View Full Version : 20 U.S. Soldiers Wounded in Ramadi

11-06-04, 07:49 AM
20 U.S. Soldiers Wounded in Ramadi

By The Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Twenty American soldiers were wounded in the Sunni Triangle city of Ramadi on Saturday, the U.S. military said without elaborating. Residents of that insurgent stronghold, located 70 miles west of Baghdad, reported clashes and explosions throughout the day.

Also Saturday, insurgents set off at least two car bombs and attacked a police station in the central Iraqi town of Samarra, killing at least 21 people and wounding 22 in what could be an effort to take pressure off Fallujah, where U.S. forces are gearing up for an assault.

The attacks in Samarra, 60 miles northeast of Fallujah, occurred in a city that U.S. and Iraqi forces reclaimed from insurgents in September and had sought to use as a model for pacifying restive Sunni Muslim areas of the country.

Early Saturday, however, armed militants stormed a police station, killing 12 policemen and injuring one. In other attacks, a suicide car bomber detonated explosives inside a stolen police car near the mayor's office, a second car bomb exploded near a U.S. base and a mortar fell on a crowded market.

The dead included an Iraqi National Guard commander, Abdel Razeq Shaker al-Garmali, hospital officials said. The town's mayor was reportedly injured in the car bombing.

Residents said U.S. forces, using loudspeakers to make the announcement, imposed an indefinite curfew on Samarra. American warplanes and helicopters were heard roaming overhead.

In western Baghdad, a suicide car bomber detonated an explosion that wounded three coalition troops, the U.S. military said. The bomber was killed and another occupant in the car was wounded.

The new violence could be aimed at relieving U.S. pressure on Fallujah as American commanders shift their forces for an anticipated showdown there.

More than 10,000 American soldiers and Marines are massed for an expected offensive against Fallujah, and Iraq (news - web sites)'s interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi warned the "window is closing" to avert an attack.

As the Americans prepare for an offensive, U.S. planes dropped five 500-pound bombs at several targets in Fallujah early Saturday, including a factory as well as suspected weapons caches. The drone of U.S. aircraft heading toward Fallujah could be heard over Baghdad. The U.S. military said the main highway into Fallujah has now been completely sealed off.

U.S. intelligence estimates there are about 3,000 insurgents dug in behind defenses and booby traps in Fallujah, a city of about 300,000 located 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Military planners believe there are about 1,200 hardcore insurgents in Fallujah — at least half of them Iraqis. They are bolstered by insurgent cells with up to 2,000 fighters in the surrounding towns and countryside.

In Brussels, Belgium, Allawi warned that the "window really is closing for a peaceful settlement" in Fallujah. Allawi must give the final go-ahead for the offensive, part of a campaign to curb the insurgency ahead of national elections planned for January.

Sunni clerics have threatened to boycott the election if Fallujah is attacked, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) has warned U.S., British and Iraqi authorities that a military campaign and "increased insurgent violence" could put elections at risk.

Iraqi authorities closed a border crossing point with Syria, and U.S. troops set up checkpoints along major routes into the city. Marines fired on a civilian vehicle that did not stop, killing an Iraqi woman and wounding her husband, according to the U.S. military and witnesses. The car didn't notice the checkpoint, witnesses said.

The insurgents struck back, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding five in a rocket attack. Clashes were reported at other checkpoints around the city and in the east and north of the city late in the day. An AC-130 gunship fired at several targets as U.S. forces skirmished with insurgents, the U.S. army said.

Elsewhere, U.S. Cobra attack helicopters fired Friday on insurgents operating an illegal checkpoint south of Baghdad, killing or wounding an "unknown number" of people, the military said.

Allawi, a secular Shiite Muslim with strong ties to the CIA (news - web sites) and State Department, has demanded that Fallujah hand over foreign extremists, including Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his followers, and allow government troops to enter the city.

Allawi faces strong opposition to a Fallujah offensive from the Sunni minority. The Sunni clerical Association of Muslim Scholars has threatened to boycott the January election and mount a nationwide civil disobedience campaign.

A public outcry over civilian casualties prompted the Bush administration to call off a siege in April, after which Fallujah fell under control of radical clerics.

In hopes of assuaging public outrage, Iraqi authorities have earmarked $75 million to repair the damage in Fallujah, Marine Maj. Jim West said. The strategy is similar to one used when U.S. troops restored government authority in the Shiite holy city Najaf in August after weeks of fighting with militiamen.



11-06-04, 07:49 AM
All Sides Prepare for American Attack on Falluja <br />
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- <br />
The New York Times <br />
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11-06-04, 07:51 AM
US Marines ready to attack Fallujah
November 6, 2004

Fallujah - A senior US commander said today marines were making final preparations for an imminent offensive against Iraq's rebel bastion of Fallujah.

"We are almost ready. We are making last preparations. It will be soon. We are just awaiting orders from Prime Minister (Iyad) Allawi," said Colonel Michael Shupp, commander of regimental combat team one.

Allawi was due to meet European Union leaders in Brussels today and was expected to return to Iraq after that.

The offensive is designed to crush Islamic militant followers of al-Qaeda ally Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein loyalists, whom the Americans say are entrenched in Fallujah, 50km west of Baghdad.

Allawi hopes that pacifying Fallujah will break the back of an insurgency raging across Iraq and stabilise other rebel strongholds ahead of elections.

Shupp said he did not know if Zarqawi, whose group has claimed responsibility for hostage beheadings and some of Iraq's most spectacular bombings, was in Fallujah.

"Capturing or killing him would be a real boon," he said.

Shupp said the offensive would still be considered a success even if Zarqawi survived it.

"The operation will be over when the terrorists are crushed and Fallujah is handed back to the legitimate Iraqi government.

"My biggest concern is trying to make sure civilians are not hit," he said. "We will pursue precision strikes." - Reuters



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11-06-04, 07:54 AM
Countdown begins to elections in Iraq

By César G. Soriano and Sabah al-Anbaki, USA TODAY

Car bombs explode almost daily and insurgents still control parts of the Sunni Triangle, where they regularly attack U.S. troops.

But across the country, voters and politicians are quietly taking the first step toward holding elections in less than three months.

Political parties, candidates and voters started registering this week for elections planned by the end of January for the National Assembly.

"It is a completely new experience for us to have a democratic and free exercise in Iraq (news - web sites)," says Talal Madhat Serri, a leader of the Assembly for Iraq party.

There now are at least 150 political parties that represent every niche of the population, from communists to prisoners. Only 40 to 50 will meet party registration requirements, says Abdul Hussein Hindawi, chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. Among the requirements for parties participating: a minimum 500 members.

Voter rolls will be based on lists used for the food ration program started by Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) during sanctions in the 1990s.

Voters will be casting ballots for a 275-member National Assembly. The assembly will choose a president and two deputies.

Some of the early emerging candidates are surprising. Wijdan al-Khuza'ie, 42, a mother of five, is running for president under the Democratic Women's Society party, a secular group that claims 2,000 members. "I feel the pain of everybody suffering in this country," she says.

The major parties are still primarily ethnic groups, like the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Muslim group. Shiites make up at least 60% of the country's 25 million people, but the government has been dominated by Sunni Muslims, who are about 20% of the population.

Some Sunni groups have threatened to boycott the elections, fearful that Shiites will end up controlling the new government.

Another potential obstacle: Parts of the country, including Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, are under militant control or domination. United Nations (news - web sites) officials, who are advising the Iraqi electoral commission, worry that people in those regions won't get to vote. "To be already speculating about big parts of the country not being able to take part in the process certainly doesn't help the process or its credibility," says Carlos Valenzuela, the U.N.'s chief election adviser in Iraq.

Mohammed Ali, an aide to interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, says even people in restive areas will want to vote. "If anything, people (in those areas) will be more determined to participate in the election, regardless of circumstances," Ali says. "January 2005 is like a holy date on the calendar."

Some Iraqis are dismissive of the elections, saying there are more pressing problems. "Why would we bother about elections when we have no stability, no security. We don't care," says Khuder Abdulla, 57, a farmer from Kirkuk.



11-06-04, 07:55 AM
November 08, 2004

Report: Postwar Iraq destabilizing region

By Barbara Opall-Rome
Special to the Times

TEL AVIV, Israel — While the U.S.-led war in Iraq clearly removed the threat posed by the former regime of Saddam Hussein, it has made the region less stable and more vulnerable to the forces of global terror, Israeli experts here say.
In its latest annual assessment of the balance of power in the Middle East, released Oct. 11, experts from Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies credited the U.S.-led war for eliminating Iraq as a conventional or nonconventional threat to Israel and other neighbors.

