Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

My country is collapsing, and my job is to watch the collapse (31 July 2004)

Expand Messages
  • Jim Galasyn
    Iraq Front News Subscribe: IraqFrontNews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com 31 July 2004 News roundup by Jim Galasyn ... In this issue: ~ Bring Them Home ~ a..
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1 9:36 AM
    • 0 Attachment
      Iraq Front News
      31 July 2004
      News roundup by Jim Galasyn

      In this issue:
      ~ Bring Them Home ~
      ~ Fool Me Once ~
      ~ Hearts and Minds ~
      ~ White Man's Burden ~

       ~ Bring Them Home ~
      Contractors Killed in Iraq
      Saturday, July 31, 2004; Page A18
      Henry A. Doll, DynCorp
      Henry A. Doll III, who spent 40 years in law enforcement, told his supervisors that helping to train Iraq's new police force would make him a better police officer. "I feel this opportunity to serve my country would benefit [the sheriff's office] upon my return," Doll wrote to Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter, in Naples, Fla., last July to request a leave of absence. "Dealing with terrorism issues overseas would give me firsthand experience, which would be invaluable to the agency."
      Doll spent much of the 1960s in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. He became a Pennsylvania state trooper, serving high-risk warrants on felons and rappelling out of helicopters as part of the SWAT team, said his son, Henry Doll, who is a state trooper in Maryland. Later, Henry Doll joined the Collier County Sheriff's Office, where he rose to the rank of corporal and worked in the bailiff bureau and patrol division.
      When the 56-year-old Doll decided to join DynCorp, a unit of Computer Sciences Corp., Henry Doll says he asked his dad whether the dangerous working conditions would be worth the salary. His dad responded that it wasn't the money. "It was quite the adrenalin rush, that's how he described it," Henry Doll said. "It was something he felt he could do as a patriotic thing. It was a thrill for him."
      -- Renae Merle

      Jesse Gentry, DynCorp
      When he retired from the police force in 2002, Jesse Gentry bought a 29-foot boat named the River Rat. After several months of sailing, he grew bored and took a job with DynCorp, training Iraq's new police force. Teaching was familiar territory for him. His two tours in Vietnam included time training South Vietnamese soldiers, his wife Vicki Gentry said. And when Gentry landed at the Sanford Police Department in Sanford, N.C., after 20 years in the military, he served as a mentor to younger officers.
      "He was more of a father figure, slash first sergeant," said Detective Billy Rodgers, Gentry's former partner.
      When the 61-year-old Gentry arrived in Iraq in March, he assumed a kind of elder statesman role. "Jesse was 10 years older than me, had served in the military," said Joe Janowski, a former Pennsylvania police officer who worked with Gentry in Iraq. "I listened to his wisdom."
      Gentry arrived in Iraq as violence was escalating. He told his wife that it was difficult to travel without a military escort and that he spent much of the first month hanging around the pool. When he started working, it was not what he expected, his wife said.
      Gentry told her that instead of teaching, he was doing intelligence work for the military. She said he didn't describe his work in detail, but she could tell he was frustrated. "Without adequate interpreters and training space, he couldn't do what he was sent over there to do," she said. "He told me it was like being on the front lines of Vietnam."
      In May, Gentry and Doll died while traveling in a military convoy of 10 vehicles from Tikrit to Baghdad. The convoy was traveling fast to make it a tougher target for insurgents, said Janowski, who was driving.
      "You can't stop because of the possibility of an ambush," he said.
      A Humvee near the front of the convoy honked at a taxi partially blocking the convoy, then bumped it to make it move out of the way, he said. The taxi swerved into oncoming traffic, hitting the contractors' SUV, he said.
      -- Renae Merle

