From the BBC:
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been executed by hanging at an unspecified location, reports say.
Iraqi TV said the execution took place just before 0600 local time (0300GMT). It was witnessed by a doctor, lawyer and officials. It was also filmed.
US troops and Iraqi security forces are on high alert for any violent backlash.
Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on 5 November after a year-long trial over the 1982 killings of 148 Shias in the town Dujail.
LATEST IRAQ NEWS
Friday, December 29, 2006
From the BBC:
Thursday, December 28, 2006
NBC News and news services
Updated: 6:47 p.m. ET Dec 28, 2006
Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, sentenced to death for his role in 148 killings in 1982, will have his sentence carried out by Sunday, NBC News reported Thursday. According to a U.S. military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, Saddam will be hanged before the start of the Eid religious holiday, which begins this Sunday.
Saddam’s sentence, handed down last month, ordered that he be hanged within 30 days.
Earlier Thursday, Saddam’s chief lawyer implored world leaders to prevent the United States from handing over the ousted leader to Iraqi authorities for execution, saying the former dictator should enjoy protection from his enemies as a "prisoner of war."
“According to the international conventions it is forbidden to hand a prisoner of war to his adversary,” Saddam’s lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said in Amman, Jordan.
“I urge all the international and legal organizations, the United Nations secretary-general, the Arab League and all the leaders of the world to rapidly prevent the American administration from handing the president to the Iraqi authorities,” he told The Associated Press.
Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI’s top prelate for justice issues and a former Vatican envoy to the U.N., condemned the death sentence in a newspaper interview published Thursday, saying capital punishment goes against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
After his sentence was given, Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, urged Iraq to ensure a fair appeals process and to refrain from executing Saddam even if the sentence is upheld.
Some international legal observers and human rights groups have also called Saddam’s trial unfair because of alleged interference by the Shiite-dominated government.
Meets with half-brothers
Saddam met with two of his half-brothers on Thursday and passed on personal messages to his family, a lawyer said.
Badie Aref, one of Saddam's lawyers, said the rare meeting with maternal half-brothers Sabawi and Watban Ibrahim Hassanal-Tikriti, who are in U.S. custody, was at the request of the ousted Iraqi leader and took place inside his heavily guarded prison cell in Baghdad.
Aref said Saddam was in very high spirits and had sensed "something was happening relating to the sentence" when prison guards took away a small radio he had been given several months ago.
"He met Sabawi and Watban and gave them letters to his family in anticipation.... He is clearly unaware of the details of what is happening around him and prepared to give his life as a martyr to his country," Aref told Reuters by telephone.
Aref said prison sources who told him of the family meeting said Saddam was aware of an appeals court decision to uphold his death sentence for crimes against humanity during his 24-year rule.
"He was in very high spirits and clearly readying himself," Aref said during a visit to Dubai.
"He told them that he was happy he would meet his death at the hands of his enemies and be a martyr and not just languish in prison in oblivion."
Aref said he was unsure if Saddam's third half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, who was sentenced to death along with the ousted leader, saw Saddam.
Fears that handover may spark violence
An official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that Saddam would remain in a U.S. military prison until he is handed over to Iraqi authorities on the day of his execution. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the media.
A top government official disputed the court’s ruling that Saddam must be hanged within 30 days, saying the execution should be held after that time period. The comment comes amid debate over other legal procedures such as whether the presidency is required to approve the execution.
This breaking news story will be updated.
© 2006 MSNBC InteractiveNBC News, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/28/2006 07:10:00 PM
Monday, December 25, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
By Sgt. Jordan E. Werme
130th PAD, Connecticut National Guard
WEST HAVEN, Conn. , Dec. 5, 2006 — When Sgt. Kristi J. Artigue joined the Connecticut Army National Guard the summer before her senior year of high school, it was a chance to broaden her experiences.
“I’ve always been a risk taker,” said Artigue, 23, now a medic with the 141st Medical Company.
On Nov. 10, Artigue called upon the skills learned during her six years of National Guard service -- including a recent deployment to Iraq -- to help save the life of a man who may have drowned.
“I was passing by (Supersonic Car Wash, West Haven) after work when I saw my boyfriend’s car,” said Artigue. “I called him to say ‘Hi’, and he told me someone had had a seizure and fallen into the water.”
Her first reaction: call 911. Artigue told her boyfriend that he should call for emergency services, but because of the urgent tone of his voice, she pulled out of rush-hour traffic in New Haven and rushed to the scene.
When Artigue arrived, she found a group of people hanging onto the shore and forming a “chain,” trying to keep a man above the fast-moving water.
“Tom,” a middle-aged man, had suffered a seizure and fallen into a section of the West River. Unable to swim, he struggled to remain above the surface with the help of several civilians and two West Haven police officers. The chain was trying to hang on until the local fire department rescue crew could arrive, but everything seemed to Artigue to be well under control.
Then the life-defining event happened.
“He let loose,” said Artigue, “and went under for one or two seconds. Long enough to know he wasn’t going to be coming up again. And he was moving out farther from the shore toward the center of the river.”
At that point, Artigue let her training take over. The nursing student and Iraq War veteran jumped into the freezing water and swam out about 10 feet to where Tom was struggling for air.
“It was too cold to talk,” said Artigue, “but I grabbed his vest and tried to keep him above the water. He grabbed a hold of me and started to pull me down with him, but I was able to drag him by his vest to shore.”
The human chain helped to pull both Artigue and Tom out of the water. On a cold November day, coming out of cold, moving water, communication was difficult, but Artigue was able to keep Tom talking and conscious until emergency crews arrived.
“(The man) suffered a seizure and fell from a bridge,” said William E. Ciccosanti, who was the first officer at the scene of the incident. “(Artigue) risked her own safety to save a stranger. She definitely did a good job and should be commended for that.”
Tom was fishing from a bridge when he suffered the seizure, tumbled over the railing and fell more than seven feet into the water, just a few feet from the spot where the river is dammed. Had Artigue not jumped into the water when she did, there was a good chance that the victim would have been pulled under and into the dam, said Ciccosanti.
“This was the first time I’ve had to take it upon myself to take action,” said Artigue. “In the military there’s always someone there to help, but this time I wasn’t sure anyone else there could have helped the way I could. Being in the military has given me the confidence to do things I wouldn’t have as a civilian. It puts me a step above those without military training.”
