GOOD NEWS FOR AN ARMY STRETCHED THIN
A key to stabilizing Iraq and defeating the insurgency is a commitment by top U.S. allies, beyond the current military coalition, to offer help in strengthening security. Yesterday, NATO declared its willingness to do just that, a step whose importance cannot be overstated.
But please note that France insists on making NATO the lapdog of the UN.
NATO is prepared to take a stabilization role in postwar Iraq if two key conditions are met: NATO wants a formal invitation from an autonomous Iraqi government and the approval of the UN Security Council...
A Security Council vote would give an international imprimatur to NATO's involvement, taking away the taint of U.S. control over postwar security. It's good politics, anyway, since France said its approval within NATO would hinge on adoption of a United Nations resolution. Germany, which opposed the Iraq war along with France, said it would not block the NATO mission.
They tried that a year ago, at which time NATO convened a meeting of military members only (France dropped its military membership some time ago) and merely walked around France.
It appears France hasn't learned.
Russian engineers secretly aided Saddam Hussein's long-range ballistic missile program, the New York Times reported on Friday citing American government officials.
U.S. investigators said that Russian engineers worked on the Iraqi program both in Moscow and in Baghdad, and that some were in the Iraqi capital as recently as 2001, the newspaper reported, citing sources familiar with the situation.
The engineers who provided technical help for prohibited weapons projects before the war worked for a private company rather than the Russian government, the Times reported...
Moscow denied any knowledge of Russian support for the prohibited missile program.
SIGNIFICANT STEP FORWARD
Iraq's Governing Council is due to sign an interim constitution to guide Iraq to sovereignty and elections, as U.S. forces hunt the man they say is behind the deadliest attacks since Saddam Hussein's fall.
You can read the highlights of the interim constitution here.
The law was expected to be signed by the 25-member U.S.-appointed council on Friday in a ceremony delayed by two days because of national mourning for at least 181 people killed in attacks on Tuesday.
RECOGNIZING THE CHANGE OF STRATEGY
Baathists, Islamic radicals, and foreign fighters in Iraq have adjusted their sights in their efforts to torpedo the establishment of a democratic government in that country, a senior U.S. military officer said here today.
Since terrorists in Iraq have had scant success against U.S. and coalition troops, they're now focusing attacks on newly trained Iraqi security forces and other targets, U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid told Senate Armed Services Committee members. There are now, he said, about 200,000 Iraqi security forces. Abizaid is commander of U.S. Central Command.
NOW ITS A CHESS GAME
A letter signed by 12 insurgent groups claims Zarqawi has been dead a while, and thus not behind Tuesday's attacks.
A Jordanian extremist suspected of planning suicide attacks in Iraq was killed some time ago in U.S. bombings and a letter outlining plans for fomenting sectarian war is a forgery, a leaflet signed by a dozen reputed insurgent groups said. A senior U.S. official denied the contention.
Let's consider a few things. First, the likelihood of 12 separate organizations agreeing on anything. If they all agree on this strategy, why the heck are they 12 different groups. What is this, the Gangs of New York?
Abu Musab Zarqawi was killed in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq "during the American bombing there," according to the eight-page leaflet circulated this week in Fallujah, a city 30 miles west of Baghdad that is a hotbed of anti-U.S. insurgency activity.
The leaflet appeared aimed at countering assertions by U.S. civilian and military officials that foreign fighters, especially Zarqawi's al Qaeda-linked group, Ansar al-Islam, are responsible for the recent spurt in attacks in Iraq.
U.S. officials said a series of suicide bombings during a Shi'ite religious procession Tuesday that killed almost 200 Iraqis were carried out by foreign fighters, but some Iraqi Shi'ites blame rival Sunnis.
My theory, based on nothing more than my own sense of what is probable, is that someone has taken liberties with the "signatures" of the better part of those 12 groups...if all 12 even exist at all.
This they've done, in my mind, in order to create the illusion of some Arab solidarity behind this story. Frankly, after watching these guys closely for the better part of a year it is that very illusion of Arab solidarity that casts suspicion over this entire enterprise.
Now lets consider the claim that Zarqawi is dead. Two days after bombings in Karbala and Baghdad that look a whole lot like his work - that is when these groups release their letter indicating he is dead and has been dead a while.
Let us not forget that we are dealing in the land of the martyrs here, folks. You can't swing a cat in this part of the world without hitting someone who is convinced their death on behalf of some cause would cause them to be revered and their name forever on the lips of the arab world.
So, we are to believe then that the celebrated bomb-maker to the stars, Zarqawi, was killed some time ago and these guys didn't have a parade with hundreds carrying his photo for the cameras? Unlikely. Certainly these geniuses would attempt to exploit such a death as a renewed call for "jihad" and for new recruits.
Now to the point of the Zarqawi letter being a forgery. Since my premise rejects a dozen cooperating groups and supposes Zarqawi to be alive, then I certainly don't buy that. And, given that the letter was intercepted in January...why the sudden urgency nearly six weeks later to declare it a fraud?
Trying to adhere to the tenets of Occam's Razor...here is my best:
A. The letter said their strategy was to set sect upon sect.
B. This week's bombings were aimed at Shi'a during their holiest holiday at their holiest city, plus Baghdad (Baghdad is added because it is pretty much the center of gravity for any large movement in Iraq.) Aimed at one sect, we may infer the intent was to draw a reaction from that sect against its enemies.
C. That reaction has not happened. In fact, Sunni and Shi'a leaders have stood together. I believe we can also hazard a guess that this reaction to such a large scale bombing was never anticipated by the perpetrators.
D. The surprise reaction to the bombings by the two sects leaves only two targets for the anger. The bombers, or the coalition (read, America). There has been some of the latter, but apparantly the Iraqi people in general are too wise for that. So the backlash is going to go to those behind the bombings.
E. Therefore, those behind the bombings must make it appear they were not behind the bombings. How do you do that? You "kill off" a month and a half ago the prime suspect who we know is capable of pulling these off. Then you swear on your sister's honor that the letter (and by implication the strategy it contains) now that it has been played and found only to piss people off, is entirely a forgery.
All in all, it appears to have about a 7th grade level of sophistication to it.
As always, when I conjecture like this, I'll have no problem admitting to being wrong if so proven.
WE'RE COMING BACK...AND THIS TIME, ITS PERSONAL
3rd Infantry Division gets tapped...again. Remember these guys? They were the ones, along with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, fought the bulk of the shooting war from Kuwait all the way into Baghdad.
The 3rd Infantry Division of Fort Stewart, which spearheaded the 2003 assault on Baghdad, has learned it will return to Iraq within a year...
The Army issued a warning order late last week, saying the division would leave no sooner than Thanksgiving and no later than February 2005, said Maj. Darryl Wright, a division spokesman.
A warning order gives the division a heads-up on future operations and lets the commander know exactly when his troops must be ready to ship out, Wright said.
FRIDAY, MARCH 5th.
IN CASE YOU WEREN'T CONVINCED ABOUT THAT WHOLE "AXIS OF EVIL" THING...
North Korea is using (Anne Frank's) diary, not to teach how Anne suffered at the hands of the German Nazis, but to warn the students how they could suffer at the hands of those they call "American Nazis."...
”After reading this book, I had a hatred for the American imperialists,” says one student.
“That warmonger Bush is just as bad as Hitler. Because of him we will always live in fear of war,” says another student...
Dictator Kim Jong Il spends the country's meager resources maintaining a powerful military. And it turns out that North Korea is using Anne's diary to tell students they must sacrifice for the military -- because war with America is inevitable.
“The Americans enjoy war. It excites them. It's part of their nature,” says one student.
Here, they teach that today's Nazis are the Americans – and that today's Hitler is George W. Bush. And, to hammer that home, whenever North Korean students refer to President Bush, or to other Americans, they're taught to call them “Nazis,” or “warmongers."
