War News for Saturday, June 11, 2005
Bring 'em on: Five US Marines killed by roadside bomb near Haqlaniya
Bring 'em on: One US tank, two Humvees destroyed by roadside bomb near Haditha
Bring 'em on: Seven US soldiers wounded by car bomb in Mosul
Bring 'em on: Two Oil Ministry employees assassinated in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Ten Iraqis killed, three wounded in bus ambush near Hilla
Bring 'em on: Eight Iraqi police commandos killed by suicide bomber in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Ten Iraqis killed, 27 wounded by car bomb in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi policemen killed in drive-by shooting in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Contractor convoy ambushed near Habbaniya
; casualties reported.
Bring 'em on: US troops kill two Iraqi security guards in Baghdad
Khadija is one of only three patients in the building. The hospital has 200 beds and just a few weeks ago was treating 200 to 300 patients a day.
Since then, the U.S. and Iraqi armies have launched a major operation in this city of 200,000 near the Syrian border to capture or kill insurgents. The violence has left the the city shattered.
Doctors here say most people are now afraid to come here -- afraid they'll be caught in the crossfire between insurgents and the Iraqi army guarding the hospital.
Ahmed says some of the patients who come to the hospital refuse to stay, saying they're safer at home.
He's been doing his residency at the Tal Afar hospital for only five days, but the young Baghdad doctor has already requested a transfer.
"Baghdad is safer than Mosul and Mosul is safer than here. ... Tal Afar is the most dangerous area in Iraq now."
The hospital is a particular target. U.S. and Iraqi forces seized it from insurgents two weeks ago. A soldier from the U.S. Army's Third Armored Cavalry Regiment was killed securing the building.
"Prior to us going there the hospital was considered under anti-Iraq forces control," says Lt. Col. Christopher Hickey. "So much so that the police did not want to go to the hospital to take their wounded."
As in the rest of Tal Afar, most of the time there's no running water in the hospital and in the daytime, no electricity. One of the generators was shot up and the staff hasn't been able to repair it.
. "Also, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest during the morning roll call at the headquarters of Iraqi police Wolf Brigade commandos at about 8 a.m. (12 a.m. EDT) Saturday, Iraqi police said. Three police commandos were killed and 17 were wounded, police said. The bomber was standing among the commandos, leading police to suspect he may have been a commando, or dressed in a commando uniform, police said."
VA Secretary says veterans
needlessly complicate the system.
More mental health resources are needed to deal with stress from Iraq and Afghanistan now, before those veterans develop even more serious mental problems, according to Democrats and veteran support agencies.
On Thursday both groups lobbied for legislation to increase funding for mental health treatment, to extend health-care coverage for veterans returning from war, and to force the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a long-term plan for treating troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Over the years and out of necessity the VA has developed some of the best mental health care in the world,” said Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
“Unfortunately, this care is slipping, and it’s occurring at the worst time, when demand for care is about to explode.”
Earlier, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson offered a mixed reaction to a host of Democrat-sponsored bills, voicing support for general plans to improve mental health care but rebuffing most of their legislative efforts.
He said a long-term mental health plan is already being developed by department officials, although no deadline has been set.
Nicholson opposed a measure to expand post-war health care coverage from two years to five years, saying it would needlessly complicate the current system.
Fuck up and move up
. "Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, the former second-in-command in Iraq — criticized for leadership failures in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal but cleared of wrongdoing recently in an Army investigation — has been selected to head up the Army’s infantry operations and training at Fort Benning, Ga."
. "The Army is having to turn to more high school dropouts and lower-achieving applicants to fill its ranks, accepting hundreds of recruits in recent months who would have been rejected a year ago, according to Army statistics. Eight months into the recruiting year, the percentage of new recruits in the Army without a high school diploma has risen to 10 percent, the upper limit of what the Army is willing to accept, from 8 percent last year. The percentage of recruits with scores in the lowest acceptable range on the standardized test used to screen potential soldiers has also risen to 2 percent, also reaching the Army's limit, from slightly more than a half-percent last year, reaching the highest level since 2001."
