BECAUSE WE CERTAINLY CAN'T HAVE FOLKS RUNNING AROUND SHOWING LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER...
The Saudi's ban Valentine's Day.
"It is a pagan Christian holiday and Muslims who believe in God and Judgment Day should not celebrate or acknowledge it or congratulate people on it," the Saudi fatwa committee said yesterday in a notice published in Arab-language newspapers. "It is a duty to shun it to avoid God's anger and punishment."
Hey geniuses...why don't you try banning terrorism...
THIS IS COOL
A Los Angeles businessman who began a national letter writing campaign during the Gulf War in 1991 that turned into a national campaign called, "Valentines For Troops" is ready to begin his deliveries this week to troops all over the world.
Last year, Michael Fleming, backed by his partners, David Fleming (his brother0 and Paul Kramer, delivered over 1,100,000 Valentines to service members stationed at home and abroad. Hundreds of thousands made it over to those stationed in Iraq.
"We sorted enough Valentines to fill two semi-trucks last year which was quite unbelievable," said Michael Fleming, founder of the campaign. "This year I was held back by business concerns, but we will still have quite a load going out," added Fleming.
FINDING A WAY TO UNWIND
Those hard-as-nails guardsmen find ways to unwind, however most chose not to unwind like Hermiston native Spc. Nathan Long.
In one brash moment, Long's energy spills out when he enters a room wearing a red sequined dress.
Not only is he unarmed in the stunt but he disarms the group with a few laughs.
Even though Long's group of Northwest soldiers come from different towns and walks of life, their experiences in Iraq have forged deep bonds.
When group members are not arm wrestling, they gather in Long's quarters, better known as 'Jack Shak Corner.'
The group takes part in a fake radio show that Long coordinates, giving people 'open mic' time.
"What's up Portland, Oregon? This is Specialist Nathan Long comin' from Balad, Iraq!" Long says into the microphone.
Go read it all here.
Nearly a year after being shot and taken prisoner in Iraq, former Army specialist Shoshana Johnson said the 22 days she spent in captivity do not make her a hero.
''I'm a survivor, not a hero,'' Johnson told Essence magazine in its March issue. ''The heroes are the soldiers who paid the ultimate price and the Marines who risked their lives to rescue us. ... They took a chance and because they did, I'm here.''
Johnson, 31, of El Paso, Texas, was a cook for the 507th Maintenance Company when it was ambushed in March 2003. She was shot in both ankles and captured with five other soldiers, including Jessica Lynch. Nine U.S. soldiers died in the attack.
In an interview, Johnson said she was slapped and punched by her captors until her helmet flew off, exposing her braided hair.
''That's when they realized I was a woman,'' Johnson said. ''They stopped beating me and immediately separated me from the others.''
CRUEL AND SICK
And in my view worthy of passing eternity in Hell.
A phone call to Eddie Valentin saying that his wife, a U.S. Army Reserve sergeant, had been killed in an explosion in Iraq turned out to be a hoax.
If you are related to a soldier serving in the war zone...please take a moment to find out what the notification procedures are under circumstances like this. This information is most easily obtained through your soldier's Rear Detachment.
But it took Valentin nearly 24 hours to find out that the report of Sgt. Betsy Valentin's death was false.
"I went crazy. I banged my head against the wall," Eddie Valentin said Thursday.
The caller Wednesday claimed to be a colonel with the Defense Department and knew personal information about Betsy Valentin, including her Social Security number, her husband said.
On Thursday afternoon, another call to Eddie Valentin cleared things up. It was his 37-year-old wife telling him that there had been no explosion and no injuries.
I know in our brigade, a report of a death will never be made over the phone if it is humanly possible for the Army to send an officer to your door.
If you know such things...and you develop a relationship with the Rear Detachment...you know when to be properly skeptical and where you can quickly call to get the facts.
KNOWING WHO OUR FRIENDS ARE
South Korea's parliament yesterday approved the government's plan to send 3,000 troops to Iraq, responding to a call from the United States, its key ally, for military help in restoring stability to the nation.
The troop deployment will make South Korea the third-largest contributor to coalition forces after the United States and Britain.
Finally...a story about someone related to one of the countless "Muslim Clerics" standing up for what is right.
A top aide to Iraq's most influential Muslim cleric ripped the al-Jazeera news agency Friday and called for its expulsion from his country.
