Saturday, December 06, 2003

But Jack Kelly, writing for The Washington Times, adds some perspective to the daily casualty count, and in the process, predicts that victory in Iraq is closer than we think.

The outcome of the first reported battle since the end of major combat operations in Iraq suggests victory may be closer than most Americans dare to hope.

Iraqis wearing the black garb of the Fedayeen Saddam ambushed two convoys carrying cash to banks in Samarra, a small town in the Sunni Triangle about 60 miles northwest of Baghdad. The attacks were well planned and coordinated. The attackers were brave. The attackers died like flies.

The U.S. military claims 54 of an estimated 80 attackers were killed.

Another eight were taken prisoner. U.S. casualties were six wounded, most of them lightly. ''Coalition firepower overwhelmed the attackers,'' Master Sgt. Robert Cargie of the 4th Infantry Division told the New York Times.

The engagements in Samarra make it plain the the guerrillas are unable successfully to mount even platoon-size actions against U.S. forces. Why did they attempt it?

Martin Sieff of UPI thinks it was a premature escalation based on rising confidence. ''The attacks took place in a predominantly Sunni city and their scale reflects the confidence and rapid learning curve of the guerrillas,'' Mr. Sieff wrote. ''After inflicting about 80 dead on U.S. forces in November, they felt confident enough to attempt a far more ambitious kind of operation.''

But because seeking a standup fight with the U.S. military is a stupid thing to do, Stratfor, a private intelligence service, thinks the attacks more likely were motivated by desperation. ''The Iraqi guerrillas realize they are running out of time,'' Stratfor said. ''The U.S.-Kurdish-Shi'ite alliance is becoming operational and the guerrillas' read of the political landscape is that they are about to be caught between a rock and a hard place. In addition, the guerrillas understand that their resources are limited and that attrition, over time, plays against them.''

Emphasis mine.

Good idea...unless you happen to be a liberal.
Saddam Hussein and hundreds of his aides could go on trial for crimes against humanity and genocide in an Iraqi-led tribunal that will be established in the coming days, Iraqi and American officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

Some human rights groups criticized the plans, saying Iraq's U.S. occupiers have too much of a hand in them and that Iraqi judges and prosecutors may not have the experience needed to try the cases.

The law creating the tribunal which could be passed as early as Sunday will be similar to proposals made in Washington in April, one member of Iraq's Governing Council said. The law calls for Iraqi judges to hear cases presented by Iraqi lawyers, with international experts serving only as advisers...

Richard Dicker, director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch, said he was concerned officials didn't consider bringing in judges who have worked on major war crimes trials in other countries.

''After three decades of Baath Party rule, the capacity of Iraqi judges to conduct incredibly complicated trials has been greatly diminished,'' he said by telephone from New York. He said he worried about the tribunal's ability to provide fair trials.

So which way do the libs want it?...the French want the US out of Iraq last July, supposedly because they want the Iraqis to govern themselves, but then HRW intimates that the Iraqis aren't up to the task of figuring out of Saddam Hussein might be guilty of some crime against the Iraqi people.

Sixteen nations, including the United States, Japan and some European countries, agreed Friday to insure payment of up to $2.4 billion worth of exports to Iraq to jump-start the country's economy...

Countries participating in the deal are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Hint - it starts with an "F" and ends with a "rance".

Hell, even Germany, Belgium and Austria signed up for this one...

Four Army divisions — more than 100,000 soldiers, 40 percent of the active-duty force — will not be fully combat-ready for up to six months next year, leaving the nation short of ready troops in the event of a major conflict in North Korea or elsewhere, a senior Army official said yesterday

The four divisions — the 82nd Airborne, 101th Airborne, the 1st Armored and the 4th Infantry — will be returning from Iraq next spring, to be replaced by three others, with a fourth rotating into Afghanistan. That would leave only two active-duty divisions available to fight in other locales.

The official said the four returning divisions will be rated either C-3 or C-4, the Army's two lowest readiness categories. C-3 means a division is capable of performing only some of its combat missions, and C-4 means a division needs additional manpower, training or equipment in order to fight...

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a former division commander and staunch advocate of more Army forces, said four to five divisions below the C-1 rating "means literally half the Army is broken and not ready to fight."

Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the Army's system for gauging readiness shouldn't be overemphasized.

"It's sort of like the New York Yankees in January," O'Hanlon said. "Their readiness is lower because they haven't gone back to spring training. But they're still a damn good baseball team."

Troops who deploy to Iraq, Kuwait and other southwest Asian countries are being warned to not eat or drink from souvenir tableware.

Maj. Alice Chapman, 374th Medical Group Public Health Flight commander, said ceramic or metal tableware from those nations doesn’t necessarily meet U.S. safety standards for lead and other heavy metals.

The warning wasn’t issued because of any particular problem, Chapman said. But military officials discovered vendors on some bases where troops deploy are selling items that contained lead.

U.S. soldiers put their lives on the line fighting the war in Iraq. While they don't expect much on their return home, one thing they don't expect is to be cleaned out.

That's what happened to one Davenport soldier.

Davenport soldier Chad Baetke says its good to be home. He's grateful to have survived the horrible chopper crash that killed many of his fellow soldiers, but would like to know who robbed him while he was out serving his country.

