What are they...nuts?
A top Iraqi official attending an international conference on raising funds to rebuild Iraq warned Thursday that France and Germany's limited donations would not be forgotten.
Ayad Allawi, the current head of Iraq's U.S.-appointed governing council, said he hoped German and French officials would reconsider their decision not to boost their contributions beyond funds already pledged through the European Union.
"As far as Germany and France are concerned, really, this was a regrettable position they had," Allawi said. "I don't think the Iraqis are going to forget easily that in the hour of need, those countries wanted to neglect Iraq."
In your face, weasels.
(via trying to grok)
The ring reminds her of one young Iraqi boy and his family.
She keeps it on her dog tags as a reminder of the work the United States is doing to help families in Iraq, especially women and children.
Cmdr. Diane Plappert, a U.S. Navy Nurse Corps reservist, spent four months with the Marine Corps First Medical Battalion in Kuwait and Iraq, where troops routinely handed out food to children.
One day near the ancient city of Babylon, Plappert ran out of food, and all she had left to share was a small white tablet of paper, which she handed to a young Iraqi boy.
"He grabbed it and ran and came back with his whole family. He had given the pad to his mom, and she was crying because they don't have paper. They really don't have much at all," Plappert said.
"This little boy came over to me and gave me a big hug and kiss and this ring. It might be all he had, but he gave it to me."
"I am going to keep that ring on my dog tags forever," she said.
Whenever she has doubts about the work she does, she said, "All I need to do is remember this ring and remember what impact we had on people, and that will be enough."
Retired Gen. Tommy Franks, the folksy West Texan who recently stepped down as commander of U.S. forces in Southwest Asia, said Friday the public isn't getting a complete or accurate account of the conflict in Iraq.
Franks chastised the media for under-reporting the rebuilding effort in Iraq while over-reporting criticisms of the intelligence community and the military.
Despite what he portrayed as unrealistic expectations of a swift conflict, Franks said the military has performed admirably and deserves the public's patience as it works to nurture democracy in Iraq...
"Have you noticed the tendency by the media to talk about intelligence failure? There has been no intelligence failure in our country. There has been simply inadequate (use) of our intelligence base," he said.
Still, he said, "our intelligence is not as good as we want it to be. It is not as good as it needs to be in order to wrestle the problems of a new millennium," he said.
Regarding the flap surrounding a leaked memo by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that candidly described challenges facing the modernization of U.S. forces, Franks said "good for him. What I'm disappointed with is that during this 12-month period that leads up to next November, we see such an overwhelming desire to lay it out -- in the media -- and begin to snipe and pick at, not always factually, what is meant by that" memo, he said.
Al-Qaida has sent a message to its network of sleeper agents in the Persian Gulf.
Gulf intelligence sources said a taped message by al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden was intended to send orders to sleepers to carry out one or more unspecified attacks in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. The main target is believed to be Kuwait, the sources said.
"We believe this was directed at al-Qaida's large sleeper network in Kuwait to move into action," an intelligence source said. "There's nothing more specific than this."
Over the weekend, Bin Laden's message was broadcast over the Doha-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel. The recording warned of fresh attacks against the United States and its allies in Iraq. Bin Laden named only one Arab country, Kuwait.
"Islamic countries that take part will not be excluded," Bin Laden said. "This applies particularly to the Gulf states, particularly Kuwait, a launching pad for the crusader forces."
The completion of 600 reconstruction projects goes unnoticed. The testimony of countless politicians, soldiers and Iraqis as to the improvement in Iraq goes unnoticed. The encouraging pictures of Iraqis and Americans, Muslims and Christians, all working together are not shown.
Negative reporting sells the best, but it has taken over what we're learning about the war. I cannot make a better point of this than asking readers to do a search on the Internet for testimonies of soldiers and politicians going to Iraq and seeing the difference. Rather than rephrase those testimonies, let me give another look at what's going on.
A brutal dictator and a state sponsor of terrorism (including al-Qaida) has been removed. Demonstrations for democracy and freedom are becoming the norm in countries like Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia. (Of course, I only know about that because I read the Arab press; no American papers are reporting it.)
Syria, surrounded by pro-West states, is making moves to pull out of Lebanon and has never felt such pressure to stop supporting terrorism. Reforms are occurring in that Baathist country, including banning the law that everyone in government must be a Baathist.
There is more here...and it is worth reading.
But the real surprise comes when you get to the author's credentials...
As well as promising billions of dollars for Iraq, donors at the Madrid donor conference have come up with some less usual offers.
Rice, tea and even busloads of high-spending tourists have been pledged, as well as hard cash...
...Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said he could also foresee at least 100,000 tourists visiting the former enemy country every month...
Meanwhile Vietnam promised rice worth $500,000 and Sri Lanka 100 tonnes of tea.
The militant Iraqi Muslim group Ansar al-Islam, whose main base was destroyed by American and Kurdish forces before the Iraq war began, has become the principal "terrorist adversary" of US forces in the country, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
Air Force Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz told reporters there was no proof that guerrillas from the Muslim group, suspected of having ties to fugitive Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda guerrilla network, had taken part in major suicide bombings in Baghdad. But he reiterated statements by other US officials that Ansar al-Islam had now established itself in Baghdad and said the group had become a primary target of US forces.
"I think that AI ... is our principal organized terrorist adversary in Iraq right now and we are concentrating our resources on that," Schwartz, director for operations on the US military's Joint Staff at the Pentagon, told reporters.
For the Illinois National Guard's 233rd Military Police Company, the Internet is more than a superhighway. It's a 6,000-mile bridge that spans the gap between their frontline position in central Baghdad and their families, friends and even favorite department stores back home.
"A lot of the girls shop at Victoria's Secret," said Spc. Jennifer Stamer, 22, a waitress and bartender at Cheddars restaurant in Springfield until shewas activated, along with the rest of the 233rd, in February. "They get underwear, pajamas and swimming suits."
Curiouser and curiouser.
Further on in the story though I found this which may be of use to some of us.
A month ago, someone here discovered dialpad.com. Its use has spread like wildfire among the troops of the 233rd and the broader 519th MP Battalion, to which the 233rd is attached. With a microphone and headset hooked into a computer connected to the Internet, the troops can talk with friends and family back home for less than 3 cents a minute.
That website is www.dialpad.com
As part of the Illinois National Guard's 233rd Military Police Company, Middleton, 20, of Eureka must feel a bit like Alice after falling through the looking glass. She and her unit were activated in February and arrived in Baghdad in April, days after the fall of Saddam Hussein. They expect to be here until next April.
