Thursday, November 30, 2006

Jon-Erik Loney killed by roadside bomb

OAK RIDGE — The family of Jon-Erik Loney calls him a hero.

They want you to know that he was doing what he wanted to do by serving in Iraq.

But, most importantly, they want you to know that he had an infectious smile and was generous.

"Just a good kid, a very good kid," his mother, Violet Loney, said.

A roadside bomb killed Loney, a 2003 Danville High graduate, in Iraq on Tuesday. He was 21.

"I'm so proud of him," his stepfather, Jim "Bo" Kaylor said. "I talked with him about two weeks ago and he was telling me about some of the IEDs (improvised explosive devices)."

Kaylor and Loney said the U.S. government has not provided them complete details of their son's death.

"They told us he was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday," Kaylor said.

The Associated Press reported that a roadside bomb Tuesday killed an Army soldier and wounded another in Salahuddin province.

Salahuddin, which includes former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, is about 40 miles north of Baghdad.

Loney was the 2,881st soldier killed since the Iraq war began in March 2003. Two more American soldiers died Wednesday.

His parents said Loney knew that he would probably go to Iraq when he enlisted in the Army in February 2005.

He had talked about joining the Navy with a friend after high school, but changed his mind after working almost two years with his stepfather.

"I didn't want him to join the military, but I knew he was going to do it," Violet Loney said.

Loney went to Iraq for the first time Jan. 13. He came home on leave in March, but left going back to Iraq on April 9.

"That was his birthday," Kaylor said.

Loney, who was a specialist in the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, drove a Bradley fighting vehicle.

He had told his parents he wanted to be a gunner. About two weeks before his death, Loney told his stepfather about roadside bombs hitting the Bradleys he was driving.

"He told me he had been in four Bradleys and bombs had destroyed three of them," Kaylor said. "He told me at that time that things were getting worse."

But when Loney last talked with his mother Saturday, he was driving a Humvee.

"He told me nothing was going on and he was bored," Violet Loney said.

Planning Christmas

She said they talked about Christmas.

"I sent him a package every week," she said. "He said he didn't need anything, but he wanted some fishing stuff (for Christmas). He told me to leave it under the tree."

Loney's parents had planned to see their son in February. As sad as they are about his death, they said, Loney was doing what he wanted to do.

"I worried so much, but he always told me 'Mama, this is what I want to do,' " Violet Loney said.

Kaylor said Loney couldn't give them a lot of details about what he was doing. He suspects that he was moving toward Baghdad when he hit the roadside bomb.

"We don't know if it was detonated with a remote control or if he just ran over it," Kaylor said.

Kaylor and Violet Loney were already in bed Tuesday when a chaplain and Army captain arrived to inform them of Loney's death at about 7:30 p.m.

Josh Loney, their youngest son, came to tell them two men dressed in military uniforms were at the door.

"I knew," Kaylor said. "They could have went ahead and left. I knew it was bad news."

On Wednesday, a sergeant from Redstone Arsenal told Loney's parents that their son was wearing full-body armor when he died.

"I was glad to hear that because he told his mother he would wear body armor," Kaylor said. "We offered to send him a bullet-proof vest, but he said he had one. He assured us he would wear it."

The family said the military has told them that it will be about two weeks before Loney's body arrives back in the U.S.

Loney's grandparents, Allen and Linda Kaylor, said they are going to miss their grandson.

"He's one of the best kids I knew. He would break his back to help you," Allen Kaylor said.

The grandfather said Loney enjoyed being in the military and that he and his wife supported him 100 percent.

"The military was the thing he wanted to do," Allen Kaylor said. "He was an all-around great kid. He's going to be dearly missed."

Bo Kaylor and Violet Loney said they remember Loney as the son who was laid back, but always smiled.

"Jon-Erik is a hero," Kaylor said. "He joined the Army and knew he would probably go to Iraq. I was proud of him before he left and I'm proud of him now."

From the Decatur Daily

Troy Gilbert presumed dead in F-16 crash

Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, whose F-16GC Fighting Falcon crashed Monday in Iraq, was described as a husband and father of five who always did what it took to get the mission done.

Four days after the crash, Gilbert, 34, was still officially considered missing, although the Air Force retrieved human remains from the crash site, according to a Central Air Forces statement. The service was waiting on DNA testing to identify the remains.

“Troy was first and foremost a wonderful husband and father,” a statement from his family said. “His Christian faith, personal values, and work ethic guided his personal life and his career as a military officer.

“He was highly respected by and deeply loved by so many. At the time of the tragedy during combat operations, he was unselfishly protecting the lives of other American military members. We, his family, cherish the worldwide prayers and support during this extremely difficult time.”

Gilbert was flying a close-air support mission backing up ground troops in Anbar province, the area of Iraq where many of the country’s Sunni insurgent groups operate, when his jet crashed. Air Force officials haven’t said why the plane crashed, although they said there was no evidence it had been shot down.

Iraqi insurgents claimed a shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missile downed the jet.

Insurgents reached Gilbert before the U.S. military quick-reaction team did. Videotape pictures obtained by Associated Press Television News appear to show the wreckage of the F-16 in the farm field where it crashed and the nearby remains of a U.S. serviceman with a tangled parachute.

At the time of the crash, Gilbert was deployed to the 332nd Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Force Base in Iraq. He had arrived there in September from his assignment at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where he was an instructor pilot and deputy director of operations for the 309th Fighter Squadron.

Gilbert was commissioned in 1994 after earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Texas Tech University. After two tours as a protocol officer, he entered the pilot training program and graduated from the F-16 course in 2001. He served at the 555th Fighter Squadron, Aviano Air Base, Italy, until being assigned to Luke in 2003.

From the Air Force Times

Christopher E. Mason killed in military engagement

Baker High School graduate Chris Mason wasn't afraid of dying in Iraq because of his faith in Jesus Christ and his belief in the importance of helping others, his family said Wednesday.

That's why when his family learned that the soldier had been killed Tuesday by an improvised explosive device in Iraq, "it was sad, but it's not a tragedy," said Garland Mason, Chris Mason's brother.

"He was very passionate about Christ, and because he was so in love with Christ he was able to give his life away for other people," Garland Mason said. "He was OK with the possibility (of death) because he was so satisfied with Jesus Christ. ... Faith was what pushed him to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Knowing that if he died, that death did not steal anything from him; that death gave him more of that which is infinitely good for him, more of Christ."

Chris Mason, 32, was a member of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. He once told his brother over the telephone that "he loved being (in Iraq) and waking up there because it was another day helping those people," Garland Mason said.

"He talked about it a lot. He loved the people, he loved the children that would come out and hold his hand and walk with him. He loved training the Iraqi army. He had a great relationship with the Iraqis."

A longtime Mobilian, Chris Mason didn't always want to be in the Army.

He played football in high school for a couple of years and later donned a hornet costume as Baker High's mascot, his brother said.

After his 1994 graduation, Chris Mason became a professional rodeo clown with the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association, his brother said. When he wasn't on the road as a rodeo clown, Chris Mason taught a commercial drivers license qualification course at Bishop State Community College, his brother said.

The soldier had come home from Iraq for a brief stint in October. He spoke during his homecoming to the Life Church of Mobile, where he talked to his family's congregation about what he and other soldiers were doing in Iraq. His speech was videotaped by the church.

"There's 160,000 American soldiers kicking tail over there, boom! And wherever freedom goes the gospel's soon to come right after," Chris Mason said in the video, posted on WKRG-TV5's Web site.

"But folks, you just got to dig down deep, and when things get tough for you, you got to remember, you're in a war, you're in a battle for your soul, people. You hear me? And it's no joke ... but just know that good things are happening over there, folks, and the men that I fight with are glad to be there, and there's no other place they'd rather be," Chris Mason said in the video.

He didn't have much spare time, but when Chris Mason did, "he loved spending time with his mom and his nephew, and just being with family," Garland Mason said.

Garland Mason said and the family was leaning on their faith to get them through this difficult time.

"Sometimes it feels like you can't breathe, but you cling to the promises of the gospel of Christ," Garland Mason said.

From the Register

Michael A. Schwarz dies from combat wounds

Michael A. Schwarz was a free spirit who knew what was at stake when he joined the Marines right out of high school, and later when he headed to Iraq.

"He just loved his country. He loved the idea of being a soldier and he loved being a Marine," said the Rev. Donald M. Pitches, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Carlstadt, who baptized the borough native some two decades ago.

"He's not one to second-guess himself or express his doubts," Pitches said. "He was ready to do what he was trained to do."

