Saturday, April 24, 2004


While waiting for a friend today I was asked by a forty something German lady if I am English. I replied no, that I come from the USA.

She spoke English very well, and it was obvious she wanted to talk. I had ten minutes to kill, so I obliged. I asked her about local attractions...and where in Germany she would recommend I visit.

As the conversation wandered she asked why I am in Germany and I told her. I also told her that CPT Patti is in Baghdad...and has been for a year.

"Of course you know", she said with the certainty of the blissfully ignorant"you Americans are not wanted in Iraq".

I considered this for a moment...and in my mind I was thinking "I'm going to go out on a limb and bet that I'm extremely more informed on the Iraqi situation than you are as my wife is there and I read at least a hundred news accounts per day about it." But what I said was "That isn't true...the unrest comes from four categories of folks comprising less than 10 percent of the population."

Answering her next queary I told her, yes, CPT Patti had Iraqi employees some of whom speak English...and she had soldiers who speak fact I do know what I'm talking about.

She steered the conversation that (remember) she started...away from Iraq directly.

"I'm against the military" she said, then elaborated. With bemusement I took a little delight in saying "well, that is my wife's profession...and it was my career for over 20 years."

It didn't seem to dawn on her that she had begun to make insulting remarks in my direction with astonishing rapidity.

She went on to tell me how she once lived in the USA...Texas and California...they were "God awful places" she said. And there were other places she couldn't "where do all those hicks come from? South Car-" she stopped. Looking at me, she said "Where do you come from in the states". I grinned..."South Carolina" I said. All of a sudden it turns out that the "hicks" are from Tennessee.

With regards to Germany she told me to be careful. And she seemingly believed she was helping me with this advice. "Be your wallet and backpack...there are so many Moroccans and Turks and Blacks here these days...".

And then...the train I'd been awaiting arrived. I excused myself.

Ten minutes. The entire conversation with this German woman took ten minutes. And in that time she disparaged my country, four states in my country, my wifes profession, my former profession, my credibility, and folks from two other countries plus folks of black african descent.

That's gotta be some kind of record.

And this she did voluntarily with me, a total stranger, who had for my part tried to get her to share with me those aspects of her country in which she was proud.

And yet, as my friend Sarah says "against all the evidence to the contrary" somehow the stereotype of us as "The Ugly Americans" still persists.

I'd like to be able to tell you that this exchange was an aberration. But it isn't Ask any American who meets and talks with Germans over here (with an exception for those actually making a living off of the Americans)...I'll wager they will relate similar stories.

And somehow they believe we are the dullards.


Despite the shrapnel wounds Staff Sgt. William Pinkley suffered during his tour in Iraq, the 26-year-old is joining other soldiers who are re-enlisting at rates that exceed the retention goals set by the Pentagon.

As of March 31 - halfway through the Army's fiscal year - 28,406 soldiers had signed on for another tour of duty, topping the six-month goal of 28,377. The Army's goal is to re-enlist 56,100 soldiers by the end of September.

Pinkley re-enlisted for three more years, citing the camaraderie and the challenge of a new assignment.

"To come out and work with you guys every day, it's a good feeling," Pinkley, 26, told his 101st Airborne Division buddies during the ceremony earlier this month. His wife, Kimberly, watched with a smile, their toddler in her arms...

"They've had a personally rewarding and professionally developing experience," Anderson said. "I think they've formed some bonds that are going to last a lifetime. It tends to make them want to stay."
Emphasis mine.

Day 349 of my darling wife's deployment.

Friday, April 23, 2004


Go read it.
Recently a friend asked me to compare what is taking place in Iraq with our involvement almost four decades ago in Vietnam...

The main similarity seems to be a resurgence of both political and media piranhas, who continuously gnaw at the underbelly of American patriotism and support. They are bravely led in this comparative observation of a pending Iraq/Vietnam quagmire by none other than Senator Edward Kennedy, whose only claim to heroics was running away from the accident he caused at Chappaquiddick in 1969. Providing a national voice for Kennedy and other anti-war Democrats are the cameras and pens of the mainstream media.

Vietnam veteran Warren Bonesteel is another who feels politicians are the only ones who can make Iraq another Vietnam. Formerly a registered Democrat, he says he is now considered a conservative. “The Democrats have been taken over by the left wing extremists”, he claims. “They have fed the American public lies and the people have swallowed them.”

“The Vietnam War is defined as an extension of failed political aims”, he says. “It was lost by the politicians of both political parties of this nation”.

Now, concerning Iraq, Bonesteel is angry. “I am mad. I’m tired of dealing with, hearing about, or tolerating left wing lies. When those views are based on ignorance and partial truth…I no longer have the time or patience for them. They go on about war for oil and some big outfit Cheney worked for. That is left-winger’s protocol. It’s Socialist protocol. It’s Communist protocol. It’s the Islamic Terrorist protocol.”

(John Wambough) also sees similarity in how the media tends to portray great success as great failure. He sees today’s reporting to be much like the reporting from Vietnam. “For example,” he says, “The Tet offensive was a military success for us but portrayed as a failure by the media and then used as a political weapon. Aren’t we seeing a parallel of this today in the liberal media – taking success and turning it into failure for political purposes? And to the great detriment of our national security.”

A gunman has shot dead a South African security guard in a Baghdad supermarket after accusing him of being Jewish in the latest example of the widespread dangers facing foreigners in Iraq...

It was not clear why the gunman, dressed in an Arab robe with a headdress covering his face, called his South African victim Jewish. Hostility towards Israel for treatment of Palestinians runs high in Iraq as elsewhere in the Arab world.
Hmmm - the Palestinians have it in the charter of their organizations that their goal is the elimination of Israel, the breed scores of suicide bombers who kill Jewish citizens, and somehow it is the Israeli treatment of Palestineans that gets the billing here.
When Kate Norley's mother, Pam Mannion, meets friends back in Maryland, conversations center around catching up.

"My daughter's at Princeton."

"My daughter's at UVA [University of Virginia]."

"This person's at Georgetown."

Then, someone will ask Mannion about Norley.

"When she says, 'She's in the Army,' they say, "Oh, I'm so sorry." Like it's somewhere I had to go," Norley said.

Don't be sorry, Norley said.

She's not.
Because this is common...TOO common.

When did service before self become a sad thing?

Anyway...its an uplifting story about a woman who put service to others before herself...treat yourself to the story here.

Depending upon your age you may have thrilled to the cinematic war stories featuring Audi Murphy, John Wayne or Rambo.

But Sarah found the real deal here. As she points out it is reported in the British press...and like her, I can't find it in the American press either.

Too bad...since they are our Marines. Go read it.

Will it do any good? Perhaps. I mean...he's correct, of course. But I'm not certain if that matters.
"Terrorists and bomb-throwers get headlines, to be sure. The good people of Iraq and Afghanistan do not."

Nor do the courageous men and women of the coalition who have deployed to the countries, Rumsfeld added. Military and civilian personnel have deployed to help Iraqis and Afghans get on a path to self-government and to self-reliance, he said. "They do not make headlines, but they are making a difference," the secretary told the editors.

"The vast majority of the Iraqi people are not rioting, they're not looting, they're not shooting, he continued. "For every bomb that goes off in Baghdad, there are many bombs that are defused as a result of coalition soldiers acting on information they receive from Iraqi people.