      Vincent Foster, Cochise Consultancy
      Even as a child, Vincent Foster was fascinated by toy guns, according to his mother, Susan Foster. After joining the Marines in the mid-1990s, Foster was recruited for a sniper unit, where he impressed the platoon commander, Eric Blondheim. "I said to myself, 'Who is this kid?' " Blondheim said. "There are formulas you have to understand for precision shooting, and he had it down."
      After years in the Marines, Foster's family persuaded him to try civilian life. He studied computer science at the University of Nevada in Reno, but his mother said he struggled with the math. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks occurred during his junior year, and his marksman skills were in high demand.
      A security company called Surgical Shooting Inc. recruited him to teach Navy sailors how to handle firearms and to conduct training exercises, said his stepfather, Sandy Ress. Foster later did similar work for Blackwater Security Consulting.
      Last year, Foster decided to join the Washington Army National Guard. But before he was sworn in, he heard that Cochise Consultancy, a Valrico, Fla., security firm, was hiring people with military experience to guard Iraqi weapons that were being destroyed.
      The National Guard would have required a year of training, but as a Cochise employee, Foster could go to Iraq in less than a month. Foster accepted a six-month contract with Cochise and deployed with a few friends. "I didn't want him over there. I think I cried for two weeks," his mother said.
      Foster arrived in Iraq in January. His e-mails home were short and reassuring. "He loved it," she said. "Every e-mail I got from him, he was happy."
      -- Renae Merle

      Daniel Parker, Kellogg Brown & Root
      Last June, two days after 56-year-old Daniel Parker retired from a two-decade career with the U.S. Border Patrol, he was on his way to Iraq.
      Jacquie Parker, his wife of 31 years, said he went for two reasons: to earn money for his children's college tuition and weddings bills and to do some good. Parker had served two tours in Vietnam and left the military as a first lieutenant.
      "He said he blew apart South Vietnam and now he had a chance to rebuild" something instead, his wife said.
      Parker was working as a teacher at the Border Patrol Academy when friends told him Halliburton Co.'s Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary was recruiting personnel for Iraq. KBR hired him to go to Iraq as a security coordinator. In the 325 e-mails Parker sent his wife during his time in Iraq, he told tales of poverty and dust and fearful people.
      Jacquie Parker sat at her computer every night waiting for his regular e-mail. On May 7, it didn't come. Daniel Parker called home, saying not to worry -- the computers were down. Then, 97 minutes later, she said, an explosive device detonated near the convoy he was protecting outside Baghdad International Airport. A piece of shrapnel severed his spinal cord and killed him.
      -- Ellen McCarthy

      Michael Rene Pouliot, Tapestry Solutions
      Michael Rene Pouliot was driving near Camp Doha in Kuwait in January 2003 when a sniper emerged from the bushes and fired 22 bullets into his sport-utility vehicle, killing him and wounding a co-worker.
      The 46-year-old was the executive vice president of Tapestry Solutions, a San Diego company he co-founded in 1993 after working as an aerospace engineer at General Dynamics Corp. The firm's software was used to coordinate military operations. He had a small team of employees stationed with the Army in Kuwait.
      Pouliot had gone to check on his team there, his second trip to the Middle East in two months. "Mike was never afraid of anything," said Carol Pouliot, his wife of nearly 25 years. "He was so proud. For him to be a non-military guy and yet contributing so much was just fulfilling beyond words."
      Her daughters, Tessa, 14, and Megan, 13, often wish it had been someone else hit that day, said his wife. But she said she's comfortable with the decisions he made. "Anyone who can stand up and face dangers . . . anyone who follows their convictions is a gold mine," she said.
      -- Ellen McCarthy top

      1st ID Soldiers detain one AIF following rocket attack

      Tikrit, Iraq - One anti-Iraqi force member was apprehended following a rocket attack on a Multi-National base near Tikrit around 8 p.m. July 28.
      1st Infantry Division Soldiers detained the individual and then transferred him to a military facility where he tested positive for explosive residue.
      There were no casualties in this incident. top

      Bulgarians under Fire in Iraq
      Politics: 30 July 2004, Friday.
      The Bulgarian soldiers' base in Karbala, Kilo, came under mortar fire on Thursday night.
      None of the troops have been hurt, neither did the attack cause any damages to the building, according to Polish military spokesperson.
      The attack is the first one against the Bulgarians in several months.
      There are about 480 Bulgarian peacekeepers in the Shiite city of Karbala. They are part of a multinational force under Polish command. top

      Explosions rock Fallujah after new bombing
      Powerful explosions have rocked Fallujah in what appeared to be a fresh US bombardment of the flashpoint city, after clashes earlier left at least eight Iraqis dead and many injured.  
      The explosions centered around the north eastern part of the city in an area known as Al-Askari.
      The US military had no immediate comment but confirmed earlier clashes with insurgents on Saturday.  
      Fighters in civilian clothing attacked a marines position near Fallujah with mortars, rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire prompting US troops to return fire with tanks, said a US military statement.  
      Marines also bombarded, including by air, a building in the city's industrial neighbourhood from where insurgents were suspected to be firing on the military post, it said without indicating casualties.  
      Local police said the clashes broke out at around 6:00 pm (1400 GMT) in the eastern part of Fallujah around the city's industrial neighbourhood.  
      The fresh violence came less than 48 hours after fighting in Fallujah left 20 insurgents dead, according to the US military, while the city's main hospital gave a toll of 13 dead and 13 wounded. top

