Wednesday, November 16, 2005

War News for Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Three U.S. soldiers killed by a roadside bomb that hit their patrol northwest of Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed yesterday in a car bomb explosion about 50 miles west of Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Five US Marines killed and 11 reported wounded in a firefight in Obeidi.

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi policemen from the Facility Protection Service, a government-run security force, killed by gunmen in Mosul. One traffic policeman killed by gunmen in Mosul. Baiji police head seriously wounded with five of his bodyguards when a roadside bomb went off near his motorcade in Baiji.

Bring ‘em on: Three bodies found shot dead in the area of Mukaithif, south of Tikrit.

Operation Steel Curtain: U.S. and Iraqi forces fighting insurgents near the Syrian border ran into fierce resistance Tuesday, with troops encountering dozens of explosive booby traps and killing at least 30 insurgents, the military said.

The U.S. command said three U.S. Marines have died in combat while trying to clear the town of Obeidi as part of "Operation Steel Curtain" since Monday. At least 80 insurgents have been killed in the same period, mostly in airstrikes, the statement said.

The U.S.-Iraqi attack on Obeidi was the latest stage of an offensive to clear al-Qaida-led insurgents from a string of towns and cities in the Euphrates River valley near the border with Syria and seal off a major route for foreign fighters sneaking into Iraq.

White phosphorus: The Pentagon has confirmed that US troops used white phosphorus during last year's offensive in the northern Iraqi city of Falluja.

"It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants," spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable told the BBC - though not against civilians, he said.

The US earlier denied it had been used in Falluja at all.

Melted skin: Abu Sabah knew he had witnessed something unusual. Sitting in November last year in a refugee camp in the grounds of Baghdad University, set up for the families who fled or were driven from Fallujah, this resident of the city's Jolan district told me how he had witnessed some of the battle's heaviest fighting.

"They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud," he said. He had seen "pieces of these bombs explode into large fires that continued to burn on the skin even after people dumped water on the burns".

As an unembedded journalist, I spent hours talking to residents forced out of the city. A doctor from Fallujah working in Saqlawiyah, on the outskirts of Fallujah, described treating victims during the siege "who had their skin melted".

The Ghost Devil of Iraq: Despite the recent arrest of one of his would-be suicide bombers in Jordan and some top aides in Iraq, insurgency mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi has eluded capture, U.S. authorities say, because his network has a much better intelligence-gathering operation than they do. Zarqawi's organization has been particularly successful because it has repeatedly targeted Iraqi civilians who tried to aid the American effort to capture him, frightening off other potential informants, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

"There is a huge network of intelligence operatives over there who are watching our every move. And they are watching every time we recruit an Iraqi to come back and inform to us about where he has been and what he has seen," said one U.S. Justice Department counter-terrorism official, who is familiar with the campaign to track down Zarqawi. "And every time we have been able to do that, the person has ended up dead."

Exporting terror: Amid allegations that foreign fighters flow through Syria into Iraq, deadly border clashes between U.S. and Syrian soldiers, and al-Qaida attacks in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and now Jordan, it appears the first steps toward democracy in Iraq have done little to bring stability to the region. Nor have they stopped Iraq's chaos from spilling dangerously across the Middle East.

Al-Qaida in Iraq, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the coordinated bombings that rocked Jordan's capital a week ago. Jordanian authorities attribute the conspiracy to three male suicide bombers and a woman whose explosives failed to detonate. The four, all Iraqis, are believed to have entered Jordan by car.

"In this sense, Zarqawi is actually fulfilling the old strategy of al-Qaida, not just to globalize the struggle all over, but first and foremost against the so-called Arab infidel governments," meaning countries with friendly relations with America or Israel, said Reuven Paz, an expert on Islamist movements at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism near Tel Aviv. "He wants to export the Iraqi issue ... all over the Arab world."

The safest city in Iraq: Mixed emotions are written on Iraqi faces, as Sgt. Mindo Estrella leads a dusty foot patrol of US Marines in Fallujah. Smiles and furtive waves - even handshakes and shouts of "Good! Good!" - blend with angry, sullen stares.

