Saturday, September 27, 2003

A judge issued a warrant for the arrest of the three women earlier this week, and Lake County police said they were looking for Melisa Innis, of Hobart, Ind.; and Margaret Singleton and Peggy Maynard, both of Lake Station, Ind.

The three women face charges of theft and identity deception.

Investigators said the women used personal information stolen from Army Spc. Greg Sanders (pictured) and his wife -- Hobart, Ind., residents -- to run up more than $1,000 in bills for phone and electric services.

Sanders, 19, was killed by sniper fire in Iraq on March 24.
About 2,000 South Koreans marched Saturday in downtown Seoul to oppose a U.S. request that South Korea send combat troops to Iraq.

The protesters held banners and signs that said: ''We oppose the dispatch of troops,'' ''End the occupation of Iraq'' and ''Don't make young Koreans perpetrators of massacre in Iraq.''

No clashes with police were reported during the two-hour march.

The United States has asked South Korea, a major Asian ally, to dispatch thousands of combat troops to help American forces secure stability in postwar Iraq.

Opposition to the request is mounting in the country, fueled partly by an undercurrent of anti-Americanism among young or liberal South Koreans.

The government says it will consider the U.S. request only when it feels confident that tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons program will be peacefully defused.

These would be folks who, but for the US intervening 50 years ago over idealogical differences, might jolly well be starving to death under total oppression by the communists, as their North Korean brothers and sisters are.

I'll say this for freedom. You know it is working when the stupid are free to broadcast their stupidity.

More Guardsmen alerted.
The United States on Friday activated 10,000 National Guard troops for service in Iraq and put another 5,000 on alert for likely call-up after its appeal for foreign military help met no immediate response.

The 30th Infantry Brigade from North Carolina and the 39th Infantry Brigade from Arkansas, each with 5,000 soldiers, were ordered to join the active duty force on Oct. 1 and Oct. 12 respectively. They will undergo about three months of training before going to Iraq early next year for a full year.

The Army also put the 5,000-strong 81st National Guard Brigade from Washington State on notice for a likely call to active duty in Iraq.

The call-up of the part-time solders from North Carolina and Arkansas for duty in Iraq -- where the United States already has 130,000 troops -- was expected because they had earlier been alerted for probable duty.

The new alert order for the Washington State brigade followed statements by top U.S. officers this week that more National Guard and Reserve troops would likely be needed because of reluctance on the part of other countries to answer President Bush's call for help in stabilizing the country.

The US Army turned over a large stretch of the border separating Iraq from Iran to an American-trained border police force today, for the first time relinquishing control of a sensitive frontier area to the provisional government.

The 210-mile length of frontier running from the edges of Kurdish-controlled territory in the north to a point just southeast of Baghdad is part of a broader effort to give Iraqis more control over their affairs and relieve the US military of the burden of guarding the border.

Does anyone else see the irony here?
Story A: The United Nations has evacuated staff from Baghdad as Iraqis paid their last respects to a leading politician whose assassination plunged U.S. efforts to rebuild the country into further turmoil.

Story B: Three dozen Iraqi teachers and guidance counselors came to a hotel seminar here recently seeking tips on how to improve the nation's schools. They got balloons.

"Now I want you to take your balloon," an upbeat seminar instructor coaxed them soothingly, "and blow everything that makes you sad and everything that makes you mad into the balloon. Blow it all inside."

Unaccustomed to such touchy-feely seminars, several teachers shifted nervously in their seats. A few giggled, and others looked confused. But after some shoulder shrugs and smirks, they complied. Soon, several balloons were so over-inflated they threatened to pop.

Teachers say Saddam let Iraq's schools fall apart, even as praise for Saddam dominated the curriculum. Schools reopen Oct. 1. Bechtel is rehabbing more than 1,000 schools; the U.S. and British military are fixing another 230 and UNICEF is working on 180 schools.

At the hotel seminar, the teachers were given magic markers and asked to write on their balloons a list of the things that make them most mad and sad. War and devastation, they wrote. The loss of loved ones. The lack of electricity. Crime. Child labor.

But nobody could bring themselves to mention Saddam Hussein.

Fear of Saddam is too strong for balloon therapy.

The UN has bugged out, but the touchy feely types are in, and Baghdad teachers are blowing their troubles into balloons.

Who needs fiction?

If memory serves it seems the last week or two has been characterized by attacks that are all boom and no doom, excepting the attack on the member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

If I were smarter than I am I might be able to make the case for an increasingly frustrated enemy probing to find the soft spots, and having little such luck.
Three missiles or rocket-propelled grenades slammed into Baghdad's al-Rashid Hotel, home to U.S. officers and their civilian staff, on Saturday just hours after American soldiers killed at least two Iraqis at a checkpoint in Fallujah.

James Smith, a spokesman for the U.S.-run coalition, said the projectiles struck the hotel at about 6:30 a.m., although there were conflicting reports about what exactly was fired. No casualties and only minor damage were reported.

The al-Rashid, once one of Baghdad's best hotels, was taken over by the military after Saddam Hussein was toppled by coalition forces in April. It sits inside a heavily guarded compound that also houses the Baghdad Convention Center, where the military has its press office. The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council also has its headquarters in the complex.

Residents of the Salhiya neighborhood just west of the complex said the projectiles were fired from the middle of the street and the launcher was left behind as the attackers fled.


With a few strings attached. Looks from here like an effort to overcome potential reenlistment shortfalls due to the deployments.

Capitalism at work in the ranks. Sort of fitting, eh?
Soldiers in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq or Korea who are up for reenlistment can score an additional $5,000 bonus if they do the deed by Sept. 30 and commit another three years to the Army.

A soldier’s military occupational specialty (MOS) doesn’t matter, but he or she must be currently deployed to Afghanistan, Kuwait or Iraq, or assigned to Korea, in order to qualify for the money.

To get the bonus, soldiers must complete their deployment with their current unit, or, if they are in Korea, must voluntarily extend their Korea assignment by an additional six months from the date they are scheduled to move to another assignment, Carroll said.

The extra six-month commitment “reduces turbulence, stabilizes the soldier, and [temporarily] eliminates the [Army’s] requirement to replace that soldier in Korea,” Carroll said.

The minimum re-enlistment is three years. Soldiers who don’t complete that commitment risk having to pay back some or the entire bonus, depending on circumstances, Carroll said.

The bonus is not retroactive for deployed soldiers who reenlisted before Sept. 19, Carroll said.

The 3d ID adds to it's collection.
Hinesville Mayor Tom Ratcliff recounted the biblical story of Joshua traversing the Jordan River with the ark of the covenant, and how the sea parted to allow his army to cross on dry land. Joshua picked 12 men from 12 tribes to pick stones from the bed of the river, markers of their triumphant crossing.

“So, in modern time, we repeat the ancient ritual … and these stones represent your acts and deeds,” Ratcliff said. “These stones cause those who come after us … to ask the same ancient question, ‘What does the stone mean?’

“They’ll tell of a war you fought to protect and free other human beings,” Ratcliff said, and remind visitors of a “the greatest of [Army] divisions, with extreme valor and extreme benevolence.”

The Marne Garden at Fort Stewart is peppered with boulders honoring the “Marne Division’s” soldiers, beginning with World War I. Thursday, they added the Iraq war. In five wars and many more battles, the Marne Division has lost 35,000 warriors, Blount said.

