Friday, December 12, 2003


His take on fact versus CNN fictional accounts...
I came in the office to see CNN, one of the two stations we can get. It's about 1:00 a.m. so the CPA is mostly deserted.

The CNN states, breathlessly of course, that people "dived under their desks"--pure nonsense.

I tried to get my deskmate to get under his desk so I could take a photo and send to CNN. He's too busy with the coffee machine, so maybe later.

Good stuff!

Has it occured to anyone else that if bloggers don't render the traditional media obsolete perhaps we will force them to be more responsible?

CPT Patti has been making new friends all over Baghdad for 215 days now.

Me...I'm making new friends on the internet. Today's new friends are the folks behind Deeds (see the new link).

He is working for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. I'm not sure where she is...but she was nice enough to drop me a line.

Go visit their site...its good.

Thursday, December 11, 2003


The dollar now has the approximate buying power of a walnut.
The dollar enjoyed a measure of stability after breaking a run of nine consecutive days of record lows against the euro, as traders braced themselves for a fresh salvo of US economic data...

"The downward trend in the dollar appears to have temporarily stalled -- euro-dollar failed (on Wednesday) to record a new cycle high for the first time in the past nine trading days," said Steve Pearson, head of currency strategy at HBOS bank...

The plunging dollar has seemed impervious even to positive economic data, and traders were watching with interest for figures on US joblessness, retail sales and business inventories due later in the day.

When the Euro was established a couple of years ago one dollar bought one euro and 17 euro-cents.

Today one dollar buys 78 euro cents.

That is a decline in purchasing power of one third.

I don't shop downtown much these days...

Truly sickening.

I have had the pleasure of becoming e-acquainted with an independent film producer who recently travelled to Baghdad to get an up close look at the US Soldiers.

He was not a supporter of OIF. But as he says
...It's also interesting how your perspective changes--how you have one big reality check--when someone tries to kill you.

More, it would be idiotic to leave Iraq prematurely. We should leave it better than we found it...

What a great pleasure to know one who has maintained his intellectual honesty.

We've discussed what I believe to be a serious bias in the media many many times here, including today. Generally I have referred to the English speaking media.

Media are structured differently in other parts of the world. For instance the BBC in Britain is funded by the TV owning citizens of that country via a TV tax.

Here in Germany much of the media is also state funded. The government of Germany pays the bills.

So - what is it about all this that is sickening?

Simply this. When looking for media outlets that might be interested in paying my producer friend to get an up close look at US Soldiers in Iraq...this particular German TV Network that I will call XYZ was not interested.

However, the producer went on to say...XYZ

"...offered me relatively large sums to do a
doc(umentary) on "racist American" soldiers."


Our so-called ally wants to pay this man to go to Iraq and provide content to support the thesis that US Soldiers are racist.

Germany. Home of Kristallnacht. Home of Dachau. Home to about a jillion white people and a handful of minorities.

I'm going home.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Beck won't be leaving his entire family behind when he deploys to Iraq; his wife and oldest daughter are going, too.

"I'm glad both of them are going with me," said Thomas Beck, 40. "We don't want to be split up."

Beck, his wife, Geraldine, and daughter Krissy belong to the Kentucky Army National Guard's 2123 Transportation Company, driving the 54-ton trucks used to haul large equipment such as tanks.

The three reported recently to a training center for preparation to deploy at an undisclosed time.

It's not uncommon for a husband and wife to serve together in Iraq, but a husband, wife and daughter team is unusual.

"We just figure freedom isn't free and we have to give a little bit," said Sgt. Krissy Beck, 21.

Well said...wonder why the Whining Weasels don't understand that?

May God bless him.
Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the commander of the 1st Armored Division, carries a small deck of laminated cards in his pocket.

Each of the 41 cards carries a photo and a name of one of his soldiers who's died in Iraq. The back of each card carries the names of that soldier's wife and children; where they live and their street address.

Those cards lend purpose to everything he does and remind him daily of the cost of war and who pays the price.

Like any war, this one has its moments.


And all the second graders too!

CPT Patti says your boxes have arrived. They will be distributed at Christmas.

And all the Gators say Thank You!

Yes...we know.
I expected none of this.

We were shot at not even once. Never in the nearly nine hours we have spent walking and driving through the streets of this city did anyone flash as much as a cap pistol at us.

This is not the Baghdad everyone has told us to fear, the one they for months have shown on television at home. Not a single car exploded. There were no dead bodies that needed to be stepped over.

Make no mistake, though, this is a hard city, a trash-strewn and dusty, car-choked sprawl unlike anything you likely have ever seen up close. There is absolutely nothing glamorous or lovely here, only wildly different levels of utter poverty.

So it is a city constantly on the hustle, the only language that truly matters is that of the dollar and the dinar....

Empty pedestals are everywhere in Baghdad. One seemingly stands on every street corner. Saddam used to stand on them. Only rusting reinforcing bars rise from them now.

And they will need a Ministry of Renaming Things in the days ahead. Scores of roads, bridges, towers, mosques, government buildings and parks once bore the former dictator's name. It has all been scratched out.

A US Air Force plane made an emergency landing after one of its engines exploded after takeoff from Baghdad, an air force spokeswoman said Wednesday after reports from Washington of a possible missile hit.
Special favors demand special repayment.

On Wednesday, the children at Vineyards Elementary School in North Naples received theirs: an American flag that flew over Baghdad, a thank-you for the many cards and letters they sent to soldiers stationed there during Operation Iraqi Freedom...

Those letters meant so much, Bailey told the school during the presentation.

They helped to remind the soldiers why they were fighting, he said.

"The simplest package or simplest sheet of paper," Bailey said, "it lifts your spirits."...

When the girls were given the project of writing the letters, teachers told them it would make the troops feel better, Keely said. In the end, they felt better too, they agreed.

"It felt good because those people there are in the war, and they haven't had people to talk to, just hearing bombs," Stephanie said.


Just want to make a quick point here.

Yesterday something happened that as far as I recall is unique in my politically aware adult life.

Demonstrations happened in an Arab capital. Not unique...happens a lot.

Thousands attended. Not unique...happens a lot.

The demonstrators were pro-democracy and anti-terror. Arabs. Thousands of them.

Organized by Arabs.

They carried signs rejecting the hijacking of Islam by violent radicals. They carried signs denigrating the so-called journalism of al Jazeera and al Arabiyah.

They represent the very people upon whom the hope of the Middle East resides.

And yet, go to or or there is no mention of it on their "front pages". If it is there at all you have to already know about it and seek it out.

Instapundit does a good job highlighting the media in denial.

And again I will mention Healing Iraq because they were there.

This isn't shameful because its something I care about. It is shameful because we have invested lives and money to achieve this but it seems the media don't want you to witness the success.

And that is shameful.

Pardon me for bringing up a personal matter...I don't usually get this hot under the collar, but I am fuming at this.

Thor Industries Inc., enjoying big demand for its Airstream and assorted brands of recreational vehicles, split its shares 2 for 1 Wednesday and doubled the cash dividend.

Following the split, the current quarterly dividend of 3 cents a share will be continued, doubling the payout to shareholders....

"This is the third dividend increase in the last six months," Thompson said.

Now to my complaint.

You want to know how much of that I get? None.

Those SOBs had the unmitigated gall to leave me out of this deal. I get

All these other people are fattening their portfolios and getting cash at Christmas time...but I'm not.

I am dumbstruck!

I called Thor Industries to find out why I had been overlooked. The customer service department took my information and a VP for Financial Services called me back.

"Sir," he said, "Tell me how many shares of Thor stock you own".

"None", I replied.

He was silent for a moment...and then said "Oh, I think I see the problem. Sir, are you aware that you actually have to be a stockholder to benefit from this stock split and dividend?"

