View Full Version : 8 Marines Killed in Iraq's Anbar Province

12-13-04, 07:23 AM
8 Marines Killed in Iraq's Anbar Province <br />
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By PAUL GARWOOD, Associated Press Writer <br />
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BAGHDAD, Iraq - Eight U.S. Marines were killed in violence in Iraq (news - web sites)'s restive Anbar...

12-13-04, 07:24 AM
Army NG Has Highest Death Rate
December 13, 2004

WASHINGTON - In a reversal of trends from past wars, part-time soldiers in the Army National Guard are about one-third more likely to be killed in Iraq than full-time active-duty soldiers serving there, a USA TODAY analysis of Pentagon statistics shows.

According to figures furnished by the military branches, the active Army has sent about 250,000 soldiers to Iraq, and 622 have been killed. That works out to one death for every 402 soldiers who have deployed. About 37,000 Army Guard soldiers have been sent to Iraq since the war began and 140 have died there -- one fatality for every 264 soldiers who have served, or about a 35% higher death rate.

There are several reasons for the greater death rates among so-called part-time soldiers, who generally drill one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer when there's no war. The Pentagon has called up thousands of part-time troops for tours of a year or more in Iraq. Some of the most dangerous missions, including driving convoys and guarding bases and other facilities, frequently are assigned to Guard and reserve troops. Iraqi insurgents have attacked convoys with roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, and a Tennessee Guardsman publicly complained to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week about the lack of armor on some vehicles.

Active-duty casualties have spiked during major battles such as the attack on Fallujah, largely carried out by Army and Marine troops. But such engagements have rarely been waged since President Bush declared major combat over in May 2003.

Other branches with troops in harm's way in Iraq -- the Army Reserve, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Navy -- did not supply total numbers of their troops deployed to Iraq since the war began in March 2003, which would have made similar comparisons possible. But fatality numbers show the vast majority of U.S. deaths in Iraq come from the active-duty Army, active-duty Marines, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. The Marines have lost 350 troops, while the Army Reserve has suffered 59 deaths. The Air Force and Navy together have suffered 27 deaths.

Those casualties don't represent all 1,286 Iraq deaths because they exclude several categories, including Marine Corps Reserve.

The elevated death rates among part-time soldiers are a significant shift from the past. During most wars in the last century, the full-time military took most of the casualties, and their troops were much more likely to die in battle than Guardsmen and reservists.

In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, for example, the Army Guard suffered no fatalities out of 382 U.S. deaths. A total of 94 Army National Guardsmen and no reservists were killed out of 58,209 U.S. deaths in Vietnam.

''It's a changed paradigm,'' says Richard Stark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. ''We have completely crossed the line in terms of what it is to be a citizen-soldier.''

It's unclear what effect the elevated death rate will have on the part-time military's ability to recruit and keep soldiers. Although the Guard has met its goals for retaining soldiers since the war began, it missed its recruiting goal of 56,000 soldiers last year by about 7,000 and has fallen behind this year.


12-13-04, 07:25 AM
6 Reservists Court-Martialed <br />
Associated Press <br />
December 13, 2004 <br />
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - At a time when some U.S. troops in Iraq are complaining they have to scrounge for equipment, six Ohio-based...

12-13-04, 07:25 AM
Marines clear out Fallujah

By Sharon Behn

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Marines yesterday cleared bodies from buildings at the scene of their biggest battle since the fall of Baghdad, securing this former insurgent stronghold for the return of thousands of civilians and upcoming elections.
But six weeks before the historic vote, a U.S. official said, fewer than 1 percent of eligible Iraqis have responded to a voter-registration drive, forcing authorities to look for other ways to build up voter lists.
Iraqis cite security worries as the main reason for the slow response, with some expressing fears of continued violence and corruption even after the Jan. 30 election for a legislative assembly.

Those dangers were underscored again as U.S. military officials announced early this morning that seven Marines had been killed in two incidents in Anbar province, where Fallujah is located.
A U.S. statement said the Marines were killed while conducting "security and stabilization operations."
Still, U.S. military and government officials, as well as involved Iraqis, are putting enormous efforts into getting out the vote, convinced that a successful election will establish a legitimate government and declaw a vicious insurgency.
"What we are doing now is fighting the bad guys, taking care of them before the elections," said 23-year-old Lance Cpl. Josh Byrne of Illinois, standing inches deep in mud in front of his vehicle.
He and his comrades had found several bodies — some of them Syrians and Chechens — as they cleared rooms and buildings in what had been the country's main stronghold for insurgents and terrorists.
"We are cleaning up the city and providing security for anybody who wants to build the place back up and give them everything like we have back home," Cpl. Byrne said.
One military official, waiting for a helicopter ride out of the city, said the streets in Fallujah still "smell like death." But, Cpl. Byrne said, "It's the live ones you've got to worry about."
Occasional battles are still taking place amid the rubble of the low-lying city just west of Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi forces clashed with guerrillas in several Fallujah suburbs yesterday, ending with U.S. air strikes on suspected enemy hide-outs.
Iraqi election officials have asked U.S. forces to help them set up blast barriers and assist with force protection in advance of the January elections.
The Iraqis "are very excited about democracy," said Maj. Ben Wild, an elections officer working in Fallujah. "What they are worried about are suicide bombers and intimidation."
That fear is not isolated to Fallujah. Residents of Baghdad also are saying they are not sure whether they are willing to risk their lives to cast their ballots, expressing fears that polling stations will be targeted.
Others swear they will not be deterred. One of those is the spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission, the group set up by the United Nations to organize the election.
"They can't hit every single polling station," said Farid Ayar, sitting in his tiny office in the heavily protected green zone.
"For me, a man who suffered under Saddam, I feel that this election is a turning point to create a new Iraq," he said. "I am over 60, and I never voted in my life, so I find this a challenge — to go once in my life to vote."
But Mr. Ayar, like everyone in Iraq, recognizes that security is a major issue. He rarely goes into the city streets anymore, especially because his face has become well-known after months of promoting the election in national and international news outlets.
Because there is no reliable census information, voter lists have been put together based on U.N. food-rationing lists from the era of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, with everyone on those lists being sent a form to verify its accuracy.
But only 60,000 to 70,000 people in a country of about 25 million have responded — about .25 percent — and authorities are now looking for other ways to qualify citizens to vote.
"Iraqis want democracy, but they know if they reach out, they will get shot," said a U.S. official in Baghdad who declined to be identified.
In Mosul, carloads of voter-registration cards were burned by those trying to stop the vote. Any final ballot count will have to depend on helicopters to ferry the papers to Baghdad to avoid road ambushes.
But U.S. and top Iraqi officials are determined to make sure that the election works.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has pumped $86 million into organizations such as the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute to work with local Iraqis on organizing the vote.
They also have worked to set up elected town councils, which USAID administrator Andrew Natsios credits with having helped create a political base that the national elections can draw on.
"This is an emotional turning point for the country," Mr. Natsios told The Washington Times during a visit to Baghdad. "It will give legitimacy to the new government."
Mr. Natsios predicted that a majority of Sunnis would take part in the vote in spite of a threatened boycott. Indeed, two moderate, mainly Sunni Muslim parties announced yesterday that they would field slates of candidates.
Long favored by Saddam, the minority Sunnis lost their political clout with his fall, and now feel they are getting a raw deal politically. They are demanding more time to organize.
Some Sunni leaders have asked the interim government to delay the election while others, such as firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have threatened to not participate at all.
Some international leaders, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.N. representative Lakhdar Brahimi, have said Iraq is not ready to hold elections because of the continuing high level of car bombs, insurgent attacks, mortar attacks and gunfire.
But Mr. Ayar dismissed that advice.
"He is not here to judge the security situation," he said of Mr. Brahimi. "He is sitting somewhere in Switzerland. He is not playing any role.
"He can't be better than me — this is my country, I know my country. We will go ahead with this election, and we will do it well," Mr. Ayar said.