"For every building that's damaged by mortar fire, there are many schools and hospitals and clinics that are being built and repaired," he continued. "And for every Iraqi soldier who was reluctant to fight in the past few weeks, there are tens of thousands of Iraqi security officials who are fighting every day for the Iraqi people, and there have been over 300 Iraqi security forces that have been killed in recent months."


Day 348.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Welcome to the new face of Baghdad, where, to quote Army Sgt. First Class Woods, the kids "want to be like Mike, not like Mahtma."...

There is also a particular fascination not only with things American, but with Americans themselves. If you tell someone from Baghdad that you are from America, you are likely to be met with excitement and the common exclamation: "I love America." They will want to know where you are from in America, and what you think of Iraq. Without prompting, they will tell you what their lives were like under Saddam, and how they have changed....

For those whose impression of Iraqi sentiment has been shaped by the nightly news, the Iraqi response to Americans may be the biggest surprise to come from a trip to Baghdad.

Having tasted freedom and capitalism, the people want more, and they want it now. This leads to a growing impatience among the locals at the pace of rebuilding, and at the level of security.

This impatience is deliberately aggravated by those who are not happy about the influx of capital and higher standards of living; those who would rather see women covered from head to toe and relegated to the home; and those who would, to paraphrase a senior Coalition official, return this country not just to the reign of Saddam, but to the seventh century...

But it is too late to turn back the clock. As the locals experience greater freedom, they demand more of it, not less. There is still a long way to go...But Baghdad has come a very long way down the road of freedom and capitalism in just one year — progress that should encourage Americans as much as it angers freedom's enemies.

The nurse was kidnapped on the way from the hospital to the hotel where she was staying and after 10 hours of interrogation she was released by her captors after they became certain that she was Greek.

She told the newspaper that she explained to them what was her work in Iraq they apologized to her for the inconvenience and explained to her that unfortunately they have no other way to defend themselves except from kidnapping the allies of the Americans.
Let's best I can tell not one demand associated with kidnapping anyone in Iraq has been reported as being met. Nearly every nation on the planet has said we don't negotiate with terrorists...So...kidnapping, as it turns out, accomplishes about bupkus.

Since when is Greece not an ally of the Americans? Did their membership in NATO suddenly lapse?

Let's see...other ways of defending yourself...hmm...have you considered not killing and actually working for a living for a while? guys aren't exactly Iraq's brightest and best now are you?
Man, the news from Iraq is, like, a major bummer. Read the mainstream press and all you get is bombings, murders, uprisings, riots and hostages. Fortunately, one publication dares to print the news that won’t kill your buzz.

That publication is High Times, the marijuana magazine now celebrating its 30th anniversary. And the news is this: There’s plenty of weed in the new liberated Iraq.

“There are few laws in Iraq right now,” writes Dave Enders, High Times’ man in Baghdad, “so although drug possession was punishable by death before, you can now pass a spliff openly in front of the cops.”

Enders, a freelancer from Michigan, covers more than just the dope scene in Baghdad. He also writes about U.S. soldiers and the nutty do-gooders who have swarmed into Iraq and about Hamid, “a 26-year-old translator/bodyguard/heavy-metal fan.” Hamid was an Iraqi soldier until he deliberately shot himself in the leg to avoid fighting the Americans; he now smokes weed and writes protest lyrics set to the tune of “The Wall” by Pink Floyd: “We don’t need no occupation/ We don’t need no CPA. ...”
I'm sure Hamid's mother is proud...

Meanwhile Hamid is apparently happy to bite the hand that weeds him.
A huge balloon used for surveillance will be on its way from Akron to Baghdad this summer.

An Akron-based division of Lockheed Martin introduced the aerostat Tuesday, which is filled with helium and tethered to the ground by high-strength cables.

The Army says the aerostat will hover about 2,500 feet over Baghdad and will carry electro/optic-infrared sensors.

Officials say the aerostat and sensor will be tested in Arizona in June and then will be sent to Iraq in July. The deflated balloon can fit in an 8-foot box and weighs 1,200 pounds.

Lockheed Martin program director Warren Morrison says it can keep track of a 100-mile diameter area.
Hmmm...I'm certain they've considered it...but how do you prevent this sort of foolishness?

Let's see...there are no more US Troops in Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis have not sent troops to Iraq. So why attack Saudi Arabia?

Oh, yeah...that's right. They are not a muslim theocracy...
A Saudi militant group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's suicide car bombing in Riyadh that killed four people and wounded 148 others.

In a statement posted on an Islamic website, the Al Haramain Brigades says the attack targeted special security and anti-terrorism units in the Saudi capital...

Wednesday's suicide bombing occurred near the entrance to a government building housing Saudi security forces and the headquarters of the city's traffic department. Officials said the remains of the bomber were found in a charred vehicle.

The top commander of Army forces in Europe is leading a team of his top brass to 1st Armored Division communities to see how they can help families deal with the four-month extension of 1st AD troops in Iraq.

“We will cut through the red tape, we will modify the regulations, we will change policies — all as necessary to support you during the upcoming months,” Gen. B.B. Bell said in a written statement.

Bell’s tour comes in the wake of the extension to 1st Armored Division’s hitch in Iraq, which had been slated to end next month...

“Taking care of our own is our tradition,” Bell added, “and we will meet our obligations to you.”

U.S. troops ordered to stay up to four additional months in Iraq won?t lose money spent on travel reservations if tickets were purchased from an Ameri'can carrier.

Though no one knows for sure, the Army believes almost 10,000 of the troops from the Germany-based 1st Armored Division had planned to fly to the States after returning from Iraq. Many already had made reservations, or their families had booked tickets for them. Their orders to stay mean any stateside reunions need to be rescheduled.

The refund deal was the result of meetings between Army officials, management of military contractor SatoTravel and major U.S. airlines.

"They're going to refund that as long as the individuals get with Sato before the travel date," said John Allred, leisure contracting officer representative with the Army's Installation Management Agency in Europe. "If they wait until afterward, then it's a no-show and they're not entitled to a refund. That's key."...

If troops or their families reserved seats aboard planes, trains or cruises through European carriers, things are less clear. SatoTravel has pledged to intervene on troops' behalf to help recoup those costs if tickets were purchased through it.

Shared with me by the Lutz Patriots. (I love those guys!) Another letter of thanks from a Soldier downrange.

Its one of many, true. But this one spoke to me. I'll quote the entire thing.
From an Officer in Iraq,

Just wanted to take a second to tell you what happened in Iraq today. It was raining - and I was just coming in to my headquarters when I passed by one of my newer soldiers - an immigrant from the former Soviet Union - and one of my BEST privates.

I was stopped in my tracks, for behold - on such a dreary day he was smiling. I was being funny (at first ) and I said "awww you got a package with some goodies? Who sent that to you?" And as I expected to hear him say "my mom" (or something like that ) he turned his face to me and said " I don't know....". He had a smile on his face.... and as I saw his eyes glazing over he said "that's why I was smiling". And at that my eyes began to glaze too.

I can never take for granted their service, not for one minute - not for one second. And now...even in a hell hole like this - God has sent yet another Angel.

I bet you didn't know that did you? How truly amazing - how close we come to God in such a faraway place.

And how silly I am for thinking that this private's safety is for me only to keep. Seems there are many who share this burden - and make me sleep sound.

You made one of my soldiers smile today - sitting there by himself - and for that you touched my soul.

I'd thank you but that's not why Angels do what they do ( I know ). So instead I'll just say - Well Done ! You can rest easy, message received. And I'll do my best to bring them home. I owe God one ; - )

Thank you from my soul,
P.S. From the Fourth Army son of a mom like you no doubt.