Baetke was injured in the crash. "I've got a titanium plate in my face," he explains.

Baetke is still on the mend after surviving a deadly helicopter crash over Iraq last month, an attack which killed 16 of his fellow soldiers.

He returned to a rude awakening.

"My TV, my stereo, Playstation, my clothes scattered all over the place," says Baetke.

While he was thousands of miles away fighting in Iraq, someone jimmied the lock on his trailer.

"Whoever stole from me, it's pathetic what you did," says Baetke.

Chad says its not the end of the world. He's just grateful to be alive, but while this proud American soldier is able to shrug this one off, it still hurts.

"It was not a good homecoming, for me, to come to find my stuff taken."

Not needed, says this guy.

But that may not be the biggest surprise of this story.
Newly released photos of the DHL cargo jet hit by Iraqi insurgents last month show for the first time the damage inflicted by a surface-to-air-missile fired near the Baghdad airport.

But they also show that some quarters in Washington are overreacting with calls to equip U.S. commercial planes with missile-defence systems, says Andrew R. Thomas, an aviation security expert and author.

"These guys (who fired the missiles) did pretty well everything they wanted to do here," said Thomas, author of Aviation Insecurity: The New Challenges of Air Travel. "They hit the wing and the engine and they still couldn't bring this plane down."

Thomas said surface-to-air-missiles (SAMs) can bring down a plane, but the DHL shooting is more typical and shows the resiliency of modern large aircraft...

The DHL hit sparked calls in Washington for new missile-defence systems to be placed on commercial aircraft in the U.S. because of the perceived vulnerability to SAM attacks by terrorists.

Also embedded in this story is this:

A video of the missile attack on the DHL plane has aired on television after it was passed to French journalists and Newsweek. This week the magazine published photos by French photographer Jerome Sessini who was with the insurgents when they summoned him for a "demonstration" of their firepower.

His photos show the Airbus A-300 cargo jet, its wing aflame, returning to Baghdad International Airport.

Now, from my reading of this we have a French photographer practicing al Arabiya and al Jazeera type "journalsm" by being at the location of an attack which if not explicitly foretold to him was certainly foreshadowed. And we have Newsweek profiting from such.

And I am disgusted.

Because, Mr. French Photographer...what if your wife were a DHL pilot and you knew she would be flying into Baghdad sometime about the time of your responding to the call of this "demonstration". Would you have done the same thing or perhaps would you have alerted someone because you might actually have a stake in the outcome?

That is my point, Mr. French Photographer, Mr. Newsweek Editor, and those who still don't get it. This is a war that they started and it is against us...all of us. This time it happened to be the crew of the DHL aircraft. Next time it might be the photographer's wife, the editor's son.

If you would have reacted differently if your own wife might have been at risk (and lets not be coy here, because certainly you would have), then you justify all of this as being "OK" so long as it happens to "someone else".

You disgust me.
On Thursday, a local group collecting Christmas gifts for soldiers had 1,200 shoeboxes to ship overseas but needed about $1,500 within 24 hours to pay for postage.

Their cry for help did not go unheeded by Southeast Missouri residents. By Friday evening, $9,000 had poured in, along with 600 more shoeboxes filled with gifts for soldiers serving in Kuwait and Baghdad. That's in addition to roughly $2,500 donated before Friday.

"I've been in tears all day," said organizer Tina Plaskie of Jackson, whose husband has been stationed in Baghdad since May. "If I could tell those people who donated anything, it would be God bless you and thank you."
Long averse to displays of patriotism due to the excesses and crimes of the Nazis, flag-waving outside of sporting events -- either real or figuratively -- has been largely taboo for this nation of 82 million. But now many young Germans have found new pride in the country’s prominent role along with France and Russia in opposing the war in Iraq.

“I thought ‘wow’ Germany stands for peace. It wasn’t always that way, you know,” explains the 23-year-old singer from Berlin who goes by the name Mieze.

Funny, to me it says Germany stands for inaction. That Germany stands by while some 300 Iraqis per day are slaughtered by their dictator - over the course of more than a decade.

To me it says that Germany stands for paying lip service to the notion of "legitimate actions sanctioned by the UN" while in fact the UN does nothing, not one single thing to seriously disrupt Saddam's reign of terror all the while thumbing his nose at the entirety of the UN.

To me it says that Germany puts its faith in such lamely executed UN programs as the "Oil for Food" program from which Saddam skimmed billions of dollars, built palace after gaudy palace while everyday Iraqis lived in squalor because electricity grids and sewer systems were improved only where they benefited Saddam and his lackeys.

To me it says that Germans are making an age-old mistake. They are equating the absence of war with peace.

And they are not the same at all.

Just ask the Iraqis.

The title above comes from the question I ask every 501st Soldier I meet who has just returned from down range.

I had the opportunity yesterday to visit with an officer who has just returned from Baghdad - a woman who knows CPT Patti very well and knows much of life in Camp Provider.

I'll call her Cindy.

The conversation I had with Cindy is clearly indicative of the gulf between my understanding of the Soldiers' situation and the reality of it.