Her MP duties along banks of the Tigris River are a far cry from her days not long ago waiting tables at Hooters along the Illinois River in Peoria.
"Yes, I was a Hooters girl," she said, standing on the rooftop of the barracks of the 233rd's 1st and 4th Platoons, the Reapers and the Crusaders, respectively...
In a culture where women are expected to be less visible in public, the sight of a woman standing in a Humvee turret or shouldering an M-16 rifle on the street is an outright spectacle.
Spc. Erica Clark, 21, of Belleville said one man offered five goats for her hand in marriage. Angela Carner, 20, of Dupo said one Iraqi told her she should respect him just because he's a man.
Spc. Rebecca Power, 22, of Springfield has treated two civilians, one for a gunshot wound and another for a heart attack.
"They're amazed by American women," she said of the Iraqis she encounters on patrol.
Blondes especially strike them.
"They try to reach up and touch it," Power said of her own blonde hair. "I hear them say, "Will you marry me? I love you.' It happens all the time."
Noticing that other troops had flags from their home states, he called his mother, Sonja James, who lives in Payne Springs.
Mrs. James said she looked for a Lone Star flag, but couldn't find one in any stores.
"Marge will know," Mrs. James said.
She called Gun Barrel City Mayor Marge Puck, who is also the Americanism Chairman for VFW Post 4376 in Seven Points.
Puck and the VFW delivered a flag to Mrs. James, who sent it overseas to her son.
"We hung it out on the porch [of the tent] for about a month," James said.
Then, the flag went on one of his unit's airplanes. It flew with the aircraft over Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Africa -- "Everywhere we landed," James said.
When members of the unit began rotating out, James took the flag back to his tent and displayed it there, where it stayed until he returned to America in August.
On Oct. 18, James arrived at the Seven Points VFW in full uniform with his family: parents, brother, wife, and sons.
The crew chief and aircraft mechanic returned the widely-traveled flag to the Post. Along with the flag, James had a signed certificate authenticating its flight over Baghdad in April.
He also presented the Post with an American flag.
The Post is framing the certificate and ordering a shadowbox for the Texas flag. Both will be displayed in the VFW.
The overnight curfew that has been in effect in Baghdad for the past six months will be lifted on Sunday, in time for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, authorities announced.
"Coalition authorities have informed the Baghdad City Council that the curfew in Baghdad will be lifted beginning 4am on October 26," council chairman Adnan Abdul Sahib Hassan said.
"Despite some highly publicised attacks by terrorists and supporters of the former regime, the overall security situation in Baghdad has improved," he said.
U.S. Army Maj. Gregg Softy wasn’t expecting much when he e-mailed a few friends asking for some supplies for the beaten and battered schools in Iraq.
A few boxes of pens and pencils, notebooks and chalk was what he was hoping for. Now, the operations officer with the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment receives up to 100 boxes of school supplies every day, from Americans he has never met.
“We are up to about a ton a day coming in,” said Softy, 37, whose children, Shea, 13, and Brennan, 11, are in Büdingen, Germany, with their mother, Mary.
So big has the effort become that it even caught the attention of the White House. Softy was mentioned in President Bush’s radio address to the nation on Saturday...
A new effort also has been launched. People can adopt an entire school.
“I have one gentleman who adopted the school around the corner and just bought 700 of everything — notebooks, pencils, glue,” Softy said...
Now he is impressed, he said, with the “power and the passion” of the people who donate, filling box after box with everything from chalk to chalkboards. One person sent 244 soccer balls.
“Americans just want to help,” he said.
Also, he said, the effort lets Americans know that Iraq is being made better. The suicide bombs and the shootouts and the deaths of soldiers rightfully get attention, he said.
“But for every one of those [stories],” he said, “there are 1,000 of these going on.”
Yes there are.
Interested in helping? Visit www.iraqischools.com
Two convicted felons showed up to begin serving their sentences at a prison in Germany - only to be turned away by fussy bureaucrats who quibbled about their identification papers.
Shame-faced authorities Thursday said the two men, ages 36 and 51, were forced to ask police to summon a federal prosecutor who vouched for their identities.
Satisfied the men were properly convicted criminals, prison officials agreed to show them to their cells to begin serving four-year terms for cigarette smuggling.
"Well, we can't just let everybody in here," an official was quoted as saying.
You know, ve haf vays of making you talk...
A program that began Thursday could make the ride home a little smoother for some soldiers.
Under "Operation Hero Miles" people will be able to turn their frequent-flier miles over to their airlines, which in turn will make them available to soldiers trying to get home for their brief leaves.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger D-Md., said he got the idea after he visited troops passing through Baltimore-Washington International Airport...
Delta customers can donate miles to the program by e-mail, fax or mail. Details can be found on the Web at Delta's Web site.
On Thursday, Southwest Airlines donated 20 ticket vouchers to the USO and said its passengers could begin turning in miles immediately. A Southwest spokeswoman added that customers already are allowed to use frequent-flier points for a free ticket or transfer the points to someone else.
"In this case, if a customer would like to donate their ticket to 'Operation Hero Miles,' we certainly would allow them to do that," said Christine Turneabe Connelly, a Southwest spokeswoman.
During these rallies of the faithful, he brings Christians to their feet with a story from his tour in Mogadishu. Gen. Boykin was on the hunt for a Somali warlord named Osman Ato. Here is how he describes his capture of the warlord and their personal confrontation:
"[Osman Ato] went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, 'They'll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.' Well, you know what, I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol."
When Ato was captured, three days later, Gen. Boykin went into his cell and told him to his face: "You underestimated our God."...
U.S. soldiers who have committed suicide in Iraq were mostly just desperate to return home, and may have meant only to injure themselves, a military combat stress officer said on Thursday.
Officials in Washington said last week at least 13 soldiers have killed themselves in Iraq, representing more than 10 percent of non-combat deaths. More case are being probed.
Captain Justin Cole, who works at a U.S. military base in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, said that while a majority of soldiers are dealing well with the stress of being away from home, for some it was proving too much.
He said he had personally dealt with two self-inflicted deaths. One soldier shot himself in the leg after being told he could not go home, hitting an artery.
Another, a woman, shot herself in the stomach. He said he thought neither meant to kill themselves.
Meanwhile, if you need a reminder that Al Jazeera is an evil, evil organization, consider they ran this same story under this headline:
US soldiers 'dying' to go home
Iraq, McPherson says, has three assets most developing countries lack -- a large number of educated people, an entrepreneurial spirit, and oil.
