Saturday, February 21, 2004


As I sit here and write this it is 7:40 p.m. in Baghdad. If everything has gone according to plan the The Gators are right now throwing a party for our darling Patti. The party is a sort of a farewell to her as she finishes her command.

I can't say for sure what is going on, but I can well imagine that they have arranged for food...and probably a specially decorated cake.

Given the availability of digital cameras and computers and such, I am sure someone has prepared a slide show set to that slide show there will be photos of nearly every soldier in the company, both past and present, whoever went to Iraq with the Gators. There will be dozens of pictures of Patti...some of her having fun with her soldiers....some of her alone (taken on the sly by the first sergeant) showing her deep in thought over how to accomplish 10 missions today when she only has soldiers enough for 6. There will also be photos of various landmarks and other items of interest around which inside jokes have developed. I wonder what music they have chosen.

The soldiers may have gone so far as to prepare a skit or two for her. If so, the skit will lampoon her in a nice way...and probably take advantage of the opportunity to exaggerate the soldiers impressions of other officers and NCOs - perhaps not as nicely as the skits reflect on Patti. And Patti will laugh and laugh, even if the skits don't come off quite as funny as the soldiers thought they were.

In the end, the 1SG will make some remarks about Patti. I don't know what he will say. But I know this. Three months after Patti took command in 2002, the 1SG extended his tour of duty as 1SG for the Gators. He wanted his older son to be able to graduate from the high school in Giessen where he had begun his high school years. And though Patti didn't know it, she was in a test period those three months. See, the previous commander was the one under which the 1SG was appointed to that position. And the previous commander turned out to be - well - let's just say had the previous commander stayed on, the 1SG's son would be graduating somewhere else.

So, it was a vote of supreme confidence in Patti when the 1SG extended his tour to pretty much coincide with hers. I suppose he will allude to that decision.

He will also say, I'm guessing, that back in 1991 he went to war during Desert Storm with the 101st Airborne Division. I think he will compare this one to that one. I suspect he will compare commanders. I suspect he will say something along the lines of "I've never worked with an officer who more genuinely cared for the soldiers than Captain Patti."

And she will get up...approach the lectern. She'll want to keep it light...she still has a week or so left as commander. She will tell them that she will say all that she wants to say during her change of command address. But she won't quite be able to stop saying thank you to everyone...for such a wonderful party. (It is just who she is, you see). And those thanks you's will drift from being about the party to the wonderful service that each soldier has provided to the company, to the nation, and to the Iraqi people. By the time its done, I'm guessing, pretty much each soldier will have heard his or her name called at least once. And Patti will be in sniffles.

When its over, most of the soldiers will head on back to their hooches. A few will remain behind, creating a sort of line to speak to her one on one...because it is always just a few of the soldiers who can sort out rank and position and appropriateness to the extent they are comfortable to approach their commanding officer and say, "Ma'am - I'm proud to have served with you...and in the future, if I ever get the opportunity to serve with you again, I'd do it in a heartbeat."

You see, that is the way soldiers say "I love you".

I'm sorry I can't be there at this party. Patti, being Patti, will allow so many of the kind words to roll right past her, not wanting to focus too much on herself. If I were there, I'd have the catcher's catch those words, words that spring from trials and experiences and bonding under conditions I will never know...I'd catch those words, and bronze them so that some day in the future when she wonders what legacy is hers...I could carefully dust and polish them until they gleam. I could then hand them to her and say, "See served your soldiers and your nation well."

But this story continues to make me happy.
In the early 1990s, in a move that transformed the face of nature in this country, Saddam Hussein ordered the 7,700-square-mile area drained and its residents attacked to force out Shiite Arabs he suspected of resisting his rule.

Last spring, local engineers began breaking dams and levees upriver to reflood the area.

But what seemed a simple matter of reflooding the marshes has become a task as tangled as the aquatic plants taking root. In the largest and most complex wetlands restoration project undertaken by the U.S. government, scientists and engineers are grappling with problems from dismal water quality and an absence of health care to farmers protesting the reflooding.

The dam-breaking last spring brought some early success. The swamp is teeming with renewed life. Water buffalo lumber through floating algae, and ducks paddle along the surface.

It is an environment in which Abdullah's people, known as the Marsh Arabs, have been living for 5,000 years, since the days of Sumerian civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

How the new guys in-country are going to school.
The new arrivals sat mostly in silence, watching the dangers flash by on the laptop: a Humvee destroyed by a roadside bomb, a mound of shrapnel-laced plastic explosives, a booby-trapped poster of Saddam Hussein.

The slide show was being given by a soldier heading home after a one-year tour in the Tikrit region, where mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and bombings are a constant threat.

Those huddled around the computer in a quiet corner of their sleeping quarters in this sprawling U.S. military base were only five days in Iraq, and on their first deployment to a combat zone.

"It goes to show that this is a deadly place," said one soldier, unwilling to give his name. "This is not just another Bosnia rotation." ...

In long chats over chow and in more formal familiarization sessions, the threat posed by roadside bombs comes up again and again. More than half the 39 U.S. soldiers killed last month fell victim to what the military calls IEDs -- improvised explosive devices.

The computer presentation showed different types of explosives and timers; IEDs hidden in soft-drink cans and inside animal carcasses; decoy bombs, left to cause a convoy to stop and investigate only to be hit by other devices hidden nearby.

One photo showed a placard of Saddam Hussein attached to a fence. It was rigged to blow up if a soldier ripped it down.

Advice ranges from the technical -- add armor to your Humvee if possible, drive fast and in the middle of the road -- to the more philosophical.

"People should make peace with their family members because they might not get to see them again," said Sgt. Andrew Antolik, from Dyersville, Iowa. "Stuff happens out here. People get killed."

The press keeps attempting to make this story into something big. And perhaps it is.
According to William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, who discussed the suicides in a briefing last month, that represents a rate of more than 13.5 per 100,000 troops, about 20 percent higher than the recent Army average of 10.5 to 11. The Pentagon plans to release the findings of a team sent to Iraq last fall to investigate the mental health of the troops, including cases of suicide.
But let me ask you to keep something in mind.

First of all...nobody loves a war zone. And in a war zone one sees depressing things and experiences depressing things the general population won't.

But secondly, and most importantly, the comparison with the Army at large or the population in general are not quite entirely valid for one simple reason.

In the general population or the Army at large, only a tiny fraction of those folks are walking around 100% of their waking hours with loaded weapons in their hands.

It occurs to me that suicide requires at least two factors: motive and means. We all understand what the motives might be (and lets be fair...we reported here at least one case where a soldier's motive was his wife dumping him over the phone while he was in Iraq). However, we do not always have the means at hand when incident or depression strike. Means might be a cliff or bridge to hurl oneself from, train tracks to lie down upon, a garage to fill with carbon monoxide or a loaded weapon.

For statisticians to compare the current suicide rate of the deployed soldiers they will have to somehow correct for nearly 100% of those soldiers walking around with loaded weapons nearly 100% of the time.

In other words, normally if a person aquires the motive for suicide, that motive must remain intense enough to follow through on while that person seeks out the means by which to carry it out. And who knows how many folks walking around out there have had the motive, but that motive abated before one could find the means?

Among our soldiers in Iraq, since nearly 100% of the soldiers are holding loaded weapons nearly 100% of their waking hours, should a soldier aquire the motive, the equation is - by default - automatically complete.

I believe this is an important differentiation to be made when trying to compare war zone suicides to others.

When you look at it that might speculate that the motive actually strikes soldiers less than the general population or Army at large.
And then, only because a residient pointed them out.

Hmmm....the issue of weapons may not be closed.
Troops of the 4th Infantry Division have found an estimated 8,000 rounds of 152mm artillery shells in a town near Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

The soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery were led to the cache in Khan Bani Saad by a resident, Maj. Josslyn Aberle said. The rounds are believed part of a cache hidden in the town on the northern outskirts of Baghdad before the U.S.-led invasion last March.
Two international Red Cross workers Saturday visited Saddam Hussein in U.S. custody in Iraq, a spokeswoman said.

