Friday, August 31, 2007

Perspective: In the footsteps of Napoleon


French Egypt and American Iraq can be considered bookends on the history of modern imperialism in the Middle East. The Bush administration's already failed version of the conquest of Iraq is, of course, on everyone's mind; while the French conquest of Egypt, now more than two centuries past, is all too little remembered, despite having been led by Napoleon Bonaparte, whose career has otherwise hardly languished in obscurity.

There are many eerily familiar resonances between the two misadventures, not least among them that both began with supreme arrogance and ended as fiascoes. Above all, the leaders of both occupations employed the same basic political vocabulary and rhetorical flimflammery, invoking the spirit of liberty, security, and democracy while largely ignoring the substance of these concepts.

The French general and the American president do not much resemble one another - except perhaps in the way the prospect of conquest in the Middle East appears to have put fire in their veins and in their unappealing tendency to believe their own propaganda (or at least to keep repeating it long after it became completely implausible).

Both leaders invaded and occupied a major Arabic-speaking Muslim country; both harbored dreams of a "Greater Middle East"; both were surprised to find themselves enmeshed in long, bitter, debilitating guerrilla wars. Neither genuinely cared about grassroots democracy, but both found its symbols easy to invoke for gullible domestic publics. Substantial numbers of their new subjects quickly saw, however, that they faced occupations, not liberations.

Read the rest at Asia Times

Analysis: The danger of a Shia civil war


Above: The most important day in the Shia calendar is Ashura, which commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad. On this day observant Shia men draw blood in remembrance.

Left: Iraq's major Shia figures.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is head of the Shi'ite coalition in parliament, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which put Maliki in power. Before the fall of Saddam, Hakim spent years in exile in Iran, where, as leader of the pro-Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) he headed the anti-Saddam Badr Brigade militia. After Saddam's fall, the Badr Brigade merged into Iraq's official security forces, and Hakim became a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. In December, Hakim met with Bush in Washington, shortly before the administration attempted to coordinate Prime Minister Maliki's ouster with Hakim chosen by Washington to be the power-broker behind the scenes. But that plan was stopped dead in its tracks by Sistani. By February, Hakim was no longer Washington's favorite, and the U.S. raided the Baratha mosque in Baghdad, which is associated with the elder Hakim. The U.S. military says it was targeted for 'illegally armed militia kidnapping, torture and murder activities'. SCIRI (now Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq -- SICI) is the largest member of U.I.A.

Moqtada al-Sadr stayed in Iraq but in hiding during Saddam's time. He organized and headed the Mahdi Army militia, and was standard bearer for millions of Iraq's poorest citizens. While Hakim proved accommodating to the U.S., Sadr was the chief proponent for Shi'ite resistance to the occupation. The Sadrists are also members of the UIA coalition, though their members have resigned from Maliki's cabinet.

Both Hakim and Sadr have distinguished lineage in the shi'ite clergy, and both families have vied for generations for influence amongst the in shi'ites in Iraq. Both Hakim's and Sadr's parties want power in Baghdad, as well as the provinces containing the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and especially the southern province of Basra where the vast majority of Iraq's proven oil reserves lie, and Iraq's only outlet to the sea. Vying with them both is the much smaller Fadhila Islamic party, which recently withdrew its support of the UIA.

Both the Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade are heavily represented in various Iraqi security forces, including the army and the national police.

Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani is Iraq's most important shi'ite religious figure, who maintains close ties to both Hakim and Sadr, and who has several times brought them together to negotiate their differences. Sistani's main concerns are to protect shi'ites from sectarian violence and to promote a strong central government, separate from but still linked in important ways to Iran (he is of Iranian descent and there are tense but complex ties between Sistani's Najaf Hawza and the Qom Hawza in Iran).


Rivalries and violence between Shiite factions are threatening to overshadow progress U.S. forces have made against al-Qaida in Iraq and other extremists just weeks before the top American commander and diplomat in Iraq report to Congress.

An all-out, Shiite-on-Shiite conflict could plunge the oil-rich and mainly Shiite south of Iraq into chaos that could rival -- or even surpass -- the bloodshed across Baghdad and the center of the country for more than four years.

That, in turn, could shatter the relative unity in the Shiite mainstream, which has given crucial support to the U.S.-led mission in Iraq, and deepen the predicament of embattled Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Clashes between rival Shiite factions have not been uncommon since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, but the most recent ones are by far the most ominous given their deadliness, scope and timing.

For Washington, the danger of a full fledged armed conflict in southern Iraq could not have come at a worse time.

Read the rest at the LA Times

Analysis: Behind the struggle for Karbala

Above: Pilgrims touch the tomb where Imam Abbas is buried in his shrine in the holy city of Karbala last Sunday.

Who exactly did what in Karbala this week is still unclear. The only thing certain is that the armed clashes between Shi'ite pilgrims and Iraqi police, or members of the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army, led to the death of 52 Iraqis and the injuring of over 300.

One story says that police began firing into the crowds of Shi'ite worshipers because they chanted for the downfall of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, presumably under orders from Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The other says that his Mahdi Army provoked the violence in an attempted takeover of the holy shrine in the city.

The religious site in Karbala (100 kilometers southwest of Baghdad) is currently controlled by the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) headed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim. It is guarded by the Badr Brigade of the SIIC and members of the Iraqi police, who are former members of the Badr Brigade and still affiliated to Hakim. Briefly, back in 2003, it had been under control of Muqtada.

The Sadrists, it is believed, want to retake the shrine for a variety of reasons. One is financial, since donations worth millions of dollars pour into it every year from Shi'ite worshippers around the world - mainly Iran. Karbala, and its shrine, is one of Iraq's wealthiest cities, profiting from pilgrims around the year. Second, preaching from its 100 mosques gives whoever is in control of Karbala a grand platform to market his views, ideology and recruit new members into any political or military association. The city has 23 religious schools, all controlled by SIIC. In this case, the Mahdi Army would be striving for control of Karbala mosques.

Third, the "struggle over Karbala" falls in line with a long and bloody feud over Shi'ite leadership in Iraq, between the Sadr family and that of Hakim. Muqtada covets anything that is controlled by Hakim. Regaining Karbala would be a great bonus for the Mahdi Army, which is struggling to prop up its leader, Muqtada, as the prime Shi'ite leader of Iraq instead of Hakim.

