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  1. #1

    Cool 20 U.S. Soldiers Wounded in Ramadi

    20 U.S. Soldiers Wounded in Ramadi

    By The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  2. #2
    All Sides Prepare for American Attack on Falluja
    The New York Times

    NEAR FALLUJA, Iraq, Nov. 5 - American armored vehicles roared through the villages surrounding Falluja, the western town at the heart of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, on Friday as warplanes pounded rebel positions and ground forces ratcheted up their preparations for what appeared to be an imminent assault on the city.

    Within Falluja, insurgents who were hiding themselves by day among a dwindling and embittered populace set up a defensive perimeter around the city and said they would defeat the Americans or die in a cause they called just.

    Marines gathering outside the city practiced house-to-house fighting, while some American crews fitted their armored vehicles with front-loading shovels designed to unearth explosives buried in the roads on the way in. Marines fired artillery rounds throughout the day and night on positions around the city.

    "We are going to rid the city of insurgents," said Lt. Col. Gary Brandl, a battalion commander in charge of about 800 marines at a base outside the city. "If they do fight, we will kill them."

    Military intelligence officials say as many as 75 to 80 percent of the city's 250,000 residents have fled. That estimate was consistent with reports from inside Falluja.

    As battle preparations went forward, top American commanders in Iraq and senior Bush administration officials in Washington were conducting final reviews of their own.

    At the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., President Bush was briefed Friday morning on the battle plans in a videoconference with his top national security advisers to discuss Iraq.

    American officials said the precise timing was being left to American commanders in the field and to Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of Iraq. "People here are asking, 'What about this issue?' or 'Have you thought about that?' But otherwise, they're leaving the planning up to the people on the ground," said a senior military officer in Washington.

    Visiting European Union leaders in Brussels on Friday, Dr. Allawi reiterated his warning that "the window is really closing" on chances for a peaceful settlement of the standoff. Negotiators for the two sides have not met in more than a week.

    At the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan confirmed that he had formally expressed concern about the effects any invasion of Falluja would have on stability in the country ahead of elections scheduled for January. His concerns could cloud prospects for a major United Nations role in Iraq in the elections and afterward.

    Dr. Allawi and American officials have insisted that they must reassert control over Falluja quickly in order to pave the way for the elections. Falluja lies squarely within a region of the country dominated by Sunni Arabs, a minority group whose participation in the elections is considered crucial if the outcome is to be accepted as legitimate. Favored under Saddam Hussein's rule, disenfranchised Sunnis are now leading the increasingly deadly insurgency.

    Outside the city, the Americans were setting up military checkpoints to choke off access roads. Warplanes conducted at least five major airstrikes on Friday.

    Insurgents inside the city continued their own preparations, filtering through waning crowds of ordinary people in the markets and on the streets.

    A man who had been encountered at a fortified position on the perimeter of the city a few days before was seen downtown on Friday morning wearing a T-shirt and pants from a track suit. He was driving a motorcycle and carrying a huge bag of clips for an automatic rifle.

    The man, who identified himself as Abu Muhammad, said the fighters were more numerous and better prepared than the last time they battled the Americans, in April. "We trust in God," he said, explaining why he thought that the insurgents were so strong. "We have two choices - victory or martyrdom."

    Beyond those sentiments, the insurgents appear to have the benefit of some fairly sophisticated military advice. They have built a layered perimeter with at least one inner fortified ring that would give them a place to retreat to should the outer ring be breached.

    American commanders in Iraq have expressed confidence they could complete their assault in a matter of days, but a senior officer said Friday that planners had no sure way of knowing how long insurgents would hold out. "Right now, they're hoping it doesn't go much longer than a week," the officer said.

    Meanwhile, the insurgents continued with their deadly attacks. An American soldier was killed and five were wounded in an attack on a base near Falluja on Friday, the United States military reported. The injuries were said to be "the result of an indirect fire attack," a term the military generally reserves for mortars or rockets.

    Two marines were killed during security operations around Ramadi, west of Falluja, on Thursday, while one soldier in the First Infantry Division died and another was wounded in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, when an improvised bomb exploded near their vehicle.

    [A group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an ally of Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility on Saturday for a car bombing that killed three British troops south of Baghdad on Thursday, Reuters reported. The men were among about 850 British soldiers sent to free up American forces for the attack on Falluja. Also on Saturday, two car bombs exploded in the town of Samarra north of Baghdad, killing at least 19 people and wounding at least 23, police said.]