The Division earned its famed title “Rock of the Marne” during WWI, when soldiers stood their ground, like a rock, to defend the Marne River in France against the Germans.


“Hey, Babcock,” Sgt. Scott Palmer called out to a soldier exiting the dismal barracks. “Don’t die.”

Sgt. Beau Babcock, weighed down with body armor and an M-4 assault rifle, shrugged as he pushed back a plastic camouflage poncho taped over the doorway. “That’s the plan,” he said without pausing.

An unusually well written piece. Read the whole article here.
While 15 days may not be enough to get back into a regular routine, Valerie Carter’s time with her husband, Spc. Daryl Carter of the 16th Engineer Battalion in Giessen, and their new baby, Madison Rose, will be a small taste of what “normal” feels like.

“I’m glad to have him home,” Carter said. “It will be good to be a [real] family for two weeks.”

Even though GEN Bell, Commander of US Army Europe has been on TV saying it ain't so, folks still spread the rumor that soldiers from Germany deployed to Iraq will be shipped directly back to the USA when they are finished...and that spouses back here in Germany will have to handle packing out alone.

It isn't going to happen.

And now GEN Jones, the European Command commander says so.
No Europe-based unit deployed to Iraq or the Middle East will be sent directly back to the United States as the result of transformation.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27th. The 139th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Friday, September 26, 2003


I stumbled on a superb book at the library last week. One I'm going to purchase for my own library.

I hesitate to tell you about it because I fear my telling will put you off.

The book is A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

Here - go read the reviews at Amazon.

A great book.

UPDATE: Many of you recognize the author as also having written A Walk in the Woods and have also recommended it.

I read it some years ago. Mr. Bryson, a literary everyman, decides to walk a good portion of the Appallachian Trail. The book is his rendering of the stories he encounters from, or about, those he runs into along the trail.

Also a great read.

David Frum reviews the President's speech to the UN.
The press is disappointed because Bush neither apologized to the UN for ignoring it in Iraq, nor pleaded for its support. Instead, he vigorously defended American actions, and gently chided the UN for betraying its own stated principles.

“As an original signer of the U.N. Charter, the United States of America is committed to the United Nations. And we show that commitment by working to fulfill the U.N.'s stated purposes, and give meaning to its ideals.”

The press is covering the speech as if it should have been headlined, “No News Here.” Wrong! The headline is: “No Surrender, No Turning Back. The War Goes On.”

The two most remarkable things about the speech to my ear were each contained in a single sentence. One was Bush’s characteristically unillusioned message about the Arab-Israeli war: “The advance of democratic institutions in Iraq is setting an example that others, including the Palestinian people, would be wise to follow.” He made clear that a Palestinian state is not an entitlement, to be carved out of Israel no matter how atrociously the Palestinians behave. Rather, “The Palestinian people deserve their own state, and they will gain that state by embracing new leaders committed to reform, to fighting terror, and to building peace.” Few ears will have missed the word that was implied but diplomatically omitted: “[T]hey will gain that state only by embracing new leaders committed to reform, to fighting terror, and to building peace.”


Between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida.

Four shown here...and bucketsful more at this link.
A wealth of evidence on the public record -- from government reports and congressional testimony to news accounts from major newspapers -- attests to longstanding ties between bin Laden and Saddam going back to 1994.

Those who try to whitewash Saddam's record don't dispute this evidence; they just ignore it. So let's review the evidence, all of it on the public record for months or years:

* Abdul Rahman Yasin was the only member of the al Qaeda cell that detonated the 1993 World Trade Center bomb to remain at large in the Clinton years. He fled to Iraq. U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, that show that Iraq gave Mr. Yasin both a house and monthly salary.

* Bin Laden met at least eight times with officers of Iraq's Special Security Organization, a secret police agency run by Saddam's son Qusay, and met with officials from Saddam's mukhabarat, its external intelligence service, according to intelligence made public by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was speaking before the United Nations Security Council on February 6, 2003.

* Sudanese intelligence officials told me that their agents had observed meetings between Iraqi intelligence agents and bin Laden starting in 1994, when bin Laden lived in Khartoum.

* Bin Laden met the director of the Iraqi mukhabarat in 1996 in Khartoum, according to Mr. Powell.

Iraq's oil minister, in his strongest overtures so far to foreign investors, invited international oil companies to pitch investment ideas to Baghdad and said the country's interim government plans to quickly seek outside help in developing its vast but dilapidated petroleum industry, Thursday's Wall Street Journal reported.

"To develop the oil sector, we need foreign investment," said Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, Iraq's newly appointed oil minister, who was here for his first appearance at a gathering of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

News that an interim report by the administration's chief weapons-hunter in Iraq will disclose that none of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction have yet been found will doubtless embolden the Democrats charging that President Bush "duped" America into war.
Even assuming for a moment - which we don't - that they have a case, what is it that the president's critics are suggesting?

That maybe America should apologize to the Butcher of Baghdad - and return him to power?

This surely would disappoint the 78 percent of Shi'ite Muslims in Baghdad who recently told Gallup pollsters that they support the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam...

it's important to remind those who have forgotten that almost no one questioned the fact that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of such weapons.

Not even those who now charge President Bush with "fraud" ever questioned the need to act:

* Not Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry, who said back in 1998 that "Saddam Hussein's objective is to maintain a program of weapons of mass destruction."

* Not Hans Blix - who, just days before the war broke out declared that Saddam still had not undertaken the "fundamental decision to disarm" demanded by the Security Council - but who is now writing a book declaring that Iraq's stockpiles were destroyed years ago.

Former President Bill Clinton, it should be noted, said last January that "we're still pretty sure [Saddam's] got botulism and the chemical agents VX and ricin," adding that "it's pretty clear there are still . . . substantial amounts of chemical and biological stocks unaccounted for." ...

Moreover, it should be recalled that the decision to go to war was based primarily on Saddam's willful defiance of multiple U.N. resolutions demanding that he either disarm or prove that he'd done so.

Yes, it would be nice if someone could find a mound in the desert under which all of Saddam's unconventional weapons lie buried. But no one ever believed it would be that easy.

Ultimately, America moved against Saddam, as Condoleezza Rice has said, "to depose a bloody tyrant who had defied the world for 12 years."

Nothing that has been learned since challenges the essential wisdom of that decision.

MUCH of the discourse on Iraq continues to be dominated by myths - provable falsehoods that happen to confirm the prejudices of the antiwar crowd and/or those disposed to think our mission is failing now.
The mythos now culminates in the notion that a patriotic Iraqi "resistance" is slowly gaining ground against a hated occupation. But the distortions go back much farther.

Here is Stephen Walt - a dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government! - writing in the Financial Times: "The Iraqi people did not welcome U.S. forces with open arms and garlands and flowers."

In fact, the Iraqis did welcome us as liberators. I know, because I was there...

Now, in a passionately angry interview for a new anthology of war reporting, exerpted in Editor and Publisher magazine (titled "There is Corruption In Our Business"), Burns makes public his contempt for fellow members of the Baghdad press corps who failed to tell the truth about the Saddam regime.

He writes, "This place was a lot more terrible than even people like me had thought. There is such a thing as absolute evil."

Burns' insistence on this point, if he is heard, must explode the mythology: Iraqis are not much worse off now than before the war because of a breakdown in law and order.