“As long as the warmonger Bush and the Nazi Americans live, who are worse than Hitler's fascists, world peace will be impossible to achieve,” says another student...
Why do the North Korean student think there are still wars in the world? “Because the cruel Americans want war,” replies one student...
We know that Nazi America is certain to start a war with us, but we will win that war,” says one student.
“Our students will fight with a pen in one hand and a weapon in the other until the last American is dead,” adds another student.
These youngsters parrot the words of North Korea's deputy minister of education, who uses Anne's diary to teach students that North Korea's top priority is to build a stronger military to defeat the Americans.
SUPER TUESDAY AS A REASON TO REJOICE?
So says this article. I hope so.
THE Democratic Party slit its throat last night, abandoning 12 years of pragmatism to indulge in a nominee who's very unlikely to win.
While John Edwards closed the gap that separated him from John Kerry, the front-loading of the nominating process proved too drastic to permit second thoughts. Once the Democratic voters had discarded Howard Dean and embraced Kerry, they did not have the dexterity to rethink Kerry in the light of the Edwards alternative.
Too bad for the Democrats: Edwards would have been a much stronger candidate in November than Kerry will be. He is not the extreme liberal that the front-runner is and has not had 20 years in the Senate to demonstrate how out of touch he is with American values and ideas.
The single best article on the debate over The Passion of the Christ that I have read. You should go read the whole thing.
In the dozens and dozens of panic-stricken articles The New York Times has run on Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ," the unavoidable conclusion is that liberals haven't the vaguest idea what Christianity is. The Times may have loopy ideas about a lot of things, but at least when they write about gay bathhouses and abortion clinics, you get the sense they know what they're talking about.
But Christianity just doesn't ring a bell. The religion that has transformed Western civilization for two millennia is a blank slate for liberals. Their closest reference point is "conservative Christians," meaning people you're not supposed to hire. And these are the people who carp about George Bush's alleged lack of "intellectual curiosity."
The most amazing complaint, championed by the Times and repeated by all the know-nothing secularists on TV, is that Gibson insisted on "rubbing our faces in the grisly reality of Jesus' death." The Times was irked that Gibson "relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus' final hours" -- at the expense of showing us the Happy Jesus...
In fact, Jesus' distinctive message was: People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this is your lucky day because I'm here to redeem you even though you don't deserve it, and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it.
That is the reason He is called "Christ the Redeemer" rather than "Christ the Moron Driving Around in a Volvo With a 'Be Nice to People' Bumper Sticker on It."...
By contrast, in the weeks after 9/11, the Times was rushing to assure its readers that "prominent Islamic scholars and theologians in the West say unequivocally that nothing in Islam countenances the Sept. 11 actions." (That's if you set aside Muhammad's many specific instructions to kill non-believers whenever possible.) Times columnists repeatedly extolled "the great majority of peaceful Muslims." Only a religion with millions of practitioners trying to kill Americans and Jews is axiomatically described as "peaceful" by liberals
As I understand it, the dangerous religion is the one whose messiah instructs: "(I)f one strikes thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" and "Love your enemies ... do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you." The peaceful religion instructs: "Slay the enemy where you find him." (Surah 9:92).
Study: Networks Portray Kerry’s Liberalism as a Partisan GOP Charge, Not a Well-Documented Fact Go read it...you will be amazed.
THE REBIRTH OF A NATION
Quarrels over a definite versus indefinite pronoun. None of this is easy. But the impatient among us figure we ought to be done by now.
Go read the piece at the link, written from inside the Green Zone.
WHAT IF THE BAD GUYS GOT TO VOTE?
Let's just be blunt: The North Koreans would love to see John Kerry win the election.
The mullahs of Iran would love it.
The Syrian Ba'athists would sigh with relief.
Every enemy of America would take great satisfaction if the electorate rejects the Bush doctrine and scuttles back to hide under the U.N. Security Council's table.
It's a hard question, but the right one: Which candidate does our enemy want to lose? George W. Bush.
EFFECTS OF THE WAR...
On those of us at home.
The second study examined the psychological and cardiovascular impact on 149 adolescents caused by the Iraq war. It found teens from military families were most affected. Evidence of the effects included elevated resting blood pressures and heart rates associated with their loved one's proximity to the war...
I haven't mentioned it and I can't exactly quantify it...but I can say from my experience that this a fact. And I do wonder about the long term effects of the stress I've been under for nearly a year.
"One of the concerns I have is that families with loved ones involved in the war on terrorism are undoubtedly experiencing emotional and physical strain. Are we adequately identifying and providing assistance to those who would benefit from help in coping with the strain before it becomes clinically manifest?" Treiber says
RECALL THE ANXIETY I HAD ON TUESDAY?
Today we find out who that soldier was.
An Army sergeant informed Lee Woodliff that his son, Michael, was killed when an explosion tore through the Humvee the specialist was riding in on Tuesday. Michael Woodliff died later in the day in a Baghdad medical facility, his father was told.
And from another story:
Woodliff enlisted in the Army on a delayed entry program the summer after his junior year in high school by tricking his parents into signing a waiver, said his mother Janine.
His mother said she knew he was going to enlist because he talked of it constantly.
"You're going into the service over my dead body," she often responded. More than once she shooed away recruiters who stopped by the house.
Woodliff reported for duty after senior year, in May 2000.
Crystal Steward said she and Woodliff had made tentative plans to marry next February.
"We wanted to get married so bad and loved each other so much," Steward said. "I don't know how anyone is going to measure up to him."
(E)arlier this year, his comrades nicknamed him "Lucky." The name came after an Iraqi man approached with a bomb strapped around his waist. The man pulled the cord, but the bomb failed to go off, family members said.
Earlier, Michael had told his fiancee he had narrowly escaped unharmed when his camp came under fire.
"He said, 'Sweetie, if we had camped just 30 feet away, I might not be telling you this,'" Steward said.
THE "MAYBE IF WE IGNORE IT IT WILL JUST GO AWAY" CROWD
A majority of people living in the two countries bordering the United States and in five major European countries say they think the war in Iraq increased the threat of terrorism in the world, Associated Press polls found. News flash to Canada, Mexico and Europe: We still remember September 11th, 2001. For the USA terrorism is a fact...not merely a "threat".
I've ignored this for several days...I can't any longer.
Baghdad, which suffered war and occupation in 2003, ranked the worst place to live in the world in a survey. Gee, ya think someone might give the poor Iraqis a break here...like, maybe, exempt them from the poll this year.
Still, with all its problems, Baghdad was only half a point worse than Bangui, which, I note with a modest amount of glee, is where former Haitian president and race baiting liar Aristide is in temporary exile.
THE BAD, AND THE GOOD, OF THE ATTACKS
Interesting article here outlining how each attack gives us a bit more information to use in stopping them. Good piece...go read it.
Just minutes after arriving at this Army processing base next to the Kuwait International Airport Tuesday night, Iraq-bound Marines were given a simple welcome: "You are now in a combat zone."
As the troops crowded onto wooden benches in a prefabricated aluminum building, all eyes locked on a huge TV screen where a taped message from Army Lt. Gen. David McKiernan briefed them on what to expect as they move north to their operating base in western Iraq during the next few weeks.
The brief included many sobering warnings, including tips on how to spot roadside bombs, how to avoid ambushes, and that the first general rule is: "There are no sanctuaries in this theater of operations."...
Dozens of Iraq-bound Marines stood silent and stunned in an airport terminal as they watched bloody scenes broadcast from Iraq after simultaneous bombings ripped through the cities of Baghdad and Karbala.
"You alright?" Sgt. Joseph Alvarez asked a fellow Marine who looked a little peaked watching the broadcast on an overhead screen.
When the camera zoomed in on Iraqi civilians throwing rocks and garbage at U.S. soldiers, the other Marine walked away without answering.
