Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Dutch embassy in Baghdad exploded into flames in a rocket strike late on Friday and three Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in the northern city of Mosul amid warnings from US generals that violence could escalate...

The unoccupied Dutch mission was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, sparking a major alert in the capital, the US military said.

"The grenade started a fire that was quickly extinguished by the Baghdad fire department," a US military spokesman said.

Go read it all.
The concept of pre-emption, hitting an enemy before he hits you, has been integral to U.S. foreign policy for four decades. During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy said: "We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril."...

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi figured out that having WMD posed a greater danger to him than not having them. Bush's national security doctrine and the threat of pre-emption it contains are warnings to dictators and terrorists: WMD will not protect you. They could make you an intolerable risk to the international community. Think twice and avail yourself of diplomatic and political options while you have a chance.

(Thanks again, John)

Who knew?
U.S. soldiers riding in convoys in Iraq are relying on electronic "jammers" to help protect against the roadside bombs insurgents have used to deadly effect.

The anti-bomb technology isn't perfect, however. In some cases it only delays a bomb from detonating, so it can still explode and kill bystanders.

It's unclear how widely the jammers — the same technology that saved Pakistan's leader from a recent assassination attempt — are being used in Iraq.

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, acknowledged their use in testimony this week before the House Armed Services Committee, but he declined to discuss the bomb defenses in detail. The military does not want to provide useful information to Iraqi insurgents, officials say.

(And a tip of the hat to John for this story)

Had a couple of readers write in overnight with links to great stories.

Here is one...actually a sort of diary written by a lady travelling with a VIP crowd on a Defense Department sponsored visit to the troops. Some NASCAR drivers were also in her party.

It'll make you proud.
Jeff Hammond was using the phone, and as I was waiting on him, I overheard a conversation. A young troop was talking to his son on the phone and was asking him if he was bored and ready to return to school from his holiday vacation. All I could think about was this soldier missing time with his son.

These troops are missing Christmas and birthdays. They’re missing all the fun times with their children. Over at the bar, the NASCAR guys gave $500 to the bartender and told him to serve beer until he run out of money. I’m sure they made some fans with that gesture! One troop told me our visit meant more to the troops than we could imagine. These guys are mingling with the troops, not just up on a stage.

Everyone kept saying how much it meant for us to come over. What they don’t understand is how we were the ones receiving all of the benefit. I have never been so proud to be an American. These troops are the most professional people I have ever met.

(Thanks to Beckie, proud Army mom of Sarah in Baghdad...)
“Now, I’m going to give you an order,” he said.

“You will spend quality time with your families, and you will get your lives back in order.”

Surrounds this Chinook helicopter...
Jim Schulz / Stars and Stripes

Soldiers from the Giebelstadt, Germany-based 159th Aviation Regiment, known as Big Windy, wrap plastic around a Chinook helicopter in preparation for their return to Germany. The unit, which has spent the past year in Iraq, is in Shu'Aibah Port, Kuwait, as it gets ready to go home.
After engineers form carbon into long chains, using a process called “gel spinning,” the strands can be packed and stacked with virtually no space in between, Wagner said — in effect, like a “net” with no holes for anything, such as a bullet, to sneak through.

Honeywell engineers are now working on the next generation of Spectra, which they hope will be “a quantum leap forward” in stopping power, Wagner said.


And my sweet darling wonderful wife has been doing her part for the nation for 264 days.

And in case you wonder, I called her all those adjectives before she ever ain't just absence.

Friday, January 30, 2004


He didn't say it was a mistake. He just said he didn't need to win in the South - which isn't likely to win him a lot of friends in Dixie.

A pointed denial to a very pointed question...and Kerry covered up the issue with a denial on the wording.
Similarly, Kerry snapped at Brokaw for raising the recent controversy over comments Kerry made about the political importance of the South. Kerry had pointed out that it was not mathematically necessary for a Democrat to win Southern states to beat a Republican in the general election -- a point that went over very badly among Southerners who are afraid the Democratic Party is ceding the region to Republicans.

''How can you come South given what you said about the Democrats making a mistake in spending too much time worrying about the South?'' Brokaw asked.

''I never said that,'' Kerry interjected. ''I never said Democrats made a mistake. I never said that at all.'' He went on to pledge that he will campaign in the region, both as a Democratic candidate and a nominee.

Here is what he actually said.
The best example was reported by The New Republic in 1991, which obtained two letters, both signed by John Kerry to the same constituent. The first read: "Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition ... to the early use of military force by the U.S. against Iraq. I share your concerns. On Jan. 11, I voted in favor of a resolution that would have insisted that economic sanctions be given more time to work and against a resolution giving the president the immediate authority to go to war."

The second letter - again, to the same constituent - came nine days later on Jan. 31: "Thank you very much for contacting me to express your support for the actions of President Bush in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From the outset of the invasion, I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush's response to the crisis and the policy goals he has established with our military deployment in the Persian Gulf."


Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean criticized Vice President Dick Cheney for berating CIA operatives because he did not like their intelligence reports. "It seems to me that the vice president of the United States therefore influenced the very reports that the president then used to decide to go to war and to ask Congress for permission to go to war," Dean said.
Problem is, doesn't appear that that ever happened.
One of Dr. Kay's most important observations cut the legs out from under those who insist the president and his subordinates — in particular, Vice President Dick Cheney — manipulated the intelligence they received from the CIA and other agencies.

"In the course of [his work in Iraq], I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated.

Reality on the ground differed in advance.

And never — not in a single case — was the explanation, 'I was pressured to do this.' The explanation was very often, 'The limited data we had led one to reasonably conclude this. I now see that there's another explanation for it.'"
An air force general landed his MiG fighter jet on its belly after having forgotten to put its landing gear down and ejected to safety when the aircraft scraped the airstrip, officials said Wednesday.

"The pilot forgot to put the landing gear down," air force chief Colonel-General Vladimir Mikhailov said Wednesday on NTV television.

"We have a variety of intelligence and we're sure we're going to catch Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar this year," Hilferty said, referring to the ousted Taliban's leader. "We've learned lessons from Iraq and we're getting improved intelligence from the Afghan people."

I hope he's right.
At a radio phone-in program the other day I was taken to task by some listeners for what they believed is Iraq’s “slide into chaos.” “You campaigned for the liberation of Iraq and now look what has happened!”

This was followed by a “what has happened” list of events that included Shiites demonstrating, Kurds asking for autonomy, Sunnis sulking, and various political parties and groups tearing each other apart in the Iraqi media over the shape of the future constitution.

The truth, however, is that, far from sliding into chaos or heading toward civil war, Iraq is beginning to become a normal society. And all normal societies face uncertainties just as do all normal human beings.

One should welcome the gradual emergence of a normal political life in Iraq after nearly half a century of brutal despotism, including 35 years of exceptionally murderous Baathist rule...

If anything, the Iraqi political fight is taking place with an unusual degree of courtesy in which the Marques of Queensbury’ rule applies, which is not the case even in some mature democracies. The new Iraq, as it is emerging, will be full of uncertainties. But that is precisely why the liberation war was justified. Under Saddam the Iraqis faced only the certainty of concentration camps and mass graves.

