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The good thing is they can't hit anything (2 January 2004)

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  • Jim Galasyn
    Iraq Front News Subscribe: IraqFrontNews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com 2 January 2004 News roundup by Jim Galasyn ... In this issue: a.. Iraqi Insurgents Shoot
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2004
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      Iraq Front News
      2 January 2004
      News roundup by Jim Galasyn

      In this issue:

       ~ Bring Them Home ~
      Iraqi Insurgents Shoot Down U.S. Chopper   
      By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press Writer
      BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents shot down a U.S. military helicopter west of Baghdad on Friday, killing one soldier, and attackers posing as journalists fired assault weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at American paratroopers guarding the burning aircraft, the military said.
      Elsewhere, Arab gunmen shot and killed a Kurd amid rising ethnic tensions in the northern, oil-rich city of Kirkuk, and a minor Baath party official was assassinated in an apparent revenge killing. An American tanker was set ablaze in a rebel attack, and coalition forces raiding a Sunni Muslim mosque arrested 32 suspected non-Iraqi Arab insurgents and seized an arms cache.

      In Baghdad, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said enemy fire likely brought down the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior that crashed near Fallujah, a flashpoint in the insurgency.

      Troops of the 82nd Airborne Division "are fairly convinced that it was enemy fire," Kimmitt said.

      Soon after, five men "wearing black press jackets with 'press' clearly written in English" fired on U.S. paratroopers guarding the crash site, Kimmitt said. He said it was the first time he had heard of assailants in Iraq posing as journalists.

      The attackers fled in two cars. Soldiers doing a sweep through the town, with helicopters circling overhead, tracked down one of the cars and arrested four "enemy personnel," Kimmitt said.

      Rebels have previously shot at and brought down U.S. helicopters elsewhere in the so-called "Sunni Triangle," the heartland of Saddam Hussein's support and a center of resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.

      In the deadliest single attack on U.S. forces since the Iraq invasion began in March, 17 soldiers were killed when two Black Hawk helicopters collided above Mosul in what the military called a likely grenade attack.

      In Baghdad, people protested outside the Ibn Taymiyyah mosque Friday after U.S. soldiers and Iraqi defense force officers raided the mosque overnight.

      Kimmitt said they seized explosives, guns and ammunition and arrested 32 people believed to be non-Iraqi Arabs "based on their dialect." The military says foreign Islamic militants opposed to the occupation have infiltrated from neighboring borders.

      In the northern city of Mosul, a minor Baath Party official and Saddam-appointed dean of political science of Mosul University, Adel Jabar Abid Mustafa, was found Thursday with two gunshots to his head, according to the dean's brother, Salim Abid Mustafa.

      Gunmen in Mosul have killed at least three judges appointed by Saddam's regime, as well as officers in a new Iraqi police force formed by the U.S.-led occupation.

      Also Friday, a truck traveling toward Baghdad International Airport flipped on its side, killing one soldier and injuring six others, the military said.

      An 5,000-gallon oil tanker erupted in flames near a U.S. military base on the road to the western town of Ramadi on Friday. The military said it was in a convoy attacked with a roadside bomb, a grenade and small arms fire. Three American soldiers suffered burns and shrapnel wounds.

      U.S. military commanders say rebel attacks on troops have decreased since Saddam's capture Dec. 13, but that insurgents may be shifting to softer, civilian targets. On New Year's Eve, a car bomb destroyed an upscale Baghdad restaurant, killing eight people.

      In ongoing raids to hunt down former Saddam officials, U.S. soldiers captured Abu Mohammed, believed to be moving foreign fighters and cash through a tense area west of Baghdad, the military said Friday. Based on information gleaned from the arrest Thursday, the military seized another three suspects and some weapons.

      U.S. soldiers also arrested tribal leader Sheik Kahtan Yehia of the Albu Rahman tribe in Thursday night raids in Samarra, northwest of Baghdad, witnesses said. They said soldiers accused the sheik of sheltering the most-wanted man in Iraq since Saddam's capture, former Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.
      Soldiers in Samarra also blew up the house of Talab Saleh, who is accused of orchestrating attacks against U.S. troops, witnesses said. They said the troops arrested Saleh's wife and brother and said they would not be released until Saleh surrenders. The military had no immediate comment.
      Norwegian police, meanwhile, arrested the spiritual leader of Ansar al-Islam, an Islamic militant group based in northern Iraq that is regarded as a terrorist organization by the United States and the United Nations.
      Mullah Krekar was arrested Friday at his house in Oslo on charges of plotting to assassinate his rivals in northern Iraq three years ago, his lawyer said.
      American soldiers killed three suspected Ansar al-Islam members in a firefight in the northern city of Mosul last week that left two soldiers wounded.
      In Kirkuk, Arab gunmen killed one Kurd and wounded another on Thursday night as they were walking in an Arab neighborhood, Police Chief Gen. Turhan Youssef said.
      Afterward, there was a shootout between Arabs and police, who killed two attackers and wounded several, said Jalal Jawher, local head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.
      Tensions in Kirkuk have been high since an attack Wednesday on Arab and Turkmen protesters demanding that Kirkuk remain under the administration of a central Iraqi government.
      The city's 1 million-plus residents are divided in roughly equal parts among three ethnic groups — Arab, Turkmen and Kurd.
      Some Kurds have been calling for Kirkuk to join autonomous Kurdistan, a Switzerland-sized area of northern Iraq where Kurds have ruled themselves since the end of the 1991 Gulf War under U.S.-led aerial protection. top