UNDAUNTED, PROGRESS CONTINUES
Iraq, the world's second-largest holder of oil reserves, is pumping oil to the Turkish port of Ceyhan for the first time in months after completing repairs caused by sabotage, the top U.S. adviser to the Oil Ministry said.
Oil is flowing from northern Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea "as part of a testing process," Mike Stinson said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. The testing began before Stinson took over as adviser to the Oil Ministry on Feb. 24, he said...
The pipeline, which can carry as much as 800,000 barrels a day, opened for a few days last year following the U.S.-led March invasion, then closed after it was attacked again.
YOU GOTTA LOVE THIS SOLDIER'S ENTHUSIASM
I know you see all this death and destruction over here on TV and in the newspapers and it's constantly negative, but you never really hear about all the positive things going on here; we've helped a lot of people," Barnes said during a recent interview by satellite phone. "A lot of the families here consider us part of their families."...
"We've had an unbelievable response from the women here and good response from their husbands as well. [The women] have been submissive for so long and this is the first time they have felt empowered. It's a wonderful thing to watch."
Barnes' mother, Amanda Bynum-Carvalho, said Barnes was thanked personally for her work by President George W. Bush during his Thanksgiving visit to troops in Baghdad.
"Her commanding officer made sure she was right in front and the president put his arm around her and kissed her on the cheek."
AL QAEDA DENIES IT, SAYS US IS TO BLAME
Well, I'm certainly glad we got that sorted out....
A letter purported to come from al-Qaeda denied responsibility for bombings that killed at least 117 people during a Shiite Muslim festival in Iraq, blaming American troops instead — but it also called Shiites infidels.
It must be an arab thing...sending a letter saying, in so many words, "it wasn't us who tried to murder you dirty stinking heathen pigs".
"The American troops have carried out a massacre to kill innocent Shiites in Karbala, their (Shiites') infidel city, and in Baghdad," said the letter, received on Wednesday via e-mail by the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper and shared with The Associated Press in Cairo.
"We say to the Muslims that we are innocent of this act, and that we are not guilty of worshipping as Shiites worship, except that we believe in God."...
al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, is a predominantly Sunni militant group, and draws its members from some of the most conservative streams of Sunni thought — segments of Muslim society that consider Shiites heretics.
I just don't get it.
Meanwhile, however, it seems the masses aren't taking the bait:
Sunni and Shi'ite leaders stood side by side in Baghdad Wednesday to urge Iraqis to avoid a civil war after suicide attacks on a holy day killed scores of Shi'ite worshippers.
Thousands of Shi'ites converged on their holiest Baghdad shrine to mourn the more than 70 of their brethren killed in a bombing Tuesday that occurred at nearly the same time as an attack killed dozens of others in the city Kerbala.
Hundreds of Shi'ites waved black flags of mourning and backed their clerics' plea for unity, chanting: "We are brothers, Sunnis and Shi'ites, and we will not sell our country to foreigners."
CHRISTMAS IN KUWAIT...IN MARCH
Oh oh...another article about Task Force 1-77. Sarah is going to be really annoyed with this.
Soldiers with the 1st ID have been happily bewildered by the Army’s generosity. Many say they are used to receiving used or outdated equipment, if anything, when they deploy.
“It’s pretty unusual. You never get stuff like this,” said Sgt. Brett Steen, 23, of Spring Hill, Fla., an infantryman from Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. “It’s pretty up-to-date stuff.”
Much of the gear had previously been issued only to elite troops.
“A lot of it, the SF [Special Forces] guys ran around with it, or the Rangers,” Royston said. “It’s lighter than what we had, and it works better.”
THURSDAY, MARCH 4th.
EXACTLY WHAT I'M AFRAID OF
Isaiah Schaffer was at a small party in Spotsylvania County recently when the subject of Americans serving in Iraq came up.
Cause and effect?
A couple of teenage girls responded by saying they didn't even realize U.S. troops were still over there.
"I was floored," said Lance Cpl. Schaffer, who is not your average 19-year-old making small talk about world affairs.
A poll released earlier this year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 21 percent of people aged 18 to 29 cited "The Daily Show" and "Saturday Night Live" as a place where they regularly learned presidential campaign news.
By contrast, 23 percent of the young people mentioned ABC, CBS or NBC's nightly news broadcasts as a source.
Even more startling is the change from just four years ago. When the same question was asked in 2000, Pew found only 9 percent of young people pointing to the comedy shows and 39 percent to the network news shows.
WOW - THE LEGACY WE WILL LEAVE BEHIND...
When the family arrived, the soldiers carried Farah from her car to the wheelchair, Pelkey said. Her first trips in the new chair were pretty fast. Her soldier friends took turns wheeling her around the lot.
"Some guys were going around speeding - and she loves it," Pelkey said. "She smiles and you can see when she tries to look at you."
Farah gets out a lot more these days. "Her family members and sisters are tremendous with her," Pelkey said. "They can take her outside now and around the compound."
I COULDN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP IF I TRIED
Hamas "condemns" yesterday's bombings in Iraq.
The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, has strongly condemned the explosion incidents in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Karbala this morning.
Now, lets be sure we understand this. Hamas isn't condemning bombing unarmed civilians...it is condemning the timing of the bombing.
The Movement noted that the blasts occurred while hundreds of unarmed civilians were commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Al-Hussein, may Allah be pleased with him, in the month of Muharram.
See, Hamas knows quite a bit about bombing unarmed civilians:
Since its formation...(Hamas)...has been involved in over 100 terrorist incidents resulting in the deaths of over 500 people and injuries to more than 3000. The types of attacks conducted by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades have included:
I'm certain we all feel much better to know these guys have condemned what happened in Iraq yesterday...
suicide bombings on buses and in crowded markets, nightclubs, and other highly populated places; drive by shootings, at military check points and of civilians at the roadside; and the abduction and murder of Israeli civilians or off duty Israeli soldiers.
Recent major terrorist attacks for which responsibility has been claimed by, or reliably attributed to, Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have included:
the 7 March 2003 shooting of Israeli civilians in Kiriat Arba which killed two people and injured four others;
the 30 April 2003 suicide bomb attack outside a bar ('Mikes Place') in Tel Aviv which killed four people and injured over 60 others, where the bomber was a British citizen;
the 18 May 2003 suicide bombing on a bus near the 'French Hill', Jerusalem, which killed seven people and injured 20 others;
the 19 May 2003 suicide bomb attack at the Amakim mall in Afula, Israel, which killed three people and injured 54 others. Hamas, together with two other groups, claimed responsibility;
the 11 June 2003 suicide bombing on a bus at Jaffa Street in Jerusalem which killed 17 people and injured 105 others;
the 19 August 2003 suicide bombing of a bus in Jerusalem which killed 21 people and wounded over 100 others. Hamas initially claimed responsibility for this attack (which was also claimed by the Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigade) although a senior Hamas official later stated that Hamas was not involved;
and the 9 September 2003 suicide bombings, one at a bus stop near Tel Aviv, the second at a Jerusalem nightspot, which killed 15 people and injured many others.
AN EXPLANATION OF THE SHIA HOLY OBSERVANCE THAT WAS ATTACKED YESTERDAY
BUCK ROGERS GOES TO BAGHDAD
U.S. soldiers in Iraq have new gear for dispersing hostile crowds and warding off potential enemy combatants. It blasts earsplitting noise in a directed beam.
The equipment, called a Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, is a so-called "non-lethal weapon" developed after the 2000 attack on the USS Cole off Yemen as a way to keep operators of small boats from approaching U.S. warships...
Though not officially part of the military's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, the 45-pound, dish-shaped device belongs to a developing arsenal of technologies intended not to kill but to deter.
Another such weapon, expected to be tested in the field soon, is the Active Denial System. It seeks to repel enemies with a painful energy beam...
