Tuesday, November 08, 2005

War News for Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Four US soldiers killed in suicide car bombing at a checkpoint south of Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: At least 36 suspected insurgents killed so far in the US-Iraqi "Steel Curtain" military offensive in western Iraq. Four Iraqi civilians killed and two injured in a suicide car bombing near Al-Mustansiriya Square, east of Baghdad. Director of criminal intelligence in Basra and his brother were killed in Basra by an IED explosion in the downtown Hamdan square. Three armed foreign insurgents who were attempting to enter a safe civilian zone near al-Qaim dressed as women shot down by Iraqi soldiers. Six policemen killed by armed rebels hiding their weapons beneath the black 'chador' worn by Arab women in Buhris. (Note: This last attack appears to be different from the one where six policemen died as reported in Saturday’s post, but both attacks were said to involve assailants dressed in women’s clothes. It is not clear if this is truly a new insurgent tactic or just a psyops disinformation thing meant to demean the guerillas.)

Bring ‘em on: A lawyer for one of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants was shot dead in Baghdad and another was wounded when gunmen opened fire on their car.

Bring ‘em on: Five insurgents killed and 10 captured in Ramadi by US Marines. One civilian translator killed in the same attack that killed four US soldiers, reported in today’s first entry. One policeman killed and three wounded in a roadside bombing near Kirkuk. Six handcuffed corpses found in a water treatment plant, unclear what city, probably Baghdad. One civilian killed by gunmen in Baghdad’s Dora district. One person killed and another injured in a car bombing near Mustansiriyah University.

Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi soldiers killed and a fifth critically wounded when a bomb blew up near their patrol car in the small town of Dali Abbas, north-east of Baghdad. Five decomposed bodies found in the Rustumiya area, just south of the Iraqi capital. The identity of the victims was not immediately clear. Two policemen killed and three wounded in a bombing near the town of Daquq, south of Kirkuk. One policeman killed and five injured in an insurgent attack on a police patrol in Baquba. US forces killed two militants and arrested six others as they raided an al-Qaeda safe house near Ramadi.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, two US soldiers and an Iraqi translator wounded by a makeshift bomb while on patrol near Dawr on Sunday. A suicide car bomber attacked a U.S. patrol in Mosul on Monday, no details on casualties. Nine people, including six Iraqi policemen, killed by a suicide car bomber in the southern Dora district of Baghdad. An Iraqi journalist was shot dead by gunmen in Mosul. Police said that Ahmed Hussein Al-Maliki, who worked as an editor for Tal Afar Today newspaper, was killed while he was inside an internet café. Four people killed and six wounded by mortars in eastern Baghdad. At least two Iraqi soldiers killed and 13 injured when a suicide car bomber targeted a group of Iraqi soldiers guarding oil pipelines in the town of Thibban north of Baghdad.

Chemical warfare: In soldier slang they call it Willy Pete. The technical name is white phosphorus. In theory its purpose is to illumine enemy positions in the dark. In practice, it was used as a chemical weapon in the rebel stronghold of Fallujah. And it was used not only against enemy combatants and guerrillas, but again innocent civilians. The Americans are responsible for a massacre using unconventional weapons, the identical charge for which Saddam Hussein stands accused. An investigation by RAI News 24, the all-news Italian satellite television channel, has pulled the veil from one of the most carefully concealed mysteries from the front in the entire US military campaign in Iraq.

Another report: Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.

Ever since the assault, which went unreported by any Western journalists, rumours have swirled that the Americans used chemical weapons on the city.

But now new information has surfaced, including hideous photographs and videos and interviews with American soldiers who took part in the Fallujah attack, which provides graphic proof that phosphorus shells were widely deployed in the city as a weapon.

Bring ‘em in: The Pentagon on Monday notified 92,000 fresh U.S. troops to prepare for rotation to Iraq over a two-year period beginning in mid-2006, but cautioned that the number did not signal immediate plans to slash a much-higher U.S. troop level now in that country.