Read the rest at Asia Times

Perspective: Excessive costs, lack of records no bar to KBR

Above: A soldier (right) is surprised and delighted to find he will get a free breakfast in honor of receiving the 50 millionth meal served by the KBR-run Wings of Freedom Dining Facility in Anbar in January, 2006.

In late June, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released a scathing audit, charging that the Army's lead wartime logistics contractor, KBR Inc., had grossly overspent on food, failed to keep accurate fuel service records and provided better housing to its employees than to U.S. soldiers.
It was the latest failing report card for the former Halliburton subsidiary, which for the past six years has been the exclusive prime contractor of the Army's Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. The LOGCAP contract provides U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with housing, meals, fuel, and laundry and sanitation services, among other support.

Although allegations of misconduct and overbilling have followed the Houston-based firm for more than a decade, KBR has had little difficulty finding new work. In fact, just five days after the IG report, KBR was awarded a slice of the new LOGCAP IV contract, a lucrative deal worth as much as $50 billion.

Read the rest at Government Executive

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- August 31st edition

August 31, 2003: Soldiers from the 4th Battalion 42 Field Artillery unload Iraqi detainees from a military truck following a pre-dawn raid in the village of Hamreen.


August 31, 2002:

The real axis of evil

READING the New York Times or the Washington Post doesn’t really give you any idea of how decisions are made in America. Now one might wonder why that should be of any concern to a Pakistani but the fact of the matter is that decisions made at the Pentagon or the White House affect people all over the world...

Coming back to the secretive way in which decision-makers and policy makers work in one of the world’s richest democracies, a disturbing trend has taken shape since the arrival of the Republicans in the White House. The party’s more conservative wing, led by people like vice-president Dick Cheney and close confidants like extreme hawk Richard Perle, has slowly hijacked the more moderate people in the Bush administration. Now, this is something that is discernible to even most followers of American politics in Pakistan. The repercussions, as said earlier, are going to be global, and have in fact started taking effect. Take the case of Israel where a rabidly anti-Palestine Sharon has been greeted often with much applause for his barbaric and cruel programmes against the Palestinians. Then take the case of Iraq, where in the most forceful policy declaration so far Mr Cheney said in a speech before American war veterans that Saddam Hussain was “close” to acquiring nuclear weapons and hence the case for invading Iraq was never stronger.

Writing in the respectable alternative journal, The Nation, Jason Vest details the close connections the right has and the way in which it operates and influences much of American foreign, and even domestic policy. He says the power and behind-the-scenes clout of these people is such that they could be called a “shadow defence establishment”. He says that starting from the Clinton administration a group of what he calls “right-wing defence intellectuals” used two organizations, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Centre for Security Policy (CSP), to further their agenda.

Mr Vest writes: “Dozens of their members have ascended to powerful government posts, where their advocacy...continues, abetted by the out-of-government adjuncts from which they came. Industrious and persistent, they’ve managed to weave a number of issues-support for national missile defence, opposition to arms control treaties, championing of wasteful weapons systems, arms aid to Turkey and American unilateralism in general-into a hard line, with support for the Israeli right at its core.”

Of the JINSA/CSP hardline, he says that ...the position is that there is “no Israeli occupation”, apparently because in its eyes Israel won all its wars fairly and justly. He adds: “Anyone who dissents—be it Colin Powell’s state department, the CIA or career military officers—is committing heresy against articles of faith that effectively hold there is no difference between US and Israeli national security interests, and that the only way to assure continued safety and prosperity for both countries is through hegemony in the Middle East—a hegemony achieved with the traditional cold war recipe of feints, force, clientism and covert action.”

The two organizations also show up in the recent furore caused by a briefing at the Pentagon calling for Saudi Arabia to be treated as a potential enemy of America. It was the Pentagon’s Defence Policy Board—chaired by JINSA/CSP adviser and former Reagan administration official Richard Perle, and filled with advisers from both groups that was given this briefing which said that Riyadh should be considered an enemy and the only way to deal with it was to bring it to heel through a number of potential mechanisms Mr Vest writes that many of these “potential mechanisms” which mirror JINSA’s own recommendations. In fact, according to him, the final slide in this presentation proposed a “Grand Strategy for the Middle East” which concentrated on “Iraq as the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia as the strategic pivot [and] Egypt as the prize”.

Michael Ledeen of JINSA is the main proponent for the regime change in Iran, while his “old comrades” like Andrew Marshall and Harold Rhode in the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment “actively tinker with ways to re-engineer both the Iranian and Saudi governments.”

JINSA, he writes, is also happy that the US military is trying to secure bases in the strategic Red Sea country of Eritrea, but ignoring that Eritrea suffers from some of the same repressive authoritarianism that the Americans accuse Iraq or Syria of. Mr Vest quotes serving intelligence officials to say that the pervasiveness of the JINSA/CSP combine is such that sometimes officials jokingly refer to it as the real “axis of evil”. In fact, a new term has been gradually coined in this context—those who favour an extreme rightwing ideology in the case of Israel are now called ‘Likudniks’, a reference to the mainstream right-wing party in Israel.

Again the group’s influence on foreign policy can be gauged by the fact that despite America’s intention to phase out civilian aid to Israel by 2007, the policy in Washington now is to increase military aid to Tel Aviv every year so that the decline in the civilian component is more than offset.

Until the beginning of the Bush Administration, JINSA’s board of advisers included Dick Cheney, John Bolton (now under secretary of state for arms control) and Douglas Feith, the third-highest-ranking executive in the Pentagon. Both Richard Perle, derided now in much of the alternative US media as a key influence on Bush, and former CIA chief James Woolsey, two of the loudest supporters of an attack on Iraq, are still on the board. JINSA members often write op-ed pieces in some of the best-known American papers, especially very right-wing (at least editorially) Wall Street Journal and this, Mr Vest argues, is often a good indicator of what the Pentagon’s civilian leadership thinking.

Read the rest at the Pakistan Dawn


August 31, 2003:

A jolt of reality

The Bush administration finally is showing signs of realism - and maybe even a hint of humility - about the bleak situation in Iraq. The change in attitude, if it is genuine, comes tragically late, but it should be encouraged nevertheless. It could prevent the loss of additional billions of dollars and untold American lives.

Paul Bremer, our top civilian administrator in Iraq, acknowledged last week what his Washington superiors have refused to admit for months: The short-term job of rebuilding Iraq will cost "many tens of billions of dollars." That assessment came the same week the Congressional Budget Office projected a record $480-billion deficit for the coming year - not counting the expense of the Iraq occupation. A clear-eyed assessment of the massive costs facing us in Iraq should add urgency to the administration's efforts to win broader international help in paying the tab.