Cal Thomas nails it, taking the media to task for their agenda based questions at a rare Presidential news conference. Read it all.
Can anyone imagine reporters during World War II asking President Franklin Roosevelt if he'd like to apologize for the number of American dead and wounded, or Harry Truman if he'd like to repent for dropping bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which forced Japan to surrender?

Those were different times - when ''psycho'' meant you were crazy and ''babble'' meant you didn't make any sense. Both psycho and babble were on display at President Bush's April 13 news conference. Four times, by my count, reporters tried to get the president to admit he had done something wrong. What they really wanted was a huge headline: ''President Admits Fault for 9/11,'' or even better (from their perspective), ''President Admits Mistakes in Iraq War.''...

Reporters haven't asked Democratic presidential candidate Kerry to apologize or admit error for any of his votes in the Senate. I guess he doesn't have to because on this war, as well as on so many other issues, he voted on both sides, so he can claim he was right at least once.

The presidential news conference is necessary so the public can see and hear George W. Bush, unfiltered by some of these same sound-bite journalists who care more about how they look than about what the president says. But it is frustrating - to the public as well as the president - that in serious times too many in the media continue to play ''gotcha'' games.
Cal appears weekly on one of my favorite TV shows, Fox News Watch. And I recall many years ago my father showed me a column by Cal in the Greenville News...and noted that Cal was one of only a handful of columnists being published who were not hindered by their Christian/conservative credentials.

(Thanks, Beth)


Day 347 of CPT Patti's deployment ot Iraq.

I hope she can find fun occasionally. 347 days is a long time to go without fun.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Perhaps then OJ's would not have been referred to as the "Trial of the Century"
Iraq has chosen judges and prosecutors to try Saddam Hussein but their identities are being kept secret for fear the toppled Iraqi leader's supporters will hunt them down.

Salem Chalabi, a U.S.-educated lawyer who is director-general of administration for the tribunal set up to prosecute Saddam, said on Wednesday seven investigative judges and five prosecutors would take charge of the case.

"They cannot be named due to security concerns," said Chalabi, who has received death threats from supporters of Saddam, who was captured by U.S. troops on December 13 hiding in a hole near his hometown of Tikrit.


...for all those "Bush stole the election" types.
With the currently notable exception of George W. Bush, Republicans tend to win the Presidency with a majority of the popular vote. Thirteen of the last 14 Republican Presidential victories before 2000 were won with a majority of the popular vote.

Democrats, with the notable exception of Franklin D. Roosevelt, typically win the Presidency with a minority of the popular vote. Excluding FDR, the Democrats have won 10 Presidential elections since the Republican Party was born. Of those ten Presidential victories, eight were won with less than a majority of the popular vote. Even including Roosevelt, Democrats have won with a majority just six times out of fourteen.


Anxiety Pimps

At least three senior United Nations officials are suspected of taking multi-million dollar bribes from the Saddam Hussein regime, U.S. and European intelligence sources tell ABCNEWS.
Secretary Rumsfeld says other troops identified to replace 1AD if necessary at the end of the 90 days.
Asked at a Pentagon news briefing if the Defense Department was already considering the deployment of additional troops to Iraq, Rumsfeld replied: "Are we considering it? No. But have we prepared? You bet."

Rumsfeld said the Pentagon had identified fresh U.S. forces to eventually replace the 20,000 troops whose tours in Iraq were extended until July to counter insurgencies in Sunni areas west of Baghdad and Shiite areas to the south. He also said plans were being drafted should Gen. John Abizaid, the commander for the Middle East, require even more troops beyond the 135,000 there now.

"We have made arrangements that in the event General Abizaid feels that that higher number of 135,000 instead of 115,000 troops in country are needed, we've made arrangements to have them replaced, the 20,000 replaced by other forces," Rumsfeld said.

And lest some left wing whacko try to paint these guys as nationalists and freedom fighters...this would indicate otherwise.
Three car bombs exploded in front of Iraqi police stations in the southern city of Basra on Wednesday morning, killing more than three dozen people and wounding more than 70, according to initial reports from the police and witnesses...

One of the blasts in Basra hit a school bus during the morning rush hour, when school buses are circulating and commuters are on their way to work, according to Iraqi witnesses. Traffic was heavy around the police stations, situated in the center of the city.

Bodies of schoolchildren were burning inside the bus. Iraqis helped pick up bodies of victims as ambulances wailed to the scene.

As the anti-war left and the media fulminate about semi-organized Iraqi resistance, let's keep in mind two things: 1) This was the same crowd that was quick to describe the march on Baghdad as getting bogged down in a desert quagmire, and 2) The alternative to victory.

That's the real context of President Bush's press conference Tuesday evening. While instant evaluations focused on the Hollywood aspects of the press conference - the president did not speak smoothly (he seldom does in such settings), and he often paused to search for words - the sum and substance of his message to the world was absolutely critical: America won't cut and run, and the troops will get everything they need to achieve victory. Slick delivery is no substitute for real leadership; Bush may lack in slickness, but he is demonstrating strong leadership to the world...

The challenge to the president's critics is simply this: Other than convening umpteen committees of the United Nations, exactly what alternative do they have to offer that would not leave Iraq a giant Petri dish of terrorism? They have none.
I added the emphasis...and it is worth remembering as CNN can't wait to talk about the President stumbling over his words, as if that indicates a weakness in the message.

Written by an Arab in the Arab News.
While a section of the Western media continues to predict an “explosion of the Arab street”, it is possible that Arab, and Muslim politics in general, may be seeking other, more institutionalized, forms of expression. Starting this year, the Muslim world has witnessed a string of conferences, all devoted to the issue of democratization.

Some of these conferences, in Kuala-Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, in Istanbul, Turkey’s cultural and business center, in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, and in the Egyptian Mediterranean port of Alexandria, for example, have come out with clear statements that democratic reform is the only way for out for Muslim nations caught in “an historic quagmire”...

The speedy collapse of the Taleban in Kabul and the Baath in Baghdad, in 2002 and 2003, however, opened a new chapter in which advocates of democratization may have an opportunity to address the broader audiences at least in some Muslim countries.

The reason for this is not hard to guess.

The Ba’ath regime in Baghdad represented the most radical version in the Muslim world of leftist nationalism inspired by both Nazism and Communism. If anybody could have created the Arab nationalist Utopia it was Saddam Hussein. But he ended up in a hole near Takrit. The Taleban regime for its part represented the ultimate “must” in Islamism. No one could claim to be more Islamist than Mulla Muhammad Omar. But he, too, ended up hiding in a hole in Arzangan.

There is a growing sentiment in the Muslim world that their political systems have reached a deadend and that the only way out is some form of democratization. The old debate on whether Islam is compatible with democracy is hardly engaged these days. The issue now is the necessity of democracy for Muslims rather than its compatibility with Islam. Even the most conservative of Muslim regimes are now committed to the creation of elected organs of government...

Muslim politics as limited to palaces, barracks, mosques, and streets has led to what must be regarded as the most glaring collective failure for any group of nations in history. It is, perhaps, time to envisage other institutions, notably political parties, Parliaments and law courts as the focal points of political life in the Muslim world.
At least somebody gets it.

Click through and read it all. Its good.
If you grew up in Iraq — or many other places in the Arab world — you might think an authority is just someone with a gun. Or on the other hand you might think that no one with a gun could have any moral standing or should have any authority.

