Saturday, July 05, 2003

The U.S. soldiers on Operation Grave Digger found roughly what they were after in Baghdad's King's Cemetery on Saturday: six AK-47 rifles, five fragmentation grenades, loads of ammunition, bayonets and other weapons including an RPK machine gun...

A prior raid also turned up rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, the weapon of choice for guerrillas.

When they first began graveyard searches, the soldiers randomly removed the lids of the sarcophagi, empty boxes atop the bodies buried underground. Then they discovered how to tap on the lids and listen for signs of a cache.

Because weapons were stored there, the cemetery was no longer protected under rules of engagement, according to officers of the 2-3 Artillery Battalion, part of the First Armored Division. Local people and special operations forces had tipped them off about the caches.

The soldiers launched Operation Grave Digger after midnight, in the hours of the U.S. imposed curfew, to avoid attracting a crowd or potential protests from anyone offended by foreigners disturbing the graves of their ancestors.

Recall it was only yesterday when the voice on the tape claiming to be Saddam said

"We ... sacrificed what we had to, except our values"

Reckon that's because you can't sacrifice what you don't have?

Read it here.

For millions of Iraqis, the most familiar image of the past generation was of their dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Early this morning Coalition troops under the cover of darkness set out throughout western Baghdad armed with yellow and black paint and improvised cardboard templates.

Their orders are simple - paint a big, bright smiley face wherever the face of the deposed dictator used to be.

Above each smiley face will be written in Arabic, "Things will get better" and underneath will be written, "Have a good day."

I don't make this stuff can read about it here.

PFC Herrgott is the 1st Brigade soldier killed on Thursday.
He joined the service in January 2002 because "he wanted to earn money for college so he could become a police officer," said Beth Herrgott, 29, one of his two sisters, speaking at the family home Friday. "He thought the military would give him some good discipline and a good life."

The Minnesota soldier last spoke to his parents on Wednesday, said his other sister, Amy, 22. She said his parents told him to "be safe and stay inside the Bradley."

Three days ago, near Baghdad International Airport, U.S. Army Spc. Suzette Sheckleford watched as a truck in the convoy in front of her hit a land mine and exploded in flames.

Friday, far away from combat, she raised her right hand in a south Phoenix gymnasium and swore an oath to become an American citizen.

"This is something that I truly wanted; that's why I fight for it," said Sheckleford, a Jamaican citizen until Friday.

Good story. Read it here.
SATURDAY, JULY 5th. The 55th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers were treated to a grand 4th of July celebration by grateful Kurds at a spectacular lakeside resort near Dokan, a town in the semiautonomous Kurdish north of the country. Kurds also celebrate July 4 as the anniversary of the establishment in 1992 of a Kurdish government, thanks in part to a U.S.-British enforced no-fly zone that kept Saddam Hussein's forces out of the north.

Barham Salih, a leader of the eastern half of the Kurdish enclave, thanked U.S. troops for ousting Saddam.

"What you have done is immense," he said. "You have come from afar and delivered our people from injustice. You came to liberate our people. Mission accomplished."

As well they should.

Read the whole thing here.
"Our sons and daughters are serving so that we can keep celebrating the Fourth of July, and it's just ... emotional for us to talk about it, because we're so proud," said Anderson's Janine Compton, mother of two sons stationed in the Middle East. "We've always been patriotic, but now it's even more so."

Compton, like thousands of parents across the country, will celebrate the United States' independence without her only children -- Christopher Compton, 30, stationed in Iraq, and Bradley Compton, 27, stationed in Kuwait.

"We're a pretty patriotic family, and we have always celebrated the Fourth of July and had strong feelings about it," said their father, Rod Compton, 56. "They're away and we're thinking of that."

Read it all here.
In the audiotape aired on Al-Jazeera, the speaker claiming to be Saddam said he is still in Iraq "among my people'' along with a small group of his "companions.'' He said he had been forced to "sacrifice'' the government as U.S. troops moved in.

"We ... sacrificed what we had to, except our values, which are based on our deep faith and honor. We did not stab our people or our nation in the back,'' he said.

Ok, could be him.

But let's ask some questions.

Why is this tape three weeks old before being aired on Al Jazeera, the All Terrorists, All the Time news channel?

If Saddam really wanted to thumb his nose at the USA and to inspire those idiots who for whatever reason think he's "great", why leave any doubt that it is you by using an audio tape? Why not a video tape with some proof of it being made lately (such as a current newspaper within view)?

Finally, is "forced to sacrifice the government" an Arabic euphemism for "save my sorry ass"?

Read it here.
The U.S. military brought in 3,000 pounds of sirloin, cases of potato chips, and piles of corn on the cob for the troops' Fourth of July celebrations.

There have been barbecues at bases across Iraq. And troops have celebrated with Kurdish allies, who are marking the anniversary of the establishment of their first government.

Some joined Arnold Schwarzenegger in a screening of his latest Terminator movie. He told soldiers he plays the Terminator, but they're the true terminators.

It occured to me today...this Independence Day means more to me than any that have come before.

God bless the USA.
The U.S. government put a $25 million bounty on Saddam Hussein and $15 million on each of his sons Thursday, seeking to quell a spreading insurgency fueled by uncertainty over the ousted Iraqi leader's fate.

Story here.
A soldier was killed by small arms fire in Baghdad on Thursday night while guarding the Iraqi National Museum, according to U.S. military sources there.

The soldier from the 1st Armored Division was in the gun turret of a Bradley fighting vehicle when he was shot, U.S. Central Command said.

Read today's bad news here.


The Defense Department on Friday identified the 20-year-old soldier shot dead on Thursday while guarding the National Museum in Baghdad as Pfc. Edward Herrgott of Shakopee, Minnesota.

I'm told he was in C Co, 1-36 Infantry.
Servicemembers are hard to figure out sometimes.

Members of the combat search-and-rescue team assigned to Baghdad International Airport have adopted a pigeon they found near death when they moved into their hangar on base.

The pigeon, which goes by the name Bird, usually sits on a wire near the entrance to the hangar, but pararescue members have also built it a home outside the hangar.

The bird has been known to fly down and perch on someone’s shoulder — especially if there’s some food involved.

Bird might not want get too fat on all those snacks. Some of the same guys who adopted the pigeon had previously acquired a sheep in downtown Baghdad. They turned it into lunch.

Keep those wings in good shape, Bird, and get plenty of exercise.

Read this and some other cool stories here.
U.S. soldiers shoot TOW missiles at a Soviet-made Iraqi tank on the outskirts of Habbaniya on Friday for a fireworks display to mark the U.S. Independence Day
A military mission in Africa would add to a growing list of military operations now conducted by U.S. troops worldwide.

In addition to the 6,000 troops in the Balkans, the Pentagon has slightly less than 150,000 troops in Iraq and between 6,000 and 8,000 in Afghanistan. U.S. forces also are in the Horn of Africa as part of the global war on terrorism.

Seems to me with so many US GIs in harm's way this might be an opportunity for soldiers from the Axis of Weasels nations to step up.

Oh excuse me... the French already sent troops into Liberia.

Accomplishing what?

Read it here.
“I think we have to be ready to have additional forces here,” he said.

He said the American people — and the Iraqi people — need to be told that it will take more than a short-term commitment of a few thousand troops to put the country in order.

“I believe that a significant number of troops will be needed for a number of years,” he said...

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the legislators had heard rumors of low morale among the troops, but the delegation saw none of that.

“We have found high morale and extreme dedication,” she said.

Last point first. High morale is the norm. But I wonder if she talked to any troops from the 3d ID.

As to significant numbers of troops being there "a number of years"...well, let's hope other nations jump in to help.

I don't want to open another CPT Patti website in the future. Bet you'd be happy to keep your soldier home too.

Burger King has been feeding U.S. servicemembers for a long time.

On Friday it intends to feed them for free.

The fast-food giant rolled out its newest product earlier this week — the Great American Burger.