Dubbed "The Sound of Force Protection" in a company brochure, the devices can broadcast sound files containing warning messages. Or they can be used with electronic translating devices for what amounts to "narrowcasting."
If crowds or potential foes don't respond to the verbal messages, the sonic weapon, which measures 33 inches in diameter, can direct a high-pitched, piercing tone with a tight beam. Neither the LRAD's operators or others in the immediate area are affected...
Gruenler compares the LRAD's shrill tone to that of smoke detectors, only much louder. It can be as loud as about 150 decibels; smoke detectors are in the 80 to 90 decibel range.
A roadside bomb exploded under a car of the television channel Al Jazeera in Baghdad on Tuesday...
SIGNS OF PROGRESS
In the past few weeks there has been a resurgence in weddings as young couples who were forced to wait out the most turbulent moments of the war are now getting married.
A little further down in the story I came across something I never knew...perhaps this explains things just a bit:
The surroundings are still a bit hectic, with streamer-covered cars stuck in traffic behind 70-ton tanks, and brides in poufy dresses tiptoeing through coils of razor wire.
But the young couples are adding a speck of hope on a horizon that desperately needs it.
Raed Elia, a wedding photographer, says business has tripled since last fall.
"There was fighting before and no electricity, so it was really slow," he said. "But today, so many brides, so little time."
"Cousins, cousins, cousins," Ali lamented. "Everybody here is supposed to marry their cousin. Me, I wanted a dream girl. A choice. A love. What's so wrong with that?"...
Twice, his father tried to fix him up with cousins. That is how most of his 15 brothers were married. It is a custom in Iraq.
WEATHERING THE STORM
The Iraqi Governing Council stands in solidarity as an example to the nation.
The coalition official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 15 people were detained in Karbala after the blasts, nine of them in Iraqi custody. The others, being held by coalition forces, included four Farsi speakers thought to be Iranians, the official said. An estimated 100,000 Iranians were believed to have come to Iraq for Ashoura and many Iranians are present around the holy shrines throughout the year.
U.S. officials and Iraqi leaders named an al-Qaida-linked Jordanian militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as a "prime suspect" for the attacks, saying he is seeking to spark a Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq to wreck U.S. plans to hand over power to the Iraqis on June 30.
Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council pleaded with Iraqis to remain united - an attempt to avert reprisals. In a sign of unity, Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish council representatives appeared before journalists hours after the attacks urging Iraqis to "maintain unity" to "cheat our enemies of the chance to inflict evil on the nation."
NO END TO EVIL
Three rockets struck a major telephone exchange Wednesday, knocking out international phone connections for much of the country only days after the system was put back in service, officials said.
One Iraqi worker was killed and another injured.
Qassim Hadi, an undersecretary with Iraq's Communication Ministry, said the attack happened just after 7:30 a.m. local time at an exchange in the Mansour district west of the Tigris river.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3d.
This one has me very worried.
Our Division. Apparently our Brigade's sector.
And no more information available.
One US soldier was killed and another seriously wounded when their jeep came under attack in Baghdad.
A grenade was thrown at the 1st Armoured Division Humvee as it drove under an overpass in east Baghdad.
UPDATE: She's OK!!!! I got an email about 7:15 p.m. my time. Turns out she was all over Baghdad today - went to Baghdad International for various reasons (bad captain! BAD captain!!)...and heard all about the sad stuff over her radios. She stayed put until Brigade headquarters indicated they thought it was safe to resume normal operations.
Sadly, though, the casualty was one from our brigade.
Today has been a VERY HARD DAY.
I'll thank the Good Lord not to undergo another like today.
But praise Jesus she is alright.
May you, dear reader, never have to go through such a day.
A ONE-STOP SHOP OF REASONS TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT JOHN KERRY
Here. And its written by a Democrat and posted in Slate for crying out loud.
THIS HEADLINE SOUNDS SURPRISED
But I'm not.
Women distinguish themselves as officers in Iraq...
Read it all and find out they can do more than curse.
No one could blame the young soldier for taking off his Kevlar helmet - only for a moment - in the midday heat.
No one, of course, except his company commander. The West Point graduate began a profanity- filled tirade that had three effects: One, it showed the scope of physiological and literary allusions taught at the U.S. Military Academy. Second, it got the soldier to put his helmet back on right now. And finally, it delivered the lesson that neither he nor anyone who heard the lecture would ever cross Capt. Jennifer Knight. She can make you wish your parents had never been born.
A TASTE OF HOME
Though American men and women may be stationed in Iraq, that doesn’t mean they’ll be deprived of Girl Scout cookies.
Thin mints and other Girl Scout cookies will be shipping out to servicemen and women in Iraq this month through effort of the Red Cross, the Shemamo Girl Scouts and the ADM corn plant and corporate offices.
"WE WANT TO BE THE 51st STATE"
Jonah’s burial site in Mosul has a Mosque built over it, he noted, showing a photo. Bell showed photos of what he said news media identified as “components” of weapons. Several of the pictures looked more like intact missiles or warheads.
“Do these ‘components’ concern you?” he asked the audience.
Bell said he is frequently asked, “Did we do the right thing? Were we justified? The answer is yes,” he said, to considerable applause.
Bell said he believes it was better to find and destroy Husseins weapons “in their back yard than in ours.”
He also showed numerous pictures of mass graves, gravesites and remains. “How many sets of gravesites to you have to have before a country steps up” and does what the United Nations has said for years should be done, he asked.
Bell said he met several times with the governor of the Iraqi state of Erbil, and was told that officials there have studied how Alaska and Hawaii became states. He said the governor told him, “We want to be the 51st state.”
Particularly touching was Bell’s story of 6-year-old boy named Saddiq, who was convinced that Bell would get to report to President Bush upon his return, and wanted to send a message. He showed a picture of a bright-eyed boy with an optimistic expression.
Bell said he tried to tell the boy that such a meeting was not likely, but Saddiq insisted that he relate: “Thank you America, I love you, George W. Bush.”
BEYOND SELF INTEREST
The link is to a superbly written piece...you'd do well to read the whole thing.
At the recent World Economic Forum, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia said to Vice President Dick Cheney, "...convey to the American people that we will never forget that you came to Bosnia to help us survive as Muslims in the Balkan Peninsula. We will never forget that. We didn't have oil; you didn't have an interest to gain. You came to Bosnia-Herzegovina to show your credibility and your sense of morality."...
I recently had an email exchange and debate on this very issue. A regular reader (and one whose opinion I respect) proposed a view different than I had espoused on the Danish visa restrictions for religious teachers. He argued that the Danish move was simply a logical extension of the Danish national interest. His comments got me to thinking about "national interest" or "self interest", if you will, and its proper roll in governing behavior. In part here is what I had to say:
American forces going half-way across the world to risk their lives to save Muslims -- sound familiar? The remarkable fact that there is currently a debate in Iraq about elections seems lost even on those who cover the story. There have never been free democratic elections in Iraq.
Never mind all that, say the critics of the war. We went to war under false pretenses, since we have found no weapons of mass destruction.
Follow the thinking behind such criticism and what you discover is a belief that unless we can prove Saddam was a direct and immediate threat to Main Street, USA the millions of people suffering under his regime are irrelevant....
American foreign policy is not always pretty, and certainly never perfect - and despite the self-righteousness of many of our European friends, their foreign policy is no different. Foreign policy decisions are often made in the self-interest of the country that makes them. However, there has been no country in the history of man that has made more decisions based on what is in the best interests of other nations than the United States.
Our home grown critics see none of this. To them, all wars are based on conspiracy and profiteering. Never mind the heroism of the soldiers, never mind the undying gratitude of those who have been liberated or restored or protected -- nay all the critics can see is a conspiracy.