A future trauma nurse, Artigue plans to use her experiences in the Guard and in Iraq to save as many lives as possible.
“Since Iraq,” she said, “I’ve learned to adapt and overcome. I saw what was happening and I had no option but to get involved because of not only my medical training, but also because of my personal responsibility. “I will always appreciate my military experience. It’s something I would never give up,” said Artigue.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/19/2006 08:47:00 PM
Friday, December 15, 2006
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - The U.S. military is planning to move a brigade of troops into Kuwait in what could be the first step of a short-term surge of American forces into Iraq to stabilize the violence.
The 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division is expected in Kuwait shortly after the new year, a senior Defense Department official told The Associated Press on Friday. The official requested anonymity because the plans had not yet been announced.
The 2nd Brigade, made up of roughly 3,500 troops, is based at Fort Bragg, N.C., and would be deployed in Iraq early next year if needed, the official said. The move would be part of an effort to boost the number of U.S. troops in Iraq for a short time, the official said. The plan was first reported by CBS News.
In a half-hour video conference with President Bush on Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki outlined plans for the national reconciliation conference taking place in Baghdad on Saturday. Al-Maliki cited the desire of many people in Iraq for a larger core of Iraqi political leaders to come together for the common objective of stabilizing the country and promoting the rule of law, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in describing the conversation.
Al-Maliki also talked with Bush about providing greater security, in particular in Baghdad, by going after all sources of violence, including insurgents and militias, Johndroe said. Bush reiterated his support for al-Maliki and said he was encouraged by the meetings he had recently with Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, and with the leader of the largest Shiite bloc in Iraq's parliament, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim.
In assessing the state of the war in Iraq, Bush has been meeting this week with top generals and other advisers. The military options being considered include an increased effort to train and equip Iraqi forces.
Meanwhile, the commander of U.S. forces in the strife-ridden Iraqi province of Diyala said Friday that tribal leaders and some political groups in the province are turning to terrorists and insurgents for protection rather than trust Iraqi soldiers and police.
"This sort of unity only worsens the sectarian divide and encourages further violence," said Col. David Sutherland, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. He spoke to reporters at the Pentagon by a satellite video connection from his headquarters near the city of Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad.
"Public perceptions of corruption, inequity and fear are the driving force behind support to terrorist organizations," Sutherland added. "These are not new problems in Iraq but problems that developed out of a desire for personal and financial gain."
Sutherland said he is trying to turn that around by putting Iraqi police through more rigorous training, placing more U.S. advisers in the Iraqi army and police units and through Iraqi efforts to recruit a police and army force that better reflects the sectarian makeup of Diyala, which is about 55 percent Sunni, 30 percent Shiite and 15 percent Kurd.
Currently, the Iraqi security forces in Diyala are predominantly Shiite, he said.
Sutherland said he is working out arrangements to expand the use of U.S. adviser teams with Iraqi security forces, reflecting the view of senior U.S. commanders that such an expansion can speed the development of competent Iraqi forces.
The Army is considering ways it can speed up the creation of two additional combat brigades — a move intended to expand the pool of active-duty combat brigades in order to relieve some of the strain on the Army from large-scale deployments to Iraq.
Under the plan being developed, the new brigades could be formed next year and be ready to be sent to Iraq in 2008, defense officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans were not final.
The Army's chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, told a commission Thursday that he wants to increase the half-million-member force beyond the 30,000 troops authorized in recent years. And he warned that the Army "will break" without thousands more active duty troops and greater use of the reserves.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/15/2006 09:49:00 PM
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I spent Thanksgiving two years ago in the cold rain guarding the outer gates of the Baghdad International Airport. Now I have the fortune of warmth and comfort within the safe borders of our great Nation in the company of family... thanks largely to the hundreds of thousands of American military personnel spread throughout the world. Let's be sure to remember them and their families this Thanksgiving. For the second year in a row now I have posted below President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation.
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America
WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
(signed) G. Washington
Congress later changed the official holiday to the last Thursday of November.
To view the original proclamation click here.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 11/22/2006 11:18:00 PM
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dr. Robert Michael Gates (born September 25, 1943) is the president of Texas A&M University, as well as a former Director of Central Intelligence. He is currently the nominee for the office of United States Secretary of Defense. Gates served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council. Under President George H.W. Bush, he served as Director of Central Intelligence. After leaving the CIA, he wrote his memoirs, became president of Texas A&M University, and was a member of several corporate boards. Gates served as a member of the bipartisan commission headed by James A. Baker III, the Iraq Study Group, that has studied the Iraq campaign.
In the wake of the 2006 midterm election result, President George W. Bush announced his nomination of Gates to succeed the resigning Donald Rumsfeld as U.S. Secretary of Defense on November 8, 2006. Gates has stated in a letter  to students that he will continue as President of Texas A&M until completion of the confirmation process. Gates will now face confirmation first in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and if approved, by a majority vote in the Senate.
Childhood and education
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Gates attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America and is a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from Wichita East High School in 1961. Gates received his bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary in 1965, his master's degree in history from Indiana University in 1966, and his Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University in 1974.
While at Indiana University, Gates was recruited to join the Central Intelligence Agency. However, the CIA offered no exemption from the draft during the Vietnam War. Before joining the CIA full-time as an intelligence analyst, he spent two years in the Air Force. During one posting, at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, he delivered intelligence briefings to ICBM missile crews. 
Gates left the CIA in 1974 to serve on the National Security Council staff but returned to the CIA in late 1979. He was named the Director of the DCI/DDCI Executive Staff in 1981, Deputy Director for Intelligence in 1982, and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from April 18, 1986, to March 20, 1989. He was nominated to become the Director of Central Intelligence in early 1987, but withdrew the nomination after it became clear the Senate would reject it due to controversy about his role in the Iran-Contra affair. Senate members later queried the nomination for the additional reason that Gates allegedly passed intelligence to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.
Gates was Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from March until August of 1989, and was Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser from August 1989 until November 1991. He was nominated (for the second time) for the position of Director of Central Intelligence by President Bush on May 14, 1991, confirmed by the Senate on November 5, and sworn in on November 6, becoming the only career officer in the CIA's history (as of 2005) to rise from entry-level employee to Director. Deputy Directors during his tenure were Richard J. Kerr (from November 6, 1991, until March 2, 1992) and Adm. William O. Studeman (from April 9, 1992, through the remainder of Dr. Gates’ tenure).
