Tuesday's blast as the sign of "serious reactions to the deployment of Turkish soldiers."

I'm fascinated by the complexity of the problem of Turkish Troops in Iraq. I have no idea how this will turn out.

In case you haven't read up on it the Turks are despised by the Kurds, the semi-autonomous tribes of Northern Iraq. And, in a land of long memories and longer grudges the folks of Iraq in general recall that the Turks came last time and created the Ottoman Empire.

On the other hand the Turks are Muslim which theorectically handles all those complaints about our being "insensitive" to Muslim culture. And, to boot, they are Sunni Muslim, as in Saddam's type of Muslim. So they would be put in the triangle, the place which has been most dangerous to US Soldiers.

And it also seems important to recall that bombs do not necessarily a majority make.

As the US Army likes to put it..."the enemy gets a vote". So, yes, bombs are noisy and dangerous and tend to draw lots of attention. But their prevalence in the press may overstate the relevance of the opinion behind them.
GALLUP IN BAGHDAD
If memory serves you read the preliminary reports here in September. However, the media have just gotten hold of the final - so here they are again.
Seventy-one percent of Baghdad residents believe U.S. troops should not leave within the next few months, according to the Gallup Poll released yesterday in Washington. Twenty-six percent feel the troops should leave that soon.

OK - this isn't the "90 - 95%" that most soldiers cite...but remember this is just Baghdad...part of the so-called Sunni Triangle.

Still I have to conclude that a 71% approval rating for our guys does not exactly a "quagmire" make.


The biggest surprise may have been public reaction to the questioners, who visited Iraqis in their homes. Richard Burkholder, director of international polling for Gallup, said the response rate was close to 97 percent, with some people following questioners around the streets begging for a chance to give their opinions.

Which is also striking...because one way that freedom is distinguished from tyranny is the right of the people to freedom of expression. Clearly there is a hunger for such freedom in Baghdad. A hunger that won't be soon extinguished I feel certain.
INCREASED VIGILANCE
Coalition military sources said Wednesday that they have received specific threats against hotels housing Westerners in the Iraqi capital.

Coalition helicopters have been circling one hotel -- the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad since --about 7 a.m. (midnight EDT).

Bradley fighting vehicles and U.S. troops also are positioned at the checkpoint in front of the hotel.

Coalition contractors, diplomats, international journalists, staff from relief agencies and U.S. soldiers guarding the complex are among the guests at the hotel.

Authorities received similar warnings last week about a possible attack on the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad, where a suicide car bomb detonated Tuesday afternoon. U.S. and Turkish officials said that the bomber was killed in the attack, the second such bombing this week.

PROGRESS
A significant event marking the return to normalcy for the Iraqi people occurred Oct. 7. Authority of a site was transferred back to the people of Iraq.

Coalition forces transferred authority of the former Al Thawath Nuclear Research facility to the Iraqi Ministerial Guard. The Ministerial Guard will oversee the security and integrity of the facility.

STARS & STRIPES INTERVIEWS GEN SANCHEZ

Q: We heard a number of stories from units who felt like that had no mission. Bridge building units, for example, that have no bridges to build and haven’t done anything in months. Are there issues there?

A: Well, I’d like to find that bridge unit, because just about every unit that I’m aware of has been given a significant task. Give me the name of that unit and I’ll get them something to do. I’ll go put them to work. But clearly, there is plenty of work here for any unit to make a contribution. If there is some small unit out there that didn’t wind up getting embraced, that shouldn’t be the case.

I have a feeling some bridge unit is going to be very busy very soon.
YIKES!

Roughly one-fourth of the U.S. military’s infrastructure could be on the chopping block as leaders gear up for another round of base closures and realignments, a defense analyst said.

“[Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld has told associates he wants to shutter 25 percent of military base capacity in a single round of base closures scheduled to take place in 2005,” wrote Loren Thompson of the public policy research organization Lexington Institute in a one-page position paper.

