Saturday, February 07, 2004


A couple of days ago you read this story about Mr. Khan, the Pakistani scientist who admits to providing nuclear secretst to Iran, Lybia and North Korea.

John, a longtime reader writes in to offer another perspective. Please note that John comes from a background steeped in diplomatic service and seems uniquely qualified to speak on this subject. I found his assertions to be very interesting, even if they portray international relations in a cynical light.

He writes:
Perhaps I can try to make you understand how diplomacy is
all about.

It seems obvious to me that not only the Pakistani government knew this all along, I suspect President Musharraf at the very minimum acquiesced to what Dr. Khan was doing. Musharraf probably intended all along to use this "favor" to North Korea, Iran, and Libya for something in return. It is not unlike like a trade in professional sports for "a player or draft pick to be named later".

In case you are wondering, my father was a diplomat for Taiwan who reached the deputy ambassador rank before he retired. I grew up in Japan where he was mostly stationed, and he had stints in South Korea also. His career spanned from right after the WWII to right about when President Nixon terminated diplomatic relationship with Taiwan and visited China for the first time. I always remembered while lots of Chinese all over the world (except in China of course) were indignation and felt "betrayed" by the US, he always preached to them that this was the logical and reasonable thing for the US to do (he never said it was the RIGHT thing to do).

He oft repeated the following paragraph as I was growing up. It didn't really dawn on me until I was well into my twenties:

"There is basically no such thing as genuine honesty, integrity, loyalty, camaraderie, friendship, partnership, etc., among nation states. The only over-riding consideration is nationalistic interest. Mutual cooperation occurs only when such interest is on balance beneficial and temporarily reciprocal. The art of diplomacy is all about how to get the most out of the other side while successfully and publicly showing yourself as genuinely interested in the other side's well being or to some convenient higher alling."

Cynical perhaps? But it is the reality!

US needs Pakistan as a "partner" on global war on terrorism. Without cooperation rom Pakistan, it will be difficult if not impossible to put an end to Al Queada. Mubarrak needs to be propped up, supported, protected at all costs (almost). So we will do othing nor protest much an as he pardons Dr. Khan, we can only sigh and shrug our shoulders.

Now, what if the Pakistani government and its leader are perhaps misguided or even hiding something from the Pakistani people? If this had happened in the US, we will be talking about congressional hearing, possible treason and trial of Dr. Khan! Well, nother important point you need to be aware of is this notion of Dr. Khan as Pakistan's national hero.

You see, in the third world, anyone enabling his (her) country to join the "nuclear lub" in developing, testing, and owning nuclear weapons is by definition a national hero. Pakistanis and Indians are rather paranoid about having nuclear arms. Dr. Khan has been the most critical scientific mind in this endeavor. So the people of Pakistan will NEVER allow any prosecution of Dr. Khan, no matter how "evil" his acts were in helping North Korea, Libya, and Iran.

Thus, there will be no inquiry on Dr. Khan. The pardon is a neat publicity stunt by Musharaf. Dr. Khan will keep a low profile for a year or two (until Libya and Iran pass the UN inspection). He will also stay far away from North Korea until US, Russia, Japan, North and South Korea resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear armament issue. US will not pursue the Dr. Khan AS LONG AS Pakistan continues to help us out in the hunt for Osama and the elimination of Al Queada.

For the rest of the world, the big boys of the "nuclear club" (UK, Russia, France, China, etc.) won't do anything without the US taking the lead. For those aspiring third world countries, they will always be ready to contact Dr. Khan for his services in the future, with the blessing of the Pakistani government.

You see, while there is some semblance or agreement among many nations for non-proliferation of nuclear arms and technology, there is virtually no such thing as non-proliferation of nuclear arms knowledge. After all, knowledge is power and we all know it, hoard it, and exercises it to our advantage, each and every country.

So next time you hear any country or it's leader describes another country or its leader as a "friend", stop for a moment and think about what does that really mean!!
John...thanks for the insights, disillusioning though they may be.
An illegal immigrant at Fort Stewart in Hinesville who served with the Army in Iraq is on track to becoming a U.S. citizen next week.

Pfc. Juan Escalante, who enlisted by showing a fake green card he bought for $50, could take the oath Wednesday in Seattle, where he grew up. The Army helped him pursue citizenship on the grounds that he is a valuable soldier who risked his life in a war zone.

"I feel great," Escalante said. "This is what I've been looking for ever since my parents told me I was illegal."

Escalante's parents brought him to the United States from Mexico when he was 4. He has lived in this country ever since and said he considers himself an American...

Escalante may become a citizen as a result of an executive order the president issued to help noncitizens on active duty after Sept. 11, 2001, the day America was attacked by terrorists. The order eliminated a three-year wait they otherwise would have faced before they could apply for citizenship.
In an instant, he became one of hundreds of intellectuals and public officials who Iraqi officials say have been assassinated since May in a widening campaign against Iraq's professional class.

"They are going after our brains," said Lt. Col. Jabbar Abu Natiha, head of the organized crime unit of the Baghdad police. "It is a big operation. Maybe even a movement."

