View Full Version : Bounties Offered On Americans In Iraq
11-19-04, 06:56 AM
Bounties Offered On Americans In Iraq
November 19, 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A portly Shiite cleric, Abu Qusai sheds his black robe for a training suit and exchanges his white turban for a baseball cap, an effort to mask his identity for a risky trip through what has become known as the "triangle of death."
The region has become a death zone for many Shiite Muslims, Westerners and members of the Iraqi security services, many of whom have become the victims of Sunni Muslim insurgents and gunmen - some who receive bounties of several thousand dollars.
The triangle, formed by the cities of Youssifiyah to the northwest, Latifiyah to the south and Mahmoudiya to the east, holds the fastest routes from Baghdad southward to the Shiite shrines in Najaf and Karbala.
The area is no less dangerous for foreigners than the better known insurgent strongholds west of the capital, including Fallujah and Ramadi.
French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot disappeared Aug. 20 on their way from Baghdad to Najaf. They remain missing, though their Syrian driver, Mohammed al-Joundi, was found by U.S. troops last week in Fallujah.
Two members of a Polish television crew were killed and a third was wounded in an attack near Mahmoudiya in May. Four months earlier, two Iraqis working for CNN were shot and killed while traveling through the same area.
Bayan Jaber of the major Shiite political party said that a week ago, five Shiites traveling to Najaf from Diyala province near the Iranian border were waylaid in the "triangle of death" and shot dead. The attackers demanded - and received - $15,000 from their families to return the bodies.
According to Jaber, insurgent leaders in the area offer cash bounties for killing certain kinds of people: $1,000 for a Shiite, $2,000 for a member of the Iraqi National Guard and $3,000 for an American.
Abu Qusai, who asked that his real name not be published out of concern for his safety, goes through the triangle on trips to the Shiite holy city of Najaf. He said he disguises himself to avoid the fate of two colleagues, Shiite clerics Basheer al-Jazaeri and Karim Baghdadi.
They were gunned down in separate incidents while en route to Najaf for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended last week.
According to Abu Qusai, gunmen chased al-Jazaeri's car after he stopped for gasoline. Gunmen blocked the road, dragged him from his car and demanded his identification papers.
"They killed him and set fire to his car when they found out that he is a Shiite," Abu Qusai said.
Baghdadi received the same treatment, Abu Qusai said.
"Dozens of people have been killed during Ramadan because of their sect," said Hussain al-Shahristani, a close aide of Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. "The government is responsible for protecting its citizens and for securing a safe way for them to move."
U.S. Marines operate in the area, reinforced for the month by Britain's Black Watch regiment. Shortly after arriving from the relatively peaceful south, the Black Watch lost three soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter in a suicide attack Nov. 4.
One day after the Black Watch attack, insurgents blew up a bridge near Latifiyah, and four buses carrying Shiite pilgrims to Karbala plunged into the Euphrates River, killing 18 people. Two days later, 12 Iraqi National Guardsmen were abducted and murdered on their way home to Najaf by militants dressed as policemen.
With U.S. and Iraqi forces unable to stop the killings, many professional drivers are taking a 150-mile detour from Baghdad to Najaf. The route takes travelers well east of Latifiyah, whose name derives from the Arabic word for "decent" but which is the most dangerous point on the "triangle of death."
A taxi driver from Najaf, who gave his name only as Abu Maki, said Latifiyah residents call the insurgents the "Opel gangs" because they often use Opel cars looted from police stations to carry out their attacks.
Abu Maki said that he was stopped once on the Baghdad-to-Najaf highway by the Opel Gangs, who "beat me up with two of the passengers, broke the windows and warned us not to approach this area again."
Some Iraqis attribute the trouble in the area to demographic changes in the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein relocated large numbers of Sunni Muslims into what historically has been a largely Shiite area. The plan was to settle members of his own religious community along main routes from Baghdad to the Shiite heartland of the south.
Saddam recruited members of Sunni clans and tribes in the area into the Republican Guard and the intelligence services. During the failed Shiite uprising of 1991, Sunnis, especially from the al-Janabat tribe, were used to curb the rebellion.
Many of the Sunnis that relocated to the "triangle of death," including the al-Janabats, came from Anbar, the volatile Sunni province at the heart of the insurgency where Fallujah is located.
Residents said insurgents have been distributing leaflets warning that Sunni landowners who lease land to Shiite farmers face death if they don't dismiss their tenants. The U.N.-funded ReliefWeb said last month that about 500 Shiite families had fled the Latifiyah area for Karbala because of threats.
That has raised prospects of a backlash among Shiites who have decided that they must defend themselves if the government and the multinational force cannot.
In Basra, a group called the "Brigades of Anger" has emerged, vowing to defend Shiites in Iraq from any group deemed a threat. A leader of the group, Dheya al-Mahdi, told The Associated Press that he will give the go-ahead for his followers to avenge the killing of Shiites.
Al-Mahdi blames Wahhabis, an extreme sect of Sunni Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia, for encouraging and funding operations aimed at Shiites in Iraq.
11-19-04, 06:57 AM
Marines in Fallujah capture suspected insurgent HQ
2 letters linked to terrorist chief al-Zarqawi discovered in building
By Tini Tran
The Associated Press
Baghdad, Iraq - U.S. troops sweeping through Fallujah on Thursday said they believe they have found the suspected command center of the insurgent group headed by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
In video shot by an embedded CNN cameraman, soldiers walked through an imposing building with concrete columns and with a large sign in Arabic on the wall reading "Al Qaeda Organization" and "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."
Inside the building, U.S. soldiers found documents, old computers, notebooks, photographs and copies of the Koran.
There also were two letters inside the house, one from al-Zarqawi giving instructions to two of his lieutenants in the region and another seeking money and help from the terrorist leader.
Al-Zarqawi last month renamed his group al-Qaeda in Iraq, and his followers have been blamed for a number of deadly bombings and beheadings of foreign hostages, including three Americans and a Briton.
The United States has offered a $25 million reward for his capture or killing - the same amount as for Osama bin Laden.
The senior U.S. Marine commander in Iraq cautioned that the discovery by soldiers in Fallujah was still being investigated.
"I cannot stand here and tell you that we found the command and control house or building where Zarqawi went ahead and orchestrated and dealt his (car bombs) ... and the other death and destruction that he has spread throughout the country of Iraq," Lt. Gen. John Sattler told reporters at the Pentagon in a video teleconference from Fallujah. "We will continue to look for that."
In neighboring Jordan, authorities detained al-Zarqawi's nephew near the border with Iraq, a distant relative and a clergyman close to the family said Thursday.
The clergyman and the relative, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said security officials had informed the family that Mohammed al-Harahsheh was detained last month.
The relative said al-Harahsheh was being questioned on suspicion of attempting to infiltrate into Iraq to join his militant uncle.
Calls to al-Zarqawi's family home in Zarqa, an industrial city northeast of the Jordanian capital, Amman, went unanswered.
Also, Sattler said the U.S.-led offensive launched last week in Fallujah has "broken the back of the insurgency" by seizing their main base of operations.
"We feel right now that we have, as I mentioned, broken the back of the insurgency. We've taken away this safe haven," he said.
Sattler's conclusion was far more optimistic than an assessment made shortly before the offensive by Marine intelligence officers, who said the insurgency would rebound if U.S. troop levels in the area were significantly reduced after the offensive.
Sattler cautioned, however, that insurgents remain a threat. A group attacked U.S. Marines and Iraqi government forces from a house inside Fallujah on Thursday, killing one Marine and one Iraqi soldier, Sattler said. One Marine and one Iraqi soldier also were wounded.
11-19-04, 06:58 AM
Self-defense expert coaches both Marines and civilians
By Pat Sherman
COMMUNITY NEWS WRITER
November 19, 2004
RANCHO BERNARDO – At 71, he has the lean, muscular physique of a 50-year-old martial arts expert.
His mellifluous voice and easy demeanor belie an ability to unleash rapid, unexpected bursts of physical power.
Meet Bill Miller, the man who runs marathons in Death Valley and trains Marines in combat.
Miller has taught Marines who are fighting in Iraq.
"The impact that you have on my young sergeants and staff sergeants is profound," wrote Col. Tom Thaler, a commanding officer with the United States Marine Corps Recruit Training Regiment, in a letter to Miller dated Oct. 15, 2002. "They look at you as one of the 'time-tested' devil dogs."