"A stockholder???? mean I have to risk my money in the stock market in order to cash in on this deal? No way, man...I don't even like your silly aluminum trailers...I'm not risking my assets - you guys might go broke or out of business or something."


Then somebody take a minute please and tell how that is materially any different than this.

Across Europe, response was swift and angry Wednesday to the U.S. order barring firms based in important allied countries -- opponents of the Iraq war -- from bidding on Iraqi reconstruction projects.

Germany, another leading opponent of the war, called the decision ''unacceptable,'' and government spokesman Bela Anda said it went against ''a spirit of looking to the future together and not to the past...

Perhaps Germany should have tried looking a little harder into the future about 8 months ago...

Canada's deputy prime minister, John Manley, said the decision would make it ''difficult for us to give further money for the reconstruction of Iraq.'' Canadian officials said the country has contributed $225 million thus far.

''We noted with astonishment today the reports, and we will be speaking about it with the American side,'' German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said.

Astonished? Now really didn't see this coming? I did about a zillion other people...

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said the directive ''will hardly foster the mobilization of the international community'' to rebuild Iraq, ''more likely the opposite,'' according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Good idea, genius. I mean, why should we not expect you to take this out on the Iraqi people...when you wouldn't lift a finger to liberate them?

Let's call it what it is gang...Greed. And sour grapes. And an untenable position.

Some out there are going to whine that this restriction will hurt the Iraqi reconstruction. My question to them will be "How?"

The Iraqis need roads, electricity, sewer and other fundamental infrastructure. If Germany doesn't build the isn't as if the roads don't get built. They get built by the Brits. The French don't expand the electricity lines...the Australians do.

It all gets done. The money all gets spent (US Taxpayer money by the I don't have any real moral quandry about not giving it to weasels...) And it stays out of the pockets of those nations who risked nothing and indeed attempted to prevent the liberation of the Iraqis.

I had a boss once who had a saying that I really like. If you're going to be a've got to bring something to the table.

Well the table was set...invitations issued and a whole lotta big countries declined a seat.

Sorry boys...the seats are now reserved for the stockholders.

You may remember this post about the fans of Clay Aiken who generously adopted CPT Patti and the Gators for Christmas this year.

Well...the good news is that our post newspaper ran a story on it - and that link is here. The bad news is that this is an insanely large Adobe Acrobat file that you should not attempt to open unless you have a broadband connection.

The other good news is that you can see photos of the family members (but not me, I was in the USA) repacking all the donated loot for the troops at this website. (Click on Clay to Troops when you get there.)

Finally, if you want to see the on-line discussions the Clayniacs were having about this project you will find those here.

Here is an excerpt of one of the posts by Angie, the lady that heads our Gator Family Group:

WOW guys, I still can't believe the amount of packages I received. 66 packages and boxes. 183 Clay CD's. From Batteries to movies, lollipops to games, wipes to books.

We would have package opening meetings to help document who sent and what was sent. We would open boxes and say "what a great idea". Things that we had never thought of...Somebody is getting a toaster oven for Christmas...

But for us spouses the best thing was reading the letters you sent. We don't get to see a lot of patriotism sense we are stationed in Germany. We read them outloud, shed some tears, and felt really appreciated for the sacrifices we make and for what we are going through with our spouses in a dangerous situation.

Folks, if you had a part in this project please accept the heartfelt thanks from this old soldier and on behalf of CPT Patti and the Gators.

CPT Patti has been handling the logistics for the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division in Baghdad for 214 days.

Me, I've been trying real hard to be all the support she needs at home for the same number of days.

And these folks, some Iraqi youth who were among the thousands who participated in yesterdays Anti-Terror demonstrations in Baghdad...they are the reason why.

Study those faces carefully...and scroll left and right to make sure you see them all. (Hover the cursor over the photo, then click on the orange resize square to see the full size photo).

See those smiles? Courtesy of the Red White and Blue, my friends.

(That photo is courtesy of Healing Iraq...and there are many, many more there to warm your freedom loving heart.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


Just added SGT Hook to the links to the right. Should have done it a long time ago.

Thanks for what you do Top.

And thanks to Sarah for pointing in Hook's direction.

Check out this Iraqi blogger who attended today's demonstrations against terror.

A sample.
Here are some snap shots from today's rallies:
:: This time we were(according to the most pessimistic al-Jazeera)more than ten thousands.

:: All Iraqi ethnic and religious groups were there, Arab, Kurd, Sunni, shia, Turkomen, Assyrians. The demo. was well protected by IP and US army helicopters.

::each party had its own slogans, but every one agreed on condemning Saddam, terrorists, Ba'athists, the Arab media and the interference of Iraq neighbors in Iraq.

:: There were about 150 people (most of them were teenagers) condemning the American occupation, and considered Americans as the real terrorists.

People were carrying signs saying:
-No to terrorism, no to Saddam, yes to peace.
-No to the Ba'athists, no to the terrorists, yes to democracy.
-dictatorship will never return.
-Bribee Arab channels; shame on you to show terrorism as resistance.
-Sunni and shia are united to build Iraq.
-Stop using religion and nationalism to justify terrorism.
-Islam is against violence and terrorism.
-Al-Jazeera+al-Arabiya = terrorism.


(via The Corner)

Check out this editorial from the Arab Daily
"Regrettably, some myopic Arab leaders can see only the negative side of the U.S. army's history. All their speeches are stale and full of lies and their people are sick and tired of their meaningless slogans.

These leaders delude themselves trying to lead their people towards mass suicide. They are not aware history is changing and they don't realize any self-respecting military will learn from its past mistakes.

The U.S. has chosen to take terrorism head on by launching a war on terror. Nobody, except these handful of Arab leaders, are surprised by America's resolve to fight terrorism.

(via Instapundit)

The candidates are hoping...indeed...betting that you are not paying attention.

Doesn't that annoy you?
The Democratic presidential candidates criticized President Bush's record on the economy and fighting terrorism in a debate Tuesday night, but some of their jabs left out important facts.

Sen. Joe Lieberman declared it would take a Democratic president to "get this economy going," but the economy has been gaining momentum over the last several months since Bush's second tax cut took effect.

Weekly claims for unemployment insurance have fallen since April, and economic growth and productivity in the third-quarter reached 20-year highs.

Two of the candidates used a favorite attack line against Bush - Lieberman said "3.5 million people have lost their jobs" and Howard Dean said "3 million jobs lost are 3 million too many" - but their statements also ignored the improving economy.

It is true that about 3 million jobs were lost during the early months of the Bush presidency. But that trend has been reversing for several months as the jobless rate has dropped from a peak of 6.4 percent to 5.9 percent.

Both Wesley Clark and Dean accused Bush of "not fighting terrorism." Although al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden remains at large, the administration's war has substantially thinned the ranks of his network, including the arrest earlier this year of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. The administration also has thwarted dozens of attacks through increased cooperation with allies.

Even Ted Koppel, the ABC newsman who moderated the debate, waded into the gray area of truth when he declared that Dean had raised more money than anyone in the campaign.

While Dean's $25 million through September tops the Democratic field, it is dwarfed by the more than $100 million Bush has already raised as a Republican with no primary opponent.

Iraq needs help from outside to be "reborn," says Chaldean Bishop Rabban Al-Qas of Amadiyah, in northern Iraq....

"At least 80% of the Iraqi population regards the coalition troops as liberators," the bishop said Tuesday in an interview with

"We have electricity 24 hours a day, food is found with greater facility, people are going back to work in the fields, hospitals function, there are private clinics and also medicines," he said. "I can say that life is better than before."