Iraqis and many others in the Arab world need our help in learning what the rule of law looks like.

That's what we came to Iraq to do: to throw out a dictator and set the groundwork for a government of laws, not men. The Iraqis need to see that a legitimate government has a monopoly on force within its borders. Iraqis need to see the American armed forces prevent armed thugs from hijacking the political process in their country. The decent majority knows this. What they want from us is not an invitation to anarchy, but the security in which a fledgling democracy can grow. As one Iraqi told frequent NRO contributor Steve Vincent recently, "If you're going to occupy us, occupy us!"

This means rule and make it clear that we alone rule until June 30. We must show zero tolerance for private militias and motor-mouthed and ultimately cowardly opportunists like Muqtada al-Sadr who terrorize their fellow citizens and incite murder while hiding behind the protection of a sacred site. We owe this to the Iraqi people we are trying to protect.

We've been too reluctant to make it clear that the United States became the only source of legitimate authority in Iraq by overthrowing the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, just as the allies became the only source of legitimate authority in postwar Germany by overthrowing the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler...

We have a lot to be proud of in Iraq. We did something very few governments — and no Arab governments — have ever done. We accepted another very different people as our brothers and sisters, as individuals just as worthy of freedom and justice as we are. Every day, we are showing the Arab world that we hold the lives of the law-abiding Iraqi population to be worth just as much as American lives.
Greg Besaw knows he'll serve many -- sometimes too many -- customers in a day. Supplying everything from clothing to office equipment, he'll juggle his stock-on-hand with the demands of time-pressured customers who are frequently under a great deal of stress.

Then, at the end of another demanding day, he becomes a college student at American Military University (AMU). And he does what thousands of other students do. He gets ready to study, hunkering down with his laptop and textbooks.

Staff Sgt. Besaw studies online at AMU, where he is majoring in Transportation and Logistics Management. His studies and military experience recently paid off. He'll head to Warrant Officer Candidate's School within six months.
Top U.S. military officials said Friday that they are struggling to see any connections between bands of kidnappers responsible for the wave of abductions of foreigners in Iraq, including an American soldier and a U.S. civilian.

The kidnappings erupted after the U.S. military began fighting on two fronts in Iraq, against Sunni insurgents in Fallujah and a rebel Shia militia in the south. Both Sunni and Shia gunmen appear to have seized foreigners.

Previously unheard of groups, with names such as Saraya al-Mujahedeen and the Green Battalion have issued statements claiming responsibility.

The U.S. military has seen "loose coordination" among groups taking hostages, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy head of operations in Iraq, said Friday. "We don't know if it is different organizations who are claiming different names to give the appearance of uncoordinated, spontaneous activity or if this is a centrally planned operation."

Some foreigners also may have been snatched by armed Iraqis with no political agenda except to hand them over to insurgents for a bounty.

Other kidnappings may be done by "copycat" groups who have heard about previous abductions through the media, a U.S. military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
When I read about these seemingly random well as the inexplicable shelling of the prison (see below), I'm reminded of my little league football career.

For a couple of years I played for a team that was, if such can be the case in little league, a powerhouse. We were unstoppable. In fact, during one particular season we went into our next to last game without having been scored upon.

But we were scored upon that night...and the irony is that it was by a team that was perhaps the worst team in our league. They were awful...they didn't know the first thing about football. They could scarcely even line up properly.

And perhaps that was our problem. We were a well coached football team. Our coaches had worked with the players...and had drilled them well. "If he does this," coach would say, "you gotta do this. And such were the lessons until the coaches had covered all the things a good football team and its good players would do.

Problem was, these weren't good players...they weren't a good team. As a result, they didn't do things that good players and teams do. They just sort of made it up.

Our coaches absolutely forbid the runner to lateral the ball under any circumstances. Called it "schoolyard ball". They knew that a bunch of 11 year olds out lateralling the ball were going to lose the ball three times out of four. So we didn't do it. And we didn't defend against it.

And the awful team...they'd lateral the ball all over the field...although it looked more like a game of keep away than laterals. And frequently they lost it...or were called for a forward lateral. But that touchdown that broke our unscored-upon streak? Laterals.

In some ways that is what is going on in Iraq at the moment. Nobody who has a real clue what they are doing shells the prison with their own in it.

And what is to be gained by taking hostages...only to release them 4 days later?

These are not rational actions of sophisticated groups with clearly defined objectives. This is chaos...actions taken in many cases simply because they can be.

It is difficult to defend because of its irrationality. It will bloody our noses on occasion as well. But, in the end, it accomplishes little more than sensational news coverage, and perhaps a further irritation to those who believe we should not be doing this anyway.

Keep the faith.

There is nothing good to excerpt...but this piece is worth a read.

Excellent rundown on the 1st Armor Division. Go read it all.

When Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey learned his 1st Armored Division soldiers would be ordered to stay and fight longer than any U.S. soldiers have in half a century, he asked for two things.

“I said, ‘Keep the unit together. Don’t parcel us out.’ And I said, ‘Give us a mission,’” Dempsey said during an interview this week.

Dempsey got what he asked for. Sometime soon, the division’s two brigades, which are based in Germany but for the past year have more or less run Baghdad, will decamp. The city of 6 million will be the responsibility of the 1st Cavalry Division.

One brigade-size unit from 1st AD will head some 50 miles south to Babil Province to protect supply-line convoys that have been attacked and major highways that have been closed, and to battle “former regime elements.”...

The other brigade will be the Ready First Combat Team in reserve, and deploy where needed. Dempsey declined to say exactly where that might be.

One regiment already has moved south — to Najaf, where coalition troops for more than a week have surrounded the city in which radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has holed up — and to other spots in the south-central region of Iraq. A multinational force of 9,500 soldiers has been stretched in that area, and Spain’s decision to pull its 1,300 troops out could exacerbate the problem. The regiment also is shoring up efforts to protect supply lines, Dempsey said...

The pace of the past year has been “absolutely frenetic,” Dempsey said, and challenging in many ways. It can’t be compared to two-year tours in Europe during World War II, for instance, in which fierce battles alternated with long lulls, and battle lines were clearly marked.

“This is 24-7, 365, 360-degrees,” Dempsey said....

Dempsey said in his 30-year career, he had seen no other U.S. soldiers required to stay in a combat zone for more than one year, including Vietnam.

The Pentagon has pledged to pay extended soldiers an extra $1,000 a month. There’s really only one other thing that can be done for them, Dempsey said.

“I’ve been to a hundred-and-some memorial services,” he said. “Commanders [at the services] say to each other, ‘Make it matter.’

“That’s really all you can do for them in circumstances like this. Make this sacrifice matter.”
And please...give your political support to those leaders who are committed to making it matter.

And this won't be a popular position with some, but this is the right thing to do.
A member of the 1st Armored Division’s Baumholder-based 2nd Brigade, Ortiz has been home only about a month, among the lead troops originally sent home to prepare for the return of the rest of the division.

All that’s changed now, though, with news that the majority of “Old Ironsides” will serve up to four months beyond its one-year rotation.

Returning flights were halted last week, just prior to the Pentagon’s formal announcement on the extension, and now soldiers like Ortiz are on their way back to the war zone.

The first 90 troops returned to Iraq over the weekend, said division spokesman Sgt. Greg Withrow.
You see...the Pentagon didn't extend part of the 1st and 2d extended the brigades. Period.

So those who returned with the ADVON to assist in preparing for the return of the main bodies...well, that mission is void least until sometime in July.