The Iraqis are now free to debate all aspects of their individual and national life. The fact that different, often conflicting views are now expressed without fear should be seen as a positive achievement of the liberation. Democracy includes the freedom to demonstrate, especially against those in charge, and to “tear each other apart” in the media and town-hall political debates. It also includes the difficulty of reaching a consensus on major issues. Those who follow Iraqi politics would know that Iraq today is the only Arab country where all shades of opinion are now free to express themselves and to compete for influence and power in a free market of ideas...

The US-led coalition should accept that the road ahead will be bumpy. But that is not necessarily bad news. For democracy is nothing but a journey on constantly bumpy roads.

And though they will try to minimize it, we should all expect a reduction in our abilities after the change takes place. The new troops don't have the year's experience that the one's leaving do.
When inbound units arrive in the theater, they will spend two weeks in Kuwait to link up with equipment and to acclimatize. When they arrive at their Iraqi "battle stations," there will be a two-week handoff between the units. This will make sure all personnel get the benefit of the experience of the departing unit.

The attacks and the bombings, together with rampant crime, have left Baghdadis living in fear. Through all this, however, there are signs of hope. Many Iraqis are looking to the future and seeking to play a role in rebuilding their country.

At the Palestine Hotel, more than 100 Iraqis took part Wednesday in a three-hour, coalition-sponsored debate on their country's future.

Under tight security, they let two members of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, including current president and Sunni politician Adnan Pachachi, know what they expected...

Pachachi, who met President Bush in Washington last week, said an interim constitution will ensure women get at least 25 percent of the 250 seats proposed for the transitional legislature. There was a near consensus that Iraq will have a three-man presidency to rule until a government is elected by the end of 2005, he added.

Isra'a Abdel-Razeq, a 27-year-old mother of three, was upbeat.

''The most important thing is that we are free,'' she said. ''The fact that I am here now is a first step,'' said Abdel-Razeq, a Sunni civil engineer married to a Shiite.
Listening to all the aspiring commanders and chief (except for Joe Lieberman), I don't hear any campaign promises related to winning the war on terrorism. They make a few obligatory references to getting bin Laden rather than wasting our time with Saddam, and then they get on to their real campaign message, which is the conventional, peacetime Democratic argument to tax the rich and give the proceeds to their likely voters. I am tempted to respond to these candidates with the snappy WWII era retort to complainers: "Don't you know there's a war on?"...

In nine months, one of these men could be elected president. It doesn't particularly surprise or worry me that the candidates are just making what they judge to be useful political chatter. But I don't get the feeling that any of them (again, except for Joe Lieberman) sit up at night worrying how they will protect America from the terrorist threat if they get elected president. It would show in at least the tone, if not the words of their public oratory.

Rather, I get the sense that, as Raoul de Salles described too many Americans 60 years ago at the beginning of WWII, today's candidates for commander in chief still think the war is optional. They still think they can select "how much war they would accept." They let the confusion of the situation "serve as an excuse for recommending a policy of aloofness."

The intelligence failure is quite spectacular, but its history is quite prosaic. When the U.N. inspectors left in 1998, they assumed that the huge stockpiles of unaccounted-for weapons still existed.

What other assumption could they make? That Hussein had destroyed them and not reported that to the very agency that could have then vindicated him and gotten sanctions lifted?
“No one will want to know more than the president the comparison between what we found when we got there and what we thought was there going in,” Rice said on NBC television’s Today show...

“I think that what we have is evidence that there are differences between what we knew going in and what we found on the ground,” Rice said...
I hope this signals a change in direction for the White House.

Meanwhile, I heard again from Defense Contractor Guy...he was an Army Intel Officer a few years back. Regarding our discussion here about the flawed intel he had this to say:
I think you hit the nail on the head - our intel analysts did not have the information needed to make the call on weapons of mass destruction. However - I doubt there were many analysts that really tried to get new and relevant information to analyze. I'm kind of scared about the whole intelligence community. I believe that stagnation and specialization is a real problem.

I believe the Intel estimates that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction came from information that was the best they had to work with - However, I'd be willing to bet that some of the information was as much as 10 years old. - you know why? Because we had a great lack of spys before 9/11. Hopefully they are working on that problem - but an analyst sitting behind a desk at Langley or DIA has little chance of creating a intel estimate on a program the Iraqis were trying to keep secret using only standoff
technical means.

The intelligence community relies on technology (and old technology at that) to gather information. What they need is HUMINT. (Spys - there is a major shortage). If relying on technology they may have missed the destruction - or hiding - of WMD then the estimate may never change ... eventually the "estimate" becomes "truth" because everyone is quoting someone else as a "verified source".

One of my intel failure theories goes like this --- A US intelligence organization (Say the NSA) makes an estimate on WMD - this is given to a lot of US Agencies (DIA, CIA, etc.) and the UK. The UK use the US information in a report. The DIA sees the NSA information uses the information in a report. CIA uses DIA information based on NSA information and uses that information in their own report. And finally the NSA looks at a CIA report (based on the DIA report that came from the NSA Report .).. get the picture? - full circle - Any mistakes become fact because each agency sometimes uses another as a source. Lastly someone in the US reads the UK report ( that may have used the US estimate to verify their suspicions) and concludes - ah ha! this is verification and validation of our estimate - I've seen it happen (really). That is why you need people on the ground - to get new and pertinent information.

(The press has the same problem ... ever notice how often you see reporters interviewing reporters or CNN quoting Reuters)

The bigger problem though is that there is no HUMINT in the mid east. Troops on the ground are getting good info but are not trained for the task - you really need some guy willing to go undercover to get really great info.
DCG's assessment seems to be born out by this recap of the situation:
Kay has now offered the most novel and convincing explanation for why U.S. intelligence -- and, for that matter, U.N. inspectors and the intelligence agencies of every country that mattered -- misjudged what Iraq possessed.

It was a combination of Iraqi bluff, deceit and corruption far more bizarre than heretofore suspected. Kay discovered that an increasingly erratic Saddam Hussein had taken over personal direction of WMD programs. But because there was no real oversight, the scientists would go to Hussein, exaggerate or invent their activities, then pocket the funds.

Scientists were bluffing Hussein. Hussein was bluffing the world. The Iraqis were all bluffing each other. Special Republican Guard commanders had no WMDs, but they told investigators that they were sure other guard units did. It was this internal disinformation that the whole outside world missed.
And odd as it may sound, I find this whole thing, while disturbing, to be good news. There are few things as invaluable as a good eye-opening event in which one discovers the assumptions in play (in this case, that our Intel systems are accurate) are way off the mark.

You can't find the proper fix if you don't know what is broken.
Iraq took a big leap forward in an effort to have its athletes compete at this year's Summer Games in Athens, as the country elected a new National Olympic Committee on Thursday.

The new NOC replaces the one led by Saddam Hussein's son, Odai, who was killed in a battle with United States forces in Mosul on July 22. Odai was accused of torturing, jailing and even killing athletes who did not perform to his standards. There were even reports that Odai used Iraq's Olympic center as a torture site, until the building was destroyed by U.S. led warplanes and missiles.


