Saturday, June 12, 2004


Al Sadr endorses the new government
Despite the violence, the government received an endorsement Friday from an unlikely source -- radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. In a sermon read to his followers by an aide, al-Sadr said he was ready for a dialogue with the new government if it works to end the U.S. military presence.

"I support the new interim government," al-Sadr said. "Starting now, I ask you that we open a new page for Iraq and for peace."
Look here, and my friends happen to be pretty doggone familiar with about 20,000 US Soldiers who would have already left Iraq except that YOU and your witless thugs did exactly what you had to do to keep them there (oh...and increase the number of US Soldiers in Iraq, by the way.)

Interesting that this conversion happens after your so-called army has its ass handed to them in various cities around southern Iraq.

I'm amazed that you have as many followers as you do. Me? I wouldn't follow you down the fire escape of a burning building.

And Sir...Thank you for your leadership to the military, the nation, and the world.

Until we meet again in that better home up yonder...

AP Photo
A pair of surveys shows military personnel and their families in the States are saving more than 20 percent by shopping at base exchanges, compared with off-base stores.

The latest independent survey found that the Navy Exchange Service Command, which serves the Navy and Marine Corps, saved customers a record 20.7 percent on average, not including sales tax.

A separate study of prices at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service found customers saved 21.89 percent. Customers do not pay sales taxes at military base exchanges, which would mean a greater savings at some locations...

The QRS Corp. shopped for 350 products in eight regions throughout the United States, comparing prices at major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Circuit City, Target and Sears. The products ranged from clothing and intimate apparel to home furnishings and sporting goods.

Customers in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saved the most at 24.83 percent, while families in Pensacola, Fla., saved the least at 19.11 percent, according to the survey. NEX was shown to be a bargain in all of its 34 departments.

For example, customers saved 39.65 percent on boys clothing and 20.41 percent on sporting goods. sales tax! Whoo Hoo!

And frankly, these savings are modest compared to the savings found at the commissaries (our grocery stores). Those savings are nearer to 30% on average.

The United Nations has determined that Saddam Hussein shipped weapons of mass destruction components as well as medium-range ballistic missiles before, during and after the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003.

The UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission briefed the Security Council on new findings that could help trace the whereabouts of Saddam's missile and WMD program.

The briefing contained satellite photographs that demonstrated the speed with which Saddam dismantled his missile and WMD sites before and during the war. Council members were shown photographs of a ballistic missile site outside Baghdad in May 2003, and then saw a satellite image of the same location in February 2004, in which facilities had disappeared...

"The removal of these materials from Iraq raises concerns with regard to proliferation risks," Perricos told the council. Perricos also reported that inspectors found Iraqi WMD and missile components shipped abroad that still contained UN inspection tags....

"It raises the question of what happened to the dual-use equipment, where is it now and what is it being used for," Ewen Buchanan, Perricos's spokesman, said. "You can make all kinds of pharmaceutical and medicinal products with a fermenter. You can also use it to breed anthrax."

The UNMOVIC report said Iraqi missiles were dismantled and exported to such countries as Jordan, the Netherlands and Turkey. In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, an SA-2 surface-to-air missile, one of at least 12, was discovered in a junk yard, replete with UN tags. In Jordan, UN inspectors found 20 SA-2 engines as well as components for solid-fuel for missiles.

Day 398 of CPT Patti's deployment.

She sent me some pictures today.

And after 398 days of hell my darling wife still has the biggest, brightest smile on planet Earth.

How does she do that?

Friday, June 11, 2004

The U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division, the unit delayed from leaving Iraq when a pair of rebel uprisings flared in April, is scheduled to depart Iraq by July 15, the head of U.S. military operations in Iraq said.

Replacing the Germany-based division will be a brigade combat team from the Army's 10th Mountain Division and a pair of U.S. Marine brigades, said Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz. Those units will start arriving in Iraq by the end of June, Metz said...

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there was a small possibility 1st Armored's stay in Iraq could be extended again, but Metz said that possibility was "infinitesimally small."

"We're doing everything we can to have all Task Force 1st Armored out of harm's way by 15 July," Metz said on Thursday. "We're on the glide path to achieve that."

The task force includes the Army's Louisiana-based 2nd Armored Cavalry regiment, which has been attached to 1st Armored, and support elements.
We in the community here have been hearing that the return dates would be in July...but had received nothing official to this point. However, I'll take the word of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.

(Thanks to Joyce and Barbara for each sending me the link. Whoo Hoo!)

And a reminder why it is great to be an American. Plus, it makes me wonder how expensive it might be to be a blogger in France?
The United Nations began helping refugees return to Iraq this week after shutting down operations in April...

More than 11,100 have returned since July, mainly from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
This story, and other good news are compactly wrapped up by our friend down under, Arthur Chrenkoff
"I don't believe people in most of the free world really grasp the magnitude of (terrorism)," he said. "They couldn't imagine some of the things we've seen firsthand. Terrorists perform gruesome atrocities, and I have seen the true horror of war. I have walked in body parts of Iraqi adults and children. While I was in Mosul, terrorists cut the throats of nine Iraqis for working with Americans."

Sparkman said he is infuriated when watching stories of prisoner abuse by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

"Do I condone it? Of course not," he said. "Those were stupid kids in the Army doing stupid things and taking stupid pictures. There were hoods on their heads, but no one was beheaded. In America, everything is about political correctness. In Iraq, it's about life or death."
Life is a little easier for an Ashe County unit of the North Carolina National Guard now that a local telephone company has provided them with better tents.

The help for the 1450th Transportation Company came in the form of 44 individual tents that fit around soldiers' cots and shelter them better from sand-filled desert winds.

Members of the Jefferson-based unit move equipment and supplies in Iraq. They have been overseas for about three months and have had the new tents a few weeks.