Imam Jalal al-Din al-Saghir said that al-Jazeera was trying to spark a civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq, al-Jazeera reported.
"Al-Jazeera lies, and it creates divisions between people," he said at the Aatafiya mosque in central Baghdad. Al-Saghir is seen as close to Iraq's highest Shiite spiritual leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani.
Speaking during a well-attended sermon, al-Saghir urged the Iraqi Governing Council to close permanently the Qatar-based satellite channel's Baghdad bureau.
Specifically, al-Saghir slammed television presenter Faisal al-Qassam for trying to create sectarian divisions and supporting Saddam Hussein.
After a nearly three-hour delay and an intentionally short welcome ceremony, families from 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment finally got to dash across the hangar Wednesday to hug the troops: husbands, wives and friends they hadn’t seen in 366 days.
Another look at a joyous journey home is here. And another here.
Although the younger children were growing impatient, the delay was forgotten when the hangar doors swung open to a formation of troops in desert camouflage.
As the announcer yelled: “Ladies and gentleman, welcome America’s newest heroes,” family members cheered and whistled from bleachers on the opposite side of the hangar.
SATURDAY, FEBRRUARY 14th.
A few days ago CPT Patti received several boxes of provisions from me...included therein were a Valentines day card and a box of Belgian chocolates. She says they are scrumptious.
And today I got to do something neat. I made a delivery of red and white roses to a lady in our community whose husband is in Baghdad. Today is there 2d anniversary...
So...in some ways it almost feels like a real Valentines day.
And I got a note from reader Ivy today who is obviously no fan of Sen. Kerry nor of the mainstream press. Ivy sent in the links below.
Now I know that people can change over 30 years or so (lord knows I have), but back then The Harvard Crimson reported this about John Kerry's attitude about the relative places of the USA and the UN in the world.
Kerry said that the United Nations should have control over most of our foreign military operations. "I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."
On other issues, Kerry wants "to almost eliminate CIA activity".
Ivy also sent in this link to an unflattering assesment of the Iraq war coverage by an NBC reporter who was there.
"I’m uniquely positioned to report the story," he wrote. "NBC Nightly News routinely takes the stories that I shoot and uses the footage, even to lead the broadcast," but "refuses to allow the story to be told by the reporter on the scene."
Thanks Ivy. Good work.
In other words, he suggested, NBC News did not like putting him on the air.
Dr. Arnot included excerpts from an e-mail from Jim Keelor, president of Liberty Broadcasting, which owns eight NBC stations throughout the South. Mr. Keelor had written NBC, stating that "the networks are pretty much ignoring" the good-news stories in Iraq.
A NEW LINK
Faithful reader and contributor John sent in the link to the Coalition Provisional Authority's website. I've placed it at the top of the links.
Its a super site. Check it out.
And thanks John...seems I've gotten complacent. Glad you haven't
AS MUCH AS I LOVE THE INTERNET...
We have to be aware of the downside of its potential.
"No one's talking about how to keep the other side home on Election Day," Moby tells us. "It's a lot easier than you think and it doesn't cost that much. This election can be won by 200,000 votes."
Was I absent the day that ethics was banned from planet Earth?
Moby suggests that it's possible to seed doubt among Bush's far-right supporters on the Web.
"You target his natural constituencies," says the Grammy-nominated techno-wizard. "For example, you can go on all the pro-life chat rooms and say you're an outraged right-wing voter and that you know that George Bush drove an ex-girlfriend to an abortion clinic and paid for her to get an abortion.
"Then you go to an anti-immigration Web site chat room and ask, 'What's all this about George Bush proposing amnesty for illegal aliens?"
The best ambassadors we have.
But while religious figures remain firmly in charge here, sweeping aside an entire reform movement last month with the stroke of a pen, another pillar of the revolution appears shakier.
Anti-Americanism is not what it used to be in Iran...
In recent months, Iranians say, the appetite has grown for an unexpected reason: Iranian pilgrims returning from Iraq are spreading admiring stories of their encounters with American troops.
Thousands of Iranians have visited the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala since the war ended. Many have expressed surprise at the respectful and helpful behavior of the U.S. soldiers they met along the way.
Leila Araki, waiting in the back of a Renault sedan as her husband peddled shoes, recalled that her mother-in-law somehow lost her money on the road to Karbala. She said a U.S. soldier reached into his pocket and handed her taxi fare back to Najaf.