There are currently about 160,000 American troops in Iraq. That total, boosted to help security for elections in October and December, is above the usual "baseline" level of about 138,000 U.S. troops stationed there.

Countless ways out: The growing number of U.S. military deaths, which reached 2,000 last month and has since risen to 2,035, underscores a grim reality: There are countless ways to die in Iraq.

Since the March 2003 invasion, the U.S. military has catalogued the fatalities across a variety of demographics. Casualties -- including 15,477 wounded -- are delineated as "hostile" and "non-hostile." They are broken down by branch of service, by race and ethnicity, by active and reserve units, and by 31 potential causes, including cancer, electrocution, exposure to the elements, four types of transportation accidents and eight types of weaponry.

But the statistics also obscure how death here can turn on factors as capricious as luck and human frailty, on the subtle whims of a terrible moment.

Iraqi Politics

Mookie: Moqtada al-Sadr, a young cleric with a mass following in Iraq, has yet to urge his supporters to back the ruling Shi'ite Alliance party at next month's election but aides denied speculation on Monday of a rift in the bloc.

The votes of Sadr's many followers will be an important factor on Dec. 15 and he seems set to maintain an ambivalent stance toward the party likely to dominate in Shi'ite regions.

It seems likely, however, that the cleric himself will keep himself out of the political fray and not endorse the Alliance.

Militias: The sun had barely risen over a small Sunni village when Shiite militiamen, some wearing black, launched a raid, ostensibly to free hostages. Interior Ministry troops joined the fight. After several hours, more than 20 people were dead.

Details about what happened Oct. 27 in Medayna, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, vary depending on whom you ask. But the violence underscores a disturbing and dangerous trend in Iraq: the growing role and power of militias and their contribution to rising sectarian tensions.

Mercs: Former Serbian "Red Berets" elites forces are now being employed as private security personnel in Baghdad.

About 30 former members of the Jedinica za Specijalne Operacije Special Operations Unit, better known as the JSO or Red Berets, have been working for private security contractors in Iraq for $8,000 a month.

Vecernje Novosti daily said the men were recruited through a security agency in Sarajevo in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina. A former JSO member based in Belgrade, who currently works for the Serbian National Security Council, recruited the men.

In March 2003 the Serbian government disbanded the Red Berets after occupying their headquarters in Vojvodina province. The Red Berets were former President Slobodan Milosevic's Ministry of the Interior elite troops.

Foreign Affairs

Britain: Tony Blair repeatedly passed up opportunities to put a brake on the rush to war in Iraq, a failure that may have contributed to the country's present anarchy, according to Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain's ambassador to Washington at the time, in his book DC Confidential, serialised in the Guardian from today.

Sir Christopher, highly critical of Mr Blair's performance in the run-up to the war, argues the prime minister and his team were "seduced" by the proximity and glamour of US power and reluctant to negotiate conditions with George Bush for Britain's support for the war.

Spain: On April 8, 2003, the three members of the 3rd Infantry were stationed in the tank that fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing the two journalists, one of whom — cameraman Jose Manuel Couso Permuy — was a Spanish citizen.

Last month, a judge in Madrid issued arrest warrants for the soldiers, saying they might have committed murder and a "crime against the international community" by firing on the hotel.

That followed a June case in which an Italian judge issued arrest warrants for 22 alleged CIA operatives accused of abducting an Islamic cleric in Milan.

Both cases underscore a trend among some European judges: stepped-up use in the past three years of a legal principle known as "universal jurisdiction" — the view that governments have the right to try anyone accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

Torture, American Style

We don’t do it: President Bush strongly defended U.S. interrogation practices for detainees held in the war on terrorism Monday, insisting, "We do not torture."

Bush was asked to respond to reports, first published in The Washington Post, that the United States maintains secret prisons in Europe and Asia for terrorism suspects. The president didn't acknowledge that they exist.