But we knew that. They are terrorists...
A suicide bomber killed three people and injured 17 Wednesday when he drove a van disguised as an ambulance through a security barrier and exploded it in front of a hotel in the heart of Baghdad...

The bombing at the Shaheen - a hotel frequented by Westerners - confirmed intelligence warn ings that insurgents might use ambulances to evade security checks.

Good the whole thing.
The crews bought lunch at an outdoor Burger King stand -- the receipt cheerfully reads, ``Welcome to Iraq,'' -- and eat while sitting in a circle on the tarmac near their vehicles. After reloading, they taxied back to the runway, waited their turn and dashed again into the sky.

Below, the afternoon sun cast long shadows as boys played soccer in a dirt field, shepherds waved from near muddy brown water canals, and a house flashed by with a satellite dish atop. Just one sight catches the crews' attention.

A man is standing in the back of a moving pickup truck. Sgt. Knieriemen swivels the machine gun at him as the helicopters pass over. The truck drove on, the man did not move, and the gunners didn't fire.

Within 18 minutes of leaving Baghdad, the helicopters are back at Camp Anaconda and safely on the ground. This time, there were few tense moments in half day's worth of flying.

In Iraq, that's never something to take for granted.


Sort of.
More than 40 Russian companies, including entities linked to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, allegedly took part in an illegal kickback scheme for trading Iraqi oil under Saddam Hussein's regime, according to documents obtained by Baghdad-based newspaper al-Mada.

"Almost all Russian companies that worked in Iraq [were involved in this]," said Fakhri Karim, the editor of the recently created newspaper, in an interview with Vremya Novostei published Thursday.

"There are Russian diplomats of a very high level, too," he said.

Vremya Novostei published last weekend a list of more than 270 people and organizations from 46 countries including Russia, France, China, Italy, Austria, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, who allegedly took part in a scheme to trade contraband Iraqi oil in breach of the United Nations regulated oil-for-food deal.

The newspaper says it based its list on documents obtained from the Iraqi Oil Ministry.
All members of the United Nations. The same UN that created the Oil for Food program.

I guess that about sews up any remaining ideas about the UN stamp providing "international legitimacy". It would seem the UN is being used as a front to hide the criminal activities of its members.
U.S. forces defused a car bomb on a major oil route, hours after the commander of coalition forces in Iraq warned that al-Qaida is trying to "gain a foothold" in Iraq, citing the recent arrest of a key operative.

Iraq's foreign minister said he was confident Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) would still be found in the country, despite testimony from the former US chief weapons inspector that no such munitions exist.

Iraq Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, on a visit to Bulgaria, said he was sure Saddam's regime had acquired chemical and biological arms, but said they had not been found because they were so well hidden.
The Baghdad suburb of Hai Tarek is an unusually harsh place, and conditions here - muddy roads covered with garbage, no sewage system, the deleterious effects of sickness and trauma - underline the continued importance for humanitarian assistance in Iraq.

As Mazen Mohsen, an Iraqi physician, said recently: "Humanitarian work is still needed here."

It's also welcome, if the boisterous -- and predominately youthful -- crowds that greeted the daily delivery of water in this predominately Shi'ite area was any indication.

The delivery was made possible by the support of U.S. churches - specifically by Church World Service and other U.S. church agencies working together on the "All Our Children" (AOC) campaign, an inter-agency effort to meet critical ongoing medical and health needs of Iraqi children and their families...

The AOC-funded water project in Hai Tarek - including daily delivery of water and distribution of jerry cans to some 55,000 people (some 5,000 families) - is improving lives in one of Baghdad's poorest areas, an area where most residents don't have jobs and where eight out of 10 residents are children.
The Iraqi Governing Council says it has asked authorities to investigate allegations an illegal prison is being run by a top Shiite cleric.

Moqtada al-Sadr is suspected of operating an unlawful prison in Iraq, said Safaa Al-Rasool, deputy of the Governing Council member Mowaffak al-Rubaie, who is a Shiite Muslim.

With funding secured and contracting processes completed, the Army is starting to move ever-larger quantities of both armoring kits and newly built armored Humvees into Iraq, Army officials said.

There are now more than 2,000 up-armored Humvees “in theater” in Southwest Asia, which includes Afghanistan and Iraq, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told the House Armed Services Committee in testimony on Wednesday...

Humvee maker American Motors General is building a new factory specifically for up-armored Humvees that is nearly completed, Tallman said.

By spring, the manufacturer will be producing at “the maximum rate of 220” armored Humvees per month, he said.

In addition to new vehicles, the Army also has contracts to purchase 6,000 armor kits that can be installed by soldier mechanics in Iraq, Tallman said.

The kits are destined to upgrade not only many of the 8,000 conventional Humvees now in Iraq, but other vehicles as well, such as heavy transports and trucks used in convoy operations, he said.

The armor kits don’t substitute for a fully armored vehicle, Tallman said, “but it’s something we can do right now.”

Day 263. I really, really miss my wife.

Thursday, January 29, 2004


I love this guy...
In the second group are the "undecided" independents.

These are the people we hear from the most in the final weeks of any presidential campaign, largely because politicians are going to hunt where the ducks are and, duh, the undecideds haven't decided yet. After every presidential debate of the general election, there's a focus group filled with undecideds; they're treated like Olympic judges rather than astoundingly uninformed citizens. They complain that they didn't get enough information from the candidates, or they didn't get enough "details" on this or that policy. They ape Rodin's Thinker over whether to choose George W. Bush or Al Gore, Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, Poppy Bush or Michael Dukakis.

Here's how one undecided explained her thinking in 2000 to the Boston Globe: "One day I'm for Gore (her mother called from California to say he'd protect the environment), the next day it's Bush (she thinks he's funny). . . . If I had to go out to dinner with one of them, I'd choose Bush. . . . But here's what goes through my mind. Let's say a meteorite was coming toward Earth. Who has the better judgment?... I wish I could decide.'"

Now, I am all for taking civic responsibilities seriously, particularly voting. I'd greatly prefer very low voter turnout among serious-minded people to high voter turnout among people who saunter into the voting booths between trips to the mall and the face-piercing spa. But let me make one thing very clear: Being undecided, in and of itself, is not a mark of seriousness or intelligence. If you really are undecided between having a bowl of strawberry ice cream and being smacked in the forehead with a garden rake, you're not very intelligent; you're just very, very stoopid.

I tend to agree with him that I hope the uninformed just stay home.

But go read it deserve it.

Occasionally you have seen references to my pal Defense Contractor Guy. He sent some feedback overnight...said he had some stuff he had to get off his chest.

With regard to the International Volleyball Federation story he writes
"Thanks... without you no one would be following this important series of events, But I'm curious whether anyone has tried to play beach volleyball in a burka?? I'll be interested to see the first match. (I'm assuming the middle eastern women might forgo the Bikinis with their names on the rear) ...
About the high incidences of murderers whose middle names are Wayne:
RE: News of the Weird (or News of the Wayne as the case may be) I just want to know why they (who ever "they" are - the press or something more sinister) use the middle name for serial killers, murderers, assassins (John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Mark David Chapman, and all those guys with the middle name Wayne) and not for Bank Robbers and White Collar Criminals? Maybe its because when Mom used your middle name you knew you had done something REALLY BAD! I can hear her now "John-Wilkes-Booth what have you done now!?