The gift was made by Skyline Telephone Membership Corporation. Skyline is a cooperative that serves parts of Ashe, Alleghany, Watauga and Avery counties, and Johnson County, Tennessee.

The decision to buy the tents was made after word got back that the unit's soldiers were getting very little rest during missions and were having to bury themselves inside their sleeping bags in the heated climate.

From a newspaper in India...the editors really worked overtime on this headline:
India News: Left opposes troops to Iraq
Well, we sure appreciate ya'll clarifying that for us...

A young soldier honors one of our own.
When Pfc. Matt Medlock first met Army Lt. Ken Ballard in Iraq, he didn't know him as his mom's next-door neighbor. He only knew him as the soldier who saved him from an ambush in Baghdad...

"It was the least I could do for him," Medlock, 21, said after the funeral in Mountain View, where Ballard grew up. "After what he did for us then, I wish I could have been there for him."

Further proof that some folks are born without a soul. Please be careful.
Veterans officials are warning of an identification scam aimed at those who served their country.

The veterans returning from Iraq and other service discover someone is trying to steal their identity and shoot holes in their credit.

A phony company is promising benefits as soon as an application containing personal information is sent to a dubious address. It's a deception that preys on the mound of military discharge paperwork, particularly Form DD214, that returning soldiers must complete upon discharge or deactivation, said Brian Steffan, Orangeburg commander of Disabled American Veterans.

"The VA has had dozens of calls from people who sent in their DD214," Steffan said. "Once someone has your information, that's it."

"It" is identity theft -- people who assume someone else's identity, usually to gain access to that person's credit and financial information. Typically, the thieves target the elderly or the careless. This time, veterans are in the crosshairs of crooks.

Steffan said an Orangeburg County veteran recently received the benefits form that promises a monetary return to its recipient on legitimate insurance premiums paid while the service member is still active.

"When I found it's a form to send in your DD214 to a post office box in Philadelphia, I called the VA in Philly," Steffan said. "I found out the post office box is not connected with the VA."

The "benefits form" that surfaced in the Orangeburg area has a return address of Veterans Center, P.O. Box 8079, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101. That agency and address is bogus, Steffan said.


This one from the World Socialist Web Site
UN Security Council rubberstamps Washington’s continuing subjugation of Iraq
Yeah, buddy...the rampant rubberstamping by France, Russia and China has just about gotten out of hand...

You may recall the BBC headline I linked to yesterday.
Arab media lukewarm on Iraq deal
Well, here is a BBC headline from today:
Arab press sees hope for Iraq.
Which includes this statement:
Arabic newspapers are sceptical about the US proposal to encourage reforms in the Middle East, which was supported by leaders at the G8 summit.

But some commentators see the UN resolution on Iraq, confirming the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis, as an opportunity for the war-ravaged country to recover and develop.
They are an often amusing bunch there at the BBC.

That is one of my very favorite military sayings. And it sure looks to me as if Prime Minister Allawi is attempting to do just that.
Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said yesterday that he plans to resurrect domestic-intelligence services to combat the country's persistent lawlessness and violence.

He also said ministers in his interim government, appointed June 1, also were considering bringing back the death penalty to combat "the evil forces trying to spread their poison and damage Iraqi society."

"We need to reconstitute or build an internal security apparatus similar to [Britain's] MI5 or the FBI, which has power of interrogation and detention," Mr. Allawi told The Washington Times at a reception honoring Iraqi women.
UPDATE: The Christian Science Monitor agrees:
Iraq has nearly three weeks to go before sovereignty, but its new prime minister is already acting like a sovereign. Since his appointment June 1, Iyad Allawi has defused two explosive issues: the status of US-led forces in Iraq, and the rights of Iraq's Kurdish minority.
Me...I'd have chosen the word "leader" instead of "sovereign", but obviously the CSM was attempting a parallel construction to the lead clause. We won't quibble...they've also noticed an Iraqi taking charge in Iraq.
Frist also said he has the impression that Iraq is in better shape than is generally reported by the media.

Despite a shooting or bombing at an Iraqi location almost daily, Frist said, “The majority of people around the rest of the country are living well, living comfortably in an improving situation, and are very hopeful.

“The news (in the United States) makes it sound like everything is falling apart there, and that is simply not the case.” then it occurs to me, "Hey wait a can a 'majority of people' be living well, yet the news doesn't say so unless quoting a non-journalist who has been to Iraq."

So, I went looking, and found this:
The view from Iraq is getting narrower just as things are getting worse.

Growing violence is forcing western correspondents to change their approach to reporting, restrict their travel and pass up stories that are now deemed too risky...

More journalists have resumed traveling with military units through the Pentagon's embedding program, which proved so popular during war against Saddam Hussein. The number of embeds jumped from 26 in February to 71 last month during the fighting in Fallujah and Najaf, and is now back to 26, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman says.
And I'm finally beginning to get it. There are vast open swaths of this country where people are going to work, growing food, tending livestock, building houses...but the press doesn't go there. They don't go there because they only want to be where things are exploding.

I'm thinking that once one dubs one's self a "war correspondent" it must be a bitter pill to swallow if your beat includes the peaceful regions, and the overwhelming majority of folks in that country who are intent on living peacefully.

OK - so the reporters are re-embedding with the units. That's fine. But lets keep a sense of perspective...where are the Soldiers going to be? Uh...where things are exploding...right? Hence, it would follow that the only stories the press can report is about things blowing up. Even if that involves just the tiniest part of the Iraqi population, it comprises 100% of what that "war correspondent" is going to see and write about it.

So...from the outset the deck is stacked by those who label themselves "war correspondents".

Seems to me what we need are fewer war correspondents and more folks looking at the entire picture. But then, that would mean covering peaceful towns, hundreds of Soldiers not humiliating prisoners and meetings of the local city council. You know...the sorta stuff only covered by cub reporters in very small town newspapers. that'll happen.