U.S. interrogation practices have been under fire since news accounts in 2004 reported harsh tactics by U.S. interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and at detention facilities in Afghanistan. In a new case Monday, five Army Rangers were charged with abusing detainees in Iraq.

So there's no reason to make it illegal, right?: Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, according to defense, state, intelligence and congressional officials.

In recent months, Cheney has been the force against adding safeguards to the Defense Department's rules on treatment of military prisoners, putting him at odds with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England.

Just last week, Cheney showed up at a Republican senatorial luncheon to lobby lawmakers for a CIA exemption to an amendment by Sen. John McCain that would ban torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Vice-President for Torture: Senior Administration officials have led a fierce, and increasingly visible, fight to protect the C.I.A.’s classified interrogation protocol. Late last month, Cheney and Porter Goss, the C.I.A. director, had an unusual forty-five-minute private meeting on Capitol Hill with Senator McCain, who was tortured as a P.O.W. during the Vietnam War. They argued that the C.I.A. sometimes needs the “flexibility” to treat detainees in the war on terrorism in “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” ways. Cheney sought to add an exemption to McCain’s bill, permitting brutal methods when “such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack.” A Washington Post editorial decried Cheney’s visit, calling him the “Vice-President for Torture.” In the coming weeks, a conference committee of the House and the Senate will decide whether McCain’s proposal becomes law; three of the nine senators who voted against the measure are on the committee.

At what great cost: Retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, an MSNBC analyst, joined MSNBC's Chris Jansing on Monday to discuss torture, its effectiveness and what tactics he believes are most useful.

"At the end of the day, it's very easy to distinguish between the right thing and the wrong thing to do. If you do the wrong thing, you're not going to get any positive payoff from it and it's going to be of at some great cost," Jacobs said. "We get much more information if we treat people properly."

"You need to be aggressive to get the information you want, but if you treat people inhumanely, they're just going to tell you what they think you want to hear," he said. "They'll do anything just to get the mistreatment to stop, so you get nothing from mistreatment."

The rule of law cannot coexist with torture: Ahmed Abu Ali is an American - a resident of Falls Church, Virginia. In the summer of 2003, Abu Ali was taking final exams in a Saudi Arabian university, and looking forward to returning home to his family in Northern Virginia for the summer.

But Abu Ali did not come home. Instead, Saudi law enforcement authorities forcibly removed him from his classroom and imprisoned him for twenty months.

Abu Ali was interrogated by the Saudis without any of the safeguards that Americans are afforded in U.S. court. He did not have the right to an attorney. He was not informed of his Miranda rights. And he was not protected against coercive self-incrimination.

Yet now, American prosecutors will be using Abu Ali's unconstitutionally-procured statements against him in an American court.

It’s all of a parcel – hidden detentions, secret trials, torture and murder, all justified by war: The Supreme Court agreed today to consider a challenge to the Bush administration's military tribunals for foreign terror suspects, a major test of the government's wartime powers. Justices will decide whether Osama bin Laden's former driver can be tried for war crimes before military officers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Chief Justice John Roberts, as an appeals court judge, joined a summer ruling against Salim Ahmed Hamdan. He did not participate in today's action, which put him in the difficult situation of sitting in judgment of one of his own rulings.

Who would Jesus torture?: Yesterday, the president's own United Methodist Church's Board of Church and Society, in an almost unanimous vote, protested against the "unjust war in Iraq" and appealed for return of our troops. The Board also issued a strong statement against torture, urging Congress to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate detention and interrogation practices at Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Methodist bishops may issue a similarly strong statement next week.

Until now, the lukewarm mainstream churches have not been able to find their voice--a throwback to the unconscionably passive stance adopted by the Catholic and Lutheran churches that were co-opted by Hitler in the 1930s. Let us hope that other churches start paying attention to what is going on and follow the good example of the Methodists.