One year after marines launched the most ferocious urban assault since the Vietnam War - emptying the city in order to root out entrenched insurgents - the Battle for Fallujah has yet to be won.

Last February, US commanders declared Fallujah the "safest" city in Iraq. Yet, despite a constant US and Iraqi military presence and the strictest security measures of any Iraqi city, insurgents have begun filtering back, and the prevailing calm veneer of a city on the mend can disappear in a flash. US forces here are often confronted with street-level decisions about how best to build the trust of residents while maintaining security - and their own safety. Though attacks are limited, roadside bombs are increasingly common; marines say teenagers are being paid to throw grenades.

Security forces: Among the varied armed security men on Baghdad's streets these days, you can't miss the police commandos. In combat uniforms, bulletproof vests and wrap-around sunglasses or ski masks, they muscle through Baghdad's traffic jams in police cars or camouflage-painted pickup trucks, clearing nervous drivers from their path with shouted commands and the occasional gunshot in the air. The commandos are part of the Iraqi security forces that the Bush administration says will gradually replace American troops in this war. But the commandos are being blamed for a wave of kidnappings and executions around Baghdad since the spring.

One such group, the Volcano Brigade, is operating as a death squad, under the influence or control of Iraq's most potent Shia factional militia, the Iranian-backed Badr Organization, said several Iraqi government officials and western Baghdad residents.

Detainee abuse: Iraq's government says it will investigate the alleged abuse of more than 170 detainees after the prisoners were found starving and abused at jail run by Iraqi security forces in Baghdad. Malnourished and showing signs of torture, the prisoners were found on Sunday when US troops took control of an interior ministry building. Deputy interior minister Hussein Kamal, who saw some of the abuse victims personally, said: "I've never seen such a situation like this during the past two years in Baghdad, this is the worst. "I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralysed and some had their skin peeled off various parts of their bodies." "I have never seen such a situation like this during the past two years in Baghdad. This is the worst and cannot be denied."

Not the only torture room: Iraq's main Sunni Arab political party on Wednesday demanded an international investigation into allegations that security forces illegally detained and tortured suspected insurgents at secret jails in Baghdad.

Omar Heikal of the Iraqi Islamic Party said it was now clear that majority Shiites in the U.S.-backed government were trying to suppress minority Sunnis ahead of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

"Our information indicates that this is not the only place where torture is taking place," he said, reading an official party statement. The party "calls on the United Nations, the Arab League and humanitarian bodies to denounce these clear human rights violations, and we demand a fair, international probe so that all those who are involved in such practices will get their just punishment."

After the liberation: Life in occupied Iraq today is so grim that many Iraqis say it was better during the deadly years of United Nations sanctions and Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. In much of the country, there is less electricity than before the March 2003 U.S. invasion--with predictable consequences, including "patients who die in emergency rooms when equipment stops running," the New York Times reports.

Despite the billions handed for reconstruction work to George W. Bush's friends at Bechtel and Halliburton, "[n]early half of all Iraqi households still don't have access to clean water, and only 8 percent of the country, excluding the capital, is connected to sewage networks," USA Today reports.

Hospitals in Iraq are a shambles. "At Baghdad's Central Teaching Hospital for Children, gallons of raw sewage wash across the floors," Jeffrey Gettleman reported in the New York Times. "The drinking water is contaminated. According to doctors, 80 percent of patients leave with infections they did not have when they arrived."

"It's definitely worse now than before the war," Eman Asim, who oversees 185 public hospitals, told the Times. "Even at the height of sanctions, when things were miserable, it wasn't as bad as this."

Ravages of war: Hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed in September and October, while large parts of Iraq continue to experience a general breakdown of law and order, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) noted in its latest report on the state of human rights in the war-ravaged nation.

"Random killings and terrorism have claimed hundreds of lives and injured many others, including children, in several parts of the country," the report stated. According to UNAMI, over 30,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the US-led war in March 2003.

The report, which focused primarily on the period between 1 September and 31 October of this year, noted that more than 10,000 civilians had been displaced in September alone.