Nevertheless, authors of “The Middle East Strategic Balance 2003-2004” warned that “mixed results” of Washington’s campaign for reconstruction and democratization of Iraq could foster a breeding ground for terrorist organizations and strengthen the hand of radical Islamic elements.

“More than a year after the impressive military victory, it appears that while the architects of the war in Iraq hoped it would lead to momentum in the international struggle against terrorism, the war has actually become an obstacle in this struggle, at least in the short term,” noted the report.

A spokesman at the U.S. State Department said he was not aware of anyone at the department who was familiar with the study.

In a section titled, “International Terrorism in the Shadow of the Iraq War,” Yoram Schweitzer, a Jaffee Center scholar, said the low-intensity insurgency that followed the initial military victory provided a bonanza for radical Islamic elements like al-Qaida that had not previously been active in the Iraqi theater.

“The postwar conflict enabled radical Islamic elements to use Iraq as an alternative theater for rehabilitating the image of al-Qaida and its Taliban patrons. … Indeed, Iraq became their theater of choice for demonstrating their dedication to [suicide attacks],” Schweitzer said.

He noted that the war prompted the primary coalition targets “to exploit the situation in a beleaguered Iraq to reinvigorate their cadres and recruit new volunteers for what they describe as a defensive war against foreign occupation.”

In its annual quantification of military strength in the region, the report essentially zeroed out all major Iraqi combat capabilities.

“For all intents and purposes, these forces no longer exist. Either they’ve been destroyed, rendered inoperable or are in American or coalition hands,” said Yiftah Shapir, the Jaffee Center’s longtime force structure analyst.

Shapir said Oct. 14 that U.S. plans to reconstitute a defensive force in Iraq should not alter the assessment that Iraq no longer poses a conventional regional threat. “They’re talking about establishing three divisions, but these will be infantry and very light mobile forces. And once the Americans leave, it’s our assessment that they’ll remove, destroy or dismantle all residual elements of Saddam’s fighting force,” he said.

The report emphasized that Israel maintains an overwhelming strategic advantage over all countries in the region, despite suspected Iranian progress in acquiring weapons of mass destruction and its ballistic missile delivery capabilities.

Israel’s unrivaled qualitative superiority in the conventional and nonconventional realms — fueled by Israeli strides in transforming its military into a single, interconnected fighting force — means it can prevail over any combination of threats, according to the report.

Barbara Opall-Rome is a senior correspondent for Defense News.



11-06-04, 08:54 AM
Marching to the melody of bagpipes
Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
Story by Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Nov. 06, 2004) -- Amid the thunder of artillery and weapons fire, pipers are heard around Camp Fallujah blaring melodies from their age-old Celtic instruments.

Every day Lt. Col. Paul Sweeney, judge advocate lawyer, and Sgt. Steven Ammer, motor transportation specialist, hone their piping skills, unknowingly raising spirits as their tunes float on the wind to fellow Marines throughout the base.

"For me playing the bagpipes is just relaxing," said Ammer. "Since I'll be out here for seven months I figured I'd get some practice, so I had my wife mail my bagpipes to me. I feel renewed when I head back to work after each session."

While Ammer and Sweeney perform songs like the Marines' Hymn, service members who pass by stop in their tracks, pausing to listen to the notes that have played for almost 200 years.

"I'm Scottish so when I heard them playing, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up," said Staff Sgt. Grant Smillie.

During the middle ages in Scotland and Ireland, the bagpipes were used to rally the troops into battle. The English outlawed the bagpipes in 1366 and declared them an instrument of war. Anyone caught playing the bagpipes were put to death.

"I've been playing close to three years," said Sweeney. "I play with a pipe band back in the rear in Binghamton, New York. I carried mine on the plane all the way from Camp Pendleton."

But Ammer and Sweeney aren't the first Marines to pick up the bagpipes to play in a war zone. Several Marine pipers played during the bloody Battle of Peleliu. A Marine lieutenant was observed piping his amphibian tractor ashore on Iwo Jima. In Korea, Sgt. F.H. "Timmy" Killeen piped for his company of the 7th Marines during the numerous Inchon-Seoul night firefights.

"The bagpipes have been used in every major conflict with the Marines," said Ammer.

Known as war or highland pipes, these instruments were also used during funeral ceremonies when burying fallen comrades. In the early days when a police officer or firefighter was killed in the line of duty, the Irish or Scottish forefathers within these departments ensured that their fallen brothers were buried with full honors. Today, that tradition transcends ethnic, racial and religious lines and the bagpipes are played at police, fire and military funerals regardless of race, color or creed.

"It's pretty motivating to be here playing my bagpipes," said Sweeney. "Aside from with my family and friends, I can't think of a better place to be."


11-06-04, 09:33 AM
Marines Prepare For Casualties
Biloxi Sun Herald
November 6, 2004

The number of dead and wounded from the expected battle to retake insurgent-controlled Fallujah probably will reach levels not seen since Vietnam, a senior surgeon at the Marine camp outside Fallujah said Thursday.

Navy Cmdr. Lach Noyes said the hospital here is preparing to handle 25 severely injured soldiers a day, not counting walking wounded and the dead. The hospital has added two operating rooms, doubled its supplies, added a mortuary and stocked up on blood reserves. Doctors have set up a system of ambulance vehicles that will rush to the camp's gate to receive the dead and wounded so units can return to battle quickly.

The plans underscore the ferocity of the fight the U.S. military expects in Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim city about 35 miles west of Baghdad which has been under insurgent control since April. More than 1,120 U.S. soldiers and Marines have died in Iraq since the war began, more than 860 of those from hostile fire.

The deadliest month was April when fierce fighting killed 126 U.S. troops largely at Fallujah and Ramadi before a cease-fire virtually turned Fallujah over to the insurgents. Even then, the death toll was far below the worst month of Vietnam, April 1969, when the U.S. death toll was 543 at the height of American involvement there.

U.S. forces have been building up outside Fallujah for weeks in preparation for taking the city back, and many here believe the assault is likely to come soon.

Military officials say they expect U.S. troops will encounter not just fighters wielding AK-47s assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, but also heavy concentrations of mines, roadside bombs and possibly car bombs.

"We'll probably just see those in a lot better concentration in the city," said Maj. Jim West, an intelligence officer with 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

West said he thinks there are some 4,000 to 5,000 fighters between Fallujah and nearby Ramadi, and they may try to draw troops into cramped urban areas in Fallujah that have been booby-trapped.

The toll in human suffering has already been grave.

Staff Sgt. Jason Benedict was on a convoy heading to the Fallujah camp last Saturday when a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into the truck Benedict and his platoon mates were traveling on. A few minutes later, mortars and rifle fire rained down on the survivors. As he rolled toward the safety of a ditch, Benedict saw one of his friends crawling on all fours, with blood pouring from his face.

"You've got to expect casualties," said Benedict, 28. The fight for Fallujah, he said, "is overdue."

Eight Marines were killed in the bombing. Benedict is now recuperating in the field hospital with burns to his left hand and the side of his head.

In the six weeks Noyes has worked at the Fallujah camp, his team has operated on Marines with eyes gouged by shrapnel and limbs torn by explosion. A rocket strike outside the hospital killed two staff members and left deep pockmarks across the white concrete walls.

Noyes said some bodies have been so badly mangled that they had to be shipped home for DNA identification.

As Noyes was speaking Thursday, two Marines and a female American photojournalist were rushed into the hospital. A roadside bomb had hit their vehicle. The Marines had shrapnel cuts and burns, and the photographer's teeth had been pushed back into her mouth. The bomb was attached to a tank of gasoline, meant to create a fireball that didn't ignite.

Capt. Melissa Kaime, another Navy surgeon at the hospital, said that seeing trauma wounds in medical school is one thing; seeing them come off the battlefield is something altogether different.

"To treat a patient when (his) brain is coming out... ," she said, before her voice trailed off. "There are things that I will never understand. It's beyond my comprehension; a higher power will have to explain why these things have happened."


11-06-04, 01:21 PM
November 08, 2004

Goggles key to avoiding eye injuries, doctors say

By Laura Bailey
Times staff writer

Cpl. Bryan Bergey wore protective glasses regularly during his seven months in Iraq, but for some unlucky reason they weren’t on his face when he needed them most.
Two weeks before Bergey and other Marines with 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion were scheduled to return home to California, a bucket of ammunition that his platoon had confiscated from looters exploded.

