Monday, June 11, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- June 11th edition

June 11, 2006: A soldier with 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, performs perimeter security during a counterinsurgency raid in Husiniyah

June 11, 2002:

US gives Iraq last chance to disarm

The United States has handed a resolution to the United Nations Security Council giving Iraq a "final opportunity" to scrap its weapons of mass destruction.

After weeks of wrangling, the 15 members of the Security Council began an official debate about the draft resolution after it was released by the White House this afternoon.

The resolution, which US diplomats will be passed in vote on Friday, offers a two-stage process in which Iraq will face "serious consequences" if it refuses to disarm or stops weapons inspectors from demolishing its arsenals of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons

The two-stage process means that the resolution is significantly toned down from the initial draft released in September which threatened immediate military strikes if Iraq failed to comply with UN demands.

However, the draft is little different to a second text released last week and falls short of French and Russian demands for second resolution to be passed before military action can be launched.

Read the rest at the Telegraph

June 11, 2003:

Pretender joins battle for Baghdad

An immaculately dressed investment banker flew home from London yesterday for the first time in 45 years to stake his claim to the Iraqi throne.
Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, a cousin of Iraq's last king, Faisal II, arrived on a private jet at the military-occupied Baghdad international airport.

The last of Iraq's exiled political players to arrive in Baghdad, Sharif Ali, 47, hopes to persuade politicians and voters of the symbolic unifying value of appointing him a constitutional monarch above a democratically elected government.

His first duty was to visit the royal family mausoleum to underline his claim to the throne. Inside the cool turquoise-domed hall lies the body of Faisal I, the monarch who led the Arab revolt in 1917 with TE Lawrence and was installed by the British, through a dubious referendum, as the first king of Iraq.

At the opposite end are the bodies of his son and successor Ghazi and his grandson Faisal II, who was overthrown and murdered in a revolution in 1958. The few surviving members of the royal family fled the country with the two-year-old Sharif Ali. He grew up in Beirut and London, never expecting to return to Baghdad to claim the throne.

Yesterday hundreds of tribal sheikhs and supporters packed the gardens of the mausoleum to witness his return. Ten sheep were slaughtered in sacrifice and coffee was handed around by a bedouin waiter with bandolier, dagger and pistol...

Many in the crowd seemed interested only in seeing the face of the royal pretender, and several left before he completed his speech. Others believe Iraq needs the symbolic leadership of a man not tainted by political affiliation or a Ba'ath party history. His religious affiliations cross Iraq's sects: He is a Sunni Muslim, his wife a Shia.

"The king is a symbol and we respect him because he is a neutral person," said Thamir Rashid Mohammed, a former civil servant in the interior ministry...

For now Sharif Ali must find his place in the increasingly complex web of postwar Iraqi politics. He has already recruited to his staff Mohammed al-Zubaidi, the man who appointed himself mayor of Baghdad immediately after the war and was promptly jailed by the US forces for two weeks for usurping authority.

Sharif Ali is unlikely to seek a seat on the political council which is soon to be appointed by the coalition provisional authority, but he will send a team of advisers to the convention due to begin drafting a new constitution next month, in which lies his only chance of a restored monarchy.

The authority says a constitutional monarchy has not been ruled out. "We will be very happy to sit and talk to him to see what he has to say," a spokesman said.

Within hours of landing the prince criticised the running of the postwar administration, highlighting the problem of unpaid salaries and complaining that an Iraqi government should be formed far more quickly than envisaged.

"The problem is that America is not an imperial power and not capable of being an imperial power," he said. "Our objective is to achieve Iraqi national sovereignty as quickly as possible."

Read the rest at the Guardian

June 11, 2004:

Remote Facility in Iraq Shows New Face of U.S. Prison System

CAMP BUCCA, Iraq -- The sand blows across this isolated patch of desert, flecks of moving rock and dust. When the heat grows unbearable, as it often does, the men hover inside white tents, the canvas sides partially rolled and tied off. When day settles into evening, and the air is more forgiving, the young men come out to play soccer and volleyball under the red desert moon. The old ones gather in groups and pray.

Sometimes both young and old move toward the shiny new chain-link fence that surrounds the tents. They clutch the wires with their dark hands and look out. There is little to see but fuel trucks in the distance and the metal cranes towering over the nearby port of Umm Qasr.

The men are prisoners -- Iraqis brought to this desolate spot 300 miles southeast of Baghdad where the U.S. Army has established a detention facility called Camp Bucca. Set up last year during the invasion of Iraq, the camp was named for Ron Bucca, a New York fire marshal and Army Reservist who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Envisioned as a temporary place to hold Iraqi prisoners of war, the camp was emptied and closed by December. But Iraq's postwar insurgency created the need for a place to house thousands of suspected insurgents, and commanders turned to Camp Bucca to supplement the facilities at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

This week, a resolution adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council granted the U.S.-led occupation force "the right to detain Iraqis viewed as a security threat." That approval, contained in a security agreement between the United States and Iraq's new interim government, essentially settled the future of Camp Bucca. It will be the primary detention facility for people still in U.S. custody after the interim government takes power at the end of the month, and it is expected to hold between 2,000 and 2,500 detainees, officials have said.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

June 11, 2005:

US holding secret talks with Iraqi guerillas

BAGHDAD: American diplomats and army commanders have held indirect secret talks with insurgents in Iraq, the first officially sanctioned contact between the two sides in two years of violence.