During his 26-year career as an intelligence professional, he spent almost nine years on the National Security Council, serving four Presidents of both major political parties.
In 1996, his memoirs were published under the title From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War.
Gates has been highly decorated for his service: he was the recipient of the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal, was twice awarded the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and three times received the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.
Involvement in the Iran-Contra Scandal
Owing to his senior status in the CIA, Gates was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran-Contra Affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment of Gates for his Iran-Contra activities or his responses to official inquiries.
Gates was an early subject of Independent Counsel's investigation, but the investigation of Gates intensified in the spring of 1991 as part of a larger inquiry into the Iran/contra activities of CIA officials. This investigation received an additional impetus in May 1991, when President George H.W. Bush nominated Gates to be Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). The chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) requested in a letter to the Independent Counsel on May 15, 1991, any information that would “significantly bear on the fitness” of Gates for the CIA post.
Gates consistently testified that he first heard on October 1, 1986, from Charles E. Allen, the national intelligence officer who was closest to the Iran initiative, that proceeds from the Iran arms sales may have been diverted to support the Contras. Other evidence proves, however, that Gates received a report on the diversion during the summer of 1986 from DDI Richard Kerr. The issue was whether Independent Counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates was deliberately not telling the truth when he later claimed not to have remembered any reference to the diversion before meeting with Allen in October.
Grand Jury secrecy rules hampered Independent Counsel's response. Nevertheless, in order to answer questions about Gates' prior testimony, Independent Counsel accelerated his investigation of Gates in the summer of 1991. This investigation was substantially completed by September 3, 1991, at which time Independent Counsel determined that Gates' Iran/contra activities and testimony did not warrant prosecution.
Independent Counsel made this decision subject to developments that could have warranted reopening his inquiry, including testimony by Clair E. George, the CIA's former deputy director for operations. At the time Independent Counsel reached this decision, the possibility remained that George could have provided information warranting reconsideration of Gates's status in the investigation. George refused to cooperate with Independent Counsel and was indicted on September 19, 1991. George subpoenaed Gates to testify as a defense witness at George's first trial in the summer of 1992, but Gates was never called.
Career after leaving the CIA
Gates became the 22nd President of Texas A&M University on August 1, 2002 following a tenure as Interim Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M from 1999 to 2001. He has served as a member of the board of trustees of Fidelity Investments, and on the board of directors of NACCO Industries, Inc., Brinker International, Inc. and Parker Drilling Company, Inc. He also served as President of the National Eagle Scout Association during the mid-2000s.
Director of National Intelligence
In February 2005, Gates wrote in a message posted on his school's website that "There seems to be a growing number of rumors in the media and around campus that I am leaving Texas A&M to become the new director of national intelligence ('Intelligence Czar') in Washington, D.C." The message said that "To put the rumors to rest, I was indeed asked to take the position, wrestled with perhaps the most difficult -- and close -- decision of my life, and last week declined the position."
Gates committed to remain as President of Texas A&M University through the summer of 2007; President George W. Bush offered the position of United States Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to John Negroponte, who accepted.
Gates said in a 2005 discussion with the university's Academy for Future International Leaders that he had tentatively decided to accept the DNI position out of a sense of duty and had written an email that would be sent to students during the press conference to announce his decision, explaining that he was leaving to serve the U.S. once again. Gates, however, took the weekend to consider what his final decision should be, and ultimately decided that he was unwilling to return to Washington, D.C. in any capacity simply because he "had nothing to look forward to in D.C. and plenty to look forward to at A&M."
Secretary of Defense nomination
On November 8, 2006, George W. Bush nominated Gates to serve as Secretary of Defense in the wake of Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. Gates will now face confirmation first in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and if approved, by a general vote in the United States Senate.
Awards and decorations
Gates' awards and decorations include:
• National Security Medal
• Presidential Citizens Medal
• National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal (twice)
• Distinguished Intelligence Medal (thrice)
• Eagle Scout
• Distinguished Eagle Scout Award
• "Speaking to you all again is a bit like being Larry King's newest wife-- I know what I'm supposed to do here, I'm just not sure how to make it interesting."
• "Were we to become a top ten university and lose that spirit, those traditions, our culture, we would be nothing more than another giant education factory. A big brain with no heart. Hell, we might as well be in Austin."
1. ^ Robert Gates, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (May 7, 1997).
2. ^ "Bush replaces Rumsfeld to get 'fresh perspective'", CNN.com, November 8, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-11-08.
3. ^ Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jim Rutenberg. "Rumsfeld Resigns as Defense Secretary After Big Election Gains for Democrats", New York Times, November 8, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-11-08.
4. ^ To the Aggie Family, Gates' first announcement, and acknowledgement to being nominated for Secretary of Defense
5. ^ "Who Won the Cold War?" Thomas Powers, New York Review of Books, Vol. 43, no. 11 June 20, 1996
6. ^ Although he "was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment...." Final report of the independent counsel for Iran/Contra matters
7. ^ Gates nomination, Senate Proceedings, 1991..
8. ^ GlobalSecurity.org. Iran-Contra Report, Chapter 16.
9. ^ "Bush names Negroponte intelligence chief", CNN.com, February 18, 2005. Retrieved on 2006-11-08.
• Robert M. Gates: From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. Simon & Schuster 1997, ISBN 0684834979
• Author Unknown. "Biography, Dr. Robert M. Gates, President, Texas A&M University," Texas A&M University. (2003)
• Center for the Study of Intelligence. "Robert Michael Gates," Directors & Deputy Directors of Central Intelligence. (2004)
• Material on Gates, from The Literature of Intelligence: A Bibliography of Materials, with Essays, Reviews, and Comments, by J. Ransom Clark
• Brett Nauman. "Gates passes on intelligence czar post," The Bryan-College Station Eagle. (February 1, 2005)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
• Robert Gates, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (May 7, 1997).
• Robert Gates, US Intelligence and the End of the Cold War, 1999, CIA
• Robert Gates, Frontline The Gulf War: An Oral History: Interview with Robert Gates, Deputy National Security Advisor, 2001, PBS.org
• Writings and Speeches
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 11/08/2006 08:27:00 PM
I am under the firm opinion that the only mistake in the War in Iraq is to change the course. The American public has too minimal an understanding of this War to exercise sound judgement on the matter. The military didn't lose Vietnam, the American people did.
I fear that the President is letting a great leader take the fall for a nations ignorance.