Bishop Al-Qas hopes that the U.S.-led coalition will help Iraq to build a secular democracy, calling it the only possibility for freedom for Christians and Muslims.


David Frum says Gore endorsed Dean because he wants Dean to lose.

I wish my brain was as flexible as Frum's.
Of course, should another Democrat win in 2004, there will be no contest in 2008 for Gore to join. So Gore has to wish for defeat this year.

And not for mere defeat, but for catastrophic defeat. A Democratic wipeout in 2004 would make Gore’s performance in 2000 – 51 million votes, 266 electoral votes – look retrospectively much more impressive.


Capt. Cousins says the improvised explosive devices his team finds are usually simple in design, using mortar rounds or rocket-propelled grenades fitted with timers and set to explode at random.

Some are a bit more sophisticated, enabling them to be remotely detonated. Still, the disposal team here says it has so far never encountered a device its members could not safely defuse.

But if the attackers lack high-technology, the U.S. military acknowledges they are extremely clever when it comes to hiding the bombs.

One method the attackers have used is to encase bombs in concrete to resemble ordinary rocks. Another method has been to hide an explosive device underneath a dead animal on the road.

Buster, a 6-year-old Springer spaniel, earned more than a pat on the head Tuesday when he was awarded Britain's highest animal bravery medal for his role in breaking a resistance cell in Iraq.

The British army canine received the Dickin Medal at a ceremony at London's Imperial Museum for discovering a cache of weapons and explosives in Safwan, southern Iraq, in March.

Buster's handler, Sgt. Danny Morgan, said the building was thought to be the headquarters of extremists responsible for attacks on British forces, but that soldiers searching it had found nothing.

He said Buster, however, persisted, eventually stopping at a wardrobe. When it was moved, a piece of tin fell.

Inside were Russian AK47 assault rifles, a pistol, six grenades, ammunition, 4.4 pounds of cocaine and propaganda material.

The Pentagon made it official Tuesday: Companies from Canada, Germany and France -- countries that have been staunch critics of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq -- need not apply for any of the $18.6 billion in new contracts being awarded to rebuild the nation.

Instead, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said, competition for prime contracts will be limited to corporations from 63 countries that have supported the U.S.-led invasion and occupation.


And that means all terrorists.
The Iraqi council's unanimous decision against the People's Mujaheddin, or MEK, is a significant political and security gain for Iran and could marginalize the group or even eliminate it as an effective opposition movement. The MEK, which was supported by former president Saddam Hussein, has launched hundreds of attacks against Iran over the past two decades.

The move also marks a turning point for U.S. policy. The future of the Iranian opposition group has been heatedly debated within the Bush administration. The MEK, which mixes Marxism and Islam, has been on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations since 1999, but some administration hawks had argued that the group could form the basis for an effort to pressure or change the regime in Tehran.

Following the Biblical call to turn swords into ploughshares, junkyard owner Ahmad Ali Thalib is converting scrapped jet fighters into pots and pans...

''We're also selling to scrap dealers in Lebanon, Turkey and Iran, but some of this ends up as cooking containers for Iraqis,'' he said...

The now-defunct Iraqi Air Force was once considered the best in the Arab world. Founded in 1931, it fought in numerous conflicts in the Middle East, battling the British in 1941 and Israel in 1948 and 1967...

Saddam invested a huge portion of the country's oil wealth to equip the Air Force, which was used to some effect during the 1980-88 war with Iran. At its zenith in the late 1980s, it listed nearly 750 combat aircraft in its inventory, including Soviet MiGs and Sukhois and French Mirage fighters...

But the air force took a beating after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, when the U.S.-led aerial onslaught during the first Gulf War severely depleted its ranks. Hundreds of planes either fled to neighboring Iran where they were inducted into the Iranian Air Force or were destroyed in the fighting.

Subsequent U.N. sanctions only made things worse. Hundreds of planes were cannibalized for spare parts, and by 2002 only 100 airworthy jets remained in squadron service...

The Air Force played no role in the latest war. Instead, it desperately sought to protect its assets either by hiding them, or burying them in the desert.

After the war, U.S. teams hunting for alleged weapons of mass destruction found dozens of intact fighter jets buried beneath the sand, including the Mach 3-capable MiG-25s. Others were hidden in groves of trees and covered with thick camouflage netting.

Today, hundreds of derelict planes litter abandoned air bases, rusting in the winter rains and providing scrap metal dealers with a bonanza in aluminum and other metals.

Thalib said that the 50 MiG-23s and MiG-25s strewn across the muddy scrapyard on Baghdad's northern outskirts were once worth nearly a billion dollars. He said he purchased the entire fleet for $150,000 from a contractor engaged by the Americans to clear the derelict aircraft from a former air base.


Don't know if you've stopped to consider it - but Howard Dean just might possibly be Saddam's best American friend.

The logic is this: The top selling "luxury" item in Iraq since the fall of Saddam has been the TV satellite dish. Which means that more Iraqis have access to world news than ever before. So it is fair to assume that any Iraqi who cares can find out the news of the United States presidential election. As to the frontrunners, an Iraqi may want to know what are their positions vis a vis the question of Iraq.

From President Bush they have heard "We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost in casualties, defeat a brutal dictator, and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins."

Probable interpretation by the Iraqis...Mr. Bush says America will stay as long as it takes.

From candidate Dean they have heard "I opposed the war in Iraq, and I'm against spending another $87 billion there."

Probable interpretation by the Iraqis...Mr. Dean will pull America out of Iraq as soon as possible.

Consider the history of Iraq following Operation Desert Storm. The administration of then President Bush (41) encouraged an uprising by the Shia Muslims against Saddam Hussein. As has been well documented the Shia did rise up - anticipating support from the USA, but that support was not forthcoming.

Result: Saddam put down this revolt with violence and killed God knows how many people.

Now - consider that no one can prove Saddam is dead, and in fact conventional wisdom says he is alive and living somewhere in Iraq.

And no one can predict who gets elected president of the US in 2004.

So no one can predict if the soldiers will stay until the job is done, or will be pulled out. the average Iraqi 120,000 US soldiers stand between them and Saddam. So long as Saddam is unaccounted for, the soldiers are their only protection. Once the soldiers leave, Saddam could possibly return with a vengeance.

And so, since that is a possibility, in the mind of the average Iraqi...perhaps the safest thing to do is to hedge one's bets. Because no one wants to suffer the wrath of Saddam and the Ba'athists if one can be identified as a collaborator with the US Soldiers during their stay in Iraq.

And so, for these on-the-fence Iraqis common sense says just stay away from the Americans. Don't work for them, don't cooperate with them, and certainly under no circumstances provide them with information about the activities of Ba'athist remnants waging the guerilla war against the US Soldiers.

And so Abdul, an on-the-fence Iraqi who has infomation about these thugs, information that - in the hands of the US Soldiers could prevent attacks and result in arrests of Ba'athists...Abdul just keeps his mouth shut.

And because the Soldiers don't get the information the attack is not prevented and US Soldiers die.

And Saddam is very happy about it. And he grins because his best American buddy made it all possible.
Suicide bombers, one in a car and another on foot, blew themselves up at the gates of two U.S. military bases yesterday, wounding 61 American soldiers but failing to inflict deadly casualties on the scale of recent attacks in Iraq. ..

In yesterday's suicide attacks, most of the soldiers were slightly hurt by debris and flying glass, indicating that massive defences -- sand barriers, high cement walls and numerous roadblocks leading to the entrances of bases -- have paid off for American troops occupying Iraq.
Guerrillas hit a U.S. helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade Tuesday near Fallujah west of Baghdad, and the American military said the aircraft made a "controlled landing."