Otherwise, our government's view will prevail. As described by one former CIA lawyer that is "the law of the jungle. And right now we happen to be the strongest animal."

Once again, our media utterly fails us: If one needed more reason to criticize the Washington Post's decision to withhold information, at the government's request, about the CIA's network of prisons in Eastern Europe for suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, read Jane Mayer's horrifying article in this week's New Yorker. In "A Deadly Interrogation," Mayer reports on the death by torture of an Iraqi terrorist suspect in the custody of the CIA. Jamadi died while being interrogated at Abu Ghraib by a CIA officer and a translator. His head had been covered by a plastic bag and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that inhibited his ability to breathe. According to forensic pathologists interviewed by Mayer, Jamadi died of asphyxiation. But in a subsequent internal investigation, US government authorities classified his death as a homicide. Nevertheless, the CIA investigator has not been charged with a crime, and continues to work for the agency. Mayer reports he has been under investigation by the Justice Department for more than a year. (The CIA has reportedly been implicated in at least four deaths of detainees, and has referred eight potentially criminal cases to the Justice Department, Mayer reports. Yet, as she notes, the government has so far brought charges against only one-level contract employee.) It is a fantasy to believe that the architects of these cruel, inhuman interrogation techniques will be held accountable by an Administration whose key figures, especially "The Vice President for Torture," are so deeply implicated in the policies that led to the metastasizing use of torture.

What should not be overlooked is the historic significance of the Washington Post's decision. "This is probably the most important newspaper capitulation since the New York Times yielded to John F. Kennedy's call for them to not run the full story of planning for the Bay of Pigs," Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive senior analyst, told Columbia Journalism Daily. "By withholding the country names, the Post is directly enabling the rendition, secret detention, and torture of prisoners at these locations to continue. That is a ghastly responsibility."

Torture is not an American value: I have traveled this region for years and always I kept my head high as an American. There are things we do not do. There are things we stand for. Go ahead, hate us for supporting Israel or for some similar reason, but if you were Bassam -- any Bassam anywhere in the world -- you had to know that America did not abuse prisoners and most especially did not torture them. Other governments did that. Not us. The culprits at Abu Ghraib were punished.

Now, though, we are witnessing a debate in Washington that any American at one time would have thought impossible: whether to allow "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under custody or control of the United States government." The words are taken from the amendment introduced by Sen. John McCain, which would prohibit such practices. It has passed twice, the first time by 90 to 9, the second by a voice vote. It has the support of a former POW, McCain; a former Navy secretary, John Warner; a Reserve military judge, Lindsey Graham -- and, outside the Senate, former military men such as Colin Powell. Nonetheless, the administration vows a veto.

"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd US President (1882-1945)

War For Oil

I think this makes it official: When Colin Powell’s former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson publicly decried the Bush administration’s bungling of U.S. foreign policy, the focus of the press coverage was on Wilkerson’s depiction of a “cabal” headed by Vice President Dick Cheney that had hijacked the decision-making process.

Largely overlooked were Wilkerson’s frank admissions about the importance of oil in justifying a long-term U.S. military intervention in Iraq. “The other thing that no one ever likes to talk about is SUVs and oil and consumption,” the retired Army colonel said in a speech on Oct. 19.

While bemoaning the administration’s incompetence in implementing the war strategy, Wilkerson said the U.S. government now had no choice but to succeed in Iraq or face the necessity of conquering the Middle East within the next 10 years to ensure access to the region’s oil supplies.

This Is A Sick Joke

Antiwar is unchristian: The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election. Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church's former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.

In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support. But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster." On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that "a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church … " The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.


Joseph L. Galloway: It was a slide down the toad hole that ended with a bump as I landed in Wonderland: The E Ring office of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, where the great man waited to do battle.

The occasion was an invitation to a private lunch with the secretary, and I knew I was not there to receive the Defense Distinguished Service Medal or a pat on the back. My recent columns on the state of the Army and the conduct of the war in Iraq have not been well received at the uppermost levels in the Pentagon.