I regret to see Secretary Rumsfeld depart. I am a solid supporter of his leadership. He has done a tremendous job at an extremely difficult task.
As a soldier, I support any decision my change of command makes. As a civilian, this is an unwise decision and simply displays to our enemies a newfound level of weakness.
Sent via BlackBerry from Cingular Wireless
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 11/08/2006 02:23:00 PM
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Judy’s e-mail will be in blockquote and mine will be in parenthesis. She begins by quoting me.
"I have never met an opponent of the war in Iraq who could grasp the
magnitude of what is at stake."
"What a deal for Mr. and Mrs. America! They are now experts on American
foreign policy in the Middle East and it is obvious to them America is
losing the war because they get to watch America’s soldiers getting shot."
"Why should we stay and get things done the right way when the whole
world and all of our enemies are counting on America’s weak population
to vote us out of Iraq? Come on, let’s quit! If we do what they want us
to do, they’ll like us again!"
Dear Mr Miner:
Thank you very much for your service to our country... I appreciate the
courage and professionalism of the US troops.
I agree with you that our news media are doing a pathetic job of
covering the war in Iraq. I, for one, would like to get a sense of what
is actually happening there on the ground. This is why I read military
blogs, and Iraqi blogs, and many other news sources, like the reports of
Dahr Jamail. The American people are paying billions every week for this
war, and we have a right to see and hear the truth, no matter how brutal
it is to look at and hear.
I stumbled upon your blog today, and I note that you are upset with
Senator Kerry. Well, I can tell you that you needn't worry about his
remarks. I have followed the Senator for a long time... I used to live
in Massachusetts... and I can assure you that he does not think our
troops in Iraq are uneducated or unintelligent. He was a soldier,
himself, you see. In my opinion, President Bush has a lot of things he
should be talking about, and it is obvious that in talking about Senator
Kerry, he is just trying to avoid talking about the issues he should be
In fact, many intelligent high school and college grads, who have not
found a niche in life, are falling for the aggressive tactics and
signing bonuses offered by recruiters. A friend of mine has a brilliant
daughter who was just recruited... she was told that she WILL NOT BE
SENT TO IRAQ. Baloney! As a mother, I find these tactics criminal and
disturbing. Most highly qualified, professional soldiers were not
recruited in this dishonest manner, and if recruited dishonestly, the
contracts they sign should not be legally binding.
I'm curious why you would focus on CNN (I agree, that it isn't very
good!) as a source for inaccurate news? FOX is much worse, and the
biggest problem we have are the entertainers, like Rush Limbaugh, who do
nothing but spew pure fantasy for three hours a day. Americans who go to
these sources for their news, are actually immersing themselves in
fiction... some of them end up blathering-on like brainwashed fanatics.
God forbid that these people are voting based on the illusions Rush
spins for them.
Since you were offended by Senator Kerry's remarks, I would like to
point out, respectfully, that your remarks, which I have quoted above,
are somewhat insulting to Mr. and Mrs. America. You would be surprised
how clever we are, and how quickly we learn to recognize propaganda when
we see it. By the way, I noticed that you read Iraq the Model, and as
Iraqi blogs go, I have this one at the top of my propaganda list. The
truth is, that most Iraqis now see American Troops as occupiers, because
we can't protect them, and we have killed many innocent Iraqis. The more
Iraqis who lose friends and family to this war, the more hatred toward
America grows, and the more enemies we have to worry about.
(Before I answer these questions I want to make a few clarifications. First of all, John Kerry does not have any respect for the troops. His military experience is irrelevant. Since he got out he has lied and slandered our military. He has voted against us. His words and his actions display nothing but disrespect toward us.
Second, You should thank God that brilliant Americans are joining the military to protect you. I doubt that the commentary between the recruiter and your friend’s daughter went anything like you say it did. The daughter may have told you and your friend she wouldn’t go to Iraq because she didn’t want to hear your smug and presumptuous opinions on the military or the war. I have worked in a Recruiting and Retention Battalion for the military. There are stringent ethical standards. No military recruiter would ever dare say such a thing. Your claim of their “aggressive tactics” is overdramatic and you know it. And if such an unlikely story were true, then your friend’s brilliant daughter should have read the contract. Black text on white paper doesn’t lie. Nobody made her sign the line.
Third, Fox News is not worse than CNN. It is by no means an exemplary example of journalism, but compared to CNN it is a consummate source of information. I find Rush Limbaugh’s assessment of the War accurate.
Fourth, the only American’s that my writing will offend are the ones that need to be offended. I am offended by them. I am offended that they care so little for this country that they are unwilling to educate themselves on this War. I am offended that they are so entrenched in partisan politics they refuse to acknowledge the successes in Iraq. I am offended at their apathy. They are destroying this country and they will not realize it until it is too late.
Finally, how dare you presume to know the thoughts of the people of Iraq! How long were you there? How many Iraqis have you talked with? How do you know their perception of us? You don’t! And clearly, you never will based on the sources you are relying upon. You then have the audacity to tell me that an Iraqi blogger, who was born there and lives there is providing propaganda?!?! Who are you to make such distinctions?)
So I'd like to ask you a few questions, and I would sincerely appreciate
answers to these questions:
----You mention the "magnitude of what is at stake." We do understand,
but what I'd like to know: Now that Iraqis are forming militias just to
protect themselves, their children, their neighborhoods... how do you
know who the enemy is? Now that the Iraqi police and military are
participating in some of the sectarian kidnapping and violence... how do
you know who the enemy is? Now that Iraqis (who were living together
peacefully before the war) are killing each other, how do we know who
the enemy is? And why are we killing so many innocents "by accident"?
(It is very difficult to know who the enemy is. That is what makes this war so challenging. That is why American forces do not fire until fired upon. Clearly, if you are getting shot at, it is safe to assume that the shooter is your enemy.
I don’t find your statement that Iraqis are forming militias to protect themselves accurate. The militias that have been formed were created to obtain political objectives. Al Sadr and his militia are a sufficient example. The Iraqi police have had problems with corruption. However, these problems have occurred far less than the media would like you to think. On the other hand, the Iraqi Army has done extremely well and has had minimal problems with such issues. I have had the privledge of working with them for several months. They are passionate and they are motivated. They are disciplined fighters. Iraqis are joining the Iraqi Army in droves. For every Iraqi that joins a militia there are ten that join the Army. They are sick of these terrorists disrupting their progression as a nation and they are doing something about it.