"The helicopter was forced to make a hard landing a controlled landing," said Maj. Peter J. Mitchell of the U.S. Central Command in Florida. "There have been no casualties, injuries or fatalites reported. The military personnel who were aboard it have walked away from it."

A military spokesman in Baghdad, who would not be named, said said the OH-58 Kiowa observation helicopter was hit at 2:30 p.m.


Another reason to shop with AAFES.
Deployed servicemembers are being offered lower interest rates by the Military Star Credit Card Program.

Members whose accounts are in good standing have two options:

• A 6 percent interest rate with no monthly payments and use of the account during deployment. Family members can also use the account under the same terms.

• A zero percent interest rate with no monthly payments during deployment. Under this option the card holder cannot use the account for additional purchases.

Military Star Card holders who are deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom can contact an Army and Air Force Exchange store manager downrange to apply for the program, according to AAFES spokeswoman Jeanne McDonald.


Looks like it is on the way to being fixed...and it needs to be in light of how much we depend on these guys.
Army 1st Lt. Sarah Whittington is missing something on her rank insignia — the other half of her captain’s bars.

Whittington, an Army Reserve emergency room nurse at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, is among an unknown number of reservists and National Guard officers whose promotions are on hold while they are deployed...

The promotion problem stems from a requirement, which applies to both Army Reserve and National Guard troops, for soldiers to be in a position of the higher grade before they can be promoted, National Guard spokesman Maj. Hunt Kerrigan said.

The policy has hung up promotions for mobilized troops unless there is a vacancy within their mobilized unit, Kerrigan said...

Reserve leaders are aware of the problem and have been working to fix it, Collins said.

In fact, Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, ordered in September that all mobilized Army Reserve soldiers be promoted as long as they were qualified and an existing vacancy was available.

“Current Army regulations governing the promotion of (Army Reserve) soldiers were clearly written for peacetime operations. … ” Helmly wrote in a Sept. 13 memo to top Reserve commanders.


Day 213 of CPT Patti's deployment.

But I prefer to think of it as somewhere about 81 days until her scheduled return.

Whoo hoo!

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


When I returned from the States my buddy CPT Will was recovering in his apartment across the hall from mine.

Well, recovering may not be exactly the word for whatever it is that happens as you try to get over a wound with two small children crawling all over you.

However, yesterday CPT Will returned to the hospital in Landstuhl. At long last the doc says it is time to do the skin graft.

So that procedure is to happen today.

I know nothing of how it is done nor how painful it might be. I just know they are taking the good skin from the front of the thigh...

You can check on his progress and give him a well wish at his site here.
Supporters of former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will run cable television ads urging Democrats to write in her name during next month's Democratic presidential primary.

Just one more reason to be happy AFN doesn't run commercials.

(Thanks to The Drudge Report)

"It's your watch that tells most about who you are" say ads for Seiko watches.

I think it is the most annoying ad campaign that I stumbled across while I was back in the USA for a visit. (As I've mentioned before...AFN doesn't broadcast commercials).

Might be that this time of year brings out the worst...Jonah Goldberg kicked up a discussion at The Corner concerning bad ads.

See these amusing jibes here, here here and here.

Oh...and me? I don't think it is your watch that tells most about who you are. (My brother has 12 watches...does that make him psycho?)

I think its your blog.

On the nature of a constitution. And the author pulls no punches.

A very good read.
First, you must face directly the uncomfortable fact that you have no useable tradition of self-government. Yours is a nation long governed by traditions of fascist-like political rulers, medieval forms of tribal and ethnic justice, and warring religions that are hostile to freedom.

Second, you must reject the political anarchy of your ethnic chieftains and the religious tyranny of your Islamic mullahs. In a free Iraqi society, neither tribe nor mosque must be able to gain governmental power.
Unlike last December, the focus of the Kevin Dexter clan's calendar countdown isn't Christmas. Instead, the soldier's family must prepare for Monday — the day they must vacate their home because they cannot afford a $450-per-month rent increase...

Word of the family's plight spread after a story was published Friday in the Deseret Morning News. Since the front-page story appeared, the family has been flooded with offers from people who have reacted as if Uncle Sam requested help and pointed directly at them.

Hundreds of dollars have been sent, either directly to Dexter's wife, Linda, or to an account set up at a credit union. Two attorneys said they'd take her case for free. Two real-estate agents also offered their services at no cost.

One man said he'd pay all the family bills until Staff Sgt. Kevin Dexter returns home in the summer. Volunteers also pledged to provide Christmas gifts for the family of six.

And, Linda Dexter said, a few well-meaning albeit misguided supporters even offered to beat up the landlord...

"We thought we were protected, and we're not," Dexter said. "This is supposed to be illegal."

The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1940 requires all court actions — including evictions — to be delayed until the soldier is home and discharged. The act stipulates that protection exists if the rent is $1,200 or less per month.

But then I stumbled on to this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Members of the armed forces will get new legal protections in dealing with landlords, creditors and insurers under legislation that the House passed yesterday and sent to President Bush.

Service members permanently sent to new duty stations or deployed for at least 90 days could terminate housing leases without penalty. Active-duty personnel and National Guard and Reserve members deployed overseas or called up for at least 180 days also could terminate car leases without penalty.

Their families living in dwellings with rents up to $2,400 a month could not be evicted for nonpayment without a court order, as long as the service member is deployed away from home. Now, only those military families with monthly rents up to $1,200 enjoy that benefit.

King Abdullah, in an interview with CNN television, said the frontier between Jordan and Iraq is "the most secure" and Iran has made efforts to secure its border with Iraq but the frontier between Syria and Iraq remains a problem.

Syria's border with Iraq is "not as secure as all of us in the international community might like," the Jordanian monarch said when asked how al-Qaeda members may be slipping into Iraq to attack US-led coalition forces.

The 20-year-old soldier returned to Springfield on a two-week break from his assignment in the Middle East on Sunday to find many of his possessions in bags or missing. A pipe apparently broke above his ceiling and flooded his residence...

Springfield resident Jan Wood, Marler's mother, discovered the flooding in March while checking on the apartment in her son's absence.

Water flowed into each room, she recalled while shuffling through photographs of the damage.

"It was just overwhelming," she said. "The couch got wet. The bed got wet. He had clothes in the closet and on the floor, and they all got completely wet. By the time I came down here, everything had already started to mold."


There's no Macy's, Wal-Mart or Target to take their cash. But soldiers here are joining in America's holiday shopping season, much of the time via the Internet.

They're shopping at dozens of Internet cafes installed by the Army to help them keep in touch with home. "We just got 20 computers open, and that place is packed," said Capt. Brandon Anderson, commander of B Battery, 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Field Artillery. "If I want to e-mail my wife, I've got to get up at 4 a.m."...

"I'm not allowed to go on eBay anymore. My wife is tired of getting stuff in the mail," said Sgt. Aaron Keltch, a Humvee driver with the V Corps command, which is based in Heidelberg, Germany...

The soldier shopping isn't all online. Delving into Baghdad's bazaars is verboten because of safety concerns. But local merchants, still reeling from years of economic sanctions, are eager to siphon off some American dollars. On many bases, Iraqi shops have been set up to give troops the chance to buy local items without having to don their helmets and flak vests.

Many of the Iraqi gift items are, well, different. "Mink blankets. That's been a big item," said Sgt. First Class Christopher McCann, with a slightly disapproving tone in his voice. There also are watches in the shape of mosques, decorative daggers, prayer rugs, bootleg DVDs and cheap electronics. What has he bought? "Nothing. Not yet," he said. Based on instructions received from his wife, he concluded: "I don't think it's going to be a mink blanket."

I hear that CPT Patti and the Gators have the Iraqi vendors come on to Camp Provider about once a month. But I think I can go all day without owning a watch in the shape of a mosque...