US Politics

Growing unease: The GOP-controlled Senate rejected a Democratic call Tuesday for a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq but urged President Bush to outline his plan for "the successful completion of the mission" in a bill reflecting a growing bipartisan unease with his Iraq policies.

The overall measure, adopted 98-0, shows a willingness to defy the president in several ways despite a threatened veto. It would restrict the techniques used to interrogate terrorism suspects, ban their inhuman treatment and call for the administration to provide lawmakers with quarterly reports on the status of operations in Iraq.

People who call this site unpatriotic – tell it to Hagel. Then kiss my ass.: Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) strongly criticized yesterday the White House's new line of attack against critics of its Iraq policy, saying that "the Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them."

With President Bush leading the charge, administration officials have lashed out at Democrats who have accused the administration of manipulating intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. Bush has suggested that critics are hurting the war effort, telling U.S. troops in Alaska on Monday that critics "are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that's irresponsible."

"To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic," Hagel said, arguing that 58,000 troops died in Vietnam because of silence by political leaders. "America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices."

What a punk: Monday Bush claimed that Senators such as Jay Rockefeller, Carl Levin, and Harry Reid, who have apologized for granting Bush authorization to use force in Iraq, "spoke the truth then and they're speaking politics now." On June 16 of this year, Bush's spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed Congressman John Conyers criticisms because he was "an individual who voted against the war in the first place." Hence, the Bush administration's message sums up as follows: Whether Democrats voted for force against Iraq and later realized and admitted their mistake, or knew invading Iraq was a mistake all along, they should just shut up and let one party rule every facet of society.

Backfire: President Bush's efforts to paint Democrats as hypocrites for criticizing the Iraq war after they once warned that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat could backfire on Republicans.

Polls show marked declines in support for the war, notably among moderate Republicans, especially Republican women, and independents — voting blocs that the GOP needs to woo or keep in their camp.

If Bush castigates Democrats for changing their minds on the war, he might wind up alienating Republicans who have done so, too.

The administration has been engaging in a rhetorical high-wire act in its efforts to defend its use of prewar intelligence — so much that some analysts have likened it to President Clinton's remark in his deposition on the Monica Lewinsky case: "That depends on what the definition of 'is' is."

Senator Pat Roberts puts party over nation: Yesterday was the deadline for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to report its progress on Phase II of the investigation into the administration’s use of pre-war intelligence. The prognosis is not good, according to Senators Rockefeller, Levin and Feinstein. They have released a letter, and here is its main finding:

“At this time, we are unable to provide an estimated completion date of the Phase II investigation given the substantial amount of work that remains to be done.”

This assessment differs greatly from the one offered by Sen. Pat Roberts on November 1st: “It isn’t like it’s been delayed. As a matter of fact, it’s been ongoing. As a matter of fact, we have been doing our work on Phase 2.” In reality, as the letter makes clear at various points, the work of the committee has been stonewalled by an unwillingness on the part of conservatives to investigate the administration.

US Military News

Pitfalls: The return to civilian life for U.S. Soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan is full of pitfalls, with an unemployment rate three times the national average.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that for the first three quarters of 2005, nearly 15 percent of veterans aged 20-24 are jobless -- three times the national average.

The government is also worried about the number of veterans without a permanent address.

A small step in the right direction: The children of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan or in support operations would no longer have their military health insurance cut off after three years, under a defense spending bill passed Tuesday by the Senate.

Instead, the children would remain covered at no extra cost until they reach age 21, or 23 if they are still enrolled in school. Previously, the children of soldiers killed in combat had to pay a premium equal to what's paid by retired veterans' dependents if they wanted to keep the coverage more than three years after the soldier's death.

Belgium, Please Leave This Law Alone

Don't be wussies: Belgium's governing parties are scrambling to amend a controversial law which some fear could be used in a war crimes lawsuit against US President George W Bush.

The law allows Belgian courts to pass judgment on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, regardless of where the alleged acts took place or the nationality of the accused.

Critics have warned that a case against President Bush could be filed under the law, known as universal competence, and Belgium's role as host to international institutions could be threatened.

"I expect there to be, any day, a suit against President Bush in Belgium," said Herman De Croo, president of the lower house of parliament.