Schwarz, a 20-year-old lance corporal, died Monday from injuries he sustained while conducting combat operations in the Iraqi province of Anbar, the Department of Defense announced yesterday. He had been assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Schwarz was the second service member from the Bergen County community and the 64th with ties to New Jersey killed in Iraq.

"Mike had looked forward to joining the Marines ever since I knew him back in the fifth grade. That was his goal back then," said Schwarz's friend Shawn Tilt, also 20.

Tilt said Schwarz joined the Marines after they graduated from Henry P. Becton Regional High School in East Rutherford in 2004. He said he last saw his friend late last summer when Schwarz was home on a two-week leave.

"We just hung out and did what we always did, tried to have a good time," Tilt said. "Mike was a great guy, had a good personality and was easy to get along with. I don't know anybody who didn't like Mike."

Tilt said he had played hockey with Schwarz in a borough recreation league, but his friend's passion was off-roading in his prized Jeep.

"He loved that Jeep," Tilt said. "That was his pride and joy."

From the Star Ledger

Carlstadt grieves over slain marine

CARLSTADT, N.J. - A small North Jersey town was in grief Tuesday after learning of the death in Iraq of a Marine who was a member of a well-known local family.

Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz, 20, of Carlstadt died Monday from wounds he sustained during combat in Iraq's Anbar province. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune.

"You couldn't go anywhere today without seeing someone visibly upset. The community as a whole will grieve over this," Carlstadt Mayor William Roseman told The Record of Bergen County.

The son and brother of area auto mechanics, Schwarz graduated from Becton Regional High School in 2004.

Along with his brother Frank, Michael Schwarz served in the borough's volunteer fire department. Their father, Kenneth, headed the department for years.

Friends and relatives remembered Michael Schwarz as fun-loving and outgoing. Friends recalled off-road outings in Schwarz's customized Jeep that often ended up with busted parts.

Most of all, there was Schwarz's love of the military and his desire to enlist in the Marines, a wish he expressed even when he was a young child.

"He always wanted to be a soldier," said Chris Assenheimer, a cousin of Schwarz's father.

Schwarz approached going to Iraq with nervous excitement, his friends said. Only a few weeks before, they said, Schwarz had a near miss when a sniper's bullet grazed his helmet.

On Monday, he wasn't as lucky.

"It's hard to believe," said Dana Rawinski, 20, one of Schwarz's best friends.

Rawinski said she had worn a Marines shirt or sweat shirt almost every day since Schwarz went to Iraq.

"I'm waiting for him to come home and laugh at us," Rawinski said.

From the Intelligencer

Jeannette T. Dunn dies from non-combat related injury

An Army sergeant from the Bronx died in Iraq last weekend of non-combat related injuries, the Department of Defense said yesterday.

Sgt. Jeannette T. Dunn, 44, died Sunday while serving in Taji, Iraq.

The circumstances of Dunn's death were not immediately clear. Calls placed to the Army were not returned last night.

Dunn, who was assigned to the 15th Sustainment Brigade, First Calvary Division from Fort Hood, Texas, is the 2,881st soldier to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to Department of Defense statistics.

From Newsday

Schuyler Haynes laid to rest

MENANDS -- With a full military burial, Army Sgt. 1st Class Schuyler B. Haynes, a direct descendant of Philip Schuyler, the Revolutionary War general and New York state landowner, took his place today in the Albany Rural Cemetery.

Now his grave is surrounded by those of the members of his historical lineage.

Haynes, 40, was killed Nov. 15 by a roadside bomb that exploded near his Humvee in Baquba, Iraq, where he was a platoon leader in the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division.

The burial service began at about 1 p.m., when the procession arrived from New York City. The funeral had taken place a day earlier at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.

More than 20 members of the Patriot Guard Riders roared through the winding roads of the cemetery on their motorcycles at the head of the procession.

At the burial site, the riders stood at the top of a hill, holding American flags. Members of the Army and color guard stood at attention and six officers acted as pallbearers of Haynes' silver casket.

A light rain began to fall as mourners gathered for the ceremony, but it subsided as Chaplain Lt. Col. Lee Hardgrove read a couple of poems.

Haynes, who was born in New York City, was buried in the plot of 19th-century Albany mayor John Townsend, a Schuyler descendant.

He had been in the Army for 17 years. During that time, he had worked at jobs such as machine gunner, infantry scout and platoon sergeant. He had received several awards, including the Purple Heart, the Iraqi Campaign Medal and the Humanitarian Service Ribbon.

"He was very patriotic, someone with a tremendous value system,'' said his mother, Sophy Haynes of Manhattan. "He was a big fellow, but everyone described him as gentle.''

The parents and sister of Sgt. Vince Foster, who was in the cavalry with Haynes when he was killed, came from Iowa and Missouri to represent him.

"They shared an apartment together in Fort Hood,'' said Robert Foster. "He said Schuyler was his best friend.''

Killed in the blast with Haynes was Spc. Mitchel T. Mutz, 23, of Falls City, Texas.

Born in 1733, Philip Schuyler was a fourth-generation descent of Dutch immigrants who came to what is now New York and began taking control of much of the land surrounding the Hudson River.

He bought many plots in the Albany area and built the Schuyler Mansion on Catherine Street, which is named after his wife. It is now a state historic site.

Schuyler served as a lieutenant in the French and Indian war and as one of four major generals under George Washington in the American Revolution.

From the Times Union

Tears for a hero

As a lone piper led the body of Sgt. Schuyler Haynes into the streets of Manhattan yesterday, part of the upper East Side fell silent.
Traffic stood still as an honor guard carried the soldier's flag-draped coffins from Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church and passersby bowed their heads in respect.

"We so often look at movie stars as heroes," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Todd Semonite said at Haynes' funeral service.

"In the military, it is men like Sgt. Schuyler Haynes we consider real heroes."

Haynes, 40, died two weeks ago yesterday, blown up by a roadside bomb as he led a patrol through Baquba, Iraq.

The 17-year Army veteran, who grew up on the upper West Side, had been on his second tour in the country. "Whether you were a family member, a friend or a child in a rural Iraqi community ... you are better people," Jimmy Campbell, a soldier who served in Haynes' platoon, told a congregation of hundreds.

"He left us better people."

Haynes, who was named after an ancestor who served as a Revolutionary War general, had always wanted to be a soldier, family members said. "His sister remembered when he was 10 years old, there had been snow and a fight was on," said the Rev. Fred Anderson, who presided over the service. "She was hit in the head by a snowball and she ran inside. He was outraged. 'A soldier does not leave his post.'"

School friend Duer Meehan said little was more important to Haynes than serving his country.

"When he joined the Army, I thought after three to four years he would look to move on," he said. "But, when he kept reenlisting, I realized he had found something he really loved."

Haynes was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. They were given to his parents, Sophy and Robert, at the service.

He was to be buried in a family plot in Albany today.

On Nov. 14, a day before Haynes, another New York City soldier died in Iraq after a Humvee he was riding in was blown up by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. A funeral service for Army Spec. Justin Garcia, 26, of Elmhurst, Queens, was held last week in Congers, Rockland County.

From the Daily News

Flags, bagpipes at services

NEW YORK -- Flags waved, a bagpipe wailed "Amazing Grace" and eulogies of courage and comradeship flowed forth in a church on Wednesday for Army Sgt. 1st Class Schuyler B. Haynes, a descendant of a famous Revolutionary War general, who was killed in Iraq two weeks ago.

While no one could explain it exactly, it was clear from the words that Haynes, a 40-year-old college graduate and the quintessence of old New York family, had chosen to be a career noncommissioned officer, staying close to his soldiers, sharing and suffering everything with them on a daily basis.

"He was a loyal friend and courageous leader, equally at home with any soldier, NCO or officer," said Jimmy Campbell, who served with Haynes in Iraq. "He brought out the best in his subordinates and superiors and was absolutely incapable of shirking even the most meaningless duties."

Haynes "just wanted to be where the action was," his father, Robert Haynes, said outside the midtown Manhattan church, where police held honking motorists and buses at bay while pallbearers in Army dress blues carried the flag-covered coffin in a tightly choreographed ritual.

More than 300 mourners, including dozens of family members, nearly filled the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.

The pastor, the Rev. Fred Anderson, quoted Schuyler Haynes' sister, Sophy Townsend Haynes, as saying he was "a perfect big brother," even though he made her play "war games," and was at heart a peacemaker.

"A professional soldier is first and foremost a man of peace," Anderson said.

With 17 years of service, Schuyler Haynes was on his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed Nov. 15 by a roadside bomb that exploded near his Humvee in Baquba, where he was a platoon leader in the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division. Also killed in the blast was Spc. Mitchel T. Mutz, 23, of Falls City, Texas.