Stories like this offer lucid arguments that an evil bloodthirst, not an ideaology or logic governs these miscreants.
Arab insurgents fired a fusillade of mortars on the coalition-controlled Abu Ghraib Prison on Tuesday, killing 22 Iraqi captives held in razor-wire-ringed tent camps and wounding 92 others.

The attack was puzzling to U.S. military commanders, who consider the 4,400 so-called "security detainees" to be anti-American insurgents, some of whom are suspected of launching similar mortar and missile attacks.

Marines helped evacuate wounded prisoners. Twenty-five of the most seriously injured were taken by helicopter to two U.S. military field hospitals, one of which is inside the Green Zone, which houses coalition headquarters...

"Our guys scratch their heads and say, `Why would they be shelling their own people, killing their own people?'" Kimmitt said several hours after the attack.

This is day 346.

And I'm a bit sorry CPT Patti is missing the spring here this year. She'd like it.

But then...she's inclined to like most things. Its her nature.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


You won't believe it.
An Iraqi civilian kisses the hand of U.S. Marine Cpl. Joseph Sharp from Peoria, Ill., after Marines from the 1st Battalion 5th Marines gave him a supply of food and water in Fallujah, Iraq, Monday, April 19, 2004. (AP Photo/John Moore)
(via Instapundit)
This author says that is exactly the wrong answer.
But the big question here is who is fooling whom. The UN, as Claudia Rosett has documented in devastating separate articles appearing now on the Web sites of Commentary magazine and National Review Online, has a long and corrupt history with Iraq. In the former, she notes that the UN claims to have delivered at most $15 billion in actual food and medicine. "But at what cost?" Rosett asks, "Are we supposed to conclude that, in order to deliver this amount of aid, the UN had to approve Saddam's more than $100 billion worth of largely crooked business, had to look the other way while he skimmed money, bought influence, built palaces, and stashed away billions on the side, at least some of which may now be funding terror in Iraq or beyond?"

In her NRO article, Rosett shows that Saddam and al-Qaida used some of the same front companies, at least raising the serious possibility that the UN program should have been dubbed "Oil-for-Terrorism." The US Congress is currently investigating extensive evidence that the Oil-for-Food program put not only the UN, but France and Russia, effectively on Saddam's payroll to the tune of billions of dollars.

The UN bureaucracy, France, and Russia have a huge incentive to cover up their own complicity in Saddam's pillaging of Iraq, as does the Arab bloc in preventing a successful Iraqi regime from arising. The UN is the ideal vehicle for all these anti-democracy forces. Indeed, if one were to write a recipe for failure in Iraq, putting the UN in charge would probably be the place to start.
Guarded by U.S. Humvees mounted with machine-guns, Baghdad City Council today chose a new mayor it is asking to return home from a glitzy Gulf emirate to a postwar city of blast walls and raw sewage.

In what American officials called a victory for democracy, Alaa al-Tamimi, a charismatic engineer who spent years in Abu Dhabi as senior adviser to the planning department, won the overwhelming majority of votes...

"We hope Baghdad will return to be the mother of the world," said Tamimi, after his selection by a panel of members of Baghdad district councils who questioned the final seven candidates for hours.

What about sewage? What about the 10,000 tonnes of garbage on the streets?..

Tamimi faces monumental challenges in Baghdad, where rebuilding a battered infrastructure and attracting investment are hampered by guerrilla bombings and kidnappings.

None of the mayoral candidates offered a clear strategy for tackling those problems.

"We need to put a system in place. We don't want it to be run by individuals. We need a scientific approach," said Tamimi, hinting at the days when Saddam's Baath party controlled a highly corrupt city hall...

The grilling underscored the difficult transition from the old Iraq into one where merit, not Baath party ties, or army or family connections, is meant to count most.

When one candidate, Omar al-Damaluji, began his opening remarks by discussing his parents' medical professions and his degrees, he was immediately shot down by a panelist.

"We have heard enough about you. We want to know how you will rebuild Baghdad." He was selected as a deputy mayor.
Some of our guys...based in Giessen. Read it all to find out how the soldiers reacted to the extension.
When Lt. Col. John Kem, the battalion commander, got the word April 9, he immediately called all the soldiers in the unit into formation and spoke to them.

"There were a few hysterics, a few tears," recalled Kem, who graduated from Langley High School in McLean in 1981 and whose father is director of public works for Arlington County. He told them to take a day to wallow in their unhappiness and then to put it behind them.

"They told us, 'Whine today, and go to sleep tonight, and when you wake up, it's over,' " recalled Staff Sgt. Sean Long, 30, a communications specialist.

Pfc. Erik Ward, 20, of Chicago, said his buddies rolled with the news because of Kem's forthright approach. "Our leadership has been real honest about it," he said. "The colonel told us he was disappointed," just as they were, he recalled.

On this small island at the northern end of Baghdad, which contains a rusting roller coaster and other ruins of an amusement park, Spec. Whitney Eargle, a bridge-laying specialist from Greenville, S.C., stood on sentry duty at dusk, watching for intruders along the river's reedy banks, especially for the nightly visitors he calls "the mortar idiots."

"The truth is, you can be mad about it, you can let it get you down -- but you're still going to be here," he said with a shrug.

At least not if you get your news from Reuters and CNN.

An American teaching at the University of Baghdad asked her students how their lives have changed since the war.

Now...if you go read the whole thing, also note that the author clearly believes the US Military to be a bunch of civilian killers and the US Government to sanction that.

And she asks her questions right after the battles in Fallujah. My guess is she was hoping to get some pithy, "lets all hate America" soundbites.

She didn't. is the complete list that she publishes.
I asked them what they feel now and how their lives have changed since the war. Here are some of their responses (For readability I made just a few spelling corrections and only slightly adjusted grammar! My students are the best!):

“I feel very sorry about the Iraqi people that are dead. And I want all these things to change and I want the American soldiers to go out from my country without any war with them because I don’t want the American soldiers to die and I don’t want the Iraqi people to die.”

“Only we want the war ended and safety.”

“I think the crime (war) is usually happening every day, every hour in my city. Please stop, stop this war … “

“I only want one great wish, which is that I want my country to live in peace like others.”

“I think that many things have changed but it changed for the worse. One of these things is that when I go to the market, I can’t feel safe.”

“We breathe freedom, at the same time the shedding of blood is still in our cities.”

“Many things have changed in my country: everyone can have a mobile phone and satellite channels. I think once everyone understand freedom in the right way, my country will be the best in the future.”

“There is one thing that changed after the war and that is the Saddam regime is gone forever.”

After class I went down to the cafeteria and had lunch with the students (they never allow me to pay!) and one of the boys asked me, “Please, what hope do you see for the future of Iraq?”

“If Iraqis have hope and faith in a good future for Iraq,” I answered, “and they are willing to stay and work for that future, then I have a lot of hope for Iraq."
Common theme? Life is better but let's stop this war.

Nothing would suit us better, my friends. But the four enemies of which BG Hertling spoke need to get the message.

Can you help carry it to them?

And I know this story will make some American Legionaire proud. Good job, guys.
Before his deployment in March 2002, Cramer said he was not "too religious" and went to church because "my mom made me." But while serving, Cramer came across a Bible the American Legion had sent to soldiers in Iraq.

"I read it, read it and read it," he said. "It's the best book ever written."...