How much I respect folks like Mr. O'Sullivan for stepping up, and assisting progress.
Mr. O'Sullivan's girlfriend, who was also witness to the ruin, told him the cleanup would be a massive job and that it would be difficult to rebuild the city. He disagreed and decided to prove her wrong. Last October, he returned to Baghdad to establish JumpStart International, a non-profit organization that employs local residents to clean up the city.

Now, Mr. O'Sullivan is supervising a force of 2,700 workers in transforming the Iraqi capital's skyline, cleaning up shattered offices and building housing for the homeless. He is even besieged with calls from coalition advisers hoping JumpStart will clear out their buildings.

"I was really angry," said Mr. O'Sullivan, 39, recalling how the city looked after the war ended. "The U.S. was spending $4-billion a month and you couldn't tell. I just thought that if you really wanted to, you could clean up the city and employ a lot of people -- and it wasn't all that difficult.

"There are skyscrapers in this city that are standing monuments to the American war machine," he added. "Just leaving them standing there is a way to create resentment against Americans and against the West."...

Today, JumpStart is clearing and cleaning out 47 government sites around the Iraqi capital and has already completed more than 450. Labourers are paid about $4 a day and foremen earn $12. All are grateful for the work....

To employees, JumpStart means more than money. "I am serving my country by making it more beautiful," said Luai Salem, 25.

Can any other country's soldiers issue such a statement and have it received with such implicit trust?
A rescued Polish hostage said Thursday that U.S. soldiers burst through a steel door to the house where he and others were held captive in Iraq, then assured them: "Don't worry, we are Americans."

Businessman Jerzy Kos arrived home after being freed from Iraqi insurgents Tuesday in Baghdad with another Pole and three Italians.

''I am very moved to be back in Poland and to be alive,'' Kos said at Warsaw airport after stepping off his plane, his face pale and voice trembling. ''I am so moved, I can hardly speak.''

The 64-year-old construction company director described his rescue as a lighting-quick operation.

They were imprisoned in a house in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, until Tuesday, when they heard helicopters approaching. The door was then blown in, kicking up a dust cloud and knocking the hostages to the ground.

''When I opened my eyes, I saw American soldiers,'' he said. ''They said, 'Don't worry, we are Americans.' They held our hands and we ran to the helicopter. I will remember that for the rest of my life.''

''It was fast and unexpected. They did it perfectly,'' Kos said.
Four Arab men posing as journalists were arrested this week when explosives residue was detected on them as they tried to enter the Baghdad headquarters of the U.S.-led administration, a senior U.S. army officer said.

The officer, a top security official in the compound which hosts news conferences given by senior U.S. and Iraqi officials and houses the U.S. consulate, said explosives were found in the men's hotel room after the arrests on Sunday.

They were posing as employees of an international television company and carried fake identification cards and were trying to drive a van into the compound when they were arrested, he said.

"The IDs looked real. But when we called the organization and asked if they were employees, they said they had not heard of them," the army officer, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters.

Reader’s Digest wants to find out which military service is the funniest.

The monthly magazine is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its “Humor in Uniform” column by running a contest to find the most humorous true anecdotes from military life, according to a Reader’s Digest press release.

Active-duty, Reserve and retired servicemembers and their families can participate. Entries must be submitted to by June 30. They also can be mailed to: “The Funniest Branch of the Military Contest,” Reader’s Digest, P.O. Box 1598, Newburgh, NY 12550.

Entries must include the entrant’s full name, e-mail address and street address. Anecdotes should be no more than 100 words, true, original and related to the armed services.

Cathy, a regular reader here, sent in this wonderful story about her niece, a high school senior, who wrote, directed and produced a play at her high school based upon letter correspondence between Paige (Cathy's niece) and Aaron, (Cathy's son, Paige's cousin).

Aaron is PFC Aaron, currently deployed to Iraq.

The link to the newspaper article is here, however it may require free registration for you to actually read it.
Letters between two cousins, one at home in Texas, the other serving in Iraq, became the substance of a timely and poignant play based on reality, titled "Exchange."

The playwrights are Paige Thornsberry and Pfc. Aaron Clark...

Thornsberry was the director, producer and writer...

"Much of the content is actual letters written by Aaron and Paige,"
said Clark...

In the director's notes on the playbill, Thornsberry writes, "In May 2003, my cousin Aaron was shipped out to Iraq. Ever since then the two of us have stayed in close contact through letters.

"Aaron has helped me through many problems and he has been an
inspiration to me. I decided to share my inspiration with the world."...

"One of the really important parts is where he tells her the reason
for the war. That's what really grabs me, and the students too - his convictions.

It explains to her that they're there for her and everyone else. I
could tell that those were really his words. I could tell he wrote this to her."
Impressive, Paige...and well done, I'm certain.

But the thing that struck me like a cold slap was Cathy's comment in the email she sent.

The good thing about the play is that it brought awareness to a group of students. Before they learned of Aaron, the war was something to protest because it was the popular thing to do. They now realize that there are real people involved, and real reasons for the war.

"The war was something to protest because it was the popular thing to do."

Is there a more succinct, apt statement that can be made of huge portions of America and their reckless, uninformed spouting off?

Yes, yes, a hundred times yes, it is the Soldier who has ensured the right of protest by our (and lately Iraqi) citizens.

But perhaps it bears reminding those who chant and march: Protest is easy. To truly change the world for the better is difficult and requires incredible commitment from Soldiers and families of courage and conviction.
Thanks for the story, Cathy. And tell Aaron we're behind him and his mission 100%
FRIDAY, June 11th.

Day 397 of CPT Patti's deployment.

We had a brief phone call yesterday. As usual the connection was very poor. But I sensed that she was not in the highest of spirits.

I asked her about it...and she allowed as how difficult it is to keep a positive state of mind amidst the near universal expressions that "we are going to be extended again."