"This is something quite contrary to what we have been told about Americans," said Araki, 31, who was told of Americans flashing thumbs-up and saying, "Good, Iranians."
"They were really surprised. I would never be this respected and well-treated even in my country, by my countrymen."
Esmaeil Omrani told of a relative with asthma struggling to breathe in the dust of Najaf. A young American in full battle dress advised him to switch inhalants, then gave the pilgrim his own, plus an extra for the road. "Everybody liked them," Omrani said.
Hossein Amiri related a similar story from a thirsty relative given water by a U.S. soldier outside Najaf when the city was closed by a car bombing.
"Between our countries, there might be problems at the top," said Amiri, 48, a civil servant. "There is no problem at the bottom."
The CIA is to alter the way it analyses intelligence amid intense scrutiny of claims that Iraq had banned weapons, says the Washington Post newspaper.
A U.N. official said Friday elections could not be held in Iraq before the U.S.-led authorities hand power to an Iraqi government in June.
I got a kick out of this statement...which could only be uttered by a bureaucrat.
The United Nations is trying to mediate in a dispute between Iraq's majority Shi'ites, who want elections before the transfer, and Washington which says there is not enough time to organize them.
"It's not a question of delaying (the handover). It's finding a new timetable," Ahmad Fawzi told BBC radio. "Elections will take place when the country is ready and that will be after the handover of power."
"Elections should be held as early as possible but not earlier than possible."
A NEW APPROACH
U.S. commanders on Monday outlined new plans for patrolling the streets of Baghdad and said their No. 1 goal is to be less conspicuous.
The Army is closing down most of its bases in central Baghdad, withdrawing to the outskirts of the city, exchanging tanks for Humvees and using fewer soldiers, said Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, the 1st Armored Division's deputy commander. This comes as the 1st Armored prepares to hand authority for the Iraqi capital to the 1st Cavalry Division, part of a larger replenishing of occupation troops throughout the country.
"We're going to be less intrusive," said Col. Mike Formica of the 1st Calvary. "We won't have 70-ton tanks running through neighborhoods, destroying infrastructure we're trying so hard to rebuild."
ANYONE ELSE SEE A PATTERN EMERGING?
A National Guardsman was arrested and accused of trying to provide information to the Al Qaeda terrorist network, the U.S. Army has announced.
Consider over the last 10 months...
Army Lt.-Col. Stephen Barger said yesterday that Specialist Ryan Anderson was being held at Fort Lewis "pending criminal charges of aiding the enemy by wrongfully attempting to communicate and give intelligence to the Al Qaeda terrorist network."
Anderson, 26, is a tank crew member from the National Guard's 81st Armour Brigade, a 4,000-member unit scheduled to depart for Iraq for a one-year deployment, the biggest for the state's Army National Guard since World War II. He is to remain at the base near Tacoma.
Barger would say nothing more about the arrest, or about what information allegedly was given to Al Qaeda or how it was provided.
Anderson converted to Islam five years ago and studied military history with an emphasis on the Middle East at Washington State University.
SGT Akbar, a muslim with the 101st....fragged his officers.
Chaplain Yee, a muslim Army chaplain...charged with espionage at Guantanmo. (Spy charges later dropped but still charged with failing to obey an order or regulation; making a false official statement; conduct unbecoming an officer, for downloading pornographic material onto his laptop computer; and adultery with a female officer at Guantanamo Bay. )
Senior Airman Halabi, translator at Guantanamo, charged with spying. (Charges later reduced to mishandling classified material and attempted espionage involving an alleged plan, apparently never carried out, to pass information to someone in Syria.)
And now this. Just imagine what now goes through the mind of a young soldier upon learning a newly arrived soldier in the unit is a muslim.
I'm not saying it is proper to jump to conclusions...but I can bet you the trust isn't there. And when a soldier doesn't trust his battle buddy...the entire system weakens.
KITCHEN IN A CARTON
The box is actually a carton packed with food, condiments and serving ware. Built-in heaters warm the food without stirring or supervision, “so soldiers can go off and do other things and come back to a hot meal,” according to Peter Lavigne, a chemical engineer on the Equipment and Energy Team.