      Turkish hostage freed, Baghdad mortar attack injures child
      BAGHDAD, Iraq A relative says a Turkish man who was kidnapped in Iraq earlier this month is free and back in Turkey.
      His niece says the man was freed after promising he would not return to the country.
      Meanwhile, efforts continue to secure the release of seven other foreign drivers being held by militants. The kidnappers had threatened to behead one of them by yesterday evening if their demands were not met. There's no word on whether the threat was carried out.
      And in Baghdad, two mortars exploded in a garden this morning. Two sleeping children were hurt. top

      Iraqi governor offers to resign if kidnappers release sons
      Agence France-Presse
      Ramadi, July 31
      The governor of Iraq's Al-Anbar province said on Saturday that he would happily resign if kidnappers released three of his sons, snatched from their home by gunmen four days ago.
      "I am ready to give in to your demands, and if you believe my presence in Ramadi does not serve the interests of the region, I am ready to go," said Abdel Karim Berges in an open letter to the province.
      Berges defended his period of office in the vast province on the border with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, saying he had arranged convoys of food and medicine for residents in Fallujah when the city was besieged by US troops in April.
      On Wednesday, his sons, aged 15 to 30, were kidnapped by gunmen who barged into and torched his family home in Ramadi, while he was at work.
      Ramadi is the main city in the predominantly Sunni Muslim province of Al-Anbar, where US troops have come under persistent attack and loyalty to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein runs high. top

      ~ Fool Me Once ~
      Retired general: Bush foreign policy a 'national disaster'
      Saturday, July 31, 2004 Posted: 11:15 AM EDT (1515 GMT)
      (CNN) -- A former Air Force chief of staff and one-time "Veteran for Bush" said Saturday that America's foreign relations for the first three years of President Bush's term have been "a national disaster" but that the president's Democratic rival was "up to the task" of rebuilding.
      Retired Gen. Tony McPeak, the Air Force chief of staff during the first Gulf War, delivered the Democratic radio address supporting implementation of the 9/11 commission's recommendations for national security.
      "As president, John Kerry will not waste a minute in bringing action on the reforms urged by the 9/11 commission," McPeak said of the Massachusetts senator nominated by the Democrats this week. "And he will not rest until America's defenses are strong."
      The president, on the other hand, "fought against the very formation of the commission and continues to the present moment to give it only grudging cooperation, no matter what he says," the general said. "Why should we believe he will do anything to institute the needed change?"
      Administration officials have said that Bush could approve some of the commission's suggested changes by early next week.
      McPeak, a former fighter pilot who campaigned for Bob Dole in 1996 as well as Bush in 2000, said Bush's inability to craft a true allied coalition was a serious deficiency.
      "The report of the 9/11 commission makes this clear: Fighting terrorists alone just doesn't work," he said. "If our enemy hatches a terror plot in Rome, we will need help from the Italians. If German intelligence knows the whereabouts of a senior al Qaeda member, America must have that information."
      Instead, he said, Bush has "alienated our friends, damaged our credibility around the world, reduced our influence to an all-time low in my lifetime, given hope to our enemies."
      McPeak said he backed Bush in 2000 because he "had hoped this president could provide" the leadership needed to face modern threats. But disillusionment, he said, has led him to change his voter registration from Republican to independent and shift his support to Kerry.
      "The real deal for me is not whether a strategy or a plan or an idea is Republican or Democrat, but whether it makes us safer," he said. "And it means an awful lot to me that John Kerry fought for his country as a young man."
      "We who have some experience -- who have seen war close up and sent troops to battle -- know that victory is not won by single combat," he continued. "War is not like that. War is a team sport.
      "We built the team that won World War II. We put together the great team that won the Cold War. That's why what has happened over the last three years is such a tragedy, such a national disaster. Rebuilding the team won't be easy." top