All countries, McPherson says, have intelligent people. But Iraq, like some Eastern European nations as they emerged from Soviet domination, also has a sizable cadre of people who have received fine higher educations, especially in technical courses, most of them taught in English.
As Americans on the scene in Iraq have learned to their dismay, under Saddam Hussein's regime, with its focus on war-making and private enrichment, Iraq's infrastructure decayed much more than was understood by experts exercising their expertise from afar. That Iraq functioned as well as it did is, McPherson believes, partly because it has "an abundance of engineers who held things together with baling wire."
Iraq's second asset, what McPherson calls "an entrepreneurial spirit you can still feel," is a rarity -- a pleasant postwar surprise. It exists partly because of an unpleasant aspect of prewar Iraq -- pandemic corruption. That was a hard school, always in session, teaching participants how to operate in the interstices of rules and in the shadowy conditions of the black market. McPherson notes that unlike the Soviet Union, Saddam's Iraq never nationalized retailing, which was a whetstone that kept commercial skills sharp.
Embattled R&B star R. Kelly opens his latest round of court-approved tour dates with a concert that will be beamed by satellite to U.S. troops in Iraq...
Kelly is waiving his fee for the show, and all proceeds from the show will be donated to the Texas Military Family Foundation, which will use the money to send care packages to American troops in Iraq. Soldiers who have served in Iraq will be admitted to the concert without charge.
The show doesn't mark his first contribution to soldiers. In early 2002, Kelly wrote and recorded the track "Soldier's Heart" as a tribute to the U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan. The song got further attention this spring, when U.S. troops entered Iraq.
For instance, what is it exactly about post-Saddam Iraq that bothers them most? Is it the restoration of the Marsh Arabs' habitat, or the resurgence of tourism in the Kurdish North now that Iraqis can visit the area without fear?
Perhaps it's the women's conference that was recently held in Baghdad? Or maybe it's the fact that Iraq's hospitals have all been reopened and refurbished, and a nationwide vaccination effort is taking place?
Maybe they're opposed to the new educational curriculum--free of Baathist propaganda, and the special schools for children with Down Syndrome?
Or is it the availability of goods and products to regular Iraqis for the first time in decades?
Or perhaps the thriving new Iraqi free press, which boasts numerous independent newspapers and radio stations, and satellite dishes on almost every house?
Soldiers who served in Iraq will not be allowed to give blood for a year after returning home because of a rare skin parasite that has infected 22 members of the military, federal health officials said Thursday.
Rebuilding Iraq promises to be a business opportunity worth billions of dollars, and US firms are leading the pack.
Companies from countries that opposed the US-led war — especially Germany and France — have few short-and medium-term prospects to capture contracts in Iraq, according to diplomats in Baghdad.
The suicide bomber who struck the Baghdad Hotel earlier this month spoke a different dialect of Arabic than Iraqis, the first solid indication that foreign fighters are involved in recent car bombings here, senior Iraqi officials say.
Moments before detonating his bomb, the driver exchanged a few words with an Iraqi policeman guarding a checkpoint outside the hotel, according to two Iraqi Interior Ministry officials. The policeman, who was injured in the attack, told investigators that, by his dialect, the man sounded like he was from Saudi Arabia or Yemen.
We go up to the bomb, and beside the empty tin are several pounds of carefully cut angle-iron pieces, chunks of PE4, which is a Russian plastic explosive, and bars of TNT. The bomb had not yet had the fuse in place. Presumably someone would have shown up tonight to finish the job.
An hour has passed since the beginning of the operation, and traffic is severely backed up in both directions. The team abandons the idea of ambushing the saboteurs. Instead, 1st Platoon scouts fan out over the area looking for a likely detonation spot, and find a second IED.
This is Asberry's 14th IED disposal and he's due to rotate out soon. Another EOD man was recently killed at his work. It's hard to believe that anyone would want this job, but Asberry says he loves what he does. Admission to the seven-month-long school to qualify as an assistant is highly competitive.
Careful...there is some rough language in this one.
US soldiers and Iraqi police prevented a coordinated bomb attack yesterday when they seized three suspected militants, including one thought to be from Syria, on a stretch of road in Baghdad known as "detonation valley".
The arrest of a Syrian would, if confirmed, lend support to claims by US and Iraqi officials that foreign fighters from Iran and Syria are entering Iraq to fight coalition troops.
The foiled multiple bomb attack involved a car packed with explosives, and two roadside devices.
Sixty-two police officers are operating the first Iraqi highway police unit about 40 miles south of Baghdad, working with U.S. military police to patrol a stretch of the coalition’s main supply route and the surrounding countryside...
For their limited resources and time on the job, the Iraqis have had some successes.
“Last night, they found an [improvised explosive device] placed along the road,” Chatten said. The road is the main supply route from southern Iraq to Baghdad, and the police who found the IED probably saved lives.
U.S. Army doctors are trying to repair the damage done to Iraqi medicine during the reign of Saddam Hussein when, as one doctor put it, “medicine stopped.”
The soldier/physicians held a three-day clinic this week on emergency obstetrics, and there is hope that such professional development classes will become regular events and cover a wide range of topics...
There is much for the Iraqi doctors to learn about obstetrics care. For example, they use Valium as an anesthetic during births, not epidurals, which are common in America. The use of ultrasounds in Iraq is extremely limited.
The Americans plan to leave behind some of the teaching tools so they can be used in future classes. They had mannequins, CD-ROMs and other teaching tools for the class.
They expect the Iraqi doctors to quickly catch up with what more than two decades of a dictatorship has cost them.
The questions I posed to combatant commanders this week were: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror?
Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment?
Can a big institution change fast enough?
Is the USG changing fast enough?
Some would have us believe that the content of this memo somehow indicates the administration is "pessimistic" and even dishonest in its characterization of the war on terror.
I don't see it that way at all.
Long time readers know that I have my disagreements with Secretary Rumsfeld. But I look at that memo as evidence quite simply the man is doing his job as leader of the defense community.
And its all about leadership.
See, the moment leadership stops moving forward, it ceases to be leadership. And I know from my own Army experience that among the leaders duties is to ask the hard questions...the questions that make one squirm.
When you stop asking the hard questions, and closely examining the state of affairs, then you settle for the status quo and slip into self congratulation. And that is the last thing we need.