By this time I guess he's just free associating...because he comes up with another good question:
and on a slightly different tack I wish I could figure out why some dictators are "Strongmen" others are "Tyrants" while others are "Despots" and "Oppressors" and some are simply "Dictators". Somehow the media makes some sort of choice and goes with it. (Manuel Noreaga was a "strongman" Saddam Hussein was a "tyrant")
He goes on to note the irony of Kofi Annan's requirement that the US establsh security for a return of the UN to Iraq:
Wait a second...they were the ones that DID NOT WANT too much US protection - had the US military stay AWAY from the UN compound. It just seemed too militaristic...they did not want to make themselves a target (until they got blown up that is.)
.Finally, he sends this picture...which might actually be just about what it takes to get that job done.

It's good to have friends like DCG.

The Army's top general told Congress he is planning for the possibility of being required to rotate a large force in and out of Iraq for another three years.

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that ''for planning purposes'' he told his staff to consider how the Army would replace the force now rotating into Iraq with another force of similar size in 2005 and again in 2006.

And glad as I am to see it, it won't help in the near isn't as if there are thousands of officers and non-commissioned officers already sitting around ready to fill the leadership rolls. This expansion of the Army has to be grown, in my view.
The U.S. Army wants 30,000 more soldiers on active duty than it is allowed to have for the next four years, the Army chief of staff told Congress.

It was the first acknowledgement from the military that it is shorthanded for the tasks at hand. However, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker stopped short of asking for a permanent increase in end strength in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday.

"There is no question the Army is stressed. The degree to which we are engaged today ... can not be debated," he said.


I had some time yesterday to watch Mr. Kay's testimony before the Senate panel. He says we were all wrong on the WMDs in Iraq. According to the Washington Times
Weak human intelligence-gathering capability and limited data prevented U.S. intelligence analysts from figuring out that Iraq did not have large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, the CIA's former chief arms inspector told Congress yesterday.

"It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment, and that is most disturbing," David Kay told the Senate Armed Services Committee...

Iraq was found to be working on chemical, biological and nuclear arms "on a large scale," Mr. Warner said.

Mr. Kay said the Iraqi government's cheating and lying to United Nations contributed to the intelligence failure because it led analysts to jump to false conclusions.

None of the intelligence analysts involved in producing estimates on Iraq's arms told him they were pressured to skew analyses to support policy, Mr. Kay said.

Instead, analysts told him that they had limited information on the arms programs.

U.S. intelligence also lacked human agents on the ground and relied too much on information from foreign intelligence services, he said.

An overemphasis on the use of electronic and photographic intelligence resulted in bad intelligence, he noted.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence on Iraq's weapons to justify going to war.

Mr. Kay, in his testimony, said it was not the president who had misused intelligence. Intelligence analysts got their assessments wrong and, as a result, "abused" the president.
In another major development yesterday an independent investigation clears Tony Blair and heavily criticizes the BBC for it's reporting that the government had "sexed up"a dossier on Iraqi weapons. The Chairman of the BBC resigned.
A senior appeals judge castigated the British Broadcasting Corp. yesterday for reporting that the government had "sexed up" a dossier on Iraqi weapons, vindicating Prime Minister Tony Blair and prompting the resignation of BBC chief Gavyn Davies.

The 700-page independent report by senior judge Brian Hutton also cleared Mr. Blair and his administration of responsibility in the death of David Kelly, a government expert on Iraqi weapons who committed suicide after being exposed as the source of the BBC story.

The document, so bulky that each copy was delivered in a large cardboard box, hammered the publicly funded national broadcaster's standards of reporting and ? most damagingly ? its governors' decision to support the charges made by a senior radio reporter.

"The allegation that I or anyone else lied to this House or deliberately misled the country by falsifying intelligence on [Iraqi weapons of mass destruction] is itself the real lie," a clearly relieved and upbeat Mr. Blair said to huge applause.

So where does that leave us? We've touched on this issue recently. But with the events of yesterday I believe we have a rare opportunity to reframe the issue and come to a civil discourse. And I believe that most reasonable people can understand the concepts at work here.

The President has an awesome does the British Prime Minister (who, by the way, would be classified a "Liberal" in the USA). Neither gets paid enough to shoulder their burdens nor take the abuse heaped upon them by folks who don't have a fraction of the responsibility.

Ultimately the President is responsible for your safety. Mine too. Sure...he has the Defense Department at his disposal to help him handle that chore, but ultimately it is up to him.

And all the intelligence data they could muster said the weapons were there. That included not only our estimates...but those of nations who opposed going to war.

And the information, according to Kay, was wrong. Our intelligence failed.

As Mr. Kay pointed out...our intelligence has failed more recently than over Iraq. In a slip up that is scarier than 100 Iraqs, our intelligence failed to understand the advances made by Iran and Lybia in their nuclear programs...information that has come to light only in the last two months (and in no-small-way a result of our actions in Iraq)

And that is where we need to focus all this energy that is being wasted on the charges of liar-liar!

Now...given how publicly and forthrightly Mr. Kay has expressed his views...I think it would be a good thing for the administration to acknowledge that at this point it in fact does appearthat our intelligence analysts do not have the necessary data to develop good intel. In fact, I'm hoping to see a lot of attention focused on our intelligence capabilities and limitations. Because we're the only big guys in town...we need to get it right.

But enough please of the charges of lying. Because it just doesn't hold water. I want to borrow a technique from time I run across those hollering "liar liar" I want to ask them "are you saying that because you are stupid enough to believe it, or because you believe that I am stupid enough to believe it?

If we could achieve sanity over the lying charges we could have an intellectually honest debate over why the President viewed Iraq as a sufficient threat to go to war over, when his predecessor, who had the same informaton didn't see it as such a threat. That is a fair question and one which can be debated without resorting to playground behavior.

But mostly, I'm very concerned about the intelligence flaws. For it is through the lens of our intelligence apparatus that we evaluate the threats that are out there. We can't afford to have our vision blurred by weak intel.

Wednesday night the United Press International news agency reported from Baghdad that the Iraqi oil ministry documents show some of the money was used to pay top French government officials to oppose the war.
U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao began a two-day trip to Iraq to highlight continuing democratization efforts by the Iraqi people.

Her first visit was to inaugurate the opening of the Baghdad Employment and Training Center. The center is operated by the restored Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and provides services and benefits to Iraq's most vulnerable citizens.

Under the former regime of Saddam Hussein, the Ministry operated the prison system. Now, for the first time, the Ministry is establishing employment and training centers throughout Iraq, charged with providing services to displaced workers in the nation's largest populated cities.

And wrote these lines...
A fatal bombing in Baghdad is the latest suicide attack that has the U.S. military concerned. Officials fear radical Islamic groups, including al Qaeda, may be behind the attacks.
Gee...ya think?
The Army cautiously moved a massive 300-ton generator through the Iraqi capital Monday night.