      Gen. saw chaos coming -
      In a new book, Franks tells of warnings before Iraq war
      The U.S. General who routed Saddam Hussein's army in three weeks warned before the invasion that a quick victory could lead to a "catastrophic success" because they were not prepared for postwar anarchy in Iraq.
      "We will have to stand up a new Iraqi army, and create a constabulary that includes a representative tribal, religious, and ethnic mix," retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks writes in a new autobiography recounting the tense days before the war. "It will take time."
      President Bush and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld agreed, but Franks did not get the "open checkbook" he needed to put Saddam's soldiers on the new Iraqi government's payroll.
      "I would continue to argue that there could be no security without civic action," Franks writes in "American Soldier." "Penny wise will surely be pound foolish, I thought. We will spend dollars today ... or blood tomorrow."
      Franks, whose 590-page tome published by Regan Books goes on sale Tuesday, was proven right.
      His warning echoed that of Secretary of State Powell, who believed Franks should have struck Iraq with a bigger force and warned Bush of the dangers of occupying Iraq. "If you break it, you own it," he warned Bush before the invasion.
      Franks, however, expresses no regrets about the war and says everyone believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
      "History reveals that wars often end in chaos that continues for years," he writes.
      The White House did not return a call for comment.
      Bush's political strategists were anxious for Franks' book to be released before the presidential election, believing it would portray the President as a decisive leader.
      To some extent it does. Franks writes that Bush has "the natural leader's ability to put his subordinates at ease" and describes how he gave the final order on March 19, 2003, to invade Iraq.
      But it is Franks' struggles to run the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with Rumsfeld breathing down his back that drives the narrative. At one point, Franks even threatened to quit.
      "Since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, we'd become accustomed to the demands of Secretary Rumsfeld," Franks writes. "But now even my industrious planners found that the daily barrage of tasks and questions was beginning to border on harassment."
      Franks also is unsparing in his criticism of Pentagon officials such as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, whom he derides as the "dumbest ... guy on the planet."
      "No one could deny Feith's academic achievements," Franks writes. "But Feith was a theorist whose ideas were often impractical."
      Franks also reveals:
      # How they fooled Saddam into thinking the U.S. would attack Iraq from Turkey, even after that country said it would not allow any assault from their territory.
      # How the U.S. got a "nasty surprise" when Saddam suddenly sent paramilitary Fedayeen from Baghdad who nearly stymied the assault on southern Iraq.
      # His regret that Rumsfeld's Pentagon and Powell's State Department could not work together better. "On far too many occasions the ... bureaucracy fought like cats in a sack," he wrote. top

      ~ Hearts and Minds ~
      Fair price for a life? Army pays Iraqi family £390 after shooting girl dead
      By Severin Carrell
      01 August 2004
      The Army has paid out £390 to the family of an eight-year-old Iraqi girl who was killed after being hit by a bullet fired by a British soldier, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
      Hanan Saleh Matrud died in an alleyway near her home in northern Basra after a British soldier with the King's Regiment opened fire nearby. The ricocheting bullet left a deep wound across her stomach, and she later died in hospital.
      The soldiers claim they fired a warning shot in the air after being targeted by "heavy stone-throwing" by mobs. Local eyewitnesses dispute the claim, and allege that only children were in the streets.
      The Army admitted the shot "possibly" caused her injury and paid her parents $700, but without admitting responsibility for her death. Defence ministers claim such unofficial payments were set after consulting local Iraqi judges, but admit the scheme is now being overhauled.
      However, the payment has provoked another row over the conduct of British soldiers in Iraq.
      The Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price said: "Payments like these add insult to the terrible injury her family has suffered. The army seems to have an ad hoc way of valuing a human life."
      The case comes as ministers wait to hear the outcome of a landmark High Court hearing last week into allegations that British forces broke the Human Rights Act in Iraq, by failing to carry out independent inquiries into 37 cases were civilians were killed or tortured by British troops.
      One of the cases involves the death of the hotel receptionist Baha Mousa in British detention ­ a case first revealed by The Independent on Sunday earlier this year. top

