DAILY WAR NEWS FOR TUESDAY, August 22, 2006
of the August 14, 2006 issue of Time
Magazine (See below "Life in Hell: A Baghdad Diary")
British troops backed by tanks came under heavy fire after raiding a house in the southeastern Iraqi city of Amara in a hunt for a "terrorist of national significance", a British military spokesman said. The Challenger tanks and Warrior armored fighting vehicles came under co-ordinated rocket propelled grenade and machine gun attack as they withdrew from the area with six suspects, Major Charlie Burbridge told Reuters. No British soldiers were hurt.
Police in Amara said two civilians, one of them a boy under the age of 18, were killed in crossfire between British forces and Mehdi Army militiamen loyal to Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr. The British could not confirm the casualties or the identity of the gunmen, but said there would be an investigation.
(Update) Two more Marines from New York have died in combat in Iraq
, including the nephew of a city fire chief who led Sept. 11 rescue efforts. Lance Cpl. Michael Glover, 28, and Capt. John J. McKenna IV, 30, were each shot in the head on Wednesday while together on foot patrol in the volatile Anbar province, the Pentagon said.
OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS
Nine corpses were discovered yesterday in Baghdad
, four in the neighborhood of Karkh on the west side of the capital, and five in Rusafa, a neighborhood in the east. All the victims had been shot in the head, according to Iraqi police sources.
A bomb hidden in a bag exploded on a street in Tayaran Square in central Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding nine.
An engineer was shot dead while he was in his car in Baghdad.
Eight people were injured - some critically - when a petrol tanker exploded near a filling station
in the north of the Iraqi capital.
The body of an employee in the Shi'ite Endowment, a religious foundation that cares for mosques, was found in the southern Saidiya district of Baghdad.
Gunmen killed a police major and seriously wounded his driver as he was heading home in Baquba
, 65 km (40 miles) north of the capital.
The body of a man with gunshot wounds to the head was found near Hilla
, 100 km (62 miles) south of Baghdad. He had been shot in the head.
The bodies of eight fruit traders have been found with their throats slit on the roadside south of Baghdad
, a government official said. Ahmed Diabil, a spokesman for Najaf province, said the eight were kidnapped and killed on Monday and the bodies dumped in Madaen, 40 km south of the capital. The brother of two of the victims said they had been on their way to nearby Salman Pak to buy watermelons.
A round of mortar shells crashed into a residential district in the town of Al-Muqdadiah northeast of Baghdad on Tuesday wounding 11 people.
The mortars, fired by unknown gunmen, crashed into the neighborhood close to a market of the town, wounding 11 civilians including a child and damaging properties and stores, the police said.
Fifteen people hurt by a mortar attack on a market in Muqdadiya, 100 km (60 miles) northeast of Baghdad, police and hospital sources said.Yusuiya:
A civilian was killed and two wounded when a roadside bomb went off near a police patrol near Yusufiya
, 15 km (9 miles) south of Baghdad.
Gunmen killed a man in the northern city of Mosul
, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad.
A Filipino truck driver has been killed in Iraq.
Rogelio Alere Saraida, 47, from Bacoor south of Manila died when his truck was hit by a grenade fired by insurgents in Mosul on August 12, the [Filipino] Department of Foreign Affairs said.
Gunmen killed two people on the main road near Kirkuk
, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad.
Gunmen killed one of the bodyguards of the governor of Anbar in a drive-by shooting in Ramadi.
The governor was not present during the attack.
Survivors described a chemical weapons attack on their villages in testimony
Tuesday at the trial of Saddam Hussein, telling of poisonous clouds of gas that killed children and blinded residents during a military offensive against Kurds in 1987.
Saddam's co-defendants insisted that the Anfal campaign, in which tens of thousands of Kurds were killed, was directed only at Kurdish guerrillas and Iranian troops in northern Iraq during the bloody Iran-Iraq war. (…)
Two survivors told the court about an April 16, 1987 attack on the Kurdish villages of Basilan and Sheik Wasan — believed to be the first time Saddam's regime used chemical weapons on Iraqi citizens.