The $30 million generator will produce about 157 megawatts of power, enough to add 30 minutes of power each day to the whole city, said Brig. Gen. Steve Hawkins, who heads the Restore Iraqi Electricity program...

Built in France, the mammoth generator was bought for Iraq under the U.N. Oil For Food program. Army engineers found it in a neighboring Arab country, which Army officials asked not be named for security reasons.
So what in the heck was it doing in a "neighboring Arab country"? Bought with oil for food money might it have been bartered to a neighbor for items restricted for purchase by that UN program???

Series-4 gas coupons, used in Germany and the Netherlands, with an expiration date of Sept. 30 of last year will not be accepted at off-post gas stations after Saturday.

However, Army and Air Force Exchange Service Europe filling stations will continue to accept expired coupons for an entire year past the expiration date, according to a statement issued by AAFES.

Also, expired fuel coupons can be refunded at any AAFES-Europe coupon sales point. Expired coupons must still be attached to the coupon booklet with the booklet cover intact, according to the AAFES statement.


Day 262.

It is a snowy day here in Germany...about three inches here in Giessen...which is absolutely huge by local standards.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Just go look at this.

A Danish biotech company has developed a genetically modified flower that could help detect land mines and it hopes to have a prototype ready for use within a few years...

The genetically modified weed has been coded to change color when its roots come in contact with nitrogen-dioxide (NO2) evaporating from explosives buried in soil.

Within three to six weeks from being sowed over land mine infested areas the small plant, a Thale Cress, will turn a warning red whenever close to a land mine.


I've just discovered Arab jokes.

My favorites:

Q. How many Arabs does it take to change a light bulb?

A. None! They sit in the dark forever and blame the Jews for it!

Q. What is the Arabic word for Victory?

A. There isn't one...
There are more here.

I hope they taped this and show it to Saddam...
Hundreds of former officers in the Iraqi army rose to their feet in the hall of the police academy in the northern city of Mosul, raised their right hands and solemnly denounced the Baath party and all its works.

The occasion had the air of a revivalist meeting with the penitent renouncing their past sins. As well as denouncing the Baath party, to which they all previously belonged, the officers swore to oppose attacks on the coalition and its allies and support the new Iraq.


And it seems they are doing well. Go read it all.
Unlike the regular battalions, which are generally composed of members of a single ethnic group from one sector of the city, the 36th is made up of a mix of fighters from the militias of the parties that opposed Hussein.

Mentored by U.S. Special Operations troops, they gather information that Americans could never get and act on it once action is approved by the unit that they are attached to.

The battalion commander is a Sunni from the Iraqi National Congress. The executive officer is Shiite, and two company commanders are Kurds.

In the short month of its existence, the battalion has achieved some remarkable successes, including foiling two plots involving attacks on the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Since I've returned from Iraq, several people have asked me if we can win. Our troops in the field think they are winning. So do Sgt. Mohammed, Pvt. Ahmed and Pvt. Raal. From what I've seen, I believe them.


Read the whole thing...other than distorting well publicised reports of a slightly higher than normal suicide rate, this guy...the Editor in Chief of this news outlet in Oman, simply writes down his own skewed vision of the world and passes it on to his Arab readers as journalism. There isn't one interview with an American Soldier...there isn't one shred of evidence to support any of this.

Of course I suppose he couldn't get away with it if the readers didn't allow him to...
The soldiers, in fact, are comparing the current situation with the rosy picture given at the start of the war. We all know President George W. Bush told them that the whole operation would take less than three months. He gave the impression that the operation would be as simple and enjoyable as embarking on a tourist trip. But the ground realities have turned out to be quite different; rosy dreams have vanished. And the US soldiers have found themselves in a trap from which there is little or no hope of escape. It is quite understandable why they are down, depressed and demoralized. The soldiers know that an end to their plight is not in sight and the future looks bleak.


Another in a string of fairly ineffective explosions in Baghdad, causing one to wonder what these are meant to accomplish...

In my mind every time they set one of these off and there appears to be little if any just highlights how impotent the folks behind these bombings actually are.
A car bomb exploded in front of a hotel in central Baghdad today, partially destroying the three-story building and gutting several cars.

At least three burned-out cars were seen in front of the al-Shaheen hotel. Karadah police chief Kadhim Khalas said three people were killed and four injured in the blast, which occurred at about 6:30 a.m. A spokesman at the US command in Baghdad, however, said one Iraqi was killed and several injured.


CPT Patti's 261st day deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


"I'm for freedom of speech" except when its being used against a Democrat...
Wise-cracking funnyman Al Franken yesterday body-slammed a demonstrator to the ground after the man tried to shout down Gov. Howard Dean.

The tussle left Franken's trademark thick-rim glasses broken, but he said he was not injured.

Franken - who seemed in a state of shock and out of breath after the incident - was helped back to his feet by several people who watched the tussle. Police arrived soon after.

"I got down low and took his legs out," said Franken afterwards.

Franken said he's not backing Dean but merely wanted to protect the right of people to speak freely. "I would have done it if he was a Dean supporter at a Kerry rally," he said.

"I'm neutral in this race but I'm for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down."

The trouble started when several supporters of fringe presidential candidate Lyndon Larouche began shouting accusations at Dean.

Franken emerged from the crowd and charged one male protester, grabbing him with a bear hug from behind and slamming him onto the floor.

"I was a wrestler so I used a wrestling move," Franken said.


Senator Kerry...who is touting his war record as qualificatons to be perhaps you haven't seen him.

But...he wrote it, he owns it, he's damned by it.

Thanks to Jerry for the input.
The record shows something different, indicating that 86 percent of those who died during the war were white and 12.5 percent were black, from an age group in which blacks comprised 13.1 percent of the population. Two thirds of those who served in Vietnam were volunteers, and volunteers accounted for 77 percent of combat deaths.

Kerry portrayed the Vietnam veteran as ashamed of his service:

We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped their memories of us. But all that they have done and all that they can do by this denial is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission, to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war, to pacify our own hearts, to conquer the hate and the fear that have driven this country these last ten years and more, and so when in 30 years from now our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say "Vietnam" and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning.

But a comprehensive 1980 survey commissioned by Veterans' Administration (VA) reported that 91 percent of those who had seen combat in Vietnam were "glad they had served their country;" 80 percent disagreed with the statement that "the US took advantage of me;" and nearly two out of three would go to Vietnam again, even knowing how the war would end.

Today, Sen. Kerry appeals to veterans in his quest for the White House. He invokes his Vietnam service at every turn. But an honest, enterprising reporter should ask Sen. Kerry this: Were you lying in 1971 or are you lying now? We do know that his speech was not the spontaneous, emotional, from-the-heart offering that he suggested it was. Burkett and Whitley report that instead, "it had been carefully crafted by a speech writer for Robert Kennedy named Adam Walinsky, who also tutored him on how to present it."