Another extension seems unlikely to me (given PRESENT circumstances). I asked her where this opinion was coming from.

"Everyone is quoting General Myers from his meeting with the 1AD families the other day."

As if readers of this site need reminding that a comment taken out of context is a dangerous and misleading thing, General Myers did say "never say never". But, as John showed us in his addendum to that post, GEN Myers also "said it would take extraordinary events in Iraq before he would bring that recommendation to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld."

If being the keeper of this site has any side benefit it is a rather facile knowledge on many of the issues surrounding Operation Iraqi Freedom, 1st Armored Division and events affecting both. Thus, it was nice to be able to quickly take my darling wife through the context of General Myers remarks, and reframe her thoughts in a positive direction.

This is the first item today that reminds us how potent and dangerous it can be to traffic in uninformed opinion.

Thursday, June 10, 2004


The BBC publishes this headline:
Arab media lukewarm on Iraq deal
The BBC then actually goes on to describe how al Jazeera sees and is reporting this.

First off, Beeb...why in the world should we care how the Arab media react to this? Isn't it the Iraqi people we should concern ourselves with?

Secondly, have you been on another planet somewhere? Al Jazeera is one of the few media outlets in the world even more critical of everything we've done over there than you are.

Get real.
One of three people charged with draining the bank account of an Illinois soldier serving in Iraq has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Timothy Sims, 36, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Will County Circuit Court to stealing personal financial information from U.S. Army Spc. Neil Lattz of Braidwood...

Lattz is assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, 300th Quartermaster Brigade based in Peru in central Illinois.

The defendants are accused of using the soldier's personal information to pay for three cellular phone contracts and buy insurance policies that would allow them to buy automobiles, officials said.

Grudging positive words about Iraq's future from the "UN First" crowd.

And what has changed? Is it that President Bush came up with a new, comprehensive plan for Iraq? No.

Is it that peace has finally settled upon the region? No.

It is that the US has done exactly what it said it would do from day one...namely to assist the Iraqis in establishing their own government, provide for their own defense and begin to take care of themselves.

Oh...yeah...and the UN Security Council voted to say all that is OK with them.

Prima facie evidence that the word of our President and his cabinet means nothing...but the "approval" by the UN is everything.

Warped, warped, warped.
More and more, despite the insurgents and continuing violence, it seems that Iraq may get its chance.

Such is the real significance of the U.N. Security Council's unanimous vote the other day, not its possible influence on President Bush's re-election prospects or even the reawakened comity between those nations that favored and opposed the war in Iraq.

The resolution adopted in that vote confers legitimacy on the Iraqi government that will supplant coalition authorities on June 30. And it nails down a process that will lead to elections and a transitional government and, finally, to a permanent government.
So...a host of countries vote to confer legitmacy on a government that most of them didn't lift a finger to help implement, and many actively sought to prevent from happening through opposition to Saddam's removal.

And notice the OP-ED doesn't say Iraq may get its chance as a result of actions by the USA and Great Britain. No...Iraq may get it's chance due to a UN Security Council vote.

Very warped.
Spanish troops will not return to Iraq under any international mandate, the foreign minister said today just as George Bush and Tony Blair said they wanted Nato involvement in the country.

“Spain will not send troops to Iraq, neither unilaterally nor as part of a multinational force, nor as part of a Nato force,” Miguel Angel Moratinos said in Madrid.

Please note this early effort of the new Iraqi Health Ministry. Then recall who made this new Iraqi Health Ministry possible.
Realising that they should have removed his right ear not the left, the doctors promptly turned Dawoud over and had the surgeon slice off the other ear, too.

"I was taken to the hospital in the morning, and in the afternoon I woke up to find that I had had both ears cut off," said the 29-year-old, as if not quite believing his own hideous misfortune.

"After that, I just wanted to die. I was depressed, I didn't care about life. I wanted them to kill me, but they wouldn't."...

In all, an estimated 3,500 Iraqi soldiers had the whole or part of their ears cut off following Saddam's 1994 edict, an effort at using fear to clamp down on increasing army desertion.

The first 500 or so deserters caught had the whole of their ear removed, but the measure drew so much wrath, inside and outside the country, with many surgeons refusing to perform the operation, that it was soon reduced to a part of the ear. Later it was rescinded altogether and lashes administered instead.

Ten years on, and in the wake of Saddam's fall, the victims of mutilation are gradually emerging from their pariah existence, looking for jobs and a normal life, while holding out the hope that their deformity might one day be corrected.

Six weeks ago, that hope became a reality.

A group of Iraqi surgeons, backed by the Health Ministry, announced that they would perform free reconstructive surgery on victims of Saddam's 1994 mutilation spree, as well as operations they're already performing on bomb and bullet victims...

As Dawoud waited in al-Wasati's sweltering corridor earlier this month ahead of his first operation, he professed to no nerves. No matter what came out of the operation he said he'd be happy -- it couldn't be worse than having no ears at all.

"I'm still not married because of what happened to me, but after the operation I will propose."
Insurgents are expected to test Iraq's new leaders by increasing their attacks for at least a month after the United States turns over control to a new governing body, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said Monday after returning from a weekend visit to Baghdad...

Ensign traveled with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah. The senators visited the U.S. military's staging area in Kuwait and then went to Iraq before heading to France to attend D-Day commemorative ceremonies on Sunday.

In Baghdad, the senators met for about 75 minutes with new Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi.

Ensign said he was impressed with Allawi, who has said he would welcome U.S. forces staying in Iraq until the country could handle its own security.

"We must keep this guy alive," Ensign said. "He has the right vision for Iraq. He's very much for democracy and rule of law and individual rights and he's also very appreciative of America."

The trip marked Ensign's second visit to Iraq. He was there in December on the weekend when Saddam Hussein was captured.

"There was a lot more uncertainty in Iraq than there is today," Ensign said. "I can't emphasize how important it is that we have the transition now happening. I am a lot more optimistic than before I went."