The “Remote Unit Self Heating Meal” or “kitchen in a carton,” as its developers call it, is designed to be used by small groups of soldiers on patrol, or performing other missions that take them far from their unit’s field kitchen, Lavigne said in a Monday telephone interview...
The current instruction sheet for the cartons is almost comically simple. Along with a few cautions that include not to drink the heating water and that contents are “hot!” after heating, there is all of one step for soldiers to take: “Pull activator tab to release water to heaters.”...
The first soldiers to field-test the cartons — 35 Rangers at Fort Lewis, Wash., during two days in December — loved the simplicity, Lavigne said.
“The first time, they all sat around reading the directions,” Lavigne said. “By the second time, it was, ‘Pull the tab, dummy.’”
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13th.
And while I'm not particularly superstitious...it would have been perfectly OK with me if we didn't have this particular combination of weekday and date under these circumstances.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12th.
And I'm in training all day...so I'm not sure when I'll get back here.
THIS MAY SURPRISE YOU
But I know American soldiers. And this doesn't surprise me at all.
An Afghan boy whose 14-month detention by US authorities as a terrorist suspect in Cuba prompted an outcry from human rights campaigners said yesterday that he enjoyed his time in the camp.
Mohammed Ismail Agha, 15, who until last week was held at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, said that he was treated very well and particularly enjoyed learning to speak English. His words will disappoint critics of the US policy of detaining "illegal combatants" in south-east Cuba indefinitely and without trial.
In a first interview with any of the three juveniles held by the US at Guantanamo Bay base, Mohammed said: "They gave me a good time in Cuba. They were very nice to me, giving me English lessons."...
He said that the American soldiers taught him and his fellow child captives - aged 15 and 13 - to write and speak a little English. They supplied them with books in their native Pashto language. When the three boys left last week for Afghanistan, the soldiers looking after them gave them a send-off dinner and urged them to continue their studies.
"They even took photographs of us all together before we left," he said. Mohammed, however, said he would have to disappoint his captors by not returning to his studies. "I am too poor for that. I will have to look for work," he said.
ONE OFFICER'S VIEW OF THE WAR COVERAGE...FIRST HAND
I am forever indebted to Sarah for sending me this link on a day she noticed I wasn't up on the net.
This will possibly create some disappointment but it is worth a read to see the media from this guy's perspective in downtown Baghdad.
By the time 1AD got to Baghdad, 27 April 03, nearly all of the embedded
media had gone home. The war was over and rebuilding is never as exciting. I had to go to Brigade to have my first meeting with a Fox News crew around the middle of May -- this is important because it shows the lowest echelon at which news correspondents were operating at that time.
The Fox News crew laid out what qualified as "newsworthy: -- Women taking an active leadership role in the new government, detainee/prisoner abuse cases, any WMD news, and individual soldier contributions (such as one soldier who bought school supplies and teddy bears for Iraqis out of his own pocket.)
These were the stories deemed airable and they wouldn't respond to anything outside of that. The news crew wasn't bashful about its agenda and they made it clear that they weren't going to respond to anything outside of those story lines unless it was something really spectacular.
Fox stood out most as a network that knew what it was going to put out before it even shot the footage. Other news organizations were more subtle about what they wanted to cover but pretty much everyone had their stories written before they showed up. To Al-Jazeera especially, the video footage was merely a formality.
44 OUT OF 55
U.S. forces arrested a senior former Baath party member on the list of 55 wanted officials of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime.
A U.S. army spokesman said Tuesday Mohsen Khodr al-Khafaji, the most senior Baath official in southern Iraq, was arrested ,raising to 44 the number of wanted officials who have been rounded up, including Saddam.
Eleven officials are still at large, including deputy president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.
The U.S. military says soldiers have killed ten armed Iraqis who were apparently trying to set up an ambush.
A statement released by the 4th Infantry Division says the incident took place last night in a town northeast of Baghdad.
Officials say when the armed Iraqis didn't respond to warnings, the soldiers fired and killed them.
The statement says soldiers then recovered weapons, including five AK-47 assault rifles, grenade launchers and machine guns.
FORT DIX - Pfc. P.J. Lao watched intently as his staff sergeant held up poster boards with photographs taken in Iraq.
The pictures showed items that are part of everyday life in America: a Pepsi can, a carton of cigarettes, an animal carcass left on the side of a road.
In Iraq, each of those items is a potential death trap.
