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June 2005 in Iraq - History

June 2005 in Iraq - History


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June 2005 in Iraq
US Casualties

June 3rd A suicide bomber killed 10 people and wounded 11 at a gathering of Sufi Muslims in Baghdada. In total 44 Iraqis were killed including a Shiite cleric

June 7th Suicide bombers attacked checkpoints outside the city of Hawija. 20 people were killed and 30 were wounded in the attacks.

June 11th 34 Iraqis were killed in various attacks throughout the country. The attacks included an attack on a mini bus carrying construction workers as well as bomb in front of a health center in the Shula neighborhood of Baghdad.

June 14th- A suicde bomber blew himself up in the Northern City of Kirkurk. The bombing took place in frot of the Rafiddain Bank where a crowd of retirees were waiting to cash their pension checks. A total of 22 peole were killed and 80 were wounded.

June 23- A total of seven American soldiers were killed in Iraq. Six of them were Marines fighting in Fallujah.


A Mission That Ended inInferno for 3 Women

The 120-degree June heat and rising tension in Falluja had already frayed the nerves of the Marine women when the cargo truck they were riding in pulled onto the main road and turned toward camp. It was only a 15-minute trip. But the blast took mere seconds to incinerate lives.

The suicide bomber had waited for his victims alongside the road, and then rammed his car into the truck with deadly precision. The ambush ignited an inferno -- scorching flesh, scattering bodies and mixing smoke, blood and dirt.

Several of the women lost the skin on their hands. One's goggles fused to her cheeks. After rolling 50 yards on fire, the truck flipped and spilled the women onto the road, where enemy snipers opened fire. With their own ammunition bursting in the heat, the women crawled and pulled one another from the burning wreckage.

They were parched and dazed, and as one marine pleaded for water, another asked over and over, "How do I look?"

"It was like somebody had ripped her face off," said Cpl. Sally J. Saalman, the leader of the group, who was waving her own hands to cool them. "I told her, 'It'll be all right, babe.' "

But it wasn't. Three women died: a 20-year-old who had enlisted to support her mother, a 21-year-old former cheerleader and a 43-year-old single mother on her second tour in Iraq.

Three male marines, including two who provided security for the cargo truck, were also killed. Corporal Saalman and six other women were flown to a burn center in Texas, where even morphine, she said, could not kill the pain of having their charred skin scrubbed off.

The ambush in Falluja made June 23 one of the worst days in the history of women in the American military. Yet it faded into the running narrative of Iraq, tallied up as another tragic but unavoidable consequence of war.

At the White House the next day, President Bush spoke generally of the insurgents' resolve: "It's hard to stop suicide bombers." Answering questions over the next week about the attack, the Defense Department issued assurances that the women had been adequately protected.

But an examination of the attack, pieced together through interviews in Falluja and the United States, military documents and photographs taken by marines at the time, shows the opposite. The military sent the women off that day with substandard armor, inadequate security and faulty tactics, and the predictability of their daily commute through one of the most volatile parts of Iraq made them an open target.

The problems mounted in a lethal chain.

The cargo truck the women rode in was a relic, never intended for warfare with insurgents, and had mere improvised metal shielding that only rose to their shoulders. The flames from the blast simply shot over the top.

Their convoy was protected by just two Humvees with mounted machine guns. A third was supposed to be there but had been diverted that day by a security team that strained to juggle competing demands. But the Falluja area was so dangerous that the local Marine commander typically had four Humvees when he ventured out.

Perhaps most significantly, the security team let the suicide bomber pull to the side of the road as the convoy passed, rather than ordering him to move ahead to keep him away from the women. Marines involved in the operation called the tactic, commonly used, a serious error.

"The females should never have been transported like that," said Sgt. Carozio V. Bass, one of the marines who escorted the convoy. "We didn't have enough people or proper vehicles."

If anything, the women needed more protection because of their work in Falluja and the tension it was igniting, some marines said. They had been searching Iraqi women for weapons and other contraband and felt certain the task was infuriating insurgents. Even so, the military had the women follow a predictable routine: traveling to and from their camp each day at roughly the same time and on the same route through the city.

Some marines questioned whether they should have been traveling at all. Male marines also worked at the checkpoints, but did not have to face the dangers of the daily commute. They slept at a Marine outpost in downtown Falluja, but Marine Corps rules barred the women from sharing that space with the men.

In the weeks that followed, the wounded women said, they were told not to speak with reporters. Two sergeants said they were asked to chronicle the attack in written statements, but the Marine Corps said it decided against investigating the episode.

Marine officials defended the security measures that had been taken in transporting the women and armoring the vehicles. They said that suicide bombings were still infrequent in Falluja at that time.

"That convoy was as protected as many of the convoys that were run before," said Col. Charles M. Gurganus, who commanded Marine operations in Falluja at the time. "There is absolutely no way that you can prepare for every eventuality."

The day after the attack, however, the Marines in Falluja increased to five the number of Humvees in the convoy transporting a new crew of women, added more weapons for protection and stopped letting cars wait on the side of the road for the convoy to pass. Eventually, they switched to armored Humvees instead of cargo trucks.

The marines killed and wounded that day were part of the heavy toll that the Marine Corps has borne since it returned to Iraq in early 2004 to replace exhausted Army units.

Marine officials point out that they have inherited some of the most violent turf in Iraq. But some marines said that their trucks, training and personnel were more suitable for their traditional mission of establishing beachheads than for combating a sustained insurgency. Since returning to Iraq, the Marines have had one-sixth of the military personnel in the war, but have accounted for one-third of the deaths, Pentagon records show.

And the deadly encounters, like the one in Falluja, take a toll far beyond the numbers.

"I think about it every day, 24 hours a day," said Lance Cpl. Erin Liberty, whose seatmate on the truck that day in June was so badly burned that her body was identifiable only by dog tags. "You're never happy, you're never sad, you're never mad. You're just pretty much numb to everything."

For four months this year, about 20 women called Camp Falluja home. They made up a sort of platoon, called the Female Search Force, working out of the Marine camp, an asphalt and gravel base that lies a few miles outside Falluja.