    As preparations for the battle of Falluja sped forward, there were warnings that it could have devastating consequences far from the small piece of turf at issue.

    The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Secretary General Annan of the United Nations had sent a letter to the governments of Britain, Iraq and the United States expressing concern that continued military attacks on the rebel-held city would alienate people and disrupt elections. The United Nations did not release the text of the letter and, in a corridor conversation with reporters, Mr. Annan confirmed its existence but declined to discuss it.

    Asked about United Nations worries about the effect on the elections of the American-led military assault on Falluja, Kieran Prendergast, the under secretary for political affairs, said, "It is important to understand that elections are not a stand-alone event, that the context in which they are held is very important if they are to have the effect of promoting stability in Iraq."

    American military officials said the exact timing of any attack on Falluja hinged on a range of factors. Officials in Washington said Dr. Allawi wanted more time to discuss with his cabinet, as well as religious and tribal leaders, the political and military ramifications of an American-led offensive. Some Sunni leaders have appealed to the interim government to call off any attack.

    Military officials said the remaining residents in Falluja needed a last warning to leave the city before any assault began.

    The chief Marine intelligence officer in Iraq, Col. Ronald S. Makuta, gave this description in an e-mail message from his headquarters at Camp Falluja, three miles east of the city: "Those remaining fall under the categories of not having enough money to move out or simply do not want to leave their homes and possessions for fear that these will be gutted and or robbed by the foreign fighters, local insurgents, and criminals. Insurgents continue to wage a brutal campaign of murder, assassination, terror, kidnapping, coercion, and intimidation. The criminal content has also taken advantage of the lawlessness in the city, and are pursuing similar means."

    The operation is shaping up to be the largest since the American invasion of the country 20 months ago. A senior military officer said that roughly 25,000 American and Iraqi troops were surrounding Falluja and Ramadi and the corridor between the two cities. Another senior military official said that from 10,000 to 15,000 of those troops were immediately around Falluja. They face an Iraqi insurgent force in the city that Colonel Brandl estimated at a few thousand fighters.

    It is all intended to set right the disastrous events of April, when a large force of marines attacked the city after the killing and mutilation of four American contractors there. Though the Americans were making steady progress in the city center, they were forced to halt their attacks when Iraqi leaders became unnerved over reports, largely unconfirmed, that hundreds of civilians had been killed there.

    That time, the fighting in Falluja helped fuel armed uprisings in other parts of the country against the American presence here.

    Iraqi leaders and American commanders say they are worried about similar risings now, particularly in volatile cities like Mosul, but they say that circumstances have shifted markedly since then. This time, with the American occupation formally over, Iraqi leaders are in charge and willing to take some of the political heat for the operations.

    American soldiers preparing to move into the city say they expect to find homemade bombs along roads and fortified positions around the city's perimeter. The Americans said they were preparing for close-quarters urban fighting.

    Thousands of Iraqi troops have moved into position with their American counterparts and are expected to take part. In the pattern set in similar operations in Najaf and Samarra, American soldiers are to do most of the fighting on the way in, clearing the way for the Iraqi security forces to take control once the insurgents are defeated. With this method, Iraqi and American leaders hope for the best of both worlds: American muscle and an Iraqi face.

    The performance of the Iraqi security forces is viewed as crucial to the success or failure of the mission in Falluja. In April, entire units of the Iraqi police and national guard disintegrated before uprisings in Falluja and southern Iraq.

    Now, American commanders say they have higher hopes, particularly because of the intensive training that Iraqi units have received.

    Dexter Filkins reported from near Falluja for this article, and James Glanz from Baghdad. Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, an Iraqi employee of The New York Times from Falluja, and Warren Hoge from the United Nations.


  3. #3
    US Marines ready to attack Fallujah
    November 6, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  4. #4
    US Marines face murder charges
    06 November 2004

    LOS ANGELES: Two US Army soldiers face murder charges in a military trial in Baghdad for shooting and killing a badly wounded Iraqi teenager mistaken for an insurgent by US troops, the Los Angeles Times has reported.

    The newspaper quoted the two Army staff sergeants as saying they shot and killed the Iraqi boy in a "mercy killing" as he lay moaning on the ground in an August incident in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City.