Staff Sgt. Karl Butrymowicz made it simple for Lao and the rest of the National Guard members training at Fort Dix Tuesday in preparation for an overseas military police assignment. "If you didn't drop it, don't pick it up," he said...
The military has identified more than 16,000 "IUD's," or improvised explosive devices, in Iraq. Such devices account for the majority of U.S. casualties, Butrymowicz said.
Italy has become a departure point for homicide attackers linked to Al Qaeda and active against U.S.-led forces in Iraq, according to an Italian intelligence report released Tuesday.
The document also warned that forces staging anti-coalition attacks in Iraq might expand their scope and targets.
In December, Italian investigators said they shut down a European network suspected of recruiting Islamic militants to carry out attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq. The investigators said the volunteers were drawn from Muslim youths living on the fringes of society in Western Europe, includionths shows "the strategic importance of our country ... not only as a transit point and for logistic and financial support, but also as a departure point for would-be `kamikaze' or holy warriors" in Iraq, read the biannual report put together by the Italian secret services.
The report said many of the extremists stationed in Italy have links to North African terror groups and to Al Qaeda (search) operatives believed active in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
THIS IS KINDA NEAT
Six American governors made a surprise visit to Iraq to take a look at the reconstruction effort Tuesday, talking with Iraqi shop owners about the problems of daily life and greeting American troops.
It was the first visit by governors to Iraq since the American occupation began in April, and it comes as the U.S. military is carrying out a rotation of troops a change the governors said would bring a large number of reservists and National Guard troops from their states.
JUST SO SAD
A suicide driver blew up his explosives-rigged car Wednesday outside an army recruiting centre in central Baghdad where hundreds of Iraqis were lined up to volunteer for the military, killing at least 36 people, U.S. officials and Iraqi witnesses said.
Iraq's deputy interior minister, Ahmed Ibrahim, said 47 people were killed and 50 injured. He told reporters "this crime" will "not deter the people's march toward freedom." It was the second deadly suicide attack in two days on Iraqis working with the U.S-led coalition.
The suicide attack Wednesday followed a truck bombing against a police station south of Baghdad that killed up to 53 people and wounded scores, including would-be Iraqi recruits applying for jobs.
U.S. officials have been warning of a possible increase in attacks, particularly against Iraqis, as insurgents try to disrupt the planned June 30 transfer of sovereignty to a provisional Iraqi government.
Too bad CPT Patti and I missed it.
Under home basing, when soldiers join the Army, they will be assigned a home base where they will stay at least through the time they earn the position of squad leader, for enlisted soldiers; or of company commander, for officers, Byrne said.
Even when it comes time for a soldier to attend a leader development school, such as the basic noncommissioned officer’s course, the soldier will attend the class on temporary travel status (TDY), instead of uprooting himself and his family in a permanent change of station move, Byrne said.
Only after a soldier is leader-qualified — at about the six- or seven-year mark, Byrne said — will that soldier be considered for an assignment at a different installation.
The transition begins...and when its over...1 AD comes home!
The first part of a painstaking transition from the 1st Armored Division to the 1st Cavalry Division is under way.
Members of the 1st Cavalry’s 2nd Brigade Combat team, who arrived last week, already are riding along with 1st AD soldiers to learn the finer points of stability operations in Baghdad.
But even before the brigade arrived, it had built on the lessons learned from its predecessors, unit commander Col. Michael Formica said Monday.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11th.
Sorry I've been absent...I'm working a special project for my darling wife...and it has taken up most of my time.
I'll be back soon.
Al-Qaida have possessed tactical nuclear weapons for about six years, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Sunday.
But take note that the source for this story is an Arab newspaper...and we've long noted here the lack of standards for Arab journalism.
The Arabic daily reported that sources close to Al-Qaida said Osama bin Laden's group bought the nuclear weapons from Ukrainian scientists who were visiting Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1998.
The report has not been confirmed.
However, the sources said Al-Qaida doesn't intend to use the weapons against American forces in Muslim countries, "due to the serious damage" it could cause. But that decision is subject to change, the sources said, if Al-Qaida "is dealt a serious blow that won't leave it any room to maneuver."
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON GETS IT RIGHT AGAIN
Wow...lots of good stuff to read today...but this piece is probably the best of the lot.