The delegates - one of them a doctor - saw the ousted Iraqi leader at an undisclosed location, said Nada Doumani, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"The aim of this visit is to track and monitor the conditions of detention and treatment of the detainee," Doumani said, speaking from Amman, Jordan.

"We want to see whether he is getting enough food and water and also to check his health condition and to give him the possibility to write a message to his family, which he did."

The ICRC is mandated to carry out visits to detainees under the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare, but it never comments publicly on the conditions it finds.
Army officials have settled on a compensation plan that would give soldiers whose tours in Iraq have been involuntarily extended a tax-free bonus of up to $1,000 each month...

The first part is an additional $200 each month in hardship duty pay, which every soldier will receive on top of the $100 in hardship pay he or she has already been earning while in Iraq. There is a $300 ceiling, by law.

The second part involves a choice: Take another $800 in Assignment Incentive Pay each month, or take a “stabilized tour” when they return home, “the length of which will be [equal to] the total amount [a soldier] was deployed,” Barrett said during a Wednesday telephone interview.

The guarantee is the Army’s promise that the soldier will not be deployed for the time he or she is stabilized, Barrett said.
The Kaiserslautern area is home to so many Yanks that many simply call the towns and villages in the region “Little America.”

And Little America — home to more than 44,000 Americans — packs a pretty fat pocketbook.

In fiscal 2003, the Kaiserslautern Military Community pumped nearly $1.29 billion into the area’s economy, according to the most recent annual economic impact report. That’s up by $200,000 from fiscal 2002, said Dane McKenzie, supervisory financial management specialist with the 435th Comptroller Squadron at Ramstein Air Base.

The soldiers leaving Iraq pass through camps like these also. Fortunately for CPT Patti, she is slated to be apart of the advanced echelon (ADVON) for the Providers...and she might get a direct flight from Baghdad.

But these solders have it bad right now.
Kuwait — Spc. Natasha Carter intends to enjoy the turkey-and-cheese sandwich she waited 2½ hours to get.

Carter, 25, of Gallatin, Tenn., climbed in line in front of the little Subway sandwich trailer at 9:30 a.m. At noon, she arrived at the front of the line, and minutes later, she climbed down the steps with a satisfied grin...

Between 300 and 500 new soldiers and Marines a day are pouring into this temporary camp in northern Kuwait, preparing to head north to Iraq in the coming weeks. Capt. Jose Escamilla, 37, of the 467th Quartermaster Battalion — who is the executive officer of Camp New York’s mayor cell — said it will reach its capacity of 9,500 troops sometime next week.

Camp New York lies just a couple of miles across the desert from Camp Udairi, the other main springboard for Germany-based 1st Infantry Division troops. Udairi will be home to nearly 14,000 troops by the middle of the week, according to its mayor cell, and is suffering the same pains...

“We spend at least 50 percent of the day waiting in line," said Pfc. Matthew Weiland, 22, of Hastings, Minn., who serves in the 1st ID’s Vilseck-based 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor. “We call it ‘Camp Wait-in-line-a-lot.’”

Day 285. Nine and one half months.

Today CPT Patti's solders are throwing a party in her honor.

As for her remaining days in command, she has 9 days and a wake-up.

I'm very proud of her.

Friday, February 20, 2004


Here is what happened. I was eating breakfast at home this morning, flipping through the channels on our pitiful little cable over here. I was looking for news. I hit upon CNBC Europe.

The morning host was going over the market numbers from yesterday...and at some point had the occasion to say "...and we now know that US President Bush's trip to London cost us (citizens of England) over four-million pounds"

He then glanced directly into the camera's lens, and like a spoiled adolescent adds "yeah...great."

What does this have to do with the financial markets please?

Have the once cherished standards of news departments absolutely given themselves over to the sophomoric antics of the entertainment departments?

I've written to CNBC Europe on this...I'm just disgusted.

Amid the war on terror (recall, we are...not merely in Iraq) he cites the differences between Kerry and The President.
Bush says he's first and foremost a war president. Kerry says he's a jobs president first, then an education president, an environmental president, a taking-thorns-out-of-kittens'-paws president, and - oh yeah - a guy in charge of some military stuff.

Our friend Victor Davis Hanson offers up another batch of brain stretching.

Find yourself 10-15 quiet minutes to read it all. He covers a lot of ground under the umbrella of a lack of statesmanship by the Democrats.

As usual, he makes amazing amounts of sense.
Thus it was prudent to let all this alone, and not take the bait of thinking a decorated veteran who opposed the war could score points against a supporter of it who did not serve. But the Democrats were not content.

Instead, they floated old accusations that a twenty-something George Bush, who strapped himself into something as dangerous as an obsolete, fire-belching, and occasionally explosive F-102, was somehow near treasonous. Young Bush may have been impetuous and he apparently missed some roll calls, but anyone who rides the stratosphere a few inches above a jet engine is neither a coward nor a man who shirks either danger or responsibility.

Now the Democrats who thought up this low hit on the president will reap what they have sown - as Kerry's entire (and ever-expanding) record of ancient slips and slurs will unnecessarily go under full scrutiny, the sometimes shameful words of a rash and mixed-up youth unfairly gaining as much attention as once brave deeds. By August the American people will be sick to death of Kerry's pandering to veterans - or perhaps as indifferent to his medals as they were to the equally stellar record of sometimes-failed candidates like Bob Dole, Bob Kerry, John McCain, or Gray Davis.


This an update on a story we've followed here. This version doesn't mention what an earlier one did...that husband was also keen on getting a date with a woman who had no interest in a married man.

So busted.
An Army Reserve sergeant whose husband is charged with concocting a story about her death returned home to Waterbury from Iraq Thursday night, intent on seeing her children and assuring her family she was OK.

Betsy Valentin's 21-hour flight ended at Bradley International Airport. When she got to her home in Waterbury, she met with family members and a police escort, the Republican-American of Waterbury reported Friday.

The escort was provided in case there was any trouble between Valentin and her husband, Edward Valentin, who is out on bond. No problems were reported.

Edward Valentin was charged last week with falsely reporting an incident after telling reporters that the Defense Department called him on his cell phone to tell him his wife died in an explosion in Iraq. Police later inspected his phone records and alleged that Valentin made up the story.

Sadly, it appears these pups will have to be left behind. Too bad...look at the effect they have on our guys.
When a mongrel puppy wandered into his tent last fall, one Army sergeant said the effect was immediate and jarring. "When I saw him, I smiled. . . . I smiled so big and I realized that I haven't smiled in five months," he wrote on a Web posting from Iraq.
Iraq's economy is providing pleasant surprises, including booming consumer demand, strong oil revenue and healthy foreign exchange reserves, a top Treasury official said Thursday.

"The economy is beginning to work and thrive again and grow," John Taylor, undersecretary for international affairs, said by telephone from Baghdad.

U.S. occupation authorities estimate Iraqis have imported 1 million cars and trucks and more than 500,000 satellite dishes since fighting ended in April, Taylor said.

Other signs of improvement:

Oil revenue. On an annualized basis, oil exports are running $1.5 billion ahead of projections by U.S. authorities and Iraqi technocrats, who forecast 2004 revenue at $12 billion.

The currency. Iraq's new dinar, introduced in October, has gained value against the U.S. dollar. U.S. officials originally worried Iraq could deplete its foreign currency reserves if Iraqis weren't confident in the dinar.

Building materials. Demand for cement, asphalt and other construction material is boosting the economy, Taylor said.

He said controls on interest rates for bank loans and deposits will be lifted March 1. A fully functioning central bank and finance ministry should be in place by June 30, when the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority is to hand power to an Iraqi government, he said.
He also finds relief in the fact that he's now part of an exclusive club, a combat veteran. Thinking about Vietnam vets, he says, "I have mad respect for those guys now."

But he holds older veterans in even higher regard. "I love talking to guys from World War II," he says. "It was nothing like what I dealt with. They were gone for three or four years."

But although Sergeant Devine draws that distinction, sees their sacrifice as greater than his, still he feels the bond, the brotherhood with those who view his photographs and immediately understand.
A bad day is when (1) you get arrested (2) by the people who once worked for you and (3) they tell you exactly what they think of you.