So the Secretary asks the questions that need asking. Are we winning? How do we know? What are the metrics by which we measure that? Because behind those questions are issues of integrity and stewardship. We have soldiers in harm's way around the globe and we are dropping big money everyday - where are the measurable results? That is a reasonable question and to me shows the Secretary's level of commitment as a public servant that he seeks to answer it.
As to the "long hard slog" - well, fact is, the president has said this will be a long hard war on terror from the first day. I don't know about you, but that comment by Rumsfeld didn't surprise me at all - seems a lot like the same message we've been hearing for 2 years.
“They thought they wouldn’t have a school this year, but now they do,” said Williams, prior to the grand opening Monday of the Al Ta’akhe school. The name, new this year, means “brotherhood.”
Williams’ troops helped coordinate work and funding for a local contractor, and provided many supplies for the school.
“They are the heroes,” said Muneer Moh’amed, director of the municipality in the area known as Farat.
Everything, was taken from the school, even bricks, he said.
Which makes me wonder...when Achmed looks around his house today, six months after the fact, and sees his TV set propped up on bricks looted from the elementary school...do you think he's proud of that?
The military’s “rest and recuperation” program to give troops deployed to the Middle East a break is slated to expand “in the very near future,” possibly as early as Nov. 1, officials said.
The program, which started in late September, not only will increase in the number of troops granted leave, boosting the current 279 troops who fly out daily to possibly as much as 500, but will include two additional cities that troops will be flown to — Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, said Gary Jones, a spokesman for Army Forces Central Command in Atlanta, and another source familiar with the program...
Troops are not to be charged travel time out of Iraq or Kuwait against that 15-day leave. Leave begins once troops go through processing stations at Rhein-Main or Baltimore, in which they are given official paperwork that includes their return travel plans and an emergency phone number in the event they can’t make the return flight, Mitchell said.
Americans' willingness to accept body bags long has been an important gauge of their support for military conflicts. So important, in fact, that the Pentagon has a term for measuring public reaction to the flag-draped coffins returning to Dover Air Force Base and other locations: the "Dover test."
Fear of failing that test influenced the Clinton administration's decision to wage the 1999 Kosovo war from the air, without ground troops. When 18 U.S. soldiers were slaughtered in Somalia in 1993 and TV broadcasted the grisly images, a public outcry forced a swift U.S. pullout.
Today, flag-draped coffins again are arriving at Dover, as the toll from the Iraq war rises. So far, 341 troops have been killed, including 202 since major combat ended May 1. But the bodies are returning out of public view because the Bush administration is barring media coverage.
I was fortunate to be able to speak to many of our troops, and I can honestly say I've never seen men and women in service who so clearly understand the gravity and difficulty of their mission, yet remain so positive about the benefits and the eventual outcome. Despite some media reports, the morale of the members of our armed forces is sky high. I'm so proud of every one of them and I pray and worry for them every single day...
I asked a mother in Baghdad what the biggest difference was to her between Hussein's rule and today. She said, "My daughter is in school." That touched me. More than 3,000 schools are operating, and boys and girls are learning their basics in an equal setting with well-equipped schools and prepared teachers...
The taste of freedom is sweet, and it is worthwhile for America to invest in it because we do not fight wars with democracies.
The United States is sending new high-tech systems to Iraq aimed at thwarting strikes on its forces, including a “virtual microphone” in the sky to help pinpoint snipers, the head of the Pentagon’s cradle of technologies said on Wednesday.
Other antiguerrilla gizmos would help detect roadside bombs and booby traps that have been killing U.S.-led occupation forces, said Anthony Tether, head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA...
Separately, he said there might be fewer guerrilla bombings if not for privacy advocates’ fears of research on linking thousands of cameras to computers to track vehicles in an urban combat zone.
“If we had it in Baghdad today, we’d probably have fewer bombings,” he said, citing the possible use of such technology to trace the origins of blasts destabilizing U.S.-led postwar reconstruction efforts.
This program, called “Combat Zones That See,” was ending because Congress had earmarked no funds for it in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, said Jan Walker, a DARPA spokeswoman...
One project uses a large ground-based carbon dioxide laser to project a kind of microphone in the air with a range of “tens of kilometers” to determine where a shot came from by gauging particle movements, Tether said.
But did you notice that Congress cancelled funding for a system that could make our soldiers safer because of "privacy advocates fears".
Wanna bet none of those privacy advocates have loved ones in uniform in Iraq?
Belgian Defence Minister Andre Flahaut said on Thursday his country would not send troops to Iraq to help relieve U.S.-led forces facing a relentless guerrilla campaign.
''There's no question of sending troops to Iraq.'' Flahaut said in an interview with the RTBF radio network.
The Baghdad Hotel car bomb attack is just another instance of the terrorists attacking innocent people and non-combatants rather than military targets. They lack the courage to confront America's military personnel in a direct action and they show radical Islam for what it is--a cowardly, weak and ineffectual movement mired in the outdated philosophy of religious fanaticism that is trying to keep freedom and liberty at bay by forcibly imposing their backward beliefs on a terrorized and intimidated citizenry.
There is nothing noble, good or decent about either their beliefs, values or goals. They are venomous, evil and ignorant people. History will look at them with repugnance and loathing.
They are infecting Islam with a corrosive disease that will gradually weaken it in the eyes of the rest of the world unless free and thinking Muslims stand up against these modern-day barbarians.
After a few hours in Baghdad, Mosul and Kuwait City, Rogers said Tuesday, he saw signs of progress toward restoring basic services, self-government and security to the people of Iraq.
"A lot more progress has been made over there than I expected," Rogers said. "The commanding generals are really impressive people, not just as military leaders, but as leaders period."
And it is very telling to me whenever folks meet soldiers for the first time and can't contain their surprise at what incredibly decent and talented human beings they are.
But, if all you know about soldiers is what you see on TV....well...
Throughout our time in the Middle East, almost every soldier I met spoke of their desire to get back to the United States, to get away from the danger and bloodshed and to be reunited with their families. Now that they are back home, most of them, to my surprise, say that they just want to be back in Iraq. They are frustrated with the tedium and routine of normal living, and have found it difficult to integrate themselves into civilian life. They miss the thrill of warfare.
"I loved it," says Black. "I miss it," says Doc.
Some are coping better than others. Sgt Weaver is not at the barbecue. Those who know him say he doesn't go out much any more, so I decide to pay him a visit at home. It is the middle of the day, but the curtains are drawn and he is sitting alone on a couch. His pupils are dilated, a possible side-effect of the antidepressants that he has been taking.