We live in a sick, sick West if we investigate Mr. Bush's and Mr. Blair's courageous efforts to end Iraqi fascism, while ignoring the thousands of Europeans and multinational corporations who profited from his reign of terror...
The real outrage is instead that at a time of one of most important developments of the last half-century, when this country is waging a war to the death against radical Islamic fascism and attempting to bring democracy to an autocratic wasteland, we hear instead daily about some mythical rogue CIA agent who supposedly faked evidence, Martha Stewart's courtroom shoes, Michael Jackson's purported perversion, and Scott Peterson's most recent alibi. Amazing.
AN UP-CLOSE LOOK AT OUR SOLDIERS
Please read it all...
The young First Lieutenant who commands the detachment proudly announced that they now had a hot water heater so it wasn't so bad. How long have they been there? "Since October, sir."
The phrase of art for this is: "They're living like soldiers."
After touring the facility and having the Battalion CO (with whom I was traveling) giving the 1LT some guidance on improving his defenses, promising to buy beds and mattresses (they've been sleeping on cots since they got there), and chatting with each member of the team we went off to lunch...
We just keep growing these kids, asking them to do unbelievably important things in the harshest possible circumstances at an age when we should be worried if they aren't home by midnight much less home by next September and, oh, by the way, please be responsible for the lives of a dozen-or-so other soldiers most of whom are older than you are.
Welcome to their world.
A PRINCE OF A GUY
Wearing desert camouflage and boots, Prince Charles made a surprise morale-boosting visit to British troops in Iraq yesterday, the first member of the royal family to visit the country since the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
At a former presidential palace in the city of Basra, the prince mingled with about 200 soldiers, shaking hands, sipping tea, and praising them for their role in keeping security in southern Iraq.
"What you're doing, many of you, training Iraqis to become almost as good a bunch of soldiers as you are, is . . . of enormous importance because this part of the world doesn't have much chance unless their armed force can learn a lot from your experience . . . not only in the military, but in the hearts and minds," the prince said, according to the British news agency Press Association.
WE HAD TO FORCE THE UN BACK INTO BAGHDAD
To me this speaks volumes about fecklessness of the United Nations.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the head of the UN electoral team in Iraq, was reluctant to go to Baghdad, but apparently consented after pressure from President Bush and other US officials.
At first, Brahimi resisted, but UN officials said that the pressure on him was enormous and that he finally agreed to lead the team that will determine whether direct elections demanded by Shi'ite leaders are feasible before the proposed transfer of power by the US-led coalition on June 30.
PUT A LUMP IN YOUR THROAT
Go read the entire story about the homecoming received by these Florida National Guard Soldiers.
Sgt. Jason Crawford nearly lost his life helping to bring freedom to the Iraqi people.
As he showed off what he called his Baghdad root canal - a front tooth shot out during a December attack in Baghdad - he told a crowd that gathered around that he couldn't wait to go to Disney World.
He said he and Bravo Company are also making plans to visit one of their own who has not come home yet - Staff Sgt. Dustin Tuller.
"We are planning a trip to see Tuller," he said of his buddy who lost both legs from gunshot injuries during the same raid.
Tuller is recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Somewhere in America this week, a wife will get a Valentine from her soldier husband stationed in Iraq.
Children have gotten birthday messages from military mothers serving an ocean away. Friends have received greetings from buddies who managed to get a card from the back of an Army truck, a tent pitched in the desert or a makeshift hangar at Baghdad International Airport.
Cleveland-based American Greetings Corp. operates 50 front line stores in Iraq. The world's largest publicly traded greeting card company fills each store with up to 600 cards - everything from Valentines to "missing you" messages.
"It's just our part to help connect the soldiers and their families back home," said Donna Eyerman, field manager of national accounts for American Greetings.
The company works with Army Air Force Exchange Services to ship the cards from the United States, set up the tents and offer discounted greetings to soldiers who otherwise would be left with old-fashioned pen and paper to send words home.
SEDITION AND TERRORISM
U.S. officials have obtained a detailed proposal that they conclude was written by an operative in Iraq to senior leaders of al Qaeda, asking for help to wage a ''sectarian war'' in Iraq in the coming months.
The Americans say they believe that Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has long been under U.S. scrutiny for suspected ties to al Qaeda, wrote the undated 17-page document. He is also believed to be operating in Iraq...