These white-collar killings, U.S. and Iraqi officials say, are separate from -- and in some ways more insidious than -- the settling of scores with former Baath Party officials, or the singling-out of police officers and others thought to be collaborating with the occupation forces. Hundreds of them have been attacked as well in an effort to sow insecurity and chaos.

But by silencing urban professionals, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a spokesman for the occupation forces, the guerrillas are waging war on Iraq's fledgling institutions and progress itself. The dead include doctors, lawyers, bureaucrats and judges. "This works against everything we're trying to do here," the general said.

A U.N. team sent to Iraq to determine whether elections can be held before the handover of power to Iraqis by June 30 arrived safely in Baghdad on Saturday, the secretary-general announced.

Day 271.

Friday, February 06, 2004


Here's one...please go read the whole thing.
What an ignorant I was to think that it was OK and again thank you CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, Mr. Dean, Mr. Cherac and our dear Arab and Muslim leaders for showing me the truth, and I’m not talking about the silly things I have mentioned. I’m talking about the most important fact:

You made me realize that freedom doesn’t worth waiting for hours to get 5 gallons of gasoline, and 10 hours of power shortage a day (even if it was temporarily). in fact you showed me that freedom means NOTHING to me. Thank you for showing me that I was born to be a slave and that I enjoyed getting down on my knees in front of my master whoever he was (and there was no one better than Saddam to bow to).

I loved kissing the ground he walks on, and I adored his way of insulting, raping, torturing and killing Iraqis everyday...

(via trying to grok - Thanks Sarah!)
Companies added 112,000 new jobs in January, as the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent, providing fresh signs the prolonged hiring slump may be ending...

Employers added new jobs last month at a pace not seen in three years. The last time payrolls expanded more than 112,000 was in December 2000, when companies added 124,000 positions.

A Boston Herald columnist provides one in-stater's view.

It seems they are hoping you don't remember. Here is the so-called story as reported by the Associated Press:
Intelligence analysts never told President Bush before the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein's rule posed an imminent threat, CIA Director George Tenet said Thursday in a heated defense of agency findings central to the decision to go to war.

The urgency of the Iraqi threat was Bush's main argument for the war.
And here is what the President actually said:
"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent," Bush said. "Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein ... is not an option."
Speaking Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Bush praised U.S. troops for exhibiting compassion and religious tolerance as they help rebuild Iraq.

Bush lauded the work of the American military, saying the war and its aftermath have shown the world "the kind of people America sends forth from our towns and neighborhoods to serve in freedom's cause."

"They are the sort of people who, when the fighting is done, are kind and compassionate toward innocent citizens, and their compassion as much as their courage has made this country proud."

The president highlighted the military's role in rebuilding schools, medical clinics and soccer fields in Iraq.

U.S. troops have demonstrated religious tolerance by helping repair mosques, treating Muslim clerics with deference and recognizing the importance of Islam's holy days, he said.


But corruption is ingrained in the system.
Officials at all levels of the nascent government are scrambling to do this, with the occupation authority coordinating with the Iraqi Governing Council to create a committee to combat government corruption. Still, officials with both agencies offer few specifics about what the body will do.

Specialists say it will take years to cleanse Iraqi society of its culture of corruption. As an example, Habib, the political scientist, recounted a recent conversation with an Iraqi police officer whose job was to impound weapons. The officer, who had made a pittance under Hussein, was allowing people to keep their firearms for a modest payment. Habib chastised him, noting that Americans have increased public-sector pay tenfold to remove one of the major motivations for graft.

"Why are you doing this?" Habib asked the policeman. The officer's answer: "I used to do this, and now I can't stop it."

The Iraqi Governing Council is debating a draft law for the country's future transitional government. The law will regulate the work of the government during the period from July 2004 to December 2005, when Iraq's permanent government is due to be elected.

Relatively little is known so far about the draft, which was written by Iraqi lawyers and advisors to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. What is know is that the plan envisions a three-person presidency, a bill of rights, and a legislature in which women will hold 40 percent of the seats.
A military police unit based at this Central Texas installation (Fort Hood) assumed responsibility on Thursday for law enforcement in Baghdad, Iraq, officials said.

The "talk radio of Baghdad"
But the wall that leads to Jumhuriya Bridge has the last word on Iraq's embarrassment of new political leaders. "No Hakim, no Chalabi, I just want beer and lablabi," says one wit, comparing the two political leaders, unfavorably, to beer and chick pea soup.

The three Army National Guard brigades about to rotate into Iraq will arrive with the same protective gear issued to their active-duty brethren, according to the Guard’s top commander.

Guard units “will have exactly the same chances for survival on the battlefield” as active troops, Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard, told reporters at a Wednesday defense writer’s breakfast. “This is a huge change.”

Army cooks are great Americans.
“People were filming it with their video cameras,” he said. “They were filming the food as they walked down the line and saying, ‘Look. This is how we’re eating, honey.’”

Those Soldiers south of here who have just returned from Iraq are acting like, well, Soldiers who have just returned from a war zone.
Troops joked about their blood samples — many of them have been partying each night since their return.

“I’m hung over and had about three hours of sleep,” said Spc. Ethan Coder, who added that the mandatory training was “like a wedge that doesn’t fit.”

Soldiers talked about how one soldier already was charged with driving under the influence. A couple of fights broke out in the barracks, but nothing serious.