But the issue goes far beyond theatrics. If he believes his 1971 indictment of his country and his fellow veterans was true, then he couldn't possibly be proud of his Vietnam service. Who can be proud of committing war crimes of the sort that Kerry recounted in his 1971 testimony? But if he is proud of his service today, perhaps it is because he always knew that his indictment in 1971 was a piece of political theater that he, an aspiring politician, exploited merely as a "good issue." If the latter is true, he should apologize to every veteran of that war for slandering them to advance his political fortunes.


"Al Gore proved that you can win the election without a single Southern state, if he'd only won New Hampshire," Kerry told a group of San Francisco supporters.
Mitsubishi Motors said it plans to start selling vehicles in Iraq shortly, becoming the first Japanese carmaker to enter the post-war Iraqi auto market.
But then...that is the difference between politics and free enterprise now, isn't it?

But why does the phrase "you reap what you sow" keep rattling around in my brain?
Reuters has written to the US defence department expressing frustration at its failure to address concerns about the safety of journalists in Iraq, and demanding answers over the death of two of its staff and the detention of another two at the hands of US troops.
The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) accepted on Monday the membership number 218 of East Timor and opened the doors for the return of Iraq.


But apparently it doesn't matter unless Kofi Annan says so...
Iraq’s interim interior minister said on Monday the country was not secure enough to hold early direct elections.

Dude...maybe you oughta be talking to your boss...ya think?
Bob Simon said much of the information Americans are receiving about the rest of the world — especially about the war in Iraq — is wrong, despite the news reports.

“Misinformation and propaganda is what you are getting every day,” said Simon, a foreign correspondent for more than 30 years at CBS News, told the audience Monday evening at Miami University’s Benton Hall.

Iraq war unjustified says human rights group

Iraq pilgrims to thank God for Saddam's fall headline pertains to actual Iraqis...the other to folks who have never ever lived under Saddam.
''We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons,'' he said. ''But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD program. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved.''

Or is it just the BBC reporting spin...
Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski is expected to ask US President George W Bush to reward his country's support for the war effort in Iraq when he meets him in Washington on Tuesday.

Mr Kwasniewski will also hold talks with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice.

Poland has given strong backing to American policy in Iraq, at the cost of antagonising important European countries like France and Germany.

It says it has so far gained few benefits from Washington...

Now Polish officials and the media are asking what benefits this policy has actually brought.

President Kwasniewski's national security adviser, Marek Siwiec, declared last week that Polish-Amercian relations were in danger of "stagnating".

An unexploded car bomb was discovered close to the coalition headquarters in Baghdad and U.S. soldiers were working to safely dispose of it, a U.S. military spokesman said on Tuesday.

Reporters on the scene said the bomb was believed to be in a vehicle in a car park used by visitors to the coalition compound in the "Green Zone", one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces which has been taken over by the U.S.-led military and civilian administration in Baghdad.

"There is an unexploded car bomb. Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division are working to dispose of it," the spokesman said.

The strapping Iraqi shepherd hardly looks like someone whom people would dare to insult.

But Saddam Hussein Nasaar, 24, has been taunted and teased ever since American troops toppled the Iraqi dictator last year. Now he's had enough, and plans to change his name.

"I'm finding it difficult to get a full-time job. I've been offered several but they won't take me until I change my name," said Nasaar, as he watched over two dozen sheep owned by his brothers near the outskirts of Baghdad.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is willing to send a mission to Iraq to assess whether elections can be held by mid-year.

But the statement released today while he was in Paris says Annan would only send such a mission once he is satisfied the U.S-led authorities will provide adequate security arrangements.
A Schweinfurt-based soldier pleaded guilty last week to charges of robbery and assault against a German couple, a crime he committed barely one month after being released from jail on other charges.

2nd ID seeks to curb lap dancing at clubs

She's one of ours...a Provider.
Fame, said Grimes, “is a lot more hectic than I thought it would be. I’m actually looking forward to going back to Iraq, just to get away from all this.”

Grimes will get her wish after a concert appearance with country singer Toby Keith in Houston on Saturday night.

From Texas, Grimes will report to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where she’ll fly back to Iraq, the 1st Armored Division’s C Company, 501st Field Support Battalion.
But get this...this article comes from the Stars and Stripes...the newspaper that serves GIs overseas...and the only beat for its reporters is the military....and even these guys can't get the name of the battalion right...

Its the 501st Forward Support Battalion ding dongs!
The 101st Airborne Division sponsored a talent show for Iraqis in Mosul a few weeks ago. There were singers, poets, comedians, traditional Arabic dance groups and musicians.

The military is hailing it as a victory for democracy.

“During the old regime this never would have been possible,” said Maj. John Freeburg, assistant operations officer for the 101st.

The talent show was one of six that will be taped and shown on local channel seven, Ninevah television.

Each episode features 10 contestants or groups. The sixth show will be the final competition between the champions of the previous shows. The final show will be taped Sunday and aired at a later date.

All contestants were paid $60 by the 101st to participate.

“We’re going to show that everybody has a right to make something of themselves in the new Iraq,” Freeburg said.

Day 260.

And our darling girl writes today to tell me her projected arrival date has been pushed back by an entire month.

I'm bummed.

Got some work to do for my family's I don't know if I'll get around to updating this one today.

I'm really bummed.

Monday, January 26, 2004


If this quote didn't frighten you to death, perhaps the arrogance of ignoring the National Command Authority during time of war will.
One of the most damning charges against retired Gen. Wesley Clark has also been the vaguest. After Clark entered the Democratic race last September, Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that Clark had been sacked as commander of NATO forces after the 1999 Balkans war because of "integrity and character issues." Shelton has refused to comment further, and Clark's civilian boss, the then Defense Secretary William Cohen, has also remained silent.

The doubts raised by Clark's own bosses have cast an uneasy pall over his presidential candidacy. What really happened?

According to a knowledgeable source, Clark ran afoul of Cohen and Shelton by being less than totally forthcoming in morning conference calls during the Kosovo war in the spring of 1999.

From his NATO headquarters in Brussels, Clark wanted to wage the war more aggressively, but back in the Pentagon, Cohen and Shelton were more cautious. They would give Clark instructions on, for instance, the scale of the bombing campaign. "Clark would say, 'Uh-huh, gotcha'," says NEWSWEEK's source. But then he would pick up the phone and call [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair and [Secretary of State] Madeleine [Albright]."

As Clark knew full well, Blair and Albright were more hawkish than Shelton and Cohen. After talking to the State Department and NATO allies, Clark would have a different set of marching orders, says the source, who has spoken about the matter with both Cohen and Clark. "Then, about 1 o'clock, the Defense Department would hear what Clark was up to, and Cohen and Shelton would be furious."

Evidence continues to build that the terrorist "resistance" in the Sunni Triangle, far from being a spontaneous response to new frustrations, has a history and an ideology. The correct name for the main influence inciting Sunni Muslim Iraqis to attack coalition forces is Wahhabism, although its proponents seek to disguise it under the more acceptable name Salafism. It is financed and supported from inside Saudi Arabia, which shares a long border with southern Iraq.

Iraqis, as well as coalition commanders on the ground, are quick to admit this fact--which military and political planners in Washington, ever concerned not to offend the Saudis, have sought to evade.