As a special promotion and to give military members a taste of home, active-duty servicemembers can try one for free on the Fourth of July.

The company is hoping to serve a free burger to more than 200,000 troops stationed overseas, said Rob Doughty, Burger King’s vice president for global corporate communications.

Story here.
FRIDAY, JULY 4th. The 54th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Happy Independence Day CPT Patti. I hope you get to eat a hotdog and watch some fireworks. (er...the friendly kind please.)

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Amazing! I just heard from CPT Patti for the third time this week, in the third medium of the week.

We had the video teleconference on Monday. Then I got the email on Tuesday and today I got a phone call!

She said some Iraqi entrepreneur with a satellite phone is selling calls for $1.50 per minute. So we blew about 12 bucks.

Best 12 bucks I've ever spent.

Not much in the way of news however. She is well, has lost a lot of weight due to the heat and the pace of things. She has access to a PX right there at the Police College where they are working, though she indicated that one never knows what will actually be in stock on any given day. That, and she doesn't get an opportunity to go over there very often.

And then she said "But its ok, because I don't need very much."

That is so like her.

They are in the process of moving the Supply Support Activity (that is a repair parts warehouse) from Shaab Stadium to the Police College. That is a lot of extra work, but necessary. Her soldiers will actually be safer once that is done.

And she says the living conditions have improved to the point where she gets a shower every day.

Good for her.

And its good for me to know she's doing better.

Thank you all for caring.

This position meshes very nicely with the information we got from the former 1st Brigade commander yesterday.
Reflecting on his four months as head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, Garner brushed aside criticism of his efforts. He asserted that the United States would succeed in building a new, democratic, and peaceful Iraq.

''I think there's unrealistic expectations on the part of those who are criticizing,'' Garner said.

Those involved in the reconstruction effort -- redubbed the Coalition Provisional Authority -- have known that, he said.

''I said, `When you get there, it's going to be the most chaotic thing you ever experienced in your life. And you'll look up and say: ''How in the hell can we get this done?'' Garner said. ''And I just said, `Hang in there, because it'll all start coming together.' And it is now.''

That task, Garner said, will take a year or two. He added that his replacement, L. Paul Bremer III, ''has got at least the third-hardest job in the world -- behind [President] Bush and [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair -- and it may be harder.''

Read it all here.
"It is fun to put together a country's budget," he told The State News, Michigan State's student newspaper. "This has been hard and invigorating, frankly."

McPherson has extensive government, financial and international experience. He served as the Treasury Department's second in command in the Reagan administration, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development in 1981-87 and executive at Bank of America.

Before beginning the assignment, McPherson said his goals were:

--Setting up a sound national currency, a functioning system of banks and other financial institutions and a regulatory structure to promote confidence and soundness in the economic system.

--Establishing property rights and rules of law for commercial and financial transactions.

--Putting together a federal budget, in which the flows of revenues and spending are made clear.

--Removing price controls quickly.

--Generating support from governments and major international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Paris Club, to help Iraq.

"It's a challenge to take on the intricate, but integrated and controlled economy," he said Wednesday. "I think we'll leave a mark."

Read all about it here.

An investigation conducted by Coalition forces and Fallujah police into the explosion at the Al Hasan Mosque in Fallujah yesterday has determined that Coalition forces were in no way responsible for the explosion.

The explosion was apparently related to a bomb manufacturing class that was being taught inside the mosque.

Coalition forces continue to be respectful of Muslim tradition by not entering the mosque while continuing to assist Iraqi police with the investigation.

Please note that last sentence.

In a news story covering the same incident:

The U.S. explanation gives credence to reports that Islamic activists are becoming involved in a guerrilla campaign to oust U.S. and British forces, which overthrew Saddam Hussein's government on April 9.

Victims' relatives said the students had gathered at the mosque every night for about a week. The men, in their 20s and 30s, were students at the Islamic Law College at Saddam University in Ramadi, a town farther west along the Euphrates River. The relatives said the students were drawn to the teaching and sermons of Laith Khalil, 35, a preacher at the mosque who, in recent weeks, had called for resistance to drive out forces occupying the country.

Khalil died Tuesday in Baghdad. Hospital officials said six students were killed, although a U.S. military spokesman put the number of dead at 10.

According to COL Tucker who gave us his First Person Perspectives (see entries for July 2d) when the 1st Brigade arrived in Baghdad and began operations EVERY mosque and EVERY school were packed with guns, bombs, missiles, bullets and other ordnance.

So, once again, please note that we do not violate their customs, we do not set foot inside their mosques even though it puts us at a tactical disadvantage.

They know this and they exploit this by turning their "places of worship" into bomb factories and bomb schools.

And WE are the infidels?

Read the story of a Marine Reserve Company and their joyful homecoming here.
The Marines said they had positive experiences with Iraqis. “I have tons of respect for the Iraqi soldiers. A lot of innocent people died. I hope it changes things for them so they can live like we do,” Hibsch said

Corcoran said he felt connected to the Iraqi people.

“They’re all good people,’’ he said. “We fed the people as much as we could.’’

The Iraqi children have no shoes and little food, Hibsch said. One 13-year-old boy became a translator for the battalion.

After more than five months together 24/7, the battalion members relinquished their weapons and prepared to go home with their families.

“It’s not so much a goodbye, as a `see you later,’” Gaudy said of the unit. “We’ll probably call each other later tonight. But it will be strange not waking up with them.”
And an ambusher fired a grenade at a U.S. Army convoy in downtown Baghdad Thursday morning, wounding one soldier, and troops who returned fire killed an Iraqi bystander, witnesses said.

As the convoy moved along Baghdad's Haifa Street, a man fired a rocket-propelled grenade while standing in a car's sunroof; the grenade exploded beneath an Army Humvee, said Saddam Juwad, 22, a bystander. Most of the soldiers jumped from the Humvee before the explosion, Juwad said. One soldier who appeared to be injured was evacuated, Juwad and other witnesses said.

If you follow the Baghdad map link at the top of the page, you will find Haifa street in the grey section along the west (left) bank of the Tigris river in the middle of downtown Baghdad. It appears to be the the area held by 2d Brigade, 1st Armored Divsion.

Meanwhile the story goes on to say:

In another development, the Iraqi National Museum reopened its doors Thursday for the first time since the war. Looting at the museum provoked an international outcry after Baghdad fell on April 9, but U.S. occupation authorities say most of the museum's items including the world-famous treasures of Nimrud have now been accounted for.

Ah yes, the cultural disaster that wasn't.

Read the rest here.

A good story about Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams in Iraq.
It was the third trip that Master Sgt. Mo Mustafa’s explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, team had made to the group of homes they call a village. To most Westerners, it’s more like a group of houses. There aren’t businesses nearby or any public buildings. Just white-walled houses surrounded by dusty fields. Many of those fields have trees that produce an applelike fruit in season. Sheep and cows roam among the trees, looking for lunch.

One of those cows, a local says, won’t be doing any more roaming. He tells Mustafa — the only American in the 10-member team who speaks Arabic — that the cow disturbed a cluster bomblet and blew up. Then he asks Mustafa for some money for it.

He relates one story: The store had already closed its doors for the day recently when some soldiers pulled up and were disappointed they couldn’t get in. It was the first time they’d had a chance to visit an exchange since the war started, they said. So Nelson and crew opened the store back up.

“One of the guys said it was one of the best days of his life,” Nelson said.

“He had just seen a picture of his baby that he had never seen before and then he got to buy some things in here.

“It’s amazing what a Coke and a bag of chips can do for morale.”

Good news for our guys. Read it here.
THURSDAY JULY 3d. The 53d day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

The bad guys are three percent of the population. Informants are everywhere and we receive 300 tips per day on where the bad guys are and what they are up to.

When and if we can prove Saddam is dead, the Ba’ath party holdovers are completely out of business. In fact it is my opinion that when we prove he is dead, a whole lot of Ba’ath party members will have their throats slit in the night. The Iraqis know who they are and where they are.