“But cutting a quarter of capacity might mean closing over a hundred of the 425 bases still scattered across the nation, and few states would be left unscathed.”

I'll say this as a retired guy...I feel bad for GI's who retired previously next to one of these 100 bases thinking they would be around forever.
"WELCOME TO A NEW IRAQ"
“No matter what happens in the future,” said Lt. Col. Jim Berenz, the brigade operations officer, “they will always remember when the Americans were here. The impact is more than immediate. It is everlasting.”

Berenz seemed genuinely moved when a bouquet of flowers was placed in his arms as he entered the school to chants from children dressed especially nice for the special occasion.

“Welcome, welcome to our friends. Welcome to a new Iraq,” they sang again and again in their language while many waved homemade Iraqi flags.

The Colonel is right. Here in Europe there are thousands of private citizens among the German, Belgians, Dutch and French citizenry who recall and honor to this day their liberation by the Allies, especially the USA. And more than a few have been quoted (some here) saying that the politics of the present do not reflect their love for the Americans.
ITS NOT ONE WORLD

Even within our own military.

Fascinating survey by the Stars & Stripes. Read the whole thing here.
Of all troops surveyed, 72 percent rated living conditions “average” or better. But disparities existed throughout the region. One Army unit could have three hot meals a day and another unit with the same mission subsisted on MREs and rationed bottles of water. Some units, although they had been in Iraq for months, still hadn’t had a day off or access to a hot shower. Other troops had been in Iraq a few weeks and were already being allowed to leave on morale trips.

The numbers show that sometimes camp conditions and morale are not always connected. Some Marines surveyed in southern Iraq live in austere conditions but still had overall high morale.

There is a sharp divide between the Air Force and Army. The Army and Air Force share several bases in Iraq, but the Air Force has separate — and superior — living conditions. The Air Force at Tallil Air Base, for example, brought in a Pizza Hut concession but the Army is barred from using it. The Air Force does deploy differently based on its mission, but soldiers, after seeing the contrast, said the division, which at times is a fence topped with barbed wire, undercuts morale and teamwork. The Air Force has its own gyms, morale tents and mess halls...

Over the next week, Stars and Stripes will present its findings on the issues that the troops in Iraq say are important to them. The series also will show creative means troops come up with to do their jobs — and to have some fun or add levity. And it will present what troops say leaders can do to improve morale and some ways troops keep their own morale high. It will conclude with what is next for troops and bases in Iraq.

And you can read about it here. Man, can you believe those Air Force guys...
I'm running late today...I'll get to the posting later. Every now and again duty calls.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15th. The 157th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

The forecast says it will be 101 degrees in Baghdad today...with a chance of rain (first I've noticed that rain is possible in a long time.)

Meanwhile, I had to scrape a little frost off the car windshield this morning in Germany.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

THE WAR ON TERROR

And some pointed thoughts from Victor Davis Hanson
While we may be in various stages of bellicosity with differing states, the fact is that after September 11 we will either accept defeat and stay within our borders to fight a defensive war of hosing down fires, bulldozing rubble, arresting terrorist cells, and hoping to appease or buy off our enemies abroad — or we will eventually have to confront Syria, Lebanon's Bekka Valley, Saudi Arabia, and Iran with a clear request to change and come over to civilization, or join the Taliban and Saddam Hussein...
INTERESTING TAKE
If I had to end with one impression from a whirlwind week, it would be the transformation of the Republican Palace from a source of Iraq’s decay and oppression to a nerve center for its rebuilding. And the change is physical. At one glance I’ll take in a gaudy shrine to the personal cult of Saddam Hussein, and the next I’ll see CPA employees putting up plywood cubicles so they can concentrate on the task at hand.
MAKING THEIR OWN FUN II

Of course, what is "fun" to Marines may not be right up your alley.
"It's not that it's real bad," he said. "It's just hot, and it's just boring. That's mostly it, just boring. Marines always find ways to entertain themselves and get in trouble. Some of our guys decided to start buildings on fire and jump off things, break bones. We wrestled, beat each other up. It was fun, though. It was always good fun."
PROGRESS
Iraq's interim administration is relying on oil sales to balance its books in 2004 - and foreign aid to cover the cost of reconstruction.