The Marines prohibit women from participating in direct ground combat. So some of the women had performed duties in the mailroom, others in the radio shack. In February, though, the military formed the group to help search Iraqi women at the city's checkpoints.

But if screening Iraqis did not constitute a combat job, the daily commute between camp and city would amount to one.

Each day at 5 a.m., the marines rose from their canvas cots and were taken by truck to downtown Falluja. They often did not return until 11 p.m. On good days, the women joshed with the Iraqis, their huge goggles bringing either squeals or tears from children. But many older Iraqi women objected to being searched.

"One lady came through and had a bunch of ID's on her," Cpl. Christina J. Humphrey, of Chico, Calif., said in a phone interview from a base in Okinawa, Japan. "I said I have to confiscate them and she grabbed my flak jacket."

By June, the checkpoints were sweltering and, the women said, a sense of dread was setting in.

Eighteen members of the military had been killed in the Falluja area and nearby Ramadi that month. Marine and Iraqi forces were encountering explosives nearly every day. In the week before the women were attacked, an Iraqi general survived a suicide car bombing in Falluja.

Cpl. Ramona M. Valdez, 20, who worked at the Statue of Liberty before joining the Marines in early 2002 to support her mother in the Bronx, regularly asked to be relieved from the checkpoint duty. The job even spooked Petty Officer First Class Regina R. Clark, a 43-year-old Navy Seabee from Centralia, Wash., who was in Iraq for the second time. She had taken her previous tour in such stride that she had even shipped a stray dog back home.

This time was different. "She had bad feelings all around," said Kelly Pennington, a friend in Washington. "Her whole attitude went from getting the dog home to getting herself home safe."

Making sure the women's commute was safe was the responsibility of the men who provided convoy security. "That was their job," said Corporal Saalman, the group's leader, of Branchville, Ind.

Two weeks before the attack, the mood changed for the worse. The Iraqi women became withdrawn, and the marines began to suspect trouble.

"It was like a cold feeling," Corporal Saalman said. "Everything was slow moving."

The skies in Falluja on June 23 were beginning to clear from a sandstorm when Sergeant Bass, the convoy member, prepared to help take the women back to camp.

His unit provided security for the short trip, dubbed the Milk Run, but members had mixed feelings when they got the job a few weeks earlier. The marines were already escorting five or more convoys of supplies and military personnel in and around Falluja each day and Sergeant Bass and other team members said they struggled to provide each convoy with full protection.

The problem was particularly acute when it came to Humvees.

Sgt. James P. Sherlock, whose Humvee would have been in the convoy that day behind the women's truck, said he had been pulled off to patrol a nearby highway that was seen as more of a threat.

"It was a manpower issue," Sergeant Bass said.

He said his section of the security unit had roughly 10 Humvees at its disposal. But each vehicle required three to five marines, and by June their numbers had dropped to about 30, which stretched them thin.

Sergeant Bass said no one raised any objection to using just two Humvees that day because, while all of Falluja was dangerous, there had been no recent attacks on that stretch of road. Moreover, he said, the Marines were trying to lower their profile.

"We were trying to give the people some normalcy," he said. "We didn't want to appear to them as being bullies."

Colonel Gurganus, the former commander in Falluja, said that while he usually had an escort of four Humvees, that number rose to as many as eight when other officers or dignitaries joined him.

There were no hard and fast rules on how many Humvees to use, nor were there any on how to position the women in the convoy. Often, the women would mix with the men in a second cargo truck, which Sergeant Bass said he preferred because it made them a less enticing target.

The Marine compound in downtown Falluja, where the convoy was staged, is easily observable from nearby buildings, and Sergeant Bass said he was convinced that the insurgents did their homework.

"They planned this maybe for months," he said. "Scoped our convoy out and saw typically where do the females sit. Maybe they had someone watching and they called on the cellphone."

That evening, however, Corporal Saalman said she was focused on a routine but necessary chore: calling the roll. So she had all the women climb onto the bed of one truck.

Falluja should have been bustling on a Thursday evening in summertime. But the streets had been deserted for much of the day, which the American military had learned could be a signal that residents had been tipped off to an impending attack.

"I even told my buddy, 'Something bad is going to happen today,' " Corporal Saalman said.

At 7:20 p.m., there was only one car on the road when the women's convoy left. The marines in the lead Humvee waved the driver of a car to the side of the road and later said that his demeanor had raised no alarms.

The driver waited, they said, for the lead Humvee to pass and then hit the women's cargo truck, striking just behind the cab on the passenger's side.

The blast instantly killed the truck's assistant driver, Cpl. Chad W. Powell, an outdoorsman and third-generation marine from West Monroe, La., and Pfc. Veashna Muy, 20, of Los Angeles, who was in charge of operating a gun atop the cargo truck.

In the back, two of the women, Petty Officer Clark and Corporal Valdez, died within moments, according to casualty reports. Lance Cpl. Holly A. Charette, 21, of Cranston, R.I., the former cheerleader, died three hours later after receiving treatment at Camp Falluja, the records show.

"It was orange and black and red smoke, flames everywhere, coming at us," Corporal Liberty recalled. "I didn't see my childhood, or a big white light. I just closed my eyes and I'm like, 'Wow, I'm going to die.' "

The marines in the rear Humvee heard the explosion, but were so far back they did not know what had been hit. Sergeant Bass took a photograph that shows a huge plume of smoke some 200 yards away.

Then came the radio call from the marines who were leading the convoy: "We've been hit! We've been hit! We've taken mass casualties. Get the doc up here."

Sergeants Bass and Timothy Lawson ran, with the medic, just as snipers across the road opened fire. When they arrived they found Corporal Liberty trying to hoist a woman away from the burning truck.

"I tried to pick her up by the back of her flak jacket," said Corporal Liberty, who is now being treated in North Carolina for an injured neck, shrapnel in one leg and combat stress. "She was a big healthy woman with lots of muscle, and she was down in the dirt and blood and I said, ɼome on girl, we've got to go.' "

Another marine grabbed Corporal Liberty and told her to let go. The woman was already dead.