Bergey and five other Marines were nearby when the rounds exploded, peppering their faces with razors of shrapnel. The shards destroyed Bergey’s right eye, and two of his fellow Marines each lost an eye, as well.

“None of us expected a thing at all,” Bergey said of the Aug. 16, 2003, incident. “Everything was fine … and then all of a sudden it wasn’t.”

Today, with the exception of an occasional loss of depth perception, the 24-year old functions almost normally. And his state-of-the-art prosthetic eye could pass for a real one.

However, the injury cost Bergey his career in the military; he was medically retired in June. “I could have fought it but my heart is where the infantry is. I wasn’t going to do admin work.”

Bergey accepts the new path his life has taken, but at times he wonders what would have happened if only he had been wearing his Bolle tactical goggles that morning.

Protective goggles made by manufacturers such as Bolle, Oakley and the hugely popular Wiley-X can prevent the majority of combat eye injuries, which have been on the rise in modern conflicts, according to military doctors.

The concept of goggles as “eye armor” is becoming more important to the military as explosions from roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades become pervasive on the modern battlefield.

However, military eye doctors are just starting to gain ground in the fight to get troops to protect their eyes.

Protection becoming a priority

In the Corps, individual units decide which commercial goggles to buy for their Marines.

But in a response to an urgent request from I Marine Expeditionary Force troops in Iraq, Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Va., has sent out more than 83,000 commercial spectacles and goggles that offer varying degrees of ballistic protection. Commanders chose the goggles based on their level of need.

Navy Capt. David Mazur, the department head for ophthalmology at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., doubts that eye protection was a priority at the start of the war, based on evidence he’s seen, but awareness seems to be improving.

Navy doctors experienced a rapid influx of troops with eye injuries during the Corps’ first rotation for occupation duty this past spring, when Marines took over from Army units in western Iraq. During that period, an eye surgeon in Baghdad told Mazur that his hospital had treated 34 consecutive eye-injury casualties. Of those, 32 were not wearing protective glasses, he said.

In July, safety alerts went out throughout camps in Iraq warning soldiers and Marines of what can happen to those who don’t wear their goggles. One notice showed a soldier whose head and neck are streaked with blood from shrapnel wounds but his eyes are left untouched.

“The ballistic goggles saved his eyesight and possibly his life. A piece of shrapnel embedded in both lenses instead of penetrating into his eyes,” said the alert from Army Lt. Gen Thomas Metz.

Since the spring, eye surgeons say they’ve seen a drop in eye injuries, and they cite greater enforcement of goggle use as a possible reason.

“It’s getting much, much better,” said Vince Przybyla, the military’s lead craftsman of prosthetic eyes at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. “Company-grade commanders are now saying you’ve got to wear these.”

According to Col. Ronald Johnson, commander of the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit now in Iraq’s northern Babil province, the unit has made the wearing of protective goggles as important as body armor and up-armored vehicles when dealing with the threat of roadside bombs.

“I won’t allow them to hit the road without their Wileys on,” Johnson said via e-mail. “Complacency kills, but it also blinds. If we get in a vehicle, we put on the Wileys. After the explosion, it’s too late.”

According to the MEU’s surgeon, the unit has seen cases in which Marines sustained small fragmentation wounds all over their faces but were spared devastating punctures to the eyes.

“We’ve seen multiple cases of Marines with small fragmentation wounds around the Wiley-Xs,” Lt. Cmdr. Jim Harris said in an e-mail. “While those tiny wounds don’t cause any real problems for the rest of the face, those little fragments would devastate the eye. The difference is between a Marine getting some Motrin and returning to duty versus a Marine being potentially blinded.”

At Bethesda, Mazur said the hospital has treated between 60 and 70 service members for eye injuries, but is now seeing fewer cases.

However, convincing service members to wear their goggles can be tough, as some see them as uncomfortable or as a tactical disadvantage.

“A lot of the issue has been peripheral vision,” said Army Col. (Dr.) Thomas Ward, an ophthalmologist at Walter Reed, where the majority of the Army’s serious eye injuries are treated. “A soldier or Marine is not going to tolerate a cut in their peripheral vision.”

Ward estimates that between 10 percent and 15 percent of the wounds the Army hospital treats are to the eyes. There have been 193 eye injuries treated at Walter Reed alone, where the most severe Army cases are sent.

The majority of cases he sees result from improvised explosives, and most threaten the patient’s sight, Ward said. About 10 percent of the damaged eyes have to be removed.

“Probably 90 percent of these injuries would have been prevented,” with the proper eye goggles, Ward said.

Getting the best protection

So what should a Marine or soldier look for in a pair of goggles — and what can the goggles stop?

Goggles should wrap around and provide coverage of the side of the eyes to offer adequate protection. Some tactical sunglasses can offer a degree of protection, Ward said, but they must be polycarbonate and at least 2mm thick.

It also pays to wear them consistently, as shrapnel isn’t the only threat.

As an example, Ward mentioned the case of a soldier riding in an armored vehicle that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. The round broke through seven sheets of glass, sending a very large piece into the soldier’s eye. ;And don’t think ordinary glasses will do the trick — if they are made of regular plastic or glass all they do is create secondary “missiles.”

Of course, goggles aren’t foolproof. They are not likely to stop a large round, for example. Manufacturers such as Wiley-X have done successful ballistic tests with a .22 caliber round, but in general most goggles aren’t going to offer adequate protection, Mazur said.

The Corps has approved a number of commercial goggles as ballistically sound.

Wiley-X’s modular SG-1 and CQC models with interchangeable night and day lenses can be bought for $89.95 and $62.95, respectively.

The ESS Land Operations goggles ($39.95), and ESS night vision goggles ($69.95) are also approved, as are the Bolle Defender ($65.00) and the Bolle T-800R tactical goggles ($69.95).

Panoptx e-armor and the Gentex EPS-21 Combat Goggle with multiple lenses are also available through the government supply system.



11-06-04, 01:46 PM
Dozens dead in Samarra attacks
Marines prepare for Falluja assault; likely biggest since Vietnam
Saturday, November 6, 2004 Posted: 1:29 PM EST (1829 GMT)

(CNN) -- Insurgents stepped up their attacks in the restive Iraqi city of Samarra on Saturday as U.S. Marines prepared for an all-out assault on the rebel stronghold of Falluja.

A health official in Tikrit said at least 34 people were killed and dozens were wounded in the violence in Samarra, a Sunni city that had been a center of support for Saddam Hussein. Tikrit is the capital of Salah ad Din province, where Samarra is located.

The 34 people were killed in a series of incidents that included car bombings and mortar attacks.

U.S. and Iraqi forces reported they had quelled the insurgency in Samarra in an offensive last month, but continued to fight pockets of resistance there nonetheless.

Last month's Samarra offensive was characterized as an example of the urban-like warfare expected in the larger planned assault on Falluja.

Like Falluja, Samarra has been a tough challenge for U.S. and Iraqi forces, who have had to square off regularly against tenacious militants there. Both towns are in the troubled Sunni Triangle: Falluja is 30 miles (48 km) west of Baghdad and Samarra, 60 miles (96 km) north.

Other incidents of violence continued across Iraq -- in the cities of Mosul, Ramadi, Kufa, Baghdad and the province of Babil -- and included ambushes, shootings and bombings.

Amid the daily violence, the U.S. military has conducted daily artillery and air attacks on Falluja to prepare for the upcoming offensive.

The city has a peacetime population of 250,000, but the town has been largely emptied in response to the attacks and the expectation of the full-scale assault. An estimated 50,000 people remain. Among them, the Marines believe, are about 3,000 hard-core insurgents.

The U.S. military and Iraqi government plan an information campaign to get women and children to leave the city, part of an effort to help guard civilians from the looming fight.

U.S. warplanes, including AC-130 gunships, have bombarded targets to weaken the insurgency ahead of the offensive.

Several explosions jolted the region early Saturday, with fireballs lighting up the nighttime sky and the sounds of AC-130 gunship cannon fire.

U.S. tanks were also engaged in the northeastern part of Falluja and artillery was fired at insurgent positions. Machine-gun fire and small arms fire could be heard as well.

Allawi: Window closing for peace in Falluja
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi had told reporters in Brussels, Belgium, where he attended a European Union summit on Friday, that the "window is closing" for a peaceful resolution to Falluja.

"We hope they will come to their senses. Otherwise, we have to bring them to face the justice," Allawi said. "We intend to liberate the people and bring the rule of law to Falluja."

Allawi will decide when the assault will begin.