12-13-04, 07:26 AM
Bush Hails Troops At Christmas Pageant
Associated Press
December 13, 2004

WASHINGTON - Christmas trees decorated with red bows, gold ornaments and white lights lined the hall at the National Building Museum for a holiday pageant attended Sunday by President Bush and his wife, Laura.

The president spoke of the many service members who are far from home during the holiday season. "These families and the troops they love can be certain that they have the support and gratitude of our nation."

Bush made his brief remarks at a taping of the 23rd annual "Christmas in Washington" concert, which benefits the Children's National Medical Center in the nation's capital.

"We continue to seek the promise of peace on earth and goodwill toward men," Bush said.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was also in attendance. Giuliani is a close friend of Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner who had been nominated to lead the Homeland Security Department. Questions about an immigration problem involving a family housekeeper led Kerik to withdraw his nomination Friday night.

Giuliani had dinner with Bush later at the White House, and apologized to the president for the problems with the Kerik nomination, Giuliani spokeswoman Sunny Mindel said. She emphasized, however, that the ex-mayor had been invited several weeks ago and did not meet with Bush for the express purpose of apologizing.

"The president was very gracious," Mindel said. "They remain good friends."

The concert, hosted by Dr. Phil McGraw and his wife, Robin, will be broadcast Dec. 15 on the TNT cable network. Performers included country singer LeAnn Rimes, "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard and pop singers Michael McDonald, Vanessa Williams and JoJo.

Also performing were the American Family Choir, the U.S. Army Band Herald Trumpets and Ian Fraser and the "Christmas in Washington" orchestra.

Earlier Sunday, Bush attended church and went mountain biking.

The Bushes attended services at St. John's Episcopal Church across Lafayette Park from the White House, waving to onlookers on the way in.

The Rev. Luis Leon's sermon was about Christmas and the Christmas season.

The Bushes returned to the White House after the service. The president changed into athletic attire for a morning of mountain biking in the countryside near Washington.

Bush rode his bike for more than an hour on the grounds of a Secret Service training facility in Beltsville, Md., near Washington.


12-13-04, 07:27 AM
Marines involved in Iraqi abuse frustrated after their convictions <br />
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By Alex Roth <br />
December 13, 2004 <br />
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MORRISTOWN, N.J. – In a small den with a bookshelf packed...

12-13-04, 07:28 AM
Marines put airtight security around data
Officials test encryption appliances to protect stored information
BY John Moore
Published on Dec. 13, 2004

Conventional wisdom about security emphasizes perimeter defenses such as firewalls, security gateways and intrusion-detection systems.

But for all that protection, an organization's central data may remain largely unguarded. Data may be encrypted in-flight as it traverses wide-area networks, but data resting in the typical storage subsystem is unencrypted. The data is there for the taking, whether the culprit is a successful intruder or a malicious insider. What should a security-minded government organization do?

Some federal officials are adding a layer of protection specifically for stored data. Among them is the Marine Corps.


Protecting data at rest

The Marines have a tough challenge: They must protect data that could be at-risk even though it resides within the reasonably safe confines of a federal office building, and they must protect data stored at military outposts. As service officials expand computing resources into the field, preventing data from falling into the wrong hands has become a priority.

"Data at rest can be exploited," said Col. Robert Baker, commanding officer of the Marine Corps Network Operations and Security Command.

The Marines' objective is to protect data housed in locations on the frontlines. To do that, command officials have been testing a storage encryption appliance. This emerging class of data-protection technology adds another dimension to a defense-in-depth strategy. A host of security products focus on the network's edge, but encryption appliances secure data in network-attached storage (NAS) and storage-area network environments.


Storage encryption

To address their data security concerns, the Marines evaluated Decru's DataFort E-Series storage security appliance. The product offers storage encryption and decryption, secure access controls, and authentication, among other features. DataFort can attach to rackmount servers and is available in one- or two-unit configurations. A unit can be up to 1.75 inches high, which is the amount of space available on one shelf of a multishelf rack for mounting computer equipment.

The Marines tested the one-unit version by encrypting data to be stored on a Network Appliance (NetApp) NAS system. The one-unit product measures 17 inches wide and 1.73 inches high and weighs just under 23 pounds. It supports 1 gigabit/sec throughput and costs at least $36,000.

Baker said the product worked well and met the service's security requirements. DataFort offers the strong Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm. This level of protection is important because, Baker said, the Marines intend to deploy DataFort while in harm's way.


Certified security

When the most important requirement is airtight security, many typical information technology metrics don't apply. To measure the level of encryption, a major metric is third-party validation. Decru has achieved the National Institute of Standards and Technology's certification for the company's 256-bit AES version of DataFort.

NIST officials have also certified Decru's Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA)-256 and SHA-1 products. In addition, Decru's full encryption and key management systems have been certified for compliance with Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2, Level 3, company officials said.

DataFort met some high standards, Baker said, citing FIPS compliance and the product's 256-bit AES encryption.

"This third-party validation has been instrumental in our adoption by the Marines Corps, as well as other government organizations," said Michele Borovac, Decru's director of marketing.

After checking for NIST and FIPS approval, customers typically put encryption appliances through a battery of tests. Although details of the Marines' DataFort tests aren't publicly available, Borovac said, the general points of measurement included performance, data integrity, key management and disaster recovery.

The Marines especially liked several features during their evaluation of the product. Among them was DataFort's CryptoShred Key Deletion. DataFort's approach is to encrypt sensitive data and store the encryption keys in secure hardware. If unwanted users breach a storage system, a Marine could press the appliance's red button to purge the key database stored locally in DataFort's Storage Encryption Processor.

That feature instantly deletes the keys, said Kevin Brown, Decru's vice president of marketing. The data in storage "stays on the disk, but without the keys, it is not possible to read the data, since it's in ciphertext," Borovac added.


Ease of use a priority

Despite its sophistication, DataFort is fairly simple to use, Baker said. In addition, the appliance fits the Marines' NetApp infrastructure well. "The way it works with NetApp is seamless," he said.

Ease of implementation is typical of appliances, said Jon Oltsik, senior analyst for information security at Enterprise Strategy Group. "That is the beauty of the appliance," Oltsik said. "The device is transparent to the storage and the network."

DataFort's simplicity provides another advantage: ease of operation. Baker said if he had to hire engineers to use the equipment, the solution would not have met the Marines' requirements. "Training and manpower issues are important," he said.

Oltsik said the amount of training for an encryption appliance varies based on the solution. Overall, "our research indicates that storage administrators are pretty weak when it comes to security knowledge," he said. "They may not need specific device training, but they should have some general security training."


Redundant systems

The Marines plan to use DataFort to encrypt data on NetApp FAS250 and FAS270 storage appliances, which they are deploying at several locations. During the past several months, more than 100 terabytes of storage have found their way into all the hot spots, said Mark Weber, vice president of NetApp's federal division. Smartronix, a solutions provider in California, Md., has conducted the field installations.

The NetApp appliances are primarily used to house Microsoft Exchange databases, Weber said. Separate appliances are installed within Marine compounds for use with classified and unclassified networks. Appliances are installed redundantly, with databases mirrored, or copied, across them. The configuration provides for disaster recovery, giving the Marines a continuity of operations plan in each compound.

Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.


Storage encryption options

Decru's DataFort is one of a handful of options for organizations seeking to protect data when it isn't in transit. Ingrian Networks, Kasten Chase, Neoscale Systems and Vormetric also offer storage encryption appliances.

Jon Oltsik, senior analyst for information security at Enterprise Strategy Group, places Decru, Kasten Chase and Neoscale in the same category. "Basically, [those vendors] provide security at the storage infrastructure layer," he said. "There are subtle differences between the three, but they all secure the bits within the storage."

Decru's DataFort product line covers network-attached storage, storage-attached networks (SANs) and tape, and tape only. Also, Decru, Network Appliance and Smartronix together offer a secure, turnkey storage solution: the Expeditionary Encrypted Data Store.