In the back yard of his Rancho Bernardo home, Miller and his son, Michael, 32, teach civilians how to spot muggers, terrorists and assailants, and how to survive an attack using a combination of karate, judo, jujitsu and other techniques.
Bill Miller, a former business management instructor and owner of a consulting and search firm, offers his training for free to churches, synagogues, military and law enforcement.
A retired Marine, he recently received a ninth-degree black belt in karate.
While his focus is on life-and-death situations, he said that when people spot a potential attacker, the best option is to flee.
If someone can't flee, he suggests employing an element of surprise in a "pre-emptive attack."
"If you have no choice, if they're coming at you and you've got to fight, you don't wait to get hit – then it's too late," Miller said.
"The only way to survive a street fight, whether it's in a parking lot, a bar or an airport lounge, is for you to surprise them."
In a recent demonstration, standing in the midst of three rubber dummies with menacing expressions, Miller delivered a series of blows and kicks to his would-be assailants.
He teaches students how to immobilize an attacker without causing physical injury.
He said a person should never raise his fists, notifying an attacker of an impending defensive action.
"As he's coming at me, what I'll probably do is raise my hand," said Miller, noting that the attacker's eyes will follow his hand, providing an opportunity for the intended victim to strike first.
Michael Miller expanded on his father's pre-emptive theory.
"The most devastating enemy is the unseen one," he said. "The body has the capacity to tighten up and greatly reduce the devastation of a blow, but if you're blindsided, the same blow that nearly hurt you could break bones, could cause unconsciousness."
Most people learn to defend themselves in one-on-one situations, said Bill Miller. However, he believes this training does a disservice to students.
"If gang members are coming at you, they're going to come at you three, four, five, half a dozen (at a time)," he said. "They're cowards, but they're killers."
To survive a multiple attack, Miller said, a person must remain on his feet.
"You don't go down," he said. "If you go down, you die."
Miller teaches students to recognize everyday tools of defense, such as coins and rocks.
He said anybody can learn his techniques.
"I can take a bunch of Marines, or a bunch of soldiers, or a bunch of civilians who are motivated, and after about an hour of training, they're doing it," he said. "That's one of the greatest pleasures for me – to watch the awe on their face after they hit several targets at the same time."
For more information about Bill Miller's self-defense courses, visit www.billmiller.tv or call (858) 487-2444.
11-19-04, 06:59 AM
U.S. Reopens Missing Marine Case
United Press International
November 19, 2004
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Marines have reopened their investigation in Cpl. Wassef Hassoun, who went missing in June in Fallujah and turned up in Lebanon, CNN reports.
The move was sparked when troops recently discovered several of his personal items, including his passport, military ID and uniform in Fallujah.
Hassoun vanished June 20 and was listed as a deserter. His status was changed to captured after the release of a videotape that showed him blindfolded with a sword suspended over his head. A few days later, a posting to three Islamist Web sites claimed Hassoun had been beheaded.
On July 8, however, Hassoun turned up at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. How he traveled through Iraq to Lebanon remains a mystery, the Salt Lake Tribune said.
Following a repatriation process and a 30-day compassionate leave in Utah, Hassoun returned to duty at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in September and had his first meeting with military investigators.
He was on leave for much of October, spending the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with his family in West Jordan. He returned to Camp Lejeune Wednesday.
11-19-04, 06:59 AM
More U.S. Troops For Iraq
Christian Science Monitor
November 19, 2004
Amid a spike in violence in Iraqi cities coinciding with the Fallujah offensive, the U.S. military is now planning to boost combat forces to secure the country for elections in January.
The U.S. is likely to expand the force by thousands of GIs in coming weeks by delaying the departure of more experienced units from Iraq as fresh troops rotate in, military officials say.
The overlap would create a temporary surge in American forces - which now number 141,000 in Iraq - to cope with an expected wave of insurgent attacks aimed at disrupting the polling. More U.S. troops are required as Iraqi security forces remain highly vulnerable to attacks and intimidation. This was underscored by a rash of insurgent strikes on police stations in Mosul, Baqubah, and other cities in the past week, when attacks nationwide rose to 50 percent higher than the average in recent months.
Some U.S. military officials have long argued that the United States cannot win the war in Iraq without committing tens of thousands more troops. Others contend that more troops would simply present more targets, and the U.S. military should scale back and let Iraqis contend with much of the violence.
In reality, the U.S. cannot substantially increase ground forces in Iraq for the long term without accepting risk in other parts of the world or making Iraq tours longer or closer together - a step sure to lower morale. "I'm committed to providing the troops that are requested, but I can't promise more than I've got," the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, told a Congressional hearing Wednesday in which military service chiefs detailed soaring demands on manpower and equipment.
"The demand on the force has increased exponentially," the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. Michael Hagee, told the House Armed Services Committee, saying Marines now spend about twice as much time deployed as two years ago.
Decisions are expected soon on extending specific units in Iraq, and on the possibility of deploying others early from bases in the U.S., according to senior military officials. In October, the military ordered some 6,500 troops to delay their departure from Iraq.
"There is ample opportunity" to increase troop levels by overlapping new arrivals with others whose tours would be extended as large units of 20,000 to 30,000 troops rotate, says a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad. But a larger increase could run into constraints - the current limits of basing and support services.
The string of U.S.-led military offensives on insurgent-held cities across Iraq since August has underscored the necessity for more American troops as well as elite Iraqi commando units. They're needed to step in for struggling local Iraqi security forces that are frequently unwilling or unable to fight off insurgents who threaten them and their families.
"When you take an area that has a stronghold of insurgents and you have to build the Iraqi police force from that population, you set yourself up potentially for failure if you don't have some type of moderating force," says Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, deputy director for operations of Multinational Forces-Iraq.
To ensure that recaptured cities such as Fallujah and Samarra do not fall back under insurgent control, U.S. commanders are having to commit additional forces to maintaining a presence there, both with U.S. troops and non-local Iraqi forces such as Iraqi National Guard (ING) units from outside areas.
Indeed, in recent weeks U.S. commanders have pushed thousands of additional soldiers and Marines into trouble spots in the Sunni triangle such as Fallujah, Samarra, Ramadi, and most recently the northern city of Mosul.
Samarra, for example, had no coalition presence prior to a major offensive in October to root out some 400 insurgents, but now 500 U.S. troops and 500 Iraqi forces are stationed there. Even then, insurgent attacks killed 17 Iraqi police in the city on Nov. 6, as daily strikes in the region tripled.
In Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, the U.S. military doubled its forces recently from one to two battalions, and in recent days has engaged in heavy clashes with insurgents including some who fled from nearby Fallujah. U.S. Marine commanders say they "control" Ramadi, a city of 450,000 people, but have not "cleared" it of insurgents. The increase in troops was needed in part because local Iraqi police and Iraqi National Guard (ING) units were ineffective, if not complicit with insurgents.
"Many ING and IP posts, compounds, and facilities have been blown up or handed over to the insurgents with nary a shot being fired. [There is] much acquiescence in the face of the murder and intimidation campaign," says a senior official of the 1st Marine Division, which oversees Anbar Province.
In Mosul, an estimated 400 insurgents took advantage of a drop in coalition presence during the Fallujah offensive to take over a dozen police stations, burning several of them as well as provincial governor's residence. City police "walked off their posts" and became "completely ineffective," U.S. military officials say. The Mosul police chief was fired.
To quell the violence, U.S. and Iraqi commanders had to impose a curfew, close bridges into the city, and call in two battalions of outside Iraqi forces - a commando unit from Baghdad and Kurdish ING battalion - as well as an additional U.S. infantry battalion from Fallujah. The U.S. strategy in Iraq envisions a growing role for Iraqi security forces, whose ranks are expected to grow from the current 110,000 to more than 150,000 by late January, when elections are scheduled. Yet so far, only a handful of elite Iraqi units have proven highly reliable, while the effectiveness of the bulk of local Iraqi forces remains uneven.
Iraqi commando units such as the 36th commando battalion have performed well in Najaf, Samarra, and Fallujah, U.S. military officials say, yet these forces currently only number about 2,400, including the Iraqi Intervention Force and Special Operations Force. Iraq's Ministry of Interior now plans to add a new commando battalion.
