Monday, September 10, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- September 10th edition

September 10, 2003: U.S. Army soldiers with the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division pull security during a raid on a suspected terrorist training camp in southwestern Iraq.

September 10, 2002:

Rice, Tenet brief lawmakers on Iraq

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George Tenet went to Capitol Hill Tuesday to bolster the administration's case for U.S. military action in Iraq as President Bush worked on a speech that he hopes will do the same on the international stage.

One adviser to Bush said the president will outline a "strong and clear" case against Iraq when he speaks Thursday at the United Nations.

The United States and Britain accuse Saddam Hussein of seeking weapons of mass destruction, violating U.N. resolutions dating back to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Iraq denies developing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, and its vice president said Tuesday that Bush is "trying to convince others to commit an evil act."

Read the rest at CNN

September 10, 2003:

Wolfowitz: 'We are moving to victory'

Al Qaeda's top leaders are more confused than at any time since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a CIA report cited by a top Bush administration official in Senate testimony Tuesday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz used the unclassified CIA summary to demonstrate progress in the war on terrorism at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that centered on President Bush's $87 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Two years after the September 11 attacks, al Qaeda's central leadership is reeling from the impact of the counterterrorist successes of the U.S. and our allies," the report said.

"The central leadership of al Qaeda is at growing risk of breaking apart as our blows against the group create a level of disarray and confusion throughout the organization that we have not seen since the collapse of the Taliban in late 2001"...

"The costs are large, but it is a battle that we can win and a battle that we must win," said Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the administration's strategy in Iraq.

About $71 billion of the request would pay for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, which Bush has declared the "central front" in the war on terrorism launched after September 11.

Read the rest at CNN

September 10, 2004:

Iraq Overshadows Sept. 11 House Vote

Mention of the war in Iraq clouded a House resolution marking the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and 16 lawmakers voted Thursday against the otherwise non-controversial measure.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., one of 15 Democrats and one Republican to cast "no" votes, said linking the Sept. 11, 2001, act of terrorism to the war in Iraq was "blatantly untrue" and had turned a resolution honoring the sacrifices of Sept. 11 victims into a political document.

"Why are we putting together a resolution that convolutes the issue?" asked Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., another no vote. The vote was 406-16.

The sponsor of the resolution, International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., responded to the critics, saying "there is a direct connection between the war in Iraq and the bombing of Sept. 11."

U.S. troops in Baghdad, added House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, are "fighting the same evil and upholding the same virtues" as the passengers aboard Flight 93 who battled the hijackers or the police and firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center. "It is one and the same conflict," he said.

Read the rest at Fox News

September 10, 2005:

Mtn. View Mom Angry at Army

The Mountain View mother of an Army soldier killed in Iraq accuses the Army of unprofessionalism in waiting more than a year to reveal the truth about how her son died in Iraq.

The Army said Saturday it knew for more than a year after 1st Lt. Kenneth Ballard's death in Iraq in May 2004 that he was not killed in action, as it initially reported. The family was not told the truth until Friday.

Ballard's mother, Karen Meredith, of Mountain View told KCBS Saturday afternoon she was actually informed in person yesterday that her son was killed in an accident and not in combat as she had been led to believe all those many months "He (the soldier who delivered the news) was very professional, very kind. He knew the magnitude again of how this was going to change my life and turn it upside down again. This just took me back to last year, fifteen months ago and I didn't realize how much I had started to heal but that was ripped off, just like ripping a Band-Aid off and then I am still pretty much still in shock," she admitted.

Army officials said the failure to notify the family of the true cause of Ballard's death was an oversight. The military sometimes incorrectly categorizes the cause of war deaths. What is so unusual about the Ballard case is that the error was recognized early on but not reported to the family for months.

"I'm heartbroken all over again because when I speak out against the war I say please don't honor my son with another child's, another soldier's death, don't let another family go through this, honor my son with truth and the Army is fifteen months too late with the truth in this," she said.

Ballard has become a public critic of the war. Last month she was in Crawford, Texas, at a memorial erected by Veterans for Peace as part of the protest that began Aug. 6 outside President Bush's ranch by grieving mother and peace activist Cindy Sheehan.

On Memorial Day in 2004, the day after Kenneth Ballard died; the Army informed his family that he had been killed by enemy fire while on a combat mission in the south-central Iraqi city of Najaf. In a casualty announcement from June 1, the Pentagon said Ballard died "during a firefight with insurgents." The military did not elaborate.

The Army disclosed on Saturday that Ballard, 26, actually died of wounds from the accidental discharge of a M240 machine gun on his tank after his platoon had returned from battling insurgents in Najaf.

He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery last Oct. 22.

An Army spokesman, Col. Joseph Curtin, said in an interview that separate investigations by the local commander and by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division concluded days after Ballard's death that it was an accident.

The tank accidentally backed into a tree and a branch hit the mounted, unmanned machine gun, causing it to fire, Curtin said. Ballard was struck at close range and died of his wounds, he added.