And the problem with this is…? Sounds like a damn fine idea to me.

Our Creeping Stalinism

Ending habeas corpus: The Center for Constitutional Rights condemns the Graham-Levin Amendment to the Military Authorization Bill, passed today by the United States Senate. This bill is directed at those persons held at the Guantanamo prison camp. For the first time in our history, it would strip people of a right which has been the shining jewel of Western jurisprudence since the 13th Century, the right to petition a federal court for a writ of habeas corpus.

It is particularly disturbing that this legislation was enacted stealthily and without any meaningful deliberation by the Senate or its Judiciary Committee. As happens so often, it is easy to carelessly give up our rights and much more difficult to get them back, once lost.

We believe that this blow to our fundamental rights is just the beginning. ‘Enemy combatants’ are an easy target and therefore it is easy to erase their rights. However, this Administration is no friend of the Bill of Rights and this bill will serve as a model for the future as the president and Congress attempt to undermine our most basic rights by stripping federal courts of jurisdiction to hear cases raising issues of free speech, freedom of religion, racial discrimination and countless other rights for which the American people have struggled so long and so hard.

A very slight improvement: The U.S. Senate on Tuesday agreed to let terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison appeal their verdicts by military tribunals to federal courts, but sustained its earlier vote to otherwise curb their access to federal court protections.

Senators passed a bipartisan compromise 84-14 to give inmates at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a chance to challenge their convictions, after voting last week to deny the them the right to go to federal court to dispute their detention.

Graham said the compromise "allows every detainee under our control to have a day in court," but prevents them from filing court petitions that he said were often frivolous and were clogging the courts.

But most Democrats said the Senate was wrong to overturn a 2004 Supreme Court decision that gave the Guantanamo inmates the ability to use habeas corpus petitions to challenge their indefinite detentions.

Call to action:

Demand your Representative take action

Colin Powell, John McCain and 89 additional Senators support the McCain Anti-Torture Amendment, which bans torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Sadly, Vice President Cheney is lobbying furiously behind the scenes to stop the ban.

Torturing prisoners is inconsistent with American values - and it puts our troops at risk, undermines our relationships with our allies, and simply doesn't work.

Tell Your Senators and Representative to support the Anti-Torture Amendment - no exceptions.


Thomas Oliphant: According to The Wall Street Journal-NBC News survey last week, 57 percent of the sample believe Bush deliberately misled the country on the way to war, more than 20 points above the numbers asserting he was straight with the country.

In denying the charge, however, it is fascinating that the White House spin machine has avoided giving examples of its nuanced rhetoric on the subject of the alleged threat posed by Iraq at the time in order to make its case to a skeptical public. That's because there aren't any.

Instead, there has been an entertaining chorus of claims that the charge is false but that everybody else did it -- other countries' intelligence services, assorted politicians in this country (especially Democrats). Lacking a defense, Bush's operatives have sought to construct a Potemkin universe of intelligence dupes.

In this blizzard of disinformation, though, the unique nature of Bush and his top advisers is conveniently overlooked. Everyone else in the world with the possible exception of Tony Blair recognizes the corollary to the now-accepted wisdom that Iraq possessed no unconventional weapons and posed no threat to the United States worthy of adjectives like grave, imminent, or even serious.

The corollary would be that knowing then what is known now, an essentially unilateral invasion of Iraq under conditions of haste and waste in March of 2003 would have been ill-advised in the extreme. Virtually alone in the world, Bush has proclaimed for months that he would have invaded Iraq even if he had known it posed no threat.

Steven Laffoley: Americans in the post 9/11 Age of Unreason are Dylan's metaphoric John the Baptist after their mass conversion to President Bush's absolutist religion: 'You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists.'

Lest we be deemed 'with the terrorists,' we marched blindly behind the Commander-in-Chief, a would-be messiah who promised us deliverance from our perceived enemies and fears. Under his leadership, we willingly destroyed nations and murdered people - by the thousands, and then by the tens of thousands - in the hopes that our enemies would be vanquished and our fears finally dispelled.