Commanders have said it will likely be the Marines' biggest combat operation since Hue City in Vietnam, when Marines, soldiers and South Vietnam forces fought the North Vietnamese Army in bloody urban combat in Vietnam's ancient capital.

House-to-house fighting left much of the city destroyed, and Marine commanders in Iraq say the siege of Falluja is expected to be bloody.

The troops have been training in urban warfare techniques at a desert base camp near Falluja, getting ready for the possible fierce battle in the sprawling city. About 50,000 residents are believed to be still in the city, once populated by as many as 250,000 people.

U.S. authorities believe insurgents have prepared for the U.S.-led offensive by booby-trapping buildings and lacing roads with bombs, and that they will use car bombs and rooftop snipers to attack the U.S.-led forces.

The city also has scores of mosques that military officials say are being used as mujahedeen sniping positions, command and control posts and combat clinics.

Other developments

A suicide car bomb attack wounded three multinational force members on the dangerous road from Baghdad to the airport on Saturday. The attack car had two occupants. One was killed and the other seriously wounded, the U.S. military said.

Insurgents struck a military convoy near Ramadi on Saturday, wounding 20 soldiers, a U.S. military official said. Ramadi, like Falluja, is in al Anbar province.

An Iraqi company commander who had received a full battle briefing on the expected Falluja assault has deserted a military base where U.S. and Iraqi troops are preparing. Officials discovered the commander, a Kurdish captain, was missing on Friday. Marine officials believe the man took notes from the battle briefing Thursday and and are worried he may pass the information to insurgents.

The Base of Jihad, an Islamist militant group believed to be led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed three British Black Watch troops south of Baghdad Thursday. The claim, issued on several Web sites, cannot be independently confirmed.

A Turkish driver was killed Saturday and two trucks were destroyed by a roadside bomb that exploded as a convoy passed on the main highway from Baghdad into Mosul, the U.S. military said.

The bodies of 12 Iraqi civilians who had been kidnapped and then shot in the town of Latifiya were discovered Friday, Iraqi police sources said. Latifiya is about 30 miles south of Baghdad.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said it will stop working in Iraq because of escalating violence. The group has been there since December 2002.

CNN's Kevin Flower, Liz Neisloss, Ayman Mohyeldin, Robin Oakley, Karl Penhaul, Cal Perry, and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.



11-06-04, 02:33 PM
Iraqi officer deserts with US Falluja battle plan
06 Nov 2004 19:32:57 GMT
Source: Reuters

BAGHDAD, Nov 6 (Reuters) - An Iraqi military commander has deserted U.S. forces hours after he received a full briefing on U.S. military plans to storm the rebel-held city of Falluja, CNN reported on Saturday.

But the pool report sent to Reuters and other media from a Marine unit quoted U.S. officers as saying the desertion of the unidentified captain, a Kurdish company commander, would not change plans to retake the city before elections scheduled for Jan. 27.

They said they believe the officer, who commanded 160 Iraqi soldiers training with U.S. Marines at a base on the outskirts of Falluja, was not likely to hand over battle plans to rebels in the Sunni Muslim city, where Saddam Hussein loyalists and supporters of al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are entrenched.

The officer disappeared on Friday morning, one day after U.S. Marine officers gave him a full briefing on the battle plans. U.S. officers found his uniform and automatic rifles on his bed.

"This man has no known ties with Falluja and they (the U.S. military) don't believe in the first instance that he is headed for Falluja. They believe that since the captain is a Kurd, he is more likely headed up north and going home," the report said.

"It is significant that he disappeared the morning after he had a full and detailed brief on the full battle plan for the assault on Falluja," it added.

U.S. officers said Iraqi forces, who include former Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and former members of Saddam's Iraqi army were among Iraqi troops training with U.S. Marines preparing to storm Falluja. Kurds were allies of the United States in last year's war that ousted Saddam.

U.S. forces say they are awaiting a signal from Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and U.S. President George W. Bush to attack the city, where an estimated 1,000 to 6,000 Saddam loyalists and Arab supporters of Zarqawi are dug in.

U.S. forces expect the Falluja battle to be the toughest that U.S. Marines face since the Vietnam war.


11-06-04, 05:12 PM
Marines try to break pre-battle tension
By EDWARD HARRIS, Associated Press

NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq (November 6, 1:21 pm AST) - For U.S. Marines awaiting orders to attack Iraq's rebel-held Fallujah, the bags are packed, trucks are loaded and letters have been sent home, leaving one final, pre-assault diversion: the "Ben-Hur."

Blowing off steam, hundreds of Marines took their cue from the 1959 Charlton Heston classic and gathered Saturday at a base near Fallujah for a slapstick chariot race featuring cobbled-together carts and confiscated Iraqi horses.

"These men are about to face the greatest personal and professional tests of their lifetimes," said Lt. Col. Willy Buhl, commander of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.

"We wanted to lighten things up, take the tension off what we're about to do," said the 42-year-old commander from Los Gatos, Calif., who dreamed up the "First Annual 'Ben-Hur' Memorial Chariot Race."

The Marine charioteers, wearing togas over their body armor, waved baseball bats done up as spiked maces and jumped into carts forged from cast-off vehicle parts. The makeshift chariots were pulled by Iraqi horses commandeered from looters in the area.

Some 10,000 U.S. troops have encircled Fallujah, a city 40 miles west of Baghdad, to attack Sunni Muslim fighters there - if the final go-ahead is given by Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

U.S. jets pounded Fallujah early Saturday in the heaviest airstrikes in six months - including five 500-pound bombs dropped on insurgent targets. Insurgents struck elsewhere in central Iraq with suicide car bombs, mortars and rockets, killing more than 30 people and wounding dozens, including more than 20 Americans.

Fallujah is believed to be the headquarters of militant groups, including some responsible for the wave of car bombings and beheadings of foreign and Iraqi hostages. By capturing the insurgent sanctuary, U.S. and Iraqi government forces hope to restore enough order nationwide to enable the country to hold a general election by the end of January.

On Saturday, Marines who endure daily mortar and rocket fire packed unneeded personal belongings into shipping crates, loaded up their Humvees and spoke of what they expected was the last mail pickup for some time.

Tension and anticipation ran high among the young Marines surrounding Fallujah, many of whom have never tasted combat.

"We're ready to go. I'm just ready to get this done. I want to go and kill people, so we can go home," said Lance Cpl. Joseph Bowman, 20, from North Zulch, Texas. "Kill them and go home, that's all we can do now."

But first, the Marines had a little fun with the horses.

"Friends, Romans, Marines: Lend me your ears for the rules," bellowed the master of ceremonies - Capt. Jonathan Vaughn, 30, of Cleveland. "If all horses die before the finish line, whichever makes it the farthest, wins."

Vaughn's rule seemed prudent since some of the horses didn't look in prime racing shape, although none died. And the race didn't come off exactly as planned - one steed turned on its charioteer in the first race and tried to bite the Marine - who fended the horse off with a wooden trident, drawing loud cheers.

Instead of chariot-to-chariot races, the Marines held timed heats. Among the highlights for the assembled Marines: When the camp dog, Butch, limped onto the racecourse and grazed on the horses' droppings.

A weapons team duo eventually prevailed in the final heat. The horse ran straight over the finish line, scattering Marine bystanders and slamming snout-first into sand-filled barriers. The horse was unhurt.


11-06-04, 07:00 PM
This is why wifes and girlfreinds look at their Marines in a strange way and ask, "Is this your idea of having a good time"?---LOL

May God be with them and cover their six!

"The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard". Isaiah 58:8

11-06-04, 10:46 PM
Pupils laud veterans back from Iraq
MILO, Wash. - A Marine who received two Purple Hearts for injuries he suffered in Iraq joined other veterans Friday at a special assembly conducted by Milo elementary and middle school pupils. Cpl. Keith Dawson, 21, who was injured by shrapnel from roadside bombs on two separate occasions near and in Fallujah, listened intently as pupils and teachers sang and played patriotic songs during the annual event to honor veterans. Among the pupils was his brother-in-law, George Cowing, who is in the fourth grade.

"It felt great that they did that in honor of veterans," Dawson said after the morning assembly. He was joined by many parents and veterans, as well as his wife, Abigail (Cowing) Dawson, formerly of Milo, and Bill Knight of Bangor, the organizer of the trooper greeters at Bangor International Airport.

Dawson, who met with pupils in their classrooms after the assembly and taught them a few hand signs used by the Iraqi people, said he was first injured on March 18 while driving the last Humvee in a convoy.

