$87bn for Iraq, Afghanistan
- US Senate okays $87bn for Iraq, Afghanistan
By Anwar Iqbal
WASHINGTON, Oct 18: The US Senate on Friday night granted President
Bush's request for $87 billion for operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan. The House of Representative has already approved the
The Bush administration will now have to battle with the lawmakers
over whether some of the aid for Iraq should be a loan.
The 87-12 vote in the Senate came after the House approved its
version of the package by a 303-125 vote. The House earlier on Friday
accepted an amendment by Congressmen Jim Ramstad, a Republican, and
Dennis Moore, a Democrat, to shift $98 million from Iraq
reconstruction to help troops on leave pay for their trips home.
For the first time since the Vietnam War, the military is giving
service members with 12 months in the field in Iraq or Afghanistan a
15-day home leave. But after flying into the port of entry in this
country, they must pay for the rest of theirs trip out of their own
pockets. The Senate approved similar language in its debate.
The president and Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State
Colin Powell, pressed lawmakers to make all reconstruction money
grants rather than loans. They argued that loans would worsen Iraq's
foreign debt situation and undermine efforts to get other nations to
write-off their outstanding loans to Iraq.
But the administration was confronted by lawmakers who said
constituents were disturbed by the idea that the United States, while
racking up record federal deficits, was giving billions in aid to a
nation sitting on the second-largest oil reserves in the world.
By a 55-44 vote Friday, mostly along party lines, the Senate rejected
an amendment by Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle that would have
barred future US aid to Iraq unless President Bush certified that
foreign countries' contributions equalled those by the United States.
In the House, Democrats sought to convert half the $18.6 billion in
the House bill for reconstruction but lost, 226-200.
BOGGED DOWN IN BAGHDAD
Scott Taylor, Toronto Sun, 9/28/03
BAGHDAD -- A little Iraqi girl -- no more than eight years old --
squatted beside the road with tears of humiliation streaming down her
cheeks. Six metres away, three American soldiers had their rifles
aimed at her as she was forced to relieve herself in full view of a
long line of parked cars. From inside their vehicles, the Iraqi
onlookers screamed their rage at the U.S. troops. Whenever one of the
Iraqis ventured to step out of his vehicle, an American officer
bellowed, "Get back in the car, a--hole!" and the .50-calibre
machinegun mounted on the U.S. Hummer would swing menacingly towards
The terrified little girl was weeping uncontrollably by the time she
dropped her skirt and ran back to her mother.
This incident took place on Sunday, Sept. 14, after a detachment of
the U.S. 101st Airborne Division set up a roadblock on the Samara-
Kirkuk highway. The purpose was to conduct a thorough weapons search
of all traffic along this route. Without enough personnel to man the
roadblock, cars and trucks were soon backed up for at least two
kilometres in each direction.
To ensure that no Iraqi ventured onto the roadway, First Lieut.
Fisher and his detachment would race up and down the queue, pointing
their weapons and hurling verbal abuse at any violator.
The little girl had been sitting in a small Mazda with six other
family members for over three hours before she left the car. Her
older brother -- no more than 10 -- had bravely taken her by the hand
and attempted to reach a small depression in the sand which might
have offered a modicum of privacy.
Lieut. Fisher's Hummer had roared down the unpaved shoulder and
braked to a halt in a cloud of dust. The young boy abandoned his
While Fisher and his men may have carried out their orders
efficiently, their aggressive behaviour and lack of empathy in this
instance had done little to win over the "hearts and minds" of the
Two days after the incident at the Samara-Kirkuk roadblock, I was
given a personal taste of Iraqi animosity towards Americans.
I had felt the sharp jolt immediately, but only as the pain
registered in my forearm did I realize that I had been struck by a
rock. I turned in time to see a young boy throw a second stone, which
narrowly missed my head. The boy then ran back to a crowded pickup
truck where his family was cheering him on.
I had been filming the traffic backlog on the Baghdad-Mosul highway
when the incident occurred, and all along the densely packed roadway,
Iraqis began honking their horns and screaming anti-American phrases
After the collapse of Saddam's regime on April 9, the remnants of the
elite Republic Guard had blown the bridges across the Tigris River,
in an attempt to slow the U.S. advance on Tikrit. Although the last
of the Tikrit defences were captured in late April, to date there are
only a couple of temporary Bailey bridges in place to span the
As a result, the volume of traffic greatly exceeds the single lane of
bridge capacity. Having waited several hours in the hot sun, the
Iraqi drivers were only too pleased to vent their anger on someone
who appeared to be an American.
The opportune arrival of a U.S. armoured patrol thankfully prevented
events from escalating out of control.
However, as I attempted to film my rescuers, a terrified young
American soldier aimed his machinegun at me, screaming, "Put your
hands in the air -- now!"