Kasten Chase offers Assurency SecureData, which officials recently announced is interoperable with IBM Tivoli's data compression and backup services.

Neoscale, meanwhile, provides CryptoStor FC for Fibre Channel and CryptoStor for Tape. A recent addition is the company's CryptoStor SAN virtual private network appliance. It encrypts Fibre Channel links that go across public fiber networks, according to the company. "Critical information is protected at all times when it flows outside the building," said Dore Rosenblum, NeoScale's vice president of marketing.

As for Vormetric, Oltsik said the company "provides storage security at the host and requires software on each host it protects." The approach, he said, is more difficult to set up but affords access control at the host and protects the storage by restricting hacker access at the host.

Ingrian, Oltsik added, protects storage residing at the database/ application layer. The company's DataSecure appliance allows "more flexibility and granularity of protection but requires modifications to applications and databases to do so," he said. "Ingrian's primary challenge is to make this as seamless as possible, and I believe it is doing a good job."

In a move toward simplification, Ingrian officials recently announced a new release of DataSecure that automates many of the tasks associated with database encryption, according to company officials. Karim Toubba, Ingrian's vice president of product management and marketing, said tasks that had been done manually are now handled automatically through a graphical user interface.

Industry executives said the storage encryption market tends to be niche-oriented. Mike Speiser, vice president of product marketing and product management in Veritas Software's data management group, said most customers don't ask for really strong encryption, noting that the exceptions tend to be in government and financial services.

Veritas launched Net Backup software products this year with 128- and 256-bit encryption. He said encryption may be more widely adopted because today's algorithms run faster than their predecessors.


12-13-04, 08:44 AM
Honduran Natives become U.S. Marines, Citizens
by Cpl. Sharon E. Fox
Marine Corps News

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Washington D.C. residents and Honduras-born brothers, will be spending this Christmas with their family – one with a new promotion and the other as a U.S. citizen.

Nahum I. Melendez, a diary clerk at the Group Consolidated Administration Center, was recently meritoriously promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal during a ceremony at the 2d Force Service Support Group's Headquarters and Service Battalion building here. His brother, Cpl. Jario E. Melendez, a cook for Food Service Company, H&S Bn., 2d FSSG, was more than happy to pin on his brother's chevrons.

Nahum won his battalion's meritorious promotion board in November, around the one-year anniversary of his enlistment.

Jario earned his U.S. citizenship earlier this year by a request submitted through the Marine Corps. Nahum is hoping to receive his citizenship approval from his request also through the Marine Corps, within the next six months.

Jario joined the Marine Corps in June 2002 at age 19.
"I wanted to join because I was not ready to go to college and knew that the Marine Corps would open up many opportunities for a successful future," he said.

Within a year of joining the Corps, only days out of his military occupational specialty school, Jario was immediately trained and deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he served as a food service specialist with the II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group on ship and at Camp Ryan, Kuwait from January to July of last year.

Nahum joined the Marine Corps in November 2003, after having an uneventful college experience and watching his brother prepare for war.

"I wanted to do something I could be proud of," the elder Melendez said. "My brother was already fighting the war in Iraq and I wanted to have the honor of serving my country and earning money for college."

Even though the 22-year-old has yet to deploy, he is proud of the mission he and his fellow Marines are accomplishing on the home front.

"I know I will get my chance to fight soon enough, but I will concentrate on my job at home for now and be happy our mother only has to worry about one of her children fighting overseas," said Nahum.

The Melendez brothers said joining the service seemed almost natural for them. Their relatives have served in the Honduran Army for generations.

"Of course our family's military history had an impact on our enthusiasm to join, but it was mostly a combination of wanting to do something useful and helping ourselves achieve success in the future," said 21-year-old Jario.

The brothers are two of four siblings. They have a 9-year-old sister and a 13-year-old brother who is already expressing interest in becoming a fellow devil dog.

The Melendez family has lived in Washington, D.C., since they moved to the United States in 1998. Most of their relatives are still in Honduras.

Though the brothers have no immediate plans of returning to live in Honduras, they are looking forward to visiting the small Central American island as U.S. citizens in the near future.

"Serving in the Marine Corps as U.S. citizens is just one of the many privileges we've earned as Marines," said the brothers. "We know our family both here and in Honduras can look at us knowing we've achieved more success than they could have hoped for."


12-13-04, 10:03 AM
Thirteen die in Baghdad suicide attack, 7 U.S. marines killed in western Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) - A suicide car bomber linked to al-Qaida killed 13 people in Baghdad on Monday, the first anniversary of Saddam Hussein's capture, and clashes resumed in Fallujah, a one-time insurgent stronghold that U.S. forces believed they had conquered. Seven marines died in combat in western Iraq.

The violence underlines the difficulties U.S.-led forces have encountered in the year and a half since Saddam's ouster in trying to end a rampant insurgency and bring the country under control. U.S. military commanders acknowledge they initially underestimated the strength of the insurgent backlash and admit coalition-trained Iraqi security forces are not yet up to securing their own country.

The fighting in Anbar, a vast province that includes Fallujah and Ramadi, was the deadliest for U.S. forces since eight marines were killed by a car bomb outside Fallujah on Oct. 30. The deaths brought to nearly 1,300 the number of American troops killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

In Baghdad, a militant in an explosives-laden car waiting in line to enter the western gate of the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and Iraq's interim government, detonated the vehicle as he drove towards the checkpoint, police said.

Dr. Mohammed Abdel Satar of Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital said 13 people were killed and 15 wounded in the blast. The U.S. military said there were no injuries to its troops.

The group al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted on an Islamic website regularly used by militants.

"On this blessed day, a lion from the (group's) Martyrs' Brigade has gone out to strike at a gathering of apostates and Americans in the Green Zone," the group said in a statement, the authenticity of which could not be immediately verified.

The international zone has been the scene of frequent insurgent attacks in the past 18 months, killing and wounding dozens of people in car bombings or mortar barrages.

In Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded, wounding three U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi civilian, Lt.-Col. James Hutton said.

Jubilant Iraqi men were seen holding up pieces of two destroyed Humvees and dancing around their charred hulks, with a large crater blown into the road.

In Mishahda, 40 kilometres north of Baghdad, gunmen attacked an Iraqi National Guard patrol, killing three soldiers and wounding three others. The attackers fled, witnesses said.

Iraq's interim President Ghazi al-Yawer said in an interview broadcast Monday that the U.S.-led coalition was wrong to dismantle the Iraqi security forces after last year's invasion.

"Definitely, dissolving the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Interior was a big mistake at that time," al-Yawer told BBC radio.

It would have been more effective to screen out former regime loyalists than to rebuild from scratch, he added.

"As soon as we have efficient security forces that we can depend on, we can see the beginning of the withdrawal of forces from our friends and partners and I think it doesn't take years, it will take months," he said.

U.S. forces retook Fallujah from insurgents in a bloody battle last month in which hundreds died, including at least 54 Americans. The city had fallen under the rule of radical clerics and their mujahedeen fighters after marines lifted a three-week siege of the city in April.

After the latest campaign, U.S. commanders claimed they had broken the back of the insurgency in the mainly Sunni Muslim areas of western Iraq and that Iraqi security forces would start being phased in to take over, but fighting in the region has continued.

"We have come light-years from April when they (Iraqi security forces) refused to even come out to Fallujah," Marine Corps Lt.-Col. Dan Wilson said. "We are in the process of phasing more ISF into Fallujah . . . (and) are better equipped to intuitively know who belongs in the city, and who does not."

On Sunday, U.S. jets dropped 10 precision-guided missiles on insurgents' positions in Fallujah after militants fought running battles with coalition forces. It was unclear if there were any insurgent casualties.

"We are still running into some of these diehard insurgents that have either come back into the city or have been laying low," spokesman Lt. Lyle Gilbert said. "As we are bringing in contractors to help with the reconstruction of Fallujah, this (fighting) slows the process down."