"The villagers were blinded and they were vomiting — only God knows what it was like that night," said Najiba Khider Ahmed, a 41-year-old woman from Sheik Wasan. She described being held in a detention camp for nine days, where her brother and niece disappeared.
"During those nine days, it was like the apocalypse. Even Hitler didn't do this," she said, breaking down into tears repeatedly. "Saddam Hussein used to shout about 'the Iraqi People.' If we were his people, why did he bomb us with all sorts of weapons?"
She said she had two pregnancies after the attack — the baby in the first was born with skin peeling off, and the second miscarried, born with malformed limbs, which she blamed on the gas attacks. (…)
Sabir al-Douri, the director of military intelligence at the time of Anfal, said "the Iranian army and Kurdish rebels were fighting together" against the Iraqi army and that Anfal aimed to clear northern Iraq of Iranian troops.
He insisted the Iraqi government faced a "tough situation" and had to act because the area where the Iranian-allied guerrillas were located had dams that, if destroyed, would flood Baghdad. He said civilians in the Anfal region had already been removed.
"You will see that we are not guilty and that we defended our country honorably and sincerely," al-Douri said.
Britain's top commander in Iraq has joined a growing debate over whether Iraq has descended into civil war
, insisting it was "at the very best, a civil war in miniature."
SAS MEN GET £100,000 TO BRIBE IRAQI FIGHTERS
British Army officers in Iraq are being handed stashes of up to £100,000 in cash for "operational expenses" without formal controls on how it is spent.
The money is used by the SAS and other units to buy off leaders of the insurgency or to purchase weapons on the black market to avoid them passing into rebel hands.
The decades-old tradition of paying so-called "porter money" to officers is understood to be the focus of a wide-ranging internal inquiry in the SAS. It follows allegations earlier this year that hundreds of thousands of pounds may have been misappropriated during SAS covert operations in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
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LIFE IN HELL: A BAGHDAD DIARY
(...) When the Fokker's wheels hit the tarmac [at Baghdad airport], 50 people sigh in unison, 50 stomachs unclench. But the relief is temporary; most of us still have to negotiate the Highway of Death. There have been hundreds of insurgent and terrorist attacks along its length since the U.S. military established its largest Iraqi base, Camp Victory, next to the airport three years ago. Many of the attacks are directed at U.S. patrols, but they have also killed scores of Iraqi noncombatants. Last summer two of my Iraqi colleagues were badly wounded when a roadside bomb went off next to their car on the Highway of Death; twice I've been caught in cross fire between insurgents and U.S. soldiers.
Recently the highway has become less deadly--perhaps the only place in Baghdad that can make such a claim. The once daily attacks along the road have given way to occasional strikes, like the twin suicide bombings in May that killed 14 Iraqis near Checkpoint 1, where arriving travelers meet transport waiting to take them into the city. U.S. officials claim the decline in attacks as a victory for military strategy, attributing it to the greatly increased visibility of Iraqi soldiers along the road. My contacts in the insurgency offer an alternative, equally plausible explanation: there are fewer U.S. patrols and convoys on the road than before, fewer targets to attack.
Although a ride on the Highway of Death once exaggerated the dangers lurking in Baghdad, it now does the opposite, lulling newcomers into a false sense of security. Even as the airport route has got somewhat safer, huge portions of the Iraqi capital have become far more dangerous. (...)
High fuel prices have yielded one bonus: with more and more people keeping their cars at home, the roads are relatively free of traffic snarl-ups. It's typical of Baghdad that when something seems to get better--whether traffic or the ride from the airport--it's usually because something else has got much worse. (...)
After the bombing of the Samarra shrine, many Sunni leaders told me the blast was the work of Shi'ite agents provocateurs working in concert with Iranian intelligence operatives. Likewise, Mahdi Army commanders routinely accuse Sunni insurgents of committing atrocities against their own kind and then blaming the Shi'ites.