Pfc. Eric Schrobilgen, 19, of Dubuque, Iowa, sported a small shiner near his right eye, but could not figure out how he got it. His first night back, he drank vodka and some beers. Sometime later he fell in the woods on post, possibly the cause of his injury. He slept most of the next day and was feeling fine, he said.

Female soldiers joined the partying, but had to fend off advances from fellow troops, said Pfc. Amanda Jackson, 19, of Roanoke, Va., who stayed up all night at her barracks in nearby Grafenwöhr. At one point she cried, she said, because her boyfriend in Vilseck had not come to see her. But she joined in and drank some wine.

Day 270. By accountant's math that is 9 months exactly.

The good news is she was finally able to call me yesterday. The first phone call in 2004.

She's doing good...has less than 30 days left in command...and she's not real happy about that. But...there is nothing that can be done about is someone else's turn.

When she finally returns she will be the one responsible for getting everything in order for the return of the rest of the unit. That mission is pretty exciting for her.

Thursday, February 05, 2004


One of these things is past its prime, and smells. The other is a fresh salmon.

Pakistan's fallen nuclear hero Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan yesterday asked President Gen. Pervez Musharraf for forgiveness yesterday for spreading weapons secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, the government said.

The 66-year old architect of the country's nuclear programme submitted his mercy plea to Musharraf during a meeting with him held in Rawalpindi at Khan's request.

Khan requested he be forgiven in a "mercy petition" to Musharraf, considering the services he had rendered to Pakistan's nuclear programme, the government said. The president told him the "entire nation had been severely traumatised" by the revelations of proliferation.
Let me see if I can walk the dog on this.

The world believes that North Korea has nukes. North Korea says it has nukes...and nobody is in a position to dispute that.

Now, Mr. Khan says he provided nuclear secrets to Lybia, Iran and North Korea (note that two of those belong to the Axis of Evil).

North Korea continues to attempt to blackmail the USA as it makes security and financial demands in return for cooperation with its nuclear programs.

North Korea is a particularly dicey matter because it is common knowledge that Seoul South Korea will be the first casualty caused by North Korea should it ever be attacked. Millions of civilian citizens in Seoul will, in all probability, die if the midget magalomaniacal dictator of North Korea ever feels sufficiently threatened.

Of course, this scenario gets worse when we switch from conventional to nuclear weapons.

And Mr. Kahn handed the North Koreans the ability to raise the ransom they can demand while holding South Korea hostage and blackmailing the USA and the rest of the world.

And now he asks for forgiveness?

I don't think so.

But the thing to be suspicious of if it is that as part of the deal made between Mr. Kahn and the Pakistani government is his repeated assertion that no one in the Pakistani government was involved.


Including a comprehensive rundown of everyone else who was convinced the intelligence was correct.
The near pathological contempt so many hold for President Bush clouds their ability to put themselves in the commander-in-chief's shoes. On Sept. 11, in America, over 3,000 people lost their lives. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein continued to defy United Nations Security Council resolutions to come clean. He flouted the U.N.-sponsored Oil-for-Food program, diverting the money from its intended purpose.

Critics quite properly accuse the U.S. intelligence community for failing to connect the dots and thus prevent 9/11. After the first Gulf War in 1991, the advanced nature of Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program shocked intelligence analysts. Nuclear bomb testing in India and Pakistan came as a surprise, as did the advanced nature of Iran's and Libya's WMD programs. By all means, the U.S. intelligence failures call for serious soul-searching, and possibly housekeeping to improve accuracy.

But, in the case of pre-war Iraq, the president's critics suggest the following: Cross your fingers, hope for the best, and run the risk of another attack on American soil, this time possibly with chemical or biological weapons. No, the president acted upon the best available information and properly discharged his responsibility as commander-in-chief.

A prototype of the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station -- currently deployed in Iraq -- is on display in the Pentagon Courtyard this week.

"This system significantly increases safety to Soldiers through the ability to remotely operate the weapon from inside the vehicle, thus eliminating the need for a gunner outside of the vehicle," said Col. Michael J. Smith, PM Soldier Weapons...

CROWS, which is mounted on a variety of vehicle platforms -- including the HMMWV, provides Soldiers with the capability to acquire and engage targets while on the move and protected by the vehicle. It supports the MK19 Grenade Machine Gun, 50 Caliber M2 Machine Gun, M249 Semi Automatic Weapon and M240B Machine Gun.
An Iraqi insurgent group claimed responsibility Wednesday for suicide attacks on the offices of two Kurdish political parties, saying they were targeted because of the Kurds' ties to the United States. More than 100 died.

"Two of our martyrdom-seeking brothers ... broke into two dens of the devils in the city of Irbil in the north of Iraq," said the statement by "Jaish Ansar al-Sunna," or "Army of the Protectors of the Sunna." Sunna refers to the collective teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

The statement was posted in Arabic on a Web site that frequently carries statements by Islamic militants. It said the attacks Sunday were launched because the two Kurdish parties "paved the way for the American crusader army."

The name of the organization was included among those of a dozen insurgent groups that issued a joint statement this week in Ramadi and Fallujah warning Iraqis against cooperating with the U.S.-led occupation.