Cindy said she misses being in Baghdad. To be sure, part of that is that strange guilt Soldiers have when they have been through hell with their comrades, then one of them is fortunate enough to escape early. But that isn't all of it.

"I like it better than here" she said, referring to Army life in Baghdad versus the same in garrison.

"We had time to get things done. Time to finish all the paperwork, all the reports. Time to talk with our Soldiers. Time to read...time to focus."

I was fairly amazed at hearing this. I wondered if after 200 days Cindy had lost perspective - I'm thinking "sure, if you are on the job 24 hours per day, every cotton pickin' day, well, just might seem like somehow you "found" a whole bunch of extra time to do your job.

But that wasn't it. I say that because of the next thing Cindy said.

"It was so relaxing in Baghdad."

Of all the words I might have ever anticipated hearing from a Soldier describing life in Baghdad, relaxing was never on that list.

To be sure, Cindy isn't just a little bit nuts. She said leaving the gates of the camp and driving through Baghdad was cause for fear. "The IEDs are real...we hear the stories about them just like you do. They train us to try to look for them, but you can't really. They could be anywhere and look like any thing. They've even begun hanging these things from trees above the streets."

And she didn't return unscathed. "I have scars", she said, "some ugly scars." She was speaking of the physical wounds she received in an ambush/firefight.

Cindy went on to talk about the improvements they had made to Camp Provider, most of which we already knew...the MWR building, the dining facility, two volley ball courts, a basketball court, a workout gym, the smoothie machine.

She did indicate that the MWR phone situation had somehow recently gotten worse, not better. Something about there being actually fewer phones than before. And she mentioned that she had received letters from Soldier's mothers wondering if her soldier is OK because she hasn't heard from him in two months. I know from my own time in the Army that sons and daughters never communicate enough with parents back home under any circumstance (from the perspective of the parents, that is) and surmise that dynamic is worse in a war zone. Perhaps Cindy's reference to disappearing phones helps explain some of that.

I asked how her health is. She said the intestinal malady the troops call Saddam's Revenge had only fully cleared up after she was out of Iraq for over two weeks. And she says she is tired. But she says the Army doctors did a million tests for parasites and other such things. And generally she feels good.

And talking to her was wonderful. Even though she spoke of wounds and scars and firefights, she seemed very, very normal.

And not to forget, she said life on Camp Provider is "relaxing"...and most of the 501st FSB soldiers spend most of their time on Camp Provider.

As she started to leave I thanked Cindy for all the assistance and friendship she had given to CPT Patti over the last 7 months. She gave me a hug and smiled. "I really like your wife", she said.

So I feel better. Perhaps you do too.

It's been 209 days since CPT Patti got to sleep in her own bed.

Me, I've been doing a lot of sleeping in that all the wrong hours. Been back from the USA 79 hours now and still haven't gotten myself back on Germany time.

Friday, December 05, 2003


So many news stories include the line "...since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1st".

Here are some you didn't hear on CNN.

Read the whole list'll make you proud.
Since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1...the Coalition has helped administer over 22 million vaccination doses to Iraq’s children.

Since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1...a Coalition program has cleared over 14,000 kilometers of Iraq's 27,000 kilometers of weed-choked canals. They now irrigate tens of thousands of farms. This project has created jobs for more than 100,000 Iraqi men and women.


And "free women" are the threat.

"I am a free journalist and a free woman," she boasts, adding, like her colleagues, that the clergy and others fail to appreciate the media's newfound freedom.

"I chose not to wear the veil and nobody can force me to change my mind," says the 20-year-old who anchors at the Iraqi Media Network (IMN), a station run by the US-led coalition and which began broadcasting soon after the overthrow of Saddam's regime last April.

Sahar al-Ibrahimi, 26, nods her approval: "They should not interfere and we should not let them interfere," she says

Shiite clerics have recently voiced outrage at what they deem are "immoral and indecent" broadcasts.

An official of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) threatened the network with street protests.

"If you do not change your programs and submit to our will, we shall mobilize the Iraqi street against you. We shall mobilize the Iraqi street to defend Islam," warned Sadreddin al-Qabanji in remarks broadcast by Al-Jazeera satellite channel last week.

Thais buying New Year cards for their troops in Iraq could win a free trip with the military to the war-torn country.

The Thai Defence Ministry has put two million Happy New Year postcards for its 443 medical and engineering troops in Iraq on sale to raise money for food and medicine for Iraqis.

The names of people buying the cards, which cost five baht (12 U.S. cents) each, will go into a draw.

''Winners of the draw will represent the Thai public and travel with an armed forces delegation on a C-130 plane to give moral support to our troops at Lima Camp in Karbala,'' ministry spokesman Major General Palangkul Klahan said on Friday.

Thailand insists it will keep its troops in Karbala, south of Baghdad, at least until March despite a series of attacks on foreigners.

The date of the lucky draw has yet to be decided, Palangkul said.
"I have no regrets about being here and know I'm contributing to a great effort -- if you heard some of the stories first hand, you would feel pretty good, too. I had lunch with a few Iraqis and they were laughing and one leaned over to me and said, 'You don't understand. For 35 years, we couldn't laugh. Now we can. Thank you!' That meant a lot," she said.