A typical encounter was my interview with Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, the seniormost Sunni in the Iraqi government. We met in his chintz-laden Green Zone office on the day of the al-Jihad murders. Many of the victims had been dragged out of their homes and shot dead in the street. As usual, the finger of blame pointed to the Mahdi Army. After al-Hashimi had fulminated about the slaughter of his fellow Sunnis, I asked whether the murdering militiamen might have been seeking revenge for the previous week's bombing of the market in Sadr City. Al-Hashimi's response was to claim that militiamen had planted the bomb, deliberately killing their fellow Shi'ites in order to justify revenge killings of Sunnis. "They were able to attack Sunni mosques within an hour of the market bomb," he said. "This has to have been premeditated."
Such bizarre logic quickly becomes received wisdom in a society in which even the highest officials in the land propagate outlandish conspiracy theories. The speaker of Iraq's parliament, Mahmud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, announced at a press conference in Bahrain that "an entire Israeli brigade has entered Iraq ... trying to infiltrate various parties." That phantom force, he continued, is "camped at Babylon, whose destruction signifies the survival of the state of Israel in their holy books."
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Photo essay "Journey Into Baghdad: Iraq's dangerous streets seen through the lens of Franco Pagetti">> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
7 FACTS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR
With a tenuous cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon holding, the ever-hotter war in Iraq is once again creeping back onto newspaper front pages and towards the top of the evening news. Before being fully immersed in daily reports of bomb blasts, sectarian violence, and casualties, however, it might be worth considering some of the just-under-the-radar-screen realities of the situation in that country. Here, then, is a little guide to understanding what is likely to be a flood of new Iraqi developments -- a few enduring, but seldom commented upon, patterns central to the dynamics of the Iraq war, as well as to the fate of the American occupation and Iraqi society.
1. The Iraqi Government Is Little More Than a Group of "Talking Heads"
A minimally viable central government is built on at least three foundations: the coercive capacity to maintain order, an administrative apparatus that can deliver government services and directives to society, and the resources to manage these functions. The Iraqi government has none of these attributes -- and no prospect of developing them. It has no coercive capacity. The national army we hear so much about is actually trained and commanded by the Americans, while the police forces are largely controlled by local governments and have few, if any, viable links to the central government in Baghdad. (Only the Special Forces, whose death-squad activities in the capital have lately been in the news, have any formal relationship with the elected government; and they have more enduring ties to the U.S. military that created them and the Shia militias who staffed them.) (…)
2. There Is No Iraqi Army
The "Iraqi Army" is a misnomer. The government's military consists of Iraqi units integrated into the U.S.-commanded occupation army. These units rely on the Americans for intelligence, logistics, and -- lacking almost all heavy weaponry themselves -- artillery, tanks, and any kind of airpower. (The Iraqi "Air Force" typically consists of fewer then 10 planes with no combat capability.) The government has no real control over either personnel or strategy. (…)
3. The Recent Decline in American Casualties Is Not a Result of Less Fighting (and Anyway, It's Probably Ending)
At the beginning of August, the press carried reports of a significant decline in U.S. casualties, punctuated with announcements from American officials that the military situation was improving. The figures (compiled by the Brookings Institute) do show a decline in U.S. military deaths (76 in April, 69 in May, 63 in June, and then only 48 in July). But these were offset by dramatic increases in Iraqi military fatalities, which almost doubled in July as the U.S. sent larger numbers of Iraqi units into battle, and as undermanned American units were redeployed from al-Anbar province, the heartland of the Sunni insurgency, to civil-war-torn Baghdad in preparation for a big push to recapture various out-of-control neighborhoods in the capital. (…)
4. Most Iraqi Cities Have Active and Often Viable Local Governments
Neither the Iraqi government, nor the American-led occupation has a significant presence in most parts of Iraq. This is well-publicized in the three Kurdish provinces, which are ruled by a stable Kurdish government without any outside presence; less so in Shia urban areas where various religio-political groups -- notably the Sadrists, the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Da'wa , and Fadhila -- vie for local control, and then organize cities and towns around their own political and religious platforms. While there is often violent friction among these groups -- particularly when the contest for control of an area is undecided -- most cities and towns are largely peaceful as local governments and local populations struggle to provide city services without a viable national economy. (…)
5. Outside Baghdad, Violence Arrives with the Occupation Army
The portrait of chaos across Iraq that our news generally offers us is a genuine half-truth. Certainly, Baghdad has been plunged into massive and worsening disarray as both the war against the Americans and the civil war have come to be concentrated there, and as the terrifying process of ethnic cleansing has hit neighborhood after neighborhood, and is now beginning to seep into the environs of the capital.