While he was in the Middle East, his wife became involved with another man and, a few weeks after Weaver's return, she told him she was divorcing him. He shows me the hole he punched in the wall of the living room. Next to it hangs a citation for the Bronze Star he received after the campaign.
A panel appointed by the United Nations to investigate the bombing of its Baghdad headquarters on Aug. 19 said today that the organization failed to thoroughly assess the security situation in Iraq and adequately respond to warnings, including an intelligence report that said the building could be the target of an attack.
"The U.N. security management system failed in its mission to provide adequate security to U.N. staff in Iraq," the seven-member panel, led by Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, said in its scathing report, which it released today.
The panel also determined that the United Nations' general security management system was "dysfunctional" and "provides little guarantee of security to U.N. staff in Iraq or other high-risk environments and needs to be reformed." ...
In the days before the bombing, United Nations security officials received information about "an imminent bomb attack" near the headquarters, the report said. "It was also reported that other information was available around mid-July that the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was under threat from a group loyal to the former regime," the report said. A security report on Aug. 19 specifically referred to the danger of attacks by vehicles loaded with explosives...
The report noted that United Nations personnel asked coalition forces "on several occasions" to withdraw their security presence from around the headquarters, but failed to request alternative security arrangements. Senior management, the panel said, "was uneasy with this highly visible military presence."
Among the defenses set up by the Americans, and removed at the United Nations' request, was a five-ton truck blocking access to the service road the bomber used to reach the headquarters. Later, the military laid concertina wire across the access road, but United Nations officials requested that it be removed, too.
Screaming Eagle soldiers will not be shopping the markets of Iraq for Christmas cards to send home, thanks to Operation Eagle's Nest.
About 40,000 custom-made Christmas cards will be arriving in Iraq during the next few weeks for 101st troops to send back to their families and friends.
Operation Eagle's Nest spent about $3,000 on the cards that were specially designed by a local graphics artist for the 101st Airborne Division, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
North Korea took a fresh swipe at South Korea on Wednesday for agreeing to send more troops to Iraq, saying it was a dastardly act that would turn South Koreans into ''bullet shields'' and should be reversed unconditionally...
On Tuesday, the communist North's youth league denounced Seoul as a ''flunkeyist'' traitor, urged South Koreans to protest against the move and told them to vote against parliamentarians who back the decision.
The North's communist party daily, Rodong Sinmun, followed up on Wednesday with an equally hard-hitting commentary published in English by the official KNCA news agency.
'Traitors who betrayed the nation offering great many fellow countrymen as cannon fodder of the U.S. war of aggression obsessed with greed for power and dependence on outsiders and dirty political swindlers will never be able to go scot-free,'' the newspaper said.
KCNA quoted the commentary as saying the South Korean authorities should ''ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by the additional troop dispatch and unconditionally withdraw the wrong anti-national decision.''
An international rights group, Human Rights Watch, has accused the United States military of using excessive force against civilians in Iraq...
The report outlines concerns about the behaviour of Coalition forces, and claims some US soldiers are trigger happy. (News item, Oct 21st)
U.S. soldiers fire in air at Baghdad protest (Reuters headline, Oct 22d)
The homemade bomb in Baghdad exploded as a three-Humvee convoy passed through a road tunnel under Tayeran Square, already teeming with Iraqis at 6:45 a.m. The blast, whose concentrated sound reverberated through central Baghdad, lightly wounded two 1st Armored Division soldiers and damaged a Humvee, the division's Capt. Tommy Leslie said afterward.
Local residents said U.S. Army convoys had been repeatedly targeted in the tunnel.
''It's always the same,'' said traffic policeman Adnan Khadim, 43, assigned to the area. ''They should stop using the tunnel.''
With a pre-dawn press run Tuesday, Stars and Stripes began printing an edition of the GIs’ newspaper in the capital city of Iraq six months after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
This should provide 80 percent of the troops now stationed in Iraq with same-day delivery of the newspaper, said Robert Reismann, the newspaper’s representative in Iraq.
Stars and Stripes asked servicemembers of all ranks to share their secrets for curing the deployment doldrums...
Work out: Keeping the body strong helps keep the mind strong, said Staff Sgt. Amador Guarionex, a tanker with the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment. “Working out actually motivates me. It releases stress and helps me get rid of all that aggressiveness after coming back in from missions.” Guarionex’s unit just got a weight set, but before that soldiers made their own with sandbags.
Practice your faith: Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, said laying his burdens before God is the key to keeping his own morale up. Faith is “the source of my strength in this environment. I reach back into it multiple times every day,” he said.
Stay clean: For Staff Sgt. Eddy Jones, a 1st Armored Division tanker based in Baghdad, there’s nothing better than a good scrub. “This place is nasty — dust, dead animals, you’re constantly sweating and getting dirty. But after, when you get a chance to clean off, your whole perspective changes. It really refreshes you. It’s like a burden’s been lifted.”
Write it down: Army psychologist Capt. Mark Houck, who helps treat combat stress for the 4th Infantry Division, said writing is a great way to purge stress and help clarify issues. “I’m a big fan of journaling,” he said...
Order things online: “I’m obsessed with online shopping,” said Spc. T.J. Kurczewski, a tuba player for the 4th Infantry Division band in Kirkuk. “I’ve spent $400 on Amazon in just the past month. Reading is my morale boost.” A quirky online vendor has also helped Kurczewski spruce up and replace some of the furniture looted from the room he shares with about 50 soldiers in one of Saddam’s former palaces. Sitting on a giant lime-colored inflatable couch, he said with a smile, “It’s great, we got it at bubblefurniture.com. Too bad we don’t have room for the matching easy chair.”
Count your money: Spc. Jason Ingle, a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, said money in the bank helps keep him motivated, and whenever he has the opportunity he checks his bank account. “That’s my biggest motivation. I just keep looking at all that money stack up.” By the time he leaves, he expects to have saved at least $20,000...
Help someone: For those feeling down, try focusing on others. “I try to make people smile,” said Pfc. Andrea Zimmerman, a 30-year-old nuclear, biological, chemical weapons specialist. “I’ve learned to focus on the positive. It’s mandatory when you come to my section — you have to smile. Smiling is contagious.”