      Iraqi group claims over 37,000 civilian toll
      By Ahmed Janabi
      Saturday 31 July 2004, 19:10 Makka Time, 16:10 GMT
      An Iraqi political group says more than 37,000 Iraqi civilians were killed between the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003 and October 2003.
      The People's Kifah, or Struggle against Hegemony, movement said in a statement that it carried out a detailed survey of Iraqi civilian fatalities during September and October 2003.
      Their calculation included deaths only among the Iraqi civilian population, and did not count losses sustained by the Iraqi military and paramilitary forces.
      The deputy general-secretary and spokesperson of the People's Kifah Movement told Aljazeera.net he could vouch for the accuracy of the figure.
      "We are 100% sure that 37,000 civilian deaths is a correct estimate. Our study is the result of two months of hard work which involved hundreds of Iraqi activists and academics. Of course there may be deaths that were not reported to us, but the toll in any case could not be lower than our finding," said Muhammad al-Ubaidi.
      "For the collation of our statistics we visited the most remote villages, spoke and coordinated with grave-diggers across Iraq, obtained information from hospitals, and spoke to thousands of witnesses who saw incidents in which Iraqi civilians were killed by US fire," he said.
      Detailed figures
      Al-Ubaidi, a UK-based physiology professor, provided a detailed breakdown of the 37,000 civilian deaths for each governorate (excluding the Kurdish areas) relating to the period between March and October 2003:
      Baghdad 6103
      Mosul 2009
      Basra 6734
      Nasiriya 3581
      Diwania 1567
      Wasit 2494
      Babil 3552
      Karbala and Najaf 2263
      Muthana 659
      Misan 2741
      Anbar 2172
      Kirkuk 861
      Salah al-Din 1797.
      The People's Kifah said the process of data gathering stopped after one of the group's workers was arrested by Kurdish militias and handed over to US forces in October 2003. The fate of the worker remains shrouded in mystery to this day.
      Missing worker
      "I am taking this opportunity of talking to Aljazeera.net to request that the US occupation authorities reveal the whereabouts of the worker, who was arrested and then went missing. We are afraid he is being tortured the way Abu Ghraib prisoners were tortured," al-Ubaidi said.
      "His name is Ramzi Musa Ahmad. He is a 32-year-old Iraqi engineer who was on his way to the Iraqi Kurdish governorate al-Sulaimania last October to fax me the information to Britain, because telephone services had not been restored in Baghdad."
      According to al-Ubaidi, "The minibus in which Ahmad was travelling was stopped at a Kurdish checkpoint. He was arrested and handed over to US army."
      Banned statement
      As of now, there are no reliable estimates of total Iraqi civilian fatalities. The interim Iraqi  government has not made available any statistics, while US occupation authorities in Iraq reportedly issued orders to the Forensic Medicine Department not to talk to the media about the number of bodies it receives.  
      Liqa Makki, a political analyst, said it is widely known in Baghdad that Iraqi officials are prohibited from releasing any information about body count.
      "The director of Forensic Medicine Department said publicly some months ago that his department was receiving 70 bodies a day. But he was reprimanded and a statement was published in the Iraqi press prohibiting the announcement of any kind of body count," Makki said.
      The only serious independent attempt to collate war statistics is the Iraq Body Count Project, which involves both US and British academics. The project's website currently places Iraq's civilian toll as between 11,000 and 13,000.
      The website has been criticised in some quarters for its tardiness in updating its figures. But Iraq Body Count Project says it is not a news portal and puts accuracy ahead of speed.
      According to the Arab and western media, between 15,000 and 20,000 Iraqi civilians have perished since the launch of the invasion.
      But some cast doubt on the figure, saying the number of Iraqi civilians who have died at the hands of the US army may never be known.
      Census due
      Iraq's interim government is preparing the first post-Saddam census in Iraq. It hopes that an accurate census will unearth long-buried facts about Iraq's wars.
      The Planning Ministry issued instructions to Iraqis not to leave their homes on 12 October when 150,000 workers will be engaged in conducting the census.
      The interim government says the census will be the last step before the general election scheduled for January 2005.
      According to the last official census - conducted in 1997 - Iraq had a population of 24 million. top

      UK Anti-War Party Wins First Election

      Friday July 30, 2004 12:31 PM
      LONDON (AP) - An anti-war party founded by a former member of the governing Labour Party claimed its first election victory in a local vote in London.
      The success of the Respect party in Thursday's special election suggested it may undercut support for Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party in future votes.
      In the past, Labour had easily won the seat in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, which has a large immigrant population. This time, Labour came in third.
      Respect was founded by George Galloway, a member of Parliament who was kicked out of Labour after he urged British soldiers not to fight in Iraq. Galloway was a prominent opponent of Blair's decision to commit fighting forces to the U.S.-led coalition. top
      LAHORE-The religious parties observed a countrywide protest day on Friday against the killing of two Pakistanis by their captors in Iraq.