And while the suffering of those innocent civilians caught in the crossfire is truly the most unjust and unfortunate, I always find it amazing that most of those critics concerned with Iraqi repression and suffering under American rule never gave a damn about their suffering under Saddam Hussein.
It's this narcissistic and simplistic view of foreign policy and the threats that exist in the world that lead to presidential candidates suggesting they can somehow will the threat of terrorism away; or self-righteous celebrities suggesting that the issues are not as difficult and complex as we know them to be, but instead are about convenient and outrageous conspiracy theories (these folk have books and movies to sell, remember)...
Ultimately, it is hard to imagine a more inhumane or crass foreign policy than one that dictates that we will do nothing on behalf of our fellow man until our own interests are threatened.
The problem with the Danish approach is that it does not object to evil on principle...it first says "no evil in my backyard" and secondly says "we will appease evil by not calling it evil in hopes of keeping it out of our backyard."
Now the author above states the case in such a way as to help me clarify my argument. He summarizes his argument thusly: American foreign policy is not always pretty, and certainly never perfect - and despite the self-righteousness of many of our European friends, their foreign policy is no different. Foreign policy decisions are often made in the self-interest of the country that makes them. However, there has been no country in the history of man that has made more decisions based on what is in the best interests of other nations than the United States.
Who among us would stand by while our neighbor is pelted with stones if we have the means to resist the attacker? Most of us would do something...but the Danish approach says, its ok if you get stoned to death...so long as I don't get stoned to death. Oh...and to appease those who throw stones, we won't even object to stone throwers...we will simply not allow anyone with hands to cross this line.
This is a sad approach because there may be much good in many of those people with hands. Indeed, one of the primary functions people play in this world is in elevating one another to higher achievements than one might reach on one's own. Our standards tend to be higher when our personal borders encourage interfacing with many people. I'm sure that analogy applies to nations as well.
Returning to the flaw in the national interest as ultimate barometer argument...again, if one accepts the premise of a higher order than simply "What is good for Denmark" - is that if we, on a daily and personal basis, implemented such an approach society would crumble.
Every day you and I engage in behaviors that do not further our personal interests. You allow me to finish talking before you begin. I allow you to step ahead of me in the grocery line because you have 2 items, and I have 20. Neither of these actions are in our personal interests. The entire basis of laws and manners evolved over time to facilitate the collective success of great masses of people, while not guaranteeing any particular individual anything. And yet we subscribe to these more's because they facilitate the greater good.
Which brings me back to the problem with the national interest as the only barometer, or the ultimate barometer for evaluating issues. As you do and I do - I believe it behooves nations to support actions supporting the greater good. Otherwise we return to the feudal days when there were those inside the castle walls, and those outside. And all of humanity is one series of individual strongholds with nothing binding them together.
I see the war on terror (which does, in my eyes seem overwhelmingly dominated by the war on radical Islam) as perhaps the first great battle transcending issues as simple as the nation state. For that reason, I believe we must develop and apply models beyond simple national interest to these new challenges.
From where I sit it in fact seems that it has been frequently that US foreign policy has been exercised for reasons other than pure national interest on our part. Not always...but frequently. And looking over history of the 20th century, I'm hard pressed to find instances of significant action on the part of other nations for reasons that notably supercede national interests. What instances I do see tend to center around the Anglosphere, notably the willingness of Great Britain and Australia to support us in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Some will point to Desert Storm and the multinational coalition there. I don't doubt there was a certain element of altruism among the coalition members, but I strongly suspect if I could lay out the facts about political and economic concessions made by the USA to form that coalition, not to mention a desire to appear on the winning side (was there ever any doubt, really?) any thoughts of doing right for right's sake would fly out the window.
Ultimately, that's what it comes down to, isn't it? Doing the right thing. And the right thing isn't always that which profits the doer. We common, everyday folks understand that...we practice this sort of living every day...living that supports the greater good of the community. That is what civility is about. And manners. And volunteerism.
For this to become an element of foreign policy, however, the leaders crafting such policy must believe that there is something called "the right thing". They must believe there are things in this world that are inherently good. And if that be the case, then they also believe there are things in this world that are inherently bad. It is only on that premise that one's soul can resonate in sync with that which is right...and prompt action.
The so-called sophisticates and elites do not believe in right and wrong, good and evil. Subscribing to the "I'm OK, You're OK" thesis, all ethics become situational, all decisions are evaluated against as single standard: What is the impact on me? If the answer is none, then whatever it is is "OK". Not right, or wrong, simply "OK". Or that is what they would have us believe.
That is why they can sit back and snipe that we haven't found WMD in the face of the liberation of 25 million people. So long as Saddam was not a threat to US...we should never have intervened.
If there was a mistake made on the part of some in the administration, it was attempting to frame the action in terms of national interest and legality. In fact, we should have called it what it was: The Right Thing To Do. Period.
We were founded on the principles that there is a right thing and a wrong thing. And today our foreign policy expresses those same principles. We (sometimes) accept those responsibilities.
We are the superpower...our responsbilities are commensurate with our status. We can't play the games other nations play. The truth behind our situation is no more complex than this: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Sound vaguely familiar? Go look it up.
I recently read a criticism of the US somewhere on the internet. It said words to the effect that "if your military is 10 times the size of your nearest adversary (referring inaccurately to the USA - Ed) then you are not in the business of defense, you are in the business of agression."
That author missed the point. Democracies around the world, especially the Europeans, can get away with spending a pittance on their own defense, because they know that the USA will come to their aid. They know we will do the right thing. Look at all the east European countries scrambling to get into NATO. Doing so provides them even greater incentive to reduce their defense related expenses...because the USA will be there for them.
We stand nearly alone in our commitment to doing the right thing around the world. Our foreign policy is nearly unique (today) because it permits, even requires action on the simple premise that "it is the right thing to do". Citizens of other nations, and those in our own country whose morals don't include the acknowledgement of right and wrong, good and evil - they can't understand it. It is this lack of comprehension that causes them to scream "blood for oil", "hegemony", "imperialist" when the clear lessons of history over the last 100 years clearly indicate such accusations are nonsense. The right thing is not an element of foreign policy in their minds.
And "the right thing to do" can simply not be found in an equation consisting purely of one's national (or self) interest.
THE ENEMY, ON VIDEO
A video disc being distributed in Baghdad shows that foreign Islamic militants and Iraqi resistance fighters are working together against the American occupation.
Hundreds of Iraqis have died in suicide bombings since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but the identity of most of them has remained a mystery.
The video shows the faces of what it alleges are some of those bombers, in videotaped statements. The video, which has been seen by The Independent, includes what appears to be original video footage of rocket attacks and roadside bombings filmed from close up by the insurgents themselves.
PRESCIENT...OR JUST STATING THE OBVIOUS?
A quote from a story linked to yesterday:
Security forces and rival Shiite militias, kept a close eye on proceedings. Authorities fear extremist might attack to raise tensions between Iraq's Shiite majority and Sunni minority.And today? This
Multiple blasts have torn through throngs of Shi'ites marking a religious ceremony in Baghdad and the holy city of Kerbala, killing scores of people and enraging Iraq's majority Shi'ites.
And that awful news includes this:
The mangled bodies of at least 25 people were strewn on the street in Kerbala, and people were screaming, panicking and fleeing. With at least five blasts heard across the city, witnesses said on Tuesday the death toll was likely to soar.
In Baghdad at least four explosions hit the city's holiest Shi'ite mosque, the Khadimiya mosque in the north of the capital. Hospital officials in Baghdad said at least 33 bodies had been brought in and more were on the way.
A U.S. soldier was killed and another was injured today when a bomb was tossed at their vehicle in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, the military said.
The location of the attack on the soldiers from the 1st Armored Division wasn't immediately available, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. The injured soldier is in serious condition, the spokesman said.