The women took shelter at a storefront about 100 yards off the road and the few men who were present had to run back and forth carrying the wounded. In all, 13 women and men were injured.

Against orders, two men from the second cargo truck jumped out and raced ahead to help, including Cpl. Carlos Pineda, a 23-year-old from Los Angeles. When smoke from the flaming truck cleared for a moment, a bullet found the gap in the armor on his side and sliced through his lungs.

His widow, Ana, said she later received a letter he wrote the day before, saying he had narrowly escaped harm in another attack. "He said, 'I feel my luck here is just running out.' "

When another Marine unit arrived on the scene, the dead and wounded were loaded onto the second cargo truck and the convoy pressed on to camp. One of the two Humvees then broke down, and one of the injured women had to be moved to the cargo truck.

In the back, Corporal Saalman started to sing. First, "America the Beautiful," then "Amazing Grace."

"I have this thing ever since I was little, if I get scared or I'm worried or someone else is worried, I sing," said Corporal Saalman, whose nickname is Songbird.

It calmed her platoon, the marines said, and between verses she consoled the woman whose scorched head lay in her lap.

Wrong Armor for the Mission

Long before that June day, Marine commanders were wrestling with a vexing problem: their troops lacked the right protection for a war exacting its toll in roadside bombs.

To carry out its traditional mission of leading invasions, the Marines have lightly armored amphibious vehicles to get them onto dry ground and trucks to ferry them and their supplies on the back lines. The cargo truck that carried the security checkpoint workers through Falluja each day was conceived of in the early 1990's without armor for noncombat supply lines.

"We equip for what we fight and the truck was not designed to be an armored vehicle," said Maj. Gen. William D. Catto, the leader of the unit responsible for equipping marines, in an interview at his headquarters in Quantico, Va.

In November of 2003, as the Pentagon was ordering the Marines to relieve Army troops in Iraq, General Catto's team told Oshkosh Truck, which makes the cargo truck, to help create an integrated armor system, according to records released to The New York Times.

"During the fall of 2003, we noted the alarming increase in the number of Army vehicles under attack," Col. Susan Schuler, a Marine procurement official, said in an e-mail message. "Therefore, anticipating that Marine units would return to Iraq in early 2004, we had to address vehicle hardening of all our fleets."

General Catto said the plan was ideal but was taking too long. In the meantime, they began buying ceramic panels used on military aircraft, but could not get enough from the single company that was making them.

So they obtained metal plates, which were neither as strong nor as tall as the factory armor that was being developed.

The women's truck that was hit in Falluja had been fitted with the plates and General Catto said he had been told that they repelled the blast. But the makeshift shielding, just 36 1/2 inches tall, left the women's necks and heads exposed.

A year earlier, when four marines were killed in Ramadi after a roadside bomb hit their Humvee, their company leader told The Times that a few inches more of steel would have saved their lives.

A contract to produce the new factory armor for the cargo trucks, which is double-walled and 46 inches high, was awarded in September 2004, but the Marine Corps said it could find only one company to make it: Plasan Sasa, based in Kibbutz Sasa, Israel.

With nearly 1,000 cargo trucks in Iraq, General Catto said he would like to have multiple companies making the armor, but Plasan Sasa holds the rights to the design. However, Plasan's chief executive, Dan Ziv, said his firm had more than kept pace with the Marines' schedule. "We are not the bottleneck at the moment," he said.

The armor kits take 300 hours of work to install, and General Catto said that with the marines so pressed by the war, they could not easily give up their trucks to have the work done. The first trucks retrofitted with factory armor began showing up in the field on May 31, the Marines said, and as of last week half of its cargo trucks had this armor installed. That leaves about 460 trucks in Iraq with the same protection as the truck that carried the Marine women in Falluja.

Despite the June 23 ambush, Corporal Saalman said she was willing to return to Iraq.

Sergeant Bass, who has returned to a marketing job in San Diego, said he had turned the events over and over in his head. "I don't want to blame everything on the Marine Corps," he said. "Leaders make mistakes and aren't perfect."

Then he added: "We were undermanned and overtaxed, and that is not out of the norm for the Marine Corps. But in a wartime situation it really hindered our capability and sometimes our willingness to do things."


Early June 2005: US Intelligence Find Evidence of Mossad or CIA Support For Insurgents in Iraq

US Intelligence officers report that some of the insurgents in Iraq are using recent-model Beretta 02 pistols that have no serial numbers. The numbers have not been removed the guns came off a production line with no number. “Analysts suggest the lack of serial numbers indicates that the weapons were intended for intelligence operations or terrorist cells with substantial government backing. Analysts speculate that these guns are probably from either Mossad or the CIA. Analysts speculate that agent provocateurs may be using the untraceable weapons even as US authorities use insurgent attacks against civilians as evidence of the illegitimacy of the resistance.” [United Press International, 6/6/2005]


Parliamentarian Assassinated Guerrillas assassinated a member of parliament in Baghdad on Tuesday. They cut down Dhari Ali al-Fayadh, along with his son and three bodyguards. Al-Fayadh had run for office as part of the largely Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. The oldest member of parliament, he served as speaker of the house when it first met. [&hellip]

Guerrillas Shoot Down US Helicopter Bombings in Baghdad Bush Presses Blair for More Troops Guerrillas using a shoulder-held missile launcher, probably an SA-16, shot down a US Apache helicopter Monday north of Baghdad, killing both servicemen aboard. AP reports, ‘ “Witness Mohammed Naji told Associated Press Television News he saw two helicopters flying toward Mishahda [&hellip]


Cheney: Iraq will be 'enormous success story'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday defended his recent comment that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes," insisting that progress being made in setting up a new Iraqi government and establishing democracy there will indeed end the violence -- eventually.

However, in an exclusive interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Cheney said he thinks there still will be "a lot of bloodshed" in the coming months, as the insurgents try to stop the move toward democracy in Iraq.