Life under Saddam was hell for vast numbers of Iraqis. Reportorial nostalgia for the orderly days of the former dictator is analagous to the old lament that "at least under Mussolini, the trains ran on time" - and it is just as morally reprehensible.

The Iraq war was an astonishing military success. The current troubles, while real, are being grossly misrepresented. This matters. But understanding the situation is going to be much harder if reporters collude in constructing myths that reflect their own political prejudices.


Read the entire article here.
But there is something disturbing, too, about the way opponents of the war have portrayed events in Iraq.

Visceral distrust of Bush and his sidekick, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has brought with it a disregard both for facts and for the victims of the Iraqi tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Arab commentators have had no shame in urging their Iraqi brothers, exhausted by three major wars and more than a decade of sanctions, to start a new war “of liberation” against their liberators.

Western commentators critical of the war have luxuriated in the failures of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) ­ failures that condemn Iraqis to protracted hardship.

Disaster has been prophesied, self-servingly, at every turn: The war would be protracted (it wasn’t, and most Iraqis had no direct experience of it); tens of thousands would die in the battle for Baghdad (they didn’t); and now, in the words of a British Arabist, “even the most optimistic and moderate Iraqis fear the very real prospect of civil war.”

Not those I know.

Sounds as if lifted from National Review or some other conservative outlet.

In fact, it is an opinion piece from Lebanon.


Plays into the hands of the terrorists, according to one Iraqi Governing Council Member.

He's right of course.
The United Nations' decision to move most of its remaining staff out of Iraq is "playing into the hands of terrorists", according to a senior Iraqi official.

The minister responsible for foreign affairs in the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Hoshyar Zebari, told the BBC it was important for the UN to stay the course, despite two attacks on its headquarters in Baghdad.

The United States has also expressed disappointment at the UN decision, taken at a time when the Bush administration is trying to encourage broader international support for the reconstruction of Iraq.

But the continuing instability in Iraq was underlined by a mortar attack on a market in Baqouba, north of Baghdad, on Thursday which left eight civilians dead and 18 injured.

Iraqis are also preparing to bury Aqila al-Hashimi, a female member of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council who died on Thursday, five days after being shot in an ambush near her home.

Some 600 international staff were stationed in Iraq before the bomb attack on the UN's Baghdad offices last month, which killed 22 people, including the chief UN envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello - but that number has already fallen to a few dozen.

In the absence of international staff, the UN will rely on more than 4,000 Iraqis to continue mainly humanitarian work.

"Today there remain 42 in Baghdad and 44 in the north of the country, and those numbers can be expected to shrink over the next few days," said Fred Eckhard, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

"This is not an evacuation, just a further downsizing, and the security situation in the country remains under constant review," he added.

Which sounds to me like the old Army joke.

"We are not retreating...we are advancing to the rear."
September 25, 2003
Release Number: 03-09-22


U.S. Central Command Unveils R & R Leave Program

In a continuing effort to improve the quality of life and readiness of U.S. service members currently supporting operations in Iraq, the United States Central Command has established a Rest and Recuperation Leave program beginning September 25, 2003. Those service members serving in the Iraqi theater of operations with 12-month orders will be eligible for this program.

Service members will have the opportunity to be flown at government expense either to a designated location in Europe or the United States where they can then link up with follow-on commercial transportation and take up to 15 days of annual leave. This annual leave will enable service members the opportunity for rest and recuperation and to focus on family and friends during their leave. The program is seen as a quality of life investment in the U.S. forces serving in the Iraqi theater which actually will improve readiness.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26th. The 138th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Like it or not, we're in Iraq. Now we need to finish the job of establishing democracy and stability.

It was apparent last spring before we invaded Iraq that this would not be a quick-hit war with a fairy-tale ending. It would instead be a massive undertaking costing us billions of dollars and hundreds of lives.

Like it or not, that has come true. Now we don't have a choice but to follow through. That means establishing safety and order so that the coalition of the majority of Iraqi citizens who want to build a pluralistic, tolerant government with a constitution and its accompanying values can do so.

We seem hellbent on undermining our own mission. Mainstream news reports are heavy on ambushes, civilian deaths, remote-controlled bombs and military missteps. It's OK to report those events - if we're doing our jobs, we're compelled to - and it's good for citizens and their press to watch government with critical eyes.

Beneath the breaking news are reports of progress from people who have visited and seen recent events in Iraq. In September, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) traveled around Iraq to see for himself. He wrote about his trip this week for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He flew from Baghdad to Kuwait with a soldier on his way home to Dearborn, Mich., in a body bag. But he also saw American soldiers working with Iraqi contractors and citizens building schools. Riding at the open door of a helicopter flying between Babylon and Baghdad, he collected hundreds of enthusiastic waves from Iraqis. He received warm greetings when he shook hands through a crowd of refinery workers, alone, just to test the mood of the populace.

Kuwait on Tuesday called on the United Nations and the concerned world powers to exert all-out efforts towards establishing stability in Iraq, confronting the ongoing violence, paving the way for the Iraqis to secure their legitimacy and helping in the reconstruction of the country after years of oppression and devastation. This came in a speech delivered by HH the Prime Minister of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to the 58th conference of the UN General Assembly.

"Kuwait, within its national and legal responsibility, has joined the coalition countries in their efforts to implement the international resolutions concerning Iraq and has offered all facilities within the international legitimacy to rid Iraq of its oppressive regime," said Sheikh Sabah. Sheikh Sabah took the opportunity to welcome the end of the former regime in Iraq saying "we congratulate the brotherly people of Iraq for the liberation (of Iraq) and wish them further stability and security."


The dual myths of Arab brotherhood and the unity of all Islam are laid bare for all to see.

Wouldn't be because a burgeoning democracy makes the illegitimate potentates self conscious and nervous, now would it?
Iraq's interim leaders will not be welcome at a gathering next month of Islamic nations' heads of state, but the country's current status is likely to feature strongly in the discussions.

The decision not to invite Iraq to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit comes despite the Arab League's acceptance earlier this month of the country's U.S.-appointed Governing Council.

This week, Iraq's seat at the U.N. General Assembly session in New York is being occupied by the rotating head of the Governing Council, Ahmad Chalabi, who is due to address the meeting next week.

The council was appointed last July by the U.S. administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, three months after U.S.-led forces ousted Saddam Hussein.

Despite its conditional acceptance by the 22-member Arab League and its participation in the General Assembly session, it has yet to find similar recognition from the bloc of Islamic states.
L. Paul Bremer, head of the U.S.-led occupational authority in Iraq, today told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that mobile-phone licenses in the war-torn country are about to being issued.

Bremer’s remarks came in response to questioning by Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.), who wanted to know why the three regional cellular licenses had yet to awarded in the September timetable set by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Bremer replied that September was not over, then quickly added: “It will be [accomplished] in the next 10 days.”

With a different message....
A senior member of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's own party on Wednesday contradicted the German leader’s demand that the US swiftly hand over Iraqi sovereignty to leaders in Baghdad.

"Let me remind you again of the German example. It took four years (after the Nazi defeat in 1945) until we had a German government,” said Hans-Ulrich Klose, a member of Schroeder’s Social Democrats (SPD) and deputy chairman of the German Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

Klose, speaking in an NDR radio interview, noted that Iraq had far fewer structures and political leaders needed for nation-building than did Germany after the war.

"Where is the Konrad Adenauer of Iraq?” said Klose, a reference to the widely respected first chancellor of former West Germany who was elected in 1949.