"It was also a pretty good feeling (Tuesday) when the first of four 'Saddam heads' came down," Lindsay said. She even posed in her red Paulsboro Football sweatshirt for a snapshot in front of one of the heads about to be removed.

A decade ago, Abry, a French pastry chef, gave up the luxurious kitchens and fancy pastry shops of France to move to the Middle East, bringing his creations and training to the gastronomically disadvantaged, even in dangerous places like Iraq...

"They don't have the basic things," he said. "It's very difficult for them to improve. We need to start with the basics, to teach them how to make the sponge cake, how to make the nice croissants with butter. We hope to go in Baghdad one time with chefs from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan and to make some training course there. It will be really nice. And it will be our part to help them in the reconstruction of the country."

Think of it as Pastries without Borders, or Eclairs sans Frontières.

And it is very, very ugly.

You need to read the whole thing.
In Baghdad, however, the picture could not have looked more different. Waiters smiled at me when I identified myself as an American, cabbies brushed their palms together in a good-riddance gesture as they declared, "Saddam gone, America great!," and on the campus of Baghdad University I was approached by a man who wished to tell me "how honored Iraqis are that the Americans came to rid us of a tyrant."...

But in the catalogue of Saddam’s evil, perhaps the most gruesome entry concerned the use of torture...Men were fed alive into wood-shredding machines. A general who had earned Saddam’s displeasure was devoured by rabid dogs. According to one macabre report, women prisoners were forced to eat chunks of their own flesh that Baathist thugs had sliced from their bodies...

"In a thousand years, there have been few tyrants like Saddam Hussein," the lawyer finished, fingering his prayer beads.

I heard this refrain numerous times in Iraq: Saddam’s evil was in a category of its own. Because his regime lasted 35 years, because Iraq is a relatively small nation, because he was so open and boastful about his tyranny—and because the outside world seemed so ready to ignore his crimes—there seemed no way for Iraqis to escape his grasp...

STORIES LIKE these, defining the reality of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, made me begin to wonder how Iraqis were dealing with the fact that many outsiders seemed to question the value of their country’s liberation. Among those I talked to, the prevalent reaction was sheer disbelief. "If they had lived for five minutes under Saddam they wouldn’t think like this," expostulated an Iraqi translator for the U.S. military.


At least, one faction of the enemy. This story comes in two parts. The first is here, and second here.
God willing we hit something this time," he says, wryly smiling. "Our mortars are very inaccurate. We cannot wait to aim them, so we use timers.

"The American helicopters come too fast for us to properly use the mortars as we were trained to. But we are finding ways to fight these helicopters. Before we would shoot flares at them. But this did no good. Now some of our colleagues have SA-7s or Strellas (Soviet-era anti-aircraft missiles), but me and my colleagues have no such equipment."

In the second installment the participation of foreign arabs is confirmed.

But one source of support has been foreigners from other Arab countries.

In earlier interviews, Abu Mujahid acknowledged that both Syrian intelligence and al-Qaida members were operating in Iraq against the U.S.-led coalition forces but denied he received direct assistance from them. But in later interviews, he said he received support from some people he suspects have ties with terrorist organizations.

"In my neighborhood, we have many students from Yemen, Syria and Jordan," he says. "Several of them give us money to buy weapons and conduct operations."


Against the terrorists, that is.
(A)bout 500 people rallied Friday in central Baghdad to call for an end to terrorist attacks against civilians. Participants carried banners reading "No to terrorism" and expressed support for the U.S.-led coalition that has governed Iraq since ousting Saddam Hussein in early April.


This from a Captain who was there and tells you what it meant to the soldiers.

Read it all...and then slap the next person who whines about the so-called "photo op".

Wonder what they have done for the soldiers lately...
Then, from behind the camouflage netting, the President of the United States came around. The mess hall actually erupted with hollering.

Troops bounded to their feet with shocked smiles and just began cheering with all their hearts. The building actually shook. It was just unreal. I was absolutely stunned. Not only for the obvious, but also because I was only two tables away from the podium.

There he stood, less than thirty feet away from me! The cheering went on and on and on. Soldiers were hollering, cheering, and a lot of them were crying. There was not a dry eye at my table.

When he stepped up to the cheering, I could clearly see tears running down his cheeks.

It was the most surreal moment I've had in years. Not since my wedding and Aaron being born.

Here was this man, our President, came all the way around the world, spending 17 hours on an airplane and landing in the most dangerous airport in the world, where a plane was shot out of the sky not six days before. Just to spend two hours with his troops. Only to get on a plane and spend another 17 hours flying back. It was a great moment, and I will never forget it.


Personal air conditioning units for helicopter crews.
Engineers designed the units with temperatures of 125 degrees and 14 percent relative humidity in mind.

“In other words, the desert,” said lead engineer Rich Luechtefeld, who joined the telephone interview with Bippen.

The cooling systems come in three parts: Each crewmember needs a 13-pound, shoe-box-sized device that works like a refrigerator and is anchored to the aircraft, a washable, 100 percent cotton vest embedded with tiny PVC tubes and a connecting “umbilical cord.”

The vest “cools your torso very effectively,” according to Luechtefeld, who has personally tested the system. “Testers’ comments have been really favorable.”