      The religious leaders condemned terrorism against the Muslims and said the rulers were equally responsible for the situation as they were supporting anti-Islam forces like US. They held Pakistan government equally responsible for the killing of two Pakistanis, as it did not clearly rule out sending troops to Iraq.
      The religious parties held protest meetings and staged rallies. They chanted slogans against the US and the government.

      In City, a protest rally was carried out after Juma prayers from Mansoora, which turned into a big gathering at Multan Road. MMA Punjab president Hafiz Idrees, Deputy Secretary General Liaqat Baloch, Mian Aslam, MNA, Dr Waseem Akhtar, MPA, and others addressed the gathering. The participants of the rally were carrying placards bearing anti-US and anti-government slogans.

      Addressing the rally, Liaqat Baloch condemned the killings and demanded that the government issue a clear-cut statement on not sending troops to Iraq. He said the murder was a result of the unsuccessful foreign policy of the government and added that General Musharraf should change his policies in the country’s supreme interest.

      ‘We would not allow a dictator to work for the benefit of the US.’

      Hafiz Idrees said sending troops to Iraq would earn bad name for the country. He said Ashraf Jehangir Qazi should not go to Iraq as UN envoy as, he said, his duty would be to ‘supervise the genocide of Muslims by the allied forces’.

      Mian Aslam, MNA, and Dr Waseem, MPA, said the whole nation was with the bereaved families in their grief.

      MMA rallies call for categorical no to troops for Iraq

      Our Rawalpindi Correspondent adds: On the call of Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal President, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, MMA’s component parties staged protest demonstrations in all major cities of the country to mourn the killings of two Pakistani hostages in Iraq and to press government not to send troops to Iraq.
      In Rawalpindi, MMA leaders and activists gathered outside Jamaat-i-Islami main office and marched up to Murree Road at Mahrir Hassan Chowk.

      The demonstrators were holding placards and banners with slogans condemning killings of two Kashmiris in Iraq and held Government of Pakistan responsible for the incident. Some of the banners were carrying slogans demanding of the government not to send troops to Iraq and come out with clear-cut policy in this connection.

      The demonstrators were also raising slogans against United State and the Government of Pakistan for not coming up with clear-cut policy on sending troops to Iraq.

      Later, addressing the demonstrators, the JI Deputy Secretary General, Dr Mohammad Kamal said that they would not let the rulers to send troops to Iraq and if the rulers have sent the troops to Iraq against the wishes of the people of Pakistan they would come out on roads and throw them out of power.

      The other speakers on the occasion came down hard on the rulers and said that had the Government of Pakistan come out with a clear-cut policy on not sending troops to Iraq the lives of the two Pakistanis killed in Iraq could have been saved.

      The speakers said that rulers in Pakistan were toeing the policy of America and they were planning to send troops to Iraq to bail out the Americans who were facing a lot of hardships there.

      They said that if the rulers have not come out with a clear-cut policy on sending troops to Iraq MMA leadership would launch a protest campaign and would make things difficult for the rulers. top