    The two soldiers told US officials that they killed the teenager in order to "put him out of his misery," the newspaper said.

    But Iraqi witnesses, including a relative of the dead boy who had pleaded for US troops to help him, were enraged by the killing, which seemed certain to re-ignite a debate about the conduct of US troops in Iraq in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.

    The boy was shot as US medics rushed to treat a half dozen or so of those wounded when US troops opened fire on a garbage truck after mistakenly concluding that it was planting roadside bombs, the newspaper said, quoting Iraqi witnesses and US military officials.

    The truck exploded into flames and about seven Iraqis were killed in the August 18 incident, including the boy shot on the ground, the newspaper said.

    Staff Sgt Cardenas Alban, 29, of Carson, California and Staff Sgt. Johnny Horne Jr, 30, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina both of the Army's 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment face military court proceedings in Baghdad to determine if there is enough evidence for court martial, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    If convicted, they could receive the death penalty.

    US military officials told the newspaper that they could not identify the dead Iraqi boy because they did not collect information at the scene and had lost track of his body.

    Citing Iraqi witnesses, the Los Angeles Times identified the victim as Qassim Hassan, 16, who had been working the night shift on the garbage truck with his brother and several cousins.

    None of those named in the newspaper's report or their representatives could be immediately reached for comment.



  5. #5
    Posted on Sat, Nov. 06, 2004

    Best friends, Marines died together on second Iraq tour


    Associated Press

    SAN FRANCISCO AP) - They played together in childhood, wrestled together in high school and joined the Marines together after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    This week, the two young men from the San Joaquin Valley died together in a dangerous area of Iraq where the military is preparing a major assault on insurgents. Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard, 22, of Clovis, and Cpl. Jeremiah Baro, 21, of Fresno, were remembered as close friends who wanted to do something honorable for their country.

    "There's just so much to say. I don't know where to start," Hubbard's father, Jeff, told The Associated Press by telephone Friday as he fought back tears to describe his son.

    The family was notified of the deaths Thursday but has been told few details.

    The Defense Department on Friday said the Camp Pendleton-based Marines died Thursday from enemy action in Anbar province, where the military was preparing for a massive offensive into the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah.

    Hubbard and Baro were on their second tour in Iraq. They returned home briefly over the summer, then trained together as snipers before returning to the battlefield.

    They kept in touch with friends and told them conditions were more perilous when they returned. Brandon Sanchez, a friend of both, said Hubbard and Baro had a harder time determining who their enemies were.

    "They said things over there were worse this time than before," Sanchez told The Fresno Bee. "They had been in some pretty bad gunfights."

    They had known each other since childhood and made the wrestling team at Buchanan High School in Clovis, a Fresno suburb.

    Hubbard made the varsity team as a sophomore, wrestling seniors who were state champions in the 145-pound division, said Chris Hansen, his former coach. He didn't win many matches that year but helped the team win the Central Valley title.

    "He was an average wrestler, but he was such a tough kid. He always tried and never gave up," said Hansen, now the school's athletic director. "He was one of those kids you just love ... He wasn't doing it because he was the best kid. He was doing it because he liked it."

    Hubbard also was a defensive tackle on the school's football team. During his junior and senior years, he spent part of his day at a high-tech school that was affiliated with Buchanan.

    After graduating from high school in 2001, Hubbard and Baro were inspired to join the Marines after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    They endured boot camp together but were sent to different regions of Iraq when the war started. They were rejoined after finishing sniper training and were based near Ramadi with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

    Hubbard's family had conflicting emotions about his decision to join the Marines, a mixture of pride and apprehension because they knew he had signed up during a time of war.

    "He was young and looking for something that was honorable to do in life," said Jason Hubbard, 30, also speaking Friday from the family's home in Clovis. "He felt that was a calling he definitely could answer."

    His mother, Peggy, and an older sister, also were at the home Friday.

    Hubbard's 18-year-old brother, Nathan, described him as "a perfect older brother" who watched out for him and helped him with homework.

    "He looked out for family and looked out for friends," Nathan Hubbard said. "He was always trying to make people's days better, always had a smile on his face.

    "He lived to make other people happy."

    Baro's parents issued a statement describing Hubbard and their son as best friends who died "protecting the country that they loved."