Klose noted that while the United Nations was needed to legitimise rule in Baghdad it was the US which would have to stay in charge of security.

"It will take a great deal of time before Iraq is given full sovereignty,” cautioned Klose.


And happily it is a genie that is hard to stuff back into its bottle.
"When I started in late April, I was receiving one container of DiStar goods per month," Mazouri says. "Now, I am getting five to six containers." Each container holds about 270 television sets or 3,800 satellite receiver units. He says he is grossing $20,000 a day. "All the sales are done in cash."

There was plenty of pent-up demand. Sanctions imposed by the United Nations after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 kept a lot of goods out of the country. Before that, an eight-year war with Iran drained the life from Iraq's economy. For nearly 20 years, there was little to buy. And during three decades of rule by Saddam's Baath Party, virtually all companies were state-owned or state-controlled. In 2001, Iraq's gross domestic product was $27.9 billion, compared with $47.6 billion in 1980.

Since the collapse of Saddam's regime, police Officer Gailan Wahoudi, 31, has bought a new television, a refrigerator and an air conditioner. "It is a new freedom I never had before," he says.

The buying spree has been helped by the suspension of customs duties, import taxes, licensing fees and similar surcharges for most goods entering and leaving the country. The U.S.-led coalition's order on June 7 that suspended such charges has made Iraq a virtual free-trade zone at least until the end of the year. The coalition authorities had little choice: Iraq lost its ability to adequately control its borders when Saddam's government collapsed. Immigration and customs controls are only now being restored.

For consumers, the bottom line is lower prices. A Samsung air conditioner that sold for $1,200 before the war is now half that price. The Iraqi Planning Ministry reports that home appliance prices are down 41% from their prewar prices; electronics are down 38%.

At Iraq's border with Jordan, trucks laden with used cars are lined up next to tractor-trailers piled high with boxes of televisions and other electronics. Merchandise also is being shipped in from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates through the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr.

Compact Opel automobiles are selling fast at the al-Safeer car dealership, says owner Hamid al-Najar, 34. A used one can be bought for $3,000. "If we have 10 in stock, they are sold the same day," he says. "People are paying cash only." The car is popular because it's relatively cheap and won't attract thieves like more expensive models. But imported BMWs, Mercedeses, Volkswagens and Japanese-made cars also are on display in the lot of al-Najar's dealership.

Under Saddam, only senior government employees, leaders of his ruling Baath Party and a few wealthy businessmen had enough money for anything but the essentials. Low-level government employees were cash-starved.


Mongolians, yes. Hordes...not exactly. But it has been 800 years between visits...
In 1258, the Mongol general Hulegu, a grandson of Genghis Khan, sacked Baghdad, killing 800,000 people and ending its primacy as the largest city in the Arab world.

This month, the Mongolians returned to Iraq. Ferried into the country on American military transports, 180 Mongolian Army soldiers — all male, all volunteers — are guarding pipelines and working on construction projects under a Polish command.

"This is not like the 13th century," Col. B. Erkhenbayar, commander of Mongolia's Peacekeeping Operation Battalion, said here, smiling so widely his eyes disappeared. "Then, we went to invade. This time, we are going to build Iraq."

A bomb exploded Thursday outside a hotel where NBC has its Baghdad offices, killing a guard, injuring a network soundman and shattering windows, Iraqi police said.

The bomb was placed about three feet from the outside wall of the al-Aike Hotel in a hut that housed the hotel's generator, police said.

And the latest troops from the 82d to arrive there.

“We’re down on the street with the population,” not riding around in Bradleys and tanks, he said.

A half-hour later, soldiers were cruising a swatch of villages running along the Nahr Al-Karmah River, starting with the main village of Qaryat Albu Awadah.

As he scanned the horizon for shooters, Sgt. Scott Palmer was in awe of the greenery along the river, a setting he called “biblical.”

Beautiful, yes. Dangerous? You bet.

“This is no place for a pacifist to be,” he muttered while keeping his M-4 on the lush tree line.


Our Rear Detachment briefed family members on this last night. To update the information I put here yesterday - the priorities are

1. Anyone who had an emergency leave situation but was denied leave for operational reasons.

2. New fathers.

3. Winners of a battalion lottery - which randomizes everybody else's chances of being selected.

The entire 501st FSB may send one soldier per day - home on leave.

But read on below - and find out how some soldiers say they do not want to take the leave - for their own personal reasons.

Me - I'm sure the CPT Patti will remove herself from consideration so that junior soldiers can have the slot. She hasn't told me so - it would just be like her.
“I personally don’t plan on taking leave,” Dodge said. “When the time comes, I’ll probably take a knee. I’d rather see one of my soldiers go.”

But for one officer, leave can’t come too soon.

Capt. Matt Ashburn, 28, is about to be a father. His wife, Katarina, back in Heidelberg, is due to have the couple’s first child — a girl — in six days “and hopefully, plans work out that it’s perfect timing,” Ashburn said.

He’s scheduled with the next group to get leave, said Ashburn, who’s been deployed seven and a half months with G-3 (Air) at Fifth Corps headquarters at Victory City.

Only a few hundred yards away, two soldiers were split on whether to stay or go.

“I’m not going,” said Sgt. 1st Class P. “Hendu” Hendrickson, who has been in Iraq six months with the 1014th Quartermasters, reservists from Athens, Ga.

“When I leave Iraq, I want to leave Iraq,” Hendrickson said, who is scheduled to PCS home to Atlanta next April. Going home for 15 days would mean having to say goodbye to his wife, Tricia, “and I don’t want to take my wife through it again.”

“I’m going home!” said Spc. Aaron Appleby, also with the 1014th Quartermasters. A couple weeks home in Atlanta, “sleeping in a real bed, using a real bathroom” would get him mentally ready to do his final four months, Appleby said. He added it will be difficult to get on that plane back to Iraq. “I’ll be boo-hooing!” Appleby said, laughing. “I miss the States!”

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 25th. The 137th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

And just 3 months to Christmas.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003


And amazingly...this one also doesn't match Jennings or Rather or Amanpour
The piece of the story that I did not mention, and that (I hope) is not too OT, is how the mainstream Arab media have also gotten the story wrong. Again, there are plenty of Iraqis who will tell you about their utter disgust with Al-Jazeera and Manar-- yet we are constantly told by our own CNN, NYT, etc., that somehow these agencies are the voice of the people, the "Arab Street."

The point is, all this talk about the "Arab Street" (how do I get there again? Turn left at "Africa Street"?) is a useless generalization, reinforced by a bunch of journalists sitting around the Al-Rashid and Palestine Hotel bars, while they wait for their drivers to pick them up in air-conditioned SUVs for a day trip out to Fallujah or Ramadi. Is there a "White Street," an "Asian Street"? It's a ludicrous and vaguely racist concept to begin with.

I have spoken to loads of Iraqis, Syrians, Kuwaitis etc. and what I have seen is the definitive breakdown of "Arab Unity" as a generation of academics (the ones who taught me at least) knew it. As I mentioned in the last e-mail, the graffiti on the walls of Baghdad University is not "US Go Home"-- it's actually...."Palestinians Go Home. The Free Ride Is Over"!!! There is a sea change going on, right now, and CNN will be the last place to learn about it.