"[There] is a recognition that [Iraqi commando units] are very, very capable and a desire to stand up more of them... because you can move them around the country and apply them where you need to work with local police forces," says General Lessel. "Everyone realizes that the real key to long term success and the biggest challenge is the Iraqi police," he says.
11-19-04, 07:03 AM
Marines’ Falluja report is gloomy
By Eric Schmitt and Robert F. Worth The New York Times Friday, November 19, 2004
WASHINGTON Senior U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officers in Iraq are warning that if U.S. troop levels in the Falluja area are significantly reduced during reconstruction there, as has been planned, insurgents in the region will rebound from their defeat.
The rebels could thwart the retraining of Iraqi security forces, intimidate the local population and derail elections to be held in January, the officers say.
They have further advised that despite taking heavy casualties in the weeklong battle, the insurgents will continue to grow in numbers, wage guerrilla attacks and try to foment unrest among Falluja's returning residents, emphasizing that expectations for improved conditions have not been met.
The pessimistic counsel is contained in a seven-page classified report prepared last weekend by intelligence officers in the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, or IMEF, as the offensive in Falluja was winding down. The assessment was distributed to senior marine and army officers in Iraq, where one officer called it "brutally honest."
Marine commanders marshaled about 12,000 U.S. marines and soldiers and roughly 2,500 Iraqi forces for the Falluja campaign, but they always planned to send thousands of U.S. troops back to other locations in Iraq after the major fighting. This assessment suggests that such a move would be dangerous.
Some senior military officers in Iraq and Washington who have read the report have cautioned that the assessment is a subjective judgment by some marine intelligence officers near the front lines and does not reflect the views of all intelligence officials and senior commanders in Iraq.
"The assessment of the enemy is a worst-case assessment," Brigadier General John DeFreitas 3rd of the army, the senior military intelligence officer in Iraq, said of the report in a telephone interview. "We have no intention of creating a vacuum and walking away from Falluja."
The report offers a stark counterpoint to more upbeat assessments voiced by military commanders in the wake of the Falluja operation, which they say completed its goals well ahead of schedule and with fewer U.S. and Iraqi civilian casualties than expected.
Although the resistance crumbled in the face of the offensive, the report warns that if U.S. forces do not remain in sufficient numbers for some time, "The enemy will be able to effectively defeat IMEF's ability to accomplish its primary objectives of developing an effective Iraqi security force and setting the conditions for successful Iraqi elections."
The U.S. military and Iraqi government are poised to pour aid into and conduct reconstruction efforts in the city, most of whose nearly 300,000 residents fled before the fighting last week.
"The view from the tactical level has been generally more pessimistic," said one senior Marine officer in Washington, referring to the view from close in on the ground. "They may well be right but I would also say that tactical intel is almost always more dour than that done at the strategic level."
Details of the report and some of its verbatim findings were provided to The New York Times this week by four active duty or retired military officers in Iraq and Washington who have read the report or had it described to them.
The assessment draws on intelligence gathered during the Falluja operation as well as 10 previous intelligence reports compiled over the past six months in the Marines' area of responsibility in Iraq, principally Anbar and Babil provinces, officials said.
Senior officers said the intelligence report was meant to help top Marine commanders in Iraq, including Lieutenant General John Sattler and Major General Richard Natonski, and their military superiors in Baghdad, decide how many U.S. forces to keep in the Falluja-Ramadi area after the offensive was completed and reconstruction efforts were in full swing. Senior officers have said that they will keep a sizable U.S. military presence in and around Falluja during the lengthy reconstruction phase that is just now starting, until sufficiently trained and equipped Iraqi forces can take the lead in providing security.
"It will take a security presence for a while until a well-trained Iraqi security force can take over the presence in Falluja and maintain security so that the insurgents don't come back, as they have tried to do in every one of the cities that we have thrown them out of," General George Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said on Nov. 8.
U.S. commanders have expressed disappointment in some of the Iraqis they have been training, especially members of the Iraqi police. Other troops have performed well, the officers have said.
The commanders are looking at a range of options on how many troops to keep in the area, depending on the security situation and how quickly Iraqi forces can take control. But if large numbers of U.S. troops and the better-trained specialized Iraqi forces, like the commando and special police units, are committed to Falluja for a long time, they will not be available to go elsewhere in Iraq, possibly creating critical shortfalls.
Already, hundreds of American troops in an Army Stryker Brigade in the Falluja area have been returned to Mosul in the north to help quell insurgent attacks there.
The Marine report paints a generally gloomy picture of the insurgents' expected reaction if U.S. forces are reduced too much during the critical reconstruction.
"At current projected force levels, the enemy will be able to maintain a sufficient level of intimidation of the Al Anbar and Babil Province populations and infiltrate or otherwise further degrade the capabilities" of the Iraqi security forces in western and south-central Iraq, where the Marines operate, the report says.
The insurgency has shown "outstanding resilience" and the militants' willingness to fight is bolstered by four main factors, the report says. One, the tribal and insurgent leaders understand the limitations of the United Nations, U.S. elections and internal Iraqi government politics, and try to exploit them. Two, they are skilled at turning battlefield defeats into symbolic victories, just as Saddam Hussein did after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Insurgents will make the battle of Falluja into an excellent recruiting tool, the report says.
Three, the insurgents are dedicated propagandists who use the Internet and other means to feed exaggerated and contrived reporting from the battlefield to jihadists in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East. Al Jazeera and Arab media then pick it up, the report says.
Finally, the report says, the insurgents believe they are more willing to suffer casualties than the American military and public, and "will continue to find refuge among sympathetic tribes and former regime members."
The report predicts that insurgents will try to disrupt the voter registration process, which the officers said was already two weeks behind in Al Anbar province, and that elections in the region will be cast into serious doubt.
Officers who have read the report played down its dire warnings, and pointed out several successes noted in the document.
The report, for instance, says that the Falluja operation achieved its basic goal to deny the insurgents their largest sanctuary in Iraq, and has forced the network of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to move to a new base of operations in the country, probably Mosul.
The report also says that the number of attacks in Ramadi, the capital of Al Anbar Province, has declined by 40 percent in the past few weeks, after heightened security operations began in the region, according to Major Douglas Powell, a Marine spokesman in Washington.
"The report was fairly pessimistic, if you wear rosy glasses all the time," said one officer in Baghdad who has read the assessment.
Eric Schmitt reported from Washington and Robert F. Worth from Falluja, Iraq.
11-19-04, 08:25 AM
Vietnam Veteran Makes Sure Every Hero Gets Proper Welcome
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Force Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2004 – It happened to Steve Cobb during his first tour in Vietnam with the 11th Light Infantry Brigade. He was wounded in combat - four times.
"I got four Purple Hearts my first tour and zero my second," Cobb said. "I finally learned to duck."
While learning to duck may have been an extremely valuable lesson, it can't compare to what being combat wounded taught him. That is what he draws on when he meets the wounded servicemembers who arrive at Andrews Air Force Base from Iraq or Afghanistan three times a week.
It is that experience that gives him credibility when he meets one of those servicemembers, as he's been doing since April. It is also that experience that helps him put what has happened to that servicemember into perspective.
"The bond and understanding is instant, it is deep, and it's lifelong," Cobb said, "because they recognize I've been through the same thing that they have.
"It's hard to describe to someone who hasn't experienced all the trauma and the shock and the pain and the inconvenience of evacuation," he continued. "It's really hard to understand what that person feels deep inside. But when you've been there and gone through that, you have that understanding and the bonding is so instant."
Cobb, currently the commander and adjutant of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 353, Greater Washington Area, doesn't meet planes at 1 a.m. for the glory. His motivation is the reception he received when he returned from Vietnam.
"When I came home there was nobody but demonstrators to meet the troops. And I just never wanted to see another generation of troops come home without being welcomed (and) appreciated," Cobb said.
Cobb and his wife, Tanya, try to meet each servicemember at Andrews and offer whatever help is within their scope. Usually that includes easing hesitations and maybe even eliciting a laugh or two to put things in perspective. But the duo's main focus is to make sure nobody leaves empty-handed.