The administration has unveiled its 2004 budget, with projected spending of $13.5bn and a deficit of $600m...

"This budget represents an important step toward the rebuilding of Iraq by Iraqis," he said.

"The budget was prepared by a team of Iraqi experts, with a series of budget hearings attended by representatives from the various Iraqi ministries and chaired by the officials of the Minstry of Finance."

The budget would be "funded by available Iraqi resources" and not "increased borrowing, printing money or foreign assistance", he added.

NOT DOING NOTHING

Just doing it quietly.
The report of arrests in connection with the Baghdad Hotel bombing was the first public announcement of detentions tied to any of the eight car bomb attacks in Iraq that have killed more than 135 people, most of them Iraqis, since early August. Six exploded in Baghdad, and an estimated 100 people were killed in late August when a car bomb detonated outside a Shiite Muslim shrine in Najaf.

A senior military intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in an interview Friday that U.S. military forces arrested one or two suspected foreign terrorists last month who were linked to the bombings of the U.N. headquarters and the Jordanian Embassy in August. The official said the two were picked up in a raid on a house in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, during which two soldiers were killed and seven suffered minor wounds. The official did not provide any other details.

Iraqi and U.S. commanders here have blamed increasingly violent resistance activity on foreign guerrillas who have slipped through Iraq's borders undetected.

"I don't think we know the exact extent of the foreign fighters coming in," the senior official said. "What you have now is a small group -- two, three or four people. They come in privately owned vehicles and they're not coming with weapons, so it's very hard to track the numbers."

The official said the foreigners are predominantly associated with Ansar al-Islam, a Muslim guerrilla group that was driven out of northern Iraq by U.S. forces.

R&R STORIES
Two weeks off gave Spc. Eric Pierce, 21, of Emben, Maine, a chance to grow a goatee, drive his new BMW, and most of all, spend every waking moment with his wife, Edna.

Pierce, a communication specialist with V Corps in Baghdad, was working the late shift Sept. 23, when his bosses told him to take the next two weeks off.

He had six hours to collect his things, get to Baghdad International Airport and catch a flight to Kuwait. After a night at Camp Wolf, the Army base adjacent to Kuwait Airport, Pierce flew to Frankfurt.

Meanwhile in Heidelberg, Edna Pierce, an Army specialist who works for V Corps’ rear detachment, anxiously awaited her husband’s return. The couple had been married June 10, 2002, and missed their first anniversary...

“It was wonderful — he was there,” she said, of her husband’s return during an interview in Heidelberg only days before Pierce was to return downrange. “I just talked his ear off.”

On the first day the couple faced the uneasy feelings of getting reacquainted, they said, but that wore off quickly. They remembered what it was like to share the computer, the television and their bed.

There were joyous calls home to his family in Maine and her folks in El Paso, Texas. Then the couple headed out to the Coyote Café in Heidelberg for the long-awaited steak that he and fellow troops in Iraq dream about when washing down their packaged rations with bleach-filtered water.

“Oh, it was excellent — cooked perfectly,” Pierce said with a smile. “And I had a beer for a couple of friends.”

MAKING THEIR OWN FUN

Mardi Gras. In Baghdad. In October.

Hey, whatever works.
About a dozen decorated floats from nearby Air Force, Army and Navy units drove around the camp, with riders throwing handfuls of beads, plastic cups and doubloons at the few hundred parade-watchers.

The New Orleans version of Mardi Gras, which means “fat Tuesday” in French, is known for its excesses — huge street parades, formal balls and plenty of food and alcohol.