The elder Haynes said his son was directly descended from Philip Schuyler, a wealthy 18th-century landowner and patriot who served in the British colonial forces and later as one of four major generals in George Washington's Continental Army. Philip Schuyler, who also served twice in the U.S. Senate, fathered a son and four daughters, one of whom became the wife of Alexander Hamilton.

Over two centuries the Schuyler clan was linked through marriage or politics to several other historically prominent New York families _ the Van Cortlandts, Colfaxes, Van Rensselaers and Livingstons. At one time, the Schuylers and the latter two families "owned all the land on both sides of the Hudson from Albany to Tarrytown," Robert Haynes said.

On Wednesday, two dozen members of the Patriot Guard, an ad hoc organization of bikers, most of them military veterans, provided a motorcycle escort and stood at attention with flags in the street as the ceremony began and ended.

Earlier, the deceased's 78-year-old mother, Sophy Haynes, had left the funeral home to shake hands with the Patriot Guard members waiting to escort her son's hearse 11 blocks to the church.

The group was founded two years ago to block anti-war protesters from trying to disrupt military funerals, but with some 50,000 members nationwide it has evolved into a more or less permanent fixture at such events.

"Now it is more like an honor guard paying tribute to the soldiers," said Vietnam veteran Chris Di Costanza, of Thornwood, N.Y.

Brian Sharp, a former Navy diver from the Bronx, said he had traveled 20,000 miles to be present at 36 military funerals in the past year.

No protesters were visible on Wednesday, and only a few pedestrians stood across the street to watch the proceedings.

Duer Meehan, a boyhood friend of Schuyler Haynes, said he had been "proud to be serving a country that allows other people to express their opinions."

During the funeral, Brig. Gen. Todd Semonite, commander of the Fort Hamilton Military Community in Brooklyn, gave Haynes' parents two medals that he had earned, a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with V for valor.

Haynes was one of two New York state soldiers killed over a two-day period. The day before, Spc. Justin R. Garcia, 26, of New York City, died in the blast of a roadside bomb in Baghdad. He was on his first duty tour in Iraq.

Haynes was to be buried on Thursday at the Albany Rural Cemetery in Menand, N.Y., close to the grave of his namesake, Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler, who died in 1804.

From Newsday

Related Link:
Schuyler B. Haynes killed by I.E.D.

James Ryan Dennison laid to rest

Hundreds of mourners filed out of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Frederick Wednesday morning following the funeral for Capt. John ‘‘Ryan” Dennison of Ijamsville.

The melody of a traditional Catholic song ‘‘How Great Thou Art” wafted from the church’s interior as dozens members of Patriotic Guard Riders, donning black leather bike wear, lined Church Street holding American flags to salute the procession.

With few words, Dennison’s family and friends consoled each other, wiping tears and hugging, as Dennison’s flag-draped casket was placed into a hearse. The procession was scheduled to trek to Arlington National Cemetery for an 11:30 a.m. ceremony.

Dennison, 24, a paratrooper who grew up in Ijamsville, died Nov. 15 after a small arms fire outbreak near Kirkush, Iraq, with his Fort Bragg, N.C., unit — the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

A 2000 graduate of Urbana High, Dennison participated on the school’s wrestling and football teams. He graduated from West Point in May, and was immediately commissioned as a second lieutenant, according to a press release from the 82nd Airborne Division.

‘‘Capt. Dennison was a superb young officer and warrior,” Dennison’s brigade combat team commander, Col. Bryan Owens, said in a press release. ‘‘He led from the front in all that he did.”

Dennison’s family requested that media not attend the services on Wednesday.

‘‘Ryan served our family and his country with tremendous honor and courage, and it is our goal to spend this time honoring him appropriately,” said his mother, Shannon Dennison, in the release. ‘‘We wish to thank all of our friends and family for their steadfast support and love as we cope with this tragic loss.”

Dennison was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. He also received the Army Service Ribbon, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Ranger Tab and Parachutist’s Badge, according to the 82nd Airborne Division.

Dennison’s friend of 17 years, Jonathan Sanderson of Monrovia, recently recalled Dennison, whom he met in Cub Scouts, as a leader and an adventuresome go-getter who was more curious about other’s lives than talking about his own.

‘‘He couldn’t be sitting around watching TV,” Sanderson said. ‘‘We were always out doing something. ... He didn’t fear anything in life.”

Dennison is survived by his parents, sister Colleen Dennison, 23, brother Chris Dennison, 24, and wife 1st Lt. Haley Dennison, a soldier who was stationed in Afghanistan.

From the Gazette

Related Link:
John Ryan Dennison remembered

Related Link:
John Ryan Dennison killed in combat

James Musack laid to rest

RIVERSIDE, IA - About 300 people attended the funeral service of Army Sgt. James Musack today and remembered him as a loving family member and friend, as a hulk of a man and leader of soldiers.

A continual theme during the 14 eulogies of the 23-year-old Riverside soldier, who was killed last week in Iraq, was that many considered him like a son or brother.

"James, he was the little brother I never had," said Mike Poch, 23, of Riverside, who called Musack one of his best friends.

"He was the guy --" Poch said, pausing as he became emotional, "-- he was the guy I got to give advice to."

Musack died from injuries suffered in a non-combat-related incident Nov. 21 in Samarra, located about 80 miles north of Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense. No other details of his death have been made public except that it is being investigated.

He was awarded today the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious achievement and the Army Good Conduct Medal for exemplary behavior, which were presented to his mother, Yvette Eastom of Glenpool, Okla.

Musack's tour, which was his second of Iraq, was scheduled to end today, his family said. Instead, his family and friends gathered for funeral services at Highland High School, where he graduated in 2002.

Musack was buried on a windswept hilltop at Riverside Public Cemetery, about 15 miles south of Iowa City, with full military rites.

At Highland High, the school's flag flew at half-staff, and 22 members of the Patriot Guard Riders -- a group of veterans and motorcycle riders who provide escorts during military funerals -- lined the sidewalk leading into the school holding American flags on a bitterly cold morning.

Musack's body lay in an open casket at the rear of the gymnasium prior to the service, a burnt-orange Texas Longhorns baseball hat and a framed photograph of him in uniform near his head. Musack was stationed out of Fort Hood, Texas, with the 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

The casket was closed and escorted to the front of the gym, with an American flag draped across its top, as the service began.

A collection of photographs showed Musack in a variety of lights: as a member of the Highland football team, fishing, in the Army, kissing a girl, his mouth comically stuffed with food at a restaurant.

"He talked me into a lot of goofy stuff," said his brother, Reggie Grandstaff, 21, of Coralville.

During the 80-minute service, Musack also was remembered for his size -- he stood about 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 250 pounds - as well as his caring nature and for being a strong leader.

Mike Poch's father, Riverside Mayor Bill Poch, who thought of Musack as another son, said he asked Musack before his second tour of Iraq why he would go back.

"He straight out said, 'Because I want to go back to be with my men. I want to go back to be with my soldiers,"' Poch said. "He was in a leadership role."

Musack's fiancee, Melissa Martin of Tulsa, Okla., said she last spoke with him about two weeks ago and he made her make a promise.

"That promise was if he did not come home, we would all keep doing what we were doing," she said.

From the Gazette

Related Link:
James Musack reported shot in 'non-hostile incident'

Joshua Burrows remembered

A mourning garland on the door at Notini's Restaurant in Bossier City on Wednesday symbolized the sadness of local families who have lost a son and grandson in the War on Terror.

The black crepe contrasted with the traffic that flowed along busy Airline Drive near East Texas Street, a flow that surged oblivious to the sorrow of the loss of a 20-year-old who also was a husband, father and brother.

"It's been weeks since I last spoke to Josh, and the last phone conversation I had with him .... well, the phone cut me off," his wife of less than a year, Victoria Kolniak Burrows, said Wednesday. "I didn't get to say 'Goodbye' or 'I love you.'"

U.S. Army Pvt. Joshua Cain Burrows was in Iraq when she spoke with him, and had barely arrived there. He was just a little over a month into his tour Sunday when he and several other soldiers were killed.

Only two of the soldiers with Burrows have been identified by the military.

They are Capt. Jason R. Hamill, 31, of New Haven, Conn., and 1st Lt. David M. Fraser, 25, whose hometown in Texas was not specified. Hamill and Fraser were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, and like Burrows were deployed out of Fort Hood.

Stan Kolniak, Victoria Burrows' grandfather and well-known Bossier City restaurateur — his family opened Notini's in 1978 — said the family hopes to learn more about the nature of the incident that claimed the young soldier's life.