You can see the change in the country happening daily. Baghdad is beginning to function as any other city. And the people are beginning to understand it is a slow but worthy process.

We have focused our efforts early on toward security and rebuilding public services such as the hospitals, fire houses, police, schools and universities.

And although the Iraqi’s believe America is capable of anything it sets its mind to (“You put men on the moon, you have space shuttle, why then do we not have water?) they are beginning to understand this is a slow process.

Some folks here read the stories in the press and believe the situation in Iraq is getting worse. That is not the case. Let me give you and example.

When we took responsibility for central Baghdad the departing unit told us there were only 43 remaining sites of unexploded ordnance to be dealt with. That number is up in the hundreds now. Is that because it got worse? No, it is because we have more patrols out in the street. And the Iraqis trust us more. So we see more and we learn more from the locals.

Similarly – the incidents of shootings. The numbers of shooters isn’t growing. It is all tied together. Ba’athists who have money (remember that Saddam Hussein pulled off with 4 tractor trailer loads of cash just before the war) find some poverty ridden soul and offer him money to shoot soldiers.

These guys generally can’t shoot well. And so we capture them and interrogate them and find out who is paying them. So in some ways when they shoot it is good, because it forces them to pop their heads up…and we usually get the shooter and whoever is behind him.

This is a country of snitches. We have no shortage of information leading us to the bad guys.

Meanwhile, our soldiers, your soldiers, are guardians of the birth of freedom.

Be proud of them.
I’d say 90 percent of them are sleeping in buildings. Over 75 percent of them sleep or work in air-conditioned areas. In fact we purchased over 200 more window air-conditioning units just this week for various places around the brigade. We are putting a push on air-conditioning because what the Iraqi’s call The Furnace Weeks are coming. The last two weeks of July through the middle of September temperatures in Baghdad will be in the 130s.

We have had ice for a while now but it is not potable. However we just signed a contract for potable ice in the amount of 5 pounds per soldier per day. That will begin soon.

You’ve heard that bottled water was limited to two 3-liter bottles per day. Very soon that will be going up to four bottles per day.

The soldiers get about one hot meal per day (a heat and serve type meal) and a “class A” meal (from scratch type meal) about once per week. And we have plenty of fresh fruit to eat.

We’ve also just signed contracts for porta-johns. The reason for the delay there was lack of trucks to service the toilets. That is fixed and these will be distributed soon. Similarly trailers resembling small mobile homes arrived in Baghdad just yesterday. On each trailer is 10 separate shower compartments along with a huge water cistern.

And while not every soldier has access to every one of these items mentioned here, I can tell you with certainty that every soldier has access to satellite TV no matter where he or she lives in Iraq.

There is a PX in the 501st FSB area and other smaller PX units are being set up across Baghdad. And we’ve also just signed a contract to provide Gatorade to the troops.

Internet connections from Baghdad have been spotty. We learned that Iraqis were stealing IP addresses from Jordan in order to make connections with the satellites. 1AD has decided to purchase internet provider services that are legitimate. Expect to see improvement their soon.

Plus the division will be buying each company a telephone to provide soldiers free use to call loved ones. Each company will have to decide the usage rate but expect that each soldier will be allotted X number of minutes each week.
I’ve told you repeatedly that the Iraqi’s respect action. So our rules of engagement are written with that in mind and they heavily favor our side.

For instance the rules of engagement allow a soldier to fire upon anyone pointing a weapon at the soldier. Merely pointing it.

And our response is heavy. They may get one bullet off, but we will return fire with a hundred bullets. We exhibit strength through action.

Our foot patrols consist of 9 – 12 soldiers each. We teach situational awareness at all times…seeing what is in front of you, and, importantly, on the second and third stories, as well as roof tops. And we have procedures to cover each others backs. And it is working. No one has taken on our foot patrols in a while.

As to vehicles, well, frankly, our policies on moving our vehicles in the city are a pain in the butt…because it takes three vehicles to move one. No vehicle is permitted to travel alone. There will be a heavy gun vehicle in front and one behind. You heard about the Humvee that got lost and the soldiers (from another division) kidnapped and killed. That vehicle was out by itself.

And it didn’t take too long to find that Humvee once it went missing. See, nobody in Baghdad makes a cell phone call that we don’t listen to. We know their strategies and their tactics.

With regard to the airport road where there has been trouble of late, we have changed our tactics there to better ensure the security along that main supply route.
The 1st Brigade sector in Baghdad is east of the Tigris river. We sometime refer to it as East LA. There are 5 million people in Baghdad. 1.2 million of them are in our central sector. On our northeast flank is the 2d Light Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Polk, LA, essentially another brigade attached to the 1AD. They own the 72 square block area of Tharwa, formerly known as Saddam City, also referred to as The Warsaw Ghetto or sometimes simply “Looter City”. There are 2.3 million people there. Poverty, squalor. Saddam just kicked these folks to the curb.

When we arrived there was garbage four feet deep in most every street in our area. But that is gone now. And your soldiers helped make that happen…and your soldiers helped the Iraqi people make that happen.

You have to understand that the average Iraqi has NO initiative. Why? Because for 35 years the system was designed to stifle initiative. For 35 years they were told what to do and brutally punished for any deviation from the Ba’ath party direction. You can’t believe what a wonderful sight it is to see the rebirth of self sufficiency that is coming as a result of freedom from oppression.

Some folks don’t understand how they can still read reports about power not being fully restored in Baghdad. Well, you have to understand some things. The first is the infrastructure there is ancient and decrepit. Saddam Hussein had no interest in projects that would divert money from his concept of grandeur for himself. The poor guy was down to only 90 palaces or so when we came knocking…Anyway, it takes time to rebuild the infrastructure, and as we do, we hire Iraqi’s, many of them former soldiers, to guard the sites. (They seem perfectly content to work for a wage of about $2.50 per day.) We hire the guards because as soon as we get something fixed, the looters will come and dismantle it again.

The second is that 20 percent of Iraq’s population lives in Baghdad. But prior to the war Baghdad consumed 60 percent of the electricity. Areas outside of Baghdad went un-served. So as we restore power, we are kicking some of it places other than Baghdad. And a lot of those in Baghdad don’t see that as such a great idea.

You also have to understand the level of looting. One can understand the looting as a backlash to the oppression and directed at palaces and such. But the looting of public service places such as universities, hospitals…that is harder to explain. But the crushing poverty of some of these people may explain some of it.

One reason it took us a while to clear the streets of garbage was there was no garbage service once the government fell. But when we organized the new service, there were no garbage trucks…they were all looted. I would get so mad when I’d ride through Baghdad and see a garbage truck, no garbage at all in the back because now it is some family’s ride.

But the streets are clean now. And Iraqi’s everyday contribute more and more to their own upkeep. They are finding their pride and acting on it.

We’re on our sixth Chief of Police now. We kept hiring a chief, then firing the cheif because he’d turn out to be on the take. These folks are masters of subversion. For 35 years they were on the take. The police under Saddam never left the police station unless they were called. So if you called one night and said “my house is being robbed” the police would say “Well, we are very busy tonight…how much money do you have.” That is the way policing worked under the Ba’ath party. If you were not a party member you had to buy police assistance.

And then, there was no detective work under these police…once you paid them they would ask you who you thought committed the crime, then they would go to that persons house and kill or torture everyone inside.

And so our wonderful MPs from New York are teaching the new police we are hiring how to be police in our sense of the term. But it is a slow prospect, because the culture of being corrupt is so ingrained. If we hire 400 policemen, we’ll eventually fire 300 of those because we won’t tolerate their being on the take. There are 9 police stations in the 1st Brigade area…we have an MP with a translator on duty in each one 24 hours per day. And when the MP has reason to believe the policeman is shaking someone down, we fire him. It is all about demonstrating resolve through action.

And one thing you quickly learn about Iraqis. They respect action. Talk is cheap…but they respect action.