Iraq's new police force is making noticeable contributions to the security environment in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country, senior U.S. officials told reporters in Baghdad today.

"Clearly the presence of Iraqi police on the front lines -- walking the patrols, addressing the problems -- is having an effect" on improving security across Iraq, Dan Senor, senior spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, noted at a Baghdad press briefing.

Today, Senor pointed out, more than 60,000 Iraqi police officers are on duty across the country, with about 4,000 police patrolling Baghdad.

Senor credits the Baghdad police for a 39 percent decline in that city's crime rate during the last two months. Basra's crime rate, he added, has dropped 70 percent during the same time span.
Which is good...because look what they may be up against.
A coalition of insurgent groups has vowed to take over cities vacated by U.S. troops, and warned of ''harsh consequences'' for Iraqis who resist, according to pamphlets circulating in this hotbed of anti-American resistance.

The pamphlets, signed by Muhammad's Army and other insurgent groups, began appearing Saturday in Ramadi and nearby Fallujah both part of the dangerous Sunni Triangle region.

''America is getting ready to withdraw its forces from our country with its tail between its legs ... pressured by rockets and explosive devices,'' the statement said.

The pamphlets, replete with Quranic verses and threats of ''harsh consequences'' for anyone firing on the insurgency's fighters, said Iraqis who did not collaborate with the Americans would be allowed to form city councils once U.S. forces are gone. Every council will name candidates to run in general elections, the pamphlet said.

It appeared highly unlikely that U.S. forces would allow events envisioned in the pamphlets or that American troops would be drawn down to such low levels while the insurgency remain powerful.

Once the Americans withdraw, a three-day curfew will be imposed in ''liberated areas,'' the statement said, adding that hospitals and humanitarian organizations would be excluded.

Despite the threats, U.S. officials have expressed confidence Iraqi police will be able to handle the security situation.

Good story here about troops returning in southern Germany.
Waiting for Coder was Spc. Robert Jones, aka ?Punk Rock Bob,? a friend who returned from Iraq two weeks earlier. Spc. Craig Stasko and his wife, Sabina, also waited for Coder, who dropped his gear and changed into civilian clothes. Like many soldiers, he had no shoes to wear and hit the German streets wearing desert tan boots.

Coder, a lanky redhead who plays guitar, joined his friends for a beer at the Rose and Crown, a local hole-in-the-wall pub in Vilseck. Despite a selection of German beers, for his first brew in a year Coder chose a Budweiser and then lit a Marlboro. The party moved to Pegasus, another popular bar in town.

Coder?s friend, Spc. Anthony Cortese, is getting married soon and was having his bachelor party. Coder drank, laughed and shot pool. He and his friends closed the bar.

Meanwhile, gunfire from the nearby ranges at Grafenw?hr reminded Coder of Baghdad.

?That was weird. It threw me for a loop,? Coder said. ?But it?s not like I started low-crawling or anything like that.?


Day 269.

No phone call againg yesterday. She wrote an email explaining that the rules of telephone usage have changed.

And I'm thinking as bad as I hate not hearing from must be worse on her end now that it is even more difficult to call.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004


I have noticed over the last couple of weeks there are fewer stories available through the sources I use telling the story of what is going on in Iraq.

For sometime I've tried to post those hard-to-find stories that give a more informative picture than the simple AP and Reuters wire service headlines that reduce this effort to a bodycount.

What I'm seeing these days is a shift of focus (to the extent the media were ever focused on getting the deep story in Iraq) to the politics of the war back in the USA, among other things.

My opinion is that the media are now sharpening their pencils to cover the bodycount in Washington...and the fourth estate seems to playing their usual role - reducing complexities into headlines that turn grey to either white or black. Whether this is intended to increase the bodycount in DC - or to target specific bodies - I don't have access to know. But I sense an excitement in the excitement to bring the intelligence shortcomings story to a gradual crescendo to accompany the race for the white house. me naive...but it stings me to think there are those who will make the strength of our intelligence a political football - instead of treating it as the national Achilles heal that it probably is.

But...I wanted to alert you...if you've found, as I have, this forum to be missing the insightful and informative links into the true nature of what our soldiers are accomplishing as have been present here...I'm still commited to finding them until my darling wife returns - but they are more rare and harder to locate these days.
A 7-pound block of cyanide salt was discovered by U.S. troops in Baghdad at the end of January, officials confirmed to Fox News.

The potentially lethal compound was located in what was believed to be the safe house of Abu Musab Zarqawi, a poisons specialist described by some U.S. intelligence officials as having been a key link between deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda terror network.

Cyanides salts are extremely toxic. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, exposure to even a small amount through contact or inhalation can cause immediate death.

Zarqawi was described as a poisons expert with strong ties to the former Iraqi regime and the terrorist groups Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam. ...

"One of his specialties at the camp was poisons," Powell said. "When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosives training center."

Zarqawi is believed to have begun establishing terror cells in and around Baghdad prior to the start of the war last March, and is thought by U.S. officials to still be in the country.

U.S. officials...also believe he had been attempting to produce large quantities of the toxin ricin in northern Iraq.
Allam and Lasseter fail to mention the number of Iraqis who concede in polls that while they may not trust the provisional authority with the same conviction that they would their sheiks, imams and ayatollahs, they do feel that if the Americans left now there would be a real possibility of civil war.