As for the Bible that ignited Cramer's faith, he passed it on. Before Cramer left Iraq he gave some of his possessions to a buddy who was staying in Iraq.
"He asked for everything he didn't already have that he could use," Cramer said.
Cramer gave him the Bible.
Iraqi police say a mortar shell has landed in a garden near the Swedish Embassy in central Baghdad.

It caused a loud explosion, but no one was hurt. Police have closed off the area.
I don't know which question to ask big is the war that allows the press to track individual, ineffectual mortar rounds? Or how did stuff like this ever come to be called "coverage"?
President Bush yesterday named U.N. Ambassador John D. Negroponte to be the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, one of the first concrete steps Washington has taken to prepare for the June 30 turnover of sovereignty.

Mr. Negroponte, 64, is a seasoned diplomat who has presided over complex negotiations and large staffs as the ambassador to Mexico, the Philippines and Honduras. He also served twice on the National Security Council...

It was not clear when the Senate would vote to confirm Mr. Negroponte. But when the new ambassador takes up his post after the June 30 turnover of sovereignty, he will face one of the toughest jobs ever given to an American diplomat.
I'm going to be very interested to see if the Senate democrats play politics with this nomination.
The battle-scarred city of Fallujah is looking at more than 77 million dollars in US aid once the current round of fighting between US marines and insurgents is declared over, Marines officers said Monday.

Marines civil affairs staff drew up last week a three-phase plan to inject cash into the city west of Baghdad once the conflict ends. The proposal is currently under review.
Hey, knuckleheads...fight us and get your butts handed to you...or chill out, get a life and a job. Seems like a no-brainer from here.

Good article on the may not know about these guys...but if they want to, they'll know about you.

That's sorta the point.
In Troop D’s sector in Baghdad’s northwest suburbs, trouble is inevitable.

Starlin, Burrus and company spent Sunday night and early Monday morning monitoring the edge of a town their commanders expect to be the next major flash point as the 2-week-old outbreak of violence continues.

The town — which is not being identified for security reasons — is so hot that the tiny scout teams are forbidden from entering.

About 10 p.m., a tip comes in that about 100 men, some with weapons, are collecting near the city center. For a few minutes, it looks like Starlin will win his solo bet, and the patrol prepares to move out of the shadows and onto a main road to block escape routes.

The tension dissolves when helicopters can’t locate the group. But from invisible locations, scouts use the latest ambient-light-enhancing ranging devices to watch for bomb planters, weapons runners and ambushers.

They’re watching. Always watching.

The Fort Hood, Texas-based 1st Cav is no longer literally a cavalry, with Kevlar-clad soldiers in armored Humvees long ago replacing horse-mounted, saber toting cavalrymen. But the mission of Troop D’s scouts in Iraq is essentially the same as their circa 1870 predecessors.

Scouts work clandestinely to find the enemy and take his measure before the main force fights him, or disrupt him before he can strike...

Asked how he would describe scouting, truck commander Sgt. Sam White smiles and says, “Fun.” He says he loves the freedom of working in small groups, matching wits with the enemy.

Troop D, open and unpretentious, may not have the polish and swagger of Special Forces types, whom they resemble in culture and autonomy. “I’m gonna warn you. We fight and cuss,” White says before a mission.

Which, with apologies to Dave Barry, would be a really good name for a band.

The photo below appears today in the online edition of Stars & Stripes...and in a quirk of fate, the following headline appears immediately beside it.
Marines Try to Disarm Gangs with Soccer
Lookout would appear you are the ball!
Photo by Sandra Jontz / Stars and Stripes

Imagine that.
Fallujah's civic leaders joined American officials Monday in calling for insurgents battling Marines here to surrender their heavy weapons in return for an end to the U.S. siege of the city, according to a U.S. spokesman.

The commitments appeared to be the first fruits of direct negotiations between U.S. officials and a group of civic leaders and professions representing Fallujah residents.

The joint statement also outlines promises to improve the humanitarian situation in the besieged city and to attempt a restoration of control in the city to Iraqi security forces, U.S. spokesman Dan Senor said.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt warned, however, that if the deal fell apart, Marines were prepared to attack and take the city quickly.

"It would appear there is an agreed political track," he told reporters. "There is also a very clear understanding ... that should this agreement not go through Marine forces are more than prepared to carry through with military operations" and could seize Fallujah "in fairly short order."

This is day 345 of CPT Patti's deployment.

I told you last week that CPT Patti has a new job as the Brigade Combat Team S4. She notified me on Friday via email that the staff had to temporarily relocate as of Saturday in order to effect the complete battle handover to the staff of the 39th Enhanced Separate Brigade (Arkansas National Guard).

That journey would take them into some unfriendly territory...and she knew I would worry.

Being the darling woman she is she found a computer immediately upon their arrival on Saturday to let me know they had arrived safely.

Last night I got another note...this time saying she and the other had returned safely to Martyr's Monument, home of the 1st Brigade Combat Team's headquarters in Baghdad.

And I said many thanks to the Lord for safe deliverence.

Monday, April 19, 2004


Another in a LONG line of Soldiers who perceive the media as giving comfort to the enemy.
I find it tragic that the death toll this month is so high, but I believe that is because both American soldiers and a larger number of Iraqis are fighting hard for a free Iraqi democracy. We, here at home, need to see what the soldiers and Iraqis are dying for.

There are days I wish I were back there, taking part in such an amazing endeavor for the free world. But for now, I will just have to settle for the sad half of the story.
How many more newspapers must print letters like this...from those who have actually been there...before they will understand just how poorly the media are covering this?

Victor Davis Hanson examines our tortured paradoxical reactions to the war...and points out that the enemy does too.

Run...don't walk.
Deep down we know that some sort of freedom is what most Iraqis want — and what Islamic extremists in and outside Iraq most fear. But we wish its creation to proceed flawlessly without loss of blood or treasure. And at all times we insist on gratitude from those we aid, who are humbled, perhaps even furious, because we are giving them precisely what they seek — but also what in the past they lacked the resources, skill, or courage to obtain on their own.

What a weird war we are in. The president of the United States gives a press conference to steel our will and endures mostly inane cross examination — at the very time the New York Times best-seller list has five of its top ten books alleging that he is a near criminal. Various disgruntled, passed-over or fired employees (Clarke and O'Neill), buffoonish provocateurs (Franken), and conspiracists (Phillips and Unger) all assure us in their pulp of everything from Bush family ties with Nazis to a First Family perennially plotting to get Americans killed for nothing other than cheap oil.

If that was not enough, a U.S. senator, with a reprehensible record of personal excess and abject immorality, now in his dotage damns the war in Iraq on moral grounds — even as young Marines seek to protect a nascent and tottering consensual government from thugs and killers. An ex-president who calibrated his campaign for a Nobel Prize by criticizing his successor in a time of war to the applause of foreign powers now steps forward to call for a more principled nation. Such are the moralists of our age.

Are we crazy? I think in fact we almost are. But the tragedy is that if we are paradoxical, self-incriminatory, and at each other's throats, our enemies most surely are not. They know precisely what they want from us — an Islamic world of the 8th century, parasitic on the resources and technology of the 21st, by which all the better to destroy a supposedly soft and bickering West. And if the present chaos here at home continues, they are apparently on the right track.

Sarah reads all about her husband's unit's "adventures" in Iraq.

Military spouses...God love us.
Still, Ross said the experience changed him.

He said he realizes now how much he has taken for granted about the "little luxuries" in life, especially after seeing Iraqis washing their clothes in a river or slaughtering their own lambs to feed their families.