I'VE BEEN WONDERING
And some of you have to.
I bet it happens.
The controversial movie “The Passion of the Christ” might not be playing anytime soon at theaters on U.S. military bases.
Judd Anstey, a spokesman for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which operates the theaters, said AAFES does not have a business relationship with the movie’s distributor, New Market.
Anstey said AAFES is trying to bring the movie to base theaters.
“AAFES has notified the companies that represent this distributor of our intention to offer this film to the military audience,” Anstey said in a written response to Stars and Stripes.
“At this time, we cannot provide a date on when [or] if the film will be available.”
Recall yesterday's post linking to the column by Ben Stein and his new definition of stars?
Here is one - and he deserves for you to read his story.
It begins like this...
Spc. David McCorkle noticed the Iraqi boy wearing the same purple shirt every day on the streets of Mosul.
Go read it all.
Concerned about why 10-year-old Yahya was selling soda and candy instead of sitting in a classroom, McCorkle started asking questions. He learned that since Yahya’s father had died, he had to drop out of school to support his family...
TUESDAY, MARCH 2d.
I got a long email from CPT Patti late yesterday. She recapped the change of command ceremony for me...said everything went very very well.
She said she was able to actually hold back the tears until the soldiers came to speak to her after the ceremony. And she was very pleased with her speach.
And now, she says, she feels very weird. I get that.
I'm hopeful that her change of duty will provide her with more opportunities to stay in touch. We'll see.
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted as Haitian president on Sunday, told U.S. lawmakers and other contacts by telephone on Monday that he was abducted by U.S. soldiers and left his homeland against his will.
I'm sure that if I kidnapped a head of state about the first thing I'd do is allow him to make phone calls to these three nut cases.
Washington immediately denied this, saying Aristide had agreed to step down and leave his country. "It's complete nonsense," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.
"We took steps to protect Mr. Aristide, we took steps to protect his family and they departed Haiti. It was Mr Aristide's decision to resign," he said.
U.S. officials said that after intensive consultation between U.S. officials and Aristide on Saturday, he had signed a letter of resignation.
Rep. Charles Rangel and Randall Robinson, the former head of the black lobbying group TransAfrica, said in separate interviews with CNN that Aristide called them from the Central African Republic, where he is in temporary exile.
Robinson, speaking from the Caribbean island of St Kitts, said Aristide had telephoned him on a cell phone on Monday morning from a room in the Central African Republic, where he said he was being guarded by African and French soldiers.
"The president said to me that he had been abducted from his home by about 20 American soldiers in full battle gear with automatic weapons and put on a plane" on Sunday morning, Robertson said.
If I'm Aristide and I want the world to believe this load of mularkey...are these the folks I'm going to call in order to gain credence? Not a chance, if I'm anything other than an outright idiot. Why not call Sharpton...he has the microphone these days? Why not call Clarence Thomas? A sitting supreme court justice carries quite a bit of credibility. While we're on the subject, why call only black people? Does Aristide not have a single white, asian, hispanic or American indian friend in the whole of the United States?
Consider...which would appear to be worse to the world at large...we kidnap him, or he dies at the hands of his own people. If those are the choices, and we're worried about the press on this gig...he dies. Simple as that. We have no NEED to kidnap him. There is no national interest for the United States to do so. Hell, if we were going to kidnap leaders of Caribbean island nations don't you reckon Castro would have disappeared years ago?
But I suspect there are elements of the truth here.
Did he get any help from Washington to remain in power? No.
Did the US Ambassador to Haiti tell Aristide that Haiti would be better off without him? Yes...when Aristide asked.
Did the USA send a plane for him? Yes. Did the USA outfit military personnel to accompany the plane? Probably...757s don't come with missiles and machine guns with which to protect a fleeing deposed head of state that a whole bunch of folks want to see dead since they say he rigged the election back in 2000 and has never owned up to it.
Once safely out of the country and no longer afraid for his life, did Mr. Aristide figure out that to the rest of the world he looked like a man who got run out of his own country and perhaps that looks like an admission that perhaps they were right and he is corrupt and did rig the elections in 2000? Yeah, that'd be my guess.
In a pique of "resigner's remorse" and in order then to save face, did he then look back on the sequence of events above and determine that if he tweaked a point here and fudged a little there, he could blame all of this on the USA? Well, bingo.
UPDATE: Well, this was predictable. Like a shark is drawn to blood, whenever a minority shouts "Help Help, I'm being repressed" Jesse Jackson has arrived.
Jackson said Congress should investigate whether the United States, specifically the CIA, had a role in the rebellion that led to Aristide's exile.
Precisely the point, Mr. Jackson, we wouldn't. (UPDATE: It would appear there is more than just some question over the "constitutionally elected" part there Jesse)
Jackson encouraged reporters to question where the rebels in Haiti got their guns and uniforms.
"Why would we immediately support an armed overthrow and not support a constitutionally elected government?" Jackson said.
Aristide made his own mess. The Organization of American States pronounced his 2000 reelection fraudulent, a judgment accepted by nearly everyone. Aristide repeatedly refused to follow through on commitments to reform, working to consolidate his power instead. As the Haitian National Police dissolved under the pressure of its own corruption, Aristide began to rely on gangs to work his will. Hence, a seed of the current rebellion. You know what, Jesse...I started to boil at your appearance in this farce, but I've decided to laugh. If this sort of fantasy is what you believe your name and "reputation" to be worth...then you are welcome to show the entire world what you truly are.
Can anyone give me one good reason, one motive demonstrating why anyone in the administration would risk a single penny of political capitol to depose a two bit head of state from half-an-island?
Has it come to this? Have those who seek power in our country become so blinded by their ambitions they will support the absurd claims of a failed lunatic and themselves heap scorn upon their nation?
Such cheap, race-bating opportunism is absolutely disgusting. And Jackson has the nerve to use a title indicating he is a man of the cloth. Pathetic.
Your inferiority complex is showing...through your children.
In January, a cartoon festival was held in the town of Carquefou, just outside of Nantes in the northwest corner of France. Students of all ages competed in a contest to illustrate their vision of the United States. They drew obese Americans devouring Coca-Cola and McDonald's hamburgers. They drew the Statue of Liberty with fangs or in chains or being run over by a wicked Uncle Sam on a motorcycle. And they drew George W. Bush: Bush riding a tank to war; Bush taking over the world; Bush as a liar; Bush as a monster.This from the only country in Europe not to distribute The Passion of the Christ because it can't be sure it won't create another Jew mobbing, Syngogue defacing outbreak.
KERRY DUPLICITY WATCH
See the comments here.
UPDATE: Duplicity watch seems to be a line to the mother lode. Check out this one:
Last week the Jerusalem Post reported that Kerry strongly defended Israel's controversial security fence as "a legitimate act of self defense." He said "the fence only exists in response to the wave of terror attacks against Israel," and insisted that the International Court of Justice in the Hague has no authority to pass judgment on it.
Yet just a few months ago, Kerry gave every indication of being firmly against it.
"We don't need another barrier to peace," he told the Arab American Institute in October. "Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israelis' security over the long term, increase the hardships to the Palestinian people, and make the process of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder."
This may be the first time that a politician has literally come down on both sides of the fence.
IF YOU NEED TO DRAW SOMEONE A PICTURE...SHOW THEM THIS
Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi says he gave up his plans to develop weapons of mass destruction, because such weapons would have exposed Libya to danger, rather than protect it.
It was his first public reference at an international gathering to Libya's surprise decision last December to renounce its arms of mass destruction program. Colonel Gadhafi told leaders from other African countries that individual nations should not try to develop such weapons.
"Any national state that will adopt this policy cannot protect itself. On the contrary, it would expose itself to danger," he said.
SARAH HAS A NEW HOME
I've updated the link on the side. Go see her...the new place is awfully spiffy!