MOPH supports combat wounded veterans of all wars. When that status has been determined regarding a particular servicemember, they receive a specially prepared packet of information. That packet includes information on benefits, treatment and contact information in case there are any questions or problems.
It also contains some "morale boosting" items, including a miniature Purple Heart medal, a history of the medal, a phone card, a sheet of Purple Heart postage stamps and a welcome-home letter. Also included is a year's free membership with any MOPH chapter.
Non-combat-injured veterans aren't left out. They receive welcome-home packets from the Veterans of Foreign Wars that include a benefits brochure, a service officer card and a year's free VFW membership.
"The philosophy behind that is, if I walk into a room with six patients and three are battle injuries and three are non-battle injuries, no patient is ever left empty-handed," Cobb said. "It's a huge morale factor and they all appreciate it."
While the packets provide an icebreaker, getting the servicemembers to focus on the future and not dwell on the past becomes the order of the day. Cobb's weapon of choice for that pursuit is usually humor. And "Wednesday night doughnuts" don't hurt anything either, Cobb said. Occasionally, wheelchair races have to be refereed after the doughnuts are gone, he said.
Those who get the packets at Andrews represent about 80 percent of the wounded servicemembers coming in, he said. The other 20 percent of the troops are critical enough to be taken from the flight line at Andrews directly to Walter Reed Army Medical Center or the National Naval medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where the Cobbs follow up to make sure the servicemembers receive a proper welcome home, including one of the two packets.
It's through these follow-up visits that Cobb learns what the hospitals need by way of personal items for the servicemembers. He said the staff is not allowed to voice those needs unless asked directly, but when he broaches the subject, there are always needs. The biggest, he said, is usually breakaway sweat pants.
He said he and his wife will continue to meet the wounded servicemembers coming into Andrews with information and their own special brand of thanks, understanding and appreciation.
11-19-04, 10:18 AM
Military Chiefs: Post-War Plan Lacking
United Press International
November 18, 2004
WASHINGTON - The Bush Administration did not adequately prepare for the post-war period in Iraq, the nation's top military officers told Congress Wednesday.
The four chiefs of the armed services testified to the House Armed Services Committee that while they had adequately planned for combat operations, as evidenced by the quick advance to Baghdad, the U.S. government as a whole failed to put enough effort into planning for the peace.
The military role is limited, or should be limited, in post-combat periods to security operations, they said. The lion's share of reconstruction and nation building should have been taken up by other agencies in the government.
"If I had to go back and do it again, I would spend a great deal more time thinking about phase four; in other words, the stability, security, reconstruction part of that," said Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee.
"And of course, the U.S. military only plays a certain portion of that -- more the security portion of that than the other portion of that. But the integration of all elements of national power during the so-called phase four operations, if I had to do it again, I would put much more emphasis in that particular area so that we were better prepared for that."
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker agreed.
"I think the commandant's hit the nail on the head there," he said.
"As we know, this is a war of ideas, it's a test of wills... it has so many more components to it, and quite frankly, this is a job that is bigger than the Department of Defense."
While the tenuous security situation in Iraq gets the most international attention, U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Iraq report that security can not be separated out from the lack of basic services like sewage, water and electricity, the slow pace of self-governance, and the still stagnant economy. Each factor influences the other -- there can be no security until basic needs are met, basic needs won't be met until the economy is jump started, and the economy can not take off until people can safely go to work and school, and accept jobs and money from coalition forces without fearing for their lives.
Aligning those aspects of Iraq reconstruction is not an inherently military job but much of the responsibility for it has fallen into the military's collective lap, in part because it is the only U.S. institution with a presence in much of the country, and the personnel to implement reconstruction projects.
Moreover, the record of U.S. civilian agencies' reconstruction projects in Iraq is checkered. While progress has been made fitfully in various sectors, less than $2 billion of the $18 billion earmarked for Iraq reconstruction a year ago has been spent.
A new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C, charts five major indicators of progress in Iraq and shows that all are in the "danger zone," with the availability of health care actually declining over the last six months.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper said the problem "calls for an interagency, deliberate planning process much like the deliberate planning process we have in the military, where formal assignments are made within the interagency to get upfront commitment to what the post-major combat operations requirements will be."
The post-war period in Iraq -- which has been 10 times more deadly for U.S. forces than the war was -- is not going to be "won" with bullets, Schoomaker told Congress. It will be won by convincing Iraqis that their best interests lie in working hand-in-hand with U.S. forces to build a stable country.
"This ultimately is not going to be won in the kinetic sense, in the battle. This is going to be won by Iraqis investing their own personal sweat and blood in the solution," Schoomaker said.
11-19-04, 10:35 AM
U.S., Iraqi Troops Storm Baghdad Mosque
By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. soldiers, stormed one of the major Sunni Muslim mosques in Baghdad after Friday prayers, opening fire and killing at least three people, witnesses said. Another raid overnight at a hospital allegedly used by insurgents in Mosul led to three arrests, the military said.
About 40 people were arrested at the Abu Hanifa mosque in the capital's northwestern Azamiyah neighborhood, according to the witnesses, who were members of the congregation. Another five people were wounded.
It appeared the raid at Abu Hanifa mosque, long associated with anti-American activity, was part of the crackdown on Sunni clerical militants launched in parallel with military operations against the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah.
On Thursday, the Iraqi government warned that Islamic clerics who incite violence will be considered as "participating in terrorism." A number of them already have been arrested, including several members of the Sunni clerical Association of Muslim Scholars which spoke out against the U.S.-led offensive against Fallujah.
"The government is determined to pursue those who incite acts of violence. A number of mosques' clerics who have publicly called for taking the path of violence have been arrested and will be legally tried," said Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's spokesman, Thair al-Naqeeb.
U.S. troops were seen securing the outer perimeter of the mosque area and sealing it off. Some American soldiers also were seen inside the compound.
Witnesses heard explosions coming from inside the mosque, apparently from stun grenades. Inside the office of the imam, books and a computer were found scattered on the floor, and the furniture was turned upside down.
At least 10 U.S. armored vehicles were parked in front of the mosque, along with two vehicles carrying about 40 Iraqi National Guards, witnesses said.
Abu Hanifa mosque has long been associated with anti-American agitation and support for the former regime. Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) was seen in the area as the city fell to American forces in April 2003, and U.S. Marines fought a fierce gunbattle with Saddam loyalists around the mosque on April 10, 2003, the day after the ousted ruler's statue was hauled down in Firdous Square.
The raid on the al-Zaharawi hospital in Mosul was conducted by Iraqi commandos with the Ministry of the Interior's Special Police Force, backed by U.S. troops.
Forces cordoned it off after getting information that insurgents were treating their wounded there, said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings with Task Force Olympia.
U.S. forces from the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment secured the area around the hospital, while Iraqi troops raided the building, detaining three individuals suspected of terrorist activities.
Pictures were taken of 23 bodies in the morgue believed to have been members of a terrorist cell, Hastings said, adding it was unclear how they got there.
"You can call it an insurgent hospital from what we found there," he said.
U.S. and Iraqi forces began a major military operation Tuesday to wrest control of the western part of Mosul after gunmen last week attacked police stations, bridges and political offices in apparent support of Fallujah guerrillas.
On Friday, three of the city's five bridges were reopened to traffic and most of the city remained calm, though U.S. forces came under some "indirect fire" that caused no injuries, Hastings said.
In Fallujah, battles flared as troops hunted holdout insurgents, and one U.S. Marine and one Iraqi soldier were killed, U.S. officials said.
U.S. troops sweeping through the city west of Baghdad found what appeared to be a key command center of terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, along with a separate workshop where an SUV registered in Texas was being converted into a car bomb and a classroom containing flight plans and instructions on shooting down planes.
The vehicle was surrounded by several bags of sodium nitrate, which can be used to make explosives. The vehicle had no license plate, but 15 plates were inside. Several bodies were found nearby.
The U.S. troops came across a large house with a sign in Arabic that said "Al-Qaida Organization," according to footage from a CNN crew embedded with the U.S. Army.
Inside the house, an imposing structure with concrete columns, U.S. soldiers found documents, old computers, notebooks, photographs and copies of the Quran. Several bodies also were found.
There also were two letters, one from al-Zarqawi giving instructions to two of his lieutenants. Another sought money and help from the terrorist leader.