The rising human toll of the Iraq occupation also seems to be cracking the White House's tough veneer. U.S. forces now have suffered more casualties since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat operations over, than they did in the weeks prior to that premature claim. Meanwhile, conditions on the ground keep getting more dangerous and chaotic for Americans and Iraqis alike.

Our military and civilian leaders continue to resist calls for additional American troops in Iraq - and with good reason. We should be finding ways to reduce our military presence while turning over more duties to Iraqis and troops from other countries. The CentCom commander, Gen. John Abizaid, stressed last week the importance of building a truly international force in Iraq. "You can't underestimate the public perception both within Iraq and within the Arab world about the percentage of the force being so heavily American," he said.

Bremer and Abizaid, our top civilian and military leaders in Iraq, understand the need for more money and manpower from other countries. Persuading other governments to provide that support is a more difficult proposition, and that's where the hint of humility could be crucial.

The Bush administration shouldn't be surprised that most of the rest of the world has been in no rush to bail the United States out in Iraq. The White House arrogantly disregarded the concerns of many of our traditional allies in the months leading up to war. Subsequent revelations that much of the case for war was exaggerated have only added to the raw tensions the prewar debate exposed.

Yet most other governments understand that stabilizing Iraq is in their interests as much as ours. Whether or not Iraq was a breeding ground for terrorism before the war, it surely has become one now. If the civilized world is to rebuild a consensus against terrorism, nuclear proliferation and other threats, Iraq is the logical place to begin.

The Bush administration still can win a broad international commitment to Iraq - if only it will show more flexibility than it did before the war began. Countries such as India and Turkey have signaled a willingness to send significant forces to Iraq once such a mission receives a U.N. mandate. U.S. officials have insisted on maintaining command of all military operations in Iraq, but that should be a simple matter to resolve. Only a fraction of the work being done by our overextended troops qualifies as traditional combat operations. Our commanders should be happy to see Iraqis and international forces take over the policing, social work and other noncombat duties our troops are being forced to perform. Other governments also are ready to contribute more financial aid to Iraq once they receive stronger assurances from Washington that their efforts will go to the benefit of the local population rather than U.S. contractors.

In 2000, President Bush promised a more humble U.S. foreign policy, but the world now knows better than to expect him or his inner circle to admit they miscalculated the risks of going it virtually alone in Iraq. At this point, Americans can only hope that the White House, which was arrogant to the point of hubris in envisioning a quick, easy and popular war, won't allow stubbornness to stand in the way of winning the international support it so obviously needs now.
Read the rest at the St. Petersberg Times


August 31, 2004:

FBI Talks to Feith, Wolfowitz

The FBI has broadened its investigation of a Pentagon official suspected of giving a top-secret presidential policy directive on Iran to two lobbyists working for AIPAC, who then turned the information over to Israel.

The focus of the investigation is an Iran specialist at the Pentagon named Lawrence Franklin, who works in an office overseen by Douglas J. Feith, the Defense undersecretary for policy. Feith is an influential aide to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld whose previous work included prewar intelligence on Iraq, including purported ties between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Al-Qaeda terror network.

The fact that the alleged spy is associated with Feith and Wolfowitz may prove embarrassing for the White House. Both officials, actively involved in planning the invasion of Iraq, have been accused of promoting the war to serve Israeli interests.

Early in the Bush administration, Franklin worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency before moving to the Pentagon’s policy branch under Feith three years ago. He is now nearing retirement.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Franklin had traveled to Israel, including during duty in the Air Force Reserve, where he rose to the rank of colonel and served as a specialist in foreign political-military affairs. He may have been based at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv on those tours, a former co-worker at the DIA told reporters, but was never permanently assigned there.

The FBI spent more than a year covertly investigating Franklin, and even obtained a warrant from a federal court to use electronic surveillance. It is not known whether such surveillance was conducted inside the Pentagon itself, although it has involved at least one of Franklin’s computers.

High-ranking officials at the Defense and State Departments have been interviewed or briefed by FBI agents investigating the case. Among those briefed by the FBI was Feith, said government officials familiar with the sessions. The officials spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity because the probe is continuing.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation briefed Feith on Sunday in his office at the Pentagon and also asked questions, the officials said. Also recently briefed by the FBI was Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, they said.

Others at State and Defense have been interviewed or briefed over the course of the probe, but the officials declined to provide any other names.

Prosecutors are said to be weighing whether to charge Franklin with the most serious charge of espionage, but the FBI believes Franklin’s spying went well beyond the extensive information-sharing relations that exists between the United States and Israel.

Newsweek magazine reported Sunday the FBI first learned of Franklin’s unusual contacts when agents observed him at a Washington lunch more than a year ago with a lobbyist for AIPAC, and Naor Gilon, a specialist on Iran’s nuclear weapons program and head of the political affairs department at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

AIPAC is the powerful pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee based in Washington.

Citing US intelligence officials, Newsweek said Franklin on one occasion allegedly tried to hand over a classified US policy document on Iran, but that the Israeli diplomat refused to take it.

It is here the AIPAC lobbyists could have proved useful as middlemen.

Read the rest at Arab News


August 31, 2005:

Long U.S. Air Force role in Iraq seen

The air force's top general says that U.S. warplanes will have to support Iraq's fledgling security forces well after ground troops eventually withdraw from the country.

The officer, General John Jumper, who is scheduled to step down later this week as the air force chief of staff, predicted Monday that U.S. fighter and reconnaissance aircraft would continue flying missions over Iraq for a long time, until Iraqi forces were capable of fighting insurgents on their own.

"As I see the transition into the hands of the Iraqi military, I will continue to see the need for them to require the support from the air until they're able to set up their own ability to support themselves," Jumper said in a meeting with reporters at the Pentagon. "And that's going to take awhile, even after some future withdrawal of ground forces."

In an interview earlier this month, Jumper was even more explicit when asked about the air force's future in Iraq.

"We will continue with a rotational presence of some type in that area more or less indefinitely," he said then. "We have interests in that part of the world and an interest in staying in touch with the militaries over there."

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune


August 31, 2006:

The US view of Iraq: we can pull out in a year

The top US general in Iraq yesterday predicted that Iraqi forces would be able to take over security in the country with "very little coalition support" within a year to 18 months. General George Casey did not say anything specific about parallel withdrawals of US troops. Instead, he said American-led coalition forces would pull back into large bases and provide support before leaving.