President Bush and Iraq compared to Lincoln and the Civil War, Wilson and WW I.

Right wing revisionism?

No - it comes from Liberal NYT columnist Thomas Friedman.

And I think he makes sense.
Where did Bush's passion for making the Arab world safe for democracy come from?

Though the president mentioned this theme before the war, it was not something he stressed with the public, Congress or the United Nations in justifying an Iraq invasion. Rather, he relied primarily on the urgent need to pre-emptively strip Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

A cynic might say that Bush was always interested only in stripping Iraq of its WMD. But with no WMD having been unearthed thus far in Iraq, and with the costs of the war in lives and dollars soaring, the president felt he needed a new rationale. And so he focused on the democratization argument.

But there is another explanation, one that is not incompatible with the first but is less overtly cynical. It is a story about war and events and how they can transform a president.

"It often happens," argues Michael Sandel, the Harvard political theorist, "that presidents, under the pressure of events, especially during war, find themselves needing to articulate new and more persuasive rationales for their policies -- especially when great sacrifices are involved. This happened to Lincoln during the Civil War. At the outset, the purpose of the Civil War for Lincoln was to oppose secession and preserve the Union. It was really only after the battle at Gettysburg that Lincoln articulated a larger purpose for the Civil War -- namely freedom and the elimination of slavery. Henceforth, the Civil War was not only to preserve the Union, but to bring about the promise of the Declaration of Independence -- written four score and seven years earlier."

As Lincoln insisted in his Gettysburg Address (while dedicating the cemetery at Gettysburg), "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom."

In Lincoln's case the rationale for the war shifted, not because he couldn't find any WMD in Dixie, but rather, argues Sandel, "because of the enormity of the sacrifice that the war was requiring. It no longer made moral sense that this great sacrifice could just be about keeping these states together, could just be about a political structure. It had to be about a bigger purpose and that was freedom and equality."

A fascinating essay on the similarities between our involvement in Iraq and our involvement in the Phillipines more than a century ago.
Harry Truman once remarked that the only thing new in this world is the history we haven't learned. One hundred years ago, an American army won a relatively bloodless war in the Philippines, and then learned the hard way that a war isn't over when major military operations end. Iraq is not the Philippines.

However, Gen. Arthur MacArthur, who was the military governor of the Philippines from May 1900 until July 1901, faced challenges that more closely resemble the situation in Iraq today than any other U.S. military history experience.
At that meeting, according to Taliban sources, Osama bin Laden’s men officially broke some bad news to emissaries from Mullah Mohammed Omar, the elusive leader of Afghanistan’s ousted fundamentalist regime. Their message: Al Qaeda would be diverting a large number of fighters from the anti-U.S. insurgency in Afghanistan to Iraq. Al Qaeda also planned to reduce by half its $3 million monthly contribution to Afghan jihadi outfits.

All this was on the orders of bin Laden himself, the sources said. Why? Because the terror chieftain and his top lieutenants see a great opportunity for killing Americans and their allies in Iraq and neighboring countries such as Turkey, according to Taliban sources who complain that their own movement will suffer.

The Stryker, the Army's new armored wheeled Iraq less than a month, takes a tumble.

No sign yet it is the vehicle's fault...but that probably won't stop the critics.
Three soldiers from Fort Lewis's 5,000-member Stryker brigade combat team, a prototype infantry unit deployed to Iraq last month, were killed and a fourth was injured in an accident during a combat patrol yesterday, a Stryker brigade spokesman confirmed from Iraq last night...

The accident occurred last night ... when the new Stryker infantry-carrier vehicles were traveling on a rural road and an embankment collapsed. Both vehicles rolled over into a canal, Piek said. The exact cause remains under investigation.


Doing the right thing even when it is unpopular.
Japan's cabinet approved a plan on Tuesday to dispatch troops to Iraq, a landmark decision setting the stage for what is likely to be the nation's biggest and most dangerous overseas military mission since World War II.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the controversial plan, which critics have said is ill-conceived and violates Japan's pacifist constitution, would allow the troops to assist in the reconstruction efforts but not to take part in combat...

The decision, roundly attacked by opposition parties, comes as surveys show that the vast majority of the public are opposed to sending troops now.


Not only the best quote of the day...but a touching story about a Soldier facing Christmas in Baghdad.

You might be surprised at what is on his short wish list.
The other day Roman wrote about the strange dichotomy he and his buddies feel at times in their role as both liberators of the Iraqi people and fighters against the insurgents. He didn't use the word "dichotomy." His words were more vivid than that:

"I don't know how many times we've been on raids, and we'll be searching the house. One person pulling security on the men of the house, and one on the women and children. They'll offer to make us tea, or ask for a picture (if they see a camera), and for a while we chill out in their house and play with the kids. It's especially weird if we meet with resistance on the way in. I always bring candy in my pockets and bullets in my chamber."

"The time spent here definitely gave me a greater appreciation of the creature comforts that I had taken for granted," Finkey said. "From the most mundane comforts, such as porcelain toilets and take-out food to the greater comforts, such as the intimacy I share with my wife."

Bittner agreed. "What hit me hard was the realization that I know some of my friends in the company as well as or better than my own wife because I've been deployed 22 of the past 25 months," he said.


From the Christian Science Monitor comes this story about the return of Iraqi professors from self imposed exile.

But right up front we see this:
After a decade of sanctions had left his physics lab a crumbling shell, Raad Mohammed decided it was time to go.

Apparently in the mind of the author there is no connection between the crumbling physics lab and Saddam & the Baathists. was those darned UN sanctions that were responsible.

Interestlingly, those sanctions didn't slow the pace of presidential palace construction.

This complaint aside, it actually is a good story.

And the bad guys have more of it than you might imagine.
They didn't catch any insurgents, but they may have gotten their hands on some of the money.

The U.S. military says American troops north of Baghdad have seized nearly two million dollars in cash -- along with false identification documents. The raid targeted a suspected financial backer of the anti-U.S. effort.


Read it all, but be is not for the faint of heart.
As for the killing, "I volunteered my body, mind and soul and I would do anything they asked of me," Zeller said.

He realizes this war on terrorism isn't like World War II.

"No one is trying to invade America or anything, so maybe (what we're doing) is a little less gratifying. But those people have been taught to hate us. Those kids I saw were raised to hate Americans."

He remembers seeing the walls of second- and third-grade classes in Iraqi schools. The walls were hung with pictures of dead Americans with bullet holes in them.

"Second- and third-grade kids," he said, still unable to comprehend what his own eyes saw.

"I ran across families that had had their own children killed by Saddam," Zeller said.

So yes, he's made his peace with the killing he had to do.

It was for freedom, he said.

If a bomb falls on a city and kills over 60, probably qualifies as a WMD.

So too, then, Saddam.
Saddam Hussein's government may have executed 61,000 Baghdad residents, a number significantly higher than previously believed, according to a survey obtained by The Associated Press...

The U.S.-led occupation authority in Iraq has said that at least 300,000 people are buried in mass graves in Iraq. Human rights officials put the number closer to 500,000, and some Iraqi political parties estimate more than 1 million were executed.

Without exhumations of those graves, it is impossible to confirm a figure. Scientists told The Associated Press during a recent investigation that they have confirmed 41 mass graves on a list of suspected sites that currently includes 270 locations.


Just because it needs doing.
The future of the village of Hatra may be in its past.

The U.S. military is working with villagers to draw tourism dollars to the 2,000-year-old ruins in their back yard, the capital of the first Arab Kingdom...

Felix said that with fewer funds available for local projects, he had to come up with a way to bring money to the poor area in northern Iraq, about 70 miles southwest of Mosul.