    "The pain of losing a son is overwhelming, and we feel as though we have lost two sons," Bert and Teresa Baro said. "The loss we feel is unbearable. They will be in our hearts forever."

    Sanchez told the Bee that his friends had common interests but different personalities. Hubbard was carefree and enjoyed hiking and rock-climbing in the Sierra, which lies just east of Fresno. Baro, who had two younger brothers, was more intense and competitive, an aspiring rapper who won a talent show his senior year with a rap song.

    "Jeremiah always had a lot of potential," said Hansen, who coached Baro as a freshman and sophomore wrestler. "I think the Marines was a good thing to help him with discipline. He was a good kid to be around."

    Jeff Hubbard, a retired Clovis police officer, said his son supported the Marines' mission in Iraq but also looked forward to being discharged and attending college, where he hoped to start wrestling again.

    He described his son as confident and popular.

    "Kids keep coming back to me since he graduated. Jared was their protector," he said. "If Jared was your friend, you didn't have to worry about anybody picking on you. Whatever needed to be done, people knew you couldn't mess with Jared."



  6. #6
    Friday, November 5, 2004
    Local group wants to send holiday cheer to Marines overseas

    Thousands of U.S. Marines won't be able to be home for the holidays this year. So one special group is trying to bring a little bit of holiday joy to them as they fight in Iraq.

    It is called “Operation: Sent by Angels.”

    “Operation: Sent by Angels” has taken on a life of its own. What was once just an idea to send Christmas stockings to a few Marines has become a mission to send gifts to more than 1,500 marines. And we at NewsChannel three are proud to be part of that.

    But the head of the operation, Victoria Morrison, says she still needs a lot more help.

    For Victoria Morrison, being in charge of “Operation: Sent by Angels” is like running a three ring circus.

    "It started out as something so small and it's grown into something so big.”

    At first the idea was just to fill stockings to send to her husband who is stationed in Iraq. But pretty soon, that changed.

    "Being married to a military member doesn't only mean you're married to that person, but to the whole unit."

    Then community organizations started jumping on board. NewsChannel 3 has joined with the YMCA, Wal-Mart and many others to help bring in donations and to make the mission a success.

    "I didn't think it would go this far,” said volunteer angel Carly Clark. “I thought it would be just the guys in her husband's unit, but this is great."

    Now “Operation: Sent by Angels” has taken off so fast that all the belongings going overseas and bows, gift wrap and everything else has filled up the garage. So now, they're going to have to store it elsewhere."

    So the main storage center for the Angel operation has moved from Victoria's garage to the motor pool at the Marine base. For Victoria and all the other angels, the operation is now becoming a race against time.

    If the donations don't all come in by November 23rd, the mission will be incomplete. That's because to get to Iraq by Christmas, the packages have to go out by the 30th. But Victoria is confident the operation will be a success. And Santa Claus will be making a stop on Christmas to bring a little bit of home to some U.S. Marines.

    "I am literally playing Santa Claus to 1,500 hundred men. I'm astonished, I’m speechless and the support the community has given has been remarkable."

    But she still needs more help from you.



  7. #7
    Countdown begins to elections in Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  8. #8
    November 08, 2004

    Report: Postwar Iraq destabilizing region

    By Barbara Opall-Rome
    Special to the Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  9. #9
    Marching to the melody of bagpipes
    Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force
    Story by Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  10. #10
    Marines Prepare For Casualties
    Biloxi Sun Herald
    November 6, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The toll in human suffering has already been grave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  11. #11
    November 08, 2004

    Goggles key to avoiding eye injuries, doctors say

    By Laura Bailey
    Times staff writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Protection becoming a priority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Getting the best protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  12. #12
    Dozens dead in Samarra attacks
    Marines prepare for Falluja assault; likely biggest since Vietnam
    Saturday, November 6, 2004 Posted: 1:29 PM EST (1829 GMT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Allawi will decide when the assault will begin.

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

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

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

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

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

    Other developments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  13. #13
    Iraqi officer deserts with US Falluja battle plan
    06 Nov 2004 19:32:57 GMT
    Source: Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  14. #14
    Marines try to break pre-battle tension
    By EDWARD HARRIS, Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  15. #15
    This is why wifes and girlfreinds look at their Marines in a strange way and ask, "Is this your idea of having a good time"?---LOL

    May God be with them and cover their six!

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

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