      Pace of attacks on U.S. troops hasn't slowed since Saddam's capture
      By Tom Lasseter
      Knight Ridder Newspapers
      BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein's capture three weeks ago hasn't slowed the anti-American insurgency in Iraq, which now seems more entrenched than ever, according to a review of recent attacks and interviews with U.S. and Iraqi officials.

      U.S. and Iraqi officials say they now doubt that Saddam had a significant role in directing guerrilla attacks. They say that while his interrogation has led to some arrests, basic information is still lacking about the guerrilla cells that are attacking U.S. and allied troops with sophistication and brutality.
      "We don't think, as some have speculated, that he was the central figure managing the entire anti-coalition operation," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. Still, officials believe the former leader played some role. "Do we fully understand where Saddam fits in? We're putting that puzzle together."

      U.S intelligence officials in Washington said Saddam has begun cooperating with U.S. interrogators, but they said he claims he wasn't involved in directing the resistance and denies he had links to al-Qaida or other international terrorist groups who now appear to be joining the guerrillas.
      The pace of attacks on U.S troops weeks after Saddam's capture has shaken U.S. officials' confidence that they know whom the insurgents are and has made targeting the insurgents difficult at best. Some people working with U.S. forces say many detained in the crackdown against anti-U.S. forces know little about the organization or seem to be uninvolved in the insurgency.
      Even something as basic as the number of anti-U.S. fighters in Iraq is a mystery. "We've seen varied assessments that range from 500 to 5,000 or even higher," Kimmitt said. "I don't think we really have a good fix on that number."
      As for how the various cells might relate to one another, officials admit they are working on hunches as much as anything.
      Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who commands the Army's 1st Armored Division in Baghdad, said he's convinced that there's a central planning, training and supply network behind the homemade roadside bombs that explode nearly daily around the country.
      However, "I can't tell you that I have absolute confidence that I am correct," Dempsey said. "They just seem to have a quality about them." Other officials say attacks around the country in the past week have differed so much in technique - from suicide bombings to mortar assaults - that it seems unlikely they're the work of a single organization.
      The pace of killing and maiming of American troops hasn't slowed since Saddam's Dec. 13 arrest.
      In the 14 days prior to Saddam's capture, 11 American soldiers were killed. In the 14 days that followed, that figure was 14, not including four Bulgarian and two Thai soldiers who also died.

      On Christmas Day in Baghdad, there were 18 attacks, including nine nearly simultaneous ones by rocket-propelled grenades, that slammed into embassies, the so-called "Green Zone" that serves as the coalition's headquarters, and an Iraqi apartment complex, setting off a barrage of explosions that terrified much of the city.

      Three days later, in the southern town of Karbala, four suicide bombers killed 18 people, including six coalition soldiers, and wounded more than 150. On New Year's Eve, again in Baghdad, a car bomb tore through a popular upscale restaurant, killing at least five and wounding dozens.
      Unlike attacks in places such as Israel, there are no subsequent claims of responsibility. As a result, Iraqis and U.S. military officials are left to wonder whether the bloodshed is the result of a single large organization, disparate cells or lone fighters.

      American civilian officials cast the ongoing attacks as an attempt to sabotage the handover of authority to a new Iraqi government in July, but several members of Iraq's Governing Council said last week that the guerrilla war has turned into a terrorist free-for-all fueled by U.S. failure to seal the country's borders.

      "It's a terrorist war now," said council member Songul Chapouk, who represents Iraqi Turkmen and the city of Kirkuk, about 150 miles north of Baghdad. "Many people in my city were (Saddam Hussein loyalist fighters), but I see them and they are working now, not out conducting attacks."
      The struggle to understand the attacks becomes clear on the ground. The town of Ramadi, for example, is a hotspot west of Baghdad.