Although the parade couldn’t be characterized as large, the ball was a come-as-you-are affair and there wasn’t any alcohol, attendees were still impressed.

“On a scale of one to 10, this is at least a seven,” said parade watcher Airman 1st Class Keona Harris, who experienced the real Mardi Gras in 1999.

"YOU CAN SEE YOURSELF MAKING A DIFFERENCE"
Besides supervising the slow reconstruction of the city’s battered utility grid and street network, the soldiers also spend time refereeing disputes between citizens of different ethnic backgrounds.

“It gets a little irritating at times, because all you do is listen to people’s problems,” Ruiz said.

“Helping these people is a different kind of feeling,” he added. “You can see yourself making a difference.”

One of the biggest problems was simply getting the Iraqi bureaucrats to do their jobs. Even upper-level officials had been conditioned by years of dictatorship to do nothing without orders.

After weeks of frustration, Wright and Capt. Mike Ohman, 27, said they discovered that memos — preferably bearing an official-looking seal — usually will prod an Iraqi civil servant into action.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 14th. The 156th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

And, based upon her estimated return date of March 19th, 2004 today is HALFWAY DAY!!

(Whoo Hoo!)

Monday, October 13, 2003

FROM MY HOMETOWN
Christy remembers Iraq as country in the process of decay.

"The buildings weren't collapsing because of bombs. It was like going back in time," he said. "You got the feeling that the country had been kept poor."

The Iraqis that he met confirmed this belief, he said. Often, city leaders would come to the train station where they were stationed to speak to the higher ups about repairing roads or buildings. He painted, cleaned and repaired the stucco schools in As Samawah, Iraq.

Americans who criticize the progress in Iraq, don't understand that the country has virtually no infrastructure, he said.

While it was difficult to be away from his family, he had an easier time than soldiers in Northern Iraq where many of the attacks on coalition forces have taken place. Not once did anyone throw a rock or even shout at him, he said.

WELL SAID
For all the soul-searching that these attacks rightly cause, it is important not to allow the doom-mongers to hold sway. Allied forces in Iraq are not facing a national resistance movement.

The terrorists are an unholy alliance of diehard Saddamites and foreign "jihadis" who have flocked to Iraq from across the Islamic world. Much of the country is quiet, with most incidents concentrated in a few troublespots.

Moreover, after months of squandering public goodwill, the Coalition Provisional Authority running Iraq has quietly notched up several successes. A new currency has appeared on the streets, heralding an end to the hyper-inflation that pauperised Iraq's middle class. Electricity generation has, at long last, returned to pre-war levels. Some 8,000 reconstruction projects are under way, ranging from refurbishing schools to laying water mains.

Iraq's Governing Council is gaining international recognition even among nations bitterly opposed to the war: it currently has a delegation attending a summit of 56 Muslim states.

Individually, these achievements may not count for much. Cumulatively, they undermine those who offer car bombs as their only answer to Iraq's problems.

TIME FLIES

At least it does when on R&R
The first troops to take advantage of the Army's unprecedented R&R program prepared Sunday to return to Iraq, many saying they felt energized by their two weeks of rest and recuperation.

"It'll make the next six months easier to get used to," said Staff Sgt. Jason Whitaker, 33, from San Antonio...

Many of the troops said they found the public very supportive, regardless of how people may have felt about the war. They described seeing yellow ribbons and road signs welcoming them home.

Hannon said there was a church convention in the motel where he and other soldiers stayed last night, and this morning, soldiers were pulled into the services and prayed over and hugged.

"It made us feel real good," Hannon said.



THIS IS DISTURBING

The only case I've come across was a second-hand account involving a soldier after receiving a Dear John phone call.
Alarmed by the number of suicides among soldiers in Iraq, the Army has asked a team of doctors to determine whether the stress of combat and long deployments is contributing to the deaths.