"I come back and I love living in a free country," he said. "I'm still a punk 19-year-old, but some things I have a lot more adult outlook on."

Doerfler, too, said the year at war has changed him for the better, even if there's some difficulty getting back into the swing of things.
On Oct. 29, I learned that my unit was to be deployed to Iraq for a year and a half and I had three weeks to prepare my Grand Junction life for the absence. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving was my last day at work. After months of preparation and planning, my unit flew into Kuwait on February 9, 2004. My tour is going to last approximately a year and a half.

Why do I do this part-time job? This question has never been easier to answer...

The most striking contrast between the two adjacent countries is that people in Kuwait look healthy. Although separated by only 100 miles, southern Iraqi people are thin, drawn and there isn’t a mile that goes by that there isn’t a child begging for food and water on the roadside in ragged, dirty clothing. This is the result of no jobs and no agriculture existing for many years...

Why do I do this part-time job? Because I have the opportunity to make a difference.
Iraq's two main guerrilla fronts appeared "eerily quiet" on Monday, the U.S. military said, as residents of besieged Fallujah left their homes to shop and a rebel Shiite Muslim militia stuck to a cease-fire it called in the south...

Fallujah, once incessant gunfire has given way to quiet amid two days of direct negotiations between the Americans and Fallujah leaders. An Iraqi delegation entered Fallujah for new talks Monday, in which the Americans did not appear to be participating.

"There seems to be a serious attempt by the people of Fallujah to get their house in order," Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne said.

The Army, meanwhile, said it was in no hurry to take the southern city of Najaf from Shiite followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Army was beginning to rotate 2,500 soldiers from their position outside Najaf, replacing them with 2,000 seasoned troops from the force that has been occupying Baghdad for nearly a year.

Al-Sadr on Sunday called a two-day cease-fire to mark the anniversary of the death of the Prophet Muhammad. He also ordered a halt in all attacks on Spanish troops based in Najaf after Spain's prime minister decided to withdraw his country's forces from the country as soon as possible.

Al-Sadr's office called on Iraqis to "maintain the safety of the Spanish forces until their return home" and urged "the governments of the other armies taking part in Iraq's occupation to follow the Spanish government's example."
Makes one wonder if they are proud...the Spanish...being hailed by a thug cleric with a thug Army.

It's a good story...go read it.
He has experienced the extremes of warfare, from behind a rifle to behind a desk. He has weathered two wars that bracketed a generation in controversy: Vietnam and the current conflict in Iraq.

Yet Sgt. First Class Clarence Kugler of Fort Lauderdale bears another distinction: at 59, the Army says, he's the oldest enlisted soldier in Iraq.
Can't recall if I've mentioned this before, but here in Giessen we have the oldest chaplain on duty in the Army. I'm told he is a his seventies.
What most fail to understand is that Shi’ite Islam—the religion of 60% of Iraqis—actually provides the best opportunity to establish democracy in the Middle East...

As soon as Shi’ites loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took up arms and took over several towns in southern Iraq, the topic of conversation on cable news and editorial pages turned to question of whether or not Shi’ites could become a functioning part of a democratic Iraq.

Whenever the issue of Shi’ites and democracy arises, Iran is inevitably discussed. But despite the appearance of a democratic government—holding elections every few years that are 90% fixed by the ruling mullahs—Iran is run by a highly unpopular handful of tyrants. In fact, if an honest election were held in Iran tomorrow—particularly among the 70% of the population under age 25—George W. Bush would beat the reigning mullahs in a landslide.

The tyrants in Tehran do have roots in Shi’ite tradition, but only in a tiny sect of the religion. The vast majority of Iranian clerics, in fact, despise the despots in power, though fear ensures their silence.

The Iranian mullahs no more represent Shi’ite Islam than the Ku Klux Klan does Christianity...

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most recognizable and respected Shi’ite leader in Iraq, firmly believes in the separation of mosque and state. His belief is also held by mainstream Shi’ite Islam, which believes in the separation until the twelfth imam—who disappeared in the year 873—reappears as the rightful ruler. As he helps push Iraq towards free elections, Sistani is adamantly refusing to place himself in a leadership position in the new power structure—something he could easily achieve if he so desired.

For those who believe that Islam and democracy—at least in the Arab world—are mutually exclusive entities, al-Sadr, who is backed by the Iranian mullahs, is brought up as Exhibit A.

But as former Defense Department official Michael Rubin, who left Iraq recently after spending 18 months there, wrote in National Review Online, “This week’s violence appears to have less to do with Iraqi sentiment than with Muqtada al-Sadr’s quest for power.”

And lest we forget, al-Sadr is on the lam because an Iraqi judge issued a warrant for his arrest months ago for his role in last year’s brutal murder of moderate Shi’ite cleric Majid al-Khoei, who was chopped to pieces in the holy Shrine of Imam Ali.

Seen by the Iraqi people as both a murderer and a stooge of the Iranian mullahs, al-Sadr’s support is rapidly declining. His campaign of violence is nothing more than a last desperate bid for power before ballots are cast in an election he could not hope to win.

In Iraq, especially given its large Shi’ite population, the U.S. has the ability to establish a beachhead of democracy in the Middle East. Now is not the time to give up.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the stability not only of Syria and Iraq, but also of the entire region is at stake.

"We know that the pathway into Iraq for many foreign fighters is through Syria. It's a fact. We know it. The Syrians know it," Myers told CNN TV.

"The Syrians need to take this situation very seriously. They need to help us stop that infiltration of foreign fighters. It doesn't do their government any good," Myers said.

Syrian officials were not immediately available for comment regarding the US warnings, but have previously rejected claims that Damascus is allowing militants into Iraq.
Iraqi security forces will not be ready to protect the country against insurgents by the June 30 handover of power, the top U.S. administrator said yesterday - an assessment aimed at defending the continued heavy presence of U.S. troops here even after an Iraqi government takes over.

The unusually blunt comments from L. Paul Bremer came amid a weekend of new fighting that pushed the death toll for U.S. troops in April to 99, already the record for a single month in Iraq and approaching the number killed during the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein last year.

The military had always planned to remain after June 30, when the United States is to hand over sovereignty to Iraq. In recent months, coalition officials acknowledged that the transfer of security will be significantly slower than hoped because Iraqi forces were not prepared.

But Bremer said that the fighting across the country this month exposed the depth of the problems inside the security forces.

"Events of the past two weeks show that Iraq still faces security threats and needs outside help to deal with them. Early this month, the foes of democracy overran Iraqi police stations and seized public buildings in several parts of the country," he said. "Iraqi forces were unable to stop them."

"It is clear that Iraqi forces will not be able, on their own, to deal with these threats by June 30 when an Iraqi government assumes sovereignty," Bremer said in a statement issued by the U.S. coalition.
A U.S. Army patrol stops suspicious vehicles on the edges of this insurgent-controlled city.

Some 500 yards away, lying prone and hidden in the sand, two expert marksmen stalk Iraqis emerging from cars through the cross-hairs of their rifles.

If they detect a sudden, hostile move, the snipers should be able to kill the assailant with a single bullet before the patrol itself can react.

''We can't get enough of them,'' says Capt. Damien Mason, from Maui, Hawaii, a company commander who ordered the two shooters into position. ''Snipers are vital in this kind of warfare.''

Mason's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Karl Reed, describes snipers in Iraq as a ''political weapon,'' ideally able to isolate and knock out combatants without harming civilians whom insurgents often use as human shields...