Ballard says she is accepting of the report and does not believe there was any attempt of a cover up in her son's death. "It sounds like this was a lack professionalism, a lack of follow up," he said. "This bothers me because Ken loved being a soldier, he was a fourth generation Army officer and for the Army to betray him and to disrespect him by not telling the family the truth and by not taking care of the family he would be just devastated that the Army didn't take care of his family."

Read the rest at CBS 5

September 10, 2006:

Why Bush's Security Pitch May Not Work This Time

Thirty-five minutes after President Bush finished his surprise East Room announcement last week about plans for prosecuting some of the world's most prominent terrorists, White House and Republican officials convened a conference call of conservative TV pundits and other allies, and later of state party leaders around the country. A participant said listeners were urged to spread the word about the aggressive speech "by talking about it in the context of the election." The message: Republicans are strong, and Democrats are weak. The White House strategy isn't subtle. With Republicans worried about losing the House and conceivably even the Senate in November, the President is taking a big gamble that an unflinching focus on national security will be his party's political salvation. That approach helped Bush defy history in 2002 when the Republicans, the party in power, avoided midterm losses. Two years later, his re-election rode largely on reminding Americans that they were a nation at war. But will the gambit work one more time? Many Republicans harbor doubts, and a few dissenters are even steering clear of the President and his game plan. One problem with rerunning an old play is that the opposition figures out how to thwart it. Democrats, having largely steered clear of national-security issues in the 2002 and 2004 campaigns for fear their war reservations and civil-liberties concerns would brand them as effete, are embracing the topic, and they appear to have found their voice with a steady insistence that Iraq has been mishandled. Thus, for the first time in the five years since 9/11, national security is a jump ball.

Recognizing the stakes for his legacy and his party, Bush is dropping into key states and districts with a schedule so ferocious, he seems to be running for a third term. Retreat from his Iraq policy, he has argued, would mean that some 2,660 American soldiers "have given their lives for nothing." In an effort to convince an increasingly skeptical public that Iraq is a critical part of the broader war on terrorism, the Administration has declassified letters, videos and audiotapes of top al-Qaeda members talking about Iraq, including a message from Osama bin Laden in which he calls Iraq a "war of destiny between infidelity and Islam."

Deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, the architect one last time, says he is confident that voters will buy the President's message. "Given a choice between doing the job and walking away, they will want to do the job," Rove tells TIME. "Given a choice between winning and losing, the American people will always pick winning." But the trouble for Bush is that, at the moment, lots of folks think he lacks a winning formula. In a TIME poll last month, 63% of those surveyed disapproved of the President's handling of the Iraq war, and the figure was 51% for the war on terrorism. What's more, 54% thought the Iraq engagement was hurting U.S. efforts to combat terrorism.

Read the rest at Time

Once unknown, suicide blasts soar in Afghanistan

Five years after the 9/11 attacks that brought U.S. troops to this country, Afghan insurgents increasingly are using a tactic borrowed from their counterparts in Iraq: suicide bombings.

A suicide bomber detonated an explosive that killed the governor of Paktika province and two aides outside his home Sunday. Two days earlier, a suicide attack on a U.S. military convoy killed 16 people in the heart of Kabul.

The blasts brought the number of suicide attacks this year to at least 47, more than double the 21 recorded in all of last year, according to the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS), a Kabul-based think tank.

The attacks are part of the worst violence this country has seen in the nearly five years since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban regime for sheltering Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network.

Col. Tom Collins, the U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said Sunday that a suicide cell operating in Kabul was targeting U.S. and other international troops.

CAPS director Hekmat Karzai says that, despite three decades of warfare, suicide attacks were unknown in Afghanistan until Sept. 9, 2001, when two Arab al-Qaeda terrorists posing as journalists assassinated anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Masood with a bomb hidden in a camera.

The Taliban and its allies, regrouping in Pakistan after U.S.-led forces drove them from power, staged only one suicide attack in 2002, two in 2003 and six in 2004, according to Karzai.

Karzai says Taliban insurgents, trained and encouraged by al-Qaeda operatives, were impressed by the casualties and chaos suicide attacks caused in Iraq. "Over a weekend, 300 people would die in Iraq," says Karzai, a nephew of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Afghan insurgents had relied on hurried rocket attacks and ambushes with small arms, which Karzai says kill 3% of the people targeted, vs. 25% for suicide bombings.

Suicide attacks are alien to Afghan culture, Karzai says. But over the past three decades, millions of Afghans were living as refugees in Pakistan. Some were exposed there to al-Qaeda recruiters and to clerics at radical religious schools.

Most of the suicide bombers are foreign fighters. However, Afghans increasingly are being recruited. This year, a DVD surfaced that was the first "video will" of an Afghan suicide bomber. The man, from Khost province, detonated a bomb that killed 13 at a military training center in Kabul last year.

Read the rest at USA Today