      Saddam's capture has had only "minor impact" in Ramadi, said Lt. Col. Thomas Hollis, who commands a battalion of soldiers in Ramadi.
      Hollis, of the 1st Infantry Division, was standing in front of a map full of color-coordinated pushpins. Ramadi was marked with one big cluster of red pins for homemade bomb attacks, yellow for vehicle ambushes and blue for weapons cache finds.
      Hollis' troops, who arrived in Iraq four months ago, have made adjustments for the Ramadi challenge. For instance, Bravo Company, which normally has 14 armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles and no Humvees, now rides in five Bradleys and 12 Humvees, giving it greater agility. Officers such as 1st Lt. Jeff Flach, who usually specializes in coordinating air defense for the mechanized units, have been shifted to civil affairs operations that reach out to locals.
      "We're asking guys trained in artillery to do diplomacy, state department stuff," Flach said.
      The insurgents have made adjustments, too, however.
      After a series of traffic checkpoints nabbed vehicles carrying weapons, the rebels started moving weapons by boat on the Euphrates River, coming ashore at night to bury caches of rocket-propelled grenades, artillery shells and mortar rounds. U.S. soldiers have started patrols along the river, looking for freshly dug ground.
      In a more serious example, rebels in Ramadi have forsaken once-common mortar attacks, which usually hit dirt and concrete and caused few casualties, in favor of deadlier car bombings. In the last three weeks, a suicide car bomber at a military base in Ramadi killed one soldier and injured 14, while another in the nearby town of Khaldiya killed 17 Iraqi police officers and wounded dozens.
      The fighters are also becoming increasingly compartmentalized, Hollis said.
      Early in the postwar conflict, insurgents would be caught with artillery rounds rigged into homemade bombs that they planned to hide under rocks. Now, Hollis said, when they catch someone who set off a bomb, he usually knows only the person who planted it. And the person who placed it knows only the deliveryman, who in turn, can name no one higher than the middleman for the bomb maker. And the bomb maker came into contact with the guy with the raw materials, not the person who bought them.
      Often, U.S. soldiers detain people who have no connection to the insurgency. "Every day I have the same problem," said Alan Zeid, a contract interpreter for the 1st Infantry in Ramadi. "It's 90, 95 percent of the time, they're bringing in the wrong guy. But it's what they have to do." top
      (Lasseter reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Knight Ridder correspondent Hannah Allam contributed to this report.)

      UK Iraq troops face another year

      British troops will still be in Iraq on New Year's Day 2005, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has said.

      But Mr Hoon said their role would change during 2004 from occupying Iraq to helping new Iraqi bodies bring stability to the country.
      He admitted that the US-led invasion of the Gulf state had encouraged an influx of foreign terrorists.
      But he said the long-term benefits of toppling Saddam Hussein outweighed the short-term problems.
      Asked on BBC Radio 4's The World at One how many troops would be in Iraq next year, Mr Hoon replied: "I don't want to speculate precisely about numbers. I would expect to see the role of British forces change, subtly perhaps.
      "I'm sure we will still be there assisting Iraqis in providing security. But instead of in a sense being legally an occupying power we will be there in support of a transitional government, assisting that government on the way, we hope, towards democracy."
      Terrorist organisations
      Mr Hoon said he believed the armed services could cope with having continuing large numbers in Iraq, and he was bullish about the target to hand over power to a transitional Iraqi government by June would be met.
      Asked about the post-war security situation, Mr Hoon said: "I accept that there has been a short-term impact, a short-term response by some terrorist organisations, perhaps even to send individuals to Iraq to attack coalition forces.
      "On the other hand what we have demonstrated in military action against Iraq is that we are determined to see the decisions of the international community upheld. Countries like Iraq cannot any longer simply ignore the decisions of the United Nations because they know that this time we mean business."
      Mr Hoon said he was sure the Iraq Survey Group would find evidence about weapons of mass destruction.
      Asked whether he believed concrete evidence of weapons, and not just weapons programmes, would be found, Mr Hoon said: "I'm still confident that we will find concrete evidence...
      "Saddam Hussein had months if not years in which to conceal the details of his programmes in a country that he controlled absolutely." top

