War News for Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi policemen
killed, twenty wounded, thirteen missing after their convoy was ambushed in Basmaya. US Marine killed in Al Anbar province.
Bring ‘em on: Fourteen more bodies
of men executed with a single gunshot to the head found in Mosul.
soldiers were killed and four others were injured on Wednesday in a helicopter accident near Baghdad.
: Iraq's defense minister on Wednesday accused neighboring Iran and Syria of supporting terrorists in his country and charged that a senior Iraqi Shiite was leading a "pro-Iranian" coalition into next month's national elections.
Hazem Shaalann, who has previously accused Tehran of interfering in Iraq's affairs, said that Iranian and Syrian intelligence agents, plus former operatives from Saddam Hussein's security forces, are cooperating with the al-Qaida in Iraq group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi "to run criminal operations in Iraq."
With his comments, Shaalan may have been looking toward next month's polls, the first to be held since Saddam's capture a year ago. A leading coalition of Shiite parties called the United Iraqi Alliance, some with close ties to Iran, is expected to do well in the vote and Shaalan may be trying to stir up sentiment against it.
This program might need a little tweaking
: American marines and military intelligence analysts are studying the tactics of insurgents in Iraq — staging mock hostage takings, roadside bombings and suicide missions, as well as studying the Koran, praying to Allah and learning to think like jihadists.
The Pentagon is scrambling to make good its error and is putting troops through crash counter-terrorist courses. It wants combat-ready units to have more foreign language speakers and a greater understanding of local cultures.
One marine had returned only six weeks ago from a seven-month posting in Iraq. He will be going back soon. “It’s what I do,” he said. Had the course taught him anything he had not learnt in the field? “It’s helped me to know how the enemy thinks and appreciate how sophisticated they are.”
If he were in charge, how would he deal with the Iraqis?
“I’d kill them all,” he replied. “They don’t know what democracy is.”
Breaking the military
: On Monday, USA TODAY reported that Guard soldiers in Iraq were more likely to be killed than active-duty Army soldiers. The story was based on faulty numbers provided by the Guard last week.
The Guard initially blamed the wrong numbers on an internal error. Later, the Guard said it had misunderstood the question and provided a total only for troops who had gone to Iraq and come home, not for all those who had set foot in Iraq. Based on that misunderstanding, the Guard said, it gave USA TODAY a figure of 37,000 troops.
Death rates notwithstanding, the numbers of deaths for Army Guard and the Army Reserve are significantly higher than for part-time troops in past conflicts. During the 12-year-long Vietnam War, for example, fewer than 100 Guard troops were killed. The deaths of 142 Guard soldiers and 59 reservists in Iraq reflect sharply higher deployments to Iraq -- relatively few Guard and reserve troops served in Vietnam -- and the fact that Guard and reserve troops are taking on some of the most dangerous missions in Iraq, including convoy duty and guarding facilities.
Military and Fiscal Irresponsibility
Everything we can
: President Bush reassured Americans last week that "we're doing everything we possibly can to protect your loved ones in a mission which is vital and important." But as the death toll climbs to nearly 1,300, some soldiers and defense-industry officials insist that much more could be done. Eighteen months after Bush declared that "major combat operations" in Iraq were over—and another war began—the most powerful military machine on the planet, replenished by America's unmatched industrial power, is still sending its soldiers, reservists and National Guardsmen down dangerous roads in soft-skinned trucks and Humvees.
Luftwaffe over Stalingrad
: The Air Force is making more cargo flights over Iraq to keep Army transport trucks off the country's dangerous roads, accepting the increased risk to planes and added cost to reduce the threat on the ground, officials said Tuesday.
On a given day in Iraq, 3,000 vehicles in 215 convoys are moving around, according to Air Force figures. They face ambush by insurgents and attacks from roadside bombs. Scores of soldiers and drivers have been killed or wounded on convoy duty.
Many of the heavy trucks in these convoys are without armor and are protected only by troops in escorting Humvees.