Remember that story early in the war about the Iraqis attacking an Al-Jazeera van and destroying it and wounding its crew? CNN barely covered it, but the Iraqis I have spoken to recently said they are sick and tired of the "old" Arab media (which strangely enough includes Al-Jazeera to them) reporting only the negatives and ignoring the progress they've made and the fact that for many, things are better...they see this as other Arabs trying to stir up trouble in "their" country. And they resent it.

They want Al-Jazeera and Manar out of there, and they want to get on rebuilding their country themselves, thank you very much. They don't need those guys making it worse by running erroneous and unretracted stories like the one a few weeks back about US soldiers raping Iraqi girls-- and thereby bringing even more violence. They want a new country. And, despite Amahnpour et al's statements, while broadcasting the "news", that "Iraqis want the US out of there NOW!" the only scientific polls done in Iraq so far have shown that the vast majority DO NOT want the US to leave any time soon. They know the bloodbath that will ensue-- but they also know the good that can possibly follow the hard task of rebuilding.

Yes, they have every right to complain about things being better under Saddam, because right now that's true. Things were better in Germany under Hitler until about 1948-49, and people were taking potshots at US soldiers in Japan and Germany well past a year after the "end of hostilities."

(via Instapundit)

An Air Force airman who had worked at the U.S. prison camp for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base has been charged with espionage and aiding the enemy -- charges that could carry the death penalty.

Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi, an Arabic-language translator at the prison camp, is accused of trying to send information about detainees to Syria.

The charges against al-Halabi, however, include an allegation that he failed to report unauthorized contacts between prisoners and other military members. Those other military members were not identified....

Al-Halabi worked for nine months as an Arabic language translator at Guantanamo Bay, a job that ended shortly before his July 23 arrest as he arrived in Jacksonville, Fla., on a flight from the prison camp.

When he was arrested, al-Halabi was carrying two handwritten notes from detainees that he intended to turn over to someone traveling to Syria, the charging documents say. He was also carrying his personal laptop computer, which contained classified information about detainees and 180 messages from detainees al-Halabi intended to send to Syria or Qatar (search), the documents allege.

Al-Halabi is accused of taking pictures of the prison camp and having unauthorized contact with the inmates, including giving them baklava desserts. The documents allege he had contacts with the Syrian Embassy to the United States, which he failed to report as required.

Al-Halabi, who joined the Air Force in January 2000, is Syrian. He also is accused of lying to the Air Force by falsely claiming to have become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2001.

The charges accuse al-Halabi of sending e-mails with classified information "to unauthorized person or persons whom he, the accused, knew to be the enemy." The Air Force documents do not say who the enemy is.

Syria and the United States have normal diplomatic relations, although Syria is on the list of countries the U.S. says are state sponsors of terrorism.


The suspension of the "all-terrorists-all-the-time" networks seems to be having a quick effect.
Al Arabiya has since pledged not to show footage of masked terrorists making threats.

"The Board of Trustees raised concerns and we have decided, with our news team, that we will not have these masked people again," said Walid al-Ibrahim, a 43-year-old Saudi media mogul who owns the bulk of the shares in Al Arabiya, which he launched in March.

"If they want to come and show their faces and give their names on TV, they are welcome to express their views. But we will not allow threats to kill people," Mr. al-Ibrahim said.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes diplomacy, and the President's refusal to retreat before the UN precede a softening of the French rhetoric.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with President Bush at the United Nations Tuesday, Chirac said his country supported the "symbolic transfer of sovereignty" to the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. "Such a transfer would imply the responsibility of Iraqis be transferred gradually; the transfer cannot be abrupt."

Prior public French statements on the U.S. resolution did not make a distinction between the actual and symbolic transfer of authority. Chirac also said in an interview published Monday in the New York Times that he did not expect his representative to the United Nations would veto a U.N. resolution, suggesting France would likely abstain instead. France threatened to veto the resolution last March that would have authorized the war to topple Saddam Hussein.

While the Germans seem to be climbing on board as well.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder continued to make conciliatory tones ahead of an important meeting with U.S. President Bush, saying late Tuesday Germany would not vote against a new U.N. resolution on Iraq.

In an interview with German public television broadcaster ZDF in New York on Tuesday night, Schröder said he was optimistic the U.N. Security Council, of which Germany is currently a rotating member, would pass a new resolution on the stabilization of postwar Iraq.

“I think we’ll find enough common ground to work out a new resolution,” Schröder told the station, adding that he was looking forward to his first one-on-one meeting with Bush in 16 months. “It will be a good talk.”


And guess what...they approve.
The Gallup organization has conducted a public opinion poll in Iraq -- and finds most people in Baghdad are glad Saddam Hussein is gone.

More than 60 percent of Baghdad residents surveyed think getting rid of Saddam was worth all the hardships they've had to endure since the war. And two-thirds think their country will be better off five years from now than it was before the U.S. invasion. Only 8 percent think it'll be worse off.

But the Iraqis aren't convinced Iraq is better off now -- 47 percent surveyed say the country is worse off than before the invasion, while 33 percent say it's better off.

Well over half say they support the new Iraqi Governing Council, even though the United States is still ultimately calling the shots. The poll of more than 1,100 adults was done face-to-face in households from Aug. 28 through Sept. 4.

So why do so many outside of Iraq still think what we did was wrong?

With 3d of the 124, Florida National Guard.
Next door, the soldiers have entered the house by going through the pigeon coop, a common fixture in Baghdad homes. It is the size of a large garage, and it gives them the creeps. It is pitch black, full of hundreds of sleeping birds, and their droppings cover the floor.

Down the street, the soldiers from division are finishing their own searches while tanks, armored personnel carriers and Humvees sit parked on the wide boulevard.

The Florida soldiers are lined up to enter another gate, but it is locked, and someone calls for a sledgehammer. A large soldier pounds repeatedly on the heavy lock, making a terrific "clang, clang, clang" on the steel plating of the gates, but the lock won't break.

Finally, they give up on the sledgehammer. Military police in an armored Humvee pull up to the gate and crash through, and the soldiers run in.

Some powerful words spoken by the President to the UN.

I enjoy eloquent prose...and the President's speechwriters offered up such yesterday.

For instance:
By the victims they choose, and by the means they use, the terrorists have clarified the struggle we are in. Those who target relief workers for death have set themselves against all humanity.

Those who incite murder and celebrate suicide reveal their contempt for life itself. They have no place in any religious faith, they have no claim on the world's sympathy and they should have no friend in this chamber...

The true monuments of his rule and his character, the torture chambers and the rape rooms and the prison cells for innocent children, are closed. And as we discover the killing fields and mass graves of Iraq, the true scale of Saddam's cruelty is being revealed...

The founding documents of the United Nations and the founding documents of America stand in the same tradition. Both assert that human beings should never be reduced to objects of power or commerce, because their dignity is inherent.

Both recognize a moral law that stands above men and nations which must be defended and enforced by men and nations. And both point the way to peace, the peace that comes when all are free. We secure that peace with our courage, and we must show that courage together.

May God bless you all.

The transcript of the entire speech is here.

Old soldiers who read this will recall the Combat Equipment Group Europe (CEGE) sites that once dotted Germany and the Netherlands. We closed the German sites years ago...and now fall those in the land of the tulips.

The U.S. Army Materiel Command will shut down operations at two bases in the Netherlands early next year, Defense Department officials announced late last week.

Combat equipment storage sites at Brunssum and Almelo will cease operations by Feb. 29, according to a DOD news release.