Gen Casey's predictions earlier in the summer that the US military presence could be reduced from about 130,000 to 100,000 by the end of the year were proved overly optimistic by a surge in sectarian killing. Instead a combat brigade based in Mosul had its tour extended and was sent to Baghdad to help Iraqi troops keep a lid on the bloodshed there, and the overall American forces level rose to 138,000.

US officials pointed optimistically to statistics suggesting that the military focus on the capital had helped to curb sectarian killings between Sunni and Shia groups, though in the past few days the body count has again soared. Yesterday at least 24 people were killed and 55 wounded in a bomb attack on a crowded central Baghdad market, while 12 volunteers were killed in the bombing of an Iraqi army recruitment centre in the Shia town of Hilla.

Despite the violence, Gen Casey was optimistic that Iraqi forces were on schedule to take primary responsibility for security by late 2007 or early 2008. "I don't have a date, but I can see over the next 12 to 18 months, the Iraqi security forces progressing to a point where they can take on the security responsibilities for the country, with very little coalition support," he said in Baghdad. In remarks published by the Associated Press, he added: "We have been on a three-step process to help build the Iraqi security forces." The first step had been to train and equip them and the second was to "put them in the lead, still with our support". The last step would be to "get them to the stage where they independently provide security in Iraq."

Read the rest at the Guardian

Security Summary: August 31, 2007

Above: A U.S. soldier keeps watch on a group of women during a house to house search in Baqubah today.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. military plane carrying a U.S. congressional delegation came under fire on Thursday while taking off from Baghdad airport, forcing the crew to take evasive action, the military said.

BAGHDAD - U.S. forces killed five militants and detained 13 others during raids targeting local al Qaeda leaders in the Tigris River Valley, the military said.

SAMARRA - A suicide car bomb killed four police commandos and wounded seven others when it targeted their patrol in al-Jallam village near Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

KIRKUK - Gunmen killed a barber in a drive-by shooting in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

HAQLANIYA - Two tribesmen and four al Qaeda militants were killed in clashes on Thursday in the town of Haqlaniya near Haditha, 250 km (150 miles) west of Baghdad, Haditha police chief Colonel Faruq Hardan said. KUT - Gumen killed one man and wounded another when they opened fire on a crowded area in Kut, 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Baghdad, police said.

ANBAR PROVINCE - U.S. forces killed 12 al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents and destroyed two vehicles on Wednesday near the town of Garma, west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

ANBAR PROVINCE - A U.S. Marine and a soldier were killed in combat in Anbar on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - Police found five bodies in different districts of Baghdad on Thursday, police said.

KUT - Gunmen killed a man on Thursday in a drive-by shooting in Kut, police said.

MOSUL - Gunmen killed an engineering student on Thursday in a drive-by shooting in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

RIYADH - Police found two bodies tortured and shot near the town of Riyadh, southwest of the northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday, police said.

HAWIJA - Gunmen killed an employee of the customs office in in Hawija, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, police said.

From Reuters/Alternet

U.S. Panel on Iraqi Police Corruption: 'We should start over'

Above: Iraqi national policemen question a woman during a search of her home in Baghdad earlier this month.

US panel to urge overhaul of Iraq police - report

An independent U.S. panel will recommend a major overhaul of Iraq's national police force to purge corrupt officers and Shi'ite militants suspected of complicity in sectarian killings, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

The commission established by Congress concluded that rampant sectarianism that has plagued the force since its inception requires that its current units "be scrapped," the newspaper reported, citing administration and military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The commission, headed by Gen. James Jones, the former top U.S. commander in Europe, was set up to assess the Iraqi police force. The panel was scheduled to present its findings to Congress next week.

The 14-member panel of former or retired military officers, Pentagon officials and law enforcement officers will urge that the Iraqi force be reshaped into a smaller, more elite organization, a senior official familiar with the findings told The New York Times.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

Panel Will Urge Broad Overhaul of Iraqi Police

An independent commission established by Congress to assess Iraq's security forces will recommend remaking the 26,000-member national police force to purge it of corrupt officers and Shiite militants suspected of complicity in sectarian killings, administration and military officials said Thursday.

The commission, headed by General James L. Jones, the former top United States commander in Europe, concludes that the rampant sectarianism that has existed since the formation of the police force requires that its current units "be scrapped" and reshaped into a smaller, more elite organization, according to one senior official familiar with the findings. The recommendation is that "we should start over," the official said...

However, a new attempt to disband an Iraqi force would also be risky, given the armed backlash that followed the American decision to dissolve the Iraqi Army soon after the invasion of 2003.

Read the rest at the NY Times

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Report: U.S. to free 50 Iraqi detainees a day during Ramadan

Above: Guards and detainees at the U.S. internment facility at Camp Bucca. Under emergency powers, detainees may be held upon suspicion and without trial or release date. Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the number two U.S. commander in Iraq, was heavily criticized by others in the military when in 2003 and 2004, as commander of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, he ordered 'mass sweeps' of all adult males 16 years or older in problem villages, many of which ended up in Abu Ghraib. Analysts say the insurgency gained strength from Iraqi resentment of his tactics.

Fifty Iraqis will be freed from U.S. prisons in Iraq each day during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the office of Iraq's Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said on Friday.

The U.S. military said this week it had reached a deal with Hashemi to conduct "special Ramadan releases" of detainees during the holy month, which begins in the second week of September.

It was unclear when the releases would start, but the military said they could begin as early as this week. The U.S. military says it is holding 23,000 Iraqis.

"Fifty Iraqi prisoners will be released from American prisons every day during Ramadan," Omar al-Jubouri, an adviser on human rights to Hashemi, said in a statement from the vice president's office.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

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C-130 carrying senators, congressman shot at several times in flight over Iraq

Above: A U.S. Air Force C-130 lifts off for an airlift mission from an undisclosed base in Southwest Asia in July.

C-130 carrying lawmakers dodges missiles

A military cargo plane carrying three senators and a congressman was forced to take evasive maneuvers and dispatch flares to avoid ground fire after taking off from Baghdad.

The lawmakers said their plane, a C-130, was under fire Thursday night from three rocket-propelled grenades over the course of several minutes as they left for Amman, Jordan...

Crew members apparently communicated to the pilots as they saw the initial RPG fired from the ground, Cramer said. After the first burst, the pilots maneuvered aggressively and set off flares used for drawing incoming fire away from aircraft.