"The Fallujah region is filling up with Wahhabis," a tribal representative from that section of the Sunni Triangle said in a late December discussion in Washington... "They are streaming in, exploiting the confusion and misunderstandings between the local residents and the U.S. forces."

Iraqi Muslims generally express a loathing for Wahhabis, Salafis, or Saudi-inspired ultrafundamentalists under any other name.


He says the Iraqi "living standard" is a whole lot worse now than under Saddam.

Hmmm...seems the Governor doesn't consider liberty and freedom from oppression as a part of one's living standard.

Nor the absence of an estimated average 300 murders by the government every day.
In response to a question about avoiding war, Dean said Iraq "was a war that wasn't necessary. You can say that it's great that Saddam [Hussein] is gone, and I'm sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone, but a lot of them gave their lives, and their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before."

Language trials in Iraq.
In one incident, a soldier fired warning shots at several Iraqis near an off-limits area in Tikrit. Some Iraqi guards nearby heard the shots and approached the soldier to see what was happening.

The soldier ordered the guards to leave the area, saying it was too ''risky.'' The guards returned to their base and told their superiors that U.S. soldiers were firing guns and had threatened their lives if they didn't bring them ''whisky.''


Perhaps the beginning of an answer to the questions we asked here.
(T)he C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies did not realize that Iraqi scientists had presented ambitious but fanciful weapons programs to Mr. Hussein and had then used the money for other purposes.

Dr. Kay also reported that Iraq attempted to revive its efforts to develop nuclear weapons in 2000 and 2001, but never got as far toward making a bomb as Iran and Libya did.

He said Baghdad was actively working to produce a biological weapon using the poison ricin until the American invasion last March. But in general, Dr. Kay said, the C.I.A. and other agencies failed to recognize that Iraq had all but abandoned its efforts to produce large quantities of chemical or biological weapons after the first Persian Gulf war, in 1991.

No longer afraid of dying, thrilled to be going home and thirsty for a beer.

That's how American soldiers felt on Friday as they handed over control of a Baghdad suburb to fresh troops and prepared to return to the United States after nearly a year in Iraq.

"I'm excited, ecstatic about going home. I'm going to say hi to my family and then go out and drink a lot of beer," said Private Anthony LaPaglia, 20, from Atlanta, Georgia, a big grin on his face.

The troops from the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade are part of a massive rotation just getting under way.

And if you get the chance...perhaps you'll buy a soldier a beer yourself.
Baghdad may shake with bomb blasts and suffer daily power cuts, but amid the chaos and disorder many businessmen and traders say the economy is coming around and prospects are steadily brightening.

Every day, new stores open up or renovations are finished on others that have been run down for years, while trucks laden with goods brought from neighbouring countries continually drop off supplies at shops in the city's busy shopping districts...

"There's no question that things have improved over the last few months," said Haitham al-Damuk, 32, the manager of the Disney Island toy store in the Karrada district of central Baghdad, which turns over around $15,000 a month.

"Before, families might buy one toy a year for a child, but recently they have been coming in and buying two or three at a time and doing so more regularly," he said, surrounded by boxes of Barbie dolls and Chinese-made remote-controlled cars.

A senior al Qaeda operative and several associated figures were captured last week in Iraq by local Iraqi and U.S. forces, a senior administration official said yesterday.

Hassan Ghul, described as the most senior associate of Osama bin Laden found in Iraq, was picked up last week in the northern part of the country by Kurdish forces, the official said. "He was a senior facilitator who was caught coming into the country," the official said. Speculation was that Ghul, a Pakistani, was scouting out what al Qaeda could do in the future against U.S. forces, the official said.

Ghul has been part of al Qaeda for at least a decade and was known to deliver money to terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa.


Inevitably when one who doesn't know Soldiers gets to know them they come away amazed.
On this leg of my journey, the Guard soldiers were the biggest wonder. Crude, loud and scatological sometimes, especially when goofing on each other, they treated me gently always. Most are half my age. For their protection and care I will be forever grateful. They showed incredible dedication to their mission, real affection for one another and a surprising tenderness toward Iraqi civilians.

Parks said the soldiers would sometimes take a rucksack full of milk, MREs and other healthy food items out past Checkpoint 3 and into the Red Zone and "kids came out of nowhere" to get the treats.

Specialist Javier Fernandez of Lakeland said, "Most of the people we met on patrols invited us into their businesses and offered us tea."

And Specialist David Cook of Orlando said he once escorted an older Iraqi man into the convention center building and noted the man had to stop and rest because he couldn't walk any further. He looked very poor, and Cook impulsively handed the old man $40 American. The man asked someone in Arabic what the bills equaled in Iraqi dinar. The official exchange is about 2,500 Iraqi dinar to a dollar, so that was a LOT of money. When told how much, the man's face lit up and he said he could now pay his rent and buy food for his family...

These tough but gentle guys will be boarding trucks Monday to head home.

I'll be parting company with friends. Soldiers always give each other nicknames, and I ate with, shaved next to, and laughed with guys with nicknames such as Chavez, The Professor, Beans, Snack, T-Bone, Bow Factor, CNN, Shrek, BamBam, Dirt Urchin, Diggity Dog, Malachi, Triple-A, Meat Lover, Meat Lover Jr., Baby Phat, Glenda, Chub Rock, Javiddam Fernssein, and the four Docs...

Godspeed, guys! You'll be back in the U.S.A. before me.

"I hope God will give Iraq strength and make it strong and united after all these years of pain, sickness and war," said Thabet Karim Jassem of Baghdad, part of 300 Iraqis who arrived at a haj terminal in the port city of Jeddah, near Mecca.

Jassem was among thousands of Iraqis that had been stranded on the Kuwait-Iraq border last week over visa problems.

More than 32,000 Iraqis were chosen by lottery to perform the haj this year, the first pilgrimage for post-Saddam Iraq.

"We remained nine days at the border, it was a very miserable time for thousands," said Bakkar Rasoul, a Kurdish eye doctor from Suleimaniya. "But I am really happy that we are free and God helped us to visit Mecca."

"I and many people are thankful towards the United States because they were able to release us and we will definitely never forget. I don't think any Muslim can forget this," he said on Sunday, standing by Kurdish and Iraqi flags beside the Iraqi pilgrims.

Two American pilots and the U.S. soldier for whom they were searching were missing yesterday after an Army helicopter crashed into the Tigris River in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul...
And an article here about what the helicopter pilots are doing to avoid threats from the ground.
The pilots do not openly discuss tactics, but any Iraqi knows that U.S. helicopters fly more often at night now with lights off. They zigzag at times and change altitude.

They fly lower, which helps muffle their sound and keeps them out of sight until they are almost directly overhead. On a recent flight over Ramadi, McIntosh's Black Hawk cruised at about the height of the smokestacks at a local factory.

Viola said the insurgents can be expected to counter the adjustments with their own adaptations.

Some senior administration officials suspect that Saddam Hussein's followers have penetrated the coalition headquarters in Baghdad and passed information to guerrilla fighters...