The surprise was that four others were joining us: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace; the vice chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Richard Cody; the director of the Joint Staff, Lt. Gen. Walter Sharp; and acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Larry DiRita.

Good! Five to one. I had them surrounded.

Frank Rich: Pat Tillman's case is itself a replay of the fake "Rambo" escapades ascribed to Pfc. Jessica Lynch a year earlier, just when Operation Iraqi Freedom showed the first tentative signs of trouble and the Pentagon needed a feel-good distraction. As if to echo Mary Tillman, Ms. Lynch told Time magazine this year, "I was used as a symbol." But the troops aren't just used as symbols for the commander in chief's political purposes. They are also drafted to serve as photo-op props and extras, whether in an extravaganza like "Mission Accomplished" or a throwaway dog-and-pony show like the recent teleconference in which the president held a "conversation" with soldiers who sounded as spontaneous as the brainwashed G.I.'s in "The Manchurian Candidate." As Mr. Bush's approval rating crashes into the 30's, he and the vice president are so desperate to wrap themselves in khaki that on the day of the Libby indictment, they took separate day trips to mouth the usual stay-the-course platitudes before military audiences. If this was a ploy to split the focus of cable news networks and the public, it failed. Perhaps Scooter Libby is hoping that a so-called faulty-memory defense will save him from jail, but too many other Americans are now refreshing their memories of what went down in the plotting and execution of the war in Iraq. What they find are harsh truths and buried secrets that even the most compelling administration scenarios can no longer disguise.

Nick Turse: On February 15, 2003, at least 10 million people in 400 cities in 60 countries, across 5 continents saw what was about to happen plenty clearly. They saw that the coming war would be illegitimate, deadly, and destructive. They sensed that invading Iraq would, in the long run, be no cake-walk. They already understood that what the Bush administration so clearly planned to do was based on lies. And they knew it was all wrong -- not from the start or months or years later -- but before it ever began.

If medals are being given out, perhaps this is what should never be forgotten. It was the "crazies" in the streets. It was kids in weird clothes with strange hair. It was a man holding a puppet and a woman with a homemade sign. They knew then what it took the majority of Americans years to figure out. That the war would be a disaster and that, in any case, it was wrong. Those people, braving a bitterly cold day in New York City in February 2003, had better intel, more foresight, and better judgment than the military, the intelligence agencies, and especially the President and Vice President of the United States and all their advisors.

Stephen M. Walt: For their part, Secretary Rumsfeld and other administration officials blame our problems on Baathist “dead-enders” and radical jihadis, aided and abetted by Syria and Iran. It’s not the Bush administration’s fault we’re losing, we are told; it’s our enemies’ fault. That is no defense at all, of course, because it merely reminds us that the Bush team failed to anticipate what would happen once Saddam was gone and we “owned” Iraq. And given that the Bush administration has repeatedly threatened Syria and Iran with regime change, it is hardly surprising that these regimes are now happy to see us bogged down in Baghdad. U.S. leaders should have considered these possibilities before they went to war, and their failure to do so is hardly a reason to excuse them now.

The most scurrilous alibi, however, blames our difficulties on eroding public support at home. Grieving antiwar mother Cindy Sheehan gets pilloried by right-wing commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, and President Bush declares that Americans who favor withdrawing “are advocating a policy that would weaken the United States.” Similarly, neoconservative pundit Max Boot recently maintained that Iraqi democracy would survive its birth pangs only “if we don’t cut and run prematurely.” So, we are told, “staying the course” will work, unless we are forced to pull out by weak-willed critics back home.