Once the flares lit up the sky, lawmakers said, two more RPGs were fired as the pilots continued maneuvering.

Read the rest at Air Force Times

Plane Carrying U.S. Lawmakers Is Shot At in Iraq

A military cargo plane carrying three senators and a House member was forced to take evasive maneuvers and dispatch flares to avoid ground fire after taking off from Baghdad on Thursday night...

“It was a scary moment,” said Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, who said he had just taken off his body armor when he saw a flash outside the window. “Our pilots were terrific. They banked in one direction and then banked the other direction, and they set off the flares.”

He was traveling with Senators Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, and James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, as well as Representative Robert E. Cramer, Democrat of Alabama.

Read the rest at the NY Times

Plane carrying congressional delegation comes under fire in Iraq

A military plane came under fire last night as it flew four members of Congress out of Baghdad...

"It was dark as the dickens outside, and I was looking out the little window. I saw the red glare of a shell or a missile coming up toward our plane," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told reporters after the phone landed in Amman, Jordan. "Then, I saw a flare pop out, and our plane just started moving and changing directions and trying to move."

Read the rest at the USA Today

A U.S. Air Force C-130 taxis to a stop at a base in Southwest Asia after an airlift mission

A military aircraft carrying U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and three other members of Congress was fired upon Thursday as it left Baghdad.

“Three hit real close,” the Oklahoma Republican said by phone from Jordan. “It was very noisy.” Inhofe, who is a veteran pilot, was sitting in the cockpit during the nighttime departure...

Inhofe credited the plane’s crew with taking evasive action, which included sending out flares just in case the weapons were heat-seeking.

“They knew what they were doing,” he said.

Inhofe said the military assumes the shots fired at the C-130 were rocket-propelled grenades, adding that whatever was fired went straight up, an indication it was not a heat-seeking weapon...

As the senator watched from the cockpit, military helicopters that routinely accompany such flights were dispatched to the source of the fire, where they were able to direct a high-intensity light.

“They may be dead already,” Inhofe said of those who fired on the plane.

Read the rest at Tulsa World

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Iraqi air force flies first solo mission

Above: Aviators from the 1st Cavalry Division, and the Coalition Air Force Transition Team join members of the Iraqi air force in to celebrate the completion of the first solo aerial mission.

The Iraqi air force has completed its first unaided mission, a Pentagon news release announced Aug. 30.

Iraqi pilots in an MI-17 helicopter completed “Operation Power Line” on Aug. 25 without assistance from U.S. forces, the release said. The mission, based out of Camp Taji, was an aerial survey of local power lines. Insurgents often cut power lines to disrupt the electricity supply, and a proposed Iraqi ordinance would require civilians to stay a certain distance from downed lines.

Along with monitoring power lines, the Iraqi air force also has moved soldiers, dignitaries and visitors across Iraq.

“They’ve moved about 500 passengers so far this year,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan Bartlett, commander of the 770th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron and the Coalition Air Force Transition Team.

Read the rest at Air Force Times

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Over half of recalled recruiters unable to show up

Above: A human resources specialist with 101st Airborne Division's 159th Aviation Brigade talks to a potential recruit as part of the Special Recruiter Assistance Program. SRAP participants can earn a $2,000 bonus for each soldier they enlist who completes basic and advanced individual training.

Recruiting stations got a boost in August when hundreds of soldiers who had completed their recruiting duties were called back from their current assignments for a three-month stint.

The Army had missed its recruiting goals for two months straight and more boots on the ground were needed to help meet the year-end goal of 80,000 by Sept. 30.

But of the 1,105 former recruiters notified they would be going back to their stations, some with only a few days’ notice, only about half were able to make it.

According to the Army Recruiting Command, 506 soldiers are filling the assignment, which is slated to conclude by Oct. 15.

Waivers were granted to approximately 520 soldiers for pending medical or physical evaluation boards; separation; use-or-lose leave; extreme family situations; planned leave with nonreimbursable monetary considerations; pending deployment; high-risk pregnancy or surgeries; approved retirements; soldiers with less than 12 months dwell time from a previous deployment; soldiers assigned to special duty or special units; soldiers in a 90-day reintegration period; senior noncommissioned officers filling operational billets; soldiers serving as casualty assistance officers; and those in other critical operational positions.

Read the rest at Army Times

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Army orders Humvee window kits

Above: On the day following Christmas last year, Jeremiah Johnson, Joey Strong and Logan Tinsley's Humvee hit a slick and rolled over into a canal in Iraq. Joey Strong and Logan Tinsley drowned. Jeremiah Johnson suffered irreversible brain damage from 12 minutes under water, and with his family at his side, was removed from life support one week later.

The Army has ordered 1,000 kits for new windows that would allow troops to get out of Humvees quickly in an emergency, according to BAE Systems.

The Vehicle Emergency Escape windows have a handle that troops can turn to unlock and pop them out in about five seconds, the company Web site says.

The windows particularly come in handy when Humvees overturn or become submerged, said BAE Systems spokesman Ryan May.

Up-armored Humvees are “a little top-heavy,” so they have a tendency to tip over, May explained.

With the new windows, troops can get out of an overturned Humvee in about a minute, he said.

The alternative in such situations is to rip off a Humvee door, which can weigh 500 pounds.

Read the rest at Stars and Stripes

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Armed services seeking donors with AB blood type

Above: An Army surgeon sews up a soldier's wound from shrapnel during an IED attack in May.

The Armed Services Blood Program is calling for AB blood type donors.

Known as a universal donor, AB blood can be given to anyone in an emergency, yet less than 4 percent of people in the U.S. have type AB blood, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Army Medical Command based at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Donated blood is usually separated into plasma, platelets and red blood cells, meaning one donation can possibly help three people.

“While group AB plasma can be given to anyone, it is always best for a patient to receive his or her exact blood type. As soon as a patient’s blood type is confirmed, group-specific blood products are used,” the release stated. “Because blood is perishable, blood donors of all types are in high demand to meet the needs of the military community.”

Read the rest at Stars and Stripes

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Editorial: Abu Ghraib swept under the carpet


We would have been hard pressed to think of a more sadly suitable coda to the Bush administration’s mishandling of the Abu Ghraib nightmare than Tuesday’s verdict in the court-martial of the only officer to be tried for the abuse, sexual assault and torture of prisoners that occurred there in 2003.