However, outside Baghdad (with the exception of the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, where historic friction among Kurd, Sunni, and Turkman has created a different version of sectarian violence), Iraqi cities tend to be reasonably ethnically homogeneous and to have at least quasi-stable governments. The real violence often only arrives when the occupation military makes its periodic sweeps aimed at recapturing cities where it has lost all authority and even presence. (…)
6. There Is a Growing Resistance Movement in the Shia Areas of Iraq
Lately, the pattern of violence established in largely Sunni areas of Iraq has begun to spread to largely Shia cities, which had previously been insulated from the periodic devastation of American pacification attempts. This ended with growing Bush administration anxiety about economic, religious, and militia connections between local Shia governments and Iran, and with the growing power of the anti-American Sadrist movement, which had already fought two fierce battles with the U.S. in Najaf in 2004 and a number of times since then in Sadr City. (…)
7. There Are Three Distinct Types of Terrorism in Iraq, All Directly or Indirectly Connected to the Occupation
Terrorism involves attacking civilians to force them to abandon their support for your enemy, or to drive them away from a coveted territory.
The original terrorists in Iraq were the military and civilian officials of the Bush administration -- starting with their "shock and awe" bombing campaign that destroyed Iraqi infrastructure in order to "undermine civilian morale." The American form of terrorism continued with the wholesale destruction of most of Falluja and parts of other Sunni cities, designed to pacify the "hot beds" of insurgency, while teaching the residents of those areas that, if they "harbor the insurgents," they will surely "suffer the consequences." (…)
The final link in the terrorist chain can also be traced back to the occupation. In January of 2005, Newsweek
broke the story that the U.S. was establishing (Shiite) "death squads" within the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, modeled after the assassination teams that the CIA had helped organize in El Salvador during the 1980s. These death squads were intended to assassinate activists and supporters of the Sunni resistance. Particularly after the bombing of the Golden Dome, an important Shia shrine in Samarra, in March 2006, they became a fixture in Baghdad, where thousands of corpses -- virtually all Sunni men -- have been found with signs of torture, including electric-drill holes, in their bodies and bullet holes in their heads. Here, again, the logic is the same: to use terror to stop the Sunni community from nurturing and harboring both the terrorist car bombers and the anti-American resistance fighters.
While there is disagreement about whether the Americans, the Shia-controlled Iraqi Ministry of Defense, or the Shia political parties should shoulder the most responsibility for loosing these death squads on Baghdad, one conclusion is indisputable: They have earned their place in the ignominious triumvirate of Iraqi terrorism.
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"I WAS A PROPAGANDA INTERN IN IRAQ"
Fmr. Lincoln Group Intern Describes Paying Iraqi Press to Plant Pro-American Articles Secretly Written by U.S. Military
(...) AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the amounts of money that we're talking about on both ends? Here you were interrogating these Iraqis about whether they had possibly pocketed some of the money that was supposed to go to the newspapers. And yet, on the other hand, you had the Lincoln Group receiving millions of dollars.
WILLEM MARX: Absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain?
WILLEM MARX: Well, that was one of the really shocking things to me, is that, you know, I was sent down to talk to these guys, and at most we paid, I think, roughly $2,000 to place an article in the best Iraqi newspapers. And, you know, they were taking half of that. They were pocketing a grand an article, which in Iraq, as I'm sure you'd appreciate, is a huge amount of money and would have helped them and their families quite significantly.
At the same time, items in the contract that the Lincoln Group had with the U.S. military -- one such item, a line item, as they would call it, would be placing a TV commercial on Iraqi television, and that would require them to film, edit and then air these 30-second-long or minute-long on-air sort of commercials. And each commercial, they were paid $1 million, just over $1 million. And when I went to try and, you know, get some idea of prices for these things, I was told that you could effectively get one of these on air for about $12,000, and as I'm sure you appreciate, that's a pretty significant profit margin. And yet, there was I, interrogating people with guns for a mere $1,000.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the U.S. generals involved and also the Iraqi newspapers you had these articles placed in?