But instead, over time, the Commander-in-Chief only dredged up more enemies and more fears from our collective imagination. And consequently, over time, the dead bodies only continued mounting. And consequently, over time, we descended into an immoral black hole, with no way out.

It was then, with blind rage and near religious righteousness, that we started torturing others. It was then, in the darkest of ironies, that we become the enemy we feared.

John Aravosis: The Washington Times, you may know, is an "independent" newspaper that is basically the mouthpiece of the Republican party. For that reason, it sometimes gets inside scoops as to what the GOP is thinking, and even what's going on inside the White House. For that reason, their latest story on Bush is extremely disturbing:

President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, administration sources say. The president's reclusiveness in the face of relentless public scrutiny of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and White House leaks regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame has become so extreme that Mr. Bush has also reduced contact with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, administration sources said on the condition of anonymity.

Matt Drudge adds on his site:

The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.

So basically Bush is melting down. (Or, at the very least, the number one propaganda organ of the GOP wants us to think Bush is losing it - that's just bizarre on its face, and shows had bad things are for Bush, and the party.) This is rather disturbing in view of the increased chatter about Bush, an alcoholic who never sought treatment, now reportedly drinking again. This man is running our country. And he won't speak to anyone - ANYONE - other than Condi Rice, his mom, and Karen Hughes? That leaves out the entire Dept of Defense - kind of important during war time - the CIA, every other agency and the entire White House staff. It honestly sounds like he's losing control. And he's in charge of our country. Not just worst president ever. But quickly becoming scariest president ever.

Republic of T: But it’s that last part that’s a little scary. He’s not talking to anyone except Laura, Condi (his “work wife”), Barbara, and Karen Hughes? (Notice, by the way, that Rove appears not to have made it into that inner circle). It’s disturbing enough that Hughes ranks as a presidential confidant, given her embarrassingly tone-deaf performance in her Middle East PR offensive. It sounds like he’s licking his wounds and pouting while not talking to some other very important people for a president to confer with in the middle of a war. Like, say, the Pentagon. Not to mention the CIA, the DoD, etc.

It sounds like he’s losing it. And he’s got three more years to go in office. So, what do we do if we have a mentally unstable president in office for three more years?

Well we have 2006 to put a few more grown-ups in charge as far as Congress is concerned. Other than that, I guess we just hope the ship of state stays afloat until then, and wait for the president’s public meltdown in the meantime.

I tell ya, it’s coming. I can just feel it.

NY Times Editorial Board: To avoid having to account for his administration's misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He's tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He's tried to pass the buck and blame the C.I.A. Lately, he's gone on the attack, accusing Democrats in Congress of aiding the terrorists.

Yesterday in Alaska, Mr. Bush trotted out the same tedious deflection on Iraq that he usually attempts when his back is against the wall: he claims that questioning his actions three years ago is a betrayal of the troops in battle today.

It all amounts to one energetic effort at avoidance. But like the W.M.D. reports that started the whole thing, the only problem is that none of it has been true.

Mr. Bush says everyone had the same intelligence he had - Mr. Clinton and his advisers, foreign governments, and members of Congress - and that all of them reached the same conclusions. The only part that is true is that Mr. Bush was working off the same intelligence Mr. Clinton had. But that is scary, not reassuring. The reports about Saddam Hussein's weapons were old, some more than 10 years old. Nothing was fresher than about five years, except reports that later proved to be fanciful.

Foreign intelligence services did not have full access to American intelligence. But some had dissenting opinions that were ignored or not shown to top American officials. Congress had nothing close to the president's access to intelligence. The National Intelligence Estimate presented to Congress a few days before the vote on war was sanitized to remove dissent and make conjecture seem like fact.

It's hard to imagine what Mr. Bush means when he says everyone reached the same conclusion. There was indeed a widespread belief that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. But Mr. Clinton looked at the data and concluded that inspections and pressure were working - a view we now know was accurate. France, Russia and Germany said war was not justified. Even Britain admitted later that there had been no new evidence about Iraq, just new politics.