The verdict was a remix of the denial of reality and avoidance of accountability that the government has used all along to avoid the bitter truth behind Abu Ghraib: The abuses grew out of President Bush’s decision to ignore the Geneva Conventions and American law in handling prisoners after Sept. 11, 2001.

The man on trial, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, was not a career officer. He was one of a multitude of reservists pressed into Iraq duty, many of them for jobs beyond their experience or abilities. A military jury of nine colonels and a brigadier general decided that he was not to blame for the failure to train or supervise the Abu Ghraib jailers and acquitted him on all charges related to the abuse. He was convicted only of disobeying an order to keep silent about Abu Ghraib. Even that drew only a reprimand, from an organization that Colonel Jordan presumably has no further interest in serving.

Our purpose is not to second-guess the verdict. Rather, we fear that this and the other Abu Ghraib trials have served no larger purpose than punishing 11 low-ranking soldiers who committed despicable acts. Not one officer has been punished beyond a reprimand, and there has been even less accountability at higher levels.

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top officials have long claimed that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were the disconnected acts of a small number of sociopaths. It’s clear that is not true.

Read the rest at the NY Times

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- August 30th edition

August 30, 2003: A soldier with the 327th Infantry Regiment monitors the streets of a village in west Iraq, part of an operation to search five villages for insurgents.


August 30, 2002:

Israel sees opportunity in possible US strike on Iraq

It echoes the hawks in the Bush administration, but Israel has its own agenda in backing a US attack on Iraq. As Egypt and other Arab allies issue vehement warnings to dissuade Washington, Israel's fear is that the US will back off.

"If the Americans do not do this now," said Israeli Deputy Defense Minister and Labor Party member Weizman Shiry on Wednesday, "it will be harder to do it in the future. In a year or two, Saddam Hussein will be further along in developing weapons of mass destruction. It is a world interest, but especially an American interest to attack Iraq."

"And as deputy defense minister, I can tell you that the United States will receive any assistance it needs from Israel," he added.

Viewed through the eyes of Israel's hawkish leaders, however, a US strike is not about Iraq only. Decisionmakers believe it will strengthen Israel's hand on the Palestinian front and throughout the region. Deputy Interior Minister Gideon Ezra suggested this week that a US attack on Iraq will help Israel impose a new order, sans Arafat, in the Palestinian territories.

"The more aggressive the attack is, the more it will help Israel against the Palestinians. The understanding would be that what is good to do in Iraq, is also good for here," said Ezra. He said a US strike would "undoubtedly deal a psychological blow" to the Palestinians.

Read the rest at the Christian Science Monitor


August 30, 2003:

Saudi extremists said to be fighting in Iraq

Despite official denials, there have been signs for months that Saudi Muslim extremists have traveled to Iraq to take on U.S.-led forces.

Internet memorials to those who died fighting the Americans have popped up and Saudis are quietly swapping tales said to be from the front lines. Many of the men going to Iraq had previously fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia and were experts on guerrilla warfare, said Abdullah Bjad al-Otaibi, who once counted himself among the extremists and now writes about them for Saudi newspapers.

Saudi extremists are "looking to die and the quickest way to heaven, as far as they're concerned, is fighting infidels, in this case represented by the U.S. forces in Iraq," al-Otaibi said. "Nothing inflames their emotions like the presence of U.S. troops in a Muslim country. The presence of the troops in Iraq, especially with the instability there, is like a magnet to them."

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune


US needs Muslim soldiers: Abizaid

America’s top military man in Iraq said on Friday he wanted more Muslim peacekeepers and better intelligence rather than US troop reinforcements to tackle the hit-and-run attacks still plaguing occupation forces.

Gen John Abizaid’s comments came after a British soldier was killed in southern Iraq and more US troops wounded as resistance to the US-led occupation continued unabated five months after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

European countries opened debate on helping with the peacekeeping effort after Washington said it might hand some responsibilities over to the United Nations, with France calling for a “real international force” in Iraq.

“We’ve got to get more of an Iraqi face on the security establishment and we need to have more international participation in the international coalition force,” US Central Command chief Abizaid told The New York Times.

His comments came amid a growing realization in the United States that rebuilding Iraq will be more difficult and more costly than had been forseen and that more US troops may be needed to improve all-round security.

However, Gen Abizaid said he favoured seeing more peacekeepers from countries like Turkey and Pakistan and accelerating the training of a new Iraqi army to counter the image of a US-dominated occupation.

Read the rest at the Dawn


US decree strips thousands of their jobs

Tarik al-Kubaisy, vice-president of the Iraqi Society of Psychiatrists, is a worried man. It's not just that the queue of patients suffering from severe stress disorders in Iraq's war-torn society is growing longer by the day.

Nor that a country of 25 million has fewer than 100 psychiatrists and many are planning to emigrate now that Saddam Hussein's restrictions on foreign travel have gone.

The other concern for Dr Kubaisy, who was awarded a London University PhD after four years at the Maudsley hospital, is that the Americans have taken away his job.

Like many young Iraqi professionals, he joined the Ba'ath party several years before Saddam became its leader and turned Iraq into a one-party state. But under Order Number One, issued by Paul Bremer, Iraq's US administrator - the so-called "de-Ba'athification" decree - Dr Kubaisy's position as a professor in Baghdad University's college of medicine has ended.

When Baghdad University and Iraq's other colleges re-open next week, around 2,000 senior staff have been told to stay at home, Dr Kubaisy estimates. Although they were Ba'ath party members, none was connected to the former regime's security apparatus.

"It's collective punishment. It's conviction without any charge," Dr Kubaisy said yesterday. "I'm becoming a bit paranoid but I think the Americans intend to force Iraqi brains to go abroad".

Coalition officials argue that every Ba'athist has not been purged. Only those who held one of its top four ranks are barred from public service.

"The de-Ba'athification decree is the most popular thing we have done here," a senior coalition official said.

It was strongly promoted by Washington neo-conservatives like Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence, and his friend, Ahmed Chalabi, a businessman convicted in Jordan of fraud who is now a member of Iraq's governing council.

"The problem is they didn't look at who were really leaders. They made the issue of rank too important and went down too low," said Husam al-Rawi, a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a professor in Baghdad University's architecture department. "Instead of targeting a thousand or a few hundred people, they targeted 80,000"...

The de-Ba'athification decree is also causing turmoil in government ministries, hospitals and other bodies considered part of the civil service. Anyone in the top three levels of management loses their job if he or she was a party member, regardless of rank.