Iraqi authorities have acknowledged that al-Zarqawi and other insurgent leaders escaped the invasion of Fallujah.
Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said those who fled lack the resources available in their former stronghold.
"We feel right now that we have, as I mentioned, broken the back of the insurgency. We've taken away this safe haven," he said at a base outside Fallujah.
The U.S. casualty toll in the Fallujah offensive stood at 51 dead and about 425 wounded. An estimated 1,200 insurgents have been killed, with about 1,025 enemy fighters detained, the military says.
Al-Zarqawi's group, Al-Qaida in Iraq (news - web sites), is considered the deadliest terrorist network in the country and is blamed for dozens of deadly car bombings and for the kidnappings and beheadings of foreign hostages, including three Americans. Al-Zarqawi is wanted by both Jordan and the United States, and Washington has offered $25 million for information leading to his capture.
U.S. and Iraqi authorities launched the Fallujah operation as part of a campaign to restore order so national elections can be held in January.
The extremist Ansar al-Sunnah Army, in a statement found Thursday on the Internet, threatened to attack polling stations and assassinate candidates because democracy is an "infidel" institution.
Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, said they arrested 104 suspected insurgents in a raid in Baghdad, including nine who had fled Fallujah.
Insurgents, though, struck back elsewhere in volatile Sunni Muslim areas. In Haditha, northwest of Fallujah, militants blew up the mayor's office and the police command center. Leaflets distributed by insurgents warned anyone who "wears a police uniform or reports to a police station will be killed."
Car bombs in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk killed at least four people, while mortar shells that exploded near the governor's office in Mosul wounded four guards, officials said.
Associated Press Military Writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.
11-19-04, 11:13 AM
Injured Marine's brother granted emergency leave
By SUSAN HAIGH
Associated Press Writer
November 19, 2004, 1:41 AM EST
HARTFORD, Conn. -- U.S. military officials granted an emergency leave to a Connecticut Marine fighting in Iraq whose brother was seriously wounded in the assault on Fallujah.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., said he confirmed the leave with the Marines on Thursday.
Brian Johnston, 24, lost his right arm and most of his right leg in an explosion Nov. 9, the second day of the effort to take Fallujah from insurgents. His younger brother, Kevin, 20, has remained in Fallujah with a different Marine unit.
The two Marines' parents, Bruce Johnston of East Hartford, Conn., and his ex-wife, Vera Heron of Utah, had asked Larson and Connecticut U.S. Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman to request that the Marines grant an emergency leave for Kevin Johnston. Bruce Johnston said he wanted Kevin Johnston to be able to visit his brother at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
"I'm ecstatic," Bruce Johnston said in a phone interview from Maryland Thursday night. "I'm very relieved to know that my son is finally going to be able to leave Fallujah and see his brother. I'm sure it will help Brian's recovery to see Kevin. I miss Kevin very much."
He said Larson told him that the leave had been approved when he saw the congressman Thursday morning at the hospital. That was a few hours after Kevin Johnston called his mother on a satellite phone and said he was not making any progress on getting the emergency leave, his father said.
Larson said the length of Kevin Johnston's leave will be determined on Brian Johnston's recovery. He could return to the United States in two to three days, Larson said.
"Basically, part of Brian's rehabilitation and recuperation will be enhanced by his brother being there," Larson said. "How long he's there and how long his leave is, they'll have to make that determination on a day-to-day basis."
Maj. Jason Johnston, a Marine spokesman with no relation to the family, said he was uncertain how long Kevin Johnston's leave could last.
"It's a case by case decision. It's going to be worked out between himself and his commanders," he said. The major said that Kevin Johnston requested to return to his unit in Iraq after his emergency visit is complete.
Brian Johnston underwent surgery Thursday and was expected to remain at the Naval Medical Center for at least two months, Bruce Johnston said. After that, Brian Johnston would spend about four to six weeks at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
"It's very hard going to the hospital every day," Bruce Johnston, 55, said. "It's very hard to see my son in his condition. It's a nightmare. But I'm very happy he's getting good medical care."
Larson said Brian Johnston remains highly sedated and is in and out of consciousness. He said the parents talk with their son frequently and sit by his side, holding his hand.
Larson said he contacted U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., senior member of the defense appropriations committee, and asked him to contact the appropriate military officials.
"A very compelling case can be made because of the unique circumstances and also the condition of his brother, who is going to need the love and support of his family and friends," Larson said.
Officials with the Marines would not discuss the explosion that injured Brian Johnston.
Heron has said that she was told her son was sitting on top of an overcrowded amphibious vehicle when it was struck by a blast from a rocket-propelled grenade. She said another Marine sitting alongside her son suffered only a hand injury.
11-19-04, 11:19 AM
EDITORIAL: A shooting in the mosque
Las Vegas Review Journal
War is a terrible undertaking, which should be entered into rarely and only under the direst necessity and provocation.
Occasionally, war can take the natural terror that young men experience in the face of death, and twist that fear into an indiscriminate pathology: The men vent their fury in the indiscriminate rape or killing of innocent civilians, and the result is an atrocity.
Americans can be proud that their armed forces have always dealt with such aberrations as crimes -- taken them seriously, investigated them and punished the perpetrators when appropriate.
All this being said, however, Americans must retain their perspective, rather than embracing propaganda disseminated by those who would not under any circumstances credit our men and women in uniform with doing anything right, no matter how selfless their sacrifice.
A case in point is the outrage expressed by Arab sources and Amnesty International -- most of whom remain curiously quiet about the enemy's chosen tactic of beheading with premeditation non-combatant kidnap victims -- over the recent shooting of a wounded Iraqi irregular by a U.S. Marine in a Fallujah mosque.
The man was shot after the Marine started screaming that he was only faking death. It appears the wounded man had been captured and treated by U.S. forces earlier in the day -- something the Marine who was attempting to clear the building did not know. A Marine spokesman says the Marine in question had been shot in the face the day before, but had been returned to battle. Furthermore, he had lately seen a friend killed by a booby-trapped corpse.
Can anyone say "the fog of war"? The incident is being investigated, and rightly so. But how many times were wounded enemies mistaken for still-armed combatants as the battle lines surged back and forth on Iwo Jima or in the dark forests of Belgium in early 1945? Should Marines have been put on trial for clearing out enemy "spider holes" on the Pacific islands after the enemy made a habit of popping up and shooting our boys in the back?
Today we face an out-of-uniform enemy whose main tactic of choice is indiscriminate terror bombing -- including the murder of children. They purposely fortify and booby-trap houses of worship for the publicity benefits to be gained when our forces are thus required to "destroy the mosques" to get at them and limit their predations.
Isn't it enough to send our young men into harm's way, asking them to risk being killed or maimed in such a cauldron? Must they also be branded "murderers" because they face an enemy that refuses to line up in neat squares -- based on the selective airing of fragments of virtually instant television footage?
The solution is not to cut off the flow of news from the front. The solution is for the American public to educate themselves to the environment into which our boys have been thrown -- to demand a high standard, yes, but also to understand that the kind of people who murdered charity worker Margaret Hassan have never heard of the Marquess of Queensbury ... while holding the Geneva conventions to be worthy of nothing but a laugh.
By the way, what do the aforementioned Geneva conventions say is the proper way to treat an out-of-uniform irregular who is caught shooting at our soldiers from ambush, months after his nation's army has surrendered? The Geneva conventions -- designed to assure proper treatment of uniformed combatants -- say it's fully appropriate to stand him up against a wall and summarily shoot him ... whether he's wounded or not.
11-19-04, 12:05 PM
Friday November 19, 12:48 AM
Marines call up tanks to ease risks in Falluja
By Michael Georgy
FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. Marines are broadly in control of Falluja after 10 days of fighting but are getting bogged down in risky house-to-house searches that cost one Marine and an Iraqi soldier their lives on Thursday.
The response from the U.S. forces has been to bring up tanks to blast buildings where they suspect guerrillas may still be holed up rather than face booby traps and sniper fire as they comb through the rubble and narrow alleyways of Falluja.
"Searching every house is taking a long time and it is still dangerous because we never know what is in these homes," Captain Robert Bodisch said in the city, where a U.S. general concluded his forces had "broken the back of the insurgency".
There are still plenty of fighters around, Marines said, although considerable numbers have also been surrendering.