WILLEM MARX: Yes. The process by which I passed on these articles often involved a bit of back-and-forth between myself and captains and majors in the U.S. military unit that I dealt with, and my relationship with them was very important to the company. I had to at times be diplomatic, at times be critical. And occasionally I would have to give up my editorial control over which articles were pushed through to the Iraqi media, because they had, themselves, received orders from above, from men like General Casey, who was the top commander in Iraq at the time and, I believe, still is. And General Casey said, "No, sorry. It's very important we publish this article. You guys make sure the Lincoln Group publishes it." And lo and behold, we'd publish it, even though it would be something that I felt was, you know, not really suitable and would grate with many Iraqis reading it, who would think this is obviously American propaganda.
And, you know, the newspapers we dealt with, I think on occasions like that, were very, very suspicious, I would imagine, of who was planting these articles, where they were coming from, why freelance Iraqi writers would turn up to their offices and offer them $1,000, $2,000 to publish an article. And there must have been a huge suspicion from some of these editors that the Americans were involved.
And one particular article about the Badr Brigade, which is a Shiite militia, I'm sure you know, which General Casey was very keen to push, basically applauded the Badr Brigade for not retaliating against attacks on the Shia in Baghdad. And he was very keen to get it pushed out, and two newspapers in a row refused to publish it, because it was too inflammatory in a political sense. So that was a very interesting experience, having this senior, senior general getting involved in the nitty-gritty and wanting one particular story to go out, only to discover that no Iraqi newspapers in their right mind were willing to publish it for however much money we offered.
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FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT
I'm accustomed to hearing bizarre flights of fancy expressed by the Shrub-in-Chief whenever he opens his mouth in an unscripted setting, but even I was surprised by this bit of improvisation in today's press conference, as reported by CNN:
But defeat in Iraq is unacceptable, Bush said, because of the physical and psychological boosts it would give to terrorists.
"A failed Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will provide safe haven for terrorists and extremists. It will embolden those who are trying to thwart the ambitions of reformers.
"In this case, it would give the terrorists and extremists an additional tool besides safe haven, and that is revenues from oil sales," the president said.
Okay, let's leave aside for a moment the practical issues involved in terrorists holed up in a "failed state" somehow managing to oversee a thriving oil-export business -- something that the Iraqi government has been unable to do despite the full support of the U.S. military and billions of dollars in reconstruction funds.
What I want to know is, what happened to Dubya's faith in the free market system?! If we become their loyal customers, won't those "evil" terrorists be sorely tempted to put aside their "hateful ideology" in favor of the fruits of capitalism -- luxury condos, vacations at posh European resorts, etc.? How could they blow us up when we're busy inflating their investment portfolio?
If we're gonna win this War on Terror(tm), our president's got to be more willing to think outside the box. (And I don't mean just when that device on his back goes on the fritz.
>> BEYOND IRAQ
A suicide bomber rammed a car into a convoy of NATO troops in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar
, but there was no immediate report of casualties, witnesses said. A vehicle in the convoy was seen on fire, they said.
A suicide car bomber attacked a NATO patrol Tuesday in southern Afghanistan, wounding four soldiers from the alliance and one civilian
, a spokesman said.
Two Canadian soldiers were wounded when their convoy was ambushed by suspected Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan.
There has been a series of explosions in Kandahar City in southern Afghanistan near a Canadian compound.
Eyewitnesses say the first explosion was enormous, erupting into a giant fireball followed by a giant black plume of smoke. A series of smaller explosions was also heard shortly afterward. All of the blasts took place near the camp housing Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team.
Britain's troops in southern Afghanistan are pulling back from mountain redoubts to focus on safeguarding reconstruction in lowland valleys
, a senior British commander said on Tuesday. The change in tactics follows months of unexpectedly bitter fighting in the mountains of Helmand province.
LET'S DISMANTLE FEMA AND BRING HEZBOLLAH TO THE GULF COAST
Hezbollah's leader, Nasrallah, gave a victory speech Monday in which he offered to pay a year's rent for a house plus a furniture budget to all displaced Lebanese refugees.