This argument is a clever bit of political jujitsu, because it in effect blames any future defeat on the people who have long contended that the war was unnecessary and unwise. But it is also a bogus excuse. In a democracy, a commander in chief who wants to go to war is responsible for building and maintaining public support for sending our sons and daughters into harm’s way. President Bush sold the war brilliantly before the fighting started, but his sales pitch could not survive the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the embarrassing revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib, the bungled occupation, the mounting list of dead and wounded, and the rising economic toll. Most of all, this rationale highlights the conspicuous lack of a plausible theory of victory now. We are not losing because our troops lack public support. The war lacks support because we are losing.

If our Iraq adventure ends badly, there will be ample blame to go around. But the buck should stop, as President Harry Truman famously said, in the Oval Office. President Bush was quick to claim credit when things were going well, and he cannot escape blame when things turn ugly. This is President Bush’s war, and America’s failure will be his legacy.

Revision Thing: A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies, posted on Monday, November 7, 2005. All text is verbatim from senior Bush Administration officials and advisers. In places, tenses have been changed for clarity. Originally from Harper's Magazine, October 2003. By Sam Smith.

Casualty Reports

Local story: A soldier from Virginia Beach assigned to the 101st Airborne Division has died in combat in Iraq.

The Department of Defense said today that 24-year-old Staff Sergeant Jason Fegler died in Baghdad on November 4th during combat operations.

Fegler was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

According to Army records, Fegler was promoted to Staff Sergeant on Nov. 1.

The military says Fegler's death is under investigation as a potential friendly-fire incident.

Local story: A soldier killed in Iraq had recently sent family and friends an e-mail saying he would have no regrets if he died in combat.

Capt. Jeffrey P. Toczylowski, 30, a Special Forces detachment commander assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, fell from a helicopter during combat operations in Al Anbar province on Nov. 3, the Army said Monday.

"It was an honor to serve my country, and I wouldn't change a thing. It was just my time," Toczylowski, of Upper Moreland Township, Montgomery County, PA, had written in the e-mail.

Local story: Sergeant First Class James Hayes, 48, was killed November 6th near the town of Taji when his Humvee hit an improvised explosive device.

Hayes, 48, was a member of A Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. He entered the Army in November 1984, and arrived at Fort Campbell March 2003.

He is survived by his wife and five children. Hayeswas from Barstow, Calif.

Update: Army Lt. Col. Thomas A. Wren, 44, Lorton, Va.; killed Saturday in a vehicle accident in Tallil; assigned to the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq.

Army Spc. Darren D. Howe, 21, Beatrice, Neb.; died Thursday of injuries from an explosion Oct. 17 near his vehicle in Samarra; assigned to 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.

Army Spc. Timothy D. Brown, 23, Cedar Springs, Mich.; killed Friday when a land mine exploded near his vehicle in Habbaniyah; assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment, Saginaw, Mich.

Local story: A Cedar Rapids native living in Charleston since 1991 has been killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, his father said.

Dustin Allan Yancey, 22, was driving an armored Humvee on Friday south of Baghdad when the explosion occurred. He had been in Iraq since January and was due to leave Dec. 1, said his father, Tom Yancey of Goose Creek, S.C.

Local story: A West Point graduate of the class of 1997 became the 20th alum to be killed in Iraq and yesterday his widow returned to Orange County to bury her war hero husband.

Funeral services were held for Capt. Michael MacKinnon, 30, who was killed by an improvised bomb in Baghdad on October 30.

He is survived by his wife, Bethany, and their two children. Mrs. MacKinnon is a native of the Middletown area. MacKinnon was raised in Helena, Montana.

Local story: An Army officer from New Jersey has been killed in Iraq. Twenty-five-year-old Captain James Gurbisz, who grew up in Eatontown, was killed Friday when a bomb exploded near his vehicle in Baghdad, the Pentagon said. He was on a scouting mission with a unit of the Third Infantry Division. Gurbisz was a star athlete -- captain of the football team at Monmouth Regional High School -- and a top scholar, carrying a four-point-five grade average.

He went on to the U-S Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 2002. He'll be buried on Monday in Arlington National Cemetery.


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