"We have been going into houses and trying to capture remaining insurgents but that can be very difficult," Bodisch, who commands a tank company, told Reuters.
"Now we are starting to just fire our tank cannons at buildings where we suspect terrorists are still hiding.
"It saves a lot of time and lives rather than getting drawn into booby-trapped houses."
Lieutenant General John Sattler, commanding the operation, told reporters the Marine and Iraqi soldier were killed in southwestern Falluja when they were fired on while clearing a building. A tank then opened fire and "silenced" those inside.
Most of the population of 300,000 fled the Sunni Muslim city west of Baghdad before the offensive began against the rebels. Sattler said he knew of no civilian deaths, although local people have reported some. Fifty-one American and eight Iraqi troops were killed and about 1,200 guerrilla fighters, he said.
Falluja, 50 km west of Baghdad, is a cramped city of twisting alleys that makes security still hard to guarantee.
The Shuhada -- or Martyrs -- district, described by U.S. forces as a stronghold for foreign fighters, still appears to be home to many guerrillas who have become less visible since the Americans consolidated their grip on Falluja.
Marines say insurgents who were running into the open to fire rocket-propelled grenades at tanks a few days ago are now lying low in two-storey houses, keeping U.S. forces guessing.
"I was moving my tank down a road and I saw a man standing in a window. I was accompanied by other tanks as well and this man was not running away," said Gunnery-Sergeant Ishmael Castillo, of Hereford, Pennsylvania.
"I knew that he could be waiting to detonate a roadside bomb as we drove by. We have to make, quick, difficult decisions in an unpredictable environment."
Cleaning up and rebuilding Falluja after fierce air strikes and artillery bombardments will be a daunting task for Iraq's U.S.-backed interim government, which wants to pacify rebel strongholds ahead of elections scheduled for January.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on Thursday that families would be offered about $100 each and full food rations on their return and that compensation would be paid for damage to homes and businesses. Details on that remain unclear.
Though many religiously inspired guerrillas have fought to the death, and many bodies lie on the streets of Falluja, many others have given themselves up, leaving extensive stocks of heavy weaponry including anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank mines.
Sattler said some 1,025 prisoners were being held.
Marines say it is often difficult to differentiate between those surrendering and those still fighting.
Tank commanders said substantial groups of guerrillas were surrendering on Thursday: "I saw an Iraqi engineer from Baghdad in his forties and a younger man surrendering today," one said.
"But others are still fighting and booby trapping buildings. You just never know who these people are."
11-19-04, 12:16 PM
Originally posted by thedrifter
Bounties Offered On Americans In Iraq
November 19, 2004
According to Jaber, insurgent leaders in the area offer cash bounties for killing certain kinds of people: $1,000 for a Shiite, $2,000 for a member of the Iraqi National Guard and $3,000 for an American.
Talk about inflation
In Nam, the gooks (NVA) offered $200.00 for officers, and $2.00 for grunts.
I think they offered a low price for Marine Grunts, just to p iss us off.
11-19-04, 01:17 PM
I agree wit You Cook....and I wouldn't be any grunts path....;) \
Nov 19, 2004
DoD Announces America Supports You Program
The Department of Defense announced today the launch of “America Supports You,” a nationwide program to showcase and communicate American support to the men and women of the Armed Forces.
In announcing “America Supports You,” Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Charles Abell said that thousands of Americans, including individual citizens, businesses and organizations, have spearheaded activities and projects in their communities to show their support for America’s Armed Forces, especially those serving in harm’s way.
“These activities of support have a positive impact on the morale and spirit of those who serve,” said Abell. He said the “America Supports You” program will showcase these community activities and projects on a new website http://www.AmericaSupportsYou.mil so that the American public and the U.S. military serving at home and overseas will know firsthand how much the American people appreciate their service and sacrifice.
Teenager Shauna Fleming of Los Angeles created one of the projects highlighted on the new “AmericaSupportsYou” web site. Fleming, a 15-year-old high school freshman, launched a campaign called "A Million Thanks," a year-round campaign to show U.S. military men and women, past and present, appreciation for their sacrifices, dedication and service through letters, emails, cards, prayers and thoughts.
Fleming’s story is one of many that will be profiled on the “AmericaSupportsYou”
website in the coming weeks and months. Americans are invited to log on to the website and share details of activities supporting the troops that are taking place in their communities. Everyone who shares their story will receive a dog tag with the “America Supports You” logo, while supplies last.
Representatives of veterans and service organizations also joined DoD at the launch, including Edward A. Powell Jr., USO, president and chief executive officer; Raymond Felsecker, American Legion, assistant director of the National Security Foreign Relations Commission; and James R. Mueller, Veterans of Foreign Wars, senior vice commander-in-chief.
They join other organizations and associations supporting the campaign through the distribution of promotional materials and development of community-based activities.
For more information about “America Supports You,” please log on to http://www.AmericaSupportsYou.mil .
11-19-04, 01:56 PM
This is an email I received this morning from one of the 1/4 moms whose son is over in Iraq with JJ. This Marine is over in Fallujah at the moment.
Good Morning Everybody.
The following is an email from my son regarding the NBC report (with embedded reporter Kevin Sites), concerning the Marine who is being investigated for "murdering" the insurgent in Fallujah. I will be sending his mail to every news program's email I can find. I find it sickening that this Kevin Sites is even allowed to be embedded with our Marines, as this isn't the first report I've heard from him that took on a decidedly unfriendly tone. My son also gave me permission to release it to anyone that wants to pass it on, as long as it remains unedited.
This is one story of many that people normally don't hear, and one that everyone does.
This is just one most don't hear: A young Marine and his cover man cautiously enter a room just recently filled with insurgents armed with Ak-47's and RPG's. There are three dead, another wailing in pain. The insurgent can be heard saying, "Mister, mister! Diktoor, diktoor(doctor)!" He is badly wounded, lying in a pool of his own blood. The Marine and his cover man slowly walk toward the injured man, scanning to make sure no enemies come from behind. In a split second, the pressure in the room greatly exceeds that of the outside, and the concussion seems to be felt before the blast is heard. Marines outside rush to the room, and look in horror as the dust gradually settles. The result is a room filled with the barely recognizable remains of the deceased, caused by an insurgent setting off several pounds of explosives.
The Marines' remains are gathered by teary eyed comrades, brothers in arms, and shipped home in a box. The families can only mourn over a casket and a picture of their loved one, a life cut short by someone who hid behind a white flag.
But no one hears these stories, except those who have lived to carry remains of a friend, and the families who loved the dead. No one hears this, so no one cares.
This is the story everyone hears:
A young Marine and his fire team cautiously enter a room just recently filled with insurgents armed with AK-47's and RPG's. There are three dead, another wailing in pain. The insurgent can be heard saying, "Mister, mister! Diktoor, diktoor(doctor)!" He is badly wounded. Suddenly, he pulls from under his bloody clothes a grenade, without the pin. The explosion rocks the room, killing one Marine, wounding the others. The young Marine catches shrapnel in the face.
The next day, same Marine, same type of situation, a different story. The young Marine and his cover man enter a room with two wounded insurgents. One lies on the floor in puddle of blood, another against the wall. A reporter and his camera survey the wreckage inside, and in the background can be heard the voice of a Marine, "He's moving, he's moving!" The pop of a rifle is heard, and the insurgent against the wall is now dead.
Minutes, hours later, the scene is aired on national television, and the Marine is being held for committing a war crime. Unlawful killing.
And now, another Marine has the possibility of being burned at the stake for protecting the life of his brethren. His family now wrings their hands in grief, tears streaming down their face. Brother, should I have been in your boots, I too would have done the same.
For those of you who don't know, we Marines, Band of Brothers, Jarheads, Leathernecks, etc., do not fight because we think it is right, or think it is wrong. We are here for the man to our left, and the man to our right. We choose to give our lives so that the man or woman next to us can go home and see their husbands, wives, children, friends and families.
For those of you who sit on your couches in front of your television, and choose to condemn this man's actions, I have but one thing to say to you. Get out of you recliner, lace up my boots, pick up a rifle, leave your family behind and join me. See what I've seen, walk where I have walked. To those of you who support us, my sincerest gratitude. You keep us alive.
I am a Marine currently doing his second tour in Iraq. These are my opinions and mine alone. They do not represent those of the Marine Corps or of the US military, or any other.