Since the invasion of Iraq, foreign fighters have been infiltrating Iraq’s borders with the mission of destroying the country’s progression. They are terrified of what a Democratic Middle East will do to extremist Islam in that region. Sure, Iraqis are killing each other. There is also support from outside countries such as Iran and Syria, providing fighters, weapons and money. Our enemies in Iraq are the enemies of Iraq. The enemies of Iraq are those who fight against the people and the government of Iraq. They are losing and they know it.)
----"...it is obvious to them America is losing the war because they get
to watch America’s soldiers getting shot." Do you think that Americans
don't have the right to see, or shouldn't see, images of soldiers
getting shot... or of wounded and dead Iraqis?
(No, American’s do not have the right to see American soldiers getting shot. And what a ridiculous presumption of a right! The last thing our military needs to be worrying about is their loved ones watching them get killed on CNN. Is the fear of death not enough? Why do you need/want to see it anyway? Do I have the right to watch your loved one die in a car accident/of cancer/of murder/of whatever??? Additionaly, such videos are obviously distributed by our enemies. For them to have the ability to get their propaganda distributed not only throughout the west, but the world, is an advantage that they do not and should not have. Why would you want to assist the enemies of your nation in their recruitment? The wounded and dead Iraqis don’t need to be displayed either. If they are dead enemies, that is another story. I couldn’t care less. I don’t think it needs to be on network news, but, if someone desires to see them, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be available.)
----You mention "getting things done the right way". Could you please
define for me what winning would look like? The president keeps talking
about "winning". What does that mean? He told us we were going there to
disarm Saddam, and that job was apparently done before the war, so...
what are we trying to achieve now? Just to undo the chaos that the war
has created? You speak of "terrorists" and "insurgents", but I see
little evidence that there are many of either in Iraq. You speak of "the
enemy"... who is that exactly? How can you tell, now that every Iraqi is
armed to the teeth just for self-protection? Are you beginning to see
Iraqi citizens as the enemy? Are Iraqi citizens beginning to see U.S.
troops as the enemy? (In my reading of the blogs, I sense that the
answer to this last question, is yes). If U.S. troops have become the
enemy... what can we possibly achieve there?
(Winning means we continue to press forward in Iraq. If CNN focused on every violent act that occurred in the state of California and aired it continuously, it would look terrible. While there certainly is violence in Iraq and security problems, there has been consistent progress there. We continue to build schools and strengthen infrastructure. Their economy continues to grow and their technology continues to advance. See my article Staying the Course for more detail.
Nothing was “apparent” prior to the invasion other than the potential threats that were in Iraq. We won the war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq and now fight the war on terrorism in Iraq. The United States didn’t create the war. Terrorists did when they attacked the United States and Saddam Hussein did when he refused time and time again to cooperate with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Had he cooperated and verified his claims that he had no weapons, things would have been different. But he refused, and the United States had an obligation to ensure the security of the American people. Your cherished John Kerry agreed Saddam was a threat. He supported the invasion. And Saddam was certainly a threat.
How can you say there is little evidence of “terrorists” and “insurgents” in Iraq? What was Zarqawi? He was a self proclaimed leader of Al Qeida in Iraq! There are dozens upon dozens of terrorist groups in Iraq. Who do you think is killing Iraqi government leaders? Who do you think is blowing up civilians in the markets? Who do you think is launching mortars into crowds of women and children?
Every Iraq is not armed to the teeth. The Iraqi government has specifications on what weapons are authorized for the general public. Certain weapons are permitted for self defense, and upstanding Iraqi citizens abide by the laws. Of course the Iraqi citizens are not seen as the enemy. Nor are the Iraqi citizens viewing our troops as the enemy. There is certainly frustration. More than anything the people of Iraq fear what will happen if the United States leaves prematurely. They know they will be slaughtered as foreign funded militias and terrorist groups fight for control of the country. They know what is at stake and want to see their country succeed just as bad as we do. They are far more intelligent then you give them credit for and their resolve certainly is stronger than yours.)
Enough for now... if you have answers to these questions, I'd sincerely
love to hear them.
Judy, you need better sources of information. I regret to inform you that you are, I believe, a fine example of the Mrs. America I was referring to. Nonetheless, thanks for the letter and good look on your quest for the truth.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 11/02/2006 05:53:00 PM
My name is Laura J. and I'm an English teacher in northern Minnesota. In the past, I used some of your blog entries in my classroom while you were on active duty in Iraq as my juniors were working their way through American Literature in a war/
conflict unit. It's that time of the year again.
I know that your blog is important to you because if it weren't, you wouldn't be adding posts now that you are out of Iraq. Part of what we discuss in the classroom as we read different soldiers' blogs is censorship and who, if anyone, should have the power to shut soldiers' blogs down. We also talk about whether or not they should be regulated.
If you have the time to answer the following question, I intend to share it with my students. If you were standing in front of a classroom of high school juniors, what would you tell them are the reasons why you blogged about your experiences in Iraq? Why is it important for the soldiers? Why is it important for the American public? How did writing a blog while you were in Iraq benefit you as the writer?
(I blogged about my experiences in Iraq because I felt the mainstream media was doing a terrible job. I felt they were misleading the American people as to what was really occurring in Iraq. It is incredibly important for American’s to be aware of the truth in Iraq. American’s, I fear, don’t understand what is at stake in this war. And unfortunately, all they are seeing of this war is the bloodshed. There are certainly horrific things occurring in Iraq. There are also wonderful things being accomplished there. Objective journalism would be to report the bad in proportion with the good. That isn’t happening. None of the good news and the progress makes it to your TV.
It is very important for soldiers to know that someone out there cares. That someone out there is getting the real story… their story. It is important for the public to get the reality. The mainstream media simply refuses to provide the truth.)
I guess that's more than one question.
My thought is that you could probably write quite a bit about that topic, =
but whatever you choose to write is fine with me. If you don't have the =
time to respond, I fully understand. I have found out, however, that =
unless I ask, I won't ever find out.
Just so you are aware, I do agree that these blogs are important and vital to show the public what the media does not, and that is why I continue to use them in my classroom. It shows the kids how technology is used during a time of war to get things out to the public in a way that has never been done before, and now the government is working on shutting down blog after blog. It shows them a completely different side of the war that they will never see in the popular media, and it gets them thinking. That's what I want.