For one thing, he said, Burrows was trained in heavy equipment use.

"He didn't plan on going to college, and was very mechanically minded," said Kolniak, a World War II veteran of Navy submarine service. "He trained for a year and went to school for heavy equipment, operating cranes and that type of stuff. I can't imagine him being in a Humvee, unless he was picking up some equipment for their unit."

Burrows and his wife met about two years ago, in traffic.

"We met at a red light," she said. "I was yelling out the window."

No, they weren't in a collision. And they attended different high schools.

He was going to Bossier High School, and she was at Benton High.

But something between them connected, and "we watched a movie and hung out," she said.

They married last year and have a 6-month-old son, Landon Ray Burrows, who she said was the focus of her husband's life when they were together.

"When he was younger he liked being outdoors," she said. "Now, he just enjoyed spending time with me and with his son ... that was about it."

Stanley Kolniak is active in veterans causes and is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars 12th District Honor Guard, and said he's asked the unit to take part in services that are now being planned for the young soldier.

"I'm not too sure what the Army will provide," Kolniak said. "But we can come up with 20 to 22 people."

From the Shreveport Times

Related Link:
Joshua C. Burrows killed by I.E.D.

Jason Hamill remembered

Salem — Capt. Jason Hamill e-mailed his mother from Iraq on Jan. 17.

The Army officer had been in the country nearly two months and told his mother, Sharon, that he couldn't provide specifics about his job. But his mission involved clearing routes and trying to catch the AIF members, or Anti-Iraqi Force members, who planted explosives.

“The hard part,” he wrote, “is finding the bombs.”

Sharon Hamill paused while reading the e-mail aloud from a laptop computer at her kitchen table Tuesday afternoon.

“Well, he didn't find one,” she said, then continued to read.

Hamill, 31, was killed Sunday when a roadside bomb detonated near the vehicle in which he was riding. The explosion, which happened about 9 a.m. Baghdad time, also killed two other soldiers.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Tuesday ordered all U.S. and state flags in Connecticut to be lowered to half staff to honor Hamill. Flags will remain at half staff until Hamill is interred.

Hamill was a 1993 graduate of East Lyme High School and grew up in Salem, where his parents, Richard and Sharon, still live. He was one in a set of triplets including a brother, Jeffrey, and a sister, Stephanie. Tonya is an older sister.

A captain in the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas, Hamill was a company commander in charge of about 70 soldiers.

The unit was deployed to Iraq in early December 2005 and was scheduled to return home any day when Hamill and the others were killed. A spokesman at Fort Hood said Tuesday that members of the 4th Brigade have been arriving home daily, and that about 60 percent of the division has returned. He said the entire division will be home by Christmas.

Hamill's body arrived on Tuesday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where it will remain until funeral arrangements are complete. Richard Hamill said his son once said that, if killed in battle, he wanted to be buried with full military honors.

“That's the kind of path we're talking ( about ),” he said.


Jason Hamill's enthusiasm for his new house in Texas was irrepressible. He built a stone patio and showed a flair for landscaping.

“He put in a palm tree,” said his sister, Stephanie. She laughed and shrugged. “In Texas.”

“He used to call me all the time and rave. 'My flowers are doing great, my roses are doing great,' ” Sharon Hamill, said.

“He was concerned, going to Iraq, who was going to take care of it,” Richard Hamill said.

A life of active duty meant Jason had lived in Europe and Kosovo before landing in Texas, where he met his wife, Karen, who was introduced to him by Jason's aunt, Beth Lynn, and where he bought the house.

“Texas was his first home,” brother Jeffrey Hamill said by phone Tuesday.

In January 2005, the Hamill family traveled to Texas for the triplets' 30th birthday. The pack included Richard and Sharon, spouses and kids, Aunt Beth in Texas and Aunt Mary from Chicago, plus two high school friends who went along to surprise Jason.

“People slept on floors, on top of each other,” Sharon Hamill said. “We were smart and got a hotel room.”

The family had planned a similar party for this January. Jason and Karen already had their plane tickets to fly to Connecticut, Richard Hamill said Tuesday.


Jason Hamill's military career began, in part, when he joined the ROTC program while attending the University of Connecticut. He started out studying engineering but ultimately graduated with a degree in economics, his family said.

He accepted his commission upon college graduation in January 1998. That same day, he gave his father a silver dollar, part of an Army tradition of which Richard Hamill, a retired Navy man, was unaware.

“I was enlisted, and officers used to pay enlisted men to shine their shoes,” Richard Hamill said, joking. “... So maybe he wanted me to shine his shoes.”

In reality, said Lt. Col. John Whitford, a spokesman for the Connecticut National Guard, tradition calls for the first person to salute the newly commissioned officer to be “coined.”

Jeffrey Hamill said his brother became more outgoing after joining the Army and that he tried to take advantage of the travel that came with active duty. Jeffrey said he spent a week in Germany when Jason was stationed there.

“That was fun,” he said. “I mean, the two of us just went around doing stupid things. We didn't even know what we were going to do, so we'd be like, 'Let's drive to Heidelberg and see what's up there.' ... We ended up touring the castle and just finding stupid things to do and meeting people.”

Jason Hamill was the same way in high school, said a good friend, Jon Stadler.

“We both liked to be adventurous, have a little fun, cause a little trouble,” said Stadler, of East Lyme, who met Hamill at East Lyme High School when he was a sophomore and Hamill was a freshman.

Stadler, one of the first friends the Hamill family mentions, said he wasn't sure whether he could be considered Hamill's best friend.

“I think Jason had a lot of close friends,” he said. “He was a special person in that way. He would always make everyone feel they were very important to him.

“If you ever needed him, he was the first guy there, without question. I shared that relationship with him as well as a couple of other buddies. I don't know if he had one best friend in particular.”


Richard Hamill said he doesn't want to make political statements about the war.

“(Jason) believed very strongly that what he was doing made a difference,” he said, adding that his son reported to his family that what he saw on the news and what he saw in person were often two different things. “So he saw a disconnect between the media and what was actually occurring.”

Jeffrey Hamill said Tuesday that he and his brother disagreed about the war, which Jeffrey said he had roundly opposed from the start.

“That's another hard part for me,” Jeffrey said. “I feel like I lost my brother to a lost cause.”

Sharon Hamill wears a green camouflage wristband bearing the unit's nickname: “Armor Hounds of Hell.” She's worn it since about May, when Jason's wife sent batches of them to friends and family, part of a fund-raising effort for the unit.

It dangled around Sharon Hamill's wrist on Tuesday, and she would snap it from time to time. She trolled through photos, on the computer, of Jason at his wedding, of familiar Web sites, of old e-mails.

The Hamill family wanted to talk about Jason, they said Tuesday, to honor his memory.

“I think it would be important (to him),” Stephanie Hamill said, “(to let people know) that he believed in what he was doing.”

From the Day

Related Link:
Jason R. Hamill killed by I.E.D.

Nicholas Rapavi remembered

Marine Cpl. Nicholas Rapavi often told his parents that while the mission in Iraq was important, his top concern was bringing the members of his squad home unharmed.

While on patrol Friday, Rapavi kept his squad back while putting himself in harm's way by going first through a gate in a situation he thought looked suspicious. He was shot in the neck, his father, Paul Rapavi, said yesterday.

"He felt like these guys depended on him and it was his responsibility to make sure they were OK," Paul Rapavi said. "He lost one of the members of his squad in September and he was devastated by that because these people were his brothers."

Nicholas Rapavi, 22, of Springfield, became the 101st Virginian to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. According to the Department of Defense, he was fatally injured while conducting combat operations in Iraq's Anbar province.

Paul Rapavi said his son had served in Afghanistan and once before in Iraq. He advanced in the ranks to become a corporal and led a squad of as many as 12 Marines. Nicholas had planned to leave the Marines at the end of his four-year term in May and go to college and possibly re-enlist later, his father said.

Although not from a military family, Nicholas had wanted to be in the Marines since he was in high school.

"Early on, he was an avid baseball player, but when he went to high school, everything was secondary to the Marines," said Paul Rapavi, who is a dentist. He said Nicholas did everything he could to prepare himself -- joined the Army ROTC, lifted weights, did pushups, always strove to improve.

He had two younger brothers -- Jonathan, 20, and Christopher, 18 -- to whom he was very close, his father said.

"It's been especially tough for the 20-year old," Paul Rapavi said. "All his friends think of Nicholas as the true American hero. When he joined, they were saying, 'Osama bin Laden's in trouble now.' Nobody's going to get away from Nick."