      In Iraq's Murky Battle, Snipers Offer U.S. a Precision Weapon

      SAMARRA, Iraq, Dec. 28 — The intimate horror of the guerrilla war here in Iraq seems most vivid when seen through the sights of a sniper's rifle.
      In an age of satellite-guided bombs dropped at featureless targets from 30,000 feet, Army snipers can see the expression on a man's face when the bullet hits.
      "I shot one guy in the head, and his head exploded," said Sgt. Randy Davis, one of about 40 snipers in the Army's new 3,600-soldier Stryker Brigade, from Fort Lewis, Wash. "Usually, though, you just see a dust cloud pop up off their clothes, and see a little blood splatter come out the front."
      Working in teams of two or three, Army snipers here in Iraq cloak themselves in the shadows of empty city buildings or burrow into desert sands with camouflage suits, waiting to fell guerrilla gunmen and their leaders with a single shot from as far as half a mile away.
      As the counterinsurgency grinds into its ninth month, the Army is increasingly relying on snipers to protect infantry patrols sweeping through urban streets and alleyways, and to kill guerrilla leaders and disrupt their attacks.
      "Properly employed, we can break the enemy's back," said Sergeant Davis, 25, who is from Murfreesboro, Tenn. "Our main targets are their main command and control elements and other high-value targets."
      Soldiering is a violent business, and emotions in combat run high. But commanders say snipers are a different breed of warrior — quiet, unflappable marksmen who bring a dispassionate intensity to their deadly task.
      "The good ones have to be calm, methodical and disciplined," said Lt. Col. Karl Reed, who commands the Stryker Brigade's Fifth Battalion, 20th Infantry, Sergeant Davis's parent unit.
      In the month since he arrived here on his first combat tour, Sergeant Davis already has eight confirmed kills — including seven in a single day — and two "probables."
      He and his partner, Specialist Chris Wilson, who has one confirmed kill, do not brag about their feats. Their words reflect a certain icy professionalism instilled in men who say they take no pleasure in killing, and try not to see their Iraqi foes as men with families and children.
      "You don't think about it," said Specialist Wilson, 24, of Muncie, Ind., speaking at an austere base camp near here after a late-afternoon mission. "You just think about the lives of the guys to your left and right."
      Sergeant Davis nodded in agreement: "As soon as they picked up a weapon and tried to engage U.S. soldiers, they forfeited all their rights to life, is how I look at it."
      All soldiers are trained to destroy an opponent, but snipers have honed the art of killing to a fine edge. At a five-week training course at Fort Benning, Ga., they learn to stalk their prey, conceal their own movements, spot telltale signs of an enemy shooter and take down a target with a lone shot.
      To qualify for the school, a soldier must already be an expert marksman, pass a physical examination and undergo a psychological screening ("To make sure they're not training a nut," Sergeant Davis said.) The rigorous course fails more than half of its students.
      The demand for snipers is great enough that the Army has sent a team of trainers to Iraq to keep churning out new ones for the war effort here and in other hot spots.
      As the Army faces more conflicts in which terrorists use the tight confines of city blocks and rooftops to stage hit-and-run strikes, the sniper school has placed increasing emphasis on urban tactics. That makes sense in places like this city of 250,000 people, a hotbed of Saddam Hussein supporters 65 miles northwest of Baghdad.
      The training paid off on Dec. 18. Dusk was setting in here, and Sergeant Davis was wrapping up a counter-sniper mission when he spotted an armed Iraqi on a rooftop about 300 yards away. He said he knew the gunman was a sniper by the way he sneaked along the roofline to track a squad below from Sergeant Davis's Company B.
      "The guy made a mistake when he silhouetted himself against the rooftop," said Sergeant Davis, who has 20/10 vision. "He was trying to look over to see where the guys were in the courtyard."
      As the gunman rose from the shadows to fire, Sergeant Davis said he saw his head and then the distinctive shape of a Dragonov SVD Russian-made sniper rifle. The sergeant drew a bead on the shooter with his weapon of choice, an M-14 rifle equipped with a special optic sight that has crosshairs and a red aiming dot.
      "I went ahead and engaged him and shot him one time to the chest," he said, matter of factly. "I watched him kick back, his rifle flew back, and I saw a little blood come out of his chest. It was a good hit."
      Three days earlier, Company B walked into an ambush in downtown Samarra in which gunmen on motorcycles used children leaving school as cover to attack the patrol. Sergeant Davis, armed this time with an M-4 rifle, shot 7 of the 11 attackers that American commanders say died in the 45-minute skirmish.
      "We don't have civilian casualties," the sergeant said of how he avoided the schoolchildren. "Everything you hit, you know exactly what it is. You know where every round is going."
      In city or desert, Army snipers spend hours planning and setting up their positions, often under cover of darkness. "We don't have the capability to survive a sustained firefight," the sergeant said. "We use surprise and stealth to accomplish missions."
      Army snipers generally choose from four different weapons, depending on the mission. The standard M-24 sniper rifle is simple in design. It has an adjustable Kevlar stock, a thick stainless steel barrel, a mounted telescopic, day/night scope and is bolt action, rather than semiautomatic, like other sniper rifles. It sets up on a bipod and fires 7.62-millimeter ammunition, hitting targets up to 1,000 yards away.
      In the desert, snipers wrap plastic bags or condoms over the gun muzzle to keep the sand out. They carry their weapons in padded green canvas bags. "We baby the hell out of them," Sergeant Davis said.
      Most snipers are familiar with firearms even before joining the armed forces. Sergeant Davis and Specialist Wilson grew up on farms, and both owned their first rifles before they were 10. They fondly remember hunting deer as youngsters.
      Both men are married and have children, and say they do not talk much about their work outside their tight-knit clan. "We try to get away from stereotypes that you're a psychotic gun nut running around, like the guy in D.C., or like in the movies, a cool-guy assassin," Sergeant Davis said.
      There are not many targets these men dread, but in the shifting battlefield of Iraq, where seemingly everyone is armed, one candidate emerges. Would they ever shoot a child who aimed at them?
      "I couldn't imagine that," said Specialist Wilson, a father of five.
      But Sergeant Davis had a different view: "I'd shoot him, otherwise he'd shoot me. But I wouldn't feel good about it." top