(Regarding the government censoring soldier’s blogs coming out of combat zones, I feel this is necessary in some instances. Overall, I feel soldiers appreciate this. Being a grunt on the ground, at times your perception of the overall operation is very microscopic. It can be easy to post something that you wouldn’t think could be detrimental elsewhere. While soldiers do have their freedom of speech, their first obligation and commitment is to being a soldier. If their postings start to interfere with their duties or the safety of other soldiers, I feel the government is justified to intervene. I do not believe it is censorship in any way, shape or form. I feel it is appropriate for a soldier's chain of command to monitor their writings while in combat. When I was there, there were no issues. None of this had really been addressed yet.
When I was in Iraq I had one posting that shared too much information. I didn’t even think about it until my team leader brought it to my attention. I wasn’t forced to change anything. But why would I want to provide the enemy with valuable information? I appreciated it. And you will find that most military bloggers do as well.)
I hope this finds you well and anything you have to offer that I can share with my kids will be appreciated.
Laura gives me hope for the future. I am honored to be a part of her class. To her students, I would encourage you to read The Blog of War. It is a very real look at the war from many different perspectives. It is blogging at its finest! Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 11/02/2006 05:43:00 PM
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
In other words, the military is a bunch of stupid failures. I appreciate that.
My Commander In Chief responds, "Kerry comments insulting and shameful."
Thank you, Sir.
The National Commander of the American Legion also defends us, "As a constituent of Senator Kerry's I am disappointed. As leader of The American Legion, I am outraged," said National Commander Paul A. Morin. "A generation ago, Sen. Kerry slandered his comrades in Vietnam by saying that they were rapists and murderers. It wasn't true then and his warped view of today's heroes isn't true now."
"While The American Legion shares the senator's appreciation for education, the troops in Iraq represent the most sophisticated, technologically superior military that the world has ever seen," Morin said. "I think there is a thing or two that they could teach most college professors and campus elitists about the way the world works."
(2006). www.drudgereport.com. Retrieved October 31, 2006, from Drudge Report
(2006). www.breitbart.com. Retrieved October 31, 2006, from BREITIBART
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/31/2006 10:21:00 PM
Friday, October 27, 2006
"You can have a bad week. You can have two bad weeks. But, when you have two bad months, you have to reassess. You cannot afford to lose the numbers we are now."
Rep. Northup is another fine example of the weak and worthless that plague our Congress. From the view of our enemies, Rep. Northup is a fine example of the average American.
NOTE TO AMERICA: In Wars, people die. People die until one side quits. Our enemies are depending on Americans like Rep. Anne Northup.
Sent via BlackBerry from Cingular Wireless
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/27/2006 01:57:00 PM
Monday, October 02, 2006
HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, Fla. 33621-5101
Phone: (813) 827-5894; FAX: (813) 827-2211; DSN 651-5894
MND-B SOLDIERS SEIZE LARGE WEAPONS CACHE
BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, seized a large weapons cache northwest of Baghdad at approximately 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
The cache consisted of 141 rocket-propelled grenades, 150 RPG boosters, 186 fuses, 50 grenade bodies and a missile warhead.
An Explosive Ordnance Disposal team destroyed the weapons.
As of Friday, Iraqi Security Forces and MND-B Soldiers have cleared approximately 95,500 buildings, 79 mosques and 65 muhallas, detained more than 120 terrorist suspects, seized more than 1,700 weapons, registered more than 780 weapons and found 37 weapons caches in support of Operation Together Forward. The combined forces have also removed more than 195,841 cubic meters of trash from the streets of Baghdad.
For additional information concerning this release, contact the MULTI-National Division - Baghdad Public Affairs NCO In Charge, Master Sgt. Eric Lobsinger at: email@example.com , Commercial: (914) 822-8174 OR IRAQNA 011-964-790-192-4675.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/02/2006 01:42:00 PM
HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, Fla. 33621-5101
Phone: (813) 827-5894; FAX: (813) 827-2211; DSN 651-5894
IRAQ’S ARMY ASSUMES CONTROL OF FORCES NEAR FALLUJAH
NASSER WA SALAAM, Iraq – Iraq’s army took a leap forward toward greater independent responsibility Oct. 1 when the 1st Iraqi Army Division assumed operational control of another brigade.
Marines and soldiers of Regimental Combat Team 5, based in Fallujah, turned over operational control of Iraqi soldiers assigned to 4th Brigade to the 1st Iraqi Army Division in a ceremony marking the transfer of authority. Iraqi soldiers serving in the brigade operate in joint and independent battlespaces ranging from this small city west of Abu Ghraib to regions north of Fallujah.
“On behalf of the 5,000 Marines, sailors and soldiers of Regimental Combat Team 5, I want to say how special and important today is,” said Col. Larry D. Nicholson, commanding officer of RCT-5.
Nicholson said Iraqi soldiers, or jundi, proved their mettle in the past months by fighting insurgents alongside Marines, sharing in the risks and the victories over terrorism.
“Last week, jundi, Marines and police patrolled the streets of Gharmah,” he explained. “That couldn’t have been imagined two years ago. Marines and jundi have fought together, died together and bled together.”
Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Abdullah Abdul Satter Abdul Karem, commander of 4th Brigade, said the transfer from U.S. to Iraqi command was a historic occasion for the brigade, stating his Iraqi soldiers “honor the men of our country.”
“This is an indicator of the level of training of the jundi of 4th Brigade,” Abdullah said. “We are dedicated to building a free Iraq to defeat terrorism.”
Iraqi soldiers from 4th Brigade fought battles in Fallujah, Gharmah and Karbala, he said. They also distributed medical assistance to local residences and assisted in rebuilding Fallujah following the battle in 2004. Additionally, they protected electoral candidates from assassination attempts prior to Iraq’s first free elections last year.
“Although the relationship has changed,” Nicholson said, “we’ll continue to look forward to working together … to defeat the enemy.”
This was the second such ceremony in as many months. In September, Iraq’s 1st Division assumed authority over 3rd Brigade, based in Habbaniyah.
For more information contact 2nd Lt. J. Lawton King at Joseph.King@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/02/2006 01:35:00 PM
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Click HERE to read the recently declassified National Intelligence Estimate "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States
(pdf) Format available courtesy the Washington Post
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 9/27/2006 10:03:00 AM
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
By Cliff Knizley
Coimbatore Iswaran's Sept. 9 Speaking Out, titled "Bush's actions ensure danger" is a dumbfounding take on the worldwide threat of Islamic terrorism. He ignores history and the terrorist's own words and makes arguments unrivaled in their naivete.