It also was unclear whether the latest marine deaths were connected with those clashes. The military said only that seven marines died in two incidents while conducting "security and stabilization operations" in Anbar province.

In nearby Ramadi, 50 kilometres west of Fallujah, at least 10 explosions were heard early Monday, but no details were immediately available on their source nor whether there were any casualties.

Insurgents had shelled U.S. forces in the city on Sunday resulting in retaliatory artillery fire by American troops.

In the central Iraqi city of Samarra, insurgents attacked patrolling U.S. soldiers with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. One missed the troops and detonated near a group of children, killing a nine-year-old boy and injuring another child, said U.S. military spokesman Maj. Neal O'Brien.

On Sunday, eight of Saddam's 11 top lieutenants went on a hunger strike to demand visits in jail from the International Committee of the Red Cross, military spokesman Lt.-Col. Barry Johnson said.

The eight had resumed eating by Monday, he said. Saddam had not joined in the protest and remained in good health, Johnson said.


12-13-04, 10:38 AM
Las Vegas Rally Honors Troops, Families
By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service

LAS VEGAS, Nev., Dec. 12, 2004 -- There were tears, but there was also cheering and even smiles, as thousands of people turned out to take part in "Operation Holiday Cheer," a rally in support of troops and their families, held in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 11.

In the crowd were family members of troops killed in the war on terror, as well as families of those deployed in support of the war. Also in attendance were a number of elected officials and a number of people who just wanted to come out and show support for America's troops.

"We wanted to have this rally around the holidays because there are many troops who cannot be with their families at this time of year," said Phil Randazzo, who organized the rally. "This was our way of showing the troops and the families that we appreciate what they are doing."

Kimberly Irenze, a family-support-group leader for the Nevada Army National Guard's 1864th Motor Transportation Company, which is deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said the rally was performing a great service to the families of the deployed soldiers.

"This is exactly what the families need. For many of them, this is their first holiday without members of their families, and they are struggling to find cheer," said Irenze, whose husband, Sgt. Marco Irenze, is deployed with the company. "Phil is great for putting this together. You're talking about a person with no ties to the government, and who has nothing to gain, who put this together. He's really inspired, a true patriot."

One of the events' main features was recognition of family members and comrades of slain soldiers, who had an opportunity to address the crowd. As parents spoke of the children they had lost, emotion swept across the crowd and made itself visible in the form of tears rolling down hundreds of cheeks.

"My son, Corporal Matthew Commons, was an Airborne Ranger, and he joined the Army in the summer of 2000," said Gregory Commons. "When we were attacked on Sept. 11, I got together with him, and I knew that he would soon be deployed. He said, 'Dad, I've got to do this. This is what we need to do. These men are evil, and we need to take care of this.' … I love my son, and I can't tell you how proud I am of him. … It's been a little over two and a half years, and there's not a day that doesn't go by that I don't tell him I love him."

Cindy Cline-Fulton, mother of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Donald Cline, spoke about her son, who was killed March 2003 in Iraq.

"I want to thank everybody for coming out to show support to our military. It means a lot to me, and I think we need more of it," Cline-Fulton said. "My son, John, was based out of Camp Lejeune. He died while securing a bridge in An Nasyriah. They asked for volunteers to help a mortar company that was pinned down, wounded and hurt. My son was one of the first to jump up to go help his brothers. … He went across a bridge, which is now known as 'Ambush Alley.' He did (help) rescue all of them.

"When you think of a Marine, you think of this giant. My son was (5 feet, 5 inches tall). Wet, he was 135 (pounds). He was carrying men twice his size. Once he had rescued everyone and they were in a track on the way back, that's when he died. He was hit with (a rocket-propelled grenade). He left a beautiful wife and two great boys, Dakota and Dillon. I think my grandson said it best when he looked up the day we buried his dad and said, 'My daddy died, but he died so we can all have freedom.'"

Local elected leaders all took time to praise the families of the fallen sacrifices made by the troops and their families. U.S. Senator John Ensign said he was amazed by the spirit of self-sacrifice evident on the part of not only the troops, but also their families.

"I was speaking with Mrs. Salazar, whose son (U.S. Marine Cpl. William Salazar) was killed, and I got a typical response that I've heard over and over again from military families. She said she's here to support the other families," Ensign said. "That's what the military is all about, helping others. Our society is so self-centered, it is wonderful to be around people who are so selfless and so concerned about the well-being of others."

U.S. Rep. Shelly Berkley, who represents Nevada's District 1, said she felt the rally was of great importance, and she was proud of the people who turned out to support the troops.

"This event is so important, I just had to be here," Berkley said. "This is the real Las Vegas. These are real people who make up a great community, and they all support the troops. This is great."

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman agreed with the congresswoman that the city stood behind America's troops in this time of war.

"This is a very special occasion. I don't think there is another city in the U.S. that is more committed to supporting the troops," Goodman said. "This event does an awful lot of good. I had an opportunity to speak with parents of those who gave their lives. It's a very healthy thing to have an opportunity to know what people are experiencing."

To balance the sadness of lost loved ones and holidays spent while members of the family are in harm's way, the rally also included an event that drew cheers and applause from the crowd. Two A-10 Thunderbird jets of the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron from nearby Nellis Air Force Base conducted a spectacular flyover of the crowd.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Brad Bradshaw, who flew in one of the jets, said he was very pleased to be able to take part in the rally.

"It's a huge honor, a tremendous honor," said Bradshaw. "It is an overwhelming feeling to be able to honor families that have given so much and are making such sacrifices."

The man on the ground who controlled the aircraft also said he thought the rally was a great thing.

"This is a great deal. It's helping to show our community what we're capable of, and it's also helping to honor the troops," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Erik Roberts, an enlisted tactical attack controller. "It's a good deal for us and also for the guys who are over there, in combat. The guys who served in Vietnam never had this, and I'm glad we've gotten better at supporting our troops."

Emma Benjamin, a 10 year old who turned out for the rally with her parents and older brothers, agreed with Roberts that the rally serves and important purpose.

"It's good to come out here for our troops," Benjamin said. "So they can keep fighting for us and protecting our freedoms."

On a lighter note, Benjamin and children of all ages had the opportunity to enjoy a variety of other events put on during the rally. A number of musical entertainers performed in honor of the troops and their families, including a Neil Diamond impersonator. There was also a magic act, a slam-dunk competition conducted by members of the semi-professional Las Vegas Rattler basketball team, and a world-class performance by a human beat-box artist and a trio of local break dancers.

"I actually saw some of the family members who lost loved ones smile. For some of them, especially the ones whose loss was recent, this might have been the first time they smiled in a long time," Randazzo said. "That makes it all worth it to me."


12-13-04, 10:56 AM
The New Deserter - Meet Private Jeremy Hinzman
December 13, 2004
by Jim Manion

Private Jeremy Hinzman deserted from Fort Bragg just as his unit, the 82nd Airborne Division, was ready to ship our for duty in Iraq. Hinzman fled to Canada where he is attempting to claim status as a refugee. His claim was heard by the Canadian government and Hinzman is probably going to appeal any adverse decision.

Hinzman's version of his story has been reported across the world. He uses his belief that the War in Iraq is immoral and illegal as the basis for his refusal to "be killed or kill innocent people".

Hinzman has become a darling of the left and those in Islamic states who see him as a hero. While Hinzman has garnered a lot of sympathy and support, he has one major problem - he can't shut up. And his gift of gab provides a wealth of evidence regarding his true motives in leaving his comrades behind: Jeremy Hinzman is a coward and a traitor.

As is the case with all of our soldiers and sailors, Hinzman volunteered for active duty. On his website - yes, the first US Army Deserter to have a website - he notes that after his graduation from high school in 1996, he spent the next 4 years as a baker, but he was too "incompetent" to make a living at it.