"If you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a violent period, the throes of a revolution," he said. "The point would be that the conflict will be intense, but it's intense because the terrorists understand that if we're successful at accomplishing our objective -- standing up a democracy in Iraq -- that that's a huge defeat for them.

"We will succeed in Iraq, just like we did in Afghanistan. We will stand up a new government under an Iraqi-drafted constitution. We will defeat that insurgency, and, in fact, it will be an enormous success story."

A recent surge in fighting has raised fears that an Iraq-style quagmire is developing in Afghanistan just months ahead of key legislative elections.

American fighter planes bombarded a southern Afghanistan rebel hide-out with missiles and bombs Tuesday, killing up to 76 insurgents in one of the deadliest single clashes since the Taliban's ouster in 2001.

At least 12 Afghan police and soldiers also died in the fighting and five U.S. troops were wounded.

Cheney also said Bush administration officials "don't pay a lot of attention" to polls showing declining public support among Americans for the Iraq war.

"The last thing you want to do is to read the latest poll and then base policy on that," he said. "Presidents are generally ineffective if they spend all their time reading the polls and trying to make policy accordingly.

Gitmo detainees 'living in the tropics'

"We are doing what we believe is right. We're convinced it's right. We're convinced that in fact we'll achieve our objectives."

The vice president also told Blitzer that "we've got a pretty good idea of the general area" where al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden is hiding, but he said, "I don't have the street address."

Asked to identify the general area, Cheney demurred, saying he wouldn't talk about intelligence matters. Pressed on when bin Laden might be captured, he said, "What, do you expect me to say: Three weeks from next Tuesday?"

"I'm convinced eventually we'll get him," he said.

Cheney also rejected calls for closing the detention facility for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying the inmates there "are serious, deadly threats" who will "go back to trying to kill Americans" if they are released.

He also defended the treatment of prisoners by the U.S. military at Guantanamo, telling Blitzer, "There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people."

"They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want," the vice president said.

Cheney compared the current situation in Iraq to the last months of World War II, when Germans launched a desperate offensive in the Battle of the Bulge and the Japanese offered stiff resistance on Okinawa.

He said the insurgents will "do everything they can to disrupt" the process of building an Iraqi government, "but I think we're strong enough to defeat them."

The vice president declined to put a timeline on when American forces might be able to leave Iraq. But asked about an assessment by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani that the United States might begin significantly reducing troop levels in 2006, Cheney said, "I hope he's correct."

"There will probably be a continued U.S. presence there for some considerable period of time, because there are some things we do they can't do -- for example, air support, some of our intelligence, communications and logistics capabilities," he said. "But I think the bulk of the effort will increasingly be taken on by Iraqi forces."

Cheney also said he thought Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a fellow Republican, was "wrong" when he told U.S. News and World Report the White House was "disconnected from reality" about how the situation was deteriorating in Iraq.

"[Washington has] got a lot of people in it who were armchair quarterbacks or who like to comment on the passing scene," he said. "But those who have predicted the demise of our efforts since 9/11 -- as we have fought the war on terror, as we have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan -- did not know what they were talking about."

Cheney said he had not read the so-called "Downing Street memo," a document written by a British official in the fall of 2002 suggesting that President Bush had already decided to remove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and that U.S. officials were over hyping intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to build support for the policy.

However, the vice president said the premise of the memo -- that a decision to go to war had been made months before the March 2003 invasion -- was "wrong."

"Remember what happened after the supposed memo was written. We went to the United Nations. We got a unanimous vote out of the Security Council for a resolution calling on Saddam Hussein to come clean," he said.

"The president of the United States took advantage of every possibility to try to resolve this without having to use military force. It wasn't possible in this case."


Female Marines Killed in Iraq by Suicide Bomber

June 24, 2005 -- -- At least six Marines, three of them female, were killed after a suicide bomber rammed into their military vehicle Thursday night in Fallujah, Iraq, ABC News has confirmed.

The military said in a statement that two Marines were killed and 13 wounded, 11 of them women. If confirmed, it would be the largest one-day casualty count for women serving in the military since the start of the war in Iraq.

In addition, three Marines and a sailor believed to be in the vehicle are currently missing, according to the statement.

The open, seven-ton armored truck was ferrying members of a U.S. military civil affairs team to perform checkpoint searches 40 miles west of Baghdad, according to officials. Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad in the Anbar province, was the site of violent fighting last November as U.S. troops attempted to oust militants.

It was to be a routine "swap out," or shift change, that included a high number of women because of the need to have females search women travelers at checkpoints.

The majority of the fatalities were Marines assigned to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp LeJeune, N.C., according to 2nd Lt. Barry Edwards. They were assigned to Camp Fallujah.

At least 1,730 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began in March 2003, with 44 women among the casualties.

While every servicemember's death, regardless of gender, is a loss, targeting female troops may be the latest attempt to shock and destabilize U.S. forces. It was not clear whether this was an intentional attack on female troops, but many recent suicide attacks have targeted civilians, including women and children.

Bomb to Shock

Car bombers have struck Iraq 480 times in the past year with a third of the attacks occurring in the last two months, according to an Associated Press count based on reports from police, military and hospital officials.

"They would like to force out the occupiers," Jessica Stern, a lecturer at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and the author of "Terror in the Name of God," said on ABC's "Nightline" on May 22.

"Their goal is to impose such heavy costs on the United States that we just can't stand it anymore," Stern said.

Women in Combat

Despite rules that have prohibited women from fighting on the front lines, female servicemembers have found themselves in combat zones. Not only has the nature of missions in Iraq changed but leaner fighting forces have forced the military to adapt, which means female troops are part of combat support units. And in modern warfare, there is typically no clearly defined front.

"Female Marines play a vital role providing security at the entry control points in the city," the military statement said. "They search female Iraqi citizens moving through the checkpoints. Female Marines are employed in this role in order to be respectful of Iraqi cultural sensitivities."

Last month, the House Armed Services Committee debated limiting the role of women in combat. Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., had initiated a wide-ranging restriction that would have required an act of Congress to open up new positions to women in combat zones.