Iswaran's Indian heritage doesn't prevent his descent into the pseudo intellectual drivel of the Western leftist. He quotes obscure poets, cites historical anecdotes and throws around SAT words like nobody's business. None of this saves him from sounding completely detached from reality.
The basic premise is an old one, President Bush's policies have created a proliferation of Islamic terrorism. In Iswaran's world, "Bush's war on terror" has "awakened the enemy and assured the possibility of a dastardly act." One week away from Sept. 11 strikes me as an unusual time to make such a statement.
Iswaran contends that prior to Bush's policies, terrorists "attacked haphazardly." Two rather large craters in downtown Manhattan provide a potent rebuttal to this asinine idea. Those craters were the result of years of planning, not exactly a haphazard attack. The fact that these same terrorists attempted to create those craters in 1993 is lost on Iswaran, who describes the terrorists' strategy as "do not resist the conquerer overtly." He should float that theory by the survivors of the attacks on the Khobar Towers and the U.S.S. Cole. Those attacks occurred years before Bush was president and define the term overt.
Iswaran claims that contrary to Bush's statements, terrorists "love freedom and democracy." No doubt it was this great love that motivated al-Qaeda's decision to set up shop in that bastion of freedom known as Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Perhaps he should read the words of the late terrorist Zarqawi who said, "We are at war with democracy, which allows one to chose their religion and is an affront to God." Iswaran then states, "Terrorism flourishes in lawless societies with weak governments."
This is not a Webster's definition of the terrorist's beloved democracy.
Iswaran takes a typical shot at the Patriot Act claiming that Bush is "curtailing our freedom." He conveniently fails to provide any part of the act or its usage that would support this claim and I doubt it has affected him personally.
He then states that Bush has "deliberately weakened the Iraqi government and refused to strengthen the Afghanistan government." Removing totalitarian regimes and attempting to support constitutional democracies seems like a strange way to "weaken" a country, but then again, I may not have Iswaran's sources.
According to Iswaran, Bush has "managed to polarize America." Maybe he was still in India during the polarizing 2000 election. He also blames Bush for his contention that "as a Middle Eastern looking individual," suspicious looks are often cast his way. Perhaps those democracy loving terrorists who created those craters might have some responsibility as well!
He then blames Tony Blair's position as a "Bush lackey" for the terrorism which continues to threaten Britain. I read further hoping to learn why Iswaran's homeland of India was recently attacked, but was disappointed.
Finally Iswaran claims that "fear is the biggest enemy of civilized society." I'd suggest that terrorists with nukes is a greater enemy, but I've probably fallen victim to Bush's "fear mongering."
Iswaran will not fall victim to fear. So fearless is he, that he refuses to lock his car at the mall. He's concerned he might lock his keys inside.
The fact that he has replaced one fear with another escapes our intrepid hero. But it does yield an interesting analogy.
The car could represent our national security. Israwan's policy to leave his unlocked ignores the reality of evil men with nefarious plans. My policy is to lock the car and hope law enforcement removes criminals from the streets. My car may not be completely safe, but it's certainly more safe than Israwan's. And in the event my car is stolen, would it be due to the fact that it was locked?
Cliff is a good friend and creator of Letters to Baghdad: A Tribute to Our Troops. He's a squared away American.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 9/19/2006 09:02:00 AM
Monday, September 11, 2006
Tonight, the President of the United States told America and the world what our United States are doing and must continue to do to preserve our way of life. I only hope America was listening... I know our enemies were.
Excerpts from the text of President Bush's address to the nation on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, as provided by the White House:
On the heroism of Americans: "On 9/11, our nation saw the face of evil. Yet on that awful day, we also witnessed something distinctly American: ordinary citizens rising to the occasion, and responding with extraordinary acts of courage."
On the ongoing terrorist threat: "We face an enemy determined to bring death and suffering into our homes. America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over. So do I. But the war is not over, and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious. If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons. We are in a war that will set the course for this new century and determine the destiny of millions across the world."
On what is at stake: "This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations. In truth, it is a struggle for civilization. We are fighting to maintain the way of life enjoyed by free nations. And we are fighting for the possibility that good and decent people across the Middle East can raise up societies based on freedom, and tolerance, and personal dignity."
On democratic reform in the Middle East: "By standing with democratic leaders and reformers, by giving voice to the hopes of decent men and women, we are offering a path away from radicalism. And we are enlisting the most powerful force for peace and moderation in the Middle East: The desire of millions to be free."
On working together to win the war on terror: "Our nation has endured trials, and we face a difficult road ahead. Winning this war will require the determined efforts of a unified country. So we must put aside our differences, and work together to meet the test that history has given us. We will defeat our enemies, we will protect our people, and we will lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty."
Source: The Associated Press
Our Nation has made great sacrifices in the last few years, but it hasn't been without great successes. I appreciated the President's reference to the generations that have come before us and met victory despite extraordinary obstacles. We now stand at the brink of American survival or suffocation. Our preservation is ours to lose. If America is fragile it is not because of our enemies, but because of the apathetic and complacent among us. We must stay the course. We must persevere. The life of the free world depends on it.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 9/11/2006 09:37:00 PM
"In five years, more than 5,000 terrorists have been captured or killed." - Statement to Employees by Central Intelligence Agency Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden on the
Fifth Anniversary of 9/11, 11 September 2006.
Message from CIA Director
Let's make sure that number continues to grow... and grow and grow and grow!
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 9/11/2006 12:20:00 PM
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Since its invasion of Iraq over three years ago, the United States has ridden a public opinion roller coaster. Pundits and armchair generals alike are quick to presume complete failure if even one aspect of an extremely intricate mission seems challenging. However, it is important to acknowledge that the task of altering the course of a nation is an extremely complex and in-depth objective. America has rebuilt Iraq’s schools, hospitals, infrastructure, economy and government in only three years and cannot stop now.
Some of the most substantial and recognizable improvements have been to Iraq’s infrastructure. Since America’s invasion over 2300 schools have been rehabilitated and constructed and are being fitted with over 8.7 million new textbooks (USAID, 2006). The U.S. believes that the children of Iraq are the future of the Middle East. It is important that all Iraqi children are given the opportunity to receive a well balanced and unbiased education, covering the core subjects as well as technological familiarization, hygiene and individual rights.