"The number of suicides has caused the Army to be concerned," said Lt. Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, a psychiatrist at the Army's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. Ritchie is helping to investigate the suicides in Iraq. "Is there something different going on in Iraq that we really need to pay attention to?"

In the past seven months, at least 11 soldiers and three Marines have committed suicide in Iraq, military officials say. That is an annual rate of 17 per 100,000. The Navy also is investigating one possible suicide. And about a dozen other Army deaths are under investigation and could include suicides.

The numbers suggest the rate in Iraq is above normal. Last year, the military services reported 8 to 9 suicides per 100,000 people. The Army rate is usually higher, 10 to 13 per 100,000. That mirrors the rate for the same age group in the general population.

DID SOMEONE REPORT THAT IRAQ IS ONE IDIOT SHORT OF A QUORUM?

Well, this guy's gonna fix that.
Peter Lumsdaine, a veteran of World Trade Organization and anti-military protests, is headed to Jordan and Iraq on a "peacemaker" mission.

Lumsdaine, of Santa Cruz, is a former Resource Center For Nonviolence staffer who now coordinates the nonprofit the Military Globalization Project. He and his wife, the Rev. Meg Lumsdaine, an ordained Lutheran minister, plan to embark on their Middle East journey today. They will stay through Nov. 3...

Lumsdaine was the subject of national news coverage a decade ago when he and another activist were sentenced to jail for sneaking into a Seal Beach facility and attacking a $50 million military surveillance satellite with an ax. He also has written frequently about peace issues.

He said he plans to meet and interview Iraqis, including people who lost family under Saddam Hussein’s regime, as well as those whose loved ones have been killed in the war.

Lumsdaine said he’s worried about civilians at risk in Iraq "mostly from U.S. soldiers. Obviously there is a mounting civilian toll from U.S. military action."

Yeah, idiot. I suppose if the soldiers weren't there the suicide bomber self-inflicted death toll wouldn't be so high.

Worried about "civilians at risk in Iraq"??? Where were you for thirty years as Saddam tortured, killed, maimed and terrorized? Were you worried then you moronic imbecile?

How about my wife...could you find it in your heart to be worried for her, as I am every day for the last 155 days...jumping out of my skin everytime the doorbell rings?

Idiot.
OUR GUYS RESPOND

And the little reported good news is that the defensive measures in place kept this from doing much more damage.

According to Col. Peter Mansoor, commander of the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade, three American soldiers were slightly injured in the bombing, which occurred around 12:45 p.m...

Mansoor told reporters that a car traveling down one of the main north-south travel routes on Baghdad’s eastern side tried to negotiate the cement barriers at a hotel entrance. The Associated Press later reported that two cars were involved. Both were fired upon by U.S. and Iraqi guards before both explosives were detonated.

There was no damage to the hotel, but nearby shops and apartments took the brunt of the explosions.

Within minutes of the attack, 2nd ACR Kiowa helicopters were circling the scene.

Within a half-hour, soldiers from the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 2nd ACR and various military police units, including the 204th, 812th and 233rd MP Companies, set up a perimeter about a block in radius from the blast.
COLUMBUS DAY, MONDAY, OCTOBER 13th. The 155th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

GOOD TUNES
If you like very easy-on-the-ears jazz have a listen to Diana Krall's "The Look of Love"

I just picked it up today. Very, very smooth.
RANDOM THOUGHTS

Was walking through a very crowded pedestrian shopping zone in Giessen today where a special market is going on and the stores are open - a rare exception for a Sunday in Germany.

Anyway, the market included food and drink stands, street performers and all manner of distractions.

And I noticed that most of the kids, and many of the adults had balloons.

And with sort of a strange Emily Dickensonian way of looking at old things with new eyes it occurred to me to ask myself: "Why do we like balloons?"

Its not as if they are functional. OK - if filled with helium they defy gravity - unique but hardly functional. And we seem to love them even if they are filled with nothing but air.