Muhammad Zimam Abd al-Razzaq was having a really bad day. Mr. Zimam, a former interior minister under Saddam Hussein and an enemy of Iraq's Kurds, was No. 41 on the American occupation force's most-wanted list in Iraq.

He was in his house in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Saidiya on Sunday, when a squad of Iraqi police officers showed up around lunchtime. No burly, locked-and-loaded American soldiers to hunt down the dangerous; no, this was a bunch of Iraqi cops barely old enough to shave, wearing baseball caps that read SWAT in homemade letters.

Concerts in Baghdad...on a donated grand piano.
If music is the universal language, then the message emanating from a Steinway concert grand piano at a concert today in Baghdad, Iraq, was one of friendship and support.

The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra performed its first concert today at the Baghdad Convention Center since its new grand piano arrived last month.

Steinway & Sons offered to donate the piano after the orchestra performed here with the Washington National Symphony Orchestra.

Steinway responded to a National Endowment for the Arts plea for companies to donate instruments to the Iraqi orchestra, which floundered under Saddam Hussein.
Radio France Internationale has started broadcasting round-the-clock French-language programmes in Baghdad to complement its Arabic station already available there, the state-owned radio network said Thursday.
I would love to get transcripts of their stuff. I really, really would.
Confronting problems on critical fronts, the CIA recently removed its top officer in Baghdad because of questions about his ability to lead the massive station there, and has closed a number of satellite bases in Afghanistan amid concerns over that country's deteriorating security situation, according to U.S. intelligence sources...

The CIA's Baghdad station has become the largest in agency history, eclipsing the size of its post in Saigon at the height of the Vietnam War, a U.S. official said. But sources said the agency has struggled to fill a number of key overseas posts.

Many of those who do take sensitive overseas assignments are willing to serve only 30-to-90-day rotations, a revolving-door approach that has undercut the agency's ability to cultivate ties to warlords in Afghanistan or collect intelligence on the Iraqi insurgency, sources said.

There is such a shortage of Arabic speakers and qualified case officers willing to take dangerous assignments that the agency has been forced to hire dozens -- if not hundreds -- of CIA retirees, and to lean heavily on translators, sources said. The agency has also had to use soldiers for tasks that CIA officers normally perform, sources said.

A "Provider" soldier from our Battalion.
The Iraqi people Pfc. Jennifer Gruselle has contact with aren't much different from the people back home.

That's part of the message the 20-year-old Green Bay Southwest High School graduate who is serving in Iraq sent to students at McAuliffe Elementary School in Bellevue.

"It's like a whole other world here," the medic with the 501st Forward Support Battalion wrote to students. "I have found the vast majority of Iraqis to be nothing but kind and caring. They're not all that different from you and me, with families and friends that they love and jobs or school they work hard in."

Gruselle sent the letter, a page of signatures, a stuffed bear and photos to students at the school, who in November sent 550 cards and about a dozen care packages to troops in Iraq.

Their message included an aerial photo of the students who lined up to form a heart and spelled out "USA" outside the school.

Tonie Mixer, a fourth-grade teacher at McAuliffe, read Gruselle's letter to her class.

"You could have heard a pin drop when I was reading the letter to my kids and passing the pictures around," she said. "They have no toilets, no running water and the Iraqi people have no shoes on their feet. "

Gruselle's parents, Gregg and Sandy, live in Allouez.

"There is a huge job to be done in Iraq, and I am honored to be part of the process of giving this country back to its people," Jennifer Gruselle wrote.

In her letter, Gruselle told the students about the oppression the people of Iraq lived under prior to their liberation last spring.

"If any of you have friends or family deployed to Iraq, it is natural to worry, but don't worry too much as we are all soldiers and we all take very good care of each other," Gruselle wrote.
Did you catch that near the end there? She is "honored to be part of the process of giving this country back to its people".

God bless you , PFC Gruselle.

Israel, Saudi Arabia, and now downtown Baghdad. If we go back further in history, the Berlin wall, Hadrian's wall and the great wall of China.

We consider those last two quiant, and beautiful remnants of days gone by.

I doubt we think of the others in the same terms. Or will we ever.
In a country where terrorist bombs are a clear and present danger, concrete blast barriers have become a critical landscape feature.

The U.S. military uses the barriers, some up to 10 feet high, to enclose its base camps. Civilian government officials, aid agencies and hotel owners wrap the concrete walls around their buildings like protective blankets. Barriers divide roads and surround parking lots.

Day 284.

A sunny but cold day in Germany. However it appears to be a pretty nice day weatherwise in Baghdad.

Thursday, February 19, 2004


Who would have thought the Saudi's would do such a thing...

The intellectually dishonest movement of political correctness creates a paradox. Do we tolerate the intolerant or do we not tolerate the tolerant?

News item:
Denmark has introduced new immigration laws that will make it more difficult for Muslim clerics and other religious leaders to enter the country.

The new rules are designed in part to deter Islamic clerics from establishing Islamic communities in Denmark and instead encourage Muslims to integrate into the broader society. The rules however, would apply to any religious group...

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, said yesterday: "Access to obtaining a Danish residence permit for foreign missionaries has been too easy up until now.

"That is why we now put forward new requirements for residing in the country, like the demand that imams and others have an education and that they be financially self-sufficient."...

Peter Skaarup, a spokesman for the DPP, said: "In theory, these rules concern all clerics from all religions. But in practice, they target the imams."
I've been bothered for some time by the question of why we feel we must tolerate those who do not tolerate us. And I suppose this news out of Denmark reframed the question for me and allowed me to further develop my thoughts.

First let us look at what Denmark is doing. They are raising the standards by which one qualifies for entry under a so-called "religious visa". Why are they doing that? The article clearly states the reason..."to deter Islamic clerics from establishing Islamic communities in Denmark and instead encourage Muslims to integrate into the broader society".

But then the article goes on to say "The rules however, would apply to any religious group..."

Such disingenuousness does not become Denmark.

The DPP spokesman says they are targeting Imams. So why the clamp down on all religious groups? Are the Danes suddenly under attack by Southern Baptists and Anglicans who seek to overthrow the Monarchy? Have the Roman Catholics or Hasidic Jews declared holy war against the Scandinavian peoples?

No...what is at work here is Political Correctness. That's my view.

The PC movement says one may not attribute an unflattering trait to a sect or group of people. One may not generalize. Me...I find that to be hogwash.

The fact is that it is the radical Islamists who are fomenting terror and violence against the West. It is a fact that these acts are frequently the result of calls of Jihad from Isalmic clerics, although sometimes from those without such titles, a la Bin Laden. It is a fact demonstrated in spades in countries like France and The Netherlands that muslim immigrants are less likely to assimilate than other categories of immigrants.

It seems to me the sane and economical approach would be to focus the effort on the problem.

Let's look at this question from a different angle.

A longstanding bit of American folklore says that upon his arrest Willy Sutton was asked "Why do you rob banks, Willy?"

To which Willy replied - "Cause that's where the money is."

This was Willy's "Duh" moment...

But consider if Willy had applied Politically Correct Think to his career as a bank robber. Under PC Think, Willy would know that the overwhelming preponderance of money is in the Banks but would not be allowed to target banks in his quest for money. Under PC Think, Willy would have to systematically rob every building on the street.

Given Willy's objective is to obtain large amounts of money consider the resource costs associated with this inane approach. Allowing for 20 establishments along main street, Willy's costs associated with planning, casing, and rehearsal have just gone up twenty fold.

If we assume that on average the bank holds 1000 times the cash of the average other establishment, Willy's average "take" is reduced by over 95%.

Now in fact it may be true the other establishments may not be so well guarded as the Bank...and Willy's average risk factor per heist actually decreases. But it will not decrease to such an extent that the risk-to-reward ratios come anywhere near what they were when only robbing banks - since, as we've already established - the banks hold so much more money than any other establishment.

Well...Willy knew that. And he wasn't subject to those who worry that his singling out of banks would somehow be an affront to the banks. After all, as he said with startling clarity...that's where the money is.