And I’ll tell you this. I’ve had Iraqis tell me they respect American soldiers more than any other entity they have ever encountered. They respect our soldiers because they are disciplined, courteous, firm, and they do what they say they will do all the while treating the Iraqis with fairness, dignity and respect.

Meanwhile, we continue to clean up the city…on any given day we run upwards of 300 patrols in our area alone. We have the Iraqi Police walking along side so they will learn and earn the respect of their countrymen.

We are cleaning up the black market area too – watch the news because we have publicized that the black market area will be eliminated on 6 July. Now they will challenge us on that, because they believe talk is cheap. But on the 6th of July a platoon of soldiers will escort Bradley Fighting Vehicles into this area and will roll over the tables and stands. They respect action.

Meanwhile we are building a legitimate market place for legitimate commerce. We consulted with the locals about where it should be and what it should include. And suddenly these folks who have never had a say in anything, they are taking charge of themselves and their neighborhoods.

Also on July 6th the Baghdad City Council will meet for the first time. These are Iraqis elected first to district councils, then regional councils and then to the city council. Understand what this means. On that day for the first time in 35 years representatives of the people will sit across the table from the Ministers of the various departments and Iraqis will discuss with Iraqis what needs doing, how it will get done, and the Americans will begin the long process of simply fading into the background.

Make no mistake about it…progress is happening everywhere you look in Baghdad. Yes, the press reports on the shootings. But for every bad story there is I can show you one-hundred good stories.

And none of this would be happening but for your soldiers being there.

Be prepared…for when your soldier returns he will be 15 years wiser and more mature. We have privates making decisions in Iraq that back in garrison Lieutenant Colonels would be making.

And Captains making decisions that only Generals would make were we back home. Your soldiers are making things happen.

I spoke to Mr. Bremer. I told him I thought we were not doing well getting the story out about the progress being made. I hope to be able to have some influence on that in my next job.

Finally, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are beginning to flood into Baghdad where previously they were not there. Why now? Because Baghdad is secure now. They demonstrate their acknowledgement of that fact by their presence. And with these NGOs come a lot of money. I spoke to one lady from a certain NGO the other day who said “I’ve got $90 Million to spend in the next three weeks…who should I talk to.” These agencies will mean a sharp increase in relief to the average Iraqi.
I’ve read the papers here over the last two days. I can see you folks are starved for news.

I’ve been impressed with the coverage by Fox News. They have been fair with us, interested in us and what we are doing. We even brought them in to cover some of the raids, from the planning to execution, from soup to nuts. It would be nice if we got Fox News Channel around the clock here in Europe, but at least the folks back home are seeing good stuff.
The 1st Brigade is bigger than it has ever been with various attachments. For instance we have 3-124 Infantry from the Florida National Guard. These guys are great. Remember, all these Guard guys have day jobs. And in many cases they are doctors, engineers, civic leaders, cable installers, construction contractors…all of which are incredibly valuable skill sets to have under our circumstances.

And then there is the 802d MP Company attached to the brigade. That’s an additional forty something Hummvees. An incredible supplement. And many of these guys are the boys in blue, policemen from New York. Some are detectives. It is unbelievable how much they have taught us. I mean, a bunch of infantrymen and tankers – what do they know about preserving the crime scene…we’re trained to destroy. So these guys bring and teach skill sets we simply must have.

The spectrum of bad guys runs from thugs, through organized crime all the way to paramilitaries. The thugs and such are not much of a problem….they are just thugs. Our first priority is the paramilitaries.

The paramilitaries are mostly Ba’ath party members who were accustomed to being the privileged class in Iraq for 35 years. And now their privilege has been removed. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by sabotaging US efforts on the part of the Iraqi people. And they continue to spread rumors that Saddam is alive and it is only a matter of time before the Ba’ath party returns to power.

But we have to be careful not too attribute everything to Ba’ath party members. Sometimes the bad guys doing the shooting are just drunk. Or, sometimes it is a crime of passion, boyfriends jealous of their girlfriends working for the Americans as translators.

There is a huge unemployed element of the population. Many of these are former Iraqi soldiers. But let’s understand this…the Iraqi Army was 20 times larger than it needed to be. These soldiers were part of Saddam’s strength, extra power to intimidate the Iraqi people.

What follows is my recollecton from notes and memory of the discussion led by COL Tucker. While I am confident that the gist of the main points is accurate, I have taken creative license in organizing the thoughts and crafting them into what appears to be a script to make for easy reading.

I do not make any representation to actually quote COL Tucker here.

In the end if there is any disparity between the words presented here and that which COL Tucker actually said, the error is mine and I accept the responsibility of such.

Today we will take a different approach to CPT Patti's web site.

Today we take time out to get the news from Baghdad directly from a soldier who returned from there only yesterday.

COL Tucker, who up until yesterday commanded the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, held a wonderful session today in Friedberg for families of deployed soldiers.

Saying he had read the papers back here over the last two days, "I can see that you folks are starved for news."

And so the colonel made it his mission to give us that news.

And in the end, hearing the first person perspective is so much more satisfying than scouring the internet for news.

For the colonel's story reminds us that the news outlets are very much like flies - they swarm first to that which is rotten.

Be patient while I post these over the next hour or two. And then - again - be proud of your soldiers.

We've featured Victor Davis Hanson here before.

Read this piece and be proud of your soldiers.
It seems just as true that the military has somehow distilled from the rest of us Americans an elite cohort with the most direct ties to the old breed of the sort who fought at Okinawa, rolled with Patton, and reconstituted Japan. Such soldiers somehow remain oblivious to unfounded criticism, confident in their own prowess, and convinced that their nation and its military are clear forces for good.

Because of such men and women, and despite so many other forces beyond their control, Iraq will not be lost to gangs and criminals, much less to Baathists, pan-Arabists, and Islamicists, who are not so much fueled by ideology as the desire for power and its accompanying material benefits for a tiny few.

We are reaching a great tipping point in Iraq, where the American soldier seeks to impose security and implant freedom faster than former Baathists try to erode it. The Iraqi Street we see so often on the sidelines is watching the struggle, unsure whether to re-hang their pictures of Saddam Hussein now ensconced beneath their sofas or to come forward and join the great experiment with freedom and consensual government.

And through it all the American soldier is asked to do what no others could do — and yet does so with grace under fire. On July 4th we should remember all this and the rare breed who, thank God, are on our side.

Sadly, he didn't make it.
A U.S. soldier who was wounded on Tuesday in an attack on his military convoy in Baghdad has died from his injuries, the U.S. military said on Wednesday.

The soldier belonged to the 352nd Civil Affair Command -- a non-combat unit -- which had been involved primarily in the reconstruction of post-war Iraq, assessing which public works projects have priority and assigning funds to them, a spokeswoman said.

The story is here.

This article raises the possibility that this man was murdered because of his past ties with Saddam Hussein...or because he has recently disavowed the former dictator.
In Tikrit, Abdullah Mahmoud al-Khattab, leader of Saddam’s Bani al-Nasiri tribe, was shot and killed Sunday afternoon while he rode in his car.

Gov. Hussein al-Jubouri said al-Khattab’s son, Odai, also suffered a wound when assailants fired from a pickup and fled the scene.

The killing highlighted the shifting alliances that have characterized Iraq as the country emerges from 35 years of brutal, one-man rule. Even those eager to distance themselves from Saddam often pay dearly for their past links to him.

Al-Khattab "had many enemies, and he had confiscated a lot of properties and killed many people," the governor said, adding, "The person who killed him could have taken revenge."

Several Tikrit residents said that possibly Saddam loyalists angered at the tribal leader’s public disavowal of the ousted dictator killed the tribal chief.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 2d. The 52d day of CPT Patti's deployment.

I am proud to report that less than 18 hours after receiving her shopping list via e-mail, 100% of the items she requested are en route to Baghdad.

Proud of me?