The administration had little company in saying that Iraq was actively trying to build a nuclear weapon. The evidence for this claim was a dubious report about an attempt in 1999 to buy uranium from Niger, later shown to be false, and the infamous aluminum tubes story. That was dismissed at the time by analysts with real expertise.

The Bush administration was also alone in making the absurd claim that Iraq was in league with Al Qaeda and somehow connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That was based on two false tales. One was the supposed trip to Prague by Mohamed Atta, a report that was disputed before the war and came from an unreliable drunk. The other was that Iraq trained Qaeda members in the use of chemical and biological weapons. Before the war, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that this was a deliberate fabrication by an informer.

Mr. Bush has said in recent days that the first phase of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation on Iraq found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence. That is true only in the very narrow way the Republicans on the committee insisted on defining pressure: as direct pressure from senior officials to change intelligence. Instead, the Bush administration made what it wanted to hear crystal clear and kept sending reports back to be redone until it got those answers.

Richard Kerr, a former deputy director of central intelligence, said in 2003 that there was "significant pressure on the intelligence community to find evidence that supported a connection" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The C.I.A. ombudsman told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the administration's "hammering" on Iraq intelligence was harder than he had seen in his 32 years at the agency.

Mr. Bush and other administration officials say they faithfully reported what they had read. But Vice President Dick Cheney presented the Prague meeting as a fact when even the most supportive analysts considered it highly dubious. The administration has still not acknowledged that tales of Iraq coaching Al Qaeda on chemical warfare were considered false, even at the time they were circulated.

Mr. Cheney was not alone. Remember Condoleezza Rice's infamous "mushroom cloud" comment? And Secretary of State Colin Powell in January 2003, when the rich and powerful met in Davos, Switzerland, and he said, "Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium and the special equipment needed to transform it into material for nuclear weapons?" Mr. Powell ought to have known the report on "special equipment"' - the aluminum tubes - was false. And the uranium story was four years old.

The president and his top advisers may very well have sincerely believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But they did not allow the American people, or even Congress, to have the information necessary to make reasoned judgments of their own. It's obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein's weapons and his terrorist connections. We need to know how that happened and why.

Mr. Bush said last Friday that he welcomed debate, even in a time of war, but that "it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." We agree, but it is Mr. Bush and his team who are rewriting history.

Casualty Reports

Statistics: 2063 US soldiers, 200 Coalition soldiers, and approximately 26,982 to 30,380 Iraqi civilians have been killed in Iraq from the beginning of the war and occupation to November 12.

Local story: The soldier son of an Anchorage poet, playwright and anti-war activist was critically injured in Iraq two weeks into a second tour of duty he did not want to serve, his mother said.

Latseen Benson, in the 101st Airborne, was struck Sunday by a roadside bomb in Tikrit, north of Bagdad. Monday night, the 26-year-old he had not regained consciousness, Diane Benson said from her Eagle River home.

Benson said her son's first four-year tour was over Oct. 31 and that he was forced to extend his service under the controversial Stop-Loss Program.

"My son is now fighting for his life with half a body left," Benson said.

Latseen lost his legs and possibly part of an arm on Sunday, and was in a coma Tuesday night in a hospital in Germany, according to Ruth Sheridan, a family friend.

Local story: Two Marines from Texas were killed in action this week, the Defense Department said today.

Lance Cpl. Christopher M. McCrackin, 20, of Liverpool, and Cpl. John M. Longoria, 21, of Nixon, were killed in separate incidents Monday. Both died in the U.S. "Operation Steel Curtain" offensive against insurgents along the western Iraqi border.

Local story: A former Ohio State wrestler was killed in Iraq by an improvised explosive device while on a combat operation near the border with Syria, the Defense Department said Wednesday.

Maj. Ramon J. "Ray" Mendoza, 37, died along with another Marine in Monday's bombing in New Ubaydi, Iraq, the military said.

Mendoza was a native of Blairstown, N.J., and wrestled heavyweight for the Buckeyes in the early 1990s, finishing runner-up in his weight class at the 1993 Big Ten championships and contributing to the team's fourth-place national ranking that year.