In 1998 he began a relationship with his wife, Nga Nguyuen. In 2000, the lovebirds moved to Boston, MA. In January of 2001 Jeremy and Nga were married, and "a few days later", Jeremy was off to Fort Benning, GA for basic training, infantry school and airborne school. There is no information as to exactly when Hinzman enlisted, but it was undoubtedly before his marriage.

Continuing on the Deserter's website, Hinzman says that he and his spouse started attending Quaker studies with a Quaker group in January of 2002. Hinzman wants the world to believe that his Quaker experience changed his vision of the military. However, Jeremy just can't seem to keep his story straight.

Hinzman claims that he began having doubts during basic training.

"'About five weeks into basic training, we were on our way to the chow hall shouting 'trained to kill, kill we will.' We were threatened with push-ups because we were not showing enough enthusiasm.

"I found myself hoarse yelling this and, when I looked around me, I saw that most of my colleagues were red in the face, but totally engrossed." Then he understood that the military was not just training him to kill, but "to kill with a smile on my face." He had to get out." Interesting.

Basic training is 6 weeks long. That is followed by another stint for training in a new soldiers occupational specialty. Hinzman noted that his entire stint was at Fort Benning. That would makes his occupational specialty infantry. At Fort Benning, those with infantry specialties spend a total of 14 weeks with the Infantry Training Brigade.

Infantry training teaches a soldier to kill the enemy, defend his Country, obey orders and protect his comrades. It is no secret that Infantry soldiers kill people. In wartime, as many as they can. It is interesting that he did not request becoming a medic or clerk typist during his time at Fort Benning.

So Hinzman spent the last 9 weeks in ITB thinking he had to get out? Basic is where you are essentially allowed to wash out. Hinzman kept going for the full 14 weeks, despite knowing he had to get out. After his 14 weeks of infantry school, he spent another 3 weeks at Airborne School. That is 17 weeks, over 4 months of school, and Hinzman claims that he knew he had to get out and yet did nothing for the next 3 months? Perhaps his discussions with the press regarding his motive for enlisting will shed some light on the situation:

Hinzman told the Fayetteville Observer by phone that the socialist structure of the military appealed to him - he liked the subsidized housing and groceries and, at the end of his service, the money for college.

"It seemed like a good financial decision," he said, adding, "I had a romantic vision of what the army was.' "

What? Nothing about giving something back to preserve the freedoms we enjoy, nothing about a call to duty. His motives were all about what he could take from this Country, not what he could give back. Ask not what you can do for your country, but ask what your country can do for Hinzman.

While the military takes care of its own, I would never in my wildest dreams compare it with a kibbutz or a farming collective. We take care of our own because we depend on our own to honor our oath to protect and defend.

So 17 weeks of school puts Hinzman's arrival at Fort Bragg for duty with the 82nd Airborne Division at around the first of June, 2001. Despite knowing that he had to get out, he continues to serve without objection, reaping the "socialist" benefits of the US Army.

Hinzman claims he began getting religion in January 2002 when he and his wife started attending a Quaker Studies group. His son was born in May of 2002.

Hinzman said he turned in his first application to be a conscientious objector in August 2002, saying he wanted to fulfill his service obligation but not to participate in combat. He claims this was before he received deployment orders to Afghanistan. The interesting thing is that the 82nd began to deploy to Afghanistan prior to May of 2002.

His conscientous objector claim was reviewed by the Army while Hinzman was in Afghanistan. His CO application was denied because Hinzman testified that he would certainly be able to kill the enemy in a defensive battle, he was just opposed to offensive operations. To be granted CO status, one must be opposed to killing in any form. Period. The Army correctly denied his application.

He was moved to non combat duty anyway in the mess hall. Hinzman alludes to this as being some form of retaliation. The truth is that returning him to combat status would have risked the lives of those around him, and that there are few other jobs in a forward area for which he was qualified.

Following his return to Fort Bragg, Hinzman resumed reaping the benefits of military service.

On Dec. 20, 2003, Hinzman found out that his unit would be deployed to Iraq. On Jan. 2 - a Friday, the start of a four-day weekend - he packed his wife and 14-month-old son, Liam, into their car for the 18-hour drive to Canada.

There are a few omissions from Hinzman's version of events. He joined the Army at a time of relative calm. And he was living fat and happy on the dole until September 11, 2001. The more likely scenario is that Hinzman's yellow streak started to show when it became apparent that we were at war. And it would become more apparent that as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, he would definitely see combat. Better start building your alibi quickly. There Quakers were his cover.

The 82nd started deploying troops to Afghanistan and had boots on the ground by May of 2002. It would have been abundantly clear at that point whether other units within the 82nd were going to deploy, and it would have been common knowledge around base. Hinzman did not get around to getting his CO application in until August of 2002, over 3 months after the 82nd began its deployment. He claims the Army told him they lost the application but he later found it in his personnel file. A unit about to participate in a major overseas deployment is a 24 hour, 7 days a week, exercise in organized chaos. It may be that the Army misfiled his CO application, but so what? The result would have been the same - it would have been denied.

After Afghanistan, he had a good look at what it is like "in theater", and he did not like it. But when he arrived back in the US, he never tried to revive his CO application or to apply for non combat duties. And why should he, being back on the government dole making Uncle Sam honor his end of the deal.

When he received his deployment orders for Iraq, his back turned caution tape yellow. He deserted his post and snuck across the Canadian border.

Once in Canada, Hinzman did something profoundly stupid. He hired a lawyer, got a publicist, started a web site and began bashing the US and his comrades as war criminals. Apparently, no one advised PVT Hinzman that even though he was AWOL and classified as a deserter, the Army still considered him to be in the Army. Anything you say is still subject to the rules laid out by the military, and can and will be used against you at your Courts Martial.

In another in your face move, Hinzman hired a Canadian lawyer who happens to be a Vietnam draft dodger. Hinzman's lawyer, Jeffry House, slithered across the Wisconsin border over 30 years ago leaving his country forever. House is no fan of the United States, the Bush Administration or the war in Iraq.

Hinzman's PR firm is another "screw the US" move. The firm, Lefty Lucy Communications, is run by Audra Williams, who is in the running to be the modern day Tokyo Rose. Lefty Lucy quickly moved to create a website and formed an alliance with Michael Moore, who features the Hinzman story on his website. I wonder why this did not come out during the US Presidential election, but it is out now. Just when I thought Michael Moore could not get any lower, he rallies behind the cause of a deserter.

Lefty Lucy has been on a tear. LL has made Hinzman's case a darling of Al Jezeerah . Ms, Williams (a.k.a. "Toronto Rose") clinched Hinzman an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN . That interview produced the following interesting exchange:

COOPER: Jeremy, you talk about morality, though. You did sign a contract. You did know what the Army was about when you signed that contract. You took an oath to defend the Constitution, and you promised to obey orders. You were ordered to go to Iraq, and you broke that contract.

HINZMAN: I did. You said it well. I signed a contract to defend the Constitution, not conquer the world. So...

COOPER: But do you get to -- what gives you the right, a lot of people would argue, to pick and choose? Soldiers traditionally aren't able to do that. If soldiers did that, there would be no discipline, there would be no following orders.

HINZMAN: No, there wouldn't. But just a second. I'm choking up. But when I signed the contract to join the Army, I didn't sign away my ability to have a free will and to be a moral being. And taking part in a preemptive war that fits no criteria for just wars, I mean, I would be no different than a Nazi soldier who served for...

COOPER: Why did you sign up to the Army? I mean, you knew it was a military organization. Was it simply that you wanted money for college?

HINZMAN: It was for practical reasons. Yes, it was for practical reasons. The Army has a good marketing department. It seemed like a good practical move at the time.


12-13-04, 10:56 AM
But Toronto Rose was in overdrive. On September 14, 2004, Toronto Rose got Hinzman a gig on Islamonline. That online question and answer session garnered Hinzman rock star status in the terrorist...