Tuesday, July 01, 2003


CPT Patti's father, Pastor Paul writes that he and Mrs. Pastor Paul also got a note from our girl today.

He reports:
Oh blessed of days!

A note from our daughter.

She says they have running water and they have made their own showers. She says they get a shower a day . . . I guess in Iraq, when you are trying to drain a swamp, you are up to your hips in CLEAN gators!

She also reports that MREs are the normal ration-for-the-day as fresh food is still not abundant. Their hopes are that with the improvement of the transportation system, rations will improve.

Despite her very, very hectic schedule she declares, "God is good, and He is helping me every day." My, my, what a daughter to be proud of.

Blessings to you all.

And to you and the Mrs., Pastor Paul.

Ya'll did real good raising that one.

An email note from our girl!!!! I'll share part of it with you.
Other Duck!! Finally, an internet connection!...

You are the most amazing and best husband in the whole world!! I love getting all your packages. It's so wonderful receiving everything you send me.

Yes, I have received all your boxes with everything you have sent me. Thank you thank you thank you!

It was so very good to see your face and hear your voice yesterday at the VTC. It was also a little frustrating since it was so short. Hopefully it will get better.

I want you to know that I am doing well. I'm taking good care of myself healthwise. I have only had 2 days since May 11th that I didn't feel good.

All my soldiers are doing well too. They are amazing people! We are doing so much out here! It's really crazy busy and very intense right now.

Please send me a new watch, more beef jerky, a hard plastic ice cooler (medium sized) for carrying out to the Hummv for
trips, some bungy cords, more contact lenses and toliet paper.

You are so incredible! You are taking such good care of me so far away.

I love you very much, LBD

Now I gotta ask ya. How could you not just move heaven and earth to get her anything she wants when she makes it sound as if I single handedly hung the moon.

By the way, feel free to add beef jerky to your standard packing list. Apparently she's living on it.

Gotta go shopping RIGHT NOW.

This is disgusting. And I hope you will remember this during the 2004 election.
Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, is single-handedly blocking Senate action on legislation all but unanimously supported by the House to ease the student-loan burden for soldiers fighting overseas.

In April, the House voted 421-1 to pass the HEROES Act, which essentially would defer student loans for soldiers called into action...

"Apparently, presidential politics got involved," Mr. Kline said.

One Republican staffer on the Senate education panel said Mr. Edwards is holding up the bill so that he can take top credit for passing it later.

"Edwards likes this issue and he wants to see his name on it," the staffer said.

Mr. Edwards and his office initially denied responsibility for blocking the bill at all.

"I just talked to Senator Edwards," Mr. Graham said as he stepped off the Senate floor last week. "He said if he has a hold on it, he didn't know about it. He didn't even know about the bill."

Told last week that everyone involved with the legislation adamantly said that Mr. Edwards put the hold on it, Edwards spokesman Mike Briggs replied, "They're adamantly wrong."

Yesterday, however, Mr. Briggs acknowledged that his boss was stalling the bill.

"We support this bill, but Senator Edwards wants his amendment voted on," he said. "He wants to make a good bill better."

Oh really Senator? Then why did you so vigorously even knowing about the bill at all just last week?

Do you honestly think we are that stupid?

Read the whole hand-in-the-cookie-jar-story here.

Saddam's half brother oversees torture on video tape.
"Go on, go on," Hasan al-Tikriti tells his khaki-clad ministry police as they repeatedly slash prisoners with sticks, electric cables and metal bars at a Baghdad detention center. the Washington Times reported. The police kick the prisoners again and again, the Times said.

Hasan was captured April 13 as he apparently attempted to flee to Syria and is being held in a coalition prison...

The gruesome pictures, with testimony by one of the beaten prisoners, are expected to be of value in building a criminal prosecution against Hasan.

Question: what sort of freak video tapes stuff like this?

Story here.

UPDATE: My dear friend Defense Contractor Guy writes today about this story..."And where is Amnesty International when you need them?"

For which we award Defense Contractor Guy the highly prized Good Point of the Day Award.

This Christian Science Monitor article seems to indicate so.
"There is a debate," the mayor says. "When you go to the street, people say: 'We are against the Americans.' But sheikhs, imams, and educated people say: 'Don't hurt the Americans, because that hurts us, too.'"

Mayor Hamid even presided over a meeting last Friday during which religious leaders in Fallujah "agreed that it was no longer allowed to shoot Americans in the city, and instead to work with the Americans. All of them agreed."

That shifting attitude reflects the results of a first-ever poll of Iraqis, reported by CBS earlier this month, that nearly two-thirds of Baghdad residents want US forces to stay until Iraq is stable and secure, and that only 17 percent want US troops to go home immediately.

"Foreign troops gear up to enter Iraq."
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the international troops — up to 20,000 of them — are "gearing up" to go to Iraq.

One division will be led by the United Kingdom and the other by Poland, and there is a potential for a third division, he said.

"The flow would start in probably July, August and probably finish out in September," Gen. Myers told reporters.

Gen. Myers said "five or six countries or more" will add troops to the divisions. A third international peacekeeping division could be led by India, defense officials said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the foreign troops would reduce the burden on the U.S. military.

"The more that are there, the fewer of U.S. troops we have to have," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

And I say Amen to that.

Wonder why the UN Weapons Inspectors never came across this?
One of the documents, from 2001, was titled “Document burial and U.N. activities in Iraq,” the sources said. It gave detailed instructions on how to hide materials and deceive U.N. weapons inspectors, the sources said.

Other documents related to the concealment of VX nerve gas, the sources said.

The sources said U.S. troops also discovered about 300 sacks of castor beans, which are used to make the deadly biological agent ricin, hidden in a warehouse in the town of al-Aziziyah, 50 miles southeast of Baghdad, the capital. The castor beans were inaccurately labeled as fertilizer.

U.S. search teams have also been led to a site near Nasiriyah, a key Euphrates River crossing 200 miles south of Baghdad, where Iraqi informants said Scud missiles were buried.

There is more. Read it here.

Arab women debating the nature of Iraq's next government. And believe it or not, some support the Barefoot and Pregnant Party:

"In the last couple of months, political Islamic groups have forced themselves into society and given orders that everyone needs to veil," Mohammed said in an interview at the headquarters of the communist party.

"They have gone into schools demanding that girls only stay there up to the sixth grade," says Om Feras, the mother of four children and a full-time homemaker. She and her female neighbors, who all wear the Islamic headscarf, gather often in each other's homes and debate the political landscape of Iraq.

"I prefer an Islamic government because crimes will be less, people will be afraid of God and behave well and will not be aggressive with each other," she said. "But we want a moderate Islamic government that doesn't force us to wear hijab (headscarf) or Islamic dress for women or force things on us, but gives us the choice."

A moderate Islamic government?

I think we just invented a new oxymoron here.

Read it all.

Until the past few days, US military officials had insisted that the attacks were merely a product of the final rooting out of the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime. Now they are beginning to float the idea that US forces face several different opposition forces - and military experts outside the government concur with that assessment.

"There are disgruntled Iraqis, upset about house searches or whatever, who might throw rocks or the occasional grenade," said retired Maj. Gen. William Nash, now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "And at the other end of the spectrum, there are members of the old regime, reinforced by foreign fighters, that are looking more organized every day."

See it here.

Wow! Interesting story.
Saddam Hussein's former military intelligence chief has left for the desert around Samara north of Baghdad to track down Saddam Hussein, who he alleges is hiding out there.

"We have various pieces of information saying he's present in the region, even if no one's seen him," Wafiq al-Samarrai said Sunday. "I'm leaving today to search for Saddam and his partisans."

"We will share information we'll gather with the Americans," said the founder and secretary general of the National Salvation Movement, who has no military forces under his control apart from personal security guards.

Samarrai, who defected in 1994 and became an Iraqi opposition figure, said his decision to launch the hunt was cemented after an overnight attack on his house by "men loyal to Saddam."