But the House approved, on a 428-1 vote, a watered-down provision that lets the Pentagon continue to determine military jobs for women as long as it gives Congress 60 days notice, twice as much time as is currently required.

As of the end of May, there were 2,823 military occupations open to women, including Army jobs in which women provide medical, maintenance and logistics support to units in combat zones, according to the AP. Nearly 200 of those positions are closed because of the Pentagon policy that bars women from joining the ranks of the special forces.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, of the 1.1 million troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan at least 119,000 of them are women.

Asked about women in the military at the House Armed Services Committee meeting Thursday, Gen. George Casey reiterated women's important role in the military. "We couldn't do what we do without them."

He added that he didn't see "any need to change any of the policies and procedures."

Public's Take

In the United States, public support of the war seems to be waning. According to the latest ABC Poll, given the costs versus the opportunities in the Iraqi war, 58 percent said the war was not worth fighting. This is a new high and could keep climbing if casualties continue to rise.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday that he thinks public opinion is being "pushed" by a drumbeat of unflattering coverage of the war.

As the violence rages on, the Bush administration still has not set a date for withdrawing from Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari today said that the U.S.-led multinational force must stay in Iraq until Iraqi forces are fully prepared to defend the country by themselves.

Bush agreed to fight on but critics warn that with military recruitment down, finding troops regardless of gender will be more and more difficult in the coming months.


26 June 2005


U.S. Army Soldiers from Headquarters Troop, Mortar, 2nd Squadron, 278th Regimental Combat Team fire 120mm mortars from Forward Operating Base Bernstein. Pic: Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day, USAF

Iraqi Soldiers from the 3rd Company, 2nd Squadron, 4th Task Force, walk through the streets of Tuz searching houses for weapons and contraband during Operation Salam Al Tuz II, (Peace at Tuz), in a Kurdish neighborhood. Pic: Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day, USAF

SSG Brian M. VanNote,(center), 3rd squad Leader, 2nd Platoon, Troop K, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, briefs a squad leader from 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Divison of the Iraqi Army on their days mission. Troop K conducts joint combat patrols daily with soldiers from Iraqi Army preparing them to take on the reponsiblilty of performing security operations in Iraq.
Pic: SGT Daniel W. Bailey

Trashing our history: troops in Iraq

Back in June, this column pointed out that it is impossible to fight a war without heroism -- but that you would never know that from the mainstream media. Nothing heroic done by American troops in Iraq is likely to make headlines in the New York Times or be featured on the big three broadcast network news programs.

That fact has now been belatedly recognized in a New York Times opinion piece, but with a strange twist.

After briefly mentioning a few acts of bravery in Iraq -- including a Marine who smothered an enemy grenade with his own body, saving the lives of his fellow Marines at the cost of his own -- the Times' writer said, "the military, the White House and the culture at large have not publicized their actions with the zeal that was lavished on the heroes of World War I and World War II."

Think about that spin: The reason we don't hear about such things is because of the Pentagon, Bush and "the culture at large."

Neither the Pentagon, the White House or "the culture at large" can stop the newspapers or the televisions networks from publicizing whatever they want to publicize. They all have reporters on the scene but what they choose to feature in their reports are all the negative things they can find.

The very issue of the New York Times in which this essay appeared -- August 7th -- featured a front-page picture of a funeral for a Marine killed in Iraq. If you judged by the front page of this and many other newspapers, our troops in Iraq don't do anything except get killed.

The plain fact is that the mainstream media have been too busy depicting our troops as victims to have much time left to tell about the heroic things they have done, the far greater casualties which they have inflicted on their enemies, or their attempts to restore some basic services and basic decencies to this country that has been torn apart for years by internal and external wars -- even before the first American troops arrived on the scene.

The unrelenting quest for stories depicting American troops as victims -- including even front-page stories about the financial problems of some National Guardsmen called to active duty -- has created a virtual reality in the media that has no place for heroes.

Senator John Kerry has called the activation of reservists and National Guardsmen "a backdoor draft," as if joining the reserves or the National Guard is supposed to mean an exemption from ever having to fight. The theme of troops as victims has been a steady drumbeat in the media, because of the way the media have chosen to filter the news, filtering out heroes, among other things.

This virtual reality can become more important than any facts. Even a young lady interviewer on Fox News Channel -- of all places -- recently asked a guest how long the American people will be able to continue supporting the war in Iraq with all the casualties.

All the American deaths in Iraq since the war began are not even half of the deaths of U.S. Marines taking the one island of Iwo Jima in a couple of months of fighting. And Iwo Jima was just one battle in a war that was raging on other fronts around the world simultaneously and continuing for nearly four long years.

It is not the casualties which are unprecedented but the media filtering and the gullibility of those who accept the virtual reality created by the media.

This is a re-creation of the media's role in the Vietnam war, where American victories on the battlefield were turned into defeat on the home front by the filtering and spin of the media.

Even the current Communist rulers of Vietnam have admitted that they lost militarily in Vietnam but hung on because they expected to win politically in the United States -- as they did, with the help of the Jane Fondas, the Walter Cronkhites and a cast of thousands in the streets and on campuses across the country.

The very people who have been anti-military for years, who filter out American heroes in battle, are now proclaiming that they are "honoring" our troops by publicizing every death by name, day in and day out.

Has the dumbed-down education in our schools left us so ill-equipped that we cannot see through even the most blatant hypocrisy?


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Talk less, think more and do more.

It's visible to everyone that debates over the war in Iraq, war on terror, invasion or occupation or whatever you may name it are at peak levels right now.
The process is being questioned, criticized and discussed more profoundly than at any time in the last two years but you know what?
That's not happening in Iraq you can find such discussions and accusations in America but you can't find them in Iraq.

As a matter of fact there are some similar debates here in Iraq but at very limited levels in the National Assembly there are 83 members who signed a declaration where they accused the government of treason because it asked the multinational troops to remain for another year in Iraq and they said that the government ought to demand a timetable for withdrawal and they're also planning to organize protests and rallies to put more pressure on the government.