"History teaches us that victors have to be magnanimous, but what are we seeing here? A new society created on the basis of hatred and revenge," said a senior official who declined to be named.

"When I joined the party in the 1970s, it was the party of oil nationalisation, eradicating illiteracy, autonomy for the Kurds, and national reconciliation ... Then Saddam destroyed the party. He executed more Ba'athists than anyone else ... Most of us felt relieved when he was overthrown.

"When this war began to loom, we were in an intellectual dilemma. Mounting an insurrection against the regime meant helping the powers which wanted to invade us. But if we supported the dictatorship, it was against our basic interests."

Anger was the prevailing mood among large sections of the Baghdad middle class, he said. People felt criminalised.

The de-Ba'athification decree provides for appeals and exemptions, if a person has the support of staff, for example, and their jobs are judged indispensable. A petition for Prof Rawi, signed by 350 students and 30 staff, was sent to the US administration two months ago, so far to no avail.

With the weeks ticking by and universities about to re-open, most sacked academics have lost hope. The decree says nothing about protecting pensions and they may not be paid. At least half the 2,000 university staff who have been dismissed are likely to lose their government housing too.

Prof Rawi said this violated the fourth Geneva convention. "An occupier cannot dismiss people from jobs, administer collective punishment, and discriminate against people on the basis of political belief".

A coalition spokesman said that only between 15,000 and 30,000 people had been affected: "The suggestion that there are lots and lots of innocent people who have been unfairly dismissed is not true. Less than 5% of the Ba'ath party members are covered".

Read the rest at the Guardian


August 30, 2004:

Top U.S. general in Iraq sent memo authorizing use of dogs to scare prisoners

Early last September, as attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq were spiking and the military was under pressure to extract more information from prisoners, the senior U.S. military commander in Iraq sent a secret cable to his boss at U.S. Central Command outlining more-aggressive interrogation methods he planned to authorize immediately.

The Sept. 14 cable signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez listed several dozen strategies for extracting information, drawn partly from what officials now say was an outdated and improperly permissive Army field manual.

But it added one used on suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but not previously approved for use in Iraq: "Exploit Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations."

"Enclosed is the policy modeled on the one implemented for interrogation conducted at Gitmo," Sanchez said in his cable, referring to Guantánamo Bay.

It authorized not only exploiting prisoners' "fear" of dogs but also the use of isolation; "sleep management"; "yelling, loud music, and light control ... to create fear, disorient detainees and capture shock"; deception, including fake documents and reports; and "stress positions," such as forced kneeling for as many as four hours at a time.

The cable placed no restrictions on the use of dogs on "detainees" and "security internees," but said any use involving enemy prisoners of war would require Sanchez's direct approval.

Within one month, Sanchez's cable was rescinded on instructions from senior officials at U.S. Central Command and replaced with a more cautious memo that allowed the use of muzzled dogs during interrogations only when Sanchez gave his direct approval — something he told investigators he was never asked to do.

Sanchez's order calling on police dog handlers to help intimidate detainees at Abu Ghraib prison into talking — a practice later seen in searing photographs — was one of a handful of documents written by senior officials that Army officials now say helped sow the seeds of prison abuse in Iraq.

They did so, according to an Army report released Wednesday, by lending credence to the idea that aggressive interrogation methods were sanctioned by officers going up the chain of command.

The text of the Sanchez cable was not included in public copies of the Army's report, but was obtained by The Washington Post from a government official upset by what Sanchez approved.

The authors of the Army report did not accuse Sanchez of directly instigating abuse, and they did not cite the contents of his memo in the unclassified version...

Whatever Sanchez's intent or policy, the practice of "abusing detainees with dogs started almost immediately" after the Army brought several dog teams to Abu Ghraib in November 2003, the report said. No one above the military grade of the top intelligence commander at Abu Ghraib was legally "culpable" for the abuse, the Army report concluded.

Read the rest at the Seattle Times


Prison abuse suspect called willing participant

A soldier already convicted in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal testified Monday that fellow Army reservist Pfc. Lynndie England was a willing participant in creating the “human pyramid” of naked Iraqi detainees shown in infamous photographs from Iraq.

Pvt. Jeremy C. Sivits testified at a hearing in England’s case that he helped escort one detainee into the Baghdad prison one night in December 2003. He said a sergeant who was in charge yelled at England and another soldier for “stomping on the fingers and toes” of a detainee.

After that sergeant left, Sivits testified, he watched as Spc. Charles Graner Jr. and others stacked seven naked detainees, who had bags over their heads, in the human pyramid and photographed them.

The photos included shots of England, 21, smiling and pointing at one detainee’s genitals and posing behind the pyramid.

“Corporal Graner seemed like he was enjoying it,” said Sivits, of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company. “Pfc. England was sitting in his lap, having a good time.”

Several soldiers have testified that England was Graner’s girlfriend, and he has been described as the father of the child she is due to deliver in October.

Sivits pleaded guilty in the scandal and is serving a year in prison. He testified by telephone Monday from the brig at Camp Lejeune.

England is one of seven members of the 372nd charged in the scandal.

Read the rest at Newsweek


Bush Calls Iraq Invasion a 'Catastrophic Success'

President Bush on Sunday defended the invasion of Iraq, calling it a "catastrophic success" despite continued violence and the lack of weapons that drove the country to war.

"We did not find the stockpiles that we thought would be there," Bush said at a rally in the northern part of West Virginia, a swing state he won in 2000 that remains vital to his re-election.

"I want to remind you that Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons of mass destruction, and he could have passed that capability on," Bush said a day before his nominating convention opened in New York.

Bush, in an interview with Time magazine, suggested he still would have gone into Iraq, but with different tactics had he known "that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."

He called the swift military offensive that led to the fall of Baghdad in April 2003 "a catastrophic success".

Read the rest at Fox News


August 30, 2005:

The president's sacrifice

The White House announced this afternoon that George W. Bush will cut short his vacation so that he can oversee the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. As the Washington Post explains it, Bush's advisors are "sensitive to the image of a president vacationing amid the hurricane crisis."

That's fair enough. When the death toll is climbing, when rescue teams are still searching for the missing, when homes are under water and without power -- well, a certain amount of respect and common sense might suggest that it's not a good time to be playing Cowboy President down in Crawford.

But isn't it also fair to ask, what about Iraq? By our count, 71 Americans have been killed in Iraq since Bush arrived in Crawford on Aug. 2. The president didn't return to Washington on Aug. 3, when 14 Marines were killed near Haditha. He didn't return on Aug. 9, when five National Guardsmen and a soldier were killed in separate incidents. He didn't return when Iraqi negotiators failed to meet a deadline , then failed to meet a deadline , then failed to meet a deadline , then failed to meet a deadline and then failed to reach agreement on a draft constitution.

Instead, the president stayed in Crawford, bicycling with Lance Armstrong and avoiding Cindy Sheehan while making the occasional side trip to Utah, to Idaho, to an RV park in Arizona and finally to an Air Force Base in California. That's where the president was this morning , commemorating the 60th anniversary of V-J Day and talking about the "sacrifice" -- he used the word seven times -- that Americans have always been willing to make in times of war.

Read the rest at Salon


August 30, 2006:

Soldier's Diary: Soldiers Came to Iraq For Each Other

With our time here coming to a close, I was struggling a bit to think of something to write about. I had a small entry ready to send out last night, but then the news came over the net, we had lost another soldier to an IED strike. Once again, a memorial ceremony will be conducted early next week.

We have completed packing our containers and watch more of our replacements show up. The show is still ours, and a good chunk of the incoming unit has flown up to Taji in order to attend the COIN academy. The academy is where newly arrived units' leadership get instruction on the latest tactics and procedures for fighting a counterinsurgency (COIN). The instructors are soldiers who have fought here, and include leaders from units who are still in the fight.

I thought it would now be a good time to reflect on our year here, and write about some of those thoughts. The first thing I will talk about is probably the easiest to discuss — why we are here in Iraq. As with any of my entries, take it for what it is: One soldier's perspective. We still have our collective goals and missions but that is not the focus for this entry.

When I was on leave, I had many discussions and heard many reasons why U.S. soldiers are in Iraq. The opinions varied from person to person, and when you turn on a TV, or read a paper, there always seems to be an op-ed piece with someone explaining what brought us here.

The opinions have a wide range; some will tell you we are here for the noblest of causes — to bring democracy to the freedom loving people of Iraq. Others will tell you we came over here for oil, to keep the price of oil up, and others will say to keep oil prices down. Some say we are fighting for the president, while others will say we are fighting for Halliburton.

You can read stories about soldiers who refused to come over here. Some go to Canada, others call the media to make their case. Some people make them out to be heroes. The immediate thought is they have no idea what is means to be a soldier. The real heroes in those cases are the soldiers who came over and are doing the job for them.

When my brigade operations officer was promoted a couple of months back, he told us why he loved being a soldier so much. If you love being a soldier, it's because you love soldiers. It never really hit me until he said that. Combine those words with a year spent in south Baghdad and you quickly realize why you are deployed over here.

When I got into the airplane to come over here, there were no political thoughts, just thoughts on the soldier boarding in front of me, and the soldier walking up the ladder behind me. When I took my seat, the thoughts were focused on the soldier sitting to my left and to my right.

When you go overseas for a deployment, you understand there are risks you are taking. You put your life in danger and you may be asked to take the lives of others, be it directly or indirectly. Despite all the risks associated with our job, we go to work each day, knowing each of us is a small cog in a big wheel. The hope is if you do your job, perform it to the best of your ability, you made it possible for someone, at least one person to come back and return to their family.

I am not a big fan of the movie "Black Hawk Down," but there is a great scene near the end with the character portrayed by Eric Bana. He explains to a young NCO [non commissioned officer] why he is out fighting, and tells him 'it's about the guy next to you.'

We did not come here for democracy; we did not come here for oil. We came here for each other. If you cannot understand that, I am sorry, but I can explain it no further.

Read the rest at Fox News

Security Summary: August 30, 2007

Left: Empty mortar shells lie in the village of Razaga, Iraq following Iranian shelling of the Kurish village today.

BAGHDAD - One U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded in combat in western Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - U.S. forces killed two insurgents, including a leader, and captured two suspected insurgent leaders during raids in Mosul, Baquba and Tarmiya targeting al Qaeda, the U.S. military said.

DIYALA - One U.S. soldier was killed by an explosion near his vehicle while conducting combat operations in Diyala province on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - Iraqi security forces have arrested 72 gunmen following clashes in the city of Kerbala this week that forced hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to flee a religious festival, the Defence Ministry said.

NAJAF - Gunmen killed a local energy official in Najaf near his house in a drive-by shooting on Wednesday night, police said. Najaf is 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad.

From Reuters/Alternet

Reports: U.S. to send troops to replace Brits in Basra

Above: British soldiers patrol a village near Basra in July. The British have been facing increasing casualties from freqent attacks and especially mortar barrages by Shia militia groups.

US says ready to step back into Basra as British pull out

The US military is ready to intervene in southern Iraq to quell any unrest as British forces prepare to pull out from their last base in the oil port of Basra, the Pentagon said Thursday.

Press reports in London suggest that the British departure and handover of security control to Iraqi forces may be imminent, although the official line is that it will take place before the end of the year.

US forces will not allow any security advances in southern Iraq to be abandoned, Brigadier General Richard Sherlock, deputy director for operational planning at the Department of Defense, told reporters.

As requirements on the ground dictate, "they will reposition forces with the battlefield geography in mind so that they don't give up gains that they've made in different areas, including in Basra and the south," he said.

Read the rest at Yahoo News

Troops pay price for special relationship

An entire brigade of 3,500 US troops is being lined up to replace British forces as they pull out of southern Iraq, the Sunday Telegraph has learned...

Details of the number of US troops required to take over were disclosed by a senior British officer, who asked not to be named. He also revealed that commanders at the Ministry of Defence were "irritated" by the growing criticism from the US of their handling of Basra.

To fill the vacuum, US Army chiefs may have to break a promise not to extend operational tours in Iraq beyond the current 15 month maximum, or risk diverting a significant number of the extra soldiers currently in Baghdad for the troop surge...

The US soldiers are expected to move south early next year, when Downing Street hopes to begin a scale down that will lead to a complete departure. Iraqi sources last night confirmed earlier reports that Britain would pull its remaining 500 troops out of Basra Palace - the last remaining garrison in the city itself - in a matter of days, paving the way for a full scale withdrawal in the coming months.

But the British officer also added: "It's clear from talking to the Americans that they are going to have to fill the gap we will leave.

"The feeling is that the moment the vacuum opens there the Iranian Revolutionary Guard will be in like a shot. The Americans are talking about sending a brigade, but it's still fluid."

Read the rest at the Telegraph

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