      Some Republicans Defect to Kerry's Camp
      Fri Jul 30,12:26 PM ET
      By Michael Conlon
      CHICAGO (Reuters) - Ohio resident Bob Stewart says of President Bush: "He's been a world-class polarizer. I don't know if I can stomach four more years with him as president. He misled us into the war in Iraq and has mismanaged everything since."
      A raging Democrat? No, Stewart is a Republican, one of an unknown number of such voters who plan to back John Kerry, out of despair over the war in Iraq and disappointment over budget deficits and social policies.
      It remains to be seen whether they can tip the scales in hotly contested middle American states like Ohio as the Democratic nominee courts them and battles Bush in the final three-month dash to November's election. In past elections defections from both parties have sometimes canceled each other out.
      Kerry and running mate John Edwards kicked off that fight on Friday, leaving Boston and the concluded party convention for a two-week campaign swing across 21 states.
      Stewart, 44, an insurance agent from Anderson Township near Cincinnati, voted for Bush in 2000 and is a registered Republican.
      "I just have a gut feeling that Kerry can be trusted to make the right courageous decisions and will make a good president. He showed that with his heroism in Vietnam," he says.
      Bush is "supposed to be a conservative and yet he's run up the biggest federal deficit in history. One thing that really turned me (away from Bush) as a lifelong Catholic ... was to see Bush go to the Vatican and try to get the pope to come down hard on Kerry for his stand on abortion. That is absolutely appalling."
      In Michigan, Dan Martin has run for local office as a Republican. He says his biggest disappointment is that Bush's reputation as a "compassionate, conservative" governor of Texas hasn't proven true in the White House.
      "The foreign policy is a mess. The offensive in Iraq is reckless and built on bad decision making. On the domestic front I understand that terrorism has struck and he's occupied but any real progress on a domestic agenda has ground to a halt," added Martin, 32, a customer service manager at a health maintenance organization who lives in Rochester Hills.
      In Tennessee, Brian Boland, a young music company manager shopping at a market near Nashville, said: "I've always voted Republican and my folks will just kill me if they find out I'm switching to Kerry this year ... but I am just frustrated with the way Bush has mishandled everything. All the untruths."
      His wife said she too was switching. The Republicans carried Tennessee in 2000, even though it was the home state of Democratic nominee Al Gore.
      At the same market Ron King, a black Vietnam Veteran, said: "I always voted Republican before but I'm against Bush ever since I found out that he doesn't love this country. His so-called military record is a sham. And the worst part is that he lies so much. He lied about weapons of mass destruction."
      Lloyd Huff, 64, retired director of the Dayton Research Institute in Ohio, says he has "voted for a Republican in every presidential election I can remember" but it will be Kerry this time because "the Bush administration has been the most deceitful, duplicitous, secretive administration this country has ever had."
      "Going to war in Iraq was a horrible, horrible mistake," he said. He accused Bush of "an arrogant, swaggering cowboy mentality ... he has done more than anyone to inflame the Muslim world by his words and actions,"
      Kenneth Warren of St. Louis University, who has studied and taught about voter behavior for three decades, said turning a trickle into a trend will be a tough job for Kerry because historically Republicans tend to be faithful. Democrats are more diverse and divided, a "party of factions," and more easily hived off, as former President Ronald Reagan did with the "Reagan Democrats," he said.
      Clay Richards, assistant director of the Polling Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, says Kerry is getting about 11 or 12 percent of the Republican vote in Pennsylvania and New Jersey while Bush is drawing 9 or 10 percent of his support from Democrats, not a statistically significant crossover.
      Before any Kerry draw could be rated similar to the "Reagan Democrats" effect, he said "the gap would have to be a lot bigger." top

      In Iraq, Al Jazeera Navigates Minefield of Press Freedom
      By Megan K. Stack, Times Staff Writer
      July 31, 2004  
      BAGHDAD — The videotapes arrive by courier at the information desk in the shadowy lobby of the Swan Lake, a fading hotel in Baghdad's battle-pocked downtown that now serves as the Iraqi headquarters for the television channel Al Jazeera.
      Chillingly similar, the grainy videos of frightened hostages have become a defining image of Iraq's new violence: tearful pleas for life and masked kidnappers, swords held aloft, laying out their demands.