We are serious about letting you guys run your own country. Are you?
The fighting began Wednesday evening -- just before midnight -- when the Mehdi militia fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr attacked a police station in the center of Najaf with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, killing two police officers, U.S. military sources said.

Although Najaf Police Chief Sayed al-Jazairi contacted the U.S. commander, asking for American troops to come to his aid, the coalition soldiers were held back from the fight.

"He's gotta learn how to deal with it on his own," a senior U.S. officer told CNN. "We will not get involved unless the situation gets way out of hand."


A Baghdad talk radio show introduces the people to the notion their expressed ideas can result in community changes.

Man...wait til they figure out this can work in government too!
From a modest family house somewhere in a western Baghdad suburb, Radio Dijla is fighting crime, saving lives, and treating the emotional traumas of lovesick teenagers.
Unthinkable during the Saddam era, this is Iraq's first talk radio station. It is only a small commercial channel that has sprung up in the maelstrom of the capital, but has already struck a chord with residents.

Up to 18,000 callers a day try to contact the station - it only answers a fraction of that number - and it has become Baghdad's favourite...

"We've quickly become a part of people's lives. It shows the desperate need of ordinary Iraqis to share and communicate their pains and joys.

"I thought I had a good idea, but I never expected this amount of interest so soon. We are already No 1 in Baghdad."

Dijla's devoted audience includes taxi drivers and shop workers as well as the professional classes. And their gripes will be familiar to any regular talkshow listener - the price of vegetables, Baghdad's traffic police and the fickleness of boys.

Last week the station received a call from a woman in distress. Her husband had been arrested by US soldiers several months ago and she was having trouble feeding her eight children. "Everyone at the station was moved by the call," Mr Rikabi says. "But the host failed to take her phone number.

"So we asked people to refrain from ringing in for five minutes so she could ring back with her number. She did. And then people began ringing in from across Baghdad with offers of food and money."

Two days ago the police chief in the Baya district of Baghdad rang the station and thanked it for helping to reduce the crime rate in the area. Local police have asked the station to extend its programming because it has given Iraqis something to do at night.

Radio Dijla has also become required listening for the country's new authorities.

"Our dysfunctional capital has finally found a voice, and we know that the new author ities are listening in paying attention to the views aired," says Majeed Saleem, one of the station's most popular presenters.

"It is one of the few forums where they can get feedback from the public."

The electricity ministry, for example, is able to gauge the supply across the city from the on-air complaints, three-quarters of which are about the lack of power. The local mobile phone company reduced its rates in response to irate calls to the station.

This is day 396 of my darling wife's deployment.

That is one year, thirty days. Shall we call it 13 months?

Here is the cool thing is the recommended postal cutoff day for mailing things to our loved ones in our brigade in Baghdad. That is based upon their redeployment plan...under the current plan they are concerned things mailed after today won't catch up to our guys.

It's a milestone. Yes...they've moved the goalposts in the past. But its a milestone.

And faith has got to start somewhere.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


And it is a very good piece...go read it all.
The good news is: Liberals' anti-war hysteria seems to have run its course.

I base this conclusion on Al Gore's lunatic anti-war speech last week. Gore always comes out swinging just as an issue is about to go south. He's the stereotypical white guy always clapping on the wrong beat.

Gore switched from being a pro-defense Democrat to a lefty peacenik -- just before the 9/11 attack.

He grew a beard -- just in time for an attack on the nation by fundamentalist Muslims. He endorsed Howard Dean -- just as the orange-capped Deaniacs were punching themselves out.

Gore even went out and got really fat -- just before America officially gave up carbs.

This guy is always leaping into the mosh pit at the precise moment the crowd parts.

Mark my words: Now that good old Al has come lunging in, the anti-war movement is dead.


I noticed both Monday and today as I drove onto post the flag is a half staff.

After a year of conditioning, I thought "dammit, we've lost another Soldier", since the flag in front of the 1st Brigade HQs goes to half staff in such times.

Only late in the day did it dawn on me the flag is at such a state in honor of President Reagan.

Evidence, I suppose, that flag has been at half staff an awful lot over the last year.

Oh...and with regard to President Reagan, I was right. We did lose a heckuva Soldier.

I note that men of vision generally do not shy from predicting the outcome, even when those around them are "certain" the vision is impossible.

As an example I can't help but think of President Reagan's speech in Berlin "Mr. Gorbachov...tear down this wall!"

President Bush is not afraid of predicting the future either.
“A free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East is going to be a game-changer, an agent of change. It's going to send a clear signal that the terrorists can't win and that a free society is a better way to lift the hopes and aspirations of the average person.”...

“It's important for. . .those who love freedom in Iran to see. I mean, listen, a free Iraq on the border of Iran is going to send a very clear signal to those who want to be free -- that a free society is very possible.”
Reminds me of the saying "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." Perhaps they are on to something there.
"It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime."
What is that...Bush Doctrine?

No...a pointed objective of the Iraq Liberation Act signed by then US President Clinton, Oct 31st, 1998.

Which leads, interestingly enough, to this assertion by Thomas Sowell.
The big divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans, or women and men, but between talkers and doers.

Think about the things that have improved our lives the most over the past century -- medical advances, the transportation revolution, huge increases in consumer goods, dramatic improvements in housing, the computer revolution. The people who created these things -- the doers -- are not popular heroes. Our heroes are the talkers who complain about the doers.

Those who have created nothing have maintained a constant barrage of criticism of those who created something, because that something was considered to be not good enough or the benefits turned out to have costs.

I mean, we did invade Iraq to get their oil...right?
Iraqi officials declared Tuesday that the interim government has assumed full control of the country's oil industry ahead of the June 30 handover of sovereignty from the U.S.-led occupation administration...