Mid-tour leave: If there is single, tangible thing that leaders could do to improve morale, it’s the mid-tour leave policy, hundreds of troops told Stars and Stripes in interviews and in the questionnaire. “I have been away from my family for almost a year and a half,” one sergeant wrote on a questionnaire. “That is too long. I have seen my wife and kids for a total of 35 days since last year. We soldiers need a break.” The military in late September kicked off a “Rest and Recuperation” policy for exactly that reason. Troops on 12-month orders will be able to use 15 days of annual leave.
Hard rotation dates: Troops want to know when they will go home. Many said they resent being left in the dark.
“Even criminals know when their time is up,” said 20-year-old Spc. David Rhoten with the 926th Engineer Group at the 101st Airborne Division headquarters in Mosul. “All I want is a date. A ‘no-later-than’ date would do more for morale than anything. Right now, all we have are guesses and rumors.”
Clarified mission: Since the end of major ground combat on May 1, many troops say their mission has become muddled...
Beer rations: Troops asked to have what was available in past conflicts. “Soldiers are treated with little to no respect as adults — no sex, no porn, no alcohol,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Reynolds, 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion, at Blai Field in Al Kut. “In wars past, these things being accepted as normal adult activity did not stop us from successful accomplishment of the mission and actually provided for an escape.” Spc. Jonathan Colton, a 20-year-old infantryman with the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Kirkuk Air Base, put it simply: “Just give me a nice cold six-pack of Corona. Then I’d fight for another six months.”
Better telephone and e-mail: In some camps, phone and Internet cafes are sprouting up. In other places, troops are still frustrated. “E-mail sucks,” wrote one sergeant in Tikrit. Lance Cpl. Thang D. Pham, with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines at LSA 7, wrote: “The single thing that I think increases a unit’s morale is to be able to contact loved ones. I think the best way for that is a phone center.” A 101st Airborne Division officer in Mosul who is also a Persian Gulf War veteran compared the phone services in the two conflicts; he said phone service was better during the first war more than a decade ago. “That’s almost criminal,” he said. “There’s no excuse for how absolutely terrible our phones are.”
I've got to say I especially agree with that last statement. We live in the communications age and yet there are only two telephones available for the soldiers in CPT Patti's entire battalion...hence it is about every two weeks she gets the opportunity to call.
I think Army planners need to understand that today's soldier has grown up with cell phones and the internet. Being out of touch has never been an issue. I believe soldiers expect better and frankly, I believe the Army can do better.
Even the greenest soldier can figure out he or she is likely to spend every other year in Iraq until things stabilize and forces can be reduced, a prospect that now seems far away. Next spring, thousands of unlucky soldiers likely will find themselves rotating from a unit that has just finished a year in Iraq to one that is just arriving.
“The big question is, will this become a semipermanent mission?” said Tom Donnelly, a military affairs analyst for the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
“Are [soldiers] looking at a career that is measured by constant duty in Iraq?”
Forty-nine percent of the soldiers Stars and Stripes surveyed said they were unlikely to stay in the Army after their current tour is over. The figure jumped to 74 percent for those who rated their own morale as low.
“We’re not an Army of draftees, like in Vietnam. You’ve got to give me some time with my family,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Riley, 29, of the 101st Airborne. “I have a rock-solid marriage, but my wife gave me an ultimatum: it’s her or the Army.”
Forget what you think you know about supply guys. Down here, there may be few more dangerous missions than driving supply routes, taking hot chow and cold ice, bullets and bedding to far-flung outposts in vehicles described as “thin skinned.”...
All was calm when a rocket-propelled grenade suddenly swooshed from a clump of trees, tearing its way into the front of a truck and severing the leg of Spc. Brian Wilhelm.
A 31-minute firefight followed. Reinforcements were called and quickly arrived. Wilhelm was evacuated by helicopter under fire, and eventually transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he is now.
That was the most intense firefight the supply soldiers have had, and they won’t soon forget it.
Spc. Shane Bartrum was in the lead vehicle when he heard an explosion.
Turning, he saw a truck disabled and a soldier wounded.
“I was just laying down suppression fire so they could get to him,” he said. “What I was doing was making sure I had ammo. When I ran out, I reloaded.”
The enemy fire continued from the nearby tree line.
“You could see the whites of their eyes,” said Pfc. Victor Mendez, describing the closeness of the enemy barely 100 yards away.
Tim - just want to comment on the article showing the difference between the way the AF does things and the Army does things..... (from Saturday the 18th)
I'm sure you have heard this ... if not .. here it goes
When the AF builds a base they first build the Officers Club, then the Enlisted Clubs, then the Housing, then the offices, then the infrastructure etc, etc. until they run out of money ... then they can go back to Congress and say ... Wait - we don't have a runway! .. cant have an airbase with out a runway .. send us more money!
The Army would do it the opposite way .. with the soldier support systems last and anything like air conditioning and recreation facilities scheduled for "next year" when ever that is. (I think the Marines are even worse in their treatment of the soldiers)
This is one of the biggest complaints I had while in the Army .. when I had a very junior enlisted soldier in Los Angles stationed at Space Command - on food stamps (LA is an expensive place) .. living in poverty but doing his job. It took a year to get special permission for him to use the AF family housing.
Another clue as to the difference in mind set between the AF and Army .. their junior enlisted soldiers are housed on 'dormitories".
I wont even get into the AF Forward Air Controllers who worked with our Armor Battalion in Germany. They got TDY (extra money for expenses) while on exercise ... they needed it because at 5pm their war was over and they took their APC into the nearest town and slept in a Gasthouse. (No foolin') (versus the Army guys who slept in the Armored Personnel Carrier or in a tent).
More than 30 soldiers who came home from Iraq for two weeks of leave have failed to show up for their flights back to the combat zone, military officials said yesterday.
The soldiers, among more than 1,300 troops so far in the first large-scale home leave program since Vietnam, have yet to be declared absent without leave -- a violation of military law, said Army Col. Paris Mack, the Pentagon official overseeing the program.
A week after return flights began, 28 soldiers had not made it to Baltimore-Washington International Airport for the journey back to Iraq, said Air Force Maj. Mike Escudie, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa. Six others did not make yesterday evening's flight out of BWI for unknown reasons, said Lt. Col. Robert Hagen, an Army spokesman.
"Many of them are understandable due to illnesses or canceled airline flights," Escudie said. One soldier was unable to board his flight to BWI because he lost his wallet, while another had a sick baby, Hagen said.
But a military advocacy group cited two cases in which service members called to say they do not want to return to the long and difficult mission in Iraq.
"Ultimately, every one of these cases will be looked into and there will be a determination if there are any mitigating circumstances," said Marine Maj. Pete Mitchell, a Central Command spokesman.