However, on the streets, such demands are not popular among everyday Iraqis who are more concerned about finding solutions for their daily life problems whether the solutions came form the government, the Americans or from Martians.
As for the other 192 members of the Assembly, they find such demands irrational and inconvenient at least for the time being.

Those 83 Sadrists and Fadhela party members as well as some other Islamists want to embarrass the government and use slogans that sound great and patriotac to undermine the public support the current government enjoys.
This reminds me of the communists and the pan-nationalists back in the 1st half of the 20th century when they demanded the ousting of British troops and the result was a disaster all they wanted was power and the deterioration didn't end since then.

The truth is that with very few exceptions, most people and politicians here have thrown this argument behind their backs long time ago whether they're supportive of the war/liberation or against it and whether they want the coalition to stay forever or they want the troops to leave now, they are now living and discussing the present and planning for the future trying to get the best results possible out of the current situation, each party from it's own perspective.

We're living through probably the most critical phase of this conflict a phase where firm decisions and clear stands are needed more than ever, while sterile arguments can do nothing but weaken our position against our common enemy the global terrorism.

I wasn't in touch with media and blogs when the September attacks happened but I heard a lot about the great sense of patriotism and the beautiful unity that grew among different political trends in America at that time and this is a time where such unity must be revived.
This is not the right time to argue about "why we went to this war".
It is time to think together for a way to win this war which none of us can afford to lose.

It doesn't really matter if Saddam had connections with Al-Qaeda prior to 2003 or not and it does not matter if he had the ability to attack the west with WMDs or not.
What really matters here is how to protect the world from terrorism.
Al-Qaeda is present and active in Iraq today we all know this and this terror group's lethal power cannot and must not be underestimated.

Yesterday for example, interior ministry in Saudi Arabia uncovered a new list of wanted Al-Qaeda members with 36 names on it, 21 of who are believed to be residing in Iraq right now.

Can anyone tell me how can these terrorists be stopped from moving their zone of action to other countries if they weren't intercepted right here and right now?
There's no doubt that once Iraq falls in their hands they will start looking for other battle grounds and they will search for the "greatest Satan" in other places.
It is the American existence in Iraq that attracted them to a great extent and when there are no Americans in Iraq Al-Qaeda will not simply drop their weapons and start a normal life, they will seek other places where they can find, and kill Americans.

What I want to say here is that it is our fate to fight terrorism on our own land and we (the majority) have accepted to challenge this fate the day we abandoned Saddam and welcomed our freedom but that's not the case for you in America.
Actually we've got no other choice but to fight and keep fighting until we win over the terrorists because otherwise we'll have to submit to their will and the damage would be irreversible.

Fighting terrorism for us in Iraq is a matter of life or death so we have no choice but to keep fighting until we kill or lock in jail every one of them and we're doing this whether the world supported us or not but in case we failed, the consequences will not be confined by Iraq's borders.
You (the west) can step back and wait for the terrorists to knock on your doors at any minute or you can put your s*** together and fight them while they're thousands of miles away.

This is war, it's not a picnic and don't think that we're enjoying it and we're not expecting you to enjoy it either.
By quitting now some might think that needless losses are going to be avoided but that's-in my opinion-is a very shortsighted way of thinking because quitting now will only expose America and the rest of the world to a much greater threat.

I was talking about this to one of my friends and he described this war in an interesting way, he said "this war is much like a fierce boxing match you punch and you get punched but even if you're stronger than your opponent you should not allow him to catch his breath at any round because he might then give you a surprising punch when the next round begins and knocks you down".

So my advice to the American politicians on both sides but especially those on the left side is: grow up, this is not the time to seek political wins and it's not the time to use other's mistakes to get some publicity.
We're facing very tough times so use your skills to find solutions.
Bottom line is, talk less, think more and do more.


Iraq Report: June 20, 2005

Sunnis agreed to an offer by Shi'ite and Kurdish parliamentarians to add 15 names to the constitutional drafting committee on 16 June, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. The offer, made on 13 June, also calls for 10 Sunnis to sit on a separate, consultative committee that will advise drafters. The agreement leaves the committee with just over two months to draft a constitution.

Prior to the new deal, only two Sunni parliamentarians served on the drafting committee that includes 28 parliamentarians from the Shi'ite-led United Iraqi Alliance list and 15 parliamentarians from the Kurdistan Coalition list. Eight members on the committee represent the Iraqis list of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Turkomans, Christians, and communists were each reportedly allotted one seat on the committee. It appears that the new Sunni members will likely come from outside the National Assembly, which has only 17 Sunni members, not all of whom are legal experts.

The delay in reaching an agreement was plagued by weeks of political wrangling. An early proposal floated by parliamentarian negotiators called for Sunni Arabs to play a strictly consultative role. Sunni leaders, including Adnan Pachachi, whose Independent Iraqi Democrats failed to win any seats in the National Assembly election, criticized the proposal, saying they wanted "not an advisory role, but to contribute effectively" to the drafting process (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2005).

When Sunnis demanded a minimum of 25 seats on the drafting committee, Shi'ite parliamentarians balked at the request. "This committee is intended to be a small body to represent all the National Assembly," said committee chairman Humum Hamudi in an apparent jab at Sunni Arabs, whose low representation in parliament is seen as a direct result of their poor participation in January elections.

As talks progressed, negotiators came up with two proposals for Sunni participation. The first proposal called for choosing a number of Sunni Arabs to join the 55-member committee originally established by the parliament. The second proposal is quite similar to the agreement concluded this week. It called for Sunni participation through subcommittees that would include members representing other groups as well. Other Sunni Arabs would sit on the expanded 55-member committee (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 3 June 2005).