"Today the most important natural resource has been returned to Iraqis to serve all Iraqis," Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said. "I'm pleased to announce that full sovereignty and full control on oil industry has been handed over to the oil ministry today and to the new Iraqi government as of today."

Note please this UPI headline, referring to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Marine Corps under pressure with two wars
Let's see if we can all get this right. This is the War on Terror. It is an atypical war in which some nations are (and all nations should be...but that is a different matter) combating a scourge capable of inflicting death and destruction around the world, but whose essence does not lie in one particular state government nor axis thereof. Nonetheless it kills people simply for being not like them.

Sadly, the author of the linked story is a UPI "Pentagon Correspondent". One supposes she might have figured out the one war, at-least-two-fronts thing by now.
The Pentagon will increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to around 145,000 this summer, from the current 140,000, in recognition of the continued difficulty coalition forces are having in providing security leading up to the hand-over of political power to Iraqis on June 30...

The new troops will come from the Marine Corps, which will move up a deployment originally planned for this fall and send 5,000 Marines to Iraq by August. The first troops in that contingent — 2,200 Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit — have already left their home base in San Diego for Iraq.

Good idea!
The military is trying to fight this particular battlefield scourge by preaching prevention. This is where Skeeta's nets come into play: to provide better protection for soldiers while they sleep.

"The Army's traditional mosquito nets have a bigger, heavier mesh that sand flies can go right through," said Ways. "Our mesh is easily 20 times as fine and it's lightweight and can be folded up into a pouch."
U.S. special forces freed three Italian and a Polish hostages Tuesday south of Baghdad, the top U.S. general said, in the first successful commando raid to rescue foreigners caught up in Iraq's wave of kidnappings...

The commander of the Polish-led multinational force, Gen. Miecyzslaw Bienek, said U.S. special forces carried out the raid. The construction company that employed the Polish hostage, Jerzy Kos, said special forces - including Polish troops - had located the hide-out earlier.
And the bad.
About 20 foreigners are still being held hostage in Iraq, but winning their release is difficult because some may have been sold by their captors to Islamic militants, said Canon Andrew White, an Anglican cleric who has been trying to win hostages' release.
Some soldiers fighting in Iraq will put down their weapons for a few hours next month to participate from the war zone in an annual road race being held in Atlanta.

A group that includes more than 100 soldiers will run a similar course as the 55,000 competitors in the 10-kilometer Peachtree Road Race on July 4. Because of the heat in Baghdad, the Iraq runners will start at a different time than those in Atlanta.

Race organizers will initiate the Baghdad start via cellphone at 9:30 p.m. Atlanta time on July 3.

Organizers on Monday sent race numbers, T-shirts with "Baghdad Division" on the sleeves, volunteer shirts, a finish-line banner and finish cards to Iraq.

Its a postal jungle out there.
At the first post office on Victory, the one where the mail sat Monday, Deal was told, "It's not here," a sergeant said.

He remembered the folks who came for it the day before, remembered telling them they could get the mail with an authorized soldier present, but told Deal "We don't keep mail 24 hours. It must be at the other post office on Camp Victory."

He said all this confidently, and also confidently stated the mail had been sent to Taji, about 20 miles away, totally contradicting himself.

At the next post office, about one mile away from the first, Sgt. Michael Rush, of Tallahassee, Fla., was a lot more helpful, not in the sense that he gave the men their mail, but in the sense that he felt their pain, and had a plan for helping them.

Cards were filled out, promises were made and a bunch of magazines that could not be delivered to their intended recipients were given to the unit as sort of a parting gift.

Rush said the problems of moving units and mail catch-up are constant, and as a veteran of every foreign deployment since "Desert Storm," dealt with them calmly and philosophically.

Then, it was off to a PX and Burger King, which to the men enduring the nasty conditions and food of a tiny base in the Green Zone, looked like a desert oasis.

As for the mail itself, lots of the stuff at the post offices had been battered by travel, iffy forklift operators and weather, but that part doesn't matter much.

Even the most scuffed and crushed box from home looks good to these guys.
Chalk up a huge win for Team Bush.

And, no less important, for the cause of freedom in the Middle East.

The U.N. Security Council yesterday — in a unanimous resolution — essentially ratified administration objectives and timetables in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The resolution virtually ensures that:

* Coalition forces will retain responsibility for maintaining order in Iraq.

* Iraqi independence will come on June 30, on schedule.

* Full elections will take place next year, as planned.

The Security Council, in other words, gave President Bush precisely what he had asked for all along — an endorsement of Saddam Hussein's ouster, and acquiescence in the establishment of a new order in Iraq.

And the Axis of Weasels — France, Russia and Germany — be damned...

Significantly, the vote came on the opening day of the Group of Eight summit — the annual meeting of the world's leading economic powers — held this year at Sea Island, Ga.

And interim Iraqi President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawer will be sitting down to lunch today with the G-8 heads of state; no doubt his nation's economic future will be high on the list of topics to be discussed.

For the U.N. vote enhances the ability of Iraq to get needed economic assistance from the world community — in itself a ratification of the Bush administration's Iraq policies.

So, with security ensured by U.S. and British forces and reconstruction funds in the pipeline, things are looking up for Iraq — and, for the first time in three-plus decades, for the Iraqi people.

Bottom line: The unanimous Security Council resolution is vivid evidence that Iraq is progressing precisely as Bush outlined in his Army War College address two weeks ago.

The conflict is far from over, but Bush has once again demonstrated that while America and its Coalition allies welcome the assistance and cooperation of the United Nations, he will not allow that body to obstruct America's strategic objectives in the War on Terror.

That war is far from over, but yesterday's Security Council resolution represents a giant step down the road to a safer, more secure world.

Take a bow, Mr. President.

You've earned one.


The 395th day of CPT Patti's deployment. One year, 29 days.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


I've got a bunch of stuff sitting between me and a full fledged update today. I'll try to get back later.