The sites are used to store Army pre-positioned stocks. Built in 1983, the facilities once held a brigade’s worth of weapons, vehicles and equipment in case U.S. troops needed gear to defend Cold War allies.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and because of greater threats surfacing in other parts of the world, the Army began to relocate the mothballed armament in places closer to hot spots.

September 24, 2003
Release Number: 03-09-21



TIKRIT, Iraq – Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor, 4th Infantry Division discovered a weapons cache Sept. 21 consisting of 19 - 82mm mortar systems southeast of Bayji.

Information obtained from the site assisted the Iraqi Police and A Company, 3-66th AR in the discovery of a second cache site. Ammunition seized at the second site included 97 rounds of 60mm mortar ammunition, 14 rounds of 82mm mortar ammunition and one anti-tank mine.

Coalition forces and Iraqi Police continue to work together to seize illegal weapons and ammunition, as well as, dangerous contraband, ensuring the streets of Iraq become safer.

The joint effort provides the citizens and children of Iraq a more stable and secure environment facilitating the rebuilding efforts to make life better for all Iraqis.
Just received confirmation that the R&R program is going to happen.

What I don't know seriously outweighs what I do know...but here goes.

For those of us in Europe the first flight of R&R soldiers is expected to arrive this week.

The numbers won't be large...about 80 Germany based soldiers will be in the program initially...that is expected to about double in subsequent iterations. (I'm estimating there are about 4500 Germany based soldiers in the theater of operations).

Leave is for 15 days. Days in transit from Iraq to Germany (or the US) don't count...but days in transit back do seem to count.

Flights will not orignate or terminate in Baghdad, the security isn't yet high enough. So flights will originate from elsewhere in the region.

Flights to Germany will come into Frankfurt, those to the US will fly into Baltimore/Washington International (BWI).

Here in Germany the Rear Detachments will pick up soldiers belonging to their units from the Airport.

If a soldier is flying to the USA and wants to fly beyond BWI...the cost of the flights from BWI to home and back are on the soldier. But the flights between the Middle East and Frankfurt and BWI are not charged to the soldier.

That is what I know that is official.

CPT Patti told me recently some other things about the program...not sure if they are official though.

Units in Baghdad have been given a minimum staffing level they cannot break in order to allow soldiers to R&R. Right now many units are short handed down we might not see a lot of our soldiers even if they meet the selection criteria.

Initially, she said, the folks who will be selected for R&R will be those who already have a leave balance in excess of 90 days.

And a special priority may also exist for anyone whose wife has given birth since the deployment began.

All this is good news for some very lucky people.

As for me...I do not expect CPT Patti will ever be one of those guess is that Commanders at all levels won't get to play.

I'd love to be wrong on that last point though.


CPT Patti sent an email note part here is what it said.

In response to a question I sent asking about how they get their news she wrote:

There are several TVs in the company. As long as the main generator is running, then we have CNN on.

And then to let me know about some notable improvements she writes:

Some quick QOL (quality of life) updates: first, today is the grand opening of the PROVIDER LOUNGE (MWR building). The official ceremony is at 1700. They opened the Internet cafe at 0700 this morning. You get to use it free for one hour until 1700. So, that is exactly where I am.

Also, they have two pool tables, one ping pong table, weight room, Juice smoothie stand, big screen tv with AFN cable, a movie theater, and the internet cafe.

The internet cafe is $2 per hour then everything else is free, except the smoothies.

It really is a great place. Our soldiers should be very happy at all these improvements.

I hope the addition of the internet cafe means I will be hearing from her a bit more from now on.

So - add to all this good news the fact that mail seems to be moving quickly and they recently opened their new dining facility, life gets just a bit better in increments for our girl and her soldiers.

And me - I'm all for that which makes her life better.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24th. The 136th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


Rep. Jim Marshall, D, GA so says of the media.
So it is worth doing only if we have a reasonable chance of success. And we do, but I'm afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes, the ambushes, the soldiers killed, the wounded, the Blumbergs. Fair enough. But it is not balancing this bad news with "the rest of the story," the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy.

During the conventional part of this conflict, embedded journalists reported the good, the bad and the ugly. Where are the embeds now that we are in the difficult part of the war, now that fair and balanced reporting is critically important to our chances of success? At the height of the conventional conflict, Fox News alone had 27 journalists embedded with U.S. troops (out of a total of 774 from all Western media). Today there are only 27 embedded journalists from all media combined.

Throughout Iraq, American soldiers with their typical "can do" attitude and ingenuity are engaging in thousands upon thousands of small reconstruction projects, working with Iraqi contractors and citizens. Through decentralized decision-making by unit commanders, the 101st Airborne Division alone has spent nearly $23 million in just the past few months. This sum goes a very long way in Iraq. Hundreds upon hundreds of schools are being renovated, repainted, replumbed and reroofed. Imagine the effect that has on children and their parents.

Zogby International recently released the results of an August poll showing hope and progress. My own unscientific surveys told me the same thing. With virtually no exceptions, hundreds of Iraqis enthusiastically waved back at me as I sat in the open door of a helicopter traveling between Babylon and Baghdad. And I received a similar reception as I worked my way alone, shaking hands through a large crowd of refinery workers just to see their reaction.

We may need a few credible Baghdad Bobs to undo the harm done by our media. I'm afraid it is killing our troops.

(via Instapundit)

Refusing to continue the lie.

Thank you Rep. Skelton.
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the committee’s ranking member, said, “The media stresses the wounds, the injuries, and the deaths, as they should, but for instance in Northern Iraq, Gen. [Dave] Petraeus has 3,100 projects — from soccer fields to schools to refineries — all good stuff and that isn’t being reported.”

Skelton and other Democrats on the trip said they plan to reach out to all members of their caucus and explain what they observed.

The seven member congressional delegation (Codel) was briefed by U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer; Maj. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, overall commander of military forces in Iraq; and Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

The lawmakers said they worry that the overall negative tone of American press outlets’ reports did not do justice to the progress being made by an occupying force reconstructing a country after years of neglect and in the face of remaining hostile elements that profited under the old regime.

Slightly off topic, but very interesting for the new "number one" polling democrat presidential candidate.
From a Newsweek article by Howard Fineman: Last January, at a conference in Switzerland, [Wesley Clark] happened to chat with two prominent Republicans, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Marc Holtzman, now president of the University of Denver. "I would have been a Republican," Clark told them, "if Karl Rove had returned my phone calls."

Messaging Newsweek by BlackBerry, Clark late last week insisted the remark was a "humorous tweak." The two others said it was anything but. "He went into detail about his grievances," Holtzman said. "Clark wasn't joking. We were really shocked."
The US-appointed Governing Council in Iraq has decided to ban two leading Arabic news channels from the country for allegedly inciting violence, according to reports.

Member Samir al-Sumaidy said the council had discussed "abuses by certain Arabic media, particularly al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya" and "tough and dissuasive measures" would be taken against them", French news agency AFP reported.

The news channels have angered Iraqi officials in recent weeks by broadcasting pictures of masked men calling for attacks against US-led occupation forces.


Syria has hinted it could send troops to help restore security in Iraq, but only if Washington sets a timetable for pulling out its forces and handing over the reconstruction of Iraq to the United Nations.

In remarks published yesterday, Expatriates Minister Bouthaina Shaaban said Syria - which bitterly opposed the US-led war on Iraq - was ready to commit troops if the US relinquished more control to the United Nations.