Paul Rapavi described his son as outgoing with lots of friends, a natural leader. "He was a tough guy but treated people fairly. You didn't cross his brothers, but as soon as he straightened you out, he could be your friend."

Besides his father and brothers, Nicholas Rapavi is survived by his mother, Cathy Rapavi-Burnley.

Plans for a funeral service are incomplete, but his family hopes he will be able to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, his father said.

Nicholas Rapavi was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

From the Times Dispatch

Marine, Killed in Iraq, Is Recalled for Selflessness

Nicholas Rapavi grew up in Northern Virginia, and according to his high school principal, "to say Nick was a great kid was an understatement."

He had wanted to be a Marine "since before high school," his mother said last night. He had realized his ambition and was "proud to serve his country," she said.

On Friday, Cpl. Nicholas P. Rapavi, 22, who was raised in the Springfield area of Fairfax County and was on his third overseas deployment, died of wounds suffered in combat in the Anbar province of Iraq. The Pentagon announced the death yesterday.

"We are all very proud of him," his mother, Cathy Rapavi-Burnley, said last night from her home in the Newington Forest neighborhood. She said he was "a true American hero we were blessed to have as our son, brother and friend."

He was "probably the most unselfish person you could imagine" -- caring, helpful and concerned not about himself but about the welfare of his Marine squad, she said.

She said she had been told that when he and his men approached a gate last week while on patrol, something about it seemed suspicious. Rapavi had his squad "stay back while he went through," she said.

He was shot through the neck, she said, and died surrounded by his Marine brothers.

Jan McKee, principal of Bryant Alternative High School in the Alexandria area of Fairfax, recalled him as "full of life."

At one point in his teenage years, Nick "wasn't thrilled about school," his mother said. But after the transfer to Bryant, McKee said, "he settled in and did fine."

He graduated in 2003 and enlisted immediately in the Marines, his mother said. His first deployment took him into combat in Afghanistan, where he survived an ambush and won a Navy Achievement Medal, his mother said. He also held many other medals.

A second overseas deployment included missions in Africa and Iraq. The most recent deployment began at the end of July, his mother said.

Rapavi was in the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

In the Marines, his mother said, his goal was "to be the best of the best." After his enlistment was completed, she said, he hoped to start college.

Family also was important to him, she said.

Three years ago, while on leave, he and his younger brother Christopher entered a five-kilometer Halloween race in Arlington with their father, Paul, who is a dentist and avid runner.

Nick Rapavi wasn't a competitive runner, but he entered to spend time with the family, his mother said.

The father came in first. Christopher, then 15, and Nick finished well back, but together. They were listed in 72nd and 73rd place, respectively, one second apart.

Other survivors include a brother, Jonathan, and all four grandparents.

On a recent leave, Rapavi returned to Bryant "and saw all of us," the principal said. "It meant a lot to all of us."

From the Washington Post

Related Link:
Nicholas P. Rapavi slain by sniper on third tour of duty

Analysis: Experts question proposals in leaked Iraq memo

WASHINGTON - It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to implement most of the key ideas for quelling the Iraqi civil war that are outlined in a classified Nov. 8 memo to President Bush from National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, experts said Wednesday.

Trying to push anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr out of the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as the memo suggests, would be throwing gasoline on a fire, they said.

Sadr's party is the largest in parliament, with 32 seats, and Maliki became prime minister only with his support. Sadr's Mahdi Army militia controls large parts of Baghdad and southern Iraq, and many Iraqi Shiites hail him as their only protection from attacks by rival Sunni Muslims, which American and Iraqi forces have failed to stop.

"Sadr is aware of the considerable extent to which his forces ... constitute a significant part of the power in the streets, and there is no reason why he would simply want to surrender that leverage," said Paul Pillar, the former top U.S. intelligence analyst on the Middle East.

In what appeared to be a warning from Sadr to Maliki, Sadr followers suspended their participation in the government and parliament to protest Maliki's plan to meet Bush on Wednesday in Jordan. Within an hour of the

Read the rest at the San Jose Mercury News

Analysis: Death Squads and Fear Rule Iraq

Nov. 30, 2006 — Regardless of statements made by the leaders of Iraq and the United States during their meeting in Jordan, Iraq remains a country crippled by unabated violence.

Iraq remains on the brink of all-out civil war. Its people are terrorized by car bombs set by Sunni insurgents, and by the Shiite death squads attached to the political parties in the so-called National Unity Government.

You need only to talk to ordinary Iraqis on the street and they will tell you about their fear of being blown up by a car bomb, or of being a target of sectarian militiamen who kidnap and kill with impunity

"They are out of control," said Mohammad Adnan, a money changer. "The proof is in the number of killings you see every day."

Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki made a number of assertions after his short summit meeting with President Bush that sounded more like wishful thinking than an objective statement of fact.

Maliki told ABC News' Charles Gibson, the anchor of "World News Tonight," that his government "is disarming all the militias."

He also told a news conference in Baghdad that Iraq's armed forces were hunting terrorists and killing a large number of them.

"We have a short-term strategy, which will enable us to receive gradual control of the security situation so a disaster is avoided," he said.

He also suggested that Iraqis were one big family.

"We are all brothers," Maliki said. "There is no difference between Shiites and Sunni Arabs, Kurds or Christians."

Sadly there is no evidence that militias are being disarmed.

On the contrary, the largest, most powerful among them, the Shiite Mahdi Army, now has at least 40,000 men, possibly even as many as 60,000, according to some estimates.

These numbers make it the largest single military force in Iraq, second only to the U.S. Army.

It's about four times the total number of combat-ready brigades in the Iraqi army.

Read the rest at ABC News

Perspective: Slaughter in the mosque -- a new terror for Iraqis

Hassan Mahmoud has the build of a bouncer. But as he sits on a couch and talks about Iraq’s secret religious prisons his broad frame shakes, he clutches himself and weeps.

“It hurts me when I remember what happened,” he says, recalling his brush with death inside a Shia prayer room where he witnessed the beheading of a fellow kidnap victim.

In the war for Baghdad, mosques serve as garrisons. Sunnis use religious sanctuaries as strongholds to fight for mixed neighbourhoods. Shia extremists convert their mosques and prayer rooms, called husseiniyas, into execution chambers.

As Iraq falls apart, people like Mahmoud are now terrified by Baghdad’s places of worship, which they regard as potential gulags and gallows in the Sunni-Shia war.

In a quiet voice he tells of an ordeal many have suffered but very few have survived. In late August he was waiting for a lift home after registering for a training course at a technical college in southeast Baghdad. His decision to take a minibus would prove disastrous. Before it had gone 50 metres two men and a woman pulled out rifles and ordered Mahmoud and three other male passengers to put their heads down.

Soon he had been whisked into Iraq’s fundamentalist netherworld. The next 24 hours in a Shia husseiniya brought him deep into the world of militiamen — where executions are carried out on a whim and ransom money is extorted from victims’ families.

He remembers how he and his companions were dumped from the minivan and dragged into separate corners of a brick room where three guards shouted at them to keep their heads down and took their phones and money. There they waited for the sayed — the Shia prayer leader.

The sayed wore a black turban and cloak — the mark of a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad — and had a pistol tucked by his side. He asked each man where he was from. The first answered Amariyah — a Sunni enclave that Shia extremists believe is a terrorist den. Mahmoud’s stomach sank.

Mahmoud realised that if they knew he was a Sunni he would die. “I’m from the Mussawis in al-Amal,” he lied, giving the name of a Shia tribe. The sayed warned him they would see if his story added up.

The final two captives were also questioned. Before leaving the sayed asked each one to identify his mobile and give the name of a relative to ring.

First they came back for the man from Amariyah. Then it was Mahmoud’s turn. They put a gun to his head as they pulled his body and dumped him in another room. He could hear the sayed’s voice above him.

The sayed demanded to know more about his family and where they lived. He mentioned an acquaintance from college who had joined the Mahdi Army and was killed recently. One of the sayed’s men whispered in his boss’s ear. “We have our own intelligence. I was there the day of his funeral, tell me about it,” the henchman said.

Mahmoud knew the right answer.

Read the rest at the Times of London

Analysis: Iraq's oil industry in grip of despair

LONDON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The present state of Iraq's collapsing oil sector, its economic lifeline, is bleak and its future looks far worse, despairing officials say.

Another damaging oil attack this week, the prospect of British troops handing over the oil city of Basra and virtual civil war have all but crushed hope for Iraqi officials battling to keep exports flowing to world markets.