Air Warrior officials have decided that the first helicopters to get the coolers will be OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, he said.


More 1-36 Infantry raids...and in interesting Iraqi response.
At no point during the night did the Iraqis in their homes show hostility to the Americans.

In one house, two women appeared wide-eyed and tense with fear. But most, including women and children, seemed to take the searches in stride.

“What I did notice is the children, they didn’t cry, they didn’t feel threatened by us,” said Spc. John Lawton, 37, of Hampstead, N.H., a gunner who worked as the radio operator for the night’s operation. “We must be doing something right.”

Some thanked the Americans for their efforts.

At one house Bayles asked a question through the interpreter.

“Ask him if he knows any bad people in the neighborhood, anybody who’s causin’ trouble,” Bayles said.

“He says, ‘We have no information about anybody. We have the door closed all the time,’” the interpreter replied.

“OK sir, that’s great,” Bayles said to the man of the house.

Then an elderly woman in black stepped forward.

“She says, ‘You are doing this to help us. We must cooperate with you.’”


AAFES and AT&T reduce the cost for phone calls from Iraq for the Christmas period.

In conjunction with AT&T, McDonald said AAFES wanted to give customers a holiday bonus by further cutting prices, dropping the per-minute fees assessed against the prepaid cards.

Troops calling family and friends from a designated phone center in Iraq will pay 25 cents a minute during the holidays instead of 32 cents.

Likewise, the per-minute fee for satellite calls has changed, dropping from 76 to 63 cents.

“Calls to home during this time of the year are critical to the morale of America’s servicemembers,” Mike Westphal, a senior vice president in Dallas, was quoted as saying in an AAFES news release.

“By offering a lower price, AAFES and AT&T hope that servicemembers will find it much easier and more convenient to contact all of their friends and family this holiday season.”

The Scouts from 1-36 in Friedberg.
The man gave no resistance and said nothing.

“You,” the sergeant told him, “are the lucky winner of the Blindfold and Gag Contest,” developed, he said, by the 1st Armored Division during its service in Baghdad.

The troops led the man to a trailer hitched to a Humvee and the scouts headed back to their battalion compound.

The man was held for further questioning.

“It was a fleeting target,” Kreis said later that day. “We knew where he was. The level above us said it was credible, so we went out.”

Pulling out just before 4 a.m., Livingston summed up the night’s events: the house-to-house search and the raids they’d just made.

“This was a successful evening,” he said. “We killed two bad dudes — needless to say, they killed themselves.

“And we may have — that’s subject to investigation — may have captured another bad dude.”
December 3, 2003
Release Number: 03-12-07



AL FALLUJAH, Iraq—Paratroopers from 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, conducted a cordon and search mission early Wednesday morning to capture former regime elements in Fallujah.

Soldiers detained Brig. Gen. Daham Al Mahemdi during this operation. At his home, two AK-47s, five AK-47 magazines, a 9mm pistol, a 9mm pistol magazine, a shotgun, one 100 round drum of ammunition and assorted documents, including a photograph of Mahemdi in an Iraqi Army uniform, were found.

Mahemdi was a Republican Guard Colonel of the Habbaniyah Lakes region and promoted to general immediately before the war by Saddam Hussein. He is suspected of having indirect contact with Saddam Hussein and directing anti-coalition activities in Fallujah.

No shots were fired and no soldiers were injured during the cordon and search mission.

CPT Patti is still in Baghdad.

Me, I'm back home in Germany trying to shake off the worst case of jet lag I can remember.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

DaimlerChrysler's Dodge unit is sponsoring a pay-per-view "Lingerie Bowl" during halftime of the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 featuring models dressed in lingerie playing a seven-on-seven tackle football game.

During the celebration, Crows Breast was called to the center of the hall by veteran Virgil Chase.

Chase said it was traditional that warriors who go to war, and especially those who are wounded, receive a red eagle feather. They "recognize him as a protector of our land. He earned the eagle feather and can wear an eagle feather war bonnet." The red eagle feather signifies the warrior was wounded in battle.

Tony Mandan, Hidatsa tribal elder and spiritual leader, took Crows Breast's hand. Then, hand in hand, they made the circle while Mandan sang an honor song for him.


Some won't like this. But the fact is he put himself and his fellow soldiers at risk.
A U.S. soldier has been reprimanded and will be discharged for taking a break from a foot patrol in Baghdad to marry an Iraqi woman, his lawyer said yesterday.

Sgt. Sean Blackwell, 27, is being punished for divulging the time and location of the patrol to his bride and the Iraqi judge who married them, his attorney said.

A Baghdad district court has found Saddam Hussein guilty of attempted murder and issued a warrant for his immediate arrest after an in-absentia trial, the plaintiff, an Iraqi politician who was the victim of an assassination attempt while exiled in London, said on Tuesday.

The judged ruled that the fugitive former president was a "professional murderer to be arrested", said the statement issued by Iyad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), who is now a member of the US-installed interim Governing Council.
Customers choose between Dead Sea mud masks, German cosmetics and Adidas sports gear at Baghdad's first hypermarket, a rare sign of private investment in the country.