Good luck Samarrai.
Four US soldiers were killed and two others wounded Tuesday in a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack on their vehicle by unknown assailants in central Baghdad, witnesses told Agence France-Presse.

The attack occurred at 10:00 am (0600 GMT) when assailants fired an RPG at a US Humvee light multi-wheeled vehicle near a gas station in the al-Mustansiriya neighborhood, they said.

Appears this is in the Task Force 1/36 Infantry area of Baghdad. More details to come I'm sure. But the rest of this sketchy account can be found here.


On Tuesday, assailants traveling in a vehicle in the Mustansiryah neighborhood of central Baghdad fired a rocket propelled-grenade at a U.S. military vehicle, destroying it and likely causing casualties, Iraqi witnesses said.

One witness, 19-year-old Ali Ibrahim Shakir, said he saw two U.S. soldiers being evacuated onto stretchers. He said he could not tell if the soldiers had been hurt or killed.

A Mercedes traveling alongside the U.S. vehicle was also hit, wounding the Iraqi civilian who was driving it, said witness Mohammed Abdullah. After the attack, three U.S. helicopters hovered over the site. Military spokesmen in Baghdad said they had no immediate information.

Also Tuesday, witnesses said another rocket-propelled grenade slammed into a U.S. truck on a road 12 miles south of Baghdad. The witnesses said that attack caused four casualties but there was no immediate confirmation from the military.

The rest is here

What an amazing outpouring of love by this Florida community.
It took just a week of fund raising for the Gilchrist County Historical Society to find a way to get the sisters of a wounded soldier to Texas to see her being awarded the Purple Heart.

Pfc. Candice May, a 2001 Bell High graduate, was wounded while on a patrol in Baghdad in early June. Although May's Kevlar vest saved her life, she remains at Fort Bliss in Texas trying to regain use of her injured left hand.

She will be the first Gilchrist County resident to be awarded a Purple Heart since the turn of the century.

May's parents, step-parents and siblings were unable to afford to travel to Fort Bliss for the Wednesday award ceremony, so the historical society opened up a fund at the Tri-County Bank in Trenton.

On Monday morning, the fund had nearly reached $1,900, enough for May's father, John W. May Jr. to rent a car and pay for motels, meals and gas to get his two youngest daughters, Jennifer, 16, and Katie, 10, to Texas and back.

Read the whole story here.

I won't say it can't happen, but you will recall that we refused to target mosques during the height of the war when we knew they contained bad guys shooting at us.

So my guess is the soldiers version of this one is probably right on the money.

You see, the Iraqi's know that we won't violate a mosque. Which allows them to do it...just as they did schools and hospitals during the war.

I guess such violations don't matter unless it is the "infidels" doing the violating.
A huge explosion destroyed a mosque in central Iraq last night, killing at least five Iraqis and injuring four others, witnesses and officials said.

Iraqi civilians claimed that the explosion, which happened in Fallujah, was caused by a missile or bomb strike. The claim was denied by US soldiers at the scene, who said that the blast was likely to have been caused when explosives hidden at the site blew up...

Hours after the explosion, dozens of people gathered around the rubble of the destroyed mosque, shouting anti-US slogans.

"There is no God but Allah: America is the enemy of God," they chanted as a crane lifted large pieces of concrete from the site.

But whatever the cause, this will probably fan the flames in Fallujah.

Read it here.
Adele Allen has had years to grow accustomed to the worries that come with being a military mother.

Her son, Sgt. Tracy Louis Allen, 37, joined the Army just out of high school nearly 20 years ago. Since then, he has found adventure waiting at every turn, fighting in the first Gulf War and serving a six-month peacekeeping mission in war-torn Kosovo.

Mrs. Allen knows all too well stories of the dreaded knock at the door by a uniformed officer, so when her Saturday afternoon nap was interrupted by a knock at the door a million thoughts ran through her mind. Her fear grew when she peeped around her curtain to see a nervous looking Sumter police officer on the front porch of her Oakland Avenue home.

“He was standing there looking rather awkward,” she said. “Of course it couldn’t have been easy for him.”

The news, that Sgt. Allen was wounded in a grenade attack late Friday as his convoy made its way through a neighborhood northeast of Baghdad, was unbelievable. The police officer gave her the number of an officer with the U.S. Casualty Office, who gave her specific information on her son’s injuries.

Mrs. Allen sounds like a very special woman. Read her entire story here.

PVT Frantz was stationed with us in Friedberg.
He'd been a soldier for less than a year, but in that short time, 19-year-old Army Pvt. Robert Lewis Frantz made sacrifices that his friends, family and fellow soldiers say they'll never forget.

About 250 mourners filled Dodd Field Chapel at Fort Sam Houston on Monday to remember the life of the young soldier who was killed last month while serving in Iraq...

The silence in the chapel was lifted by the harmonious voices of Clarissa Fredericks, a family friend, and her sister Chica, who stood near Frantz's flag-draped casket and sang "This Too Shall Pass."

Frantz's girlfriend, Ana Perez, 20, honored him with a poem. They had planned to marry.

Please pray for God's protection for all our loved ones.
Meanwhile, in Najaf, about 100 miles south of Baghdad, U.S. forces arrested Abdul Munim Abud, a former army colonel who was named acting mayor over two months ago by the U.S. military. Abud, who was detained with 61 of his aides, was charged with kidnapping, stealing government funds, attacking a bank official and pressuring government employees to commit financial crimes, an official with the U.S.-led occupation authority said.

Abud, who presented himself to U.S. forces as a well-connected and skilled administrator, was appointed by the military commander in Najaf shortly after U.S. troops established control of the city in April. Although the move angered a conclave of clerics in Najaf who are the spiritual leaders of Iraq's Shiites, U.S. military officials had refused to remove him.

"We've always said we'll make mistakes as this process goes on,'' the official with the occupation authority said. ``Given how he's behaved, it was a mistake.''

But I don't have a better idea under the circumstances.

Two steps forward, one step back.

Read it all here.
“It tastes like you’re back at home,” said Marine Lance Cpl. Michael C. Hassler, who’s from Lexington, S.C., and currently with the Combat Service Support Operations Center at Camp Fox.

Hassler and fellow Southerner Lance Cpl. Brandon Perry, true to their Southern roots, started making sun-brewed tea in tall water bottles.

“I just made it one day. I made it for myself,” Hassler says. But it was so good he started making it for others.

The tea is made by throwing a few tea bags purchased from the post exchange into bottles of water and leaving them in the sun to work its magic. For those who like it sweetened, sugar from individual sugar packets is added.

The result goes down smooth and sweet.

Indeed it does.

In addition to this being a neat story, I wanted my Sis-in-law (originally from SC, now in the other SC - Southern California) to see it.

The whole story is here.
TUESDAY, JULY 1st. The 51st day of CPT Patti's deployment.

I saw CPT Patti's beautifully tanned face on a video teleconference yesterday.

It wasn't like having a real conversation.

But I did get to see her smiling face. And that was worth the price of admission.

Monday, June 30, 2003


Even more on my good friend, and yours, Baghdad Bob.
Well, it turns out he lied about a lot of stuff, including his hair color, which he apparently got from a bottle. Nevertheless, he says in a recent television interview, quoted by the Los Angeles Times, "The information was correct, but the interpretations were not."

As for those reports we told you about last month saying al-Sahhaf was trying to surrender to U.S. forces, but they wouldn't take him because he's not one of their 55 Most Wanted Iraqis, al-Sahhaf himself says it's all true. Pentagon officials disagree.

A spokesman says U.S. troops haven't spoken to al-Sahhaf, but "feel free to believe him, he has such a good track record."

I got that story here.

Got an unanticipated visit in the office today by the officer who up until about 4 days ago was CPT Patti's boss, the (now former) commander of the Provider Battalion.

The colonel is in town for a week or two to say hello to his family, wash his clothes and such before turning around and heading back to Iraq to take on his next assignment with the 1st Armored Division.