Hope Lewis never thought she would receive mail at school.
But the 10-year-old Crestline Elementary student also never thought she would be writing a letter to a soldier in a war zone.
Lewis is one of approximately 100 fifth-graders at the Hartselle school to write letters to a battalion in Baghdad. She is the only student to receive a response.
U.S. Army Spc. Jerry Poland of Georgia wrote to Lewis on Jan. 2. The letter arrived at Crestline about three weeks later...
In his response, Poland said that he was from Fort Benning, Ga. He said he is married with three children and expects to return to the United States in March or April.
"I didn't get anything for Christmas but your letter, but that made me happy to get that," Poland said.
Poland said he told his wife to spend the family money on the children for Christmas and not to worry about him.
"It makes me sad that he didn't get anything for Christmas, but I'm happy that he got my letter," Lewis said.
INSURGENTS ATTACK ARAB SOLDIER
A Jordanian soldier working at Jordan's military hospital in Iraq's flashpoint western town of Fallujah was wounded as attackers opened fire from two cars Sunday, the government spokeswoman here said.
Sergeant Sedki Suleiman al-Zaarir was "hit by gunfire from two Iraqi civilian vehicles on the road between Fallujah and Baghdad", Asma Khodr said.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, COURTESY OF THE AMERICAN SOLDIER
Hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims walked, rode bikes and drove cars to this holy city on Sunday for religious rituals once banned by Saddam Hussein.
Men, women and children beat their chests and chanted prayers in unison in a ceremony marking Ashoura, the most important in the Shiite Muslim calendar. The 10-day festival commemorates the death of Shiite saint Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad...
This is the first time in more than three decades that Iraq's Shiites have been free to publicly celebrate the holiday.
PERHAPS THE LAST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WHERE YOU WANT YOUR BRAKES TO FAIL
Polish soldiers opened fire on a bus full of Shiite Muslim pilgrims from Iran after it failed to stop at a checkpoint Sunday, witnesses said. Ten people were hurt, including eight Iranian pilgrims, a Polish soldier and a member of Iraqi security forces, they said...
The bus, apparently having brake troubles, struck a minivan and swerved into a concrete barrier at a checkpoint manned by Polish and Iraqi security forces, witnesses said.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE
The Army does what it can to keep the soldiers safe...before and after returning home.
With only weeks before thousands of war-weary American soldiers return home, the U.S. military is reminding them to stay focused on Iraq's lingering threats while preparing them for reintegration with their families and communities.
Recognizing the anxieties facing soldiers wanting to return to their loved ones, military commanders have been drilling their forces to keep concentrated on their daily missions in order to prevent any casualties occurring so late into their year-long deployments.
At the same time, many soldiers are facing difficulties of a different kind on the home front, from relationship dramas to financial woes, realities that the military is also trying to counter by sitting soldiers down to compulsory briefings on how to acclimatize to their home environments after spending the past year in a war zone.
Recognizing that the hardships of war, anxieties about their return home and an inability to readjust into American society can be a deadly mixture, the military has embarked on an awareness offensive to keep troops' minds focussed.
AN ABJECT FAILURE BY MOST STANDARDS...
In its final years in power, Saddam Hussein's government systematically extracted billions of dollars in kickbacks from companies doing business with Iraq, funneling most of the illicit funds through a network of foreign bank accounts in violation of U.N. sanctions.
...A PRAISEWORTHY EFFORT BY UN STANDARDS...
Millions of Iraqis were struggling to survive on rations of food and medicine. Yet the government's hidden slush funds were being fed by suppliers and oil traders from around the world who sometimes lugged suitcases full of cash to ministry offices, said Iraqi officials who supervised the skimming operation...
Perhaps the best measure of the corruption comes from a review by the provisional Iraqi government, with U.N. help, of the $8.7 billion in outstanding oil-for-food contracts.
The review found that 70 percent of the suppliers had inflated their prices and agreed to pay a 10 percent kickback, in cash or by transfer to accounts in Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian banks.
At that rate, Iraq would have collected as much as $2.3 billion out of the $32.6 billion worth of contracts it signed since mid-2000, when the kickback system began...
U.N. overseers say they were unaware of the systematic skimming of oil-for-food revenues. In any case, they add, they were focused on running aid programs.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has praised the Oil-for-Food Programme for accomplishing one of the largest, most complex and unusual tasks ever entrusted to the Secretariat.
That is the same UN that Senator Kerry says ought to be in charge in Iraq...despite the fact they don't even have an office in Iraq...despite the fact that the UN Secretary General defines two billion dollars siphoned off by Saddam as a praiseworthy effort by the UN. Says Kerry:
In a statement to the Security Council (20 November 2003), he noted that the Programme, which closed on 21 November was the only humanitarian programme ever to have been funded entirely from resources belonging to the nation it was designed to help.
He said that in nearly seven years of operation, the Programme had been required to meet "an almost impossible series of challenges", using some $46 billion of Iraqi export earnings on behalf of the Iraqi people.
We must offer the UN the lead role in assisting Iraq with the development of new political institutionsSorry, Senator...my standards are higher than that.
MORE SIGNS OF PROGRESS
Iraq produced 2.5 million barrels of oil Sunday, the biggest daily total since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April last year, an official of the US-led coalition said.
Of that output, between 1.7 and 1.8 million barrels were exported, said the official on the condition that he not be named. He also said that oil revenues were expected to climb to $14 billion this year.
SADDAM IS HAVING A YARD SALE
Well, he may not know he's having a yard sale, but he's having a yard sale...
One of Saddam’s famous hunting hats, a pair of Italian shoes or a whole set of French porcelain: the extravagant former dictator’s belongings looted from his lavish palaces almost a year ago are making a killing on the Baghdad black market...
While many of the precious artefacts of the Baghdad museum were gradually recovered a few months later, looters waited until Saddam was captured last December to take his personal effects out to their backyards.
“You never know,” Iyad smiles. “Now Saddam’s things are selling like crazy, I don’t have much left,” he says...
“This is beautiful, 500 dollars,” he says, as he proudly unfolds a copper-coloured abaya - a full-length Arab garment - in English wool and with the neck edged in gold thread.
An 88-piece cutlery set from the renowned French silverware designer Christofle lightly engraved with a stylised Iraqi eagle is also on sale for around 1,500 dollars.
“With what I have I can redecorate your home to make it look like one of Saddam’s palaces,” boasts Iyad.
AND NOW US CIVILIANS ARE VOLUNTEERING FOR BAGHDAD DUTY
But, of course, the UN still doesn't have an office...
From his office computer, W. Robert Pearson, director general of the Foreign Service, can log into the State Department's eBid system and see how many diplomats and other professionals are putting in requests to serve in Baghdad...
Based on the response rate, it appears the department should have no problems staffing Baghdad with diplomats, security agents and support staffers willing to put their lives at risk during a year-long tour in a dangerous country.
When Pearson and Susan Struble, a State Department management officer, queried the eBid system last week, it showed that about 200 Foreign Service officers have placed more than 800 bids for Baghdad, trying to match their qualifications with as many job openings as possible.
SIGNS OF PROGRESS
A huge step. Good for 'em.
Iraqi officials agreed on an interim constitution today, and likely will sign the document on Wednesday, an aide to Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi said.
"We just broke out . The fundamental law has been concluded. An agreement has been concluded. There is consensus on every single point," said Entifadh Qanbar, representative Mr. Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Council...
The temporary constitution made up of about 60 articles will enshrine a bill of rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and civilian control of the military.
THE AMAZINGLY FLEXIBLE REMARKABLY STRONG UNITED STATES ARMY
This represents an astonishing, but necessary transition for the Tankers, who traditionally like to make fun of the Infantry for, as they say, having to "walk to work".
Three weeks ago, the 1st Battalion, 77th Armor left Schweinfurt, Germany, for Kuwait as a dyed-in-the-wool tank unit.