His soldiers hired and trained local tour guides. Soldiers who normally fire guns now sound off about the history of the ruins, which lie in a low plain in the heart of Mesopotamia...

The soldiers hope that when they leave the area in a couple of months, they can turn the program over to the local tourism board. The plan for the 90-minute tour is to charge an entry fee of $1 for locals and $2 for soldiers, who can stay at the Al Hatra Hotel, a couple miles from the ruins.


Day 212 of CPT Patti's deployment as part of the war on terror.

Day 212 of me getting a real up close look at how my life isn't nearly as much fun when she is away.

Monday, December 08, 2003


What do you remember?

As a child, I mean. Was Christmas something special?

When I was in high school I auditioned for and was selected to sing in the Greenville Singing Christmas Tree. Chances are you've seen something reasonably similar. A tree shaped frame is built and the choir performs from it.

In the case of the GSCT the arena was the Greenville Memorial Auditorium - the largest venue in town at that time...the same place where just two years earlier I had paid to see Chicago and Three Dog Night and The Average White Band and The Marshall Tucker Band in concert (all separately...I was never so lucky as to have such mega-stars appear on one bill...)

But at Christmas it became our stage. The Singing Christmas Tree's stage. And for many performances.

It was a hometown tradition.

And the one song, of them all, the one Christmas song that was always performed, every year, by that huge, bigger than life, bigger than the biggest Baptist church Christmas tree, was a song entitled "Christmas Was Meant for Children".

You may have never heard this song. Outside of the stupendous Singing Christmas Tree I've only heard it a handful of places myself. But it is a lovely song.

Oh, we did the usuals...and we did them as well as they could be done. As I recall we drew heavily from The Many Moods of Christmas arrangements by Robert Shaw...certainly there were no better arrangements. No one ever made the Hallelujah Chorus more majestic, nor Little Town of Bethlehem more mysterious, nor Lullay Lullay more plaintiive.

But Christmas Was Meant for Children was, in the end, the signature piece. Perhaps it was the soaring fourteen word, 1st Tenor solo..."Let the star in the East that led us...shine on your tree tonight." If you heard the Singing Christmas Tree once, and returned the next year, the concert's end must necessarily stand in abeyance until this song was performed.

But these memories flow from my high school days. And that was well after Christmas was indelibly marked upon my heart in ways over which I had no control.

What do I recall about Christmas? I remember being a pre-schooler preparing for the annual visit to Sears to see Santa. I wanted to make a list. "But Tim, you don't know how to read." said my mother. And that was true...but I had anticipated that. "For my list" I said, "you can just draw a picture of each thing I want!"

I think I surprised Mom and Dad with my at-hand solution.

I recall my big brother getting a bicycle only a week or two after having his appendix removed. He sat upon his bike on Christmas day...but he could not ride.

I recall my father making construction paper stockings the Christmas before my younger brother was born in January. The stockings were marked with the following names: Dad, Mom, Frank, Tim, "?". We didn't know Scott would be Scott...these the days before ultra sound.

I remember as a toddler being transfixed...walking up and having a good look into the round, red, glass ball hanging from the tree. Amazed at how large my nose appeared in the fish-eye reflection...and how the entire room was wide open and wrapping around me.

But these rememberences are isolated, highlights. They don't define Christmas for me...they accent it.

That which defines Christmas for me is that which we did over and over again.

And it all started right about this time of year. It started the night we put up the Christmas tree.

I've read Victorian tales of mothers and fathers putting up the tree on Christmas eve after the children have gone to bed. I pitied those children...for they never got to help in the magical assembly of the most favorite icon.

In our house the tree went up three to four weeks before Christmas day.

It happened at night...always. And to mark the special Winter event we always, ALWAYS, had a fire in the fireplace and hot chocolate (made from real milk and liquid Hershey's...not some powdered shlock, thank you). South Carolina you take your chances with the December weather. For it is nearly as likely to be 75 degrees on tree trimming night as it is to be 40 degrees.

Honest to God I remember at least one year we had every window on the ground floor open while the hot chocolate warmed and the fire crackled. And we laughed about it.

But we trimmed that tree. As we did the year before and all the years before that.

We were not...are not...sophisticates. As a child I do not remember a "real" tree ever being in the house. My parents told the story of the real tree purchased on a rainy evening...and upon the next morning finding the tree had shed every single needle on to the floor beneath it.

Perhaps it was that experience that prompted them into the world of artificial trees. I remember one or two years in the early sixties when we actually owned the silver aluminum tree replete with four-color-spotlight wheel. I suppose we were trendy.

I suppose.

But here is the dominant memory.

Every year the tree stood naked in the appropriate corner. Every year.

And every year we began with the placing of the lights. Every year.

Growing up it was Dad's job to place the lights. Mom's job to judge the lights. And the job of us kids to assist Dad in whatever way seemed/was/we dreamed appropriate.

I've got competing images in my brain...competing because of the repetition...repeating because I witnessed it again and again year in and year out. They compete...but they compete to tell the same story.

Dad would string the lights onto the tree. Mom would find a point in the room, usually the point furthest from the tree in an opposite corner. From there she would begin to point out to Dad where the "holes" were.

Light holes, if you will. Or black holes. Either seems to make the point in its own way.

And Dad would dutifully shift lights (these were the lights bigger than his thumb...we didn't have the tiny lights, so common today, back then) until they achieved a certain balance...a certain equal distribution across the face of the tree.

I remember this with clear detail...and perhaps I do so because it was this process that stood between us and the hanging of the ornaments (after the threading of the hooks, of course...its own uniquely 60's sort of activity).

At an early age I learned. The ornaments go on ONLY after the lights have been perfectly arrayed. And that perfect array could only be the result of a labored cooperative labor of love between Mom and Dad. And it was perhaps the earliest event with which I became acquainted in which Mom seemed to hold All The Cards.

Literally upon hands and knees, with back aching, Dad had to do Mom's bidding.

At least once per year.

And I think (based upon 40 year old memories) she just might have relished the role.

As mentioned above, - only then could we consider hanging the ornaments on the tree.

Only then could I (at seven years old) pull from the shoe box only recently removed from the attic the ornament of popsicle sticks, glue and glitter that I made just last year and , with boundless enthusiasm, dancing from foot to foot, seek permission to place it upon THE CHRISTMAS TREE (so tall and wondrous did this artificial sky-stretcher seem to me).

I'm, not certain I recall...but it seems to me there were such occasions in which my Mother said to me..."Here, honey, let's put that one around here toward the back where it won't get damaged."

I think I hung a lot of ornaments I made "toward the back" so they wouldn't get damaged. But memory may not serve.

Or... it might.

Anyway...such was our annual tree trimming. And upon completion we would turn out every light in the house to admire that inimitable glow from the tree. And that would be followed by the walk outside to the street to see how it would appear to our neighbors as they drove by.

And, remarkably...every year it was beautiful. Moreso than the last. Remarkable.

So this is what I remember.

And then - in comes my sister-in-law to make it all better.

I wrote recently of my trip with my brother's family into the mountains of North Carolina to cut a Christmas tree.

Trees look smaller in the open than they do in one's house.

It was huge. In the house it was HUGE.

And, in their house, the roles change a bit.

My sister-in-law Jan puts the lights on the tree. And my brother doesn't get to say a word.

Perhaps that is because it takes Jan a minimum of two days to put the lights on the tree. And that is because she puts between 4000 and 5000 lights on the tree.

You've probably never seen such a tree. It sparkles. I mean, she has to wear gloves to decorate the tree.

When you have 5000 lights on a tree you have a number of lights that begins to compete with the number of needles on the tree.

When Jan decorates a tree with lights - it sparkles.