The following day, just one day after the cease-fire, Lebanese refugees began returning home.
As the NYT
reported on Tuesday, "hundreds of Hezbollah members spread over dozens of villages across southern Lebanon began cleaning, organizing and surveying damage. Men on bulldozers were busy cutting lanes through giant piles of rubble. Roads blocked with the remnants of buildings are now, just a day after a cease-fire began, fully passable. ... Hezbollah men also traveled door to door checking on residents and asking them what help they needed."
When Katrina hit, it took Bush days to direct a person to chair a task force to coordinate the relief efforts. It took days for the National Guard to appear on the scene. Despite FEMA having 500 buses on standby on the day of the storm, ready to be deployed, it took almost a week to get those buses to the Convention Center in New Orleans to begin evacuations there.
Nearly a year after the storm, hundreds of thousands of refugees still have not returned to their homes.
Rather than paying an emergency agency to explain to us why it's not their job to respond to emergencies, or why if they did participate in relief work, it would maximize their "potential for failure," let's hire an organization that's so dedicated to relief and reconstruction that they provide those services despite it not being their job.
Let's dismantle FEMA and bring Hezbollah to the Gulf Coast.
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PRESIDENTIAL BANALITIES DON'T WRITE THEMSELVES, Y'KNOW
Go give Bob Harris
a visit. He's done a nice job of deciphering a picture that shows some of the notes Bush was using during yesterdays press conference. On one side is a list of figures he could reel off for the inevitable questions about the Katerina response, but on the other side are a list of phrases that helped him come up with such trite platitudes on Iraq as "The final history in the region has yet to be written." Yes, they have to script such crap for Mr. Determination. And what's depressing, but not surprising, was that he used all of those cues in his answers to the first two questions he was asked.
Funny, but I seem to remember a movie called Quiz Show
, which recounted the scandal that resulted when the questions were provided in advance to a game show contestant. I guess the bar is set a bit lower for presidents.
FADE TO BLACK: ANOTHER TERROR PLOT UNRAVELS
Pakistanis find no evidence against 'terror mastermind'
From the Daily Mail: Rashid Rauf, whose detention in Pakistan was the trigger for the arrest of 23 suspects in Britain, has been accused of taking orders from Al Qaeda's 'No3' in Afghanistan and sending money back to the UK to allow the alleged bombers to buy plane tickets. But after two weeks of interrogation, an inch-by-inch search of his house and analysis of his home computer, officials are now saying that his extradition is 'a way down the track' if it happens at all.
It comes amid wider suspicions that the plot may not have been as serious, or as far advanced, as the authorities initially claimed. Analysts suspect Pakistani authorities exaggerated Rauf's role to appear 'tough on terrorism' and impress Britain and America.
A spokesman for Pakistan's Interior Ministry last night admitted that 'extradition at this time is not under consideration'.
Wow, who would have thought it? You mean there might be less than meets the eye about the Great London Bomb Plot, when George W. Bush singlehandedly foiled the imminent death of thousands of people by using his super-president powers of warrantless wiretapping? (That is how the story is being pitched by Bush minions like the cadaverous Michael Chertoff and the chubby-cheeked enabler of torture Al Gonzales, right?)
But if even the CIA's old running buddies in the Pakistan secret services can't wring enough plausible evidence out of Rauf with their renowned methods of information extraction, could it be that the whole great googily-moogily is about to unravel?
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
: "Here's the thing that turned my table real quick. We got there [Iraq] April 3, and by April 15, (a major) told us to put away our protective gear: gas masks, protective suits, chemical suits, and boots. And I said, 'Sir, with all due respect, I thought we were here for weapons of mass destruction.' And he said, exact quote, 'Just fucking do it, listen to what I say.' I'm not a stupid guy. We're there for weapons of mass destruction, and two weeks into the war, we put our weapons of mass destruction chemical gear away? What's up with that? And that's when it just turned me." -- Michael Harmon who was deployed to Iraq on April 3, 2003, where he remained until he redeployed home in April 2004