"One thing is sure. The worst is yet to come," an Iraqi oil industry source said by telephone from Baghdad.

His task is made harder still by gross mismanagement at the oil ministry and chronic underinvestment in the vital sector -- already neglected for decades due to sanctions and wars.

"There is no line of authority at the oil ministry," said an oil official in the capital. "We are crippled. We have the resources and the finances and we are still failing."

With Baghdad in chaos, technocrats fear the oil producing regions in the Shi'ite south and in the north near Kurdistan may seize control of exports and effectively dismember the country that holds the world's third biggest oil reserves.

"Our country may be dismantled -- farewell to central government," the oil source said. "This is the danger."

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

Opinion (Robert Sheer): Learning to live with the ayatollahs

HOW IN THE WORLD did George W. Bush manage to turn Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the "Supreme Leader" of "Axis of Evil" Iran, into a prophet of peace in the Middle East?

That is the disturbing question that must be asked after Iraq's president journeyed this week to plead for support from what was previously described by the White House as one of the world's most menacing rogue regimes.

The White House is desperately twisting itself into knots to find a way out of an Iraq debacle sure to top the political agenda in the '08 presidential election. Having idiotically dug ourselves a terribly deep hole in Iraq -- remember when protesters against the war were mocked for using the word "quagmire"? -- Bush is now forced to beg Syria and Iran to throw us a rope.

As the Bush-appointed and James Baker-led Iraq Study Group has telegraphed, the cooperation of these two pariah states is essential to an effective exit strategy. In reality, this is not so much a change in policy as it is an acknowledgement of a truth-on-the-ground that has been clear since the invasion 44 months ago: Our sworn enemies were the biggest beneficiaries of our overthrow of Iraq's secular dictatorship.

We should call this the Boomerang War. Bush threw it, but it keeps coming back and hitting us all on the head.

A defanged secular dictatorship has been replaced with the anarchy of a deadly civil war between competing bands of religious fanatics. The most likely model now is Iranian-style theocracy as the majority Shiite population has turned to political parties and armed militias groomed, trained and nurtured by the fundamentalist ayatollahs across the Iranian border.

Read the rest at the San Francisco Chronicle

Analysis: U.S. can do little to stop civil war in Iraq, experts say

WASHINGTON - This is supposed to be a pivotal week for the U.S. venture in Iraq: President Bush is to meet Thursday in Jordan with Iraq's prime minister, and the blue-ribbon Iraq Study Group has begun debating its final recommendations to the White House.

But does any of it matter?

Not really, according to a growing number of Middle East analysts, who say that Iraq's cascading civil war has spun out of Washington's control.

If Iraq is to hold together and avoid an all-out bloodbath, they say, it will be because the country's warring factions step back from the brink and forge some sort of political compromise. That seems like a pipe dream after a weekend of the worst violence for Iraqi civilians since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The United States has 140,000 troops in Iraq and is spending roughly $2 billion per week on military operations, "but all of that effort doesn't really matter," said Andrew Bacevich, a Boston University professor and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"We're not in control any longer," Bacevich said.

"There is a growing sense that both sides are attempting to move toward a civil war - they want to have a civil war - to bring closure to who will have power in Iraq," said a retired senior military officer who requested anonymity, referring to Iraq's Shiite and Sunni Muslims. "This is all about power."

Read the rest at the San Jose Mercury News

Opinion: Iraq panel's real agenda -- damage control

BOSTON – Even as Washington waits with bated breath for the Iraq Study Group (ISG) to release its findings, the rest of us should see this gambit for what it is: an attempt to deflect attention from the larger questions raised by America's failure in Iraq and to shore up the authority of the foreign policy establishment that steered the United States into this quagmire. This ostentatiously bipartisan panel of Wise Men (and one woman) can't really be searching for truth. It is engaged in damage control.

Their purpose is twofold: first, to minimize Iraq's impact on the prevailing foreign policy consensus with its vast ambitions and penchant for armed intervention abroad; and second, to quell any inclination of ordinary citizens to intrude into matters from which they have long been excluded. The ISG is antidemocratic. Its implicit message to Americans is this: We'll handle things - now go back to holiday shopping.

The group's composition gives the game away. Chaired by James Baker, the famed political operative and former secretary of state, and Lee Hamilton, former congressman and fixture on various blue-ribbon commissions, it contains no one who could be even remotely described as entertaining unorthodox opinions or maverick tendencies.

Instead, it consists of Beltway luminaries such as retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and lobbyist Vernon Jordan. No member is now an elected official. Neither do its ranks include any Iraq war veterans, family members of soldiers killed in Iraq, or anyone identified with the antiwar movement. None possesses specialized knowledge of Islam or the Middle East.

Charging this crowd with assessing the Iraq war is like convening a committee of Roman Catholic bishops to investigate the church's clergy sex-abuse scandal. Even without explicit instructions, the group's members know which questions not to ask and which remedies not to advance. Sadly, the average Catholic's traditional deference to the church hierarchy finds its counterpart in the average American's deference to "experts" when it comes to foreign policy. The ISG exemplifies the result: a befuddled, but essentially passive-electorate looks for guidance to a small group of unelected insiders reflecting a narrow range of views and operating largely behind closed doors.

Read the rest at the Christian Science Monitor

Perspective: Immigrants use military service as path to citizenship

Servicemembers recite the oath of citizenship at Al Faw Palace at Camp Victory, Iraq

They come from Mexico, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Colombia, Cambodia and a hundred other countries across the globe to find the promise of America. Increasingly they enlist to fight, and sometimes die, in America's wars.

About 69,300 foreign-born men and women serve in the U.S. armed forces, roughly 5 percent of the total active-duty force, according to the most recent data. Of those, 43 percent – 29,800 – are not U.S. citizens. The Pentagon says more than 100 immigrant soldiers have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush and Congress, citing long-established wartime powers, streamlined the process by which immigrants in the armed forces could become naturalized citizens.

As of October, more than 25,000 immigrant soldiers had become U.S. citizens as a result. Another 40,000 are believed eligible to apply. And roughly a third of noncitizens in the all-volunteer military come from Mexico and Central America.

"Latinos are very patriotic and see military service as a way to show their appreciation to America and to prove they can be 'real Americans,' " said Dr. Jorge Mariscal, director of Chicano Studies at the University of California at San Diego.

But he questions the attention that military recruiters give Latino immigrant neighborhoods.

"The efforts of recruiters tends to undermine community efforts to get these kids better civilian educational opportunities and pushes them into low-echelon enlisted positions with a higher risk of seeing combat," he said. "Until the playing field is level, we're only going to create a class of combat soldiers drawn from immigrants and the working class."

Conservative critics fear that increased reliance on an immigrant-based military may create security problems and turn the U.S. armed forces into a "green-card army" where citizenship becomes just another recruiting tool.

"Service to the country is good. But my concern is that by taking in too many noncitizens into the military, we separate service and duty from citizenship," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter immigration controls.

Future budget pressures and continuing enlistment needs could create incentives for the Pentagon to cut back on pay and benefits, he said. "If the Pentagon seeks to save money by seeking a cheap source of labor among noncitizens through accelerated citizenship, a real potential exists that we may turn soldiering into a job Americans won't do."

From the Dallas Morning News

Analysis: Rising violence swells ranks of Iraq's militias

BAGHDAD — Retaliatory attacks sparked by last week's massive bomb assault on a Shiite neighborhood here are driving more Iraqis into the ranks of sectarian militias amid rising distrust of government security forces, newly recruited gunmen and residents said Monday.

Besieged Iraqis, many with no previous affiliation with established militias, are taking up arms, barricading their communities and joining new Shiite Muslim militia cells or increasingly militant Sunni Arab neighborhood-watch groups.

"We have zero trust in the Iraqi army and minus-zero trust in the police," said Ahmed Suheil Juburi, 33, a Sunni Arab who has thrown in his lot with a group of former military officers in Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime patrolling the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora.

Thousands of unsanctioned fighters have been on high alert since the car bombings Thursday in Sadr City, a poor Baghdad neighborhood that is home to the Al Mahdi militia, a Shiite force loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr.

Since the attack, which killed at least 215 people, Sadr's fighters have struck back at Sunni neighborhoods with mortar shells, rockets and machine-gun raids from fast-moving SUVs. Sunni Arab fighters have retaliated in kind.

The bombings and subsequent attacks have killed 524 people, including 181 whose bodies were left in Baghdad's streets, and injured 653 since Thursday, according to government tallies obtained by The Times.

The mounting carnage is another sign that Iraq's civil war is gaining momentum faster than either the U.S. or Iraqi governments can respond.