Which brings me back to the PC law passed in Denmark which requires Denmark to expend the same resources on Buddhist monks or Hari Krishna as it does on Jihadist Islamic clerics. At some point we need to ask ourselves "at what point does political correctness become more expensive than we can justify?'

In my view it already is.

If, while driving down the road I hear an odd grinding sound coming from the right front area of the automobile whenever I brake, logic says I will inspect the brake on the right front tire. PC Think obligates me to inspect the brakes on every tire, and to select a random starting tire every time so as not to offend the right front tire.

So I return to the paradox. Under PC Think we are required to either tolerate the intolerant or do not tolerate the tolerant. Because PC Think will not allow us to craft logical laws that targets the problem areas. PC Think does not allow us to tolerate the tolerant while not tolerating those who are intolerant.

The Danish law proves that outright. The DPP spokesman's comments support the truth.

Instead of imposing a tax on the group from which the problem demonstrably arises (the right front tire, in this case), we must impose the same tax on the three unoffending tires (not to mention ourselves) as well. This defies logic. But it somehow makes some people feel good.

Under the Danish approach if I create the 1st Church of Internet Communion and declare myself its priest, I will pay the same annoyance tax trying to get into Denmark as any Muslim Imam even though I have not once demonstrated my religion to be a threat to the ruddy cheeked people of the great white north. So, I am annoyed, but only equally so as Imam Bob from Iran.

Why should that be so? Why not, instead, target those from Iran, or the mid east or (enter name of appropriate subset from Venn diagram here) who have something in common with Imam Bob. After all, if they get annoyed in the same way, perhaps they are in a position to apply a bit of peer pressure to the Jihadists who have caused this mess in the first place.

Me...I'd rather have the resources targeted where probability says they should be, and let the chips fall where they may. And if I'm going to through additional resources at it, those resources go toward efforts to better identify which from the targeted group are the greatest threat, and which are no threat at all.

In other words if I'm looking for money, well, you'll find me at the bank...preferably the biggest bank.

This statistical breakdown says Kerry probably should not be the Democrat's nominee.

Its kinda neat what sort of cooperation one well placed mid-east ass-whupping can generate.
U.S. Navy sailors may board thousands of commercial ships in international waters to search for weapons of mass destruction under a landmark pact between the United States and Liberia, the world's No. 2 shipping registry.

A proposition by Tom Brokaw
But it's unfair to put all the burden, and the risks, on the military. A United States general told me he was worried that Americans back home didn't appreciate the challenges and sacrifices of his troops. "Where are the victory gardens?" he asked, referring to the World War II home-front effort to show solidarity by growing fruits and vegetables so more food could be shipped to soldiers overseas.

Conditions in Afghanistan won't get a lot better any time soon. The military is expected to be involved in a big spring offensive against Al Qaeda that will probably mean more combat and less time for community projects. The participation of civilians, then, seems all the more important. But if it's too dangerous for them to be on the ground in Afghanistan, why not find other ways for them to participate? There are no ready models, but modern technology may be part of the answer.

Here's one idea. American corporations, service clubs, education and health organizations could adopt villages and provide each with a generator to power donated computers and large-screen televisions. Then American and Afghan doctors, teachers, carpenters, soccer coaches and the like could appear in instructive software, videotape or television programming to supplement military efforts. Another possibility would be to convert one of those go-anywhere Afghan trucks into a classroom. Load it with computers and conferencing equipment and go from village to village.

Such a program would not replace the Army, but it would add a civilian face to the efforts to build a civil society. It would also tighten the bonds between the military and the American people. It could be the 21st century equivalent of a victory garden.
Oddly, just as the foreign minister was announcing Iran's intention to sell enriched uranium to interested parties ? thereby spitting in the eye of the French, German, and English diplomats who sang love songs to themselves just a few short months ago, proclaiming they had negotiated an end to the Iranian nuclear program ? two smugglers were arrested in Iraq, near Mosul, with what an Iraqi general described as a barrel of uranium.

Here is what General Hikmat Mahmoud Mohammed had to say about the event: "This material is in the category of weapons of mass destruction, which is why the investigation is secret. The two suspects were transferred to American forces, who are in charge of the inquiry."

Or...Why Kucinich has received about seven votes so far.
The war in Iraq is over and the occupation has turned into a quagmire. The United States troops have become the targets of criminals and terrorists who are flowing into Iraq for the chance to kill Americans. The cost of the occupation keeps rising: The president has already asked for more than $155 billion to pay for it, and there is no end in sight. U.S. military casualties in Iraq have now exceeded 500...

We must pay for what we destroyed. We must pay reparations to the families of innocent civilians we killed and injured. But we must work through the United Nations. We must allow the United Nations to facilitate the creation of a democratic government that will be acceptable to the Iraqi people.
Excuse me genius...but the UN won't even establish an office in this country...and you want them to establish a democratic government?????

It doesn't come easy.

I don't agree with everything this author says...but I think he makes excellent points about the difficulties in getting to democracy.
It's hard designing a transition to democracy.

Maybe democracy will take in Iraq, maybe it won't, but I hope our experience with Iraq gives us a nudge toward appreciating our own democracy, which too many of us take for granted, and too few of us understand.

Watching democracy being tried there and in Haiti, Russia and numerous other places around the world, nothing is clearer than how difficult a plant it is to cultivate.

So many things have to be in place for a democracy to work...

We had to fight the Civil War before we really became a nation instead of a collection of states whose interests lay primarily within their own borders. It was that war that led people to change their grammar: They stopped saying the United States are, and started saying the United States is.

Read the history of any democracy you choose, and you'll see that it didn't come easily or quickly — not in England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain. Its evolution can take decades, sometimes centuries. OK, maybe Canada had no problems (no, wait, there is still that French/English thing). Political marriage is hard work, and the work is never done.

U.S. soldiers captured seven insurgents with possible links to al Qaeda during a raid in central Iraq Wednesday, the U.S. military said.
The seven men were targets of a raid carried out by the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division in Baquba, 40 miles north of Baghdad.

"The seven targets may have links to al Qaeda," a military spokesman said. They were suspected of being part of a cell that launched attacks against U.S.-led occupation forces, he said. Fifteen other people were also arrested in the same raid.

Please slow down...this is today's absolutely required reading. And the whole thing, very much worth your time, is here.
Later that night, I went down to dinner in my hotel restaurant, sitting by chance beside a table of Christian activists from America and Canada.

As if to make clear anti-occupation sentiments clear, they were loudly snickering at the behavior of U.S. troops—specifically, the GIs’ tendency to wear sunglasses when on patrol. Why, everyone knows the Arabs value eye contact, the Christians sneered. How stupid, how culturally insensitive, how American can you be? And these are the people who want to bring democracy to the Middle East?

I wondered if these God-fearing war protestors had expended similar energy condemning the murderers who packed a Toyota pick-up truck with explosives and sent it into the Baghdad streets—but something told me they had not.

In my two trips to Iraq, I’ve come to dread these kinds of leftists. You run into them everywhere—in teahouses, restaurants, hotel lobbies, anyplace where Westerners gather. Their ranks include NGO workers, European journalists, religious pacifists, Canadians of every stripe—disparate groups united by their sense of moral superiority, opposition to the war in Iraq and their disdain for the United States.

Together, they form a kind of humanitarian chorus which decries Coalition abuses of Iraqi citizens—yet falls silent before Ba’athist crimes, or the horror of suicide bombing.

“I refuse to use the word ‘terrorist’ to describe those who resist the U.S. occupation,” a Baghdad-based member of a Canadian Mennonite group once told me. “Those are terms used by the American government.”

There’s a place for activists in Iraq, of course. If democracy is to take root here, the country needs to experience the full spectrum of civic life, from voting booths and private enterprise, to labor unions, environmentalists, feminists and civil rights lawyers...