. "Eric Burri was not one of his difficult recruits. 'He walked into my office and said, "When can I enlist? I want to know when I can join,"' Army Sgt. First Class John Delk recalled. That was two years ago, and Burri was the first soldier Delk recruited. On Friday, Delk found out that Army Spc. Burri, 21, had been killed in Baghdad. Delk said Burri's death hit him especially hard, because the Wyoming soldier made it a point to stay in touch after he joined. 'Every time he came home he stopped in to let me know how he was doing,' Delk said. 'He thanked me every time. He was the kind of soldier everyone would want to have on their side.' Delk conceded that news of a local death in Iraq won't make his job any easier, as the Army continues to struggle meeting recruitment goals."
The decline in general Army recruiting in recent months has been precipitous. On Wednesday, for instance, the Army said that it had missed its recruitment goal for May by more than 25 percent – that after lowering its monthly target. It was the fourth month in a row that recruitment fell short. Perhaps more importantly, unlike February and March, which are traditionally slow periods for recruiters, May is usually a busy month as students begin to graduate or anticipate graduation from high school.
While media reports have focused on the problems the Army and Marine Corps are having with recruitment, the retention of highly trained specialists is as serious, if not more so, for the long-term ability of the military to sustain operations around the globe. Kiley notes that some 36,000 medical staff – doctors, nurses, technicians — have deployed to southwest Asia from the Army alone in the past four years. That is not only time away from home, but in some cases an interruption of their training as internists or medical students.
The bonuses offered to Wheat and others to work as private consultants are part of a series of strategies designed to bring in highly trained people and to hold on to those already in the service.
The contractors work in a legal shadow world, largely unregulated by either the U.S. or Iraqi government. Under an order signed by Coalition Provisional Authority chief L. Paul Bremer III in June 2004, as the U.S.-led occupation drew to a close, contractors are immune from prosecution in Iraq as long as the actions in question were performed as part of their work.
Almost since the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, there have been tensions between the private forces and the military.
Soldiers resent the perks the contractors enjoy. Contractors routinely make three or four times the pay of troops — more than $100,000 a year.
Some troops and officials see the contractors as "cowboys" who enrage ordinary Iraqis with wanton behavior. Journalists have observed them pointing their guns and firing rounds at Iraqis who come too close. Contractors have been seen racing around Baghdad, Fallouja and other hotspots in armored SUVs, forcing Iraqi civilians off the road.
At a conference this year in Washington, Marine Col. Thomas X. Hammes noted that the military and the contractors had different objectives: The military wants to win the war and contractors want to serve their clients.
He pointed to the protection provided to Bremer by contractors as an example of divergent interests. The U.S. wanted to win over Iraqis, he said. But the aggressive tactics the contractors used to shield Bremer sometimes alienated them, he said.
"We can always get another ambassador," Hammes joked grimly.
My sentiments exactly, Col. Hammes. That silly, strutting popinjay, Baghdad fashion maven and incompetent administrator L. Paul III did more to ensure the failure of the occupation than any other individual.
Some of the proposals, including barring membership in the UN Human Rights Commission to governments with bad rights records, echo recommendations made by Annan himself in his own comprehensive reform agenda, "In Larger Freedom: For Development, Security, and Human Rights, for All."
Kraus, however, warned that the unilateral and threatening way Hyde's proposals were being presented - and the resentment that it was likely to cause - was likely to undercut Annan's own reform efforts.
Hyde's bill, for example, would unilaterally reduce Washington's share of the UN's regular biannual budget from 25% to 22%. It also mandates that once the budget is approved, it cannot be increased without consensus agreement (giving Washington or any other government an effective veto), and, in any case, cannot increase beyond 10%, thus depriving the world body of its ability to cope with unanticipated emergencies.