All one has to do is to move one's head. Every light hides behind various needles. Or every light jumps our from behind the same. A 24,000 carat diamond. Or emerald. Such is the tree. It lives. It moves. It captivates.

And so I come to my point. I mean... I have a point to take you down Christmas Lane with me...did you doubt it?

My point is that as I flew from Germany to the USA and from the USA to Germany I read the "Sky Mall" catalogue in the seat pocket in front of me.

And it would seem that the biggest item to sell this year is the Christmas tree that is "pre decorated".

Pre-decorated??? Be it lights or balls or ribbons, or whatever...pre-decorated?

As if it is a if it is a if it is a burden?

NO! Paying taxes is a bother. Changing the oil is a labor. Looking after the neighbors kids after-school is a burden.

Decorating a Christmas tree is a MEMORY! That is what you've spent the last 10 minutes reading about.

In my mind it is a privilege. It is a communication. It is an act which I remember 40 years after the fact. It is a handing down from generation to generation.

To me these I-can't-be-bothered-with-Christmas Trees shortchange those who benefit from their so-called convenience.

It is something we do once per year. Just how lazy have we become?

I don't mean they don't have their place at all. I can understand, say, in the case of the frail for whom the alternative is no tree at all.

But not for families.

Not for children.

Shouldn't they be a part of placing every light...laughing as Dad, on his knees, has to adjust them.

Shouldn't they understand that some things are better made a compromise than are "perfect" straight out of the box.

How else will they ever realize that one sister-in-law with two day's time to spare is worth more than an entire Wal-Mart store with a thousand pre-lit Christmas trees.

They will remember.

I remember.

Christmas. Isn't it worth making the effort?
Some of you may recall my post about the sales girl on the phone who helped me order contacts for CPT Patti...she was mildly surprised to find her data base didn't "show Baghdad as being a country. "

I used that story to illustrate my point that folks might not be paying close attention.

Now that I've returned to Germany, the land in which I spend a lot of time alone (and, as a result, a lot of time on line), i'm catching up on my reading.

I've just stumbled across this post at tryingtogrok which I missed earlier owing to my being distracted while in the land of plenty. In it Sarah makes her own points about people not paying attention...and what happens if you do.

Find yourself ten or fifteen quiet minutes and go read it. It'll make you think.
A cluster of soldiers in camouflage uniforms leaned over intently, listening to a speaker during a training session for the 457th Chemical Battalion at Donaldson Center in Greenville.

Earlier this week the 457th got a reprieve — they would not be deployed to Iraq on Sunday, although the unit remains on alert.

That means a double portion of Christmas for the soldiers and their families.


Go read this entire story.
After I said my goodbyes on my last day at the school, he surprised me by handing the coin to me on his way out of the classroom. Chris said that the coin had given him good luck and kept him alive for some time, and maybe it would do the same for me.

You see, I am a U.S. Army reservist. I was mobilized and sent to Fort Bragg, N.C., and then to Kirkuk in northeastern Iraq. I am an English teacher and an airborne combat cameraman with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the unit that parachuted into northern Iraq at the beginning of the war.

Surrounded by a group of veterans who have come to be known as the “greatest generation,” the Marines’ top officer praised America’s soldiers in Iraq on Sunday as being made of the same right stuff.

“Once again another ‘greatest generation’ has stepped forward,” Gen. Michael Hagee, the commandant of the Marines, said in a ceremony at the National Museum of the Pacific War on the 62nd anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

“They don’t want to die, but they are willing to,” continued Hagee, who grew up in this small Hill Country city. “That is true honor. You cannot buy that, and we must never ever lose that.”
The 443rd Military Police Company, based in Owings Mills, Md., paraded into the Fort Lee field house yesterday after back-to back deployments to Texas and then Iraq, where soldiers spent eight months guarding a Baghdad prison.

The unit has altogether spent 22 of the past 25 months in uniform, the longest activation of any Army Reserve unit, military officials said.

Now it's back to everyday jobs and family life for the soldiers. And just in time for Christmas.

"It's going to be a ball," said Spc. Rod Harden, a 27-year-old fire inspector from Seat Pleasant, Md. "I get to be home for opening presents and don't have to worry about going anywhere for another two years."

Some Iowa soldiers in Iraq are hoping they'll soon be eating sweet corn they've grown in their own garden.

While sweet corn sometimes pops up on the mess hall menu, Sergeant Ray Reynolds of Denison and Sergeant Jeff Vore of Vining say it's not the same sweet corn they had growing up in Iowa.

So, the two men asked three friends back home to send them some sweet corn seeds so they could grow their own.

The friends called Pioneer and the company helped them send ten pounds of seed to Iraq.

Pioneer says the sweet corn should do well in Iraq's sandy soil and should be ready to pick by February.

The soldiers will give some of it to a Baghdad homeless shelter and some to Iraqi students who will investigate whether sweet corn could be a viable food source for their country.


Heard on CNN this morning some lamentation by Aaron Brown how many in Congress are "alarmed by the President's spending".

Struck me as odd because of something I thought I recalled from 9th grade civics class.

Took me about 60 seconds to find on the internet.

From the US Constitution, Article 4, Section 5:
All bills for raising or appropriating money, and for fixing the salaries of the officers of government, shall originate in the House of Representatives, and shall not be altered or amended by the Senate. No money shall be drawn from the public Treasury, but in pursuance of appropriations that shall originate in the House of Representatives.

The "President's spending" indeed.

An amusing look at "Turkeygate".
That's assuming he really was in Baghdad and that his name really is George W., both of which are very big assumptions. At last report, it appears the plane said to have flown over wasn't a 747 version of Air Force One, but a Gulfstream--precisely the sort of jet typically used by the Vice President's Haliburton and energy commission cronies. So in this version, the President's alleged trip was a diversion from a new Texas oil cartel effort to seize Iraqi oil fields.
American and German families are making extra room at their tables for some special guests this Christmas.

The Heidelberg military community is one of several communities where American families will host German Bundeswehr soldiers this holiday. Many of the soldiers guard gates at area installations and housing areas.

Jerrika Weston and her husband, Staff Sgt. Brent Weston, will open their doors this year to two German soldiers.

“They’re away from home already,” Weston said. “When you’re in the military, you’re never going to have [all of] your family. My thing is — family is wherever you go. The least we could do is just make them feel welcome.”

On the other side of the coin, German families associated with the Bamberg German American Men’s Club will share Christmas with U.S. soldiers.

American Forces Network-Iraq will begin live radio broadcasts from Baghdad this week, featuring news, weather, music, tips on Iraq’s culture and language, and other content tailored to troops in that country.

It will begin broadcasts to the Baghdad area on Wednesday, and hopes to extend them to other parts of Iraq by Christmas.

The operation netted 215 illegal AK 47 assault rifles, 10 other types of military rifles, four machineguns, one shotgun, various weapons parts, nine assorted pistols and 10 hand grenades. An undetermined amount of ammunition, including some armor-piercing rounds, was also confiscated. Soldiers also seized 10 rocket-propelled grenade launcher sights, 12 mortar sights, a Soviet-made night vision device and four mortar aiming stakes. In addition to the weapons, the operation netted assorted electronic components, which could be used in making IEDs, three chemical protective masks, 24 individual body armor plates, assorted Saddam Hussein paraphernalia and 16 cases of U.S. meals ready-to-eat (MREs).

During the operation, a community resident tipped off the soldiers to the location of a weapons cache. Military Police found a bag of rocket-propelled grenade propellant, eight mortar fuses and 225 hand grenade fuses.

1st Armored Division’s Operation Iron Justice is ongoing and will continue to target criminal and enemy elements in the Baghdad area.