Increased flights probably will mean greater fuel and maintenance costs and stress on air crews. Flying a C-130 costs $3,400 an hour, Air Force officials said.
"I am totally disinterested in the cost," Jumper said. "It will be paid for. We will do what it takes."
Some Air Force officials ultimately hope to haul as much as 1,600 tons a day around Iraq, officials said.
Bad news for General Jumper
: It is not as grim a milestone as the number dead and wounded, but Pentagon officials say the latest accounting of dollars spent on the war in Iraq now exceeds $100 billion, CBS News National Security correspondent David Martin reports.That's about double the cost the White House predicted before the first U.S. soldier entered Iraq. But no one expected the world's most powerful military to be run ragged by an insurgency of perhaps 12,000 fighters armed with nothing more sophisticated than rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Bad news for the rest of us
: The Bush administration plans to ask for between $80 billion and $100 billion to fund military operations next year, rather than the $70 billion to $75 billion the White House privately told members of Congress before the election, according to Pentagon and White House officials.
But some analysts and government officials said the request is expected to run as high as $100 billion, bringing the total cost of operations in Iraq alone to well over $200 billion since the March 2003 invasion.
Few analysts expect the Iraq mission to be wrapped up in a year, and many question why the Bush Administration is continuing to budget its war costs through supplementals - usually reserved for one-time, emergency expenses - rather than include them in the annual budget request that is sent to Capitol Hill every February.
Democrats and some fiscally conservative Republicans believe the administration is trying to hide the effects of rising war costs on the federal deficit, thereby justifying President Bush's calls for making some tax cuts permanent and spending more money on education and other domestic priorities.
Crimes, Trials, Punishments
: U.S. Marines fired a pistol in a mock execution involving four young Iraqi looters and shocked another Iraqi detainee with an electric transformer until he "danced," a document made public on Tuesday showed.
The June 16 U.S. Navy document detailed 10 "substantiated" incidents of detainee abuse in Iraq involving 24 Marines dating back to May 2003. The Marine Corps said 13 Marines were convicted in courts-martial stemming from the incidents, getting prison sentences of up to 15 months.
: A Saddam henchman nicknamed "Chemical Ali" for his role in using chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds will be the first leader of the former regime to be tried for war crimes, it was confirmed today.
The announcement was made on the morning that campaigning was scheduled to start for Iraq's first democratic elections in January, prompting accusations that it was timed for the electoral advantage of the interim government.
: President Bush bestowed the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Tuesday on three of the central architects and executors of the war in Iraq, one of the president's strongest efforts yet at putting a formal stamp of success on a war whose outcome is still a question.
The recipients were Gen. Tommy Franks, the overall commander of the invasion of Iraq; Paul Bremer, the chief civilian administrator of the U.S. occupation of the country; and George Tenet, the longtime director of central intelligence, who built the case for going to war.
"I don't think history will be as kind to these gentlemen as the president was today," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a former officer in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. Bush, he said, is "still trying to put a good face on serious mistakes. This is the continuing motif: Everything is working, and we should reward ourselves for that."
Local story: Georgia
Marine killed in Al Anbar province.
Local story: Baton Rouge, LA
, Marine killed in Al Anbar province.
Local story: Littleton, CO
, Marine killed in Al Anbar province.
Local story: Two Marines from Waukesha and Omro, WI
, killed in Al Anbar province.
Local story: Warrenton, OR
, soldier killed in Mosul.
Local story: Charlotte, SC
, Army National Guardsman killed in Mosul.
Local story: Three Camp Pendleton, NC
, Marines killed in Al Anbar province.
Local story: Lake Hughes, CA
, Marine killed in Al Anbar province.
Local story: Carlstadt, NJ
, soldier killed in Baghdad.
Local story: Mansfield, CT
, Army National Guardsman killed near Baghdad.
Local story: Listing of Ohio
soldiers and Marines killed in Iraq.