Today, bulked-up with 200 extra troops and retrained as foot soldiers, most of the members of the renamed Task Force 1-77 slog through the sand as infantry.
The transformation of 1-77 Armor into Task Force 1-77 is only an example of what’s happening throughout the division and, in fact, throughout the Army as the first wave of troops in Iraq gives way to the second this spring. It is a sign of changes to come, as the Army prepares to scrap its divisions and find a more flexible structure.
Most of the 1-77 Armor’s tanks remained in Germany, its men assigned to Humvees...
“We’re transforming ourselves at the human level into a more flexible organization,” said Lt. Col. David Hubner, 43, of Gray, Tenn., the task force commander. “We’re the Swiss Army knife of the Army.”...
Making these ad-hoc outfits work falls to company commanders such as Capt. Henry Delacruz, 31, of Athens, Ga., commander of Task Force 1-77’s Company B. A tank officer by training, he now finds himself in command of an infantry unit, 90 percent of whose troops are infantrymen he didn’t know before coming to Kuwait.
“It’s the total opposite of what I usually have,” Delacruz said. “But I trained the company as best I could, as infantry soldiers.”
Infantry soldiers (known as 11 Bravos, in Army parlance) and tankers (known as 19 Kilos) come from sharply different military cultures. The infantrymen are hard-charging and action-oriented. Tankers are easy-going and team-focused...
Still, the 1st ID and its task forces face a giant challenge during its yearlong mission. Soldiers must find a way to pacify the stubborn Sunni Triangle and ready it for democracy. And they’ll be doing it without the safety of armored tanks.
“This is where the Army’s going to go: with combined arms,” predicted Delacruz, the Company B commander. “You’ve got to be a little more competent, and a lot more flexible.”
Or, as soldiers are fond of saying, “Semper Gumby.”
THANK YOU BEN
This column reflects Ben Stein's rejection of the so-called "star culture" in America. You simply must go read the entire thing.
I'm grateful to the reader (whose name I don't know...but you know who you are) who sent this to me. It is wonderful.
How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model?
Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.
A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.
A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.
A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.
The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.
We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die. I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.
MONDAY, MARCH 1st.
For the last 295 days CPT Patti has been a company commander in a war zone. For the last 18 months she has commanded "The Gators" in Garrison, in training areas and, of course, in Kuwait and Iraq.
And today, begrudginly, she gives up the title of commander.
I think it says something about her...as it does many officers, that the worst day of their careers is the day they give up command. And it isn't for the reasons you might expect.
It isn't about giving up power. For if you were to weigh the power and authority of a company commander against the responsibility, you will find the responsibility to be orders of magnitude greater than the power.
It is said over and over again in the Army that a commander is responsible for everything her soldiers do and fail to do. Thus, commanders are held to account for every sin of commission and omission by every one of the soldiers within their command. I can't name another person of any other title who is held to that impossibly high standard. If we were to recognize the true difficulty of that task, then it would seem on would be frightened to enter into it, and glad to leave it behind.
And so why is it that a sampling of 10 departure speeches given by outgoing company commanders will yield at least nine who have a catch in their voice, a tremble in the tenor of their comments, or silent moments before the microphone as they try to blink back the tears of sadness that comes with handing over the well being of those soldiers under one's leadership?
Possibly it is because of all rewards available to us while on this earth, there is no greater reward than selfless service. And as I've written here before, true leadership is an act of selfless service - to the people one leads, and to the nation that calls.
And CPT Patti has told me as she anticipated this day, that she can't see where in the future she has the opportunity to again serve so many, so selflessly as she has these last 18 months, but especially these last 295 days.
Well, darling...I can't answer that question either right now...perhaps we can leave that for another day to answer. I know you hurt on this day...and I hurt for you. But there is a silver lining here, I hope...one that allows us to be a little more in touch as fewer folks make demands on your time. I look forward to that, just as I am counting the roughly 47 more days until you are slated to be back here with me.
Until then, though...let me tell you how proud I am of you. You have survived the crucible of command, and you have done so under the least forgiving of circumstancese in what may just be the most dangerous city in the world for one wearing a Desert Camouflage Uniform. I know that this experience has changed you...has left a permanent mark upon you. And I am eager to learn those changes for myself...to remap the connections that bind us...to retouch the spirit of the sweetest woman on the planet in days when we can speak of Baghdad in the past tense.
For today, darling...know that I am your biggest fan on very many levels. And as you attempt to salve the sting of being a former commander, let me remind you of the words of the late GEN Creighton Abrams.
What this country needs, it cannot buy. It needs dedicated soldiers who see service to their country as an affair of the heart. - Gen Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff
Darling, you have certainly been what this country, and those soldiers needed for the last 18 months. I hope you can accept and enjoy a little "down time". You have earned it.
I love you forever...for what you've done, but moreso, for what you are, and for what I am when I am with you.
THE MUSLIM LEADER OF AUSTRALIA PROCLAIMS THE SEPTEMBER 11th MURDERS AS "GOD'S WORK"
The powerful leader of Australia's 300,000 Muslims, Sheik Taj el-Din Al Hilaly, has praised the September 11 terrorist attacks as "God's work".
Excuse me if I begin to wonder if in fact it is all muslims. I'd be happy to listen to reasoned arguments to the contrary.
The controversial Mufti also appears to have lent support to Arab suicide bombers in an inflammatory sermon during a Middle East lecture tour.
Sheik Al Hilaly, who is based at the Lakemba mosque, last week vehemently denied that he called for a jihad against Israel in one of his sermons. But a translation of a sermon, delivered at the Sidon mosque in Lebanon and obtained by The Sun-Herald, is littered with references to Arab martyrs and Americans being punished by God.
Sheik Al Hilaly spoke of an "Islamic revolution", and told his audience not to be surprised if one day a muezzin called out "Allah is Great!" from the "top of the White House".
"September 11 is God's work against oppressors," he said. "Some of the things that happen in the world cannot be explained; a civilian airplane whose secrets cannot be explained, if we ask its pilot who reached his objective without error: 'Who led your steps?'
"Or if we ask the giant that fell: 'Who humiliated you?' Or if we ask the president: 'Who made you cry?' God is the answer."
SOMETHING I NEVER, EVER THOUGHT I'D DO
Quote anything out of Time magazine.
But then, I never thought I'd agree so much with anything I saw there. An excellent article highlighting the hypocricies of Hollywood.
“Mel Gibson’s provocative new film, ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ is making some of Hollywood’s most prominent executives uncomfortable in ways that may damage Mr. Gibson’s career,” wrote reporter Sharon Waxman. “The chairmen of two ... major studios said they would avoid working with Mr. Gibson because of ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and the star’s remarks surrounding its release. Neither of the chairmen would speak for attribution, but as one explained: “It doesn’t matter what I say. It’ll matter what I do. I will do something. I won’t hire him. I won’t support anything he’s part of. Personally that’s all I can do.’” Waxman also quoted an agent, John Lesher, who thought Gibson wouldn’t be hurt if the movie was a hit. “People here will work with the anti-Christ if he’ll put butts in seats.”
I can’t be sure that the anti-Christ has ever directed or starred in a major motion picture, but plenty of drug addicts, spouse-abusers and convicted felons have—it’s called the artistic temperament. One man convicted of child molestation has directed films for Disney and New Line. Gibson’s criminal rap sheet is clean; he is guilty only of standing by his deluded old man and expressing opinions that are less popular in Hollywood than they are in the rest of the country. For some of the industry’s moguls to deny him employment because they don’t like what he said, or because he made a controversial film, would send a creepy message to the public: that a liberal is someone who will defend to the death your right to agree with him.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 29th
And CPT Patti's last full day in command...a fact about which she is not happy.
God bless you darlin'.