Under the 16 June agreement, Sunni members to the drafting committee will have to meet the certain requirements. They must not be "from among the dignitaries" of the Hussein regime, and they must not have served as a high-ranking member of the former Ba'ath Party. They must also have "real support" as representatives of the Sunni community, parliamentarian Baha al-A'raji told RFI on 13 June. In addition, the Sunni nominees to the committee should be inclusive of all Sunni political trends and geographical regions, he said. Parliamentarians laid down the requirements after an initial list of possible Sunni participants reportedly was rejected by Sunni groups for not being sufficiently representative of all Sunnis, and by Shi'ite parliamentarians, who claimed the list included former Ba'athists.

For their part, Sunni negotiators called for conferences to be held throughout Iraq on the constitution, Iraqi Islamic Party spokesman Iyad al-Sammara'i said this week. The proposal is likely to have the support of Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders since Article 60 of the Transitional Administrative Law calls on the National Assembly to encourage "debate on the constitution through regular general public meetings in all parts of Iraq and through the media, and receiving proposals from the citizens of Iraq as it writes the constitution."

In talks earlier this week, all parties agreed that the drafting committee's work would be based on consensus, and voting will not take place, Shi'ite parliamentarian Ali al-Adib told RFI on 14 June.

Sunnis are expected to submit their nominees to sit on the drafting committee when the committee reconvenes on 19 June. National Dialogue Council spokesman Salih Mutlak told RFI in a 13 June interview that Sunnis would be able to present their list of nominees "within one day of agreeing on the size and type of such participation."

Sunni Arabs also agreed to form a five-member committee that will propose the 25 Sunni nominees to the parliament, United Iraqi Alliance parliamentarian Jalal al-Din al-Saghir told RFI on 16 June.

Despite the Sunnis apparent success in having their demands for participation met, their lack of cohesiveness as a side to the negotiations and their tendency to boycott or reject proposals outright rather than countering with their own suggestions, may slow down the constitutional drafting process. In order to avoid further delays in the drafting process, the committee will need to choose Sunni figures who are not only competent legal experts, but also seasoned negotiators that represent the broad spectrum of Sunni views. A tall order perhaps, but one that would go far to assist the process.

BAGHDAD WORKING WITH U.S. TO BRING INSURGENTS TO THE TABLE

The United States and Iraqi officials have reportedly begun discussions over the drafting of an amnesty policy for insurgents wishing to lay down their arms and participate in Iraq's political process. The policy remains in its early stages, and officials from both countries have remained rather tight-lipped about any future policy.

Prague, 16 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Political and military analysts in the United States said this week that the Iraqi government has no choice but to initiate a dialogue to convince as many insurgents as possible to lay down their arms and join the political process. But the process may not be so easy. Giving an insurgent a political stake in the process may not be enough to win him over. Large portions of the insurgency are driven by an Islamist agenda that views the transitional government -- and any likely successor government -- as an apostate government conflicting with their radical Sunni doctrine that calls for the establishment of a Wahhabi-style Islamic state.

Other portions of the insurgency may be easier to sway: these are the so-called former Ba'athists and Sunni disenfranchised who work with "secular" insurgent groups and even Islamist groups -- not because of ideology, but rather for profit. Alleged terrorists in Iraqi custody have said they were paid between $100 and $1,500 by insurgent groups to carry out attacks. Many said that although they believed the attacks were immoral or against Islamic doctrine, they carried them out anyway, citing pressure from the groups they worked for and because of the money.

As Iraq develops stronger law enforcement, it will be better able to rein in the criminal elements of the insurgency. Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein released thousands of prisoners in an October 2002 general amnesty these elements are assumed to be responsible for a large percentage of criminal attacks, kidnappings, and violence in Iraq today. Several alleged terrorists said in confessions aired on Al-Iraqiyah television in May that they carried out car-jackings, kidnappings, theft, and murder on behalf of insurgent groups, including Islamist groups.

The most difficult task in persuading insurgents to lay down their arms may be the "public opinion" factor. A recent survey in Iraq sponsored by the U.S.-led coalition found that nearly 45 percent of those polled said they supported insurgent attacks. While it is likely that the number of true supporters is much lower, the survey demonstrates that Iraqis, for whatever reason, may feel it is socially unacceptable to say otherwise. This could indicate that the "man on the street" cannot be won over until the Sunni leadership says, and demonstrates, that it is acceptable to do so. Other analysts have argued that the tide may only turn when Sunni Iraqis turn against the insurgency. The true answer may be somewhere in the middle.

The Sunni leadership, however, remains quite fractured with no cohesive stance on the issue of participation. While several Sunni groups agree that they want to play a role in the government and constitutional drafting, the conditions or "red lines" of each group are different. In addition, a number of Sunni political groups are internally fractured, a factor that will limit progress, at least in the short-term.

Sunni leaders with suspected ties to the insurgency, however, will remain outside the political process and not negotiate, leaving the government in need of an alternative Sunni representation. In some cases, tribal leaders could play a key role in bringing Sunnis into the government and reining in the insurgency. Local governance may just make the difference in the center.

Two armed groups announced last week their willingness to disarm and begin negotiations with the government for their participation in the political process, the daily "Baghdad" reported on 9 June. Citing former Electricity Minister and Sunni leader Ayham al-Samarra'i, the report said that political leaders from the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Al-Mujahedin Army expressed in meetings with him their readiness to disarm. Sunni sheikhs and tribal leaders in Al-Fallujah vowed to assist the government in enhancing security in a meeting with Interior Ministry officials in the city, "Al-Mada" reported on 13 June. Tribal leaders in Mosul have also agreed to hand over wanted suspects to security officials, the Defense Ministry announced on 13 June.

Transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari has shied away from the amnesty issue in his statements to reporters this week, saying that no dialogue is under way between the government and armed groups in Iraq. Instead, al-Ja'fari said multinational forces have undertaken a dialogue, through which the insurgents' have conveyed messages to the transitional government. "No official dialogue with any side that carries guns and fights has taken place," he said, adding: "The remaining issue is that of the mediator as it is not always true that you are the one who chooses the mediator. The other [side] might be sending you messages through the coalition or multinational forces, which means that it was not you who chose the mediator."

