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$87bn for Iraq, Afghanistan

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  • ummyakoub
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 19, 2003
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      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.



      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 protester.

      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
      Iraqi people.

      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
      at me.

      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
      demolished gap.

      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,"
      Kostens concluded.

      "And God help any Iraqis who get in the way of that plan."



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