      Clark: Bush burning valuable military resources in Iraq
      By Kate McCann, Associated Press Writer, 1/1/2004
      MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The war in Iraq has cost America billions of dollars in equipment and weakened the Army's ability to respond to other threats, according to Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark.
      Clark said the cost of rebuilding and refurbishing tanks and aircrafts will reach into billions of dollars after the mileage consumption and other wear on military equipment is calculated.
      "We know now this war in Iraq is consuming the United States Army's readiness to respond to another crisis somewhere else in the world," he said while campaigning at a Manchester police station.
      The retired Army General has lashed out against the war since he launched his campaign in September.
      "Why do we want Iraq? If we want oil, we're going to buy oil. We're stuck there and the terrorists there are using our presence as a way of killing Americans," Clark said.
      But Julie Teer, a spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Republican Party, says Clark has been unable to articulate a coherent foreign policy position on Iraq.
      "When it comes to Wesley Clark talking about Iraq, New Hampshire voters have heard nothing but double talk and anything abut straight talk," Teer said. "To take criticism from Wesley Clark on Iraq is like getting a lecture on sportsmanship from Mike Tyson."
      But Clark is not for the immediate withdrawal of American troops, and said scheduling a date for American troops to pack their bags to come home only invites trouble.
      Fresh from a whirlwind tour through the South where Clark pitched his plan for veterans benefits and tried to win votes in South Carolina, he must now shift his focus to New Hampshire for the waning days until the Jan. 27 primary.
      Recent polls peg Clark in third place among likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire, trailing only Howard Dean and John Kerry.
      While being an Arkansas native might not sway too many East Coast voters, Clark said he will rely heavily on his military background while in the Granite State.
      "I'm not a conventional politician. I haven't been planting the seeds for a run in New Hampshire for years as some people have," Clark said. "The American people are tired of politicians. I think they're looking for leaders."
      Clark, the latecomer to the race, said he started the campaign with no money, no staff, no policy papers and no experience in getting elected, "and it doesn't seem to have hurt very much."
      He shied away from directly mentioning his rival candidates, but he seized opportunities to attack President Bush for his foreign policy and overall leadership.
      "George Bush thinks Americas best days are behind us. He has duplicated his father's war against Saddam Hussein and Ronald Reagan's tax cuts," Clark said. "He's even talking about John Kennedy's space program."
      Voters ranging from moderate Republicans to Democrats to Independents are all angry about some of Bush's actions as president, Clark said. He hopes he can win those voters with his knowledge of foreign policy and plan for Iraq.
      Clark said he would try to rapidly establish an Iraqi government, and start funneling U.S. troops though an international agency, run by NATO, not the United Nations. Clark said If U.S. troops are reporting to the alliance, it will encourage more European allies to help stabilize Iraq.
      This plan would reduce costs, reduce risks and ease the transition of handing Iraq back to Iraqis, he said.
      "When I am President, I will go over to Iraq," Clark said. "And it won't be to deliver turkeys in the middle of the night. top