"Syria would be willing and all Arab countries would be willing," Shaaban was quoted as telling Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper. She was speaking in her capacity as foreign ministry spokeswoman before the reshuffling of Syria's government last week.

"If these two points are addressed, all the Arabs will be willing to restore security and help in the reconstruction of Iraq," she said.

"This is the only way to send troops to Iraq."

Syria, which is governed by a rival wing of the Baath party government toppled in the war on Iraq, is under mounting pressure from Washington, which accuses it of allowing fighters cross its borders to attack US troops occupying Iraq.

It has denounced US pressure including legislation that would punish Damascus for support of "terrorism", but Foreign Minister Farouq Al Shara has said Syria would try to meet "reasonable" requests from Washington, which wants other countries to send troops to Iraq.
With Saddam Hussein out of power, normal Iraqis are experiencing something different, something liberating.

We taste something. We can't recognize that taste," said Talib, an Iraqi who works for the state tobacco company. "We [are] happy ... because when we switch on the television you never see Saddam Hussein. That's a big happy for the Iraqi people."

The price of the factory bus ride is the same as it was under Saddam ... free. Women sit next to women, but they are not forced in the back.

The tobacco company used to work around the clock. Now it's open just six hours a day, when there is electricity. There are eight men assigned to Talib's 30-year-old packing machine, but just two do any work.

America pays the salaries of $60 a month -- in part, to keep the 2,000 workers quiet. But the future of a state-run monopoly with outdated machinery and no government to protect it is uncertain.

"America now like father," Talib said, "Iraqi people child. They want anything from that father he must give him, 'til that child grown and be a man to feel what that father do for his child."

At the other end of the scale, Brisbane-based catering firm Morris Corp has been on the ground in Baghdad for three months, supplying food to coalition forces.

"We are currently feeding about 10,000 people, but there are opportunities happening all the time," a company spokesman said.

The company's owner, Robert McVicker, is in the Iraqi capital running the operation, using skills developed while catering for remote-site mines back home.

A joint venture between Sydney-based Australian Power and Water and Tasmania's ConFac has also set up in Iraq, offering consulting and contracting services in the power and water industries. APW-ConFac director Simon Stolp said there were strong opportunities in both sectors, with about $US19 billion ($28 billion) to be spent on power alone over the next 10 years.

"We're confident about the future as the security and business environments improve," he said.

Mr Stolp, who last month spent several weeks in Iraq, said he had not encountered any other Australian business representatives in the country.

"The biggest issue is of course security, but when you are on the ground things are not as bad as they read in the newspapers," he said.


CPT Patti says this UN hotel/headquarters is close enough that the bombings rattle her area, but not close enough that they are a real threat.
Baghdad, Iraq - A suicide bomber, his body wrapped in explosives and his car filled with 50 pounds of TNT, struck a police checkpoint outside the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad yesterday, killing an Iraqi policeman who stopped him and wounding 19 people.

A U.S. military spokesman at the scene said the bomber, who also died, was trying to get into the UN compound at the Canal Hotel, where a truck bomb a month ago killed 23 people, including the top UN envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The attack, apparently timed to snarl attempts by Washington to win legitimacy for the U.S. occupation through greater UN participation, could diminish the world body's willingness to become more deeply involved in Iraq's reconstruction.

"This new attack is just going to make the UN more worried about its future role in Iraq," said one UN official in Baghdad, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Clearly, it's not safe enough for us to resume anything close to normal operations."

Indulge me for a minute...but hasn't this anonymous UN official sort of missed the point?

So long as terrorism exists as a tool of the twisted, none of us...not one of us is ever "safe". A terrorist inclined to wrap himself in explosives and detonate it in the vicinity of those he chooses terror - by definition a state in which we can never assume our own safety.

Isn't that why we are fighting this war on terrorism? rid the civilized world of this scourge?

So, Mr. Anonymous UN man...what is your point? Do you propose running and hiding until the USA and Great Britain again make the world safe for "normal operations".

It's what it looks like from here.

Written by one of CPT Patti's soldiers, SPC David Guild, 22, of The Woodlands, TX - and published in his hometown newspaper The Villager
Now I Know Freedom

I am an American soldier stationed in Baghdad. I have not only dodged rockets and arrested Iraqi criminals, but I have also spoken with former members of Saddam's army and with people whose family members have been executed. I have taken our own fallen soldiers, my brothers, to the airport so they could be flown home to their families to be buried. These experiences have provided me with insight as to how truly lucky we are to be Americans. We are a people who realize the beauty of our freedom and wish others to share it as well.

Before coming to Iraq, I did not fully comprehend the meaning of freedom, and I took it for granted. Now I know what freedom is. Freedom is being allowed to make decisions about how you feel your country should be run. Freedom is equal rights for men and women. Freedom is being allowed to get an education. Freedom is not living in fear of your government executing you and your family for your beliefs. Freedom is not free. It has always been fought for. My life would be a small price to pay for freedom.

These people we have liberated deserve their freedom, too. That is why we must stay here until the Iraqi people can establish and maintain a fair government and police force. This will enable them to enjoy and prosper in the benefits that a free society like ours has to offer. After all the violence, oppression and mistreatment these people have been exposed to for so long, they deserve at least that chance.

However, you cannot do something like this quickly and expect to do it right. This will not be a rapid process. We have embarked upon this missionand must proceed until it is finished properly. We owe that to every soldier who has already perished here believing in this very cause - Iraqi freedom.


Would that some of our more vocal elected officials would quietly read - and mind - the words of a young soldier.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23d. The 135th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Monday, September 22, 2003

An Islamic U.S. Army chaplain, who counseled al Qaida prisoners at Guantanamo Bay naval base, has been charged with espionage, aiding the enemy and spying.

A law-enforcement source told the Washington Times that Capt. James Yee, a 1990 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was arrested earlier this month by the FBI in Jacksonville, Fla., as he arrived on a military charter flight from Guantanamo.

Agents confiscated classified documents in his possession and interrogated him for two days in Jacksonville. Yee was transferred to a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., where two Army lawyers were assigned to his defense, the Times reported.

The U.S. Army has charged Yee with sedition, aiding the enemy, spying, espionage and failure to obey a general order. The more serious charge of treason, which under the Uniform Code of Military Justice could be punished by a maximum life sentence, is being considered.

"Ninety-nine percent of what is going on over there is a good story," said Callanan.

"There were a lot of reporters over there who overlooked the good stories, which may have been the only frustrating part of being there," he said. "From media reports, it may not seem as though things are going well there but they are. There are a lot of changes taking place which will eventually pay big dividends."

Cheung agreed that the media reports he read while in Iraq seemed so much different from what he was seeing for himself. One of the things he read that goaded him the most was that the Iraqis did not want the troops over there.

"I talked to so many Iraqis - adults and children - and they thanked me, invited me to their house, asked if they can cook a meal for me and offered me everything they have," he said. "Because we were there, they have the freedom we enjoy in this country every day. They waved to us and a lot of times they worked with us."


And a good one, too. Read it all.
There was a move by some Iraqis to surrender. More than a dozen Iraqi infantrymen left their trenches waving pieces of white paper. But two white S.U.V.'s drove up, and six men got out. Their flowing robes suggested that they were enforcers for the governing Baath Party; fedayeen fighters favored combat gear.