In Baghdad, mortar shells have continued to pummel neighborhoods, and bands of men drive people out of their homes at gunpoint. Authorities find corpses in trash heaps and side streets on a daily basis; at least 44 were found Monday.

Residents are blocking roads with blasted cars and tree trunks. Guns and ammunition are being passed out in mosques and homes. Throughout Baghdad, men end their workdays by taking up positions on rooftops and minarets.

Fighters on both sides of Iraq's sectarian conflict say that the recent growth of militias stems from deep distrust of the intent and capability of the nation's security forces, whose reputation has been crippled by corruption and sectarian infiltration.

Read the rest at the LA Times

Analysis: As Iraq Deteriorates, Iraqis Get More Blame

From troops on the ground to members of Congress, Americans increasingly blame the continuing violence and destruction in Iraq on the people most affected by it: the Iraqis.

Even Democrats who have criticized the Bush administration's conduct of the occupation say the people and government of Iraq are not doing enough to rebuild their society. The White House is putting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group have debated how much to blame Iraqis for not performing civic duties.

This marks a shift in tone from earlier debate about the responsibility of the United States to restore order after the 2003 invasion, and it seemed to gain currency in October, when sectarian violence surged. Some see the talk of blame as the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement.

"It is the first manifestation of a 'Who lost Iraq?' argument that will likely rage for years to come," said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University expert on terrorism who has worked as a U.S. government consultant in Iraq.

Americans and Iraqis are increasingly seeing the situation in different terms, said retired Army Col. Jeffrey D. McCausland , who recently returned from a visit to Iraq. "We're just talking past each other," he said, adding that Americans are psychologically edging toward the door that leads to disengagement. "We're arguing about 'cut and run' versus 'cut and jog.' "

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Analysis: Neighborhood by neighborhood, Baghdad descends into civil war

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Sectarian violence has turned Baghdad into a deadly jigsaw puzzle of contested neighborhoods where armed bands of Shiite and Sunni Muslims battle daily for control in fighting that is far more similar to an organized military campaign than is generally acknowledged.

For the most part, the Tigris River is still the shimmering blue line that divides Baghdad's predominantly Sunni west, the Karkh, from the majority Shiite east, the Risafa. But over the past several months, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, often backed by government security forces, has pushed into the western side of the capital and is driving Sunnis from their homes in the east.

Sunni forces - neighborhood youths, former Baath Party members, Islamist extremists - are conducting their own purges to expand their grip on the west and defend their brethren across the river.

Residents trapped in the capital's most fiercely contested districts braced Sunday for a new wave of bloodshed when a 24-hour curfew ends Monday. Reached by telephone, they all offered the same grim assessment: civil war has begun.

That assessment seemed bolstered by a three-pronged assault by the Mahdi Army late Sunday into the Jihad neighborhood, a western Baghdad district once the domain of athletes, diplomats and other middle-class Iraqis of both sects who relied on their lower-income neighbors, mostly Shiites, for vital supplies such as cooking gas and heating fuel.

Sunnis and Shiites traded gunfire from behind sandbags piled in front of mosques and from rooftop posts until U.S. troops entered the fray and tamped down the violence.

Fighting also has been fierce in the Hurriyah district, a one-time mixed district where the Mahdi Army's efforts at complete segregation have been stopped only by the stubbornness of some families who'd rather face death than abandon their homes.

"I was born in this house. My father built this house," said Salah Ahmed, 34, one of the few remaining Sunnis in the area. "If we have to die here in this house, we will. But we will never leave it." For months, the sects have traded kidnappings, gunfire and intimidation on families to flee. Last Thursday, a series of car bombings in the vast Shiite district of Sadr City killed some 200 people and injured at least that many more.

An old Iraqi love song celebrates a woman's eyes as so beautiful that "you won't find the likes of them in Karkh or Risafa." These days, both sides of the river are battlefields for sectarian supremacy.

Read the rest at the San Jose Mercury News

Analysis: U.S. dominance of Mideast ends

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. dominance in the Middle East has ended, giving way to a new era in the modern history of the region amid growing anti-American sentiment. This is the conclusion of a study by Richard N. Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations in an article titled "The New Middle East" published in the November/December 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs.

Expectations of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Middle East based on the European model "will not be realized," says Haas. "Much more likely is the emergence of a new Middle East that will cause great harm to itself, the United States, and the world."

Haas writes that the most significant factor contributing to the end of this era has been "the Bush administration's decision to attack Iraq in 2003 and its conduct of the operation and resulting occupation."

Among the casualties of the war in Iraq is the Sunni's domination, a factor "which was strong enough and motivated enough to balance Shiite Iran." This, explains Haas, has given rise to tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. Fighting between the two rival Muslim groups has reached new heights in Iraq with a car bomb claiming more that 160 lives in a single day last week. And in Lebanon tension between the Shiite Hezbollah and Sunnis has reached the point where it could easily tip into armed conflict.

Another casualty of the Iraq war has been the rise of terrorism. Terrorists have gained a base in Iraq where they developed a new set of techniques to export, says Haas. The war in Iraq, says Haas has "reduced U.S. leverage worldwide" by tying down a large number of U.S. troops in the area.

Haas considers this as one of history's ironies. "The first war in Iraq, a war of necessity, marked the beginning of the American era in the Middle East and the second Iraq war, a war of choice, has precipitated its end." The most significant factor contributing to the demise of the U.S. domination in the Middle East, according to Haas, has been the Bush administration's decision to attack Iraq in 2003. Haas also points out other relevant factors such as the "demise of the Middle East peace process" and the "failure of traditional Arab regimes to counter the appeal of radical Islamism."

Read the rest at UPI

Perspective: The Face of Brutality

It was one of the most audacious operations, although not a single shot was fired. On the morning of Nov. 14, dozens of men wearing police commando uniforms pulled up in a fleet of pickup trucks at a building belonging to Iraq's Ministry of Higher Education. They fanned out across the four floors and herded everybody--staff and visitors--into a single room. All of them were ordered to hand over their cell phones. Then the women were taken into another room and locked in. About 150 men were marched outside, bundled into the pickup trucks and driven away. The whole operation took just 15 minutes.

When word of the kidnappings reached the control room of the Ministry of the Interior, an officer on duty there suspected immediately that the perps were acting on the orders of a fearsome Shi'ite militia warlord whose deeds the officer had been tracking for three years. "A ministry of mainly Sunni staff, 150 people taken captive--it can only be one thing," he says. "It had to be the work of Abu Deraa."

Few Americans have ever heard of him, and most Iraqis don't know what he looks like. But such is the reputation of Abu Deraa, 48, that all of Baghdad's biggest, most brazen attacks against Sunni targets are almost automatically assumed to be his handiwork. Iraqi and U.S. officials say Abu Deraa is the mastermind behind the killing of thousands of Sunnis this year. Loosely affiliated with the Mahdi Army of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Abu Deraa's death squad is suspected of involvement in some of the most daring kidnappings in the capital--including the Oct. 23 snatch of the U.S. soldier Ahmed Qusai al-Taie and the Nov. 14 raid on the Ministry of Higher Education. (Although more than half of the 150 abductees were released, many remain unaccounted for.) Abu Deraa has a personal fondness for gruesome torture. One of his signature techniques is running a drill into the skull of his live victim. His appetite for mayhem is so vast that Iraqis call him the "Shi'ite Zarqawi"; and like the al-Qaeda-in-Iraq leader, who was killed by a U.S. air strike last June, Abu Deraa has largely operated in the shadows, avoiding public appearances and almost never giving interviews.

Read the rest at Time

Analysis: Bombings push Iraq closer to abyss

BAGHDAD, Nov 27 (Reuters) - The bloodiest bombings in Baghdad since the U.S. invasion in 2003, and the reprisals that swiftly followed, show that Iraq's sectarian conflict may be too far gone for leaders to stop, even if they want to.

The killings of some 250 people in just a few days last week marked a "high-water mark", analysts said. It demonstrated with savage clarity how little control Iraq's government exercises, with a security force accused of sectarian bias and a series of peace plans doing little to slow the pace of killing.

"This violence shows that sectarian bitterness between Sunnis and Shi'ites has gone deep down into ordinary people. They are totally polarised," said Mohamed el-Sayed Said of al- Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

Despite a three-day curfew, lifted on Monday, and appeals for calm from Iraqi leaders across the sectarian divide, mortars crashed down on different Baghdad neighbourhoods on Sunday. Fears ran high that Iraq was nearing boiling point.

"Iraq is moving very fast towards the point of no return," former prime minister Iyad Allawi warned. "The shadow of death and destruction is everywhere. We are all responsible, including me, for this situation."