Meanwhile, if you missed it, today is the day of the Venus transit across the face of the Sun. It is a cloudless morning in Giessen (rare in itself) so I went outside with my binoculars and a white sheet of paper and projected the scene onto the paper. It was pretty amazing...especially when one considers that Venus is nearly the same size as see what a teeny tiny speck it makes across the face of the Sun is humbling.
The United States has given South Korea formal notification it wants to remove about one-third of the 37,000 U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula by the end of 2005, U.S. and South Korean officials confirmed Monday.

The two allies, bound for more than 50 years by a military alliance against North Korea, are conducting the ninth round of Future of the Alliance (FOTA) talks this week in Seoul. The proposal to relocate about 12,500 U.S. troops was made at an unannounced meeting Sunday, a South Korean official said Monday.

The proposal would include the 3,500 2nd Infantry Division troops slated for a deployment to Iraq later this summer, said Kim Sook, director general of the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs bureau.
Add this to the idea of pulling the two divisions from Germany back to the USA...overlay atop that the "temporary" additional two divisions congress is adding to the Army. Result? There is going to be some notable expansion at certain Forts around the USA. The population spike will cause a housing squeeze. And it might just be good news for businesses - once we figure out what Forts will be affected.
Appears GEN Myers was in the neighborhood. Perhaps I live in a cave...but I never heard a word about it.
The chance of another extension for 1st Armored Division troops in Iraq is slim but not entirely out of the question, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday.

“… In the security business, never say never,” Myers said in brief news conference after visiting Germany-based 1st AD families. “Security’s too much of an important issue. But, the likelihood of [an extension] is very, very small.”

Originally scheduled to return from Iraq in April, the 1st Armored Division was extended an additional 90 days downrange.

Myers offered his support to the families before returning stateside from last weekend’s D-Day commemoration events in Normandy, France.

He stopped Monday in the 1st AD communities of Baumholder and Wiesbaden, headquarters of the division. Family members from Giessen and Hanau, also in the 1st AD footprint, attended the meeting in Wiesbaden, according to Hilde Patton, V Corps spokeswoman.


Day 394 of CPT Patti's deployment. One year, four weeks.

Monday, June 07, 2004

The US Defence Department has proposed removing two army divisions from Germany in a global restructuring of US forces, The New York Times reported Friday.

Quoting US and allied officials, the Times said the 1st Armoured Division and 1st Infantry Division would be returned to the United States.

A division usually consists of three brigades and can have 20,000 troops. Both the German divisions have two brigades in Germany and one in the United States.

A report by The Washington Post in March said the US military was planning to withdraw up to half its 71,000 troops in Germany.

The plan outlined in the Times would also move a brigade of light-armoured vehicles to Germany, a wing of F-16 fighter jets from Germany to Turkey and the US Navy's headquarters in Europe from Britain to Italy.
"It's about the troops," Steeb said. "It's not about me and what I'm doing over there."

Living among the troops has given him a new appreciation for the young men and women who are serving the United States.

"They are the most polite young people I've seen in a long time - all of them," he said.

The protective clothing and gear totaled 80 pounds, and the troops wore it in 110 to 120 degree Fahrenheit heat.

"I never heard a complaint," Steeb said. "We need to thank them for being there. They never fail to say, 'Yes, Sir,' or 'Good evening, Sir. How are you?'"

Mortar and rockets will be searing the city sky, and these young people will stand guard, easy targets in front of palm trees.

Steeb said when he shows a guard his badge, the soldier will say, "Thank you, Sir."

"Then I will say 'thank you.' I like to let them know they are appreciated," he said. "They will always respond, 'Just doing my job, Sir.'"
Despite the destabilizing efforts of anti-coalition terrorists and suicide bombers, a Utahn involved in rebuilding Iraq predicted Sunday the country's reconstruction is about to take off.

Centerville resident Robert Gross, a former Utah Department of Workforce Services executive director, returned home Saturday after spending the past four months helping the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority prepare Iraqi bureaucrats to put people back to work and handle other social-service needs when power is turned over to an interim Iraqi government on June 30.

"Job availability will really begin to take off in earnest now," said Gross, citing the $18.4 billion in supplemental funding that will be released to private contractors to reverse the destruction of the war and years of tyranny before that.

"It will emerge in the next 60-90 days in almost unbelievable fashion as contractors put the supplementary money to use on construction and reconstruction projects," he added. "With $12 billion for construction of schools, colleges, trade schools, oil facilities, electricity, infrastructure, roads, highways and buildings, there will be a huge demand for jobs in the construction trades."
Iraq's new prime minister Iyad Allawi said a deal has been struck to disband militias, AFX News reported.

"I am happy to announce today the successful completion of negotiations on the nationwide transition and reintegration of militias, and other armed forces, previously outside of state control," Allawi said in a statement.

"The vast majority of such forces in Iraq -- about 100,000 armed individuals -- will enter either civilian life or one of the state security services, such as the Iraqi armed forces, the Iraqi police service or the internal security services of the Kurdish regional government", he said.
And here is a bit more:
Nine political factions - most of them represented in Mr Allawi's interim cabinet - agreed to disband their associated militias by January 2005, when elections are due.

They include the Kurdish peshmerga militias and the Badr Brigade of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shia group.

"As of now, all armed forces outside of state control, as provided by this order, are illegal," the prime minister said.

"Those that have chosen violence and lawlessness over transition and reintegration will be dealt with harshly."

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad said the announcement was designed to signal the new government's intention to put pressure on the militants.
Blasts were reported at the compound surrounding the Kufa Mosque in Iraq, one of Islam's holiest sites, after ammunition used by Shiite fighters apparently caught fire, the Associated Press said, citing witnesses.

Fighters loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose al-Madhi militia had been clashing with U.S. troops, were holed up there, AP reported. The site had been peaceful since Thursday after al- Sadr and U.S. forces agreed to pull back from mosques in Kufa and in Najaf.