He and five other Marines were injured when a roadside bomb exploded and heavily damaged their vehicle and another one in the convoy. The shrapnel grazed Dawson's cheek, causing it to bleed, but the injury was not life-threatening, so he continued with his battalion. After a three-hour wait for an explosive ordnance device group to assess the surrounding ground for other explosives, the convoy continued on, he said.

The former Parkman man was not so lucky a second time, when on Aug. 16 another roadside bomb exploded. Shrapnel flew through an open window into the Humvee and into the left side of Dawson's face. He was returned immediately to his base about 15 miles south of Baghdad for medical treatment, he said. Dawson still has a piece of shrapnel lodged beside his nose as a reminder.

Despite the dangers involved, Dawson, who is stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C., figures it is his duty to help protect America and spread freedom. He recently completed a seven-month tour in the infantry in Iraq and will return to his home base on Nov. 15. He expects to remain there until September when his battalion will leave for another Middle East tour.

Reuniting with friends and family in Maine has been heartwarming for the young Marine. After enlisting in the military in May 2002, Dawson was sent to Okinawa for six months and then to Iraq.

"It's pretty rough," Dawson said of life in the war-torn country. He said the members of his battalion slept in tents surrounded by sandbags, but the heat was unbearable at times.

Patrolling the country on foot or in vehicles, Dawson said he had interaction with the local people, about half of whom appeared to relish the outside help. Some invited the Marines into their homes and fed them while talking to them through an interpreter, he recalled.

It was the other half of the population that Marines were wary of, he said. "In certain parts of the town, the natives gave us the dirty eye," Dawson said.

His battalion rounded up about $60,000 in donated school and medical supplies, gifts that were much appreciated by the children and adults alike, according to Dawson. Much of the support came from friends and family back home, he said. That support was very welcome, Dawson said, including the packages sent to him that contained homemade food. The ready-to-eat military meals were quickly discarded when a package from home arrived, he said.

That support for Dawson will continue today as the hero is the guest of honor during a parade and an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. at the local American Legion Post. The public is invited.


11-07-04, 08:06 AM
Fixing the problem of Falluja
By Paul Wood
BBC News embedded with US Marines near Falluja

As the last light faded at our forward base, the wiry, tough-looking staff sergeant turned to a small group of Marines.

"We're not going into Falluja to give out fuzzy bears and warm hugs," he said.

We were just a short distance from the city the Marines expect shortly to storm with overwhelming force of arms.

Senior officers here say the final order to go in can come only from the Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi.

But, in the early hours of Saturday, the Marines launched a preliminary attack.

This was their biggest military operation since they began steadily tightening the noose on Falluja's insurgents.

With flashes in the night sky and the sound of automatic fire marking their progress, US ground forces moved through the outskirts of Falluja.

It was a probing attack, a feint designed to draw out the insurgents and reveal new targets for aircraft and artillery.

The sound of war-planes overhead was constant until dawn.

On Saturday morning, we heard the regular "thump-thump" of the Marines' offensive forward battery, a terrifying 155mm Howitzer.

In this action, the Marines say they destroyed three barricaded fighting positions, an anti-aircraft weapon and a weapons cache.

At our forward base, rockets from the insurgents fizzed overhead a couple of times a day, sending the Marines scrambling for cover.

But morale is high. "When we go in, we're going thousands strong and they won't know what hit 'em," said another young Marine.

We got the same message from the deputy commanding general here, Denis Hajlik. "We're gonna whack 'em," he told a roomful of newly-embedded journalists.

This is not bloodlust. The Marines know better than anyone the reality of combat.

But their mission has changed.

They swept into Iraq in a short, victorious campaign, and quickly settled down to nation-building and peacekeeping.

Now they are about to conduct a frontal assault on a medium-sized city.

Some of those who took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom - as last year's invasion is called - wonder what happened to the "flowers and sweets" that greeted them so promisingly at first.

"Everyone was so friendly when we got to Iraq," said one 19-year-old, slightly bewildered. "I just don't know what happened."

There are few doubters though.

Many of the Marines see the Falluja operation as a chance to fix the problem, and turn the tide against the insurgents.

They also show a genuine concern for civilians of Falluja.

"If we can give the innocent civilians back their city, that would be a wonderful thing to do for them," said 2nd Lieutenant Douglas Bahrns, whose squad will fight their way through one of the toughest sectors of Falluja.

The Marines will be going in very heavy, with M1 A1 Abrams tanks, tracked armoured personnel carriers equipped with cannons and heavy machine guns, mortars, high-power sniper rifles and a variant of the US Army's Stryker vehicle, which deflects rocket-propelled grenades with metal lattice-work on its outer skin.

"The competence and compassion of my Marines will mitigate any civilian casualties," said Lieutenant Colonel Gareth Brandl when asked how he could control where all this firepower would be directed in the narrow streets and alleys of Falluja.

The colonel, a charismatic young officer who is on his second tour in Iraq, will command one of the battalions "at the tip of the spear" in the assault.

We met him in his operations centre, an old Iraqi army barracks, which still had on its wall a large picture of Saddam, dressed as Saladin.

Saddam looked down on Colonel Brandl as he pored over maps with his officers and gave out orders on exactly how the operation to take Falluja would go.

The big question is whether the rebels will stay and fight, or if they will simply melt away, as guerrillas tend to do when faced with a large conventional force.

At the last count, by US military intelligence, the rebels numbered several thousand strong. But no one knows if they are still there.

Colonel Brandl said he would be quite happy if his Marines could just walk into Falluja, but they were ready for a fight.

The threats include roadside bombs, suicide bombers, booby traps, bombs thrown from roof-tops, mosques used as sniper positions, and a small group of Islamist fighters who believe they are about to seek martyrdom in a holy war.

But for the highly-professional Marines, Falluja is also a return to the simplicity of combat after the complexities of peacekeeping and an enemy that never shows itself.

"The Marines that I have had wounded over the past five months have been attacked by a faceless enemy," said Colonel Brandl.

"But the enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Falluja. And we're going to destroy him."


11-07-04, 08:07 AM
Iraq Declares State of Emergency

By TINI TRAN, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The government declared a 60-day state of emergency throughout most of the country Sunday, as U.S. and Iraqi forces prepared for an expected all-out assault on rebels in Fallujah. Insurgents escalated a wave of violence that has killed more than 50 people the past two days, and a U.S. soldier was killed in an attack on a convoy.

Heavy explosions were heard in Baghdad as government spokesman Thair Hassan al-Naqeeb announced the state of emergency over the entire country except Kurdish areas in the north.

"It is going to be a curfew. It is going to be so many things, but tomorrow the prime minister will mention it," he said. Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi will give more details Monday, he said.

Al-Naqeeb declined to say whether the announcement signaled an imminent attack on the insurgent stronghold Fallujah, saying, "We have seen the situation is worsening in this area. Any obstacle will be removed."

The statement came as insurgents carried out a second day of assaults in central Iraq (news - web sites), attacking police stations, gunning down government officials and setting off bombs.

Two attacks on U.S. convoys in and around Baghdad killed one American soldier and wounded another Sunday, the military said. Residents reported grenades setting police cars aflame on Haifa Street in the heart of the city.

Also, 12 Iraqi National Guards were abducted and executed by militants dressed as policemen while traveling home to Najaf, an official with a leading Shiite party said Sunday. The men were kidnapped near Latifiyah, an area of frequent violence bout 20 miles south of Baghdad, said Abu Ali al-Najafi from the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known by its acronym SCIRI.

A car bomb also exploded near the Baghdad home of Iraq's finance minister, Adil Abdel-Mahdi, officials said. He was safe, but one of his guards was killed.

The wave of violence sweeping the troubled Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad, may be aimed at relieving pressure on Fallujah, where about 10,000 American troops are massing for a major assault if Allawi gives the green light.

At dawn Sunday, armed rebels launched deadly attacks against police stations in western Anbar province, killing 22 people according to police and hospital officials. At least seven of those killed were policemen, who were lined up and shot execution style.

Using bombs and small arms fire, insurgents hit three police stations in the neighboring towns of Haditha and Haqlaniyah, 137 miles northwest of Baghdad, said Capt. Nasser Abdullah of the K3 police station in Haqlaniyah.

Also Sunday, three Diyala provincial officials were gunned down south of Baghdad as they were on their way to a funeral in Karbala for a fourth colleague assassinated earlier this week. Governor's aide Jassim Mohammed was killed along with Diyala provincial council members, Shihab Ahmed and Dureid Mohammed, an Iraqi official said.