12-13-04, 11:38 AM
The Big Picture
The New York Post

December 12, 2004 -- THE hardest fighting in places like Fallujah and An Najaf has been concluded - for now. The casualties for American forces would, even for a campaign in Korea or Vietnam, be termed "light" - unless, of course the killed and wounded are your friends and family, in which case there is no such thing as a "light" casualty rate. This may be part of the problem for the United States.

It's tough in the middle of a war to maintain a sense of perspective, a sense of the "big picture."

We have a number of reporters who spend a great deal of time down at the combat infantry level - what we used to refer to as "where the rubber meets the road" or, where it "hits the fan."

We also have a number of people covering what happens in Washington, D.C. - and other world capitals. Few of these reporters, if their comments are to be taken at face value, are very keen on or perceptive of what it is that we're trying to accomplish.

WHAT we seem to be miss ing are the mid-level view and the long view.

These are exceedingly hard to perceive when the bulk of the images and information to which we are privy are either exceedingly violent, as dense black smoke spirals up from some car bombing, or as American troops dash through rubble and fire from the doubtful protection of ruined doorways; mundane, as administration spokesmen - generals, the secretary of defense or President Bush - state overall policy objectives; or dismal, as homeless Iraqis look up at the cameras, their eyes a mixture of fear, hate and despair. While all of these images are valid, none should be taken in isolation as a true picture of what's at stake in Iraq.

Where, for example, are the images of American troops providing aid, comfort and support to Iraqi citizens?

Where are the images of average Iraqi citizens busily at work rebuilding their lives and their businesses?

Where are the images of Iraqi soldiers and policemen working hard at re-establishing a stable and prosperous society?

We don't see many of those images, and yet they exist - far more so than the images of violence and death that so pervade our television newscasts and daily newsprint.

This dichotomy is strongly hinted at by a story in The Washington Post that quotes Juan Cole, a University of Michigan expert on Iraqi affairs.

Cole has a blog called "Informed Comment" ( http://www.juancole.com/ ) that notes "that the U.S. military is full of brave and skilled warriors who can defeat their foes, but is still no good at counterinsurgency operations, and is wretched at winning hearts and minds." And yet, that observation, while partially accurate, misses the point.

Yes, the U.S. military is poorly structured for counterinsurgency operations - which, by its very nature, is the toughest kind of combat - but it learns very quickly. Perhaps more quickly than any army in the past. Despite comments to the contrary, the U.S. Army's leaders have studied vociferously the conduct of past counterinsurgency operations from Algeria to Vietnam and from Oman to Malaya.

THE lessons of these conflicts are not lost on our officers but rather built on and expanded.

Not only do our soldiers exchange information and experience among themselves, but now, at the 7th U.S. Army Training Center in Grafenwoehr, Germany, a formal program called the "Expeditionary Training Center" offers a modern approach to training forces - U.S. and allied - for the kinds of modern combat our military faces.

Under the able direction of Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, himself a veteran of the war in Iraq, this initiative is designed to better prepare our forces for the difficult situations they will inevitably face in the short term and for years to come.

Soldiers who have learned from operations on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as Bosnia and Kosovo) now share their combat observations (Hertling rejects the term "lessons learned" because of the changing nature of today's battlefields and the different environments where our soldiers fight) with their colleagues so that success will be imitated and exploited while mistakes are examined and solutions derived to prevent them from occurring on future battlefields.

According to Hertling, the training at this Expeditionary Center is both live and virtual, with soldiers facing replicated combat conditions both "in the dirt" and through the use of high-tech computer simulations. The trainers at this center are able to generate a heavy coat of sweat on their training audience, from the individual soldier conducting a mission to a Joint Task Force Commander planning an operation.

Cole would be quite surprised to see the kind of scenarios that train counterinsurgency operations. The training design incorporates Information Operations, civilians on the battlefield, media requirements, clerics and non-governmental organizations and other factors as part of the training methodology for preparing our units for things they will find on the battlefield.

Further, although little publicized, efforts to rebuild, reorganize and train Iraqi police and military units are moving forward at a significant pace.

TAKING their cues from Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, for merly commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Iraqi defense and security personnel are being prepared to reassert control of their own country. It's not an easy or easily praised program, and yet it deserves our attention, respect and appreciation.

"In truth," says Gen. Petraeus, "Iraqi forces are starting to show their stuff." It's been a difficult, a challenging business but the benefits are indeed starting to show.

As Petraeus puts it, "They've done well in Fallujah, North Babil, Samarra and Baghdad. And, though the police in Mosul were a big disappointment, the police commandos who deployed there in the wake of the enemy attacks have done magnificently and, alongside the superb Stryker Brigade elements there, actually have the enemy on the run."

As the Iraqi forces continue to gain experience and regain their self-confidence, aided by American expertise, they are gradually assuming a number of the duties currently being done by U.S. forces. This is particularly true in the 12 provinces - of Iraq's 18 - in which the situation is calm. Iraqi Security Forces are maintaining the peace, and rebuilding and economic revival are underway.

NOR is this all that's been ac complished. And our news organizations should pay more attention to the Herculean efforts being made by the average soldier when not engaged in a firefight.

Schools and hospitals are being rebuilt by men and women who are making themselves as handy with bricklaying mortar as they are with an 81-millimeter mortar.

Roads are being re-paved, and Iraqi citizens are being fed, clothed and cared for by some of the toughest soldiers in the world.

Medical assistance is being provided, and it is not unusual to see our soldiers tending to the wounds of an insurgent who, moments before, was trying to kill them. This is not something you'll see from the other side.

The enemy, you must remember, has a different agenda. They are not engaged in Iraq to rebuild, to educate, to liberate. The enemy, led by as remarkable and onerous a set of pseudo-religious fanatics as has ever existed, is focused on terror and destruction.

Not given to works of charity, not inclined to be merciful or humane, they do not see a world of potential friends or allies. Instead the world outside of their narrow focus is populated solely by enemies - all of whom merit only horror and annihilation. From Jakarta to Madrid to New York City, there are no neutrals.

THIS is as much a "world war" as any that has preceded it. Our forces in the field are doing now what should have been done against Adolph Hitler when he moved against Czechoslovakia. In hindsight we can see what the consequences of our inaction in that case were.

We cannot afford - the world cannot afford - a repeat of the mistakes of the 1930s. Our Armed Forces are working hard to see that the world is not again plunged into darkness.

That is the big picture.

Frederick J. Chiaventone, an award-winning novelist and screenwriter, is a retired Army officer who taught counterinsurgency operations at the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College.


12-13-04, 11:55 AM
Guard troops in Iraq face relatively high death rate
Dec. 13, 2004

WASHINGTON -- In a reversal of trends from past wars, part-time soldiers in the Army National Guard are about one-third more likely to be killed in Iraq than full-time active-duty soldiers serving there, a USA Today analysis of Pentagon statistics shows.

According to figures furnished by the military branches, the active Army has sent about 250,000 soldiers to Iraq and 622 have been killed. That works out to one death for every 402 soldiers who have deployed.

Some 37,000 Army Guard soldiers have been sent to Iraq since the war began and 140 have died there -- one fatality for every 264 soldiers who have served, or about a 35 percent higher death rate.

There are several reasons for the greater death rates among so-called part-time soldiers.

The Pentagon has called up thousands of part-time troops for tours of a year or more in Iraq. Some of the most dangerous missions, including driving convoys and guarding bases and other facilities, frequently are assigned to Guard and Reserve troops. Iraqi insurgents have attacked convoys with roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, and a Tennessee Guardsman publicly complained to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week about the lack of armor on some vehicles.

Active-duty casualties have spiked during major battles such as the attack on Fallujah, which was largely carried out by Army and Marine troops. But such large-scale engagements have rarely been waged since President Bush declared major combat over in May 2003.

Other branches with troops in harm's way in Iraq -- the Army Reserves, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Navy -- did not supply total numbers of their troops deployed to Iraq since the war began in March 2003, which would have made similar comparisons possible. But fatality numbers show the vast majority of U.S. deaths in Iraq come from the active-duty Army, active-duty Marines, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. The Marines have lost 350 troops, while the Army Reserve has suffered 59 deaths. The Air Force and Navy together have suffered 27 deaths.