While in college, Mendoza met his wife-to-be, Karen Miller of the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington. They had been living in San Diego, Calif., where Mendoza leaves behind a daughter, Kiana, 12, and a son Aleksandr, 8.

Local story: Two Marines, including one from Cleveland, were killed in Iraq by a homemade bomb, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Lance Cpls. David A. Mendez Ruiz, 20, of Cleveland, and Scott A. Zubowski, 20, of Manchester, Ind., died Saturday. They were wounded while conducting combat operations in Al Amiriyah, Iraq, the Pentagon said.

They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force out of Twentynine Palms, Calif. The unit was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

Local story: The son of a military man, Cpl. Donald E. Fisher II had always dreamed of serving his country.

"All he wanted to be was a soldier. He got his wish," said John McGinnis. "It's too bad it had to end so abruptly."

McGinnis, of Warren Avenue, is a friend of Fisher's grandmother, Beverly Ann Wright.

On Friday morning, Wright's daughter called from Tacoma, Wash., to break the news that Fisher, 21, had died in Kirkut, Iraq.

"She took it hard, very hard," McGinnis said Tuesday. "They were very close."

Local story: Family and friends gathered beneath a dreary fall sky yesterday to bid farewell to Capt. Michael D. Martino, a Fairfax Marine who was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq this month.

Martino, 32, and Maj. Gerald M. Bloomfield II, 38, of Ypsilanti, Mich., were killed Nov. 2 while flying their AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter in support of security and stabilization operations near Ar Ramadi. The crash is under investigation.

Local story: A soldier who was killed earlier this month in Iraq was remembered Tuesday as great husband, father and hero.

The Army National Guard staff sergeant 28-year-old Kyle Wehrly was killed earlier this month in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded near his armored vehicle.

Local story: An army officer was killed by a remote controlled bomb while travelling in an ambulance in Iraq, an inquest heard.

Captain David Martyn Jones from the First Queen's Lancashire Regiment was being treated for a stab wound when the bomb exploded on a road in Basra.

The 29-year-old from Louth in Lincolnshire died shortly after the blast in August 2003.

Local story: U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Tyler Swisher, a native of Mariemont, was eulogized Tuesday as an "American hero" who believed the war in Iraq is essential to preserving freedom.

Swisher, 35, was killed Oct. 21 by a roadside bomb in Iraq during his third tour of duty there.

Swisher also was recalled as a devoted family man. He leaves his wife, Stephanie, and three children, Ashleigh, 15; Madison, 7, and Jacob, 5.

Local story: Residents of one Michigan village are honoring three local high school graduates who joined the Marine Corps and were killed in the Iraq war in the past year.

"It makes me feel pretty proud and humble at the same time that people would be willing to put something like the memorial together for the guys who have given their lives," said the Rev. Michael Kilpela, father of Lance Cpl. Andrew Kilpela, who was killed June 10.

The memorial would honor Kilpela, Lance Cpl. Michael Hanks and Major Gerald "Jerry" Bloomfield II. All were graduates of Fowlerville High School.

Kilpela was killed June 10 when his Humvee was hit by an explosive in Fallujah; Hanks died Nov. 17, 2004, in fighting in Al Anbar province; and Bloomfield, 38, was killed Nov. 2 when his Super Cobra helicopter crashed near Ramadi.

Local story: A Patterson native was killed in a convoy accident in Iraq on Friday, becoming the city’s first resident to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

U.S. Army Pfc. Antonio “Tony” Mendez, 22, was one of two soldiers killed in Kirkut, Iraq, after vehicles in his convoy collided, according to officials from the U.S. Department of Defense.

He became the 40th soldier from Patterson killed in action and the first local war casualty since the Vietnam War.

Local story: The awful news sent William and Pat Sutherland to the hospital Saturday: Their son, Stephen, had been killed in Iraq.

The couple wound up in the Emergency Room at Underwood-Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, their beds pushed together so they could hold hands.

They've been through a lot together in their 40 years of marriage. Both have bad hearts. Mr. Sutherland has had cancer and is getting ready to start dialysis treatments. One of their four children, Dawn Rowe, had died at age 34 in 2003 of viral meningitis.

And now this.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?