It was a blessing to talk to the colonel. And while talking to him can't make the danger in Baghdad go away, he put it into better perspective for me.

According to him we are doing an awful lot of good in that country.

He says the average Iraqi says the Americans need to be there 100 years. "We have no government and no experience beyond criminals in will need to teach us" he reports as being a common sentiment.

He also says that every day things get a little bit better - for the Iraqis and for the soldiers.

He says to expect our soldiers to return "15 years wiser."

While he has no information to indicate when communications might get much better, he did indicate that AT&T is coming into Baghdad in July with large banks of phones that they will move from one part of Baghdad to another so everyone gets access to phoning home.

And that would be a good thing.

While he said he wouldn't kid me...that Baghdad can be a dangerous place, he says our soldiers are confident and capable and professional. He said "continue to be concerned...but do not worry."

And he said the prayers help. So lets keep on praying please.

Colonel, you made this Army husband's day. Thanks for taking the time.

Gary Loew, director of planning for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Restore Iraq Oil, said rampant pillaging of Iraq's oil network now accounts for more than $800 million of infrastructure repair costs already in excess of $1 billion.

"We're estimating that about three quarters of the damages are due to looting," he said.

Read it all here.

Amnesty International finds the needle in the haystack.
It also described the case of four brothers, arrested after a shooting, who were hooded and had their hands bound tightly with plastic strips, a common procedure here.

"We spent our first night in custody lying on the ground in a school. We had no access to a toilet and were given no food or water," Amnesty reported one of the brothers as saying.

The four told Amnesty that they were held in the heat of the sun for more than two days and not given enough water for washing.

So - here is my idea. Let's let some gun-happy Iraqi take a few shots at some Amnesty International type...and lets see how generous the response is.

Read the whole apologetic mass of claptrap here.

Well, sort of.

Just got back from the VTC from down range.

Four families from our company were present, but only three of those families soldiers were on the other end.

The connection kept breaking. There were times we could hear them but not see them, times we could neither see nor hear them.

And occasionally we could see and hear them.

Please understand that "see" is a relative term. The pictures displayed by these VTC cameras and transmitted along phone lines are very grainy, and actually are a series of individual snapshots...not real moving pictures.

Still - Our girl looks GREAT!

She was obviously very tan in the face...which set off that huge wonderful smile of hers so well.

They said their living conditions are improving daily...the First Sergeant said they are not usually in any for us not to worry.

They are still eating mostly MREs.

And the one thing everybody can use is an ice chest, or cooler. Apparently they can get ice...they need the ice chest to cool off drinks.

I'll be buying one today of course. Oh, along with a heavy duty scrub brush the 1SG says they need to help with doing laundry.

Beyond that CPT Patti said that 99% of her soldiers are in good health.

All in all I don't recommend the VTC as an effective form of communications.

But if you haven't laid eyes on your darling for a while - well - it is a wonderful thing.
Unorthodox requests from Iraq keep arriving here by e-mail.

First came a request for a sewing machine. Then for 100 pounds of spaghetti and canned tomatoes and clams. The latest is yeast for homemade Italian tomato pie.

The requests come pouring in from Capt. Michael CiarroccaCQ of Cherry Hill, commander of the only New Jersey Army National Guard unit in Iraq, to his armory back in Cape May Court House.

The family support group of the unit - the 253rd Transportation Company - has been busy granting the commander's wishes for his troops and trying to fulfill family needs at home.

In an e-mail to the Courier-Post, Ciarrocca wrote that he is eagerly awaiting the ingredients for the spaghetti dinner, which he will prepare for his troops.

"I experimented making gnocchi (a pasta and potato dumpling) last week and it worked out fine . . . 100 boxes (of spaghetti) would be perfect for my next dinner party," wrote Ciarrocca, who is Italian and loves to cook.

His wife, Evelin, said that sounds just like her husband.

"He wants to do for them all - not just the officers. He would rather cook than do things like play cards," said Evelin, who regularly relays e-mail messages from him to soldier families.

The article mentions "family support groups". We have those here as well, but these days they are called Family Readiness Groups or FRGs.

And it is really neat to see how folks can pull together to support the unit from way back here.

Read the whole story here.
"I'm assuming he's still alive, and we will get our hands on him, dead or alive," Paul Bremer, who heads the U.S.-led administration in Iraq, told CNN Sunday.

Asked why it was so hard to find Saddam, Bremer said: "(Iraq is) a big place... He had 30 years to build himself safe houses, palaces, tunnels, we don't know what."

Read the whole thing here.
The Chris family has a long history of military service, and Andrew Chris felt a calling to become a part of it, his brother said. Both of Chris' grandfathers were in World War II, his father served in the Army, his uncle in the Special Forces and his brother, Derek, in the Navy.

"Derek and I have come to almost a peace in ourselves over Andrew's death, because he was spiritually and emotionally ready," Josh Chris said. "We're just so proud of him, and that helps with the pain of missing him.

"He went through some of the most rigorous training in the world just to be a Ranger. But he loved it. He'd go on a 20-mile hike with a 60-pound pack and call me that night and be in a great mood."

Read his entire story here.

This story is a pretty good rundown on the various theories.
Many Iraqis, however, say that last week's large-scale power outages in sweltering Baghdad, combined with the country's gun culture, growing irritation over a lack of jobs and frustration over slow progress toward creating an Iraqi government, mean that almost anyone could be pointing a weapon at U.S. troops.

"A man who cannot find bread in his house will raise his sword against the governor," Selman said, reciting a 1,000-year-old Muslim saying. Iraqis, he said, also are wondering why the Americans, with their organizational might, can't manage to keep the electricity on almost two months after the official end of the war.

"If the Americans can bring in all these tanks, why not generators?" he said.

Read it all.
All of the challenges of rebuilding Iraq, and its police force, seemed to coalesce in a moment — the battle between the progress represented by the revamped police college and the continuing chaos and mounting security threats that threaten to swamp it.

Even as they start trying to teach democratic policing, the Americans here are confronting both basic problems, like how to set pay levels and get the money, and larger ones, like how to identify and purge Baathists from the force.

Superiors are grappling with the new phenomenon of insubordination in the ranks, while officers on the street are facing defiance — and more — from a no-longer-fearful public. Today, as two officers gave chase, thieves sprayed them with Kalashnikov fire.

All of this must be fixed, and soon.

Iraq is being remade in its entirety, with every institution — education, health care, the justice system, the economy — being reinvented. The world has done this kind of thing before, from Bosnia to East Timor, with mixed results. But it has not been done on such a large scale since the Marshall Plan, nor has America tried to do so much alone.

Without security, all else stalls. Doctors will not staff hospitals at night. Contractors will not repair buildings, roads and bridges. Investors will not put their money here. Iraqis are already growing to resent Americans who occupy Iraq but cannot protect them.

For now, the American military is Iraq's police force, operating 1,000 daily patrols nationwide. But the military is a blunt instrument for the job, and as attacks on American troops increase, it must balance protecting Iraqis with protecting itself. More important, no one — not the Americans, and certainly not the Iraqis — wants the American military policing Iraq forever.

Its a good story. Read it here.
The shaky relationship between occupier and occupied came to the fore in a confrontation Sunday morning in Fallujah, a restive town west of Baghdad that's seen a number of attacks on U.S. troops since the Americans shot and killed 20 protesters during a demonstration in April.

A shouting match broke out when an Iraqi civilian, Jamal Shalal Habib al-Mahemdi, accused a U.S. soldier of stealing $600 from his car.

The soldier tried to wave the man on, but, at the behest of bystanders, his superior officer, Sgt. James A. Phillips, searched his pockets and found the money. Phillips then returned the bills to al-Mahemdi, who waved them above his head and cursed the soldier.

It was not clear if the soldier, whose name was not immediately available, would be disciplined. Maj. Sean Gibson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said he had not heard of the incident but was sure it would be investigated.

I think I can answer that question...if this turns out to be true that soldier will be severely disciplined.