The elevated death rates among part-time soldiers is a significant shift from historical trends. During most wars in the last century, the full-time military -- including the Air Force and Navy -- took the vast majority of casualties, and their troops were much more likely to die in battle than Guardsmen and Reservists.

In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, for example, the Army Guard suffered no fatalities out of 382 U.S. deaths. A total of 94 Army National Guardsmen and no Reservists were killed out of 58,209 U.S. deaths in Vietnam.

"It's a changed paradigm," said Richard Stark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. "We have completely crossed the line in terms of what it is to be a citizen-soldier."

It's unclear what effect the elevated death rate will have on the part-time military's ability to recruit and keep soldiers. Although the Guard has met its goals for retaining soldiers since the war began, it missed its recruiting goal of 56,000 soldiers last year by about 7,000 and has fallen behind this year.


12-13-04, 03:26 PM
Iraqi Leader Criticizes U.S.-Led Coalition

By MICHAEL McDONOUGH, Associated Press Writer

LONDON - Iraq (news - web sites)'s interim President Ghazi al-Yawer warned in an interview published Monday that long-term instability and violence in his country could create the conditions for an "Iraqi Hitler" to emerge.

"If the situation in Iraq will continue like this, it will create within the Iraqi people feelings of bitterness, rage and humiliation which will provide, in the long run, an appropriate environment for an Iraqi Hitler to appear similar to the German Hitler who emerged after Germany's defeat and the humiliation of the German people in World War I," al-Yawer was quoted as saying in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

In a separate interview in London, where al-Yawer made a brief stop after visiting the United States, the interim president said the U.S.-led coalition was wrong to dismantle the Iraqi security forces after last year's invasion.

"Definitely dissolving the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior was a big mistake at that time," al-Yawer told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"We could have screened people out instead of screening them in, and this could have saved us a lot of hassle and problems," he said.

Critics of the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion say the decision to disband the 350,000-strong Iraqi army and to purge the state of members of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s Baath party has contributed to chaos and helped fuel insurgency in postwar Iraq.

Al-Yawer said the security situation wouldn't be resolved unless Iraq's own security forces were "100 percent efficient."

"We have to reinstate some of the clean-record army officers and police officers," he told the BBC.

"As soon as we have efficient security forces that we can depend on, we can see the beginning of the withdrawal of forces from our friends and partners. And I think it doesn't take years, it will take months."

The Iraqi president said he feared insurgents would intensify their campaign of violence in the run-up to elections on Jan. 30.

"Their tactical target is to undermine the electoral process and to stop us having our first elections," he said.

Al-Yawer also said neighboring countries were interfering in Iraqi affairs.

"There are so many people crossing the border from neighboring countries, specifically Iran," he said. "I think there are some elements of official Iran, I don't mean the whole government, (who) are playing a role in organizing and financing things in Iraq preparing for the elections."

He didn't say what activities he believed the Iranians were involved in.

Al-Yawer also said he believed elements of the Syrian security services were harboring insurgents. "(Syria) is a country that is run by security ... and definitely they cannot operate from Syria unless there is somebody who is condoning what they are doing," he said.

Stability in Iraq was in the interest of its neighbors, he added.

"When a fire breaks out in your neighbor's house, you should put it out quickly, not only for the sake of your neighbor but also so that you are not forced to extinguish in your home when it spreads there," he said.


12-13-04, 03:49 PM
Shadow Platoon still mourns
soldier who 'defined who we were'

By Steve Liewer, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Monday, December 13, 2004

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SUMMERALL, Iraq — Sgt. Collin MacInnes carefully crosses off each day of his long, bitter Iraq adventure on the calendar.

All except Sept. 20. That was the day Shadow Platoon lost its heart and soul.

His name was Spc. Joshua Henry, a gregarious 21-year-old from Avonmore, Pa. A muscle-bound gym rat, he had starred on his undefeated high school football team. A trained sniper, he could shoot better than almost anyone in Battery A of the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery. He never missed a chance to joke or wisecrack with his buddies.

Henry attracted children like a magnet. Iraqi youngsters swarmed around him, and he could play with them for hours. In the towns where Shadow Platoon patrolled, kids who didn’t speak English would run up to the soldiers shouting, “Henry! Henry!” searching every face for their playmate.

After the Army, the tattooed sharpshooter planned to become a kindergarten teacher.

“He had one of the kindest hearts of anybody I’ve ever known,” said Spc. Travis Harney, 20, of Winchester, Ky., who rode with Henry the day he died.

Sept. 20 remains unmarked on MacInnes’ calendar.

“That day never ended for me,” said MacInnes, 22, of Stockton, Calif. “He was Alpha Battery. He defined who we were.”

A day like all others

The day began like any other, with Shadow Platoon rising early to escort the battery’s executive officer to Ash Sharqat for a city council meeting.

Ash Sharqat lies at the edge of Salah ad Din province, 200 miles north of Baghdad. Although it is dominated by Sunni Muslims and is in Saddam Hussein’s home province, it suffered from neglect under his regime because nearly all of its residents belong to a different tribe from the deposed dictator. The insurgency hadn’t taken hold there.

“Usually, (we had) an extremely friendly response in Ash Sharqat,” said Capt. Jason Ebert, 25, of Wayne, Pa., who commanded the convoy. That day, he said, started out the same way.

The convoy included six Humvees. The 40-mile drive from Summerall to Ash Sharqat took more than an hour. The soldiers stood guard until the meeting ended at 12:30 p.m.

Oddly, few people milled about in the usually crowded streets after the meeting — often a sign of trouble, because insurgents will frequently put out word when they are planning to attack.

“That was the only thing really out of the ordinary,” said Sgt. Eric Parsons, 28, of Charleston, W.Va., one of two Army journalists on the trip, from the Ohio-based 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. “It probably put a lot of people (on edge), made them more alert.”

A few minutes down the road, in the village of Huni, the soldiers heard gunfire. The convoy stopped, soldiers dismounted, ready to shoot.

Suddenly, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire rained down. The insurgents fired from at least five different entrenched positions.

“That’s the first time the enemy seemed like they were intent on fighting,” said Staff Sgt. Dan Sowell, 30, of Vidalia, Ga. “Usually they’d just shoot and run.”

Within seconds, the whole platoon manned its guns and returned fire. Luckily the rebels’ first fusillade had missed.

Each Humvee crew picked different targets with their rifles and mounted machine guns.

“The fight was different for every vehicle,” Ebert said. “I thought we could overcome them with the .50-cals.”

They did. In the fifth Humvee, for example, MacInnes, Harney and Spc. Timothy Schrack destroyed first a six-man enemy squad, then a two-man machine gun nest. Then they engaged fighters shooting grenades from behind a concrete wall.

‘We’re getting out of here’

Ebert, in the second vehicle, stood next to Henry, his driver, firing their weapons over the top of the Humvee. But some of the enemy had maneuvered behind them.

Suddenly a shot knocked Ebert to the ground. He looked and saw that Henry, too had been hit in the side, a bullet passing clear through him where his armored vest was weakest.

“He jerked up,” Ebert recalled. “I said to myself, ‘Oh [expletive]. He made a noise, but he put the rifle back up on his shoulder. Henry’s one of those guys — he’s just strong as an ox.”

But the rifle fire kept coming. Two more bullets hit Henry in the legs, finally knocking him down. Ebert screamed for a medic, and Sgt. 1st Class Erick Macher, 30, of Sacramento, Calif., pulled his Humvee up next to Henry and loaded him aboard.

“We said, ‘Screw it, we’re getting out of here,” MacInnes said.

The convoy raced off to Tinderbox, a nearby firebase with a tiny aid station. A civilian physician’s assistant and a Task Force 1-7 medic, Spc. Luis Song, 22, of Miami, did all they could to keep Henry alive.