LCPL Schmidt USMC
11-19-04, 02:23 PM
Grim, Angry Rites as Falluja Buries Its Dead
FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - The urban battlefield of Falluja is disgorging its dead. Slowly.
Another truckload of bodies reached the outskirts of the city for burial Friday in a ceremony marked by anger at U.S. troops, who say they killed 1,200 Iraqi and foreign fighters.
With Marines scouring the largely deserted city house by house and occasionally clashing with remnants of the insurgent force, travel in or out is limited but the Americans have allowed local voluntary organizations to retrieve some bodies.
Two dozen arrived on a truck at the dusty outlying village of Saqlawiya Friday, greeted by a crowd of about 150 men who removed the corpses from military body bags to try to identify them and to bury them in shrouds, according to Muslim custom.
Amid the flies and stench of the blackened and bloated bodies, apparently dead for many days, identification was next to impossible but most appeared to be of men of fighting age and at least one wore an ammunition vest.
U.S. commanders say they do not believe civilians were killed during the offensive begun 11 days ago.
Some pits had been dug in expectation alongside several other freshly covered graves bearing simple headstones on a barren stretch of waste ground among electricity pylons.
As onlookers stood in line to hear the traditional prayers for the dead, the preacher also called for revenge on Americans and their Iraqi allies, who believe the assault on Falluja has "broken the back" of the Sunni Muslim insurgency.
"We ask you God to be merciful," the preacher chanted.
"Shake the earth beneath the feet of the Americans, shake the earth beneath the feet of the Crusaders, shake the earth beneath the feet of the hypocrites that help them.
"God grant victory to Iraq (news - web sites)."
Falluja, most of whose population of 300,000 fled before the assault, has been a bastion of revolt against the U.S.-backed Iraqi interim government. Some in the city, just west of Baghdad, fear that planned elections will lead to them being dominated by the long-oppressed Shi'ite Muslim majority.
11-19-04, 03:15 PM
November 18, 2004
Combat medic outlines battlefield needs to military surgeons
By Deborah Funk
Times staff writer
An Army medic with a helicopter ambulance company said units like his need new radios like the ones issued to special operations troops, which can be used hands-free and would provide better communication with ground crews.
Sgt. Tomas Chavez described a night in Iraq last year where his helicopter couldn’t reach the ground crew as it was answering a call to pick up a wounded soldier northwest of Mosul, Iraq. But they saw the grid and the marked landing zone and did what they normally do: land.
Chavez had barely jumped off the Black Hawk UH-60 helicopter when it quickly took off again. He saw tracers overhead and saw the troops on the ground waving him to cover.
Speaking at an Army panel discussion on battlefield trauma care at the annual Association of Military Surgeons of the United States being held in Denver this week, Chavez said the radios now used by medevac helicopter crews in his unit have only one channel and allow communication only while in the air.
Chavez said he has no audio communication with the aircraft when he is on the ground and instead resorts to hand signals if he needs something.
“All that takes time and time is what we don’t have,” he said.
The radios Chavez said all 12 medics in the 54th Medical Air Ambulance Company need can plug into their helmets, has multiple channels and can be operated hands-free via a throat microphone.
Chavez also recommended longer training for flight medics and filling those positions with warrant officer jobs so the medics stay in their jobs longer and injured troops benefit from the medics’ experience. Now, the flight medics have to move on to other duties when they reach the E-6 paygrade, he said.
Chavez also said helicopter ambulance crews need small, portable extraction equipment to retrieve soldiers trapped in armored military and civilian vehicles.
The Army flight medics have relied on the Air Force’s “jaws of life” device, but need something of their own, Chavez said.
11-19-04, 03:51 PM
U.S., Iraq Plan Major Falluja Rebuilding Program
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Iraq (news - web sites)'s interim government plan to begin a $100 million reconstruction effort within two weeks in Falluja, heavily damaged in an all-out assault against insurgents, officials said on Friday.
The offensive, launched on Nov. 8 and led by U.S. Marines, left numerous buildings destroyed or damaged, and basic services in shambles in the city west of Baghdad that had been a key stronghold for the insurgency.
With Marines still performing building-to-building sweeps for insurgents, Bill Taylor, a State Department official in charge of coordinating reconstruction aid, said the current security situation did not allow for an immediate start for rebuilding efforts.
"Within a week or two -- again, depending on when the city is cleared of people opposing what we're trying to do -- we ought to be able to get the first of these small projects going," he told reporters at the Pentagon (news - web sites) in a teleconference.
The Falluja offensive was part of a drive to improve security in Iraq and deprive insurgents of safe havens ahead of crucial parliamentary elections set for January.
Taylor said U.S. personnel have begun assessing the condition of electricity distribution lines, sewer lines and water treatment facilities in Falluja ahead of the beginning of projects to restore essential services to a city of 300,000, most of whom fled before the offensive began.
Congress last year approved $18.4 billion for Iraqi reconstruction. Charles Hess, a Pentagon official responsible for most U.S.-funded reconstruction deals in Iraq, said less than $1.8 billion has been spent to date. U.S. contractors have blamed a combination of a dangerous security environment amid a bloody guerrilla war and persistent U.S. bureaucratic delays.
'A HARD TIME'
Taylor said that since early October security has become a greater obstacle to rebuilding efforts in the capital Baghdad, the central Iraq Sunni cities of Falluja, Ramadi and Samarra, and the northern city Mosul.
"We are moving through the areas, the cities where the insurgents have given us a hard time and have kept us from doing reconstruction," Taylor said.
"And, indeed, we're worried that in some areas -- again, not all -- in some areas it would now be difficult to have elections, and it's that kind of work that we need to do between now and January so that we can have elections in the entire country," Taylor added.
U.S. officials said the $100 million in Falluja reconstruction money will be split about evenly between the United States and the interim Iraqi government.
About $8 million has been budgeted for water supply improvements, and $4 million to build four new schools, Taylor said. The United States also will buy new solid-waste equipment and garbage trucks for Falluja, he said.
Hess said security and sabotage remain major problems.
"Again, one of our mechanisms to deal with that, frankly, is to start as many projects as we can, given the fact that we know the insurgents can't be everywhere," Hess said.
Hess said 873 reconstruction projects have been started in Iraq, and the goal is for 1,000 by the end of December.
11-19-04, 05:50 PM
6 NATO Allies Refuse to Help U.S. in Iraq
By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON - At least six NATO (news - web sites) allies are refusing to send military instructors to help the United States train Iraqi officers, another impediment in the Bush administration's drive for support for its effort to pacify Iraq (news - web sites).
The six nations — Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and Greece — had refused to contribute troops to the U.S.-led coalition that overthrew President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) and to the postwar campaign against insurgents.
The administration was hoping to forge a consensus on postwar peacemaking. The project to train Iraqi officers will not involve combat duties and is part of a broader security program.
A State Department official close to the dispute said Friday that all 26 NATO allies voted on Wednesday at alliance headquarters in Brussels for the training program and agreed to help fund it. However, at least six held out from playing any active role and refused to send officers to NATO staging areas in Norfolk, Va., and Mons, Belgium.
Still, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that all NATO allies, including the holdouts, approved the plan by consensus and were committed to paying a share of the costs.
Meanwhile, the State Department's deputy spokesman, Adam Ereli, said of the holdouts: "It's a decision of the individual countries that does not undermine the importance or value of the overall mission."
Hungary, which is withdrawing its troops from Iraq, will contribute a company to help protect the training officers, the official said. Fifteen other NATO countries will contribute trainers, protect troops, or both.
The United States will bear a large share of the costs and contribute a sizable percentage of the 400 officers and a protective force of about 1,200, the official said. An advance contingent of 60 to 65 officers will go to Baghdad in the four to six weeks to begin the training program.
While NATO long has played a postwar peacekeeping role in Afghanistan (news - web sites), disapproval lingers over the Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq.