And OK - they are colorful. But innumerable things are colorful. Some in ways that make balloons seem rather dull from a color perspective.

But we just love balloons.

And I don't know why. Do you?
CHARACTER COUNTS

Doing what is right even though it might not be popular.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will make a direct pledge to President Bush of both money and troops for Iraq when the two leaders meet in Tokyo next week, Japanese government sources said Friday...

But with polls showing the Japanese people largely opposed to what would be Japan's most significant military operation since World War II -- and with Koizumi in the midst of a reelection campaign -- many observers have openly wondered whether he would press ahead with those plans.

Koizumi will settle that issue next week with a definitive yes, officials say.


CHEERLEADING FOR HIS DAUGHTER

All the way from Baghdad.
In a way, Louis Friedmann is just another excited soccer dad.

The compelling photos he takes. The quirky yet inspirational signs he creates. The proud grin he displays.

But if that is all you see, then you aren't seeing the full picture.

What about the photograph that displays the words ''Bringing out the Big Guns again FRA.'' What about the fact that there actually are big guns — guns attached to tanks and surrounded by a vast expanse of desert sand — dominating the landscape.

Suddenly, Louis Friedmann is more than just a dad enamored with his daughter Kathryn, her Goodpasture Christian School soccer team and his digital camera. He is a soldier, a commander, a member of the 130th Rear Area Operations Center. He is part of the Tennessee Army National Guard Unit base in Tullahoma that was deployed from Fort Campbell to Kuwait in April. He is in Iraq now, more than 5,000 miles away from his daughter, his wife, his son.

HOW OUR INTEL IS IMPROVING
U.S. officials are also counting on Iraqis becoming tired of the violence and offering information. After the Aug. 19 bombing at U.N. headquarters, which killed 23 people, coalition officials saw a large influx of Iraqis coming forward, Stadnyk said.

“People are starting to realize that terrorist actions are hurting Iraqis just as much as coalition forces,” he said.
ONE SOLDIER'S STORY

And it is a good one. Take a moment to read the whole thing here.
Once the 3rd Infantry reached the outskirts of Baghdad and seized Saddam International Airport on April 4, McGee stayed put with Blount at the airport, again briefing senior-level commanders throughout 16- and 18-hour days.

"I felt like a zoo exhibit" as the only lieutenant, McGee said. "I had people say to me, 'They still make you guys?' "

STRYKER HEADED FOR IRAQ
On Friday, the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis began rolling the eight-wheeled Stryker troop carriers onto transport ships -- the Military Sealift Command's Sisler and USNS Shugart -- bound for Kuwait.

"HELP ME GET READY QUICKER"

A good piece...read it all here.
"I have worked in many parts of the world," said Rassam, "and it is very gratifying to come here and see that we are beginning to get some natural leaders to emerge, men and women, from the real grassroots.

"We had two women from the councils, a Christian and a Muslim who keeps her head covered, go to a [US-sponsored] conference in Hilla the other day and speak about their experiences with incipient democracy. They came back and said to me, 'We want to talk to [the US administrator Paul] Bremer and tell him there must be a quota for women on the constitution-writing committee.'

"To see these two women - one Christian, one veiled - stand up and say, 'You have really helped us come out and have self-confidence and now we don't want to stop here, we want women on the constitution-writing committee' - that is real democracy-building.

"I don't think you can put them back in their place. At least I hope not. These councils are a natural arena for leaders to emerge from the people."

Oh yes, these councils have their crooks and power hogs, some of whom have already been purged by their colleagues.

But even with their warts, they are providing Iraqis a forum for the kind of horizontal conversation - between Sunnis, Shiites, Turkmen, Christians and Kurds - that Saddam never allowed and must happen for any Iraqi democracy to have a solid base.