The first bullet collapsed his lung, ruptured his spleen and hit his spine.

“They stuck a needle in [his chest] to try and help him breathe,” said Pfc. Kyle Hledinsky, 21, of Elwood City, Pa., who held a pressure dressing on the side wound while Pvt. Shannon Squires, 24, of Virginia Beach, Va., did the same to the badly bleeding leg wound.

A medevac helicopter from Tikrit got there an hour later and took him to the 67th Combat Support Hospital in Tikrit. The platoon started on the long drive back to Summerall without Macher and Henry.

“That was the quietest ride,” MacInnes said.

Meanwhile, medics gave Henry artificial respiration, who was still somewhat alert, Macher said. “I tried to get closer to him, but the medics kept pushing me away.”

At the hospital, he waited anxiously outside the emergency room. Doctors and nurses kept giving him conflicting reports on his friend’s condition. Once they came outside, looking for blood donors, but Macher’s was the wrong type.

Two hours after they arrived, a doctor came out with the bad news. Henry had lost too much blood. He didn’t make it.

‘A Better Place’

Shadow Platoon grieved quietly. The next day, a combat stress team came and talked to them, and two days later the base held a tearful memorial service. The task force commander, Lt. Col. Kyle McClelland, ordered Summerall’s gym — Henry’s favorite hangout — renamed in his honor.

“I still expect to see him in there sometimes,” Ebert said.

Henry posthumously earned a Bronze Star with Valor, as well as a Purple Heart and an Army Commendation Medal. Eight other men, including Schrack and Harney, have been nominated for valor awards.

Ebert wrestles with his conscience. Henry had been assigned to a platoon operating the 1-7 Field Artillery’s howitzers, a job that kept him at Summerall all the time. He begged Ebert for months to rejoin Shadow Platoon so he could patrol with his buddies. Ebert had relented and moved him just two weeks before the fatal mission.

“It’s so hard to lose him,” Ebert said.

Hledinsky, home in October on his midtour leave, visited Henry’s parents, Larry and Perri, and three of his six brothers and sisters at their home in Pennsylvania.

“I was nervous at first. I didn’t know what I’d say or what I’d do,” Hledinsky said. “But once I met them, I felt like I’d known them my entire life.”

MacInnes left Sept. 20 unmarked on his calendar. Back in California, he had once played in a heavy metal band. Now he got out the acoustic guitar and penned a quieter song that expressed his sadness over his lost buddy. He called it “A Better Place.”



12-13-04, 06:13 PM
Iraq Insurgents Targeting More Police

By KATARINA KRATOVAC, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - In the three months since he joined the police force in the Iraqi capital, Khalid Qassim has seen five fellow officers killed by insurgents. If he were not the family's sole breadwinner, that alone would have made him reconsider his job.

"The work is dangerous, but I'm forced to continue," said the 25-year-old Qassim.

In Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, police chief Maj. Gen. Talib Shamel al-Samarrai felt differently. Al-Samarrai resigned after insurgents attacked his home and the police headquarters.

He asked a cleric to announce his resignation over a loudspeaker from a mosque, saying he could no longer perform his duties and would have no longer have any "relations to any government body." On Sunday, al-Samarrai and his family left the city.

Deadly attacks on the police — whether rank-and-file or top officers — are just one part of a campaign by insurgents to foil elections set for Jan. 30.

Policemen are perceived as easier targets than the better-trained and equipped army soldiers or paramilitary national guard, according to Sabah Kadhim, a senior adviser at Iraq (news - web sites)'s interior ministry.

Despite the attacks, Kadhim said there is no shortage of young men willing to enlist.

The main problem is not getting Iraqis to join the 135,000-strong force, but equipping police with better arms and providing adequate training, along with locations for that training, he said, adding that Germany, Canada and the United Arab Emirates have offered to help.

"It's a struggle on a number of fronts," Kadhim said. "But we are becoming more confident, especially as we get more armored cars, weapons."

Still, the killings have dealt a blow to police morale, prompting mass desertions in some areas. Absenteeism is also said to be rampant. Spies are believed to have infiltrated the force.

Last weekend, assailants gunned down a police colonel outside the northern city of Beiji, and killed a brigadier general and a police colonel in Baghdad's southwestern Saidiyah neighborhood. On Friday, an attack on a police patrol in Baghdad's northern Azamiyah suburb killed a captain and a constable.

The deadliest recent attack on police took place Dec. 3 in Baghdad's western Amil district, close to the dangerous road to Baghdad's International Airport.

Forty gunmen in 11 cars first showered the Amil police station with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades before raiding it and killing 16 policemen. Attackers also looted weapons, released detainees and torched police cars in the process.

Most of the attacks have taken place in the Sunni Muslim-dominated area in central Iraq. Insurgents regard Iraq's interim government as a puppet regime and its security forces as collaborators with the U.S.-led occupation.


Associated Press reporters Bushra Juhi and Saad Qadir contributed to this report.


12-13-04, 06:33 PM
General Hagee to Check Out New Armored Vehicle in Iraq
Monday December 13, 3:17 PM EST

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The top officer in the U.S. Marines will take a look at a new armored transport truck in Iraq on Tuesday, according to the vehicle's manufacturer.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee will encounter the Cougar, made by Force Protection Inc. (FRCP), during an inspection of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, if the event takes place as scheduled. The troop-transport trucks are designed to keep passengers safe from land mines, homemade bombs and other attacks.

In a Monday interview with Dow Jones Newswires, company executives said the Cougar is designed for urban war, where there are no front lines and no clear battlefields.

"If you're going to stand around on a street corner trying to win hearts and minds, you better be able to take a punch, because you've got a big target on your back," said Mike Aldrich, vice president of sales and a retired Army officer. He says the vehicles are designed to keep passengers unhurt, not just alive, after an attack.

Vehicle armor and other types of protective gear catapulted into the spotlight last week, when soldiers headed for Iraq raised the issue with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The Army is adding armor kits and armored vehicles to its arsenal, but the adequacy of these efforts remains in question.

Most of the Army's vehicles are cargo trucks or Humvees, which weren't designed for combat zones. The Army has turned to "up-armored" Humvees for extra protection, but these vehicles are still vulnerable to some blasts.

The Cougar is descended from vehicles used in Southern Africa, where insurgent-style conflict has raged for decades, said Aldrich and Force Protection Chairman Frank Kavanaugh. It costs about $400,000 per vehicle and comes in versions with four or six wheels.

Force Protection's truck includes important differences from a Humvee that make it more resilient. For example, the vehicle bottom is U-shaped to deflect blasts from below, wheels are set outside the crew cab instead of underneath, and it has extra weight so it will stay upright.

"The next time you're looking at an upside down burning Humvee, you'll notice the wheels are inside the passenger cabin, and you'll notice how flat the vehicle is underneath," Aldrich said.

The Cougar uses parts made by American firms like Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) and Mack Trucks Inc. (MAK.XX) so it will be easier to repair in the field. For example, the Cougar uses the same engines as the U.S. Army's new Stryker wheeled combat vehicles, made by General Dynamics Corp. (GD), which have received rave reviews for their performance in Iraq.

So far, South Carolina-based Force Protection remains a small player in military contracting circles, although it is growing. The seven-year old firm has about 140 employees now, compared with 20 a few years ago.

Force Protection had revenue of about $6 million in 2003. It is on track to double that this year, Kavanaugh said.

However, the changing nature of war in Iraq has set the stage for the company to sell more Cougars and its other line of vehicles, a land-mine-clearing vehicle called the Buffalo that costs about $750,000 each and recently has been used in Afghanistan.

"We're trying to design the ultimate vehicle - the vehicle that you want to be in if you're going to be hit by a blast," Kavanaugh said.


12-13-04, 10:40 PM
Just wondering? Is the U.S. slow on the uptake or does it just take time to figure out that war machines are neccesary for war?

Hello war planers, anyone home?