The decision to use NATO nations to train Iraqi officers is the first collective action on Iraq by the alliance, the official said. By contrast, the official said, NATO might increase its forces in Afghanistan.
d c taveapont
11-19-04, 06:29 PM
Tough call for me to make......but WE have to let our Marines do the job that was started over WMDs that were never found....They should have done this when the war started in the first damn place.......and WHY didn't they(armed forces) take all of the weapons when the iraqi forces surrendered......mistake after mistake had been made by the arm chair quarterbacks.....generals were asked to resign by those who thought that we would be welcomed....these damn people don't want a free democracy sh/t that will never happen anytime soon.....there will be and always be terrorist......the enemy is just the same as in RVN hard core and devoted to their cause....so when does it end for our troops 5, 10, 15 years from now.....just look at how many lives have been screwed up by this war and how many lives have been changed forever.....it just ****es me off.......
11-19-04, 07:53 PM
Supporting Deployed Troops Has Never Been Easier
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2004 – One often-repeated question from forward-deployed troops today is some form of: "Does America support what we're doing over here?"
Judging by the number of Web sites devoted to that support, the answer is a resounding, "Yes!"
But as times have changed, so have the ways to support the troops. Just because the old way – no more "Any Servicemember" mail - doesn't work anymore, that doesn't mean that troops can't receive mail and care packages from patriotic souls. It simply means finding an organization to help you get that morale- boosting mail to the troops.
Dozens of independent organizations are ready and willing to help those who want to support the troops. They generally fall into two basic categories. The first is the organizations that collect cash or goods to create care packages to be sent to troops who wish to receive them.
One such organization is Freedom Calls Foundation, which uses state-of-the-art communications technology to keep servicemembers connected with their families. Because of Freedom Calls' efforts, servicemembers have "been there" for milestone events such as weddings (sometimes their own), births and graduations.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars offers a program called "Operation Uplink" that connects servicemembers with family and friends. The program, begun in 1996, provides pre-paid phone cards to active-duty servicemembers and hospitalized veterans.
Again, Operation Uplink accepts cash donations that are used to purchase the pre-paid phone cards. Donations can be made online, via phone or through the mail.
Another supporter of deployed U.S. troops, the United Service Organizations, has a program called "Operation USO Care Package." The program lets well- wishers sponsor a care package for a monetary donation. USO makes the donation part easy too. All it takes is a mouse click, a phone call or a stamp to mail a check.
The second-type organization pairs supporters with servicemembers who have given permission to release their contact information to an individual. Most of the sites offering servicemember "adoptions" require a minimum commitment of one piece of mail a month.
AdoptaPlatoon, not only provides the means to "adopt" an individual servicemember, but an entire platoon. The requirements for each adoption are a little different. Supporters can also ask to be matched with a servicemember as a pen pal.
Operation Military Pride is another group that focuses on care packages. However, to obtain mailing information for a servicemember, supporters are required to sign up through the site. Like many organizations, Operation Military Pride has several different campaigns in the works to support deployed troops.
There also are a smaller number of Web sites dedicated to allowing a supporter to send an electronic greeting to servicemembers and some that have compiled a list of links to various support Websites.
Care packages are always nice, but letters are just as good. And sites like Operation Dear Abby and Letters From Home make that very easy to do. Operation Dear Abby provides the means to send an electronic greeting to a servicemember and Letters From Home works with the old-fashioned variety.
If the legitimacy of a site is a concern, check out the list on the Defend America Web site. While the Department of Defense does not endorse organizations, a DoD official said that the groups listed on Defend America are checked routinely to make sure they are doing what they say they are.
It's also important to remember that some Web sites are easier to use than others. So don't get discouraged, the links are there. It may just take a little looking to find them.
These are just a small sampling of organizations that offer Americans the means to remember and appreciate our troops. There are many, many groups offering many, many ways to show deployed troops that yes, America Supports You!
11-19-04, 07:54 PM
Contractor Connects Marines, Families With Secure Web Site
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2004 -- As a Defense Department contractor, Computer Systems Center Inc. has a connection with the military. But now that connection hits home, for Marines and their families.
The Springfield, Va., based information technology company launched a new interactive Web site Nov. 18 that will link Marines at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, located in the dense forests of Okinawa, Japan, to their families and friends back home, and with CSCI employees who have "adopted" the Marines at the center.
Borrowing from the Marines' Latin credo Semper Fidelis, which means "Always Faithful," the new site is called SemperComm, and it allows the Marines to talk to family and friends, send e-mail, stream video and share pictures over a secure private network.
Company officials said the network is the first of several it hopes to create for remote bases like the JWTC.
"The Marines are really attached to us, right now," said Linda LaRoche, the company's chief executive officer. "I think they really feel the sense of family that CSCI really provides. Family is our business, as far as I'm concerned."
She said company employees, many of whom are retired military people, have contributed to the military in the past, but this year "we wanted to bring it a little closer to home."
Last year, the company donated tickets for servicemembers returning from the war to attend hockey games here, but this year, she said, employees "stretched their capabilities to reach out even more."
"They deemed this a very exciting project, because it's something different," she said. "And from a personal perspective, just knowing that we can do something is important."
LaRoche said it took CSCI software engineers and Web developers more than six months to develop the interactive site for the center.
Marine Sgt. Tim Ferguson, the communications chief for the center, said the new Web site will provide a "tremendous boost" to the morale of Marines in Okinawa.
"The morale has just shot through the roof at JWTC. It's been unbelievable," he said. "(Morale can be) one of the big problems out there because we are so isolated. There is no (post exchange) or commissary there; we have a PX that comes up three times a week for three hours a day. Our barber comes up every Wednesday. There's no Burger King or Taco Bell," he said. "So this contribution by CSCI is enormous."
Meanwhile, LaRoche said any company contribution to servicemembers and their families is important, especially during times of war.
"It's very important at this time," she explained. "I think that some of them are sitting out there and not realizing all the support that they have back here. And that's very important."
Earlier this year, CSCI joined the United Service Organizations as a world partner, and donated money, movie projectors, laptop computers and televisions to the center. The company also wants raise funds to help the USO provide a mobile canteen that will provide refreshments, books and games for the center.
Edward A. Powell, USO president, thanked CSCI for joining his organization and said the USO has but one goal: "To convey the message of appreciation, love and thank you to the men and women of this country that serve our armed forces."
"And it makes me really excited to come to an event like this today and see a group of people who so clearly 'get it.' It's affirming, it's exciting and from our hearts to yours and from your heart to theirs, 'Thank you.'"
During the Nov. 18 event, CSCI employees tested SemperComm by talking to Marines at JWTC.
LaRoche appeared pleased to see the result of her company's work. One of her goals for the project was to make sure that Marines there could talk to their families during the holiday season. A week before Thanksgiving, they did just that.
11-19-04, 10:02 PM
Marines blame stress for kill
US marines have rallied around a comrade under investigation for killing a wounded Iraqi during the Fallujah offensive.
They say the soldier was probably under combat stress in unpredictable circumstances.
Marines said the shooting was not a scandal, but the act of a comrade under intense pressure during the effort to quell the insurgency in the city.
"I can see why he would do it. He was probably running around being shot at for days on end in Fallujah. There should be an investigation but they should look into the circumstances," Lance-Corporal Christopher Hanson said.
"I would have shot the insurgent, too. Two shots to the head," said Sergeant Nicholas Graham, 24, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"You can't trust these people. He should not be investigated. He did nothing wrong."
Military command launched an investigation after video footage showed a US marine shooting a wounded and unarmed man in a mosque in the city on Saturday.
The man was one of five wounded left in the mosque after marines fought their way through.
A pool report by NBC correspondent Kevin Sites said the mosque had been used by insurgents to attack US forces, who stormed it, killing 10 militants and wounding the five.
The wounded had been left for others to pick up, Sites said.
A marine can be heard saying on the pool footage, "He's f---ing faking he's dead."
The marine then raises his rifle and fires into the man's head. A second marine said immediately after the shooting, "Well, he's dead now."
Marines have repeatedly described the rebels they fought against in Fallujah as ruthless fighters who did not play by the rules. They say the investigation is politically motivated.
"It's all political. This marine has been under attack for days. It has nothing to do with what he did," Corporal Keith Hoy, 23, said.
A human rights group said the killing could be a war crime and US forces needed to be better trained in the laws of war.
"If it is what it appears to be, then obviously it would be a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. It would probably be a war crime," said Joe Stork, Washington director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch.
Amnesty International said on Monday both sides in the Fallujah fighting had broken the rules of war governing the protection of civilians and wounded combatants.