It also calls for the shifting of 18 programs, including economic and social affairs, least-developed countries, trade and development, refugee protection, international drug control, and Palestinian refugees, from the regular assessed budget to voluntarily funded programs, thus giving "all countries more control over how to best invest their contributions," said Hyde. If this reform is not adopted, the bill calls for Washington to redirect its contributions to "priority areas, which include internal oversight, human rights, and humanitarian assistance".
The UN Public Information Office and international conferences are also targeted for major across-the-board reductions, beginning with a 10% cut for 2007 followed by a 20% cut in 2008.
The bill mandates the creation of an independent oversight board and an ethics office with broad investigative authority over suspected mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and other kinds of wrongdoing within the UN, its agencies and peacekeeping operations.
Countries subject to sanctions by the Security Council or country-specific human-rights resolutions would be banned from serving on the UN Human Rights Commission. In a bow to Israel, the bill also mandates that no UN human rights body could have a standing agenda item that related only to one country.
Just another GOP ploy to destroy FDRs legacy.
: "The United States has a lot at stake here, and the Bush administration has pushed hard behind the scenes for broader Sunni inclusion. But Washington does not want to look as if it is micromanaging Iraqi politics. And, as the government's love fest with the militias painfully showed, American advice isn't always heeded. What is still badly lacking in Iraq is an effective United Nations presence. The United Nations at its best can supply the kind of international legitimacy and impartial expert advice that could help guide the disorganized Sunnis and the inexperienced government politicians toward a better, more farsighted relationship."
: "This bill, which passed out of the House International Relations Committee on Wednesday, demands a long list of reforms at the United Nations. Some are reasonable. It's fine to call for a code of conduct for peacekeeping troops, who have sometimes abused the civilians they were supposedly protecting; the United Nations already has a code, but it needs to disseminate it better to the troops. Likewise, cuts in spending on U.N. conferences, which allegedly cost as much as $8,000 per hour, are sensible. But some of the reforms demanded by the bill are not so good. Requiring that certain programs be funded on a voluntary basis by U.N. members rather than by automatic membership payments would exacerbate the precarious hand-to-mouth budgeting that saps morale and efficiency. But the bill's worst feature is that it mandates a 50 percent cut in U.S. payments to the United Nations if some of its proposals don't get implemented; other proposals come with a threat of a 25 percent cut. This is like using a sledgehammer to drive a nail into an antique table: Even if you're aiming at the right nail, you're going to cause damage."
: "What is a concerned parent to do, especially as recruitment efforts are redoubled? In my town of Cookeville, Tenn., when Quakers and Vietnam War veterans informed students how they could serve their country in other ways, they were banned from the high school for months and called "anti-American." But when an Army recruiter presented a program called "What Patriotism Is" to all the second-graders (7-year-olds) in our county, no one said a word. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools are legally obligated to inform parents of their right to 'opt out' of having information about their children given to the military. But the schools often fail to inform, or bury opt-out information in legally obscure language at the back of a student handbook. Opting out seems rather insignificant given the fact that recruiters have physical access on a frequent basis to our schoolchildren. Without doubt, a great debt is owed to our military, and a military career can be a path of pride and opportunity. The government has a duty to ensure that the military has the soldiers and equipment it needs. But the government must also ensure the protection of our children and safeguard the role of public schools as places of learning. The military should not be permitted to use our schools as vehicles to send young people to war. "
Local story: Idaho
Marine killed in Iraq.
Local story: Three Ohio
Marines killed in Iraq.
Local story: Louisiana
soldier killed in Iraq.
Local story: Mississippi
Marine dies in Iraq.
Local story: Tennessee
Guardsman dies in Iraq.
Local story: Louisiana
Department of the Army civilian killed in Iraq.
Local story: Two Illinois
Guardsmen wounded in Iraq.
Local story: Arkansas
soldier wounded in Iraq.