      Saddam in the Slammer, so why are we on Orange?
      By David H. Hackworth
      Almost daily we’re told that another American soldier has sacrificed life or limb in Iraq. For way too many of us – unless we have a white flag with a blue star in our window – these casualty reports have become as big a yawn as a TV forecast of the weather in Baghdad.
      Even I – and I deal with that beleaguered land seven days a week – was staggered when a Pentagon source gave me a copy of a Nov. 30 dispatch showing that since George W. Bush unleashed the dogs of war, our armed forces have taken 14,000 casualties in Iraq – about the number of warriors in a line tank division.
      We have the equivalent of five combat divisions plus support for a total of about 135,000 troops deployed in the Iraqi theater of operations, which means we’ve lost the equivalent of a fighting division since March. At least 10 percent of the total number of Joes and Jills available to the theater commander to fight or support the occupation effort have been evacuated back to the USA!
      Lt. Col. Scott D. Ross of the U.S. military's Transportation Command told me that as of Dec. 23, his outfit had evacuated 3,255 battle-injured casualties and 18,717 non-battle injuries.
      Of the battle casualties, 473 died and 3,255 were wounded by hostile fire.
      Following are the major categories of the non-battle evacuations:
      • Orthopedic surgery – 3,907
      • General surgery – 1,995
      • Internal medicine – 1,291
      • Psychiatric – 1,167
      • Neurology – 1,002
      • Gynecological – 491
      Sources say that most of the gynecological evacuations are pregnancy-related, although the exact figure can’t be confirmed – Pentagon pregnancy counts are kept closer to the vest than the number of nuke warheads in the U.S. arsenal.
      Ross cautioned that his total of 21,972 evacuees could be higher than other reports because “in some cases, the same service member may be counted more than once.”
      The Pentagon has never won prizes for the accuracy of its reporting, but I think it’s safe to say that so far somewhere between 14,000 and 22,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have been medically evacuated from Iraq to the USA.
      So at the end of this turbulent year, we must ask ourselves: Was the price our warriors paid in blood worth the outcome? Are we any safer than before our pre-emptive invasion?
      Even though Saddam is in the slammer and the fourth-largest army in the world is junkyard scrap, Christmas 2003 was resolutely Orange, and 2004 looks like more of the same. Or worse.
      Our first New Year’s resolution should be to find out if the stated reasons for our pre-emptive strike – Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction and Saddam’s connection with al-Qaeda – constituted a real threat to our national security. Because, contrary to public opinion, the present administration hasn’t yet made the case that Saddam and his sadists aided and abetted al-Qaeda's attacks on 9/11. We also need to know why our $30 billion-a-year intelligence agencies didn’t read the tea leaves correctly, as well as what’s being done besides upgrading the color code to prevent other similar strikes.
      Congress should get with the program and lift a page from the U.S. Army handbook on how to learn from a military operation. When an Army-training or actual-combat op is concluded, all the key players assemble for an honest, no-holds-barred critique of everything that’s gone down – the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of the participants might walk away black and blue, but everyone learns from the mistakes.
      Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and retired Gen. Tommy Franks should be required to report to a congressional committee convened to investigate both the invasion and the planning – or lack of planning – for the occupation of Iraq. This committee must operate without the political skullduggery that occurred during the numerous investigations into the Pearl Harbor catastrophe – when high-level malfeasance that cost thousands of lives and put America’s national security in extreme jeopardy was repeatedly covered up for more than 50 years.
      Our Iraqi casualties deserve nothing less than the unvarnished truth. Only then will their sacrifices not have been in vain. And only then can we all move on with the enlightenment we need to protect and preserve our precious country’s future. top
      The address of David Hackworth's home page is Hackworth.com. Sign in for the free weekly Defending America column at his Web site. Send mail to P.O. Box 11179, Greenwich, CT 06831. His newest book is “Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts.”