Another contrast between the British control of Iraq and the U.S. experience now is that we have not resorted to the colonial practice of installing a minority group in power. For the first time in Iraq, ethnic makeup will reflect the makeup of the new Iraqi government and the historically oppressed Shia will not be sidelined.

Those militants lobbing grenades and blowing up cars, killing mostly Iraqi civilians, can in no way be compared to the Iraqi resistance in the 1920s. Then, all Iraqis applauded their ''martyrdom.'' Now, many Iraqis refuse to believe that the bombers are Iraqi but rather foreign fighters intent on destroying progress.

I am an American soldier of Arab descent and Muslim faith. I can understand the limitations, expectations and frustrations that many of my uniformed compatriots cannot.

To leave Iraq now to the forces of sectarianism or fanatacism, or to allow it to fall into anarchy, would be wrong. Not only would it be a slap in the face to each of us risking our lives here, but even more of an insult to the Iraqis who risk assassination for speaking to the media or going to their civil-service jobs as they try to mend their nation.

''Somewhere between wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.'' -- Sufi Muslim poet Jelauddin Rumi.

Baghdad International Airport, Iraq

The 39th Enhanced Infantry Brigade, Arkansas National Guard will replace 1st Brigade, 1st AD.

Hurry up guys!!!!
Training staff at Fort Polk, La., say they are “turning up the heat” on the Arkansas-based 39th Infantry Brigade this month with detailed simulations of potential experiences in Iraq.

“It’s important for soldiers’ families to understand that we’re turning up the heat so they sweat here rather than bleed on the battlefield,” Maj. Ron Elliott said. “If we save one life because of our training, we’ve been successful.”

The 4,200 members of the 39th Brigade Combat Team — about 3,000 from Arkansas — moved from Fort Hood, Texas, to Fort Polk for final preparations before deployment to Kuwait and Iraq in March and April, respectively.

The former National Guard unit, now a team within the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, received $15 million in new equipment Sunday and will put it to use in intensive war games, live ammunition training and other role-playing exercises starting Friday.

Why taking photos from space just isn't enough.
The eight convoys stood out from normal Iraqi military movements. They appeared to have extra security provided by Saddam's most trusted officers, and they were accompanied by what analysts identified as tankers for decontaminating people and equipment exposed to chemical agents.

But the CIA had a problem: Once-a-day snapshots from the KH-11 spy satellite didn't show where the convoys were going. "We couldn't get a destination," a top intelligence official recalled. "We tried and tried and tried. We never could figure that out."

As far as U.S. intelligence was concerned, the convoys may as well have disappeared, like a mirage, into the Iraqi desert.
An Iraqi citizen who assisted U.S. forces in the capture of a prominent diehard of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's regime has become a millionaire.

"We have approved a payment of $1 million to the Iraqi informant," Dan Senor, senior spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, reported today from Baghdad.

The Iraqi, whose name remains undisclosed for security purposes, had provided information that led to the Jan. 11 capture of Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, a former Baathist Party regional leader in Anbar Province, which includes Fallujah, Khalidiyah and Ramadi....

Al-Muhammad was No. 54 on the list of the 55 most-wanted former regime fugitives, Senor noted.

While at large, the insurgent "was organizing, facilitating and financing attacks against the coalition and the efforts of the Iraqi people," the CPA spokesman said.

They since have hired Iraqis to install makeshift armor on all their vehicles. At $2,000 apiece, each vehicle’s floorboard and cargo areas were lined with steel. Steel doors were added, along with steel enclosures for the gunners on gun trucks. Sandbags on the floor and crossed fingers do the rest....

“We have been very, very lucky,” said Staff Sgt. Anna Berber-Giddings, a driver for unit commander Lt. Col. Drew Ryan.

The improvised armor has its drawbacks. On one recent trip to Iraqi villages near LSA Anaconda, Berber-Giddings had to repeatedly check the loose-fitting latches on her door to keep it from swinging open while she drove.

When the rear driver’s side door of the vehicle kept flying open, Berber-Giddings tied a string across the loose-fitting latch to keep it closed. Some soldiers put an extra-long string on the door latch so they can hold the door closed while they’re speeding down the road.

“We have made do,” Berber-Giddings said.

I'm certain there are those around America who grouse about how our HUMMVs don't have armor installed.

What they don't know is the HUMMV was never intended to have armored sides or floor.

The HUMMV replaced the Jeep. The jeep never had armor. The HUMMV, like the jeep, was designed as the combat equivalent of a 4X4. Able to drive off road and to carry (usually) 4 people.

No one cried out in WWII that the Jeep wasn't armored. But in WWII we had a traditional war...a war with fronts. And by and large, jeeps didn't sit on the pointy end of the spear.

We aren't in that type war now. We are in a more dangerous without fronts. One without clearly defined lines of "good guys are here, bad guys are there".

The improvised explosive device (roadside bomb) is a weapon largely new to this war in the experience of the US military. As such it is considered a new "measure" by the enemy. As a result, HUMMV armor is the new "countermeasure" by the US Military. And developing that countermeasure and fielding it takes time.
Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey canceled the two-week Rest and Recuperation program for the next two months for the roughly 47,000 soldiers under his command in Baghdad.