"A car bomb could destroy everything, but we are leaving it to God," Dia Matar, general manager of B-Town, told Reuters. "We pressed on with the project during the U.S. invasion. Modern retail works in Dubai, Lebanon and Jordan. Iraq is no different."

The two-storey complex near the German embassy opened last month in a departure from grocery stores and specialist retailers that dominate trade in consumer goods, especially old markets such as al-Shorga in Baghdad's old sector.

An account of the President's visit to Iraq.

And note the priorities of a theif.
7:55 a.m.: After Bartlett briefing, breakfast served -- cheese omelet, two Texas-sized sausages, little cup of oats, plain yogurt, blueberry muffin and orange juice.

8:28 a.m.: Reporters try on camouflage, Velcro-front "ballistic vests." Keil, adjusting his, asked: "Anyone have a tailor?" Much of the staff changed into camouflage tops and bottoms, for security and to blend in and not spoil the pictures.

9:09 a.m. Washington time (5:09 p.m. Destination): Cabin lights are turned out and all the shades remain down.

9:22 a.m. Washington time: We were told eight minutes out and could feel the descent. Shut down laptops. Cabin is dark except for light of clocks and light from agents' cabin. About half the journalists were already wearing their vests, which are Point Blank Body Armor.

9:31 a.m. Washington time (5:32 p.m. local): Touched down in swift abrupt landing, but not the emergency spiral that had been prepared for. Press walked down dark stairs onto Tarmac.

10:50 a.m.: I had taken off my body armor to type, then saw a soldier I wanted to interview. I came back and my vest is gone. The laptop is still there.

The children of Giessen prepare for Christmas without Dad or Mom.

You might want to grab a hankie before reading this one.
Many of the children had a parent in mind, though not all. Sarah made two ornaments for a pair of military police officers she has never met.

“A lot of soldiers need our support,” Sarah said after applying the finishing touches to her second orb.

“Some people don’t appreciate what they do.”

Tina O’Brien sure does.

Her father, Sgt. 1st Class James O’Brien, is in Iraq, and he has not come home for the holidays. Roughly 90 percent of the soldiers assigned to Giessen have deployed to Iraq.

The ornament Tina made for her father soon will occupy a treasured twig on the community Christmas tree.

“I miss how my father hugs and kisses me at night, and how he says, ‘I love you,’” Tina said softly.

By the end of the period, as scho

But are the NATO members listening?
Lord Robertson, presiding over his final NATO ministerial meetings this week before retiring as the alliance’s top diplomat, said in remarks opening Monday’s session that America’s allies “must have the political will to deploy and use (their) forces in much larger numbers than at present.” He mentioned not only Afghanistan and Iraq but the broader war against terror.
Gray, armed and in full battle gear, entered the room expecting trouble. But she didn’t find any weapons.

Instead, a young Iraqi woman was lying on the concrete floor, struggling to give birth.

“They told [the Iraqi men] I was a doctor, so they’d let me in,” she said in a telephone interview Monday while explaining the Nov. 17 incident. But the three women inside — including the one giving birth — weren’t expecting to see an armed soldier coming through the door.

“I scared the heck out of them,” Gray said.

After surveying the situation, Gray set her weapon aside and took off her helmet to show the women she was one of them. “They were surprised,” she said. “And they don’t see a lot of blond hair.”

Meanwhile, the baby was ready to be born...

Gray, who said she’s seen plenty of death in her stint in Iraq, got to hold Zuher Ahmed Mohowed for a few minutes before the soldiers left.

“Sometimes, it appears that nobody appreciates what we’re doing,” Gray said. “To be able to do something like that and help these people … it just reminds you that we’re all human.”

Gray said the soldiers were told the family didn’t like Americans. At least they didn’t until the search-turned-medical rescue.

“We at least made a difference with this one family,” she said, “and probably the whole neighborhood. Word will spread.


CPT Patti has been gone for 205 days.

Me - I've been gone for 14. I'm ready to go home.

Bet she is too.

Monday, December 01, 2003


Only if we have lost every shred of capitalistic talent we ever had.

Omar - who may be the most level headed guy in Iraq - does the math for us.
I find it so naive for someone to think that the USA is spending 4 billions a month to "steal" 1,5 billions....

Some Iraqis say that Iraq is a wealthy country and that America came here to steal our fortune, and I ask them what f***ing fortune?

You just gotta read the whole thing.

(via Instapundit)

And notice how Syria tends to show up in all the wrong places...
Saddam Hussein was in the process of acquiring a North Korean assembly line for missiles, the New York Times has reported.

The deal came to light through information extracted from computer files found by international inspectors, the NYT said.

According to the report, the pre-war Iraq government had made a $US10 million down payment on a production line to churn out the DPRK's Redong missile system. Negotiations had stretched out for two years prior to the war but were at an apparent stalemate in the month before coalition forces attacked Iraq.

The system was to have been delivered to Iraq through Syria, but was delayed because of monitoring activity in the months immediately prior to the war, the report says.

Syria has denied any involvement in such a deal.
American forces have captured three members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network in northern Iraq, a U.S. military commander said yesterday. If confirmed, it would be the first announced detention of al-Qaida militants in Iraq.