HATRA, IRAQ – Coalition soldiers, local patrons and international media danced traditional dances, sang customary songs and ate a feast of both American and Iraqi food as the sun went down on this ancient city. The evening’s celebrations ended the Ramadan season and included presentations from Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding general, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Hatras Mayor Nofil Hamade Sultan.

According to Petraeus, the celebration showed the friendship and working relationship between the Iraqis of Hatra and Coalition Forces. The general spoke about the progress the city of Hatra has made, adding that the people have grown because they opened their eyes to new cultures. Hatra, located southwest of Mosul, dates back to 300 B.C., and has recently re-opened to tourism after many years.


CPT Patti has been dealing with weather extremes in Baghdad for 211 days. According to Yahoo! weather, it is currently 40 degrees in Baghdad.

Me, I awoke to 23 degrees this morning in Giessen. It is now 32.

That might just be as close as our respective temperatures have been since she left.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

A student expelled from Parkway High for a year for having Advil, an over-the-counter pain reliever, will not be allowed to return to the school.

Rumor is those caught with Midol only get 6 months as they are...well...a bit harder to deal with...

Kerry, you are pathetic.

However, I will retract my charge of pandering if you use the same language in an AARP magazine interview.
Struggling 2004 Democratic wannabe John Kerry fires an X-rated attack at President Bush over Iraq and uses the f-word - highly unusual language for a presidential contender - in a stunning new interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

Sen. Kerry (Mass.) used the undeleted expletive to express his frustration and anger over how the Iraq issue has hurt him because he voted for the war resolution while Democratic front-runner Howard Dean has soared by opposing it.

"I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, 'I'm against everything'? Sure. Did I expect George Bush to f - - - it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did," Kerry told the youth-oriented magazine.


I wonder if this is actually good news. Is it possible this means they can't find enough nut cases in the mid east and have to expand their recruiting into Europe?
BERLIN (AP)--Investigators on Thursday questioned an Iraqi suspected of recruiting Islamic fighters to carry out attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, following similar arrests last week in Hamburg and Milan.

The earlier arrests were part of an Italian probe into a cell thought to be recruiting fighters or suicide bombers for the northern Iraq-based militant group Ansar al-Islam. German officials Thursday suggested the latest arrest, in Munich, was linked.


Other than the fact you don't quite get it that your adult daughter is trying to serve her country in the midst of a war.
Anabel Valencia crossed oceans, deserts, and half the globe to see her daughter, Specialist Giselle Valencia, a truck driver with Task Force Ironhorse here in Saddam Hussein's old neighborhood.

But you just don't drop in at a heavily guarded US military base in a war zone, even if your child is on active duty inside.

"Your daughter's on a mission," an incredulous MP holding a fierce German shepherd advised Valencia Friday.

"I can wait," came the firm reply from the Tucson teacher's aide, 51 and a mother of three. "I came this far. I can wait a bit longer."

Valencia, born in Los Angeles, was one of a handful of parents who traveled to Iraq last week to see their active-duty children.

Sponsoring the trip was Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based activist group that opposed the US invasion and is eager to spread its antiwar message. None of the parents had formal military clearance to visit their children.


The Telegraph tracks down the source of the claim that Iraq could launch WMD within 45 minutes.

Turns out he was a Lieutenant Colonel and a commander in the the Iraqi army.
Lieutenant-Colonel al-Dabbagh is not a man who is easily frightened. Having spied on Saddam's regime for British and American intelligence for more than seven years, the 40-year-old former Iraqi air defence commander lived with the constant fear that he might be caught, tortured and executed.

So when last week, shortly after I had interviewed him in Baghdad about his involvement in the infamous 45-minute claim, he received two death threats from Saddam's loyalists, his determination to describe his involvement in revealing details of the former Iraqi dictator's deployment of weapons of mass destruction remained undiminished.

The threats - one verbal and one written - warned him not to divulge any secrets about Saddam's regime, on pain of death. The week before our meeting, members of Saddam's Fedayeen had sprayed his house with machinegun fire.

"Saddam's people are doing this all the time," he said. "That is why it is so difficult to find the weapons of mass destruction. I am sure the weapons are hidden in Iraq just like I see you now. I am concerned that the chemical and biological weapons are there."...

Despite the threats, Lt Col al-Dabbagh reacted without hesitation when I showed him the controversial section of the British Government's intelligence document that claimed that Saddam's WMD could "be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them".

When I asked him whether the information in the document relating to the 45-minute issue was 100 per cent accurate, he responded with characteristic Iraqi enthusiasm: "It is 200 per cent accurate!" he exclaimed. "And forget 45 minutes. We could have fired them within half an hour."

When I asked him whether he was the original source of the intelligence, he replied simply: "I am the one responsible for providing this information."


We've discussed this subject at least twice. The latest post on this is here.

But now we hear it directly from the Iraqi Governing Council.

Aiding and abetting terrorism. Wish I'd said that.
On November 23, I took an important step in protecting the fledgling democracy we are nurturing in Iraq. On behalf of Iraq's Governing Council, I temporarily banned the Arab satellite channel Al Arabiya from using satellite uplink facilities to transmit news reports from its Baghdad bureau.

Since then I have heard a hundred variants on this question: "How can you claim to be promoting democracy while stifling a free press?" The answer is quite simple.

We are not acting against legitimate and objective journalistic activities. We are taking steps to prevent psychological warfare and, more serious, incitement to murder. No country would do less. Further, while we have banned the station from broadcasting footage from Baghdad, we have not stopped it from continuing to gather news in Iraq. What sparked this action?

Al Arabiya's conscious decision to break Iraqi law and the breaking of its own solemn promise not to promote violence in our country.

On November 16 Al Arabiya broadcast what it claimed was an audio tape by Saddam Hussain. Saddam's horrible legacy, including responsibility for the needless deaths of millions of my countrymen, torture, executions and the virtual destruction of Iraq's economy, is well known. And what did he say? He called for the extermination of the Governing Council and of the coalition forces that liberated us and are now helping us reconstruct our country.

Saddam is a fugitive from justice, wanted for crimes of genocide. Yet Al Arabiya sees fit to allow him an open microphone to broadcast his calls for terrorism. Some may ask: Didn't other media report on the same tape?

Yes, other media - including Arab satellite channels - did report on the tape. But Al Arabiya aired the tape in its entirety, a full 17 minutes, while others broadcast only excerpts.

And it was Al Arabiya that made the initial choice to air the tape; the rest of the media only followed. Saddam is seeking to stoke fear among Iraqis who embrace a democratic future. He calls for the murder of my colleagues in the Governing Council, people who are committed to a future democratic Iraq respectful of human rights. He wants coalition forces slaughtered because they dared depose him.

More ominously, he attempts to incite violence in the name of religion, calling for "jihad" and thus encouraging Al Qaida and other terrorist groups to carry out suicide attacks against our friends in the Red Cross, the United Nations and among our coalition allies.

That is not journalism; that is aiding, abetting and encouraging criminal terrorist activity. We, in turn, are exercising one of the few prerogatives we have: denying Al Arabiya use of our airwaves to broadcast reports from Baghdad.
Saddam Hussein is hiding out west of Baghdad from where he commands the operations against US occupation of Iraq, a tribal leader and faithful follower of the ousted president told AFP.

"Saddam Hussein is in good health and living in the west of Iraq," said the man who is involved in the struggle and calls himself only Abu Mohammad.

"The Iraqi president is commanding the military operations against the American forces," he said yesterday.


Pearl Harbor of the week and all. A day we got sucker punched. In the end we dealt with those who committed that heinous act.

Nearly 60 years later we got sucker punched again. We are still dealing with those terrorists.

CPT Patti has been in the fight, away from home for 210 days now.

Me...I think it feels longer than that.