The attacks came a day after insurgents in Samarra stormed a police station, triggered at least two suicide car bombs and fired mortars at government installations. Twenty-nine people, including 17 police and 12 Iraqi civilians, were killed throughout the city, the U.S. military said. Forty others were injured.

A suicide bomber using an explosive-packed Iraqi police car rammed a U.S. convoy in Ramadi, wounding 16 American soldiers, according to the military.

Early Sunday, Marines fired a barrage of artillery at rebel positions inside Fallujah and clashed with insurgents carrying AK-47s, killing at least 16. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded at midnight at a checkpoint near Fallujah, the U.S. military said.

U.S. jets have been pounding the rebel bastion for days, launching its heaviest airstrikes in six months on Saturday — including five 500-pound bombs dropped on insurgent targets. Warplanes destroyed five weapons caches after nightfall Saturday.

In Web postings, the al-Qaida affiliate group of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attacks in Samarra, Ramadi and Baghdad. The claims could not be verified, but U.S. officials believe al-Zarqawi's group uses Fallujah as a base.

U.S. intelligence estimates there are about 3,000 insurgents dug in behind defenses and booby traps in Fallujah, a city of about 300,000 which has become a symbol throughout the Islamic world of Iraqi resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.

On Sunday, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, gave a rousing pep talk before 2,000 to 3,000 Marines at a base near Fallujah.

"You can feel the energy. You can feel the chemistry. You're going to give that to the Iraqi forces as they join that fight. God bless you, each and everyone. You know what your mission is. Go out there and get it done," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) and others have warned that a military offensive could trigger a wave of violence that would sabotage the ballot.

The influential Sunni clerical Association of Muslim Scholars has threatened to call a boycott of elections if Fallujah is attacked. A public outcry over civilian casualties prompted the Bush administration to call off a siege in April, after which Fallujah fell under control of radical clerics.

The violence in Samarra underscored the difficulty of maintaining civilian authority in Sunni areas even after the worst of the fighting ebbs.

"The experience that occurred in Samarra is now being repeated again in Fallujah, and we can see that nothing was achieved in Samarra," Ayad al-Samaraei of the Sunni-led Iraqi Islamic party told Al-Jazeera television. "The situation is still as it was before" in Samarra.

"I cannot claim that entering Fallujah will end the terrorist attacks in Iraq," Iraq's national security adviser, Qassem Dawoud, told Al-Arabiya television. "But I can say that we will deal with a very big pocket of terrorism in Iraq and we will uproot it. This pocket forms the backbone and the center for terrorists in other areas in Iraq."


11-07-04, 08:49 AM
November 08, 2004

New documents give more insight into Abu Ghraib
But more prison-scandal paperwork is being withheld, ACLU officials say

By Deborah Funk
Times staff writer

The prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, was a classic example of the legal formula that “predisposition plus opportunity equals criminal behavior,” according to a recently released psychological assessment.
The assessment also reported the rape of a male juvenile prisoner by an interpreter and racist remarks by a U.S. military dog handler.

The assessment, by an Air Force psychiatrist who was part of the investigation team, was among about 6,000 documents the government has turned over by court order to the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations that are probing allegations of prisoner abuse at U.S. detention facilities overseas.

But the ACLU, which announced the release of the documents in October, believes the government is withholding additional material that would more clearly explain where the ultimate blame lies for mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

“What does the government have to hide? We’re not seeing all the responses,” said Amrit Singh, an ACLU attorney working on the case. “The documents we did get confirm the abuse was systemic and widespread. It was not confined to a few isolated incidents.”

The ACLU and other groups sued the government in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to obtain the documents. Officials with the Army, Defense Department and FBI say they have turned over all material that was legally required. Some material can be withheld to protect national security, confidential sources and investigations, for example.

The Army also has been “aggressively declassifying” information when possible, said Army Brig. Gen. John Adams, special assistant to the Army Provost Marshal General for Detainee Operations.

“We’re releasing every bit of information that we can legally,” Adams said.

Matthew Waxman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said defense officials are conducting “vigorous and transparent” investigations and holding individuals accountable for wrongdoing.

He said defense officials are taking lessons learned to improve detainee operations, detention facilities and training. For example, a $26 million hospital recently opened at Abu Ghraib, and cooperation has increased between Coalition and Iraqi government officials in reviews of whether to release or continue to detain individuals, he said.

The Army is rewriting its doctrine for military police and intelligence interrogators, and is clearly defining responsibilities and acceptable interrogation techniques, Adams said.

In a speech delivered in October in Warsaw, Poland, on humane treatment of detainees, Waxman said the United States has conducted eight major reviews and investigations and nearly 1,000 interviews into allegations of abuse. More than 40 people have been referred for court-martial and “dozens of others disciplined, removed from command or separated” from military service.

Meanwhile, four British men who were held at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for almost three years are suing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. military officials alleging they were tortured and suffered other human-rights violations in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, Jamal Al-Harith and Shafiq Rasul seek $10 million each.

Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Michael Shavers said the four “were captured in Afghanistan fighting illegally for al-Qaida. They were properly classified as enemy combatants. Their detention was directly related to their combat activities as determined by an appropriate DoD official before they were transferred to Guantanamo.

“There is no basis in U.S. law to pay claims to those captured and detained as a result of combat activities,” he said. “A determination that a detainee should be transferred or released does not negate his status as an enemy combatant.”

Sparks that lit the fuse

Much of the government material to civil liberties groups was redacted, including pages of e-mails where messages were greatly or entirely deleted. Those include e-mails on legal issues at Guantanamo and legal analysis of interrogation techniques used there, according to the postings at www .aclu.org.

The psychological assessment report on Abu Ghraib said factors contributing to the abuse included throwing U.S. troops who already associated Muslims with terrorism into an unfamiliar Islamic culture, issues that “exaggerate differences and create misperceptions that can lead to fear or devaluation of a people.”

Poor living and working conditions for U.S. troops, a disparate detainee population whose future is uncertain and mortar attacks and riots also were factors. Friction between military police and intelligence personnel and a lack of training and supervision also contributed to the environment.



11-07-04, 11:41 AM
Commanders Give Marines Pep Talk in Iraq <br />
<br />
<br />
JIM KRANE <br />
Associated Press <br />
Nov. 8, 2004 <br />
<br />
NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq - As U.S. forces prepared for what is expected to be the biggest Marine-led urban...

11-07-04, 02:19 PM
U.S. Military Seals Off Fallujah

NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. troops have "isolated Fallujah" and all traffic in and out of the city has been halted after the Iraqi government ordered emergency rule in most of the country, the U.S. military said.

A U.S. statement said that in accordance with the emergency decree, which the Iraqi government announced earlier Sunday, the Army's 1st Cavalry Division 2nd Brigade Combat Team "isolated Fallujah and all traffic is being halted."

The statement added that U.S. forces were "finishing final preparations for an assault on Fallujah."

U.S. officials also said insurgents had stepped up their use of mortar and other "indirect fire" against American positions around the city in the last 24 hours and had launched more coordinated attacks against U.S. checkpoints.



11-07-04, 02:36 PM
For Marines, time to relax
Front-line units prepare their gear and fine-tune their weapons prior to Fallujah battle.

NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq - The Marines call it "rest and refit" - a time to kick back, catch up on some letters home, listen to music.

Yesterday was one of those days. After weeks of sometimes intense training for an invasion of rebel-held Fallujah, Marines tossed footballs, batted around a baseball fashioned from tape, played cards, made trips to the PX.

"You got to have that break," said 1st Sgt. Jose Andrade of Charlie Company with the 1st Battalion of the 8th Marine Regiment, one of the front-line units poised for attack on the edge of town. "Marines can put their game face on when they need to. But it's unforgiving out there. We're targets."

It might have been their last day off for a while.

Of course, final preparations and fine-tuning continued. The daily artillery and aerial bombardments of Fallujah continued. Marines broke down their weapons, brushing out the grit and lubricating moving parts. Commanders reviewed assault routes. The troops readied packs, contemplating how much personal gear to bring to a battle that could last for many sleepless days and nights.

For some soldiers in Charlie Company, thoughts turned to mortality, not usually a prime topic among young men in their late teens and 20s, some barely out of high school. But casualties are inevitable in any battle for Fallujah.

More than a few Marines spent time fashioning "just in case" letters - missives of thanks, appreciation and farewell to loved ones back home, sometimes left with buddies or stuffed in a flak jacket, the better not to alarm relatives unnecessarily.

"That's the first time I thought about death," said Lance Cpl. Stephen Ross O'Rourke, 19, of Cincinnati, who had just addressed one to his father, although he didn't send it. " I don't think anyone should have to write a letter like that."