Only a few years ago Iraq’s health care was nearly the worst in the region. Since the invasion, the U.S. has spent over $600 million to assist Iraq’s Ministry of Health (USAID, 2006). Better nutrition as well as open access to healthcare for the first time in decades has made substantial improvements. Over 3.2 million children under the age of five have received vaccinations (USAID, 2006). These vaccinations are expected to reduce the child mortality rate. Instilling proper health habits with Iraq’s youth and educating mothers on proper nutrition habits will continue to have positive effects on Iraq’s health over all.
The United States has also helped Iraq hold some of their first legitimate democratic elections. Despite the security concerns, over 70% of eligible voters turned out in the December 2006 election (Saban Center Iraq Index, 2006). This strong turnout proves the people of Iraq are ready for change. Coalition forces put forth astounding efforts to educate the public on the democratic process. Over 1.5 million election publications were distributed throughout the country (USAID, 2006). On Election Day, the Iraqi people waved their purple stained fingers in the air with pride to show they had voted. They are presently being led by a government they elected to represent them.
Throughout Saddam’s reign and with the Coalition invasion many of Iraq’s roads and bridges were disabled. One of the first initiatives after the invasion was to rebuild Iraq’s busiest bridges and interstates in some of Iraq’s largest cities. Doing so has increased the flow of traffic and substantially reduced traffic accidents. The reduced traffic congestion has also helped Iraq’s new first responders and Iraqi police arrive at emergencies much faster.
Iraq’s economic policy in early 2003 was in a devastating state. There was corruption and lack of education widespread in both the private sector as well as within Iraq’s ministries. The U.S. has assisted in training government leaders in economic policy and helped create a national economic strategy. In 2003 Iraq’s Ministry of Finance introduced the new Iraqi dinar which now has over 4.62 trillion in circulation (USAID, 2006). Oil revenues have gone up astronomically, from $2 million in June 2003 to $62.6 billion in July 2006 (Saban Center Iraq Index, 2006). More and more Iraqis are able to open businesses. Unemployment decreased from 60% in June 2003 down to 25% a year later, and continues to drop substantially helping the security situation (Saban Center Iraq Index, 2006).
Iraq has also seen substantial increases in the quality and numbers of their security forces. Both the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army are making continuous strides in their tactical abilities and their discipline. The U.S. has installed very thorough training programs for the varying types of military and police forces in Iraq. The Coalition Military Assistance Training Team has been instrumental in training the Iraqi Ministry of Defense at all levels. The Civilian Police Assistance Training Team provides a similar role and is made up of American Military Police personnel. Coalition Military Assistance Training Team and Civilian Police Assistance Training Team provide training throughout the entire development of the organization, turning recruits off of the street into a combat force ready for security responsibilities on some of Iraq’s most dangerous streets (Multi National Forces Iraq, 2006).
The Iraqi Army and Police forces are having continuing success with their recruiting and retention. There is always an abundance of passionate and willing volunteers to join the forces. In Baghdad alone there are over 42,000 Iraqi security forces with thousands volunteering daily throughout the country (Multi National Forces Iraq, 2006). The U.S. is currently working to make these forces more self-sustaining. While Iraqi forces are taking on more and more roles in combat operations, they are still working on being able to provide their own essential support functions.
In less time than it takes the United States to make one military officer, a nation has been liberated and is making enormous strides towards independence. Now more than ever the American-led coalition needs unilateral support for its efforts in Iraq.
A premature pull-out would have devastating effects. A lack of substantial security presence would trigger a series of tragic events as has been seen in Rwanda, Somalia and Afghanistan. Initially the crime rates would begin to rise. Not necessarily organized crime, but every day theft, homicide and assaults. As crime began to spin out of control, the varying sects of Islam in the region would begin to fight for control of the country. Funding and influence from Iran, Syria, Jordan and varying organizations such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah would certainly contribute. The opportunity to have a geographic region to base international operations out of is very enticing to many up and coming terrorist organizations, such as Afghanistan was to the Taliban.
The Iraqi people would be caught in the middle of this chaos. The economy would probably crumble first, initiating a domino effect leading to teachers and health care professionals slowly dwindling away for fear of their safety. Businesses would begin to either close or be forced to pay for their protection to an insurgency group. Eventually, the threat of this region to the west would be greater than it is now or ever was. Thousands upon thousands of Iraqi people would be slaughtered in civil war.
The United States is certainly on the right track. No mission of this size ever gets accomplished problem free. The American people need to realize that a country cannot be liberated over night. America must stay the course. Too much has already been sacrificed and accomplished to disregard the successes made up until this point. The future of Iraq is promising... if the American people want it to be.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 9/09/2006 10:59:00 PM
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Not that what's happening with Israel and Lebanon isn't important, but, America is still fighting a War
2 Americans, dozens of Iraqis killed
By ROBERT H. REID
Associated Press Writer
Two American soldiers were killed Saturday in Baghdad, seven Shiite construction workers were gunned down and five Sunni civilians were blown up, deepening the capital's security crisis. Shiite politicians called on the prime minister to cancel his visit to Washington to protest Israel's attacks in Lebanon.
Elsewhere, U.S. and Iraqi forces backed by a helicopter gunship launched a major attack Saturday on a headquarters of a radical Shiite militia south of Baghdad, killing 15 militiamen in a three-hour battle, the U.S. said.
One U.S. soldier died in the second of two roadside bombs that exploded in east Baghdad at mid-morning. An Iraqi civilian was killed by the first blast, police said. Another American soldier died Saturday evening when gunmen attacked his patrol with small arms fire, the military said.
The seven Shiite workers were killed and two were wounded when gunmen opened fire on a construction site near Baghdad International Airport, police said. Later Saturday, a mortar shell killed five civilians at a market in the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Amil in west Baghdad, police said.
Two rockets also blasted the heavily guarded Green Zone, which includes the U.S. and British embassies as well as major Iraqi government offices, but the U.S. military said there were no casualties.
Much of the violence appeared to be part of the tit-for-tat reprisal killings by Sunni and Shiite extremists which have led to a dramatic deterioration of security in the Iraqi capital.
With violence rising, the United States is moving to bolster American troop strength in the Baghdad area, putting on hold plans to draw down on the 127,000-member U.S. military mission