“We did make a command decision, that would be me, that we couldn’t do any more environmental leave, R&R, after 31 January,” said Dempsey, commander of the Wiesbaden, Germany-based 1st Armored Division. “We did that principally because we have a mission to accomplish in transitioning the city of Baghdad over to the unit following us.”

Dempsey said Monday during a press briefing from Baghdad that the 1st AD would be leaving “over the next 90 days.”

Several active, Guard and Reserve units fall under Dempsey’s command, working in and around Baghdad.

Troops there had complained of getting mixed messages.

Army leaders in the States tasked with running and speaking for the R&R program said they were not aware of the 1st AD’s decision to cancel leave for such a large population of U.S. forces in country, and had made emphatic statements recently that the program had not been canceled.
Strange that this seems to be a surprise. Those of us in Friedberg learned this the first week of January when the Brigade Commander briefed us at the movie theater.

Day 268.

My sweet darling wonderful wife sent me an email overnight promising to call me today. I really, really hope so.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Earlier this year, MTV again lectured its audience about homophobia with a made-for-TV movie about murdered gay teen Matthew Shepard and a day-long lobbying campaign for hate crimes laws.

This from the entertainment conglomerate that made foul-mouthed gay-basher Eminem filthy rich and famous.

The ultimate sanctimony of MTV's purveyors of perversity was summed up nicely by two of the original hosts, Mark Goodman and Alan Hunter, who were interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America" this week. While reminiscing about the wondrous cultural impact the network has had over the past two decades, the men admitted that they don't allow their own teen-age kids to watch MTV.

"Are you kidding?" Goodman guffawed. "Have you seen what they put on the air?"
Halftime used to be a fun, even inspirational event.

"Up With People" was halftime entertainment at four separate super bowls.

I'm betting Janet's string ends at one.

My year let's get whoever produced the Josh Groban astronaut tribute section to produce half-time as well.
The Methodist pastor who fasted to call attention to U.S. troops' treatment of Iraqis has ended his protest.

The Rev. Frederick Boyle of Titusville United Methodist Church broke his fast with communion bread on Sunday, after 22 days of consuming only broth, apple juice and water.

Boyle said the liquid diet left him too weak to minister to his congregation, which had grown uneasy with his political activism.

The hunger strike was intended to protest what Boyle and human rights groups contend are abuses of Iraqi civilians by U.S. and other coalition forces. The military has insisted that when rare abuses have occurred, the soldiers have been prosecuted.

Boyle lost 25 pounds during the fast. He had vowed to continue the fast until conditions changed in war-torn Iraq.

"I have responsibilities in the church. There are people with pastoral needs, and I couldn't meet those needs because my health was suffering," he told The Times of Trenton.

The minister had stirred controversy among his congregants, some of whom expressed anger and stopped attending services, and within the church's neighborhood.

Fearing a patriotic backlash, a next-door neighbor to the church erected a sign saying Boyle did not live there. The sign gave directions to the pastor's home.

Bishop Alfred Johnson has scheduled a meeting later this month to discuss congregants' concerns.
Because this is what he said at the start:
Boyle is in the fifth day of a fast to protest what he calls the American troops' mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners and their families.

Since Saturday he has ingested nothing but water, tea and fruit juice. He's vowed to continue the fast until conditions in Iraq improve, calling most notably for the establishment of a clear and simple process for Iraqi people to find family members taken into custody by coalition forces.
What really annoys me about this case is that hundreds of thousands of Americans - including very possibly you if you are reading this - did something real to help the Iraqis. They loaned their sons and daughters and husbands and wives to the liberation. The've purchased, packed and shipped school supplies, medical supplies, toys and clothes. They've contributed money to ensure the availability of food and clean water.

And this guy? He got his name in the paper. But what did he actually contribute to the Iraqi people?

You tell me.

An attack on the principles of civilization.
The suicide bombers and terrorists who strike in Iraq or Afghanistan, in Indonesia or Israel or Manhattan, do not represent Islamic civilization. They represent the rejection of all civilized values.

Terrorists who pervert their religion to justify atrocities aren't waging holy war. Islam doesn't permit the slaughter of the innocent. And the Koran certainly doesn't advocate murdering fellow Muslims.

Yet the bombers in Irbil attacked during celebrations of the Muslim festival of Eid. Doubtless, they convinced themselves with a few twists of logic that they were doing a blessed deed - the human beast can rationalize anything.

But consider the act: The bombers used the generous traditions of the Eid holiday to penetrate celebrations open to all - and the killers reportedly entered dressed as mullahs.

Imagine if Christian extremists dressed as priests exploded suicide bombs on Easter Sunday - to drive us back to 13th-century intolerance.

These bombers didn't sacrifice their lives for their faith. They blasphemed horrendously against it. Even if their organization proves to have secular aims, the killers insulted not only the faith of the majority of Iraqis - Sunni or Shi'a - but the fundamental values of civilization.

Why strike the Kurdish parties, the PUK and KDP? Because they learned to cooperate. Because they made the long, terribly difficult journey to democratic values and tolerance. Because their leaders have done their best to build bridges to other Iraqi factions on the Governing Council and beyond. Because they cooperate with Americans.