''It's more personal than regular combat. You see the man's expression before you pull the trigger, then the blood and the fall,'' says Cpl. Omar Torres, a sniper with the 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.

The 23-year-old soldier and others rate their Iraqi counterparts low on training and ingenuity, saying opposing snipers invariably use upper stories of houses or rooftops and aren't armed with particularly accurate weapons. Nonetheless, they're among the main killers of U.S. forces after roadside bombers.

Torres, of Waterbury, Conn., is one of only five fully qualified snipers in the regiment's 2nd Battalion, having gone through the army's rigorous sniper school at Ft. Benning, Ga.

Up to 70 percent of a class fails the five-week course. Successful students become masters of camouflage, stealth and ability to identify hostile faces in a crowd by their expressions and movements.

But who listens?
Retired Gen. Tommy Franks says that President Bush didn't discuss an invasion of Iraq with him until Dec. 28, 2001, and that intelligence indicating Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was incorrect and "incomplete."...

When Bush did address the possibility of invading Iraq, Franks told a crowd Wednesday at a fund-raiser that the president voiced hope that it wouldn't happen.

"He told me he hoped not one American boot ever touches Iraq except by invitation," Franks said.

Franks also told the audience about his interactions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. A day after the attacks, Franks told Rumsfeld that he thought Osama Bin Laden was responsible.

Franks criticized the media and the investigation by the Sept. 11 commission.

"We do not need people to ask about yesterday. We need people to ask about the future," he said...

Before his speech, Franks told reporters that the invasion of Iraq seemed necessary because of the possibility that Iraq would join terrorists and attempt to use weapons of mass destruction against the United States.

"The fact is that all of us believed that we were going to see weapons of mass destruction," Franks said in a story in Thursday's editions of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. "And the intelligence that indicated all of that to us simply was incomplete. It simply was not correct."

They're a ragtag team of about 1,000 or so young, impoverished men who sometimes shoot one another by accident or stick machine guns out windows and spray the area without looking.

Yet they've also set up clever ambushes, demonstrated surprising resilience and executed defensive maneuvers that have impressed the U.S. military.

After a week of butting heads with Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, U.S. military authorities tasked with capturing or killing the Shiite cleric call his militia a mix of sophistication and amateur hour...

The vast majority of al-Sadr's militiamen are young and unemployed and are inspired by al-Sadr's anti-American rhetoric and calls to end the occupation of Iraq.

"They're mostly thugs," said Col. Dana Pittard, commander of the newly created task force in Najaf. "A lot are young kids in it just for the thrill."

Soldiers who have faced the militia in street battles say members frequently lose control of their weapons or fail to aim carefully.

"We call it spray and pray," said Capt. Sean Stinchon, 29, of the 1-14 Infantry. "They don't even use the scopes."...

Stinchon and other officers, awaiting the resolution of negotiations over the U.S. standoff with al-Sadr, got a firsthand look at the questionable marksmanship of the cleric's militia last week when their six-vehicle convoy was forced by rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fire to cross a bridge over the Euphrates River and race down a busy commercial street in Kufa.

As the U.S. forces sped the wrong way down a street at 50 mph, about 50 al-Sadr followers fired machine guns and AK-47s. But none of the soldiers was hit.

"We should have been dead," Heyward said. Because the attackers positioned themselves across the street from each other, some appear to have shot one another as well as hitting innocent bystanders, according to U.S. soldiers...

...(T)hey continue to make rookie mistakes.

Three al-Sadr followers were captured near a military checkpoint Friday.

Inside the shirt pocket of one man was a document claiming he was a French journalist. But he also was carrying an invoice for weapons for the Mahdi Army, diagrams for making homemade bombs and a picture of al-Sadr in his wallet.
Disguised as a French journalist? Natch.

Handing the terrorists exactly what they want.

By the way...what is Spanish for weasel?
Spain's prime minister yesterday ordered Spanish troops pulled out of Iraq as soon as possible, fulfilling a campaign pledge to a nation recovering from terrorist bombings that Al Qaeda militants said were reprisal for Spain's support of the war.
CPT Patti and I were planning to vacation in Spain once she returns.

I've cancelled those plans. Its a small gesture, but certainly my tourist dollars are better spent someplace like Italy that, even though suffering losses in Iraq, did not cut and run.
During a night rocket-hunting mission, Pfc. Joel Puntiel reflected on how quickly and profoundly violence escalated in this 1st Cavalry Division sector.

“A week ago, we were handing out candy,” said Puntiel, 22, a scout with 2nd Platoon, Troop D, 9th Cavalry Regiment. “This week, it’s a war.”...

Early in the BCT’s rotation, insurgents weren’t particularly sophisticated. “There were plenty of bad guys, but 80 percent of them were knuckleheads,” untrained, undisciplined and unprepared, Smith said. Insurgents fired quick bursts from AK-47s, then ran into canals where cool water concealed body heat from soldiers’ thermal sensors.

Since April 1, they’ve become more organized and ruthless, the platoon leader said. On April 11, BCT scouts took on 15 or 20 Iraqis who helicopter pilots spotted digging in a palm grove. The scouts discovered the Iraqis were not the typical civilian-attired insurgents, but wore matching uniforms, boots or athletic shoes, as well as army-issue equipment such as ammo vests. They were, Smith said, clearly in it for the long haul, with scouts finding coolers full of food and water caches, along with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and binoculars...

But even as they fight, Smith said, the goal still is to find “some middle ground between the iron fist and passing out candy, where we establish a trust and respect.”
I find the business about a more uniformed insurgency to be worrisome.

Certainly it would be easier on our guys to identify and eliminate a uniformed enemy...on the other hand, such things are indicators of a more sophisticated organization.
Families of 1st Armored Division soldiers got a shock this week when they learned their loved ones would be staying in Iraq for at least three more months instead of returning home.

Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, the 1st AD’s deputy commander, flew back to Germany from Iraq to face the spouses during town meetings Friday at Hanau, Friedberg and Giessen. The meetings were closed to the press.

“We’re trying to convey that the commanders in Iraq are very interested in the welfare of the family members here in Germany,” Hertling said. “We want them to get the most up-to-date information on not only what’s happening in Iraq but also how well [the soldiers] are being supported down there.”...

One spouse in Hanau, who asked that her name not be used, said she felt uplifted after the morning meeting at Hanau’s Fliegerhorst gym, which she said was attended by between 300 and 400 people.

“I felt a tremendous sense of pride,” she said. “It was a shot in the arm we needed to get through this.”
The lady in Hanau is right. It was a very uplifting experience...almost every spouse I've talked to has said so. We appreciated the General's being here...and his forthrightness in the discussions with us.

I attended the briefing in Friedberg...and unfortunately it didn't end well. As was predictable there were those in attendance whose agenda didn't include listening. They came to poke somebody in the eye, by George...and poke somebody they would.

It was sad...because in my view (shared by many I've talked to) the 1AD leadership, and especially BG Hertling showed a lot of class by flying back here to talk to the family members.

That class should have been returned...but in the case of a handful in Friedberg, it wasn't.

Somehow it didn't dawn upon the two I'm thinking of in particular that everybody in the bleedin' room was under the exact same circumstances...yet somehow only they felt the need to make complete jerks of themselves in response to this remarkable reaching out by the leadership of the 1AD.

Some days I'm reminded more than usual to thank God for His blessing of my being married to the sweetest woman on the planet. Some poor souls are married to those two. Yikes.

This is day 344 of my darling wife's deployment.