Too often, though, the main interest of leftists is not Iraq, but the perceived faults of the U.S. Take, for example, the foreign press. When I visited last fall, numerous Baghdadis complained to me how European journalists frequently ignored the joy Iraqis felt with the fall of Saddam; instead, they sought mainly to report on (or in some cases, manufacture) anti-American sentiment. “The French were the worst,” groused sculptor Haider Wady. “They keep trying to get us to say bad things about the war and the Americans.”

Nowadays, one sees in Iraq a newer, more subtle form of anti-Americanism...Recently, I met the members of CODEPINK—a self-described “grassroots peace and social justice movement”—which specializes in taking women on week-long excursions among the city’s most wretched inhabitants: homeless people, traumatized children, families destroyed by trigger-happy U.S. soldiers. “Robin Williams has asked us to find a children’s hospital he can donate money to,” co-founder Jodie Evans informed me.

No one wants to begrudge such altruism, of course. Still, the selective concerns of CODEPINK and other do-gooders trouble me...

Demonstrating the narrowness of her experiences in Iraq, a woman traveling with CODEPINK asked me, “How bad was Saddam really?” As for the victims of terrorist bombings, no one ever mentions them; they are not a stop of the leftist’s pity circuit.
Insurgents fired mortars and rockets at a U.S. base at a prison on the western edge of Baghdad, slightly wounding one soldier, the military said Thursday. U.S. troops killed one Iraqi and detained 55 for questioning, the military added.

The incident occurred Wednesday between 6:30 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. at the Abu Ghraib prison, the military said. Thirty-three mortars and five rockets were fired during the insurgent attack.

Abu Ghraib was one of Iraq's most notorious prisons during the rule of Saddam Hussein, who detained, tortured and executed many regime opponents there.

The U.S. military uses the prison to house coalition opponents and former regime members.
For Nicholas, Erika and Logan Stewmon, seeing Mom and Dad both home together is getting to be a very strange thing.

The three children, ages 14, 12 and 5, belong to a dual-military family in Illesheim, Germany. Their father, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brian Stewmon, pilots an AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter for the Illesheim-based 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment. Their mother, Capt. Michelle Stewmon, is a nurse for the 67th Combat Support Hospital in W├╝rzburg.

Brian Stewmon returned late last month from an 11½-month tour in Iraq. He got home just in time to kiss his wife goodbye and send her off on her own yearlong deployment.

“We expected separation, but we never expected two years,” Michelle Stewmon said last week, just after arriving in Kuwait. “People don’t know that it’s going on. They’re shocked this is happening.”

No one to hug you when you return from Iraq.
The war- and travel-weary soldiers filed off the chartered bus to the joyful screams of wives and open-armed children running for hugs a year gone missing.

Company A, 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion was finally home from Iraq.

But for many of the 68 soldiers who returned Friday to Heidelberg, Germany, home is still a long way away.

“Will you hold my hand,” whispered a sergeant in Pfc. Cody Sheldon’s ear as Alpha’s commander stood before the troops for one last formation with tearful flag-waving wives and children standing on the sidelines.

“It’s hard,” said Sheldon, a 19-year-old single soldier from Baltimore, as he lugged his gear from the bus up into his barracks. “You knew there were going to be all those families here, but it kind of leaves you wishing you were already home with your own family.”

Because it is wonderful.
This picture of the statue below was made by an Iraqi artist named Kalat, who for years was forced by Saddam Hussein to make the many hundreds of bronze busts of Saddam that dotted Baghdad.

This artist was so grateful that the Americans liberated his country, he melted 3 of the fallen Saddam heads and made a memorial statue dedicated to the American soldiers and their fallen comrades. Kalat worked on this night and day for several months.

To the left of the kneeling soldier is a small Iraqi girl giving the soldier comfort as he mourns the loss of his comrade in arms.

It is currently on display outside the palace that is now home to the 4th Infantry division. It will eventually be shipped and shown at the memorial museum in Fort Hood, Texas.

You may not quite be able to make it out, but the mass on the right edge of the photo includes the boots, inverted weapon with a kevlar helmet atop...the traditional memorial displayed at a service for a fallen soldier.

(Thanks to reader Beth for sending this in.)

Day 283.

It is worthy of note that the sun is shining today...the second such day of 2004 here in the usually grey, grey state of Hessen.

And daylight hourse are almost back to tolerable parameters. Each day we gain nearly 3 minutes...meaning an additional hour and a half daylight every day.

I feel as if I may just be on the cusp of emerging from the January funk into which I'd fallen. I sure hope so.

C'mon springtime. C'mon home Darling.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004


Just an observation...I heard Howard Dean's "I'm sorta not running for President anymore" speech on the radio the day after the Wisconsin Primary.

Did anyone else notice how staccato and robotic his speech sounded? It seemed as if he were reading from a lagging teleprompter. It was just a bit creepy.

While on the subject I suppose it is as good a time as any to lament the absence of well developed oratory skills on the part of any of the candidates with a partial exemption to Al Sharpton. I give Sharpton a partial exemption because he does have a potentially powerful oratorical style. However, the Reverend also has some serious grammar issues, among a plethora of other issues, that affect his credibility.

As much respect as I have for Joe Lieberman, his oratorical style is sincere but, I believe, best suited for a living room chat. Dean is all over the map. And Kerry...oh my goodness, Kerry is just absolutely ponderous. I just cannot imagine hearing that voice over and over for the next too many months before the election. (By the way, my opinion is that our election process runs too long as well...I like the parliamentary advantage that can set elections six weeks from now and be done with it....but that is another posting.) I haven't heard Edwards speak enough to have an opinon yet...although I hear a moderate Southern accent. I'm from the South...although I've lived all over...and if I hear it, I wonder how it plays in Peoria.

Don't get the wrong idea...although I'm generally a fan of President Bush I don't think he is much of an orator either. He has a very choppy delivery that I believe would work in an interactive conversation over appetizers at Chi-Chi's. It doesn't work very well for speeches. To his credit I believe he has progressed over his years as President. He used to be worse. Still, some day I hope he will learn to pronounce "nuclear". (Les Aspin, President Clinton's first Secretary of Defense had the same problem.)

I think it is sad. Because I know that for a portion of the audience the difference between listening and daydreaming can be found in the speaker's oratorical skills. Look at the successful ministers with the largest congregations. My generation flocked to listen to Billy Graham...and granted he's got superb material....but if Howard Dean tried to deliver Rev. Graham's material I suspect there would be fewer souls saved as a result.

Now, my friend Sarah may take me to task over this as she is no fan of the British accent...but accent notwithstanding, I find that Tony Blair is a fine orator. He speaks with rhythm...with an ear that provides accurate feedback as to how he comes across. He speaks eloquent English using well crafted phrases, appropriate alliteration and appealing inflections. It is a trait I admire. When he speaks, I listen. I don't know if you've ever watched a session of Parliament on television, but it is an amazing thing. The opposition stands on one side of a table and asks a question of the Prime Minister (who holds this remarkably huge book to which he never seems to refer). The Prime Minister will then rise and respond. It appears to me to be entirely unscripted...and perhaps that is the source of Mr. Blair's eloquence. He speaks his own words.

I've done much public speaking over the years and developed a reputation for having an engaging style. I learned early on, however, that it is an intense process. I found if I tried to present material written by others I was a huge flop. The words have to be my own before I am able to effectively communicate.

Perhaps it is that so many of our politicians employ speech writers and those speech writers do not write in the speakers natural words and rhythms that has banished effective oratory from this campaign. To be honest, I believe the progress I attribute to the President over the last 3 years might actually belong to his speechwriters learning his natural rhythms and timing.

I'm certain that oratory is an underrated skill these days. And I concede it might have less of an impact as the sound bite has supplanted the presentation (at least in the US media). But my father was an English major and gave to me a love for the lilt of the language. I find that love goes unfulfilled in this election season.

Satire at the Onion
Democratic frontrunner Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) began a seven-day, eight-state whistle-stop tour Monday, addressing a group of Frigidaire factory workers from the all-teak deck of his 60-foot luxury motor cruiser...

"John Kerry wanted to get out there, connect with the people, and hear their stories," Cahill said in a press conference held in the main cabin. "Taking his yacht across the Midwest is the best way for Kerry to reach out to all the people who lost their jobs under George W. Bush."