Mack said the soldiers who have missed their flights are "definitely a concern," but she added that the Army had anticipated that some soldiers would not return, and that the numbers thus far are small.
Senator John F. Kerry, questioned repeatedly last night about his position on the Iraq war, said he would have continued diplomatic negotiations into fall 2003 and even beyond to avoid the fighting last spring.
"If you rely on most of the media, your view would be different from the reality that I see," Myers said during a short speech and a question-and- answer session before the nonpartisan World Affairs Council.
He told an audience of about 230 generally supportive people at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco that legislators taking recent trips to Iraq have told him they are "surprised" by the progress. "The trend lines are all going in the right direction," he said.
Before U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., traveled to Iraq last weekend to look at military and reconstruction efforts, he said he believed U.S. success there was nearly impossible.
"Being there and seeing what I've seen," he said Monday, "I've gone from 'almost impossible' to 'maybe.' "
Hill was among the more than one-third of House Democrats who last year voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq. He also "reluctantly" voted last week to spend nearly $87 billion for continued military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He has had doubts about whether those votes were correct, Hill said, but was encouraged by the response he got from Iraqis. He said the people he met seemed to like America and appreciated the removal of Saddam Hussein.
Hill acknowledged that his interactions with Iraqis were limited -- they included an arranged visit to a school and hospital in Baghdad. But he was impressed that in the school he visited, students from two different branches of Islam were being taught together -- something he had been led to believe couldn't happen. And when he waved to Iraqi adults as his escorted convoy drove through the streets, Hill said the Iraqis smiled and waved back.
While the news media keep reminding us that we are, indeed, suffering losses in Iraq due to cowardly and murderous former supporters of Saddam Hussein, plus all kinds of al Qaeda riff-raff, with who-knows-how-many Iranian provocateurs, the murder rate in Philadelphia, by early August, was up 23% with---are you ready for this---198 killed. At that pace, by the end of 2003, the city will experience 337 murders. Across the nation in Oakland, California, that city was marking its 76 murders as of late August.
And in Washington, DC, our nation's capital and workplace of so many Democrat politicians eager to denounce the President, by June the District had reclaimed its status as the murder capital of the United States. According to FBI statistics, the city had a higher homicide rate than any other city in the nation with more than 500,000 residents.
Yes, dear reader, statistically you have a better chance of being shot to death in Washington, DC than in Baghdad. So, the next time your local daily or nightly TV news trumpets the number of US battle casualties in Iraq, you should probably give some thought to wearing a bulletproof vest if you plan to visit the Lincoln Memorial.
And meanwhile, as if to sadly, sadly, demonstrate how true this is...comes this story from Long Beach California.
Lance Cpl. Sok Khak Ung, a 22-year-old combat engineer who participated in the rescue operation of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch in April and was awarded the Purple Heart for taking shrapnel to the leg two weeks later, died early Sunday after a gunman opened fire as he and several friends were barbecuing oysters behind his father's home.
"It's a real shame to think that he went to hell and back in Iraq and sacrificed so much only to come back here and get killed like this,' said Gunnery Sgt. Graham Hilson, who served alongside Ung in Iraq. "It just goes to show you that sometimes it's more dangerous over here than it is in war.'
Ehda'a married Sgt. Sean Blackwell, a U.S. infantryman from Pace, Fla., in August.
But their simple, heartfelt exchange of vows put Sean, 27, in hot water with the Army for defying orders. And it put Ehda'a's life at risk for offending some of her rabidly anti-American countrymen.
Faced with daily death threats, Ehda'a is now living alone, in hiding, waiting to find a way safely and legally out of Iraq.
Her husband can't help. He's restricted to his base, barred from having any contact with his bride. The two haven't been in touch since their wedding...
"The case is twisting our brains and exhausting our resources," said Pensacola immigration lawyer Richard Alvoid.
He explained that because Iraq is a hostile region, the U.S. consular post there doesn't issue visas, so Ehda'a would have to go to Amman, Jordan, to get one.
"But she doesn't want to be stuck in a refugee camp on the Jordanian border and resettled to a third country," he said.
US troops in Iraq are responsible for at least 20 "legally questionable" civilian deaths in Baghdad since May 1 and are not doing enough to avoid harming bystanders, an international human rights group has concluded in one of the most detailed analyses of civilian casualties resulting from the US-led occupation.
Human Rights Watch, in a report to be released today, paints a stark picture of US troops caught between the competing goals of defending themselves in the face of daily ambushes and at the same time trying to win the support of the Iraqi population.
For those sitting in Iraq for a year, there is a silver lining to the cloud: Deployments to a combat zone show up as extra money in the paycheck.
Not a fortune, certainly, but enough money to pay bills, buy a new car or make the down payment on a new home.
Here is a look at them:
Combat zone income tax exclusion: Not paying the IRS income tax can save thousands of dollars. Those who benefit the most are in the government’s highest tax category: unmarried members without dependents or mortgages.
Family Separation Allowance: For servicemembers with families, this helps pay the added housing expenses resulting from enforced separation. In April, Congress enacted a temporary increase, to $250 per month from $100 per month.
Imminent Danger Pay: All servicemembers deployed to Iraq qualify for $225 per month in danger pay, which was boosted from $150 per month by Congress in April. Servicemembers get a month’s worth of this pay even if they were assigned to a designated area for just a single day.
Hardship Duty Pay: All military personnel in Iraq get $100 per month.
Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay: This generally is paid at a rate of $150 per month to officers and enlisted members whose orders require them to participate in “frequent and regular” duties considered unusually arduous or hazardous. The pay is prorated, meaning someone who works less than a month would get $3.33 per day. The pay comes in several categories, such as Crew Member Flight Pay, Non-crew Member Flight Pay, Parachute Duty Pay (“jump pay”), Demolition Duty Pay, Toxic Fuels (or Propellants) Duty Pay, Dangerous Viruses (or Bacteria) Lab Duty Pay, and Chemical Munitions Pay.
The boosts approved in April for Family Separation Allowance and Imminent Danger Pay, which were retroactive to October 2002, expire Oct. 30. But both pays are funded through the end of fiscal 2004 — October 2004 — in the Iraq supplemental bill now making its way through Congress.
But there is a little known insidious threat to the financial well being of the soldiers.
Capt. Catherine Lev, 26, said she is just hoping to pay off her 2002 Honda Civic. Anything left over will go toward a week’s vacation in Japan, followed by a week in Australia.