A US embassy official in Baghdad said efforts were under way to “engage” insurgents in an apparent softening of the Bush administration’s opposition to negotiations.

“In order to achieve stability and [an] end to the insurgency and stop Iraqis from being killed in large numbers, the insurgency has to be addressed,” the official told reporters.

“I don’t think the people we are sitting in the room with are directly operational, but they have relationships with them, sometimes through family ties, sometimes through previous associations with the previous regime.” The briefing was on the record but under embassy rules the official could not be named. He did not elaborate on the substance of the talks and it was unclear which of the insurgency’s numerous groups had been engaged.

The contacts, conducted mainly through Sunni Arab tribal and religious leaders, were limited to factions which could be coaxed away from violence and into mainstream politics, the official added.

That ruled out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other radical Muslim groups believed responsible for most of the suicide bombings.

“Some insurgents are irredeemable and have to be dealt with in a purely military way.” The US has made public overtures to Iraq’s Sunni Arabs, a disaffected minority driving the insurgency, but until now drew the line at contacts with the “terrorists” denounced by President Bush. The administration has come under increasing pressure to show progress in a war which claims approximately two American lives daily and is blamed for shortfalls in army recruitment.

Read the rest at the Dawn

June 11, 2006:

Some Wounded GIs Opt to Stay in Iraq

MAHMOUDIYA, Iraq — Parallel scars running down 1st Sgt. Rick Skidis' calf tell the story of how he nearly lost his leg when a roadside bomb blew through the door of his armored Humvee.

The blast shredded muscle, ligament and tendon, leaving Skidis in a daze as medics and fellow soldiers rushed to help him. Skidis remembers little of that day last November except someone warning him that when he woke, his foot might be gone.

After five months and six surgeries, the foot remains intact but causes Skidis haunting numbness and searing pain caused by nerve damage.

Skidis, 36, of Sullivan, Ill., fought through the surgeries and therapy to return in April to Iraq, conducting the same type of patrols that nearly killed him.

He is not an exception.

Nearly 18,000 military personnel have been wounded in combat since the war began in Iraq more than three years ago, according to Defense Department statistics. Some have lost legs and arms, suffered horrific burns to their bodies and gone home permanently.

But the vast majority have remained in Iraq or returned later — their bodies marked by small scars and their lives plagued by aches and pains.

"I wear my scars proudly," said Skidis as he gingerly lifted his pant leg to show the railroad-like tracks where doctors made incisions to save his foot. Why didn't he stay home? "I felt guilty because I wasn't sharing the same hardships that they were," Skidis said shyly, while another soldier nodded at his side.

For some soldiers in Iraq, it was a roadside blast that muffled their hearing or peppered their body in shrapnel. Others have been ripped by gunfire, sometimes leaving them with jabbing pains in their limbs and compromised movement.

Their wounds are often similar but there are many reasons for remaining at war when their wounds are a ticket home.

Some can't imagine any other job than being a soldier. Some know no other life. Others, like Skidis, feel the guilt, an obligation to their fellow soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Katherine Yocom-Delgado, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., lost 70 percent of the hearing in her left ear weeks ago when an artillery shell landed just a few feet away from her. Her teeth still hurt and she has frequent headaches, especially in the morning.

Yocom-Delgado tilts her head when she listens to people talk.

But she hasn't considered leaving — the wounds are not as important as the mission.

"I'm alive and I'm happy to be alive," she said with a smile. "I don't hurt every day."

As a woman, Yocom-Delgado represents just two percent of those injured in Iraq, a figure she quotes and has read in new articles. It's an odd distinction, she said, just her luck.

Spc. Steven Clark's luck is worse. The 25-year-old has been shot three times and wounded by shrapnel from a grenade that tore into his legs and back. He has been awarded three purple hearts — a fourth is on the way — and a bronze star with valor.

His friends have nicknamed him "Bullet Magnet" — but he won't consider leaving.

Clark, of Fitzgerald, Ga., says getting wounded was a mistake and his pain is punishment for letting people down. He won't show the scars on his calf or shoulder or back. He calls the attacks "incidents."

"I have pains. I have numbness from nerve damage. But it's just something I'm going to have to live with," Clark said. "I'm not going to change what I am just because it's dangerous."

Soldiers in the battalion, the 502nd Infantry Regiment of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, have been struck by more than 230 roadside bombs since they arrived in Iraq last October, leaving 15 dead. They've discovered about 350 more on the roads that crisscross their swath of desert.

More than 100 of the soldiers have been wounded, mostly on patrols in their sector south of Baghdad where Shiite and Sunni Arab tribes often clash with coalition forces. Twenty-seven of those wounded were evacuated from Iraq and remain at hospitals in the United States.

Pfc. Salvadore Bertolone, 21, of Ortonville, Mich., was injured when a roadside bomb blew glass shards into his face and arm. A scar curls down his cheek, but he dismisses his injury.

There are perks to staying in the fight after an injury, he said.

"I get free license plates for the rest of my life," Bertolone said. "And I've got people who are definitely going to be buying me drinks when I get home."

Though proud of their fellow soldiers, medics fear long-term health problems lie ahead.

"The soldiers here are so focused on staying in the fight that they suck up the pain and push through," said Capt. Dennison Segui, 33, a medic and physician's assistant from Browns Mills, N.J. "I know I'm busy here, but I'm nowhere near as busy as I will be when we get back."

Read the rest at Fox News