This is contrary to the Army Values...and one incident like this can have massive repercussions among a populace whose hearts and minds it is important that we win over.

I'll try to find a follow up on this when it happens. Meanwhile, read the whole thing here
MONDAY, JUNE 30th. The 50th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

And if everything goes well I will be in a video-teleconference (VTC) with my sweet darling wife for about an hour.

The Commanders in Baghdad are going to have a VTC for Family Readiness Group Leaders back here...and I just happen to be "acting" FRG leader since ours is out of town.

The purpose will be for us to be able to update each other and for the FRG leaders then to provide up-to-date information to the other spouses here.

But the side benefit is I get to see her cute face!

Wish me luck that everything works!

Sunday, June 29, 2003


Now, a proposed Operation Iraqi Freedom shoulder patch for those who served in the conflict.

With thanks to K3.
The number 12 in the American pack of cards of most wanted Iraqis, Sayf al-Din Fulayyih Hassan, chief of staff of the Republican Guard, has revealed that on April 11, two days after Baghdad was captured by American forces, Saddam Hussain while driving through the city's streets told his two sons that they must accept defeat and go their separate ways...

Sayf has told about the last days before the fall of Baghdad to the Sunday Times though an intermediary. While claiming that Saddam has stayed on in Iraq, he denies any knowledge of the former Iraqi President's exact location...

Syf said that Saddam while driving around with his sons told them, " It's over. It's over" and they all must split up and go separate ways. Saddam Hussain thought that splitting up would give them a better chance to survive, although the younger son sobbingly pleaded that he be allowed to go in hiding...

Sayf , according to the report, had been hiding until the last week in a small town after faking his death and holing a mock funeral. Only close relatives knew of his whereabouts...

Sayf has also conveyed that Americans would find it very difficult to catch Saddam. " He (Saddam) has spent his life hiding from enemies. He is very wily and look they haven't been able to capture even me."...

We need to find all of them.

By the way...I haven't seen this story in the Western press, this story comes from India.

Read the whole story here.

But if you read the story you will note that these three were talking on a guarantee of anonymity.

And these are three of our guys...described as "senior members of the coalition military and civilian authorities in Iraq.

Which begs the question...why the need for anonymity?
“We have the forces present in this country to accomplish our mission,” he said.

But he admitted that more weapons and combatants from other countries opposed to American policies may be entering the country, just as American troops confront those already here.

“We’re trying to re-establish Iraqi control of the borders,” he said. “We’ve got hundreds or thousands [of miles] of desert territory that we can’t control. We’re not going to defeat them by trying to control the borders. That’s an impossible task.”

The two senior members of the military’s civilian counterpart didn’t use “impossible” while describing the country’s current power situation, but they weren’t painting a rosy picture, either.

One of them detailed the sources of electricity in Iraq, stating the country generated about 56 percent through thermal plants. Add another 23 percent from the burning of natural gas and about 80 percent comes from the conversion of petroleum. The rest comes from water projects.

The production was virtually at zero when coalition forces took control of the country but has increased currently to about 3,100 megawatts a day. But that’s not close to meeting the country’s needs.

One megawatt, the official said, is enough to light about 1,000 homes.

He said recent attacks on the power grid have disrupted the flow of electricity into Baghdad. He also inferred that residents in the country’s largest city notice the electricity shortage more than others because they had generally received more power than other areas during Saddam’s regime.

“I think it’s fair to say that about 80 percent of the population of Iraq has more power now than they did during the regime,” the official said.

Read it all here.

My bet is the soldiers already have a colorful nickname for this road...something like Suicide Highway or Ambush Alley.

Black humor such as this is one way soldiers deal with stresses.
Two U.S. soldiers were wounded and an Iraqi civilian killed Sunday morning when a military convoy was attacked on a highway in Baghdad, U.S. military officials said.

The Americans were assigned to the U.S. Army's 18th Military Police Brigade, the official said. The extent of their wounds is unknown.

The convoy was hit by an unidentified explosive device as it traveled along Highway 8, a main road between Baghdad and the airport, the official said.

Read it all here.

The story of Baghdad Bob gets more unbelievable at every turn.
Mohammed Saeed Al Sahhaf was paid $200,000 to give his first interview since the war.

Al Arabiya, a television station based in the United Arab Emirates, admitted that it deposited the money in a Dubai bank account held by Sahhaf's son.

"We were trying to get the interview for several weeks. We managed to get his agreement but only after we gave him some promises and $200,000," said Dr Saad Al Hasani, head of Al Arabiya's Baghdad bureau.

"He was very gentle and relaxed, but when it came to the end of the interview he was very tough.

"He got all the tapes and took them outside to make a phone call to his son. He asked if the money had been paid into his bank account, and when his son said, 'Yes, it is OK', he gave us the tapes back."

See the related entry on June 28th.

This story found here.
And at the barracks of the 1st Armored Division artillery battery, Pvt. Jonathan Mayberry, a soft-spoken 20-year-old from Tifton, Ga., was off patrol duty after being wounded twice in five days. Shrapnel hit him in the back of his head when an explosive detonated behind his Humvee on June 22; debris struck him in the face when someone rolled a grenade under his vehicle the previous Wednesday.

"Everybody's scared out there. If somebody says they're not, they're lying," Mayberry said.

Amen, brother.

Read more here.
A group of 1st Armored Division soldiers, who stopped on a Baghdad street yesterday to buy air conditioning units for a military office under construction, said they have come under regular fire while traveling around Baghdad and are convinced that the attacks are being coordinated at some level.

Fuel convoys in particular are being targeted, apparently in an effort to cut off supplies, they said, and attackers appear to have tracked the movements and schedules of military vehicles, especially those along the highway from Baghdad's main airport.

"I don't know how, but they've got their stuff together," said Staff Sgt. Aaron Williams, 32, who was involved in a 35-minute gunbattle with attackers several weeks ago.

U.S. troops said they are responding to the heightened risk of ambush by increasing briefings and drills, and by trying not to let their concentration lapse while on patrol.

"You have to look mean and tough going down the road. Every soldier in the convoy knows exactly how to react to fire and ambushes," said 1st Sgt. Jeff Holsather, 36, part of a 1st Armored Division engineering unit, who was in Baghdad yesterday to buy supplies.

I hate that part about the fuel convoys. Many of CPT Patti's soldiers do just that as their military occupational specialty.

Read more here.
Mohammed, 12, was shot and killed by an American soldier late Thursday night as he stood on the roof of the family's home in western Baghdad, making him one of the youngest civilians killed in Iraq since combat operations ended May 1. For Americans struggling to understand why violence continues to erupt against U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the story of Mohammed's death may be instructive.

U.S. officials said Mohammed had an AK-47 in his hand and posed a threat to soldiers who were conducting a weapons search nearby. Mohammed's family says he was on the roof to escape the heat and to get a better look at the soldiers. He had no weapon, they said.

All the children, when the Army comes at night, they go to the roof to watch them, Al-Kubaysi said. He was just a boy.

The U.S. military says that it is investigating.

"It was dark and the soldier saw a silhouette on a rooftop. He had to make a decision and he engaged. It's a tough call to make. I'm sure the soldier regrets it," said Major Scott Slaten, a spokesman for the Army's 1st Armored Division.

"But what is a 12-year-old boy doing on a rooftop with an AK-47? We've seen some cases where adults are using the child to carry their weapons. In the dark, when there is no electricity, a 12-year-old and a 20-year-old often look the same," Slaten said. "We all hate that this has happened. But we're not admitting guilt in any way, shape or form. He had a weapon." ...

On the ground, the soldier took off his helmet and sat on the ground, witnesses said. He pointed his gun at anyone who tried to approach or speak to him, they said.

Slaten defended the soldier, saying he may not have understood what the neighbors were trying to tell him. A hand pointing out a child could have also been pointing out a sniper.

"There were neighbors pointing to the roof, but there wasn't a translator," Slaten said.

Read the entire heartbraking thing here.