About 10 members of Ansar al-Islam — an Islamic group U.S. officials believe has al-Qaida links in northern Iraq — also have been arrested by U.S. troops in the past seven months, said Col. Joe Anderson, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.


And Spain gets it.

Interesting that those who have had their noses bloodied are the ones who understand the need to fight this war.
Spanish troops will remain in Iraq as part of the fight against "fanatical terrorism," Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said yesterday in a live broadcast to a nation angry about the slaying of seven of its intelligence agents south of Baghdad.

Mr. Aznar, one of the staunchest European supporters of the Iraq war, spoke as the agents' bodies arrived at a Madrid airport, awaited by about 150 relatives and senior government officials.

"Our freedom is threatened by all terrorists," the prime minister said. "We know that a withdrawal would be the worst route we could take."

And given the outcome, one they will abandon with all due haste.
American military officials said today that guerrillas in Iraq appear to have adopted a new tactic of highly coordinated ambushes, judging from an attack on Sunday in which soldiers delivering Iraqi currency to two banks were bombarded with small arms and grenade fire.

American soldiers killed 54 people in the intense firefight that ensued in the town of Samarra in central Iraq, the military said today, updating the death toll from the 46 that was reported on Sunday.

Military officials said that the body count could be unclear because the guerrillas were not likely to bring their dead or wounded in to local hospitals.

``Many of the dead attackers were found wearing Fedayeen uniforms,'' the military statement on Sunday said.

And this story talks about the battle from the eyes of an NCO involved.

As soon as we got to that location, we started receiving direct fire via small arms, AK-47s. My guys from both the east and the west bank started returning fire back to the point of origin and neutralizing any targets they'd actually seen.

During the course of the firefight, we started receiving not only small-arms [fire]. We had incoming and direct fire from mortars. We also had RPGs coming through here just hitting us all around.

As far as my thoughts during that, it was -- it was an extremely scary time. I remember I talked to my wife yesterday morning. I've got a 10-month-old son. He'll be 10 months old on the fourth of February, the fourth of December, excuse me. And she told me, she said, 'Don't do anything stupid. Don't put yourself in any harm's way or anything like that. Just be extremely careful.'

And I reckoned during the course of that fight, we were -- I kept thinking about my wife and my son. And I kept communicating with my team that I had with me and I was looking at the rest of the squad that was there and making sure they were doing their job. They were all well. They were doing an excellent job as far as returning fire and everything.

But this time the protests are against the terrorists...
A kitten has been found in a British Army tank after it arrived back in the UK from Iraq.

The black and white kitten, named Gracie, is believed to have crept into the tank near Baghdad.

Her journey to the UK took six weeks and she survived the ordeal by eating bugs and lapping up condensation from the vehicle's walls...

Gracie is called "the kitten of mass destruction" because she is so lively.

However, there's one tremendous quote from the Kurtz article that came from retired Col. Ken Allard, military analyst on MSNBC: "You underestimate George Bush at your peril. It was a gutsy call, a Hail Mary pass, and he pulled it off." And to that I say, Bravo Mr. President.

Here's the crux of the matter -- The liberal press is particularly churlish since their standard bearer, Senator Hillary Clinton, was upstaged by President Bush and his trip to Baghdad. Oopps! Bush stole Senator Hillary Clinton's thunder in her whistle stop tour that included Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. She was initially poised to shine in her Thanksgiving visit with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, replete with photo ops, but the president "preempted" her...

Fox News Channel's Geraldo Rivera reporting from Afghanistan noted that the soldiers were impressed with Hillary Clinton and the dignitaries, but more impressed with the "full blown" turkey dinner...

Really, no matter how Hillary tries to spin it, she and her entourage rate a weak second to President Bush. The overall troop reaction to Senators Clinton and Reed was polite and friendly, but nothing on par with the heartfelt delight generated by President Bush. And Hillary received a comparably friendly, but not effusive, response in Iraq.

However, Senator Hillary Clinton of the Senate Armed Services Committee has only herself to blame, given her political positions and past history. Sure, she made clear that she is in favor of the mission in Afghanistan, which has her full support. But what about Iraq? Hillary didn't exactly enthrall the troops in Iraq or boost their morale for the simply reason that she is a staunch critic of the overall policy in Iraq and the troops overwhelmingly believe in the mission.

And the unfortunate reality is this -- Hillary and Bill Clinton have a terrible reputation among many members of the military, a reputation well-earned by the fact that the "co-presidents" used and abused the military when they reduced it by about half, and demonstrated abject contempt for military personnel during their White House years.

Just read the eyewitness account of retired Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson's tenure as a White House military aide in his bestselling book "Dereliction of Duty" for an insightful glimpse of what Hillary and Bill are really like behind the scenes. This tome is rife with details. For instance, it was Hillary who didn't want the military aides to wear their uniforms at the White House - it offended her. As Buzz Patterson noted, "Common sense and security finally prevailed, at least at official functions with the president. At all other times, however, we were expected to be in business suits or civilian clothes in order to downplay the military presence at the White House". And there is no question that the uniform directive came directly from Hillary. This is only one small snippet, to be sure. However, the long and short of it is that the Clintons, and their like-minded liberal cronies, don't understand the military culture nor do they respect military personnel.