The memo says extremists are failing to enlist support inside the country and have been unable to scare the Americans into leaving, and laments Iraq's lack of mountains in which to take refuge.
Yet an attack on Iraq's Shiite majority could rescue the movement, according to the document. The aim, the document contends, is to prompt a counterattack against the Arab Sunni minority.
Such a ''sectarian war'' will rally the Sunni Arabs to the religious extremists, the document argues. The document says that a war against the Shiites must start soon -- at ''zero hour'' -- before the Americans hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis at the end of June.
SIGNS OF PROGRESS
Without a word to his wife or children, Jassim dressed for work -- he's a quality control supervisor at the Trade Ministry -- and drove straight to the Baghdad Equestrian Club.
The club is a dirt track in the western quarter of the city, where a man -- no Iraqi women in sight -- can drink beer and place bets all afternoon long.
Between the races, usually six a day, there are card tables outside where Iraqis throw down their money on dice games.
Jassim is a Shiite Muslim, whose leaders have a well-known disdain for alcohol and gambling.
"The religious people bother us all the time," said Jassim, who was holding a tall can of Turkish beer called Venus and clicking his amber prayer beads. "But so what? There is enough to worry about in this country. We should be able to have a good time."
THE JAPANESE ARRIVE
A contingent of Japanese troops arrived in Iraq Sunday, in their first overseas assignment since the end of World War II. The controversial deployment will be a test for the Japanese leadership at home.
But then...this happens...and I'd guess the two are related.
Around 80 Japanese soldiers crossed the Iraqi border from Kuwait Sunday in a convoy of 25 jeeps and armored vehicles. The soldiers are non-combat troops authorized to operate in Iraq on a humanitarian mission to help with the re-building of the country...
The advance team that arrived Sunday is part of a contingent that will eventually total 800 and be based in the southern Iraqi town of Samawa. Most are engineers supplied by the Japanese Air Force and a naval contingent based in Kuwait.
The Japanese soldiers in Iraq are heavily armed, like other coalition troops, but their officers say they will only use their weapons to defend themselves if attacked.
The Japanese Embassy in Baghdad was evacuated to another site in the city amid fears of a terrorist attacak, government sources said.
"Embassy officials at times leave the building due to various (security) information," an unidentified senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official told the Japan Times.
The ministry official denied the embassy staff has officially withdrawn from the Iraqi capital.
CELL PHONE DEMAND SKY HIGH IN BAGHDAD
(C)onsumers overwhelmed the supply of phones here over the weekend.
"They are gone in about five minutes," said Rifaat Waheb, 42, manager of one of 310 independent outlets distributing Iraqna phones in Baghdad...
At another shop, cell phone salesman Ismail Mohammed, 24, estimated that 75% of buyers are seeking Iraq's latest status symbol. Distributors were ready with accessories: They could choose Samsung camera-phones for $550 (though most buyers went with the no-frills $109 Nokia). Or they could buy cell phone covers depicting British soccer sensation David Beckham or Tweety Bird.
FREE SPEECH...SORT OF
GI's enforcing a delicate balance.
Like their post-World War II predecessors, American forces in Iraq wrestle to uphold two conflicting mandates: encouraging free speech in a newly open society, while at the same time enforcing strict bans on speech promoting violence or the ousted political order.
Is free speech with exceptions free? Then again, those who would promote religious violence against infidels or a return of the Saddam days would likely gag or shoot anyone who disagrees. Free speech would be out the window.
It’s a delicate blueprint America follows as it tries to construct a popularly chosen — but definitely not fundamentalist, definitely not Baathist — order in Iraq...
“There is a rough parallel between the de-Nazification program after World War II and the curbing of anti-U.S. speech in Iraq today,” said Thomas Allen, a historian and author of several books, including “World War II: The Encyclopedia of the War Years 1941-1945.”...
While the parallel may be true of Baathists, it applies less to Islamists.
“The Nazi Party was a political organization and could be dissolved,” Allen said. “Religions, as we are learning, are not as easily dealt with.”
Germany had ample experience with democracy prior to Hitler. Even so, the postwar transition wasn’t instant. A peace treaty wasn’t signed until 1952; West Germany didn’t enjoy full sovereignty until 1955.
“Don’t forget,” Allen said, “that this took a while.”
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9th.
Frankly, I think I've squeezed all the fun I can out of this being separated from the sweetest woman on the planet.