"Through our binoculars, we could see a heated discussion, and then these guys in robes started executing those guys who were trying to surrender," Sergeant Antenori said. "They shot every one of them, and then walked around to make sure they were dead."

The massacre was over in less than 30 seconds. The Americans decided something had to be done.

"We called in an F-18 to drop a 750-pound bomb on those S.U.V.'s," Captain Wright said. "It was like a magic show. You know, now you see 'em, now you don't. The S.U.V.'s, the guys in the white robes — they simply vanished."


An excellent article on the nature of rebuilding a war-torn nation. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.
Reading this history makes clear that the recent French demand that the Americans “turn Iraq back to the Iraqis in a month” is brass-plated hypocrisy of the highest order. But it also demonstrates that questions from the American reporters whether the job in Iraq is almost completed, or might be completed in a year or so, is akin to fractious children in the back seat on a long-distance trip, querulously repeating “Are we there yet?”

As I said to the American press in my prior column, ''Do your d*mned homework.'' Now that I've done that homework from a farmhouse on a mountain at the end of a half-mile gravel road, I add this comment to the American press: ''You have the nerve to call yourselves reporters?'' The effort was easy. And the conclusions are obvious...

A fair reading of the history of the American occupation of Germany leads to the conclusion that America is about two years ahead of the pace of achievement, month by month, in Iraq as compared to Germany. Of course there is the minor distinction that the American media, led by the New York Times, were not snapping at the heels of General Eisenhower and his staff and soldiers as they carried out their mission in 1945-46. (The only criticisms by the American press concerned limited de-Nazification, not the ''failure'' of the entire mission.) Nor were there packs of candidates of the opposing party, then the Republicans, attacking President Truman for his ''failure'' in Germany as they campaigned for the presidential election of 1948.

In short, the major drawbacks to the American occupation in Iraq are not in Iraq. Compared to the one close example, Germany, the major defects of the Iraqi occupation are only in the pages of the American press and in the stump speeches of assorted badly-informed American candidates for President.

President Jacques Chirac derailed an effort by Tony Blair to mend divisions between Europe and the United States over Iraq by insisting on an "immediate transfer" of power to the Iraqi governing council.

After talks in Berlin with Mr Blair and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Mr Chirac said an attempt to agree a formula for increasing the United Nations role had failed after disagreements over how and when the transfer of power should take place.

So - what is behind all this? Well, Tom Friedman at the NYT has this to say:

If you add up how France behaved in the run-up to the Iraq war (making it impossible for the Security Council to put a real ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that might have avoided a war), and if you look at how France behaved during the war (when its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to answer the question of whether he wanted Saddam or America to win in Iraq), and if you watch how France is behaving today (demanding some kind of loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government, with the rest of Iraq's transition to democracy to be overseen more by a divided U.N. than by America), then there is only one conclusion one can draw: France wants America to fail in Iraq....

But then France has never been interested in promoting democracy in the modern Arab world, which is why its pose as the new protector of Iraqi representative government — after being so content with Saddam's one-man rule — is so patently cynical.

To which Sylvain Galvineau remarks:

France wants to get back to business as usual. For TotalFinaElf, Alcatel and the scores of French companies who coined money working for the Hussein regime for decades. As long as Paul Bremer is in charge, it won't happen. France needs someone it can bribe and sign dodgy deals with. The UN can deliver that. The US won't.
A U.S. soldier shot dead a rare Bengal tiger at Baghdad zoo after the animal injured another soldier who was trying to feed it through the cage bars, the zoo's manager said on Saturday.

Adil Salman Mousa told Reuters a group of U.S. soldiers were having a party in the zoo on Thursday night after it had closed.

''Someone was trying to feed the tigers,'' he said. ''The tiger bit his finger off and clawed his arm. So his colleague took a gun and shot the tiger.''

The night watchman said the soldiers had arrived in military vehicles but were casually dressed and were drinking beer.

A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that a member of the coalition forces shot and killed a tiger but gave no further details.

At the tiger's cage, now empty, pools of blood showed that the soldier passed through a first cage intended only for keepers and stood next to the inner cage's narrow bars.

Besides being senseless and stupid, this event does a disservice to all our servicemen and women who are over there doing a good and honest job.

A couple of things strike me as odd about this story.

The soldiers had beer. I can't say for all the divisions in Iraq, but 1st AD issued a General Order prohibiting consumption of alcohol. In fact CPT Patti told me last week that soldiers who get to take R&R in Qatar are limited to 3 alcoholic drinks per day...and they aren't even in the war zone.

The soldiers were "dressed casually". CPT Patti and her crew have only Desert Camouflage Uniforms and Physical Training uniforms and no civilian clothes. Were these soldiers wearing PT clothes...or civvies?

It also doesn't add up that they would be so dressed, but still be armed.

Discussing this with my neighbor last night he suggested that all these odd things adds up to special forces being involved.

I certainly can't say for sure...but its a theory.
Men firing assault rifles and grenades seriously wounded Aqila Al-Hashimi, a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, yesterday, in the latest of attacks against Iraqis who cooperate with the U.S. occupation.

Various witnesses told journalists that as many as six men in two sport utility vehicles opened fire on Al-Hashimi's car as she left her home in a neighborhood of western Baghdad. They hit her and three of her bodyguards before fleeing, neighbors and members of her security team said. It was the first assassination attempt against a member of the governing council.

Al-Hashimi had been preparing to leave for a UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Tuesday. She was to help campaign for the U.S. appointed council to be seated at the United Nations.

And then there was this today:

A car bomb exploded Monday morning while the vehicle was being examined at a checkpoint as it tried to enter the U.N. compound, killing at least one person and injuring eight others.

The blast occurred about 100 yards from the U.N. compound at the Canal Hotel, scene of a devastating car bombing last month that killed 23 people, including the U.N.'s top envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

"The bomber drove up and was engaged by an Iraqi security individual just before the checkpoint," a U.S. 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment spokesman, Capt. Sean Kirley, told reporters at the scene. That policeman was killed, although it was not clear whether he was shot or died in the explosion, he said.

Note that neither of these were directed at Americans.
Officials supplying American Forces Network programs to Iraq say there will be 1,500 satellite television decoders in the country by the end of this month, and they will begin broadcasting television over the air by the end of October.

“The goal of all the folks, especially the Army side of the house, is to have football available for their troops,” Young said. “We understand what that time of year means.”

September 21, 2003
Release Number: 03-09-20



BAGHDAD, Iraq – Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division took to the streets Sept. 18 to fix the city sewage system in the Baghdad neighborhood of Berea.

Although the engineers are playing a major role in the reconstruction of Berea’s sewage system, the Coalition’s effort is focused on support. The Coalition’s role is one of oversight, to help the Iraqis help themselves.

The engineers say the task motivates them because they realize the people of Baghdad are depending on them for their health and well-being.

The engineers have joined forces with local officials, compiling information and digging up sewer lines in preparation for overhauls that will follow in the coming months. The overhauls are needed because of the sewage water standing in the streets and alleys of Berea, which is a low-lying area with a high water table.

A large portion of the existing sewage system needs to be replaced, a project the engineers will work on alongside the citizens of the community.

Part of the problem is that the pipes are undersized. The Berea neighborhood has grown more quickly than its sewage infrastructure can handle. Immediate plans for reconstruction include building a pump station that will help maintain sewage flow in the area.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22d. The 134th day of CPT Patti's deployment.

Mark - I think of you often.