I've also read "Deriliction of Duty". It is more reasoned and less vitriolic than one might imagine from the title.

And disturbing.
The criticism Bush has taken over the Iraq trip — "photo-op" and all — is slightly appalling. There are some who hate Bush so much that they won't credit him no matter what he does. In fact, they won't even be neutral, but instead must damn him. I think of that old politician's line: "If I walked on water, they'd say '[INSERT NAME HERE] can't swim!'" It's a tired line, but it perhaps applies to GWB. Some people are actually angry that Bush pulled off this Thanksgiving jaunt, and they seem miffed that the troops received him positively — and more than positively.
CENTCOM NEWS RELEASE about the large battle in which over 50 Fedayeen thugs lost their lives can be found here.

CPT Patti has been deployed for 204 days.

But I received a note from her this morning indicating her change of command ceremony is now scheduled for the 1st of March instead of the 15th as previously mentioned). She says the battalion commander intends to send her home soon thereafter as he knows that Soldiers' loyalty can be slow to shift if the outgoing commander is still in the area.

March 1st is 3 months from today. 90 days from today (it would only be 89 days but 2004 is a leap year...drat!) you might imagine I'm pretty happy about it.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Want to know how Americans will vote next Election Day? Watch what they do the weekend before.

If they attend religious services regularly, they probably will vote Republican by a 2-1 ratio. If they never go, they likely will vote Democratic 2-1...

A new poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press indicates that the gap remains: Voters who frequently attend religious services tilt 63-37 percent to George W. Bush and those who never attend lean 62-38 percent toward Democrats.

It is not unusual to read or hear the term "religious right" in the press. Will this poll spawn the usage of "heathen left" in a similar fashion?


They don't get it.
That's the problem with these presidential photo stunts. Eventually, the facts have a way of catching up with them. Today's rave review is tomorrow's dangling embarrassment - and then where are you? - symbolizing something very different from what was intended.

Presidential photo stunts? Hardly. But then, seems folks have a way of forgetting we are at war.

And they forget we are asking our Soldiers to fight that war.

But the President doesn't forget. And he doesn't forget that he is the Commander in Chief of every one of our Soldiers.

Military leaders have a long tradition of serving their Soldiers on Thanksgiving Day. It is a symbolic gesture that reminds all involved, Soldiers and leaders, that true leadership is all about serving those under your command.

Re-read that is a point that many do not get. Leadership is about service to those under your command.

Now I realize that many don't see it that way. Many so-called leaders think their time in command is somehow about them and what all these Soldiers can do for them.

But they get it wrong.

And Mr. Bush got it exactly right on Thanksgiving day. Those who call this a photo op do not understand the nature of Soldiers, the responsibilities of leadership and the awesome duties of the Commander in Chief.

It was about the Soldiers. It was about Soldiers seeing their leaders do more than simply order Soldiers into unpleasant places to do unpleasant things. It was about a leader who climbed down from his place of comfort to walk a brief hundred yards in the Soldiers' boots. It was about boosting morale.

And it worked. It worked in spades.

The Soldiers know. They know the enormous risk the President took. They know he didn't have to. Not a single one among them would have blamed the President for spending Thanksgiving day in Texas, or DC or anywhere else there are Americans. But the President chose to spend the time with Soldiers.

And that little gesture recharged Soldiers who have been on the job without a break for over 200 days.

Photo op? is called leadership. It is called service.
Not since Abraham Lincoln visited Richmond, Va., just days after the Confederates fled, had a U.S. President placed himself so close to the front lines.
Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, an air defense general captured Oct. 5 in a raid near the Syrian border, was being questioned Wednesday while in American custody in Qaim near the Syrian border when he lost consciousness after complaining he didn't feel well, the military said in a statement.

He was pronounced dead by a U.S. military physician. The cause of death and interrogation techniques are under investigation, but Mowhoush's head was not hooded during questioning, the 82nd Airborne said. The statement did not give his age.

Mowhoush, who served in the Republican Guard, was captured in a raid in Qaim. A U.S. military spokeswoman said at the time that Mowhoush was believed to have been financing attacks on U.S. forces.


Drivers who can stretch that last drop of gas through the weekend will be in for an early Christmas treat — fuel prices will drop Monday.

Prices at Army and Air Force Exchange Service gas pumps throughout Europe will be about five cents per gallon lower, except for diesel fuel, which remains the same, according to an AAFES news release.

In Germany, regular unleaded will be sold for $1.70, super unleaded will be $1.80, and super plus unleaded will be sold for $1.89 per gallon.

But here in South Carolina I'm buying gas for $1.39 per gallon.

That is 31 cents per gallon less than AAFES new, "lower" prices.

And that is with who knows how much taxes built in to the SC price.

That's one job of the Psychological Operations unit.
Around midnight, the lights went out in Baghdad. A power outage.

By morning, with the power still out, some Iraqis began speculating over their morning tea: The U.S. military had deliberately cut power to punish ordinary Iraqis for the attacks some insurgents had been making on U.S.-led coalition forces.


And our girl has been away for all of 203 days.

Me...I sort of thought perhaps you get to a point where the "missing" doesn't get any worse.

That day must be somewhere beyond day 203.