      Their Photos Tell the Story
      Jimmy Breslin
      December 30, 2003

      The Army Times, a civilian newspaper that is sold mainly on military bases and thus reaches the prime wartime audience, uses eight pages of its year-end review, out now, to run photos of all those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, except 35.
      I usually don't refer to other publications, for I have enough trouble with my own. But this issue of the Army Times is so extraordinary and gives hope that it will provide some leadership in the news industry.
      There were 506 killed by the time the newspaper closed last Friday. Since then, another seven have died. The newspaper has said this is the deadliest year for the U.S. military since 1972, when 640 were killed in Vietnam.
      In introducing the pictures, under the headline "Faces of the Fallen," the Army Times said: "More than 500 service members died in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in 2003, a group that represents the full, rich face of American diversity.
      "They grew up in big cities like Chicago and New York and small towns like Layton, Utah, and Cross Lanes, West Virginia. Ten were women, the youngest six 18-year-olds barely out of high school. The oldest, Army Sgt. Floyd G. Nightman Jr., was 55.
      "They died at the hands of the enemy, from illnesses contracted in the war zones and the accidents that inevitably push human beings and their equipment to their limit.
      "They came from all walks of life, from every race and creed. But all shared a common bond - commitment to, and pride in, serving their country in the cause of freedom.
      "As the New Year dawns, we pause once to honor those who fell in 2003."
      The pictures are small and run in neat columns. The names, ranks and date and place of death are in small type underneath the small pictures. The understatement is devastating.
      The paper's senior managing editor, Robert Hodierne, was saying yesterday, "When I looked at the pages, I felt the same as I did when I walked along the Wall."
      He met Maya Lin, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall architect who was 23 when she designed it.
      "I am in love with her," Hodierne says.
      The chilling photos run at a time when the government tries to describe the war as a civic venture, and nearly all of the news industry doesn't know how to object. This probably is the worst failure to inform the public that we have seen. The Pekingese of the Press run clip-clop along the hall to the next government press conference.
      "We started on the issue three or four weeks ago," Hodierne said. The paper has been running pictures of the dead every week.
      "We had 75 percent of the photos. We had to make the best effort we could to go after the others. We went to families and hometown papers. The military doesn't give out so many photos of the dead. People here were upset by the gaps in the rows of photos."
      One who was bothered was Anna Pozzie, who scanned the photos into a computer. It was slow, painful work. She became saddened by the pictures. The ages of the dead young men were wrenching.
      Steve Zelfers, the photo editor, said, "You stare at the photos and see the cost of the war." [CORRECTION: Steve Elfers is photo editor of the Army Times. His last name was misspelled in a column by Jimmy Breslin yesterday. Pg. A02 Q 12/31/03]
      The complaint about the military holding back pictures is one part of the attempt to make you as unaware as possible that soldiers are dying in Iraq. They have this Bremer who stands in his jacket, shirt and tie and talks about the new Iraqi government that we have set up.
      He doesn't seem to know about death.
      He doesn't know that every time we try to put our democracy into one of these totalitarian countries, the scum comes to the top. They have been living elsewhere and rush back to lick American boots and get positions in the great new government.
      The government folds and the imams take over.
      And the dead are brought back here almost furtively. There are no ceremonies or pictures of caskets at Dover, Del., air base, where the dead are brought. "You don't want to upset the families," George Bush said. That the people might be slightly disturbed already by the death doesn't seem to register.
      The wounded are flown into Washington at night. There are 5,000 of them and for a long time you never heard of soldiers who have no arms and legs. Then the singer Cher went into Walter Reed Hospital and came out and gave a report that was so compelling she should walk away with a Pulitzer Prize.
      Finally, a couple of television stations and a newspaper here and there began to cover these things. There are miles to go.
      For now, Cher, on one day, and the Army Times for the whole year, have served the nation as it should be served. top

      ~ Fool Me Once ~
      Bush: Not Involved 'In Any Way' in CIA Leak Probe
      Jan 1, 9:50 PM (ET)
      FALFURRIAS, Texas (Reuters) - President Bush on Thursday sought to distance himself from an investigation into whether someone in his administration illegally leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer.
      "I'm not involved with the investigation in any way, shape or form," Bush told reporters here after wrapping up a hunting trip with his father and a family friend.
      U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on Tuesday stepped aside from the investigation into who disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame, a secret intelligence officer. Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, has publicly challenged Bush's reasons for going to war and has said he believes the administration leaked his wife's name as a means of retaliation.
      Wilson, a retired diplomat, went to Niger early in 2002 at the CIA's request to assess a report that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger. He found the allegation doubtful and the International Atomic Energy Agency later dismissed it as based on forged documents.
      But the charge found its way into Bush's State of the Union speech in January as part of the U.S. case against Saddam Hussein. Only after Wilson went public did the White house admit Bush should not have included it, blaming the CIA.
      The Justice Department has named a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to lead the investigation into the leak of Plame's identity to newspaper columnist Robert Novak.
      Asked whether Ashcroft had made the right decision in recusing himself from the case, Bush replied: "You're going to have to ask him. I mean, I don't know the details which caused him to recuse himself.
      "I've told the members of the White House to totally cooperate," Bush said. "And the sooner they find out the truth, the better, as far as I'm concerned." top

      Hoon says troops still be in Iraq in 2005
      Thu 1 January, 2004 16:32

      LONDON (Reuters) - Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has said British troops will still be in Iraq in a year, but their role will have changed from occupation to support for an Iraqi transitional government.
      Britain, the United States' chief ally in the March invasion of Iraq, has some 11,000 troops stationed largely in the south of the country. About 20 have been killed in combat in the operation which has stirred controversy at home.
      Hoon said he was confident about plans to hand over power to an Iraqi transitional government by the end of June.
      Asked by BBC radio what role British troops would be playing this time next year, Hoon said: "I'm sure we will still be there assisting Iraqis in providing security.
      "But instead of in a sense being legally an occupying power we will be there in support of a transitional government, assisting that government on the way, we hope, towards democracy."
      The United States, which has born the brunt of anti-coalition attacks, with 212 killed since major combat was declared over on May 1, has about 123,000 troops in Iraq. It plans a massive rotation between January and May to replace weary servicemen with 110,000 fresh soldiers and marines. top

      U.S. Commander: Iraqis Turning in Weapons   
      By JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer
      MOSUL, Iraq - A dozen former leaders of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party have handed in weapons caches in northern Iraq to curry favor with the U.S. military and claim a role in a new Iraqi leadership, the commander of the Army's 101st Airborne Division said.
      "They're coming to us, saying they want to be part of the new Iraq," Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It has slowly sunk in that Saddam isn't coming back."