"There's no better place to have a good conversation than on the deck of a fine sailing vessel, out there in the sunshine, with the gentle breeze playing in your hair," Cahill said. "It's beautiful up there."

Cahill said she hopes the yacht will appeal to independent voters, who may decide the election in November.

An additional benefit of campaigning in the craft is that it affords Kerry the opportunity to make unexpected stops along the campaign trail, simply by alerting the convoy with his International Maritime Signal Flags.

"What's John Kerry all about?" said Kerry, addressing a small group of supporters that he spotted at a rest stop on Interstate 76. "John Kerry believes in affordable health care, renewable energy, decisive foreign policy, and economic recovery. I'm putting that message on my yacht and taking it all the way across America."
The question of whether Saddam Hussein was a monstrous, murderous tyrant has two answers - "no" or "yes". There is no "yes but".
Russia's biggest military exercise since the collapse of communism flopped yesterday, ruining an attempt to project Vladimir Putin as a global leader and reaffirm the country's status as a nuclear superpower.

With Mr Putin and a host of military officials watching from the nuclear submarine Arkhangelsk, two intercontinental ballistic missiles went wrong during a firing from a submarine believed to be the Novomoskovsk. They were aimed at Kamchatka on the Pacific coast. A malfunctioning satellite was blamed.

The Russian website said one of the missiles blew up shortly after firing. The navy refused to confirm the accident.

Television, which had been leading news programmes with glowing reports of the exercises, quickly reduced them to a short bulletin.

For Mr Putin, decked out in naval garb, it was an embarrassing setback.

With less than a month before presidential elections, he has sought to cast himself as a hard man in the mould of the old Soviet leaders.

He has also pledged to preside over a return to the days when Russia was a powerful global player.

Last week he said the collapse of the Soviet Union had been a "national tragedy of enormous scale".
Really? A national tragedy?

Seems President Reagan saw the Soviet Union in a differrent light:
It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens. It also is in deep economic difficulty. The rate of growth in the national product has been steadily declining since the fifties and is less than half of what it was then...

Wherever the comparisons have been made between free and closed societies -- West Germany and East Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, Malaysia and Vietnam -- it is the democratic countries that are prosperous and responsive to the needs of their people.

And one of the simple but overwhelming facts of our time is this: of all the millions of refugees we’ve seen in the modern world, their flight is always away from, not toward the Communist world.

Today on the NATO line, our military forces face east to prevent a possible invasion. On the other side of the line, the Soviet forces also face east to prevent their people from leaving.
Mr. Putin bears watching.

A glimpse into the remarkable advancement of the economy of Iraq.
An average of 50 trailers of soft drinks drop their cargo at Jamilah daily compared to one or two before the war. The price of a can of Pepsi has fallen by more than half to 20 cents.

"The Iranians have sent me $50,000 (26,000 pounds) worth of confectionery without asking for a bill. They are so keen on a distributor. They know Iraqis are starting to spend," Aibi said.


U.S. officials say Iraq's economy is seeing consumer-led growth, helped by an increase in public sector salaries and the fall of the business elite who monopolised Iraq's resources and discouraged independent private enterprise.

"The private sector is recovering from the hostilities. We are laying the regulatory framework so the practices of the old regime do not creep back in," said an official in the U.S.-led administration of Iraq.

Wages have climbed sharply under the occupation, although unemployment remains rampant. A street cleaner is paid around $3 a day, as much as the average government worker's monthly salary during the sanctions era.

Businesses are expanding slowly, although security and a legal system to enforce contracts are lacking.

Nabil Mamo, a prominent surgeon, said demand for private health care was rising and he would soon reopen his eye care centre, which was looted after the war.

"There is no credible state protection yet," Mamo said. "But things have definitely changed for the better. I see it in my patients and their willingness to spend."

Please note that last point. In spite of the violence that continues to plague parts of the country, the economy is improving, along with quality of life for the people.

And who is responsible then for the downside, the violence? That must be laid at the feet of the Islamic jihadists with their own theocratic agendas. Our soldiers and the growing number of Iraqi counterparts in the police force and the civil defense are doing everything they can to prevent the killings and the bombings.

And underneath the attention grabbing headlines the truth is we have unleashed a broad force of economic opportunity that, if allowed to, will perpetuate and expand itself.

Consider it in the light of this single statement:
"My sister bought a refrigerator and a television with her new salary. She needed decades to afford them before," he said.
Consider that in light of what we take as normal. Imagine if you even can the joy of, for the first time ever, owning a refrigerator.

That is what we've done.

And then, consider what the lady with the refrigerator and TV for the first time would think if she knew this
About 80 people turned out Monday night at the Bausch & Lomb Public Library to listen to poets express outrage over the war in Iraq.

The event was the second annual Rochester Poets Against the War & Occupation. Twenty-six poets read from their works.
Doesn't it seem tha Poets Against Liberation and Happiness might be a more apt name for these geniuses?

To stave off financial hardship by Guardsmen and Reservists for whom call-up means a pay cut.
Governor McGreevey (D-NJ) spent part of Tuesday at Fort Dix speaking to 180 soldiers as they prepare to deploy for Iraq. The members of the two New Jersey National Guard units will be overseas for one year serving as military police officers.

As the soldiers spent time with their loved ones, the governor announced a new loan program for military families. Four banks are offering loans of up to $10,000 with principal and interest deferments to all New Jersey National Guard members and military reservists called to active duty. The governor says the "Freedom Loans" will allow soldiers to concentrate on their military duties without worrying about financial problems at home.

Oregon's Democrat Governor says Kerry et. al. need to shut up about pulling out of Iraq.
Kulongoski said he feared that fellow Democrats might push for the return home of U.S. troops too soon.

“I think the American military needs to have a presence in Iraq,” he said. “I do believe we need to be there, both for the political stability of the country and the economic recovery of the country.”
The story also includes this curious quote as well.
Peter Bergel, executive director of Oregon PeaceWorks in Salem, agreed that troops can’t be rushed back home.

People in the peace movement always have warned that removing Saddam Hussein would lead to a long, costly and complicated rebuilding effort, he said.
"Have always warned?" Since when did anyone in your so-called peace movement ever step up the plate and say anything about Saddam, until GWB put him under the spotlight?

Show me.

UPDATE: Perhaps it would be good for someone to make this TV Commercial

A twist on the old Junior Year Abroad concept...
The Army is paying students to put their degrees on hold and join troops in Iraq as Arabic interpreters.

Five students have already been sent to areas under British control and 11 more are in the final stages of preparation, the Ministry of Defence said.

Their work includes translating documents and dealing with the public.

The MoD said they wear blue jackets and helmets to distinguish them from troops but have been warned: "There's a degree of risk inherent in working in Iraq."

You may not know how serious the Army is about learning from experiences, good and bad.

This story discusses the After Action Report on combat operations in Iraq. It points to some strengths and some weaknesses for the Army to work on.

And this excerpt notes an ironic victim of the US's information operations.
Another apparent failure was the Army's "information operations," including the attempt to use propaganda to mold the battle and persuade Iraqis to surrender without a fight. Before the war, commanders expected mass surrenders like they had seen in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. But that didn't happen, perhaps because this invasion did not follow the sort of heavy bombing that helped sap Iraqi will in 1991.

"Frankly, with a few exceptions ... it is hard to make the case that U.S. efforts in the broad category of information operations produced any meaningful results," the study says. An ironic exception: One of the first "kills" of the war was scored by the information campaign, when a box of pamphlets fell unopened from an airplane and hit an Iraqi soldier.
Money illicitly siphoned from the UN oil-for-food programme by Saddam Hussein was used to finance anti-sanctions campaigns run by British politicians, according to documents that have surfaced in Baghdad.

Undercover cash from oil deals went to three businessmen who in turn supported pressure groups involving the ex-Labour MP George Galloway, Labour MP Tam Dalyell, and the former Irish premier Albert Reynolds, it is alleged in documents compiled by the oil ministry, which is now under the control of the US occupation regime...