I also spoke the other day with Nasreen Barwari, Iraq's new (Harvard-trained) Minister of Public Works. She made it very clear to me that she and her colleagues want sovereignty as soon as they are really able to run things.

But to those demanding early sovereignty in Iraq, as a precondition for helping, she said: "If you want me to be sovereign, come and help me reconstruct my country ... Help me get ready quicker."

A CONGRESSMAN'S REPORT
"He did a good job on roads; he did a great job on palaces. He did a lousy job on almost everything else," Walden said.

Walden said he saw no direct evidence of weapons of mass destruction, but military officials in Iraq remain convinced they will be found.

The trip changed his mind about whether Congress should make U.S. reconstruction aid a loan rather than a grant. A loan will only play to fears that the United States wants to get Iraqi oil and to saddle the country with debt, he said.

Walden met with troops from a number of Oregon towns -- Prairie City, Huntington, The Dalles, Hood River, Coquille and Pleasant Hill. Their biggest need: more access to satellite phones to call home more frequently.

A SOLDIER WRITES TO HIS CHURCH
When we drive through the streets, kids as well as adults, shout out to us with laughter, joy, and even tears of happiness as if we were sent from God himself. I don't think they even realize the magnitude of what our country can actually provide for them.

However, it will take time and lots of prayer in order to reconstruct this country into a democracy of freedoms. Freedom, a word that is not even in their vocabulary, has only been a dream for them. Now it is being realized and they are getting excited to learn what it is that we fight to protect.

I explain to some that freedom is the opportunity to worship Christ, God, or whomever. Freedom means being able to eat and drink what you want, to say what you want, to do whatever you want, and to go whereever you want. The Iraqi people haven't grasped that concept yet, but now they realize it is closer.

CAR BOMB
A homicide bomber detonated a car bomb Sunday outside the Baghdad Hotel believed to house U.S. security officials, killing six bystanders and wounding dozens.

A member of Iraq's 25-seat interim Governing Council, Mouwafak al-Rabii, was in the Baghdad Hotel at the time and suffered a slight hand injury, he told Al-Jazeera satellite television.

Police said an Iraqi security guard and the bomber were among the dead.

A Fox News reporter near the scene felt one enormous explosion, but later reports indicated that two simultaneous blasts had occurred. Two cars outside the hotel were on fire after the explosions. Gunfire was also reported in the vicinity.

Witnesses said guards outside the hotel fired on an approaching car before it exploded, indicating that a much deadlier attack had likely been thwarted.

U.S. military helicopters circled overhead and U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police quickly arrived to secure the area.

U.S. officials are believed to be staying at the hotel. However, a U.S. government official in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the building was not the CIA's headquarters in Baghdad as was believed.

This is in the 1st Brigades area of responsibility. Click on the Baghdad Map link, find "(Tigris) River" in the center of the map. Look directly to the right of the first "R" in river. You will see a green house-shaped symbol with the word "Baghdad" immediately beside it. That is the Baghdad hotel.

It's about one and two-tenths of a mile from CPT Patti and her crew.
NEWSPAPERS: FREE AND ON TIME
Troops throughout Iraq can expect more timely delivery of Stars and Stripes when presses start rolling in Baghdad next week.

On Wednesday, an Iraqi press facility will join one in Kuwait in printing daily copies of Stars and Stripes for troops serving in the Middle East.

“It’s been a long, hard road to reach the troops in Iraq,” Publisher Tom Kelsch said.

“On April 11th of this year, we began printing and delivery from Kuwait City, but the demand from troops for timely news simply commanded we get closer. These servicemembers have limited television and Internet access, and they’re longing for news from home.”

Troops will continue to receive the papers for free...

“The press shop is by no means modern, but they’re literally pulling people off the streets to hand collate the paper and get the job done,” Production Manager Ron Garcia said.



SUNDAY, OCTOBER 12th. The 154th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

I got to see her beaming face this morning via video teleconference.

She looks terrific...with a smile the size of Alaska.