There is good reason for the U.S. troops to be jumpy. Over the past
few weeks, ambushes by Saddam loyalists have been on the increase,
and American casualties mount steadily.
What is even more alarming is that these attacks are no longer
isolated to the volatile central Iraq region, known as the Sunni
Triangle. As evidenced by the Sept. 9 bomb blast in Erbil -- which
killed three and injured 55 -- and the string of deadly ambushes in
Mosul, the terror attacks are spreading into northern Iraq.
"We believe that the large-scale U.S. military clampdown in the Sunni
Triangle has simply forced the extremists out of that region in
search of softer targets," explained Eddi 'Windtalker' Calis, the
Palestinian-American responsible for intelligence and security at the
U.S. airfield in Kirkuk.
"We now have to be prepared for an attack to happen anywhere,
Under such constant pressure, the American soldiers are showing signs
of stress, and unit morale has plummeted.
"We've shipped home three guys in bodybags and at least another 30
wounded since (U.S. President George W.) Bush declared this thing
over," said 23-year-old Lieut. Tanner, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
"Not all of those shipped home were suffering from physical wounds.
Some simply cracked under the stress."
For the majority of U.S. military personnel presently deployed in
Iraq, the earliest rotation date home will not be until next April,
which means they will have served, on average, a 14-month tour
abroad. To make matters worse, with the coalition forces unable to
provide a secure environment anywhere in Iraq, the troops have been
unable to enjoy any local R&R.
"This is completely unprecedented," said Staff Sgt. Allan Spry, a 17-
year veteran with the 173rd Brigade.
"How long can they expect our guys to go without sex and alcohol?"
Although the U.S. soldiers in Iraq are under strict orders to
remain "dry," one indicator of a breakdown in unit discipline is the
presence of Iraqi alcohol vendors outside most of the American camps.
Sexual fraternization is also forbidden, but the staggering number of
pregnancies among U.S. female personnel has only exacerbated the
Americans' manpower shortage.
"The [women] know that getting knocked up is a ticket out of this s--
thole," claimed Cpl. Slaughter.
"We started out with 10 women (at the U.S. compound in Taji) and
already three of them have gone home pregnant. Everyone knows that
the lieutenant is pregnant but she just hasn't told the commanding
officer yet. So, that's 40% of our women knocked up in less than five
In an effort to reduce the demand on U.S. military resources, the
Americans have relinquished control of the Central Iraq region to the
Multi-National Division (MND). Comprised of troops from 21 countries,
the 8,300 soldiers of the MND resemble a modern-day Tower of Babel.
Although Poland and Spain are the major contributors, many of the MND
units are comprised of personnel from non-NATO countries such as
Mongolia, Philippines, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan.
"While it was required that all officers must be able to speak
English, I cannot say that we are not facing some difficulties,"
admitted Col. Javier Cabeza, the Spanish Chief of MND Operations.
Language is not the only operational obstacle facing the MND. There
is a tremendous disparity in the equipment used by the various
contingents, including the necessity to supply some troops with non-
standardized ammunition calibres. Many contributing forces arrived in
Iraq with virtually no equipment whatsoever.
"As a result of the Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, Honduran and Dominican
Republic troops requiring vehicles, weapons, protective clothing and
training upon arrival, their operational deployment had to be
delayed," Cabeza explained.
The United States is covering all incremental costs and providing the
requisite equipment to all nations contributing troops.
In addition to the deployment of foreign troops into Iraq, the U.S.
interim authority has also contracted a number of corporate security
firms to assist coalition troops in protecting strategic resources.
To protect their own personnel, Kellog, Brown and Root -- the major
U.S. corporate contractor for Iraq's reconstruction -- has hired its
own local armed guards. Dressed in civilian clothing and carrying
Kalashnikov assault rifles, the KBR security staff patrol the
compounds around the Baghdad hotels which house U.S. executives.
The problem is that nobody is quite clear as to what jurisdiction or
authority these "rent-a-gun" agencies are entitled.
"If my men see an Iraqi carrying a weapon, they'll not wait to find
out whose side he's on," said an Australian captain, who requested
"They'll shoot first, and identify the remains later."
On Sept. 12, U.S. forces did just that, when they mistakenly engaged
a detachment of Iraqi police outside of Fallujah. When the one-sided
firefight ended, eight of the Iraqi police were dead.
"When you've got Iraqis in civilian clothes and driving civilian
cars ... you can't blame (the 82nd Airborne) for greasing those guys,
even if they turned out to be policemen," said Sgt. Kostens, a
section commander with the 1st Armored (Old Ironsides) Division.
Kostens was hit by two grenade fragments during an ambush in late
"Our guys are not about to start taking any chances. We are planning
to survive the tour, get home safe and get the hell out of the army,"
"And God help any Iraqis who get in the way of that plan."
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