Mr Chalabi and Mr Zureikat gave money to the Mariam Appeal, run by Mr Galloway, the MP confirmed. Mr Tahir said he ran another anti-sanctions campaign called Friendship Across Borders, which had Mr Dalyell as its official patron and organised visits to Baghdad by supportive politicians.

What do the Mormon Church records storage facility, Fort Knox and a parking garage in Derby England have in common?

They are among the 10 most secure places on Earth.
The top 10 most secure sites in the globe were:

1) Cheyenne Mountain, USA – The command, control, communication and intelligence centre for coordinating and controlling North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) and US Space Command (USSPACECOM) missions.

2) HavenCo – A data protection company which is based at Sealand in the North Sea, six miles off Britain. Access is restricted to authorised staff, investors and members of the Royal Family.

3) ADX-Florence Prison, Colorado – A maximum security prison designed so that one guard can control the movements of numerous prisoners in several cell blocks by way of electronic doors, cameras and audio equipment.

4) Saddam Hussein’s bunker in Baghdad – The bunker can resist a direct hit of a 20 kilo-ton bomb or atomic bomb impact and keep those inside independent of the outside world for six months.

5) The Mormon Church records store, Granite Mountains in Utah – Vaults encased in granite rock. Armed guards waving metal detector wands greet visitors inside a concrete bunker before swinging open metal gates to a tunnel entrance.

6) Fort Knox – A bank vault with a door that weight 25 tonnes.

7) The 1960s Bar – Part of the Burlington bunker in Wiltshire, which held a replica of Whitehall and included a bar.

8) Air Force One – A modified Boeing aircraft with all the latest safety technology which transports the US President around the world.

9) Area 51 – A secret military facility about 90 miles north of Las Vegas.

10) Bold Lane car park, Derby.
The U.S. military issued Tuesday, for the first time, a wanted list of dozens of key figures suspected of leading the anti-U.S. insurgency in Iraq, including a $1 million reward for a senior Baath Party figure believed to be running guerrilla cells...

The list of 32 wanted people included suspected cell leaders, former members of Saddam Hussein's military and regional Baath leaders thought to be helping the insurgency, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations chief.

At the top of the list, with a $1 million reward, is Mohammed Yunis al-Ahmad, a former top Baath Party official. Rewards between $50,000 and $200,000 were offered for the others.

''He is one of the former [regime] personnel we suspect of significant anti-coalition activities,'' Kimmitt said of al-Ahmad. ``We have reason to believe he has been running cells in certain parts of this country.''

The military has been compiling the list as it built up a better understanding of the insurgency, Kimmitt told reporters. ''Some names keep popping up,'' he said.
Iraq's Governing Council is to discuss proposals for a revamped Iraqi stock exchange later this week.
The talks follow months of preparatory work aimed at putting the country's financial markets back on their feet after last year's war.

The new Iraqi bourse would be run in line with international corporate governance standards.

It would also enable foreign investors to buy shares in local companies for the first time.

Americans, Spaniards, Italians, Iraqis....and now the Poles are the target.
Suicide car bombers have killed two Iraqis and wounded 44 others as well as eight soldiers with the U.S.-led coalition at a base used by coalition soldiers in the Iraqi city of Hilla, a military spokesman says.

"At 7:15 local time near the logistics base there was a terrorist attack using two cars," Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Strzelecki, a spokesman for Polish-led troops in the region, told Reuters on Wednesday. "We found the bodies of the two drivers, and two Iraqis standing in the street were killed."

Eight coalition soldiers -- six Poles, a Hungarian and an American -- were wounded in the attack in Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, the latest strike on the soldiers of countries helping the United States occupy Iraq.

Does this strike you as just a bit unseemly for the world's only Superpower?
There is a chill in the air inside buildings at Navy bases around Europe as officials lower thermostats as part of an effort to save money and prepare for expected budget cuts.

Navywide cuts aimed at setting aside more funds to help modernize the fleet, coupled with a weakening dollar, have bases looking for ways to reduce costs and do things more efficiently, said Lt. Cmdr. Carla McCarthy, spokeswoman for Navy Region Europe.

This is worrisome. One doesn't frequently hear of events like this among standard commercial carriers. Why so among the charters we are using to move our soldiers?
For the second time, a charter flight carrying 1st Infantry Division troops suffered a malfunction on takeoff, prompting an unscheduled landing, a division spokesman said.

Shortly after sunrise on Feb. 10, an indicator light on the American Trans Air Boeing 757 showed the aircraft had lost its hydraulics right after takeoff from the Nuremburg, Germany, airport, passengers on the flight said.

“You knew something was wrong, because we weren’t gaining altitude,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jon King, a 1st ID re-enlistment counselor.

The jet, carrying more than 150 soldiers from the Kitzingen-based 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery, flew about 200 miles northeast to Frankfurt for repairs. As a precaution, King said, the pilot told the passengers they would fly at low altitude with wheels down...

On Feb. 6 a chartered World Airways flight loaded with 278 1st ID soldiers took off from Nuremburg for Kuwait but also had to make an emergency landing. As the plane took off, one of its engines burst into flames and was quickly shut down. The plane landed safely without further incident.
Iraq’s civil defense force asked U.S. soldiers not to aid a besieged Fallujah police station Saturday to keep the defenders from losing face with locals, according to the U.S. commander of coalition forces in the area.

At least 25 people were killed in simultaneous attacks on the police station and an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps compound. On Monday, a team of six U.S. congressmen and several members of the Iraqi Governing Council laid a wreath at the Baghdad Police Academy in memory of 17 police officers killed during the attack.

Col. Jefforey Smith, commander of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, now based in Fallujah, said U.S. soldiers prepared to head to the police station after hearing gunfire.

However, the troops at Volturno Forward Operating Base, about seven miles from the police station, were held back at the request of the commander of the 506th Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion.

Shortly after the attack started the commander arrived at Volturno seeking weapons and ammunition.

“I asked if he wanted us to send an element but he said [the ICDC and Iraqi police] had the situation under control. We had four military ambulances standing by but he said they didn’t need them,” Smith said.

“He almost demanded we not put forces into Fallujah at that time because it would damage their credibility with the people there if they could not protect themselves.”


Day 282.

And my darling wonderful wife called me yesterday morning. She was concerned that I would be worried for not having heard from her for a few days, the result of an undependable internet connection in her command post.

So she called. Isn't that sweet?

Says she's doing good...(and she sounded good) - that they are almost at the end of the change of command inventory. So far all property has been accounted for - which is a good thing meaning she doesn't have to pay for anything on her way out.

She says she is still in denial about giving up command. I get that. But it is going to happen.

Theorectially we are looking at less than 60 days until she returns. But the last time I wrote something like that they came in and moved the goal posts so...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


This piece comes from Islam Online. Go read it all and get the sense of how much they fear Christian influences.
A Christian missionary was killed and three others injured in an ambush on their car near Baghdad on Sunday, February 15.

A number of gunmen opened fire on the car the missionaries were riding on their way back from the southern Iraqi city of Babil, eyewitnesses told Al-Quds press...

Since the U.S. and British forces rolled into Baghdad on April 9, more than 100 Christian missionaries entered the Arab Muslim country.

Shrouded in secrecy and under the guise of humanitarian aid, American missionaries, mainly evangelicals, are pouring into the predominantly Muslim Iraq, fearing the now "open door" may be soon closed when an Iraqi government takes over power, Daily Telegraph reported on December 27.

The goal now is spreading some one million Arabic bibles along with Arabic religious videos and tracts throughout Iraq, after only 8,000 copies were circulated in their last missions, the paper added.
In Baghdad's bustling liquor trade, the ancient Roman buyer's warning, caveat emptor, might better be translated as "let the drinker beware."

With no import taxes and no laws governing the sale of alcohol, and a post-war influx of foreigners with a taste for it, sales of liquor, beer and wine are brisk.

But among the real bottles are impostor elixirs masquerading as legitimate top-shelf brands.

"There are fakes and people who cheat you," said Salam Bahnam, who owns a liquor shop in Baghdad's Karrada district. "The original scotch is Scottish. The fakes are from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Sweden."...