Asked about what he wrote, O'Rourke said, "Just memories."

Such correspondence is practically as ancient as warfare itself. Behind the bravado of everyday barracks banter is a recognition that a single bullet or shard of shrapnel could hit its mark, leaving loved ones to grieve.

Cpl. Yuriy Shirinyan, 21, who moved to Hollywood from Russia when he was 14, has special reason to want a run at Fallujah. His platoon was patrolling near the city last July when a roadside bomb almost killed him. He escaped with a concussion when his helmet stopped a shard of shrapnel.

But his best friend, Cpl. Miguel Perez, was shot in the ensuing firefight that night and is still recovering from his wounds. "This is payback," Shirinyan said.

(Published: November 7, 2004)



11-07-04, 05:20 PM
November 08, 2004

Corps not meeting goal to cut accidents by half
Plans underway to institute more accountability

By Laura Bailey
Times staff writer

More than a year after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered the services to cut their accident rates in half, the Marine Corps is not yet meeting the goal, said Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee.
Rumsfeld “challenged each of the services to reduce mishaps by 50 percent over a two-year period. We are not meeting that challenge,” Hagee said in an Oct. 27 Corpswide message.

The Corps’ top leaders are seeking new ways to meet that responsibility, which they discussed at an executive safety board meeting on Sept. 21-22.

Their latest plan of attack? Creating a culture of accountability.

In May 2003, Rumsfeld said he wanted accidents cut in half by October 2005. Although accidents decreased this year, the Corps has a way to go before meeting the goal, Hagee said.

“Let me put it in a context everyone can understand — 101 fellow Marines died in mishaps last year,” Hagee wrote. “While this is a 19 percent reduction in fatal injuries from the previous year (124), the loss of a single Marine is one too many. We can and we must do better.”

There were 57 deaths in fiscal 2004 that resulted from non-operational accidents, such as automobile crashes or recreational accidents, a decrease of six from 2003.

Operational accidents saw the greatest reduction with 29 fatalities, down from 45 in 2003.

“This is a great improvement but we continue to needlessly lose Marines to tactical vehicle mishaps,” Hagee said.

In addition, 2004 proved to be the worst year since 1990 for Class “A” aviation accidents, those that result in a death or more than $1 million in damages, Hagee said. A total of 19 aircraft were destroyed and 15 Marines were killed in aviation accidents; initial investigation results suggest human error is to blame in 85 percent of the cases.

Holding Marines accountable

Meeting the goal for 2005 will be difficult and challenging, but the Corps must not shy away from the responsibility, he said.

This means Marines have to be held accountable, said Sgt. Maj. John Estrada, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, shortly after the September executive safety board meeting.

“The message coming out of the [executive safety board] is we are serious and we are going to start taking a look at things right now as far as accountability is concerned,” Estrada said.

One solution lies in empowering noncommissioned officers to play a broader role in keeping their Marines safe.

“You’re not going to win this until you give more responsibility to NCOs,” Estrada said. “This is our first line of defense because they know those Marines better than anyone else.

“We haven’t given them that responsibility. We may say it, but we need to get serious about giving it to them.”

Meanwhile, officials are especially concerned with creating a culture of safety leadership and accountability during off-duty hours; personal vehicle accidents are a leading killer of Marines.

“We are enhancing programs for young leaders so they have the skills and resources they need to identify and improve behavioral concerns — and pass those skills on to their subordinates,” said Maj. Nat Fahy, a spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters.

At Camp Lejeune, N.C., which has seen a rash of motor vehicle accidents this year, officials already aim to push more responsibility down to the NCO ranks. As part of a new safety campaign expected to debut in November, commanders are developing new liberty rules that include stricter NCO supervision of junior Marines.

If approved, corporals and sergeants will classify their Marines as “high, medium or low risk” for supervision purposes, according to Col. Jeffrey A. White, the II Marine Expeditionary Force chief of staff. High-risk Marines may have call-in requirements while on leave or liberty.

The safety board also recommended that commands consider having Marines sign “conduct pledges” before departing for leave, but it is not yet clear what such a pledge would entail, Fahy said.

Also suggested is the addition of more safety classes and lectures throughout the training pipeline and lengthening commanders’ courses to include safety-related information.

To prevent on-duty vehicle accidents, the safety board made a number of recommendations, including modifying the doors of Humvees and other tactical vehicles to ensure Marines can exit quickly and safely, as well as improving Humvee training to include more instruction on roll-over prevention and high-speed driving.

Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Va., was asked to look into an improved seatbelt for tactical vehicles and to begin training Marines in the United States and Japan on the “up-armored” vehicles used in Iraq.

“Driver training is important, and hardened vehicles are a newer vehicle developed specifically for Iraq — we want to ensure their usage becomes part of regular driver training,” Fahy said.

The role of the safety officer, now a collateral duty, is being examined as well. Perhaps that job should be a full-time job, the board suggested. Manpower and Reserve Affairs was directed to examine the feasibility of establishing a primary safety job specialty for ground units. These would be staffed by warrant officers.

Marines at all levels need to assume responsibility, Estrada said. If command climate is found to have helped allow an accident to happen, then senior commanders — and their senior enlisted advisers — need to be held accountable, too.

“If we ever have to lose a commander because he’s screwing up, I want to know what that sergeant major is doing, too,” Estrada said.

Laura Bailey covers safety issues. She can be reached at (703) 750-8687 or lbailey@marinecorpstimes.com. Gordon Lubold contributed to this report.



11-07-04, 06:01 PM
Iraq Govt Shows Foreign Detainees on Television

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi government displayed 19 detainees on television on Sunday who it said had infiltrated Iraq (news - web sites)'s borders to fight against U.S.-led forces.

As U.S. Marines prepared for a major offensive on Falluja and Ramadi, cities they say are nerve centers of an insurgency led by foreign militants, official television station Al Iraqiya broadcast footage of the dishevelled prisoners in navy blue boilersuits being questioned.

"We have footage of meetings with some of the terrorists who came from outside Iraq, out of 167 terrorists the Iraqi authorities have captured who were intending to carry out bombing operations in Iraqi cities," said a presenter introducing the men who were said to have confessed.

"The Iraqi government will present them to the judiciary once it finishes interrogating them."

But only one of the detainees was shown confessing he had come to Iraq to join the anti-U.S. insurgency. Nothing the others said showed they were in Iraq to fight with insurgents.

"I came for the first time during the war," said Tayseer Hassan al-Halaby, a youthful Palestinian who had lived in Syria. "I came with the fighters who entered Iraq."

Halaby said he had linked up with Arab fighters after entering Iraq and had later become involved in smuggling.

The footage, first broadcast on Saturday night, showed men of various ages, some with beards, a few looking dazed, lined up against a wire fence.

Some were then shown sitting individually in a small room identifying themselves and stating when they entered Iraq. Most said they came from Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and Egypt. Two said they were Iranian.

Most had entered Iraq last year. Two Egyptians said they had been living in the country since 1983 and 1988. One man said he was Iraqi from Mosul, but his mother was Syrian.

Some gave no reason for their presence in Iraq. Others said they came to study, or work or visit Shi'ite Muslim shrines.

Iraqi officials have urged neighboring countries to prevent Islamic militants they blame for an insurgency raging since last year's U.S.-led invasion, from crossing Iraq's porous borders.

Yousef Hasan Sleiman, a man of Palestinian origin from Jordanian militant Abu Musab's al-Zarqawi's home town of Zarqa, said he had been based at a house in Falluja and was in the rebel city when the U.S. Marines stormed it in April.

Zarqawi, a sworn al Qaeda ally whose group has claimed responsibility for some of the bloodiest bombings, kidnappings and killings in Iraq, is Washington's number one enemy in Iraq.



11-07-04, 07:05 PM
Letters help father remember son killed in Iraq
Associated Press

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Travis Fox called his dad his hero, but the 50-year-old insisted he was only the father of one.

The 25-year-old Marine - one of eight killed by a suicide bomber on Oct. 30 in Iraq - wrote that he wanted to be half the man his father was. But Gary Fox said his son surpassed him.

The father and son wrote, and wrote often.

They were both away from their Cowpens home - Travis serving in the Marines and Gary serving an eight-year sentence. But they were close.

Family photos tell the story. There's longhaired Gary at the hospital with his newborn son. There he is in a green Little League jersey coaching his son's team. There's a family trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Easter Egg hunts.

Their relationship grew into a tight friendship over the years. They confided in each other about work and life. They talked a lot when Gary and Cheryl Fox, Travis' mother, divorced.