One militiaman, Ababas Khoder, said he was inside the mosque when the blast happened and reported seeing ``shrapnel and fire,'' the news agency said.

``There were many al-Mahdi people inside the mosque as well as visitors; there were many victims,'' AP reported Khoder as saying.

A coalition military spokeswoman contacted in Baghdad said she had no information about the explosion.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and two colleagues made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Saturday, meeting with Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. During two days in the region, they also met with civilian authorities, military commanders and troops.

In a telephone interview, the senator said he was impressed with Dr. Allawi, a fellow physician-turned-political figure, and found him determined to bring "full-blown democracy" to Iraq.
Al-Yawar's sudden rise was a surprise to many Iraqis. Few had heard of the exiled sheik from Saudi Arabia with his trademark flowing white robe and neatly trimmed mustache. But every Iraqi is familiar with the Shammars, and al-Yawar's pedigree as a scion of one of the nation's oldest and largest tribes immediately conferred respectability.

"He comes from good people," was a typical comment, underscoring the powerful constituency al-Yawar brings to his seven-month tenure.

The new president's appointment is a source of pride for members of his tribe, which includes both Sunnis and Shias.
While Americans are shelling out record prices for fuel, Iraqis pay only about 5 cents a gallon for gasoline _ a benefit of hundreds of millions of dollars subsidies bankrolled by American taxpayers.

Before the war, forecasters predicted that by invading Iraq and ousting Saddam Hussein, America would benefit from increased exports of oil from Iraq, which has the world's second largest petroleum reserves.

That would mean cheap gas for American motorists and a boost for the oil-dependent American economy.

More than a year after the invasion, that logic has been flipped on its head. Now the average price for gasoline in the United States is running $2.05 a gallon _ 50 cents more than the pre-invasion price.

Instead, the only people getting cheap gas as a result of the invasion are the Iraqis.

Filling a 22-gallon tank in Baghdad with low-grade fuel costs just $1.10, plus a 50-cent tip for the attendant. A tankful of high-test costs $2.75.

In Britain, by contrast, gasoline prices hit $5.79 per gallon last week _ $127 for a tankful.

Although Iraq is a major petroleum producer, the country has little capacity to refine its own gasoline. So the U.S. government pays about $1.50 a gallon to buy fuel in neighboring countries and deliver it to Iraqi stations. A three-month supply costs American taxpayers more than $500 million, not including the cost of military escorts to fend off attacks by Iraqi insurgents.

The arrangement keeps a fleet of 4,200 tank trucks constantly on the move, ferrying fuel to Iraq.

"We thank the Americans," Baghdad taxi driver Osama Hashim said. "They risked their lives to liberate us and now they are improving our lives," said Hashim, 26, topping up the tank on his beat-up 1983 Volkswagen.
Two months on, things look rather different, although kidnapping remains a threat to outsiders.

Falluja has been calm for weeks, since the Marines cut a deal with former generals in Saddam's army to keep the peace...

In the south, U.S.-led troops squeezed Sadr's fighters out of town after town, helped by pressure from Shi'ite elders. The young cleric offered a truce on Friday in his last bastion, Najaf. It seemed to be holding on Saturday as Iraqi police returned to patrol the center while guerrillas and U.S. troops withdrew.

Crucially, U.S. commanders dropped a demand that Sadr turn himself in on a murder charge, leaving his fate and that of his militia in the hands of fellow Iraqis, Shi'ite negotiators said.
Temperatures of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit generally don’t make optimal conditions for outside activities. But on June 5, over 500 Soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen crowed around a stage in front of the Post Exchange on Camp Victory North. And the heat didn’t stop them from having fun. They were enjoying a performance by two patriotic musicians; Toby Keith and Ted Nugent.

This story is disturbing on several levels. I find it alarming that it appears Muslims are not forbade fighting in wars...just in fighting in wars against Muslims. Seems like this sort of gives a free pass to anyone calling himself a Muslim to do what he likes without fear of reprisal by other Muslims.

It also disturbs me that the Muslim Air Force chaplain testifying in this case, testified for the defense and said this Soldier did the right thing.

This does not bode well for the future of the Armed Services and Muslim members.
A 1st Infantry Division Engineer Brigade soldier who refused to deploy to Iraq citing religious beliefs was sentenced Thursday to 14 months’ confinement and given a bad-conduct discharge.

During his court-martial, Sgt. 1st Class Abdullah Webster, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of disobeying a lawful order from a superior commissioned officer and one count of missing movement.

When his unit was deploying on Feb. 8, Webster — the battalion security noncommissioned officer — told his leaders he would not deploy based on guidance he received from Muslim clerics...

Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Hamza Al-Mubarak, an imam based at Ramstein Air Base, testified for the defense that Webster had done the right thing.

Al-Mubarak said Webster consulted several Muslim scholars, and that he chose not to deploy because the clerics said it would be better for him to die than to bear arms against fellow Muslims.

“I would not say he’s an extremist,” Al-Mubarak testified during cross-examination. “He was adhering to the sincere advice of the scholars. It is not permissible for him to take up arms and kill another Muslim.

“It would be better for him that he was killed than to pick up arms against anyone.”

Webster had prepared a conscientious objector packet, but it was disapproved at the unit level. It has advanced to the 1st Infantry Division level, and if disapproved there, it will go to the Army level.

But Webster does not qualify as a conscientious objector, because he was not opposed to all wars, only wars in Muslim nations, Quigley said.

In closing remarks, Cunningham asked Hall to ignore the fact that Webster was a senior NCO with 18 years of service. Webster faced a maximum prison term of five years.

“Duty called; he didn’t answer,” she said. “There is a message to be sent. You cannot look at rank in this case.”

Day 393 of my darling wife's deployment. One year, 3 weeks, six days.