“And I can do it — if I stay off Amazon.com and off all the Internet retail sites,” said Lev, who is assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company of the Baumholder, Germany-based 2nd Brigade. “That’s what most soldiers do here — shop online.”
I know a lady who was surprised to find that her husband had time on-line to send her the briefest of e-mail notes...but then went on to e-bay to bid on items there!
Frankly, CPT Patti has neither the time nor sufficient internet access to be shopping...that's why she has me!
This week it was coffee, creamer, sweetener, Matrix Reloaded and CSI, the complete first season.
Harris and Capt. Chris Johnson, environmental science officer, said they tell troops that a simple thing such as washing hands is part of force protection. Diseases can be transmitted easily from the hand, they said, so keeping those hands clean is vital.
“Out here it’s so important,” Johnson said. “That’s the No. 1 thing we stress, and we really stay on them.”
Harris said the division arrived with 32,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. Hand washing stations are now ubiquitous at camps.
“While they’re there, times are hard [and] conditions aren’t very good. They’ll bitch about it, they’ll gripe,” Preston said.
“But when it comes down to it … they’re contributing to something that’s bigger than themselves. It’s not make-work mission, it’s a real-world mission.”
However, there are soldiers “with a 9-to-5 work ethic and they didn’t come into the Army to do that,” Preston said. When war came, “it was a reality they weren’t ready for.”
“Things like loyalty, duty, honor and country” became just abstractions, he said.
Others are using the chance to re-enlist to head back to the States or another unit, as well as cash in on their service to their country.
Re-enlistment bonuses earned under the military’s tax-free status while in Iraq provide a strong incentive to stay in the Army.
Just ask Sgt. Allen Samuel.
The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief just got an $11,000 signing bonus for re-upping.
And in at least this unit, a brutal deployment pace hasn't reduced the re-enslistment rates at all
It’s been a busy two years for the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade.
Known as the Rakkasans, the brigade over the past three years has bounced from peacekeeping in Kosovo to terrorist hunting in Afghanistan to warfighting in Iraq. It has spent more than 16 of the past 24 months deployed — and faces a second Christmas away from home because it’s not due to rotate out of Iraq until spring.
Despite the brutal pace, troops within the brigade are re-enlisting in record numbers.
Some children asked if there are rattlesnakes in Iraq. (Not rattlers, but yes, there are snakes.)
What about lizards, tigers, zebras or kangaroos? (No, but there are camels, donkeys and goats.)
When the first-graders asked about bombs and weapons, Grace said that with the exception of some mortar attacks, they were safe on base.
"The whole time we were there, they didn't drop bombs. The war was over by then," Grace said. "We were getting rid of all the nasties - collecting ammunition. Then we'd blow it up so it wouldn't hurt anybody."
Iraqi public opinion is more moderate than suggested by the anecdotal temperature-takings in press reports. Four entirely different polls have been conducted in Iraq, and their remarkably congruent results show that the majority of Iraqis are optimistic about their future, and believe ousting Saddam Hussein was worth any hardships that have resulted.
The four-city survey in August by The American Enterprise, a magazine I edit, suggests that the three nightmare scenarios for Iraq - a Baathist revival, an Iran-style theocracy, and a swing toward Al Qaeda - are very unlikely, given current Iraqi views. And contrary to media reports of boiling public resentment, all of these polls show that two-thirds of Iraqis want US troops to stay for at least another year.
• Meanwhile, the pouncing raids that US forces initiated two months ago have hurt the guerrillas. More than 1,000 fighters have been arrested and many others killed. The bounty paid by ex-Baathists toinduce attacks on American soldiers has had to be increased from $1,000 to $5,000 to find takers...
Certainly, there remains an enormous amount to fix in Iraq. But there is something unseemly about the impatience of today's pundits, their insistence on instant recovery, and what my colleague Michael Barone calls the media's "zero defect standard."
US soldiers and administrators are turning a tide of history and culture in the Middle East. If Americans show some patience, they'll gaze upon many heartening transformations in Iraq a few months and years from now.
In a search practice, a trainee barely pats down an American instructor, missing the gun hidden in a belt. In a swift turn, the soldier turns around and pulls it out, stunning the trainee.
In the middle of a practice session, three Iraqis walk away from the unit to kneel down and pray, oblivious to the activity going on.
Spc. Ryan Steckler, 20, of Las Vegas said the differences in the culture amaze him most during the training. The Iraqis are ``used to their women cleaning up after them. Here they have to do it themselves.''
"Implementing discipline is probably the most difficult to teach,'' Steckler said.
U.S. military commanders have developed a plan to steadily cut back troop levels in Iraq next year, several senior Army officers said in recent interviews.
There are now 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The plan to cut that number is well advanced and has been described in broad outline to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld but has not yet been approved by him. It would begin to draw down forces next spring, cutting the number of troops to fewer than 100,000 by next summer and then to 50,000 by mid-2005, officers involved in the planning said...
During that period, the U.S. military hopes to turn over as many basic security functions as possible to the Iraqi security forces now being created and to any additional foreign peacekeepers that U.S. diplomacy secures. If the Iraqi security forces can shoulder more of the security burden, it might be possible to replace the departing divisions of about 16,000 troops each with brigades of about 5,000 each.
Over the spring, that changeover would represent a cumulative reduction of more than 30,000 soldiers; along with other cuts, it could lower the U.S. troop level to fewer than 100,000 by mid-2004.
"It opened my eyes," he said. "What we did was an awesome thing for the Iraqi people."
Zawacki said the people he encountered in Iraq lived in filth with no power and "horrible sanitation."
"These people were living like crap," he said. "Iraq is a wealthy country with all the oil, and he (Saddam) was hoarding everything."
Zawacki said the POWs captured in the south of Iraq did not look like soldiers. Some of the Iraqi military did not have uniforms but wore "robes and sandals," he said, and the ones who had uniforms wore camouflage patterns from the 1991 Gulf War.
Zawacki said some of the prisoners spoke English, and many told him they were forced into the military.
"Saddam was threatening to kill them," he said. "They hated the regime and they've been oppressed for so long."...
Zawacki said his unit did not apprehend every Iraqi soldier they encountered.
"His (the Marine general's) order was if they're leaving let them leave," Zawacki said. "We weren't against the Iraqi people. We were against the regime. If they threw down their arms and left, we weren't messing with them. We were letting them go."
I'm ever amazed how compassionate and how deadly our forces can be at the same time.