When Gary remarried in 1998, Travis was his father's best man.

The next year, though, Gary pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. His family, including Travis, continued to love and stand by him.

"Even though I'm incarcerated, he was never ashamed of me," the father said in a telephone interview. "He never lost respect for me."

When Travis bought an engagement ring for his bride-to-be, he did not show his mother until after he spoke with his dad at Tyger River Correctional Institution, said Cheryl Fox. He always wanted his father's advice, she said.

Travis visited him whenever he could. He went the day before his wedding in June. He said he was sorry his father would not be there - that he was not going to wait.

"'I don't want to hurt you,'" Travis told his dad.

"I told him he had my blessing," Gary said. "'I want you to be happy,'" he said he told his son.

Travis and his bride, Casie, went back to see him the day after the ceremony. Their wedding photos are in an album he has, Gary said. All of the letters and cards sit in a collection in an envelope in his locker.

While serving abroad, Travis wrote, "Daddy, let me know how your money is."

"My son's out there risking his life, but he's worried about me," Gary said.

In a letter Travis wrote during his two weeks in Iraq, he said he could not reveal where he was, "but it's that time of year back home."

Fall. Fallujah.

Travis' letters filled his dad with hope for the day they would go together - both returning home for good - to take down two yellow ribbons hanging at his aunt's house. They quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 to each other about trusting in the Lord, who would help make their paths straight.

Gary wrote weekly to tell his son that he loved him and was proud of him. He wanted to combat any feelings of isolation from being away from home. He knows what that's like.

"I just wanted him to know he wasn't forgotten," Gary said.

He mailed his last letter on Thurs., Oct. 28. Two days later, he saw the news about eight Marines killed in the suicide car bomb. He felt sad for the eight soldiers and their eight fathers, he said.

The next day, the Marines came to him.

Two days later, he received what may be the last letter from his son.

The letter was signed in the usual way, "I Love You, Your #1 Son," but with a new postscript: "Born to Fight, Trained to kill, Willing to Die, But Never Will. Hoorah!"

"He never will die," Gary said.


11-07-04, 07:51 PM
Extremists Moving Across Iran-Iraq Border <br />
<br />
By LOUIS MEIXLER, Associated Press Writer <br />
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ANKARA, Turkey - Islamic extremists have been moving supplies and new recruits from Iran into Iraq (news -...

11-07-04, 07:54 PM
U.S. Forces Storm Into Western Fallujah

By JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer

NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. forces stormed into western districts of Fallujah early Monday, seizing the main city hospital and securing two key bridges over the Euphrates river in what appeared to be the first stage of the long-expected assault on the insurgent stronghold.

An AC-130 gunship raked the city with 40 mm cannon fire as explosions from U.S. artillery lit up the night sky. Intermittent artillery fire blasted southern neighborhoods of Fallujah, and orange fireballs from high explosive airbursts could be seen above the rooftops.

U.S. officials said the toughest fight was yet to come — when American forces enter the main part of the city on the east bank of the river, including the Jolan neighborhood where insurgent defenses are believed the strongest.

The initial attacks on Fallujah began just hours after the Iraqi government declared 60 days of emergency rule throughout most of the country as militants dramatically escalated attacks, killing at least 30 people, including two Americans.

Dr. Salih al-Issawi, the head of Fallujah's main hospital, said he had asked U.S. officers to allow doctors and ambulances go inside the main part of the city to help the wounded but they refused. There was no confirmation from the Americans.

"The American troops' attempt to take over the hospital was not right because they thought that they would halt medical assistance to the resistance," he said by telephone to a reporter inside the city. "But they did not realize that the hospital does not belong to anybody, especially the resistance."

The action began after sundown on the outskirts of the city, which has been sealed off by U.S. and Iraqi forces, and the minaret-studded skyline was lit up with huge flashes of light.

Flares were dropped to illuminate targets, and defenders fought back with heavy machine gunfire. Flaming red tracer rounds streaked through the sky from guerrilla positions inside the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Before the assault began, U.S. commanders warned troops to expect the most brutal urban fighting since the Vietnam War.

Underscoring the instability elsewhere in Iraq (news - web sites), several heavy explosions thundered through the capital even as government spokesman Thair Hassan al-Naqeeb was announcing the state of emergency, which applies throughout the country except for Kurdish-ruled areas in the north.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said the state of emergency is a "very powerful message that we are serious" about reining in insurgents before elections set for late January.

"We want to secure the country so elections can be done in a peaceful way and the Iraqi people can participate in the elections freely, without the intimidation by terrorists and by forces who are trying to wreck the political process in Iraq," he told reporters.

Allawi said nothing in public about the beginning of the attack in Fallujah, although U.S. commanders have said it would be his responsibility to order the storming of the city.

Insurgents, meanwhile, waged a second day of multiple attacks across the restive Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad, storming police stations, assassinating government officials and setting off deadly car bombs. About 60 people have been killed and 75 injured in the two days of attacks.

At dawn, armed rebels stormed three police stations in Haditha and Haqlaniyah, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, killing 22 policemen. Some were lined up and shot execution-style, according to police and hospital officials.

Three attacks on U.S. convoys in and around Baghdad killed two American soldiers and wounded five others, the military said. Residents reported grenades setting police cars aflame on Haifa Street in the heart of the capital.

A car bomb also exploded near the Baghdad home of Iraq's finance minister, Adil Abdel-Mahdi, a leading Shiite politician. Abdel-Mahdi and his family were not home at the time, but the U.S. military said the bomb killed one Iraqi bystander and wounded another. A U.S. patrol came under small-arms fire as it responded, wounding one soldier, a statement said.

In a Web posting, the al-Qaida affiliate group of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, believed headquartered in Fallujah, claimed responsibility for the attacks on Haditha and Haqlaniyah.

"In the dawn of this blessed day, the lions of al-Qaida in Iraq faced up to a group of apostates in the proud city of Haditha," said the statement, which could not be authenticated. "The lions stormed the city's police directorate and killed everyone there...With this operation, the city has been completely liberated. The lions have been wandering in the city until late today."

The widespread insurgent attacks seemed aimed at relieving the pressure on Fallujah, where about 10,000 American troops — including two Marine battalions and an Army battalion — were massed for the assault. Two Iraqi brigades also stood by.

The emergency decree lays the groundwork for a severe crackdown in areas where guerrillas operate.

Under the law, all traffic and men between the ages of 15 and 55 were banned from the streets of Fallujah and surrounding areas 24 hours a day.

All members of the Fallujah police and security services were suspended indefinitely and all roads into Fallujah and neighboring Ramadi were closed indefinitely.

Government negotiators earlier Sunday reported the failure of last-minute talks for peace even as Allawi had said dialogue with Fallujah leaders was still possible, even if a large-scale military action began.

Allawi, a secular-minded Shiite Muslim, faced strong pressure from within the minority Sunni community to avoid an all-out assault.

"I urge the brother prime minister to reconsider the issue of storming Fallujah and to give another chance for dialogue," Hatim Jassim, a member of the Iraqi National Council, told Al-Jazeera television.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) and others have warned that a military offensive could trigger a wave of violence that would sabotage the January elections by alienating Sunnis, who form the core of the insurgency. About 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people are Shiite.

The influential Sunni clerical Association of Muslim Scholars has threatened to call a boycott of elections if Fallujah is attacked. A public outcry over civilian casualties prompted the Bush administration to call off a siege in April, after which Fallujah fell under control of radical clerics.

U.S. jets have been pounding the rebel bastion for days, launching its heaviest airstrikes in six months on Saturday — including five 500-pound bombs dropped on insurgent targets — to soften up militants.

U.S. intelligence estimated about 3,000 insurgents have dug in behind defenses and booby traps in Fallujah, a city of about 300,000 that has become a symbol throughout the Islamic world of Iraqi resistance to the U.S.-led coalition.

Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, the top enlisted Marine in Iraq, told troops the coming battle of Fallujah would be "no different" than the historic fights at Inchon in Korea, the flag-raising victory at Iwo Jima, or the bloody assault to dislodge North Vietnamese from the ancient citadel of Hue they seized in the 1968 Tet Offensive.

"You're all in the process of making history," Kent told a crowd of some 2,500 Marines. "This is another Hue city in the making. I have no doubt, if we do get the word, that each and every one of you is going to do what you have always done — kick some butt."


Associated Press correspondents Tini Tran, Mariam Fam, Katarina Kratovac and Maggie Michael in Baghdad contributed to this report.


Sending My Prayers..........