The first batch of Japan's main army contingent was set to depart on Tuesday for Iraq on the country's first military mission to a de facto war zone since World War II, as the opposition boycotted parliament over the dispatch.

Nudged by its key ally, the United States, to take a bigger global security role, Japan plans to send about 1,000 military personnel in all to help rebuild Iraq.

Baghdad, Feb 3 - Two rockets were fired into the sprawling US military base at Baghdad international airport Tuesday morning, but caused no casualties, an army spokesman said.

"Two rockets were fired at 6:15 am on Baghdad international airport.

There was no counter attack because the point of origin was a populated area" in eastern Baghdad, a spokesman said.

It was not immediately clear if the direct hits caused any damage. Dense fog and poor visibility prevented military planes or helicopters from investigating the source of the attack, the source said.
The United States has used information gained during interrogations of Saddam Hussein to help round up insurgents and identify false leads, a senior military official said yesterday.

American military officials think about 14 cells of Saddam loyalists are operating in Iraq's capital, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

There are 250 to 300 "hard-core" insurgents in those cells, he said.

Documents found with the ousted Iraqi president and information gleaned during interrogations have helped American troops disrupt those cells and track their finances, the official said.

Day 267.

And oddly it has been over 30 days since I last spoke to the sweet, darling, wonderful CPT Patti. She's sent email fairly regularly...but I'd really like to hear her voice.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Iraqi police caught two men placing a roadside bomb Monday near the capital's main Doura oil refinery, a U.S. commander said.

The two men were believed to be an Iranian and an Afghan, but ''we have to first develop that through interrogation and try and determine what that means,'' Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, told a news conference
Member of the Iraqi Governing Council, Muwafak al-Rube, said that Lebanon will give back a sum of 500 million dollars of the money deposited by the former regime in Iraq in the Lebanese banks before the invasion.
President George W. Bush says he will appoint an independent commission to investigate discrepancies in intelligence used to justify the war against Iraq.

"I want to know all the facts," he told reporters. He also said he would meet soon with David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons hunter in Iraq, who told a congressional hearing last week that much of the intelligence about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction was wrong.
Because we can't afford inadequate intelligence means.

of those bribed by Saddam in violation of United Nations sanctions.
It turned the oil sales agreements into the greatest bribery operation in history, buying souls and pens, and squandering the nation's resources.
And a sampling of the list itself:
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) received 4 million barrels...Abu Al-Abbas received 11.5 million barrels.

Russia: The Russian state itself received 1,366,000,000 barrels....

Vladimir Putin's Peace and Unity Party received 34 million barrels - the list notes the name of party chairwoman Saji Umalatova.
The Super Bowl parties for U.S. troops in Iraq will start hours before dawn, and there won't be any beer. But at least in Tikrit, soldiers have a lavish venue: They'll be watching a cinema-sized screen in a former palace of Saddam Hussein.

At bases across the country, the 130,000 American troops will be able to catch the game between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots live (starting at 2:25 a.m. Monday, Iraqi time) in mess halls and recreation centers.

If waking up in the middle of the chilly Iraqi night is too daunting, many bases will tape the game, which is being aired from Houston on the American Forces Radio and Television Service, and replay it later.

Here in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown and headquarters of the 4th Infantry Division, troops will watch the big game at the U.S. Army recreation center a three-story palace built by the ousted dictator, with chandeliers, mosaic floors, a sweeping staircase and a man-made lake.

U.S.-appointed Iraqi leaders began debate Saturday on a proposed interim constitution that would create a three-member presidency and ensure that women accounted for at least two-fifths of a transitional legislative body and constitutional convention, Iraqi officials said.

The document would serve until October 2005, when a nationwide referendum is supposed to be held on a permanent constitution. But parties, politicians and religious figures across the country's fractured landscape have looked to the interim constitution as a harbinger of compromises that may hold sway in the final agreement. Iraqi officials say they expect potentially fierce debates over proposals on federalism, religion and quotas for women before a Feb. 28 deadline for the document's completion.


A reporter returns to Baghdad after a three month absence. He's astonished at the progress.

Go read it all.
My first clue that things were different in Baghdad came when the manager of my favorite hotel had trouble finding me a room. Last fall, foreign visitors to the city grew so scarce that I was often the only guest in his establishment. Now, the caravansary swarmed with Lebanese businessmen, Turkish contractors, Filipino workers, European journalists, NGO personnel and Christian peace activists. The only space the manager had was a top-floor ''deluxe suite''-- which I eventually traded for a cheaper room once a group of Iranian religious pilgrims decamped for home...

By the end of my first day, I realized that three months had brought numerous changes to the city, most of them good. Police were more evident on the streets, directing traffic in sharp winter uniforms, or zipping around town in new Suzuki motorbikes. By the same token, I saw fewer machine gun-toting private security guards and ''Facility Protection Services'' men loitering on the sidewalks. The once scarifying crime rate, it seems, had dropped to levels similar to an American city. ''You have to hand it to the Iraqis,'' a Lebanese security consultant remarked to me. ''A few months ago, you’d never have thought they’d get this far.''