      For Al Jazeera's journalists, who wrestle with how to use the exclusive and often bloody footage, the tapes pose the latest in a string of credibility tests. The current rules go like this: Show the hostages. Don't show beheadings. The slaughter of two Pakistani hostages this week, for example, was deemed too gory — Al Jazeera broke the news, but kept the pictures to itself.
      "It gives me a headache every day we receive a tape," said Ahmed Sheikh, the organization's editor in chief.
      Iraqi officials charge that Al Jazeera is colluding with kidnappers by giving them an international platform. The criticism is nothing new: U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, have complained that the station has incited violence against U.S. troops by erroneously blaming the soldiers for attacks on civilians. And Al Jazeera reporters have been accused of getting tips before bombing attacks and becoming unprofessionally close to insurgents.
      Alongside the conflict in Iraq, Al Jazeera's viewers are witnessing a second drama. The Arab channel is coming of age and struggling for respect while covering a war opposed by the Arab world — and fending off a round-the-clock blitz of impassioned criticism from all sides.
      In the midst of the mayhem, the young, influential and controversial Qatar-based news organization is setting its sights beyond the Middle East, breaking into English-language news and striving for a place among international institutions such as the BBC and CNN.
      "My country is collapsing, and my job is to watch the collapse," correspondent Audday Katib said. A government engineer under Saddam Hussein, Katib landed a job with Al Jazeera months after the U.S.-led invasion.
      "Do you buy this idea that the U.S. came to bring freedom to Iraq? I don't buy it, but it's not our job to say that," Katib said, lounging on a couch in the Baghdad bureau on a 115-degree day, an air conditioner humming behind him and a Cameron Diaz movie playing on the television. "We let the people say it, but we never say it, because we are neutral."
      The stakes are high for Al Jazeera because its reach is extensive. Washington is watching, along with the interim Iraqi government, which threatens to ban the satellite channel. An estimated 35 million viewers tune in, including just about everybody in Iraq, from the Kurdish mountains to the Sunni Triangle to the Persian Gulf coast. Viewers include foreigners who can't understand the broadcasts, and even the people who hate it.
      Sabah Kadim, an Interior Ministry official, sat in his Baghdad office in suit and tie this week and railed against the station. "They should be with the Iraqi people in their hour of need, and not against them," he said. "And if they can't see [their bias], they're blind."
      The television set in the next room was tuned to Al Jazeera. "Of course, we're always watching it," Kadim said with a shrug. "I have to see what they're up to."
      The creation of Al Jazeera by the Qatari government in 1996 was a revolutionary moment: A region in which rulers have long controlled the flow of information to the public was suddenly treated to an experiment in relatively unrestricted — albeit government-funded — news coverage.
      From a group of squat offices and trailers in Doha, the capital of the sun-blasted Persian Gulf state, Al Jazeera has revolutionized Arab discourse with its vigorous political debates, willingness to criticize some Arab policies and insistence on including Israeli and American guests in the mix.
      Al Jazeera quickly drew the wrath of Arab governments and the consternation of U.S. officials, who accused the station of fanning anger against the West and serving as a mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden, who has communicated with the world via tapes sent to the channel.
      In Iraq, the organization has been forced to learn on the fly. After Al Jazeera quoted supposed witnesses who claimed they'd seen U.S. soldiers tie up Iraqi men and shoot them point blank, a U.S. military spokesman phoned the Al Jazeera bureau, Katib said.
      "He said, 'You just messed up. You accused us of a war crime — and it never happened,' " Katib said, shaking his head. "So we have a lesson: You can't listen to the eyewitnesses. Unless you have pictures, you keep your mouth shut."
      It comes from the other side, too: After a battle this week in the Iraqi hamlet of Buhriz, the U.S. military announced that 13 insurgents had been killed. Katib drove to the town, where residents told him only two men had died — a policeman and a fish vendor. He visited the graveyard, and found only two fresh mounds. The truth was elusive, so Katib tried to strike middle ground.
      "When I went on the air I said, 'The Americans say 13, but I found two,' " he said. "And then the people in the town were attacking me: 'We heard you. You said 13 on the air.' "
      The constant pressure and gut checks have left their mark on the young reporters:
      "When I go to hospitals and see children dying, I fight myself to be objective," said Atwar Bahjat, a popular Baghdad correspondent who was a reporter for Iraqi state television before the war. "I've been affected mentally and psychologically, but if you're not neutral around here, you can lose your job."
      The pressures have spawned self-evaluation and rapid evolution at Al Jazeera.
      "I've tried to tone down the way we're saying things," Sheikh, the editor in chief, said during a recent interview in Doha. "You can say something crying and emotionally, or you can say it quieter."
      Plucked from the documentary department, Sheikh is part of a management team that took control in a reshuffling in November. Under the new leadership, reporters have attended training meetings with U.S. government spokespersons.
      Doha regularly passes down new language rules — reporters now refer to "multinational forces," for example, not "invading army." This month, the organization penned its first code of ethics. And, employees say, U.S. officials have begun to take note.
      U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt called, "saying, 'What happened to you guys?' " Sheikh said. "But we've got to do this. If you face a storm with your chest out, you will be uprooted. You have to find shelter."
      Not to say that Al Jazeera has shed its taint of controversy. Reporters still anger Western viewers by calling slain Palestinian militants "martyrs" — and irk some Iraqis by referring to Iraqi insurgents as simply "killed." And one of its top war correspondents, former Afghanistan and Iraq reporter Tayseer Allouni, is under house arrest in Spain on suspicion of ties to Al Qaeda.
      But the most common complaints are also most vague — that Al Jazeera is biased, emotional or distorts the truth. "Between the lines," Katib calls those gripes. They have to do with Al Jazeera being a staunchly Arab station, a collection of journalists who inevitably and unapologetically view the U.S. "war on te

      (Message over 64 KB, truncated)
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.