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not acknowledge U.S. involvement in the proposed amnesty, telling reporters at a 14 June press briefing: "To the extent you can get a tribe that has a portion of its people opposing the government and a portion of the people supporting the government pulled in [to the political process], why, that's a good thing." Rumsfeld said any amnesty decision would be solely for the sovereign Iraqi government to take, "not an American decision."

U.S. SAYS KURDISH SECURITY FORCES ILLEGALLY DETAINING IRAQI ARABS, TURKOMANS

Kurdish police and security forces have reportedly "abducted" hundreds of Arabs and Turkomans from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk and illegally detained them in Irbil and Al-Sulaymaniyah, washingtonpost.com reported on 15 June. The report cites a confidential 5 June State Department cable addressed to the White House, Pentagon, and U.S. Embassy in Baghdad saying that the "extra-judicial detentions" are part of a "concerted and widespread initiative" by Kurdish political parties "to exercise authority in Kirkuk in an increasingly provocative manner."

The abductions have increased tensions in the multiethnic city and impacted U.S. credibility, the cable said. Turkomans "perceive a U.S. tolerance for the practices while Arabs in Kirkuk believe Coalition Forces are directly responsible." U.S. Brigadier General Alan Gayhart told the website that "coalition forces absolutely do not condone" the abductions, which have reportedly been going on for more than a year, but surged following Iraq's January elections. The U.S. military only became aware of the practice one month ago, Major Darren Blagbrun told the website. Judges in Kirkuk have told U.S. military officials that the transfers are illegal under Iraqi law, washingtonpost.com reported.

Kirkuk's Kurdish governor, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa, reportedly denied the abductions, calling the U.S. allegations "not true," washingtonpost.com reported on 15 June. He contended that prisoners are often transferred to other provinces to relieve prison overcrowding and this is a "normal procedure," the website reported.

The State Department cable reported, however, that the transfers were made "without authority of local courts or the knowledge of Ministries of Interior or Defense in Baghdad." U.S. and Iraqi officials said the campaign is being carried out by the Kurdish intelligence service Asayesh and the Kurdish-led Emergency Services Unit, a 500-member antiterrorism squad within the Kirkuk police force.

General Turhan Yusuf Abd al-Rahman, identified by washingtonpost.com as the police chief of Kirkuk and an ethnic Turkoman, called the abductions "political kidnappings" orchestrated by the Kurdish parties Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). He said that his police officers take part in the majority of the abductions, despite his attempts to intercede, adding that 40 percent of the city's police force is loyal to one of the two Kurdish parties. PUK head Jalal Talabani currently serves as Iraq's transitional president KDP chief Mas'ud Barzani is the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Meanwhile, Police Chief Brigadier Sherko Khaker Hassan told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) in an exclusive interview on 16 June that he considered Abd al-Rahman, who he says is his deputy, an accomplice in the rash of abductions because he failed to take action for one year. "As to the statements made by Brigadier Turhan, my deputy, and since he has had this information since one year or one year and a half. he didn't take any action nor did he inform the higher authorities. Also, there are no cases recorded by the police on this issue," Hassan said. "In these press statements, I consider Brigadier Turhan an accomplice in this operation because he didn't inform his higher commander and he didn't take any action."

Hassan also accused Abd al-Rahman of falsely identifying himself as police chief. However, it is unclear whether Abd al-Rahman misrepresented himself or if he was erroneously identified in the newspaper report. "Why did he say he was head of the police and give these statements?" Hassan told RFI, adding that Abd al-Rahman should have "taken some action and inform[ed] the higher authorities. As head of police, I could take action."

AUSTRALIAN HOSTAGE RELEASED IN IRAQ

Baghdad, 15 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Australian hostage Douglas Wood was freed after six weeks in captivity in Iraq, the head of the Australian Emergency Response Team confirmed to reporters in Baghdad today, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported.

"Let me confirm with great delight that Douglas Wood who was abducted on 30 April in Baghdad was rescued earlier today from a house in the Ghazaliyah area. He's now resting comfortably and at a safe location in Baghdad. He's as well as you could expect him to be, after enduring what has been 47 days in captivity," Nick Warner of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said. Warner has been heading up the ERT's effort in securing Wood's release.

Warner recounted events that took place over the course of Wood's captivity, saying that the Emergency Response Team was on the ground in Baghdad working on Wood's case by 3 May. The team was followed by Australian Mufti Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali on 10 May.

"On 29 May the Emergency Response Team received a proof-of-life video of Mr. Wood. This was the third video that we had received of Mr. Wood. The other two being delivered first I think to Reuters and I think to Al-Jazeera. With the delivery of the video, the kidnappers opened a channel of communication with us, [through] an intermediary, an intermediary we've been working with for quite some time," Warner said. "And in the meantime, Sheikh Hilali opened his own channel for communication."

"I just want to confirm that at no time was any ransom paid by the Australian government nor were there any political or other concessions made by the Australian government to those holding Mr. Wood," Warner added.

"This morning, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. the 2nd Battalion First Iraqi Armored Brigade supported by coalition soldiers conducted a raid in the Ghazaliyah area of Baghdad. They were operating on intelligence and tips gathered by Colonel Muhammad [not further identified], 2nd Battalion commander. During the raid, Iraqi soldiers subdued two insurgents and rescued Mr. Wood and one Iraqi hostage. Colonel Muhammad quickly turned Mr. Wood over to U.S. and Australian authorities," Warner recounted.

Asked if there were signs that any other prisoners, such as freed French journalist Florence Abuneas or the previously released Romanian hostages had been held there, Warner said: "I don't have those details at the moment but there's really nothing more I can say."

Iraqi General Nasir al-Abadi told Radio Free Iraq that Wood was captured as part of a nighttime operation. Neighbors had reportedly alerted security forces to abnormal activity taking place in the house. When security forces approached the house, the insurgents fired at them and a gunfight ensued. Upon entering the house, security forces found Wood lying on the floor face down and covered. They initially thought he was a dead insurgent, but when they uncovered him, they discovered it was Wood, al-Abadi said.


Watch the video: Iraq in June 2005 (June 2022).