Jalal Hoshabir, who runs a neighboring shop he opened in mid-January, said the bogus bottles come from home-made stills in Baghdad and northern Iraq, and from outside the country.
A group of anti-war activists Sunday plastered the Paris outlet of the Planet Hollywood chain "Planet Baghdad" in a protest against the ongoing US military occupation of Iraq, the group and police said.

Around 50 militants from the group "Act Against the War" stuck a banner across the front of the restaurant's shopfront on the Champs-Elysees Avenue proclaiming "Occupation is a crime" and fixing a mock-up of the chain's logo that read "Planet Baghdad".
Of course, they do know a thing or two about being an occupied country...

CPT Patti was at this camp nine months ago. She sent a photograph of her standing in the line for chow. The line literally extended as far as one could see toward the horizon.

Sounds as if things might be better now.
A year ago, soldiers from the 3rd Infantry and 101st Airborne divisions joined Europe-based troops from the 11th Aviation Regiment and the 12th Aviation Brigade to fill Udairi and the neighboring camps Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Then Udairi offered no amenities except a chow hall and a post exchange. A few trucks traveled up and down a single hardpan road along the camp’s north-south axis.

Along that road, now named Eisenhower Drive, are most of the soldiers’ tent pads. A tiny Burger King, Subway sandwich shop, barber shop and tailor shop sit near the PX at the center of camp. Across the street is a Morale, Welfare and Recreation hub featuring a gym, phone center, Internet cafe and game room.

The 281st day.

Monday, February 16, 2004


Excellent it all here.
Once authority is in Iraqi hands, the Baathists and Islamists have a real problem: They can't even pretend to be fighting the U.S. anymore. It will be clear to all Arabs and Muslims that they are fighting against the freedom and independence of Iraq and for their own lunatic ideologies.

Which is why they are desperate to prevent us from reaching that tipping point. Their strategy is to sow chaos, defeat President Bush and hope that his Democratic successor will pull out.

Which is also why at this moment the most important statement on Iraq that can be made — one that could even save lives — is nothing President Bush could say. No, the most important statement on Iraq right now could only come from the likely Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry.

Mark Steyn wants to know which band.
Yet here we are two years later, and they're running on biography all over again. But this time their chosen biography is Vietnam, and for many Americans, and especially boomer Democrats, that's far more psychologically complicated. Look at Kerry's stump speech: ''We band of brothers,'' he says, indicating his fellow veterans. ''We're a little older, we're a little grayer, but we still know how to fight for this country.'' Thirty years ago, he came back from Vietnam and denounced his ''band of brothers'' as a gang of drug-fueled torturers, rapists and murderers.

These versions are not reconcilable. When he was palling around with Jane Fonda in the '70s, he hated the military. It wasn't just that he opposed the war but that he accused his ''band of brothers'' of a level of participation in war crimes and civilian atrocities unmatched by the Japanese, the Nazis and the Soviets. If he'd said, ''We band of brothers . . . We're a little older, we're a little grayer, but we still know how to get high, murder the gooks and rape their womenfolk,'' it would at least have been consistent with his congressional testimony.

So one John Kerry is a fake. Which is it? The Jane Fonda in pants of the early '70s? Or the Bob Hope USO tour Kerry of today? Running on biography is lame enough. Running on fake biography is pathetic.
Positively brilliant analysis. Go read it all.

Sarah's husband left a couple of days ago. And she shares her feelings with us here.

Most of you know that our brigade is scheduled to return within the next two to three months. I've been the spouse left at home for going on 10 months. Sarah's going through it fresh.

It hurts me a little bit to read it...see I remember that first phone call from Kuwait. I remember the tales of sand, sand, sand...(a subject that just doesn't come up with CPT Patti any more....nor do the flies, the smells. And I am reminded of how very very long ago that seems.

I think you will enjoy reading that which she shares. Plus, she tends to find links to interesting opinions around the world on various subjects other than the war on terror.
Iraq will ask the United States to remove Saddam Hussein's status as a prisoner of war and hand him to Iraqis for trial, the nation's foreign minister said Sunday.

Hoshyar Zebari said in Kuwait that the new Iraqi government will request that Saddam is ''handed over to the Iraqi justice.'' Zebari was speaking at the end of a two-day meeting with delegates from Iraq's neighbors.

''We have agreed with the United States and the coalition forces that whenever we are ready as Iraqis, and especially after we regain power ... we will demand changing Saddam's status as a prisoner of war,'' Zebari said.

One building at a time.
An Iraqi mother in a head scarf sang softly to her baby as she fed the child on a bed at the Women's and Children's Hospital.

The 500-bed hospital off Highway 10 now has a new air conditioning system and clean water for its patients due to a project financed and directed by 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry, Florida National Guard.

"It's the right thing to do," said the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Hector Mirabile of Miami. "When we first got here, we contracted with an Iraqi doctor to assess the condition of the hospital. We've got to take care of the women and children."...

But even that poor condition is a universe better than what the hospital looked like before, Guardsmen say. Capt. Paul Blackketter, in charge of civic action projects for 1st Battalion, said the place was a shambles when he first saw it.

"It was filthy, with the walls completely covered with dirt, from 30 years of outright neglect," Blackketter said. "In the summer, it gets to be 125 degrees here. Our main focus became the mechanical aspects. It was critical that we provide air conditioning and clean water."

After that, the battalion paid to have the walls painted, the sewage treatment plant repaired, the interior ductwork and filters replaced.

Cost: $100,000. The best part for the American taxpayer was that the United States didn't foot the bill. Most of the $3 million to $4 million in civic projects started or completed by the unit were paid for by confiscated Iraqi assets.
Good will open your eyes to the work the troops are still doing.
Spc. Thomas Daniels' one-year stint in Iraq as an Army engineer is almost over. But the 24-year-old is already making plans to return — without a gun and, he hopes, with a lot a more money.

Daniels has applied online for construction work with Washington, D.C.'s military contractor in Iraq — Kellogg, Brown & Root — eyeing a job he says will pay more than twice his current salary of around $1,700 a month.

"That's where I am going. It's where I need to be," said Daniels, of Wilmington, Del. "I know I can't stay in the Army. It doesn't pay enough."

Daniels is one of many soldiers at this military base being lured back to Iraq when their term of service ends — not by re-enlisting but by taking up work with companies contracted by the Pentagon...

Besides higher pay, soldiers, reservists and retired officers are attracted by perks like tax-free salaries, better living conditions and regular home leaves — a major draw for soldiers as one-year deployments become the norm.

Alongside jobs in cafeterias, construction, engineering and communications, demand is high for armed security guards. Iraq is awash with ex-soldiers from around the world working for private security firms.
Governors who went to Iraq on a trip arranged by the White House are determined to keep their trip and the war from becoming a partisan election issue, Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday.

Lingle spoke to reporters after she and five other governors met with President Bush, who they said was interested in hearing about daily life in Baghdad.

"One of the conclusions we managed to reach here is very important in the presidential election year, is that this issue not be politicized during political debates," said Republican Lingle. The governors who spent two days in Iraq included four Republicans and two Democrats.

"We know it is an election year, and yet we feel there are simply too many American lives at stake; there's been too many American resources put into this effort to allow it to degrade into political fighting in a presidential election year," she said.
Would someone tell John Kerry?
An update to the piece you saw here a few days ago.
A man believed to have been the victim of a cruel prankster who told him his wife had been killed in Iraq has admitted concocting the story and was arrested Sunday, authorities said.

Edward Valentin, whose wife Betsy is an Army Reserve sergeant, was charged with making a false statement to police, falsely reporting an incident concerning a death and harassment, Police Chief Neil O'Leary said.

Valentin was being held in lieu of $5,000 bail and arraignment was set for Monday.

"As far as why he did it, there's no clear answer," Police Chief Neil O'Leary said. "He claimed he did it because he has been struggling with three children. And if everyone felt sorry for him, including the military, they'd send Betsy home."

O'Leary said investigators also discovered that Valentin had been trying to date another woman, who was not interested in dating a married man.