      Separately, the 101st Airborne has paid more than $20,000 in rewards in recent weeks to a black marketeer who has handed in 300 shoulder-fired missiles.
      The Baathists who have recently begun to cooperate with the division held positions in the second, third and fourth tiers of the Baath Party, top-level officials banned by the U.S.-led administration from any leadership role in Iraq's government and public institutions. The men have handed over more than 270 AK-47 semiautomatic rifles, as well as rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons.
      On Monday, some of the men — whose names have not yet been made public — will publicly renounce their participation in the Baath Party at a regional headquarters of the 101st Airborne's 1st Battalion in Talafar, south of Mosul.
      Petraeus said he doubted the former leaders had taken a direct role in aiding the five to 10 anti-U.S. guerrilla cells operating in the region, and he characterized their decision to cooperate with the U.S. military as an opportunistic move to regain stature.
      "They were on the fence. I'm not sure whether they were aiding and abetting," Petraeus said. "They were opportunists before and they're still opportunists. They're chameleons."
      The series of weapons hand-ins began Dec. 19 in Talafar when, over three days, a third-tier Baathist gave up 65 AK-47s, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and more than a dozen grenade rounds, according to a division data sheet. None of the men requested a reward, Petraeus said.
      By Dec. 28, the 101st's 1st Battalion Combat Team had received 267 AK-47s, along with ammunition magazines, a pair of grenade launchers with 15 rounds as well as 15 hand grenades.
      On Dec. 31, a second-tier Baath Party member — among the highest-ranking officials in the region from Saddam's former government, handed over seven AK-47s and 14 magazines to the 101st's 3rd Brigade.
      The division's 2nd and 3rd battalions have been seeking contacts with other former regime leaders in northern Iraq, trying to convince them to cooperate as well, Petraeus said.
      The 101st Airborne has also paid rewards of about $1,200 apiece for intact Russian-made SA-7 missiles with their launch tubes and sights to a black marketeer who has turned in 300 of the shoulder-fired missiles, said division spokesman Maj. Trey Cate.
      The division pays smaller rewards for individual components.
      The shoulder-launched missiles are among the most feared weapons in Iraq. They have been used to attack U.S. military helicopters and two aircraft taking off from Baghdad International Airport. Iraq's civilian airports remain closed to most commercial air traffic because of the missile threat.
      This week the 101st Airborne paid the black marketeer, whose name has not been released, an overdue $22,500 for 270 of the missiles he turned in during previous weeks. When the division halted reward payments because it ran short of cash, the man ceased delivering the weapons, Petraeus said.
      "He was a regular turner-inner until we stiffed him," Petraeus said during Thursday's battle update briefing, a daily meeting of the division's leadership.
      The black marketeer does not say where he buys the surplus launchers in Iraq, and the division is more interested in simply getting the weapons off the open market than finding out who owned them — and perhaps halting future reward sales, Cate said.
      "It's more of a capitalist approach," Cate said. "He's not going to provide services until payment is provided." top

      The CIA Agent Flap: FBI Asks for Reporters to Talk
      Investigators are pressing Administration officials to let journalists tell whatever they know about the leak of a CIA agent's identity 
      Friday, Jan. 02, 2004
      FBI investigators looking into the criminal leak of a CIA agent’s identity have asked Bush Administration officials including senior political adviser Karl Rove to release reporters from any confidentiality agreements regarding conversations about the agent. If signed, the single-page requests made over the last week would give investigators new ammunition for questioning reporters who have so far, according to those familiar with the case, not disclosed the names of administration officials who divulged that Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson, worked for the CIA.
      While irregular, the move is not unprecedented. Various officials were told from the start that such a request might be made. Along with the recusal this week of Attorney General John Ashcroft, this suggests that investigators are ready to enter the next stage of the probe. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has been named special prosecutor to oversee the inquiry. The FBI has already extensively re-interviewed some White House officials using emails and phone logs from their search to press for the identity of the leaker. “They are taking this very seriously,” says one close to the case.
      Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press, says asking people who are in the universe of possible suspects to sign such a document is un

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