BAGHDAD -- The US-led occupation plans to shift control of this war-stricken city center to Iraqi forces soon and move most US troops to the capital's perimeter, military officials said yesterday...

The United States will reduce the number of US operating bases in Baghdad and move most to the outskirts before the First Armored Division hands over security in April to the incoming First Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. In northern Iraq, three brigades of the 101st Airborne Division will be replaced Thursday by a single Second Division brigade from Fort Lewis, Wash.

The diminishing profile of US forces is part of a Pentagon-approved effort to cede the leading role in security to Iraqi troops. Senior coalition officials acknowledged yesterday that even if a representative Iraqi government took over as planned this summer, it would remain unable to control security.

US troop numbers are expected to remain near their current level, officials said.

"The occupying forces will move from being occupying forces to being invited forces in partnership, in some ways, with the Iraqis in defense of their country until such time as their security forces can do it themselves," a senior civilian coalition official in Baghdad said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Here’s the good news on the medical front: Returning soldiers won’t be subjected to nearly as many pokes, pricks and prods as they were when they left for the combat zone a year ago.

“It will be much easier for soldiers on their way back,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kasey Schnitker, who helps manage the medical reintegration for troops returning to Heidelberg.

With anthrax and smallpox shots behind them, along with a slew of other vaccinations, most returning troops should expect only two shots. One is a tuberculosis test, the other a blood sample that will be used to screen for HIV and then be put into long-term storage.

Army officials say there have been no known cases of TB reported among troops returning from Iraq but want to test everyone coming just to be on the safe side.

Top officials with most of the major employers of military spouses in Europe promise, however, that managers will do their best to give the husbands and wives of returning troops as much time off as possible.

In many places, that’s not going to be easy.

Just ask Terry Batenhorst, who manages 15 commissaries in the Wiesbaden area, home of the 1st Armored Division, which is now preparing to return from Iraq. Of his 400 employees, about one out of every four is married to a returning soldier.

“It’s going to take a lot of planning to manage this,” he said.

Complicating things is that soldiers’ schedules are still very fluid right now. Return dates are constantly changing, making it hard for spouses to even ask for specific leave times.

Then there are places like his Dexheim store, where eight of the 10 workers are married to soldiers in the 123rd Main Support Battalion.


The leadership here in Europe has scripted the soldier's first 45 days back from Iraq...with 30 of those days being leave.
And that process begins the moment the plane touches down in Europe.

“Arrival is Zero Day,” Stephens told the gathered spouses. “All we want to do is account for the soldier and get him reunited with his family or into the barracks.”

He said each wave of arriving troops will be greeted by a general officer and a brief welcome-home ceremony. The only other speed bump before being released: Soldiers will have to turn in weapons and any other sensitive items.

The next day, he said, begins a seven-day series of briefings, medical screenings and other tasks. That’s seven days straight — no weekends or federal holidays that might happen to fall within that window. The good news is that soldiers will be on a half-day schedule, working only about four hours a day.

The idea, he said, is to “gradually reintroduce” soldiers to life outside the combat zone and allow leaders to identify any soldiers who might be having a difficult time readjusting.
But the first seven days home are a little different.
After more than a year in Iraq, Maj. Jonathan Sirmon can imagine no better way to start off the day than taking his 3-year-old daughter to day care.

As part of a seven-day reintegration program for troops returning from the Middle East, providing time for such quality moments is all part of the plan.

The weeklong program puts all returning troops on a half-day schedule with four hours “on duty” for a checklist full of required briefings, medical screenings and assorted paperwork. The rest of the day is set aside for family time and taking care of personal business.


If you don't do your job very well today...what is the worst that will happen?
Most recently an Army Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed south of Mosul on Jan. 23, killing two pilots. Initial reports did not mention hostile fire. On Jan. 8, a Black Hawk medical transport crashed near Fallujah, killing nine soldiers. A witness has said a rocket hit the helicopter.

This weighs heavily on the minds of maintenance troops charged not only with keeping the birds fit and aloft, but also with flying them to make sure they’re safe.

Attending the funerals of other units’ helicopter crews “hits home,” Koslowski said. “It really does.” Sharrock lost a friend, a fellow captain, in a crash in early January.

It all reminds them of how important, and how dangerous, their own jobs can be.


It's not pretty...but that's just the way it works.
1st ID days from deployment in Iraq.

With the Würzburg-based 1st Infantry Division just days from deployment to Iraq, senior German leaders bid auf wiedersehen Friday to the “Big Red One” — and urged the United States to leave the unit in southern Germany permanently once it returns home.

Day 266.

Groundhog day. Applicable not only for the date but also for the movie in which Bill Murray relives the same day over and over and over again.

That is what it is like for our soldiers.

And pretty much that is what it is like here in the rear as well.

I saw in the news that Puxtahawny Phil saw his shadow...indicating six more weeks of winter. I've never contemplated before this just what territory do Phil's predicitions cover? Are the trans-Atlantic? Should I expect 6 more weeks of Winter here in Hessen?

Or, perhaps, is it possible he has no effect on Europe...and Spring might be "just around the corner"? Or, worst of all possible outcomes...perhaps Hessen can have, say, another 8 weeks or 10 weeks of winter?

There is a depressing thought.