The source said some senior officials believe it is too much of a coincidence that Saddam loyalists know where and when to attack Army convoys. At times, attackers also seem to know the planned route of low-flying helicopters, more than 10 of which have been shot down since May.


"Commissary" is the military word for our on-post grocery store.

This story highlights how the severe decline of the dollar's value agains the Euro has more of us shopping at the Commissary. But it also shows how certain locally procured items are still no bargain.
According to DECA, 22 percent of its goods are purchased on the economy. That includes items such as coffee, eggs, produce, pork and even some sodas. Due to the dollar’s declining value, those products cost more to procure, and, hence, require a higher shelf price.

So for DECA customers, the typical “basket” of goods costs more today than it did a year ago.

But that alone doesn’t explain the increase in the agency’s revenue.

Because the dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it used to on the local economy, the average DECA customer has adjusted his spending habits, said Gerri Young, spokeswoman for DECA-Europe.

Today, “more of our customers shop on base more often, and when they shop they buy more,” Young said.

For instance, a single head of iceberg lettuce was recently priced at $2.10 because it is purchased by the Commissary system from farmers here in Europe.

The 1st Infantry Division packs up to move to Iraq.

This was us just under a year ago. At that time we optimistically believed our soldiers would be gone between six and nine months.

This time these guys know up front to expect a year. And I don't envy them...or their families. By the way...this is the division to which Sarah's husband is assigned.

1st ID troops will unload their equipment in Kuwait while living in tent cities. Then they will go through about 7-10 days of training, including live-fire convoy drills for every soldier.

“We want to make sure all soldiers in the convoy have the right training,” she said.

Then they will convoy north to their bases. Although for security reasons the division won’t reveal exactly where individual units will be deployed, spokesmen have said it will patrol roughly the same area as the 4th ID has for the past year...

The area includes most of the “Sunni Triangle,”...
The team works six days each week. On the seventh day, they sweep the range of unexploded bits and clean up their gear. Each day, “the Rock” takes in about 200 tons of captured ordnance. To meet its quota, EODT destroys roughly 100 tons per day, Minkce said.

In case you didn't catch that, we are destroying over one million pounds of captured ammunition per week.

The 259th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Today's posts are brought to you by the Rapid German Study Foundation, saving you time by steering you away from phrases you don't need to learn in German.

Today's tip. Back in the 70s we got the yellow smiley face (once upon a time it had nothing to do with Wal-Mart)

At about the same time for better or worse we Americans also got into this habit of wishing everyong to "Have a nice day!".

You might be tempted to seek out such a phrase in German. Don't.

The phrase doesn't suit the German culture at all. You want to have a nice day...fine...that's your business. But no German is going to urge you in that direction.

There is one exception to this. We have German guards at the gates to our Army installations here in Germany. They speak a tiny, tiny bit of English.

These guards will say "Have a nice day" once they have checked two forms of identification required for your admittance.

However, we have it on good authority they have been told this phrase actually means "Your papers are in order" in English.

Sunday, January 25, 2004


On Saturday a convoy out of CPT Patti's company was attacked by a roadside bomb.

No one was one was killed. Praise God.

I've replaced the names of those involved with keyboard symbols, otherwise, these are the words CPT Patti used to retell the story to me in an email on Sunday.
The convoy was 3 vehicles and 8 personnel. SGT @ was the Convoy Commander. He was in the lead vehicle, which was the Armored HMMWV.

The IED exploded on the driver's side about 10 meters in front of the lead vehicle just after they had passed under a bridge. They executed instinctive reactions by driving faster to get out of the kill zone and swerving to avoid the debris from the blast.

The gunner in the lead vehicle was SPC # and he ducked down into the HMMWV when the blast happened. Luckily, he had spun his gun around to check the bridge as the they passed under it so his back was to the blast. Otherwise, he would have been hit by debris in the face.

The second vehicle was the truck and trailer with the "burrito" or SMFT (a 3000 gallon "bag" of water mounted on a semi-trailer) on the trailer. The driver was SGT $ and he had debris hit his windows and he swerved to the left and drove through the black cloud.

The third vehicle (HMMWV) was the rear security and SPC % was driving it. He was yelling "people on the bridge, people on the bridge." SPC ^ (the vehicle commander) and SPC & (the gunner) had seen the people too.

As they passed under the bridge, they could see the people still standing on the bridge while everyone else had run away. Therefore, they opened up fire on them since they supposed (correctly in my mind and others here) that they were the bad guys that set off the IED in the first place.

They all drove away fast then regrouped further down the road. They attempted to call in the attack on FM radio but they were too far away. In my Command Post, I heard them call but it was full of static and barely understandable. So, all I knew was I heard IED and are you okay, yes or no. I knew SGT @
was talking to the others in the convoy. I couldn't raise them on the radio as much as I tried.

Then I decided to send out a convoy to find them. While we were gathering up the people and vehicles (HMMWV and Wrecker), it was about 10 minutes later and SGT @ called me on the DNVT (land) phone line. He was at Bandit Island safe and sound and gave me the whole report over the phone.

I called off the convoy that was ready to go out and find them.

Later that night, the Battalion Commander and Battalion CSM came to our Saturday night formation. LTC Anderson recognized SGT @ for his role as the Convoy Commander and gave him a battalion coin. The BC said a lot of good things about my soldiers and the company. It was great to have him at the formation and very good to have him recognize SGT @.

That is the closest our folks have come to this point. Imagine, please, being one of those soldiers. Or being CPT Patti with the radio not working well and knowing only that her folks have come under attack.

Please...please, keep praying.

Ran across this opinion column today making reference to the State of the Union Address. It is published out of San Franscisco.
Bush should have stayed out of steroid mess.

....So when President Bush spoke out against steroid use during his State of the Union address last week, I had to wonder if he had helped the cause at all. The statement, just like a ceremonial first pitch, came across as mostly grandstanding, allowing the President some folksy moments in the role of Talk Show Caller-in-Chief.

He didn't recommend any more funding for research to improve drug testing, which still can't detect the use of human growth hormone. He didn't vow to push for full regulation of the supplements industry, which is more closely monitored in other countries. He simply expressed disapproval about recent scandals and called on sports executives, athletes and union leaders to be tougher.

Now...first of all...let's note the thrust of the argument. The author, Gwenn Knapp takes the President to task first of all because of what he didn't do..."didn't recommend more funding" and "didn't push for full regulation". Then she upbraids him for what he did do..." he simply expressed disabpproval and called upon (those involved) to be tougher."

In other words, she takes him to task for not suggesting that government should fix it...then she takes him to task for asking folks to be responsible for their own actions.

Now we go back to the title...the premise of her article...that the President should have stayed out of this altogether. A quick review indicates that her own position gives away the inadequacy of the title she gave to the article.

Because what it is clear she really means is the President should stay out of it unless he is going to expand government to fix and police it. There is no room for the Presidents leadership by setting personal standards of conduct.

And that...perhaps, is all you really need to know about liberal ideology.

And CPT Patti's 258th day dedicated to an extraordinary experiment in the Arab world.

I'm proud of her.