While much of the violence has been blamed on militias tied to political parties in the government and Sunni insurgents, there are signs that rogue gunmen are operating outside any political control and pursuing their own agendas.

Ordinary Iraqis are retreating into religiously segregated neighbourhoods and increasingly turning to militias for protection, placing little faith in the ability of Iraq's U.S.- trained security forces -- ill-equipped and accused of colluding with sectarian death squads -- to keep them safe.

"Sinking into bloody violence is an expected consequence when you have people seeking the protection of militias rather than government forces," Baghdad lawyer Ali Nasir said.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

Analysis: Despite increased training efforts, Iraqi army still not ready to defend Fallujah alone

The shadow of a US marine is seen on a bullet-riddled wall during a foot patrol in the Fallujah

FALLUJAH, Iraq: It's been two years since U.S. forces overran this dangerous western city, triggering the bloodiest urban combat of the war. Now, heavily armed insurgents are returning, but Iaqi soldiers undergoing American training to defend Fallujah still aren't ready to face the front lines on their own.

U.S. teams say training efforts have been severely undermined by corruption and bureaucracy, a dearth of basic equipment and Iraqi soldiers' mistrust of those from different Muslim backgrounds and lack of faith in the fledgling central government.

Iraqi commanders acknowledge they can't handle a city as large and volatile as Fallujah without American support — especially with their country teetering on the edge of civil war between its Shiite Arab majority and Sunni minority.

"It's something we keep in mind, that one day coalition forces are going to leave. But it can't be now," said 1st Lt. Hamazah Adman, head of intelligence for the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division.

"We can say that two years may be enough," he said.

There are more than 400 U.S. adviser teams in Iraq, and Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. forces in the Middle East, has said he recommends expanding those teams as America looks for a new direction in the war.

Not waiting for Washington, U.S. Marine Col. Lawrence D. Nicholson, commander of Regimental Combat Team 5 in the overwhelmingly Sunni, insurgent-dominated province of al-Anbar, began moving troops from combat to adviser teams in January. Those efforts have increased the average size of training teams in an area that includes Fallujah from about 10 to between 15 and 20 Marines.

A city of 300,000 which lay in ruins after fierce fighting in November 2004, the lights and water are back on and many residents who fled have returned to Fallujah. The Iraqi army now patrols more than 60 percent of the city, helping to battle insurgents who have killed scores of Marines with roadside bombs, ambushes and snipers.

During a recent late-night operation, Marine helicopters and humvees cordoned off the southern district of Nazaal and two U.S. companies went house-to-house, hunting for guns, explosives and suspected insurgents. An Iraqi company backed by three American advisers conducted its own search of one section of the neighborhood.

"They are our people and they are just doing their duty," said Abed El-Rahem, who sat in his socks on a couch while soldiers traipsed through his home, tracking mud on fine embroidered carpets.

Except for one red-faced moment when his soldiers attempted to search the same house twice, the operation went smoothly, though the Iraqi army recovered just one rifle in four hours of searching.

"Things are so violent that the people can't come to us for help, so we come to them," said Col. Abd al-Majeed Nasser, who led the raid.

Like many U.S. advisers across Iraq, Marines from the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion's Military Transition team live with the Iraqi army, sharing separate ends of a heavily fortified former health club.

But the Americans complain that much of their time is spent ensuring Iraqi soldiers are paid on time and in-full by the government in Baghdad and that they receive basic equipment such as flashlights and gloves.

Higher-ups pocket supplies meant for the troops beneath them and many soldiers sell their uniforms and boots while home on leave, then return demanding new ones.

"Most of the time we can't advise. We are too busy running around protecting ourselves from attack or just making sure the army has the basics," said Sgt. Thomas J. Ciccarelli, 37, from South Lake Tahoe, California.

Part of the problem is the Iraqis don't have enough soldiers to patrol Fallujah. Officially, the 2nd Brigade of the army's 1st Division is more than 700 men from full strength, but problems with understaffing are actually far worse than the statistics indicate because of desertions and "ghost" soldiers who exist on paper and cash pay checks, but have never report for duty.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Opinion: Iraq's Deadliest Zone -- Schools

The mass kidnappings of scholars in Iraq underscore the chilling fact that the most dangerous place in Iraq is not the mosque, the marketplace or the military checkpoint, but the classroom. More than 250 academics have been killed since 2003, targeted by so many warring factions that it seems to be the only issue they can agree on. To date, not one person has been arrested for these murders.

Fundamentalist Sunni, Shiite, Baathist, anti-Baathist and other anti-American militants all have taken credit for these murders. Some are groups of students doing the Mahdi Army's bidding and willing to take matters into their own violent hands. But they all share a common feature: the use of terrorism as a weapon to murder academics, plunge university life into chaos and threaten learning at its source.

Fanatics targeting Iraqi academics are wreaking havoc on the educational system by threatening, kidnapping and killing innocent professors. I know well the nature of the threat. In seeking to bring education, debate and intellectual curiosity to Iraq, I was forced to flee when my life was threatened.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Security Summary: November 29-30, 2006

U.S. soldiers secure the scene following a car bomb explosion in Mosul yesterday

November 30, 2006:

BAGHDAD - A total of 52 bodies, with gunshot wounds and bearing signs of torture, were found in different districts of Baghdad on Wednesday, an Interior Ministry source said.

BAQUBA - Iraqi soldiers found 28 bodies in a mass grave on south of Baquba 60 km (45 miles) north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement on Thursday.

BASRA - Police found the bodies of Nasser al-Qatrani, the deputy manager of Sunni Endowment in Basra, along with three guards and four members of the Facility Protection Services who were ambushed on the northern outskirts of the city on Wednesday.

SAMAWA - Four civilians were wounded when clashes erupted between Mehdi Army militia and Iraqi security forces in the southern city of Samawa, 270 km (168 miles) south of Baghdad, a hospital source said.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier was killed in combat in Baghdad on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen killed a police colonel on Wednesday near the national stadium in east-central Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL - Six bodies were found with gunshot wounds on Wednesday in the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, a hospital source said.

JURF AL-SAKHAR - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed three policemen and wounded three others on Wednesday in the town of Jurf al-Sakhar, about 85 km (53 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

From Reuters/Alternet

November 29, 2006:

SAMARRA - Six policemen were killed and four wounded when a car bomb exploded near a police station in a town near Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad. Militants briefly occupied the building. A daylight curfew was imposed.

November 29, 2006:

ANBAR PROVINCE - A U.S. Marine died from wounds sustained in combat while operating in western Anbar province, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber targeting a police patrol killed a policeman and wounded seven people, including three policemen, in southwestern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber exploded near a police patrol, killing a policeman and wounding five civilians in al-Nidhal street in central Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded three people in Ouqba Bin Nafie square in central Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

MOSUL - A suicide car bomber targeting a police station killed one civilian and wounded 23 in the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded on Tuesday when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in Salahaddin province, the U.S. military said.

DIWANIYA - Police said they found the body of a teacher with gunshot wounds in Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad. Gunmen had kidnapped him on Tuesday.

BAGHDAD - Iraqi soldiers killed three insurgents and arrested 28 during the past 24 hours in different parts of Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.

NEAR BAQUBA - The U.S. military said its forces killed eight insurgents and two women in an early morning ground assault supported by an air strike on a village near Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad. Iraqi police said a U.S.-Iraqi force killed eight civilians. Police said the dead were a man and his three sons and a neighbouring couple, their son and daughter.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed two policemen and wounded seven people, including two policemen, in Baghdad's al-Nahdha area, an Interior Ministry source said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen fired on the Shi'ite-run Health Ministry building in central Baghdad after two mortar rounds landed nearby, Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamily said. No casualties were reported and the gunmen later withdrew.

From Reuters/Alternet

S. Korea to pull Iraq troops next year

The South Korean government announced Thursday plans to begin withdrawing its 2,300 soldiers from Iraq in April and return them all home by December 2007.

South Korea has maintained a humanitarian and reconstruction operation in the northern Kurdish-controlled Iraqi city of Irbil for the past three years and will bring home about 1,100 troops in April, the Korea Times reported.

Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo told a news conference National Assembly lawmakers had also decided to dispatch a battalion of 350 soldiers to Lebanon on a peacekeeping mission. It was also decided to extend the mission of 60 medics and 150 engineers in Afghanistan for another year, Kim said.

When the Iraq war began in March 2003, 49 countries made up the military coalition, but by this past August, the number has fallen to 27 countries, the newspaper said.

Read the rest at the Washington Times