Sunday, September 19, 2004

War News for September 19, 2004 Bring ‘em on: Three US soldiers wounded by car bomb near Baghdad airport. Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers killed, eight wounded by car bomb in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: US troops launch anti-insurgent offensive in Ramadi. Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis killed in firefight with US troops near Fallujah. Bring ‘em on: US troops raid homes of al-Sadr officials in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis wounded by roadside bomb in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis killed, five wounded in US air strike near Fallujah. Britain announces troop cutbacks in Iraq. “The British Army is to start pulling troops out of Iraq next month despite the deteriorating security situation in much of the country, The Observer has learnt. The main British combat force in Iraq, about 5,000-strong, will be reduced by around a third by the end of October during a routine rotation of units.” Failure. “The extent to which the situation is deteriorating may not be obvious to the Iraqi government itself, or to its American allies. Mr Allawi lives under the protection of US security men. He and his ministers are under constant threat of assassination, while their officials frequently have to take cover from mortar bombs lobbed into the Green Zone (now officially called the international zone). The US embassy, equally isolated, is spending $200m (£110m ) fortifying and refurbishing Saddam Hussein's old Republican Palace to house some of its 900 staff members. The US public is just as ignorant of the surging violence in Iraq because, ironically, it is now too dangerous for American television crews and print journalists to cover it. In the battle for Najaf in August, US correspondents with the dateline ‘Najaf’ on their copy, or reports to camera, were often "embedded" with US forces several miles away from the fighting. The result? Network news in the US gives the quite false impression that Iraq is a crisis under control.” Another failure. “Twelve weeks after Americans transferred sovereignty to Iraqis, he is more endangered than ever. If Dr. Allawi was popular among moderate Iraqis in the first weeks after his interim government took over in June, it is plain now that his grace period has expired. In the suicide bombings and attacks on American military vehicles in the last week in Baghdad, at least 75 Iraqi civilians, policemen and police recruits were killed. One constant was the fury that survivors turned on the Allawi government, accused of being the creation of the American troops who brought miseries to Iraq, and of failing so far to stem the growing violence.” Fix what you broke and leave. “Iraq is struggling with a guerrilla war, a stagnant economy and widespread despair. Many of its people are ambivalent about the continuing U.S. presence. Among the great majority of Iraqis who applauded the downfall of Saddam Hussein, there is deep resentment of what they view as Washington's myriad missteps. Chief among them is disbanding the military and police forces, a step they blame for today's rampant lack of security. Iraqis consistently identify lawlessness and violence as their country's gravest problems. Polls show increasing anti-U.S. sentiment and a growing sense that American forces should get out and leave things to the Iraqis. Despite such complaints, many Iraqis hesitate to endorse an immediate U.S. pullout, before some semblance of an effective Iraqi national security apparatus is in place. Some of those angriest about perceived U.S. missteps are the ones most adamant that U.S. forces stick around and try and patch things up, or at least assist in elections scheduled for early next year.” Mahdi Army refuses to disband. “A new round of talks to cease hostilities in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City has ended in deadlock, with fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr refusing American demands to disband and turn in weapons, both sides said Sunday.” Lieutenant AWOL is “pleased with the progress in Iraq.” Pre-deployment lockdown.
The trouble began Labor Day weekend, when 13 members of the 1st Battalion of the 178th Field Artillery Regiment went AWOL, mainly to see their families again before shipping out. Then there was an ugly confrontation between members of the battalion's Alpha and Charlie batteries -- the term artillery units use instead of "companies" -- that threatened to turn into a brawl involving three dozen soldiers, and required the base police to intervene. That prompted a barracks inspection that uncovered alcohol, resulting in the lockdown that kept soldiers in their rooms except for drills, barred even from stepping outside for a smoke, a restriction that continued with some exceptions until Sunday's scheduled deployment. The battalion's rough-and-tumble experience at a base just off the New Jersey Turnpike reflects many of the biggest challenges, strains and stresses confronting the Guard and Reserve soldiers increasingly relied on to fight a war 7,000 miles away. This Guard unit was put on an accelerated training schedule -- giving the soldiers about 36 hours of leave over the past two months -- because the Army needs to get fresh troops to Iraq, and there are not enough active-duty or "regular" troops to go around. Preparation has been especially intense because the Army is short-handed on military police units, so these artillerymen are being quickly re-trained to provide desperately needed security for convoys. And to fully man the unit, scores of soldiers were pulled in from different Guard outfits, some voluntarily, some on orders.
Draft notice. “Where to find the extra troops to fight a seemingly intractable insurgency that echoes Vietnam has become a pressing question. And although you wouldn't hear it from the Bush Administration, the prospect of deploying a draft for the first time in a generation may be edging towards reality.” PTSD. “A leader of the Purvis unit said that 60 to 65 percent of the National Guardsmen show signs of combat stress. ‘A lot of them have made statements that they just don't feel like they fit in anymore,’ said Staff Sgt. John M. Hankins, who has been with the unit for 25 years. ‘The same amount have trouble being in crowded places, such as restaurants.’ Hankins said many of them have bouts of anger and a few report nightmares. Several of their wives have called asking for help. Hankins estimates that 90 percent saw violence that affected them. Most of them were rocked by frequent mortar attacks on their camps or went on convoys that were hit by improvised explosive devices, the roadside booby traps now used by insurgents.” October surprise? “A senior American commander said the military intended to take back Falluja and other rebel areas by year's end. The commander did not set a date for an offensive but said that much would depend on the availability of Iraqi military and police units, which would be sent to occupy the city once the Americans took it. The American commander suggested that operations in Falluja could begin as early as November or December, the deadline the Americans have given themselves for restoring Iraqi government control across the country.” Commentary Editorial: “The official White House line, dutifully echoed by Republican members of Congress, was that the rebuilding of Iraq was going ahead just fine. The only reason that reconstruction appeared to be in trouble was that the media reported it that way. You don't hear that anymore. Indeed, you are beginning to hear Republican criticism of the lack of progress in Iraq…Security concerns and bureaucratic foot-dragging may play a role in the failure to launch timely infrastructure projects that would get restless and angry Iraqis off the streets and into productive jobs. But the indications are that the administration was overwhelmed by the scope of the problem.” Editorial: “Here are the two central truths about the war in Iraq that voters might want to ponder before Nov. 2: (1) The situation in Iraq, while not hopeless, is perilous and getting worse by the day - in part because almost every prediction upon which President Bush's team has based its actions has been proven wrong. Bush's many adjustments in Iraq policy (the unkind would call them flip-flops) haven't compensated for how the occupation was bungled at its start. (2) The Iraq invasion, far from being a bold stroke in the war on terror, was a fatal distraction from it that has left America more vulnerable.” Editorial: “Yet Mr. Bush, who spent the week campaigning for reelection, has offered scant acknowledgment of the quandary he faces or of the worsening state of a mission that has dominated more than half of his first term. His description of Iraq is bland to the point of dishonesty: ‘Despite ongoing acts of violence,’ he repeated Friday, ‘that country has a strong prime minister, they've got a national council and they are going to have elections in January of 2005.’ Not only has Mr. Bush not said how, or whether, he intends to respond to the worsening situation; he doesn't really admit it exists.” Editorial: “We must remember that the United States cited the U.N. Security Council's resolution that called for the abolition of Iraq's WMD as the justification for invading that country. And it was Secretary of State Powell who, in February last year just before the opening of the war, presented many pieces of evidence at the Security Council and ardently warned of an imminent Iraqi threat. The United States invaded Iraq, after all, without a Security Council resolution that explicitly approved the war. Countries that nonetheless supported the United States, including Japan, asked for the understanding of their peoples by contending that Iraq had WMD. It appears, however, that Iraq did not possess such weapons. The problem is more than just the fact that the world was not told the truth. A war takes lives of many people, including noncombatants. A war is fraught with danger of causing confusion and disorder instead of peace. The actual conditions in Iraq prove that. As the United States argues, Saddam's government was a dangerous dictatorial regime. But this war is too costly for the United States and the world. Countries around the world likely want the United States to take responsibility for the misinformation and mistakes that led to the war.” Editorial: “On the campaign trail, an odd double standard has appeared: Sen. John Kerry gets hammered unmercifully for not having what critics believe is a viable plan for dealing with Iraq. But President Bush gets a pass on 1) having personally created this monumental American disaster and 2) having no plan before the war and having none now to clean it up. Kerry does deal in nuance, but that can be a good thing when the alternative is to push blindly ahead with a policy that is demonstrably wrongheaded. Too, as author and journalist Seymour Hersh observed recently, the reason Kerry's solutions may seem lacking to some is that there simply are no good answers to Iraq.” Analysis: “As clouds of disaster gather over the West's grand project to reconceive Iraq, a critical ‘tipping point’ has now been reached, and confidence that the goals of the American occupation can be achieved is fast ebbing away. The many terror groups active in Iraq have launched an overt psychological war of intimidation against the US and its allies, while international critics of the American-led operation have also begun speaking out. The foreign civilian presence inside the country is dwindling fast, as further hostage-taking raids are mounted: two Americans and a British contractor were snatched from their compound in the heart of Baghdad yesterday morning, and some 20 Westerners are unaccounted for after the latest upsurge in kidnappings.” Opinion: “Instead of a gold star, Sue Niederer, 55, of Hopewell, N.J., got handcuffed, arrested and charged with a crime for daring to challenge the Bush policy in Iraq, where her son, Army First Lt. Seth Dvorin, 24, died in February while attempting to disarm a bomb. She came to a Laura Bush rally last week at a firehouse in Hamilton, N.J., wearing a T-shirt that blazed with her agony and anger: ‘President Bush You Killed My Son.’ Mrs. Niederer tried to shout while the first lady was delivering her standard ode to her husband's efforts to fight terrorism. She wanted to know why the Bush twins weren't serving in Iraq ‘if it's such a justified war,’ as she put it afterward. The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported that the mother of the dead soldier was boxed in by Bush supporters yelling ‘Four more years!’ and wielding ‘Bush/Cheney’ signs. Though she eventually left voluntarily, she was charged with trespassing while talking to reporters.” Casualty Reports Local story: Washington State Marine killed in Iraq. Local story: North Carolina Marine killed in Iraq. Local story: Kansas soldier wounded in Iraq. Local story: Washington State soldier wounded in Iraq. Talk Like a Pirate Day A pirate walks into a bar with a steering wheel attached to his penis. "What's with the steering wheel?" asked the bartender. "Arrr," replied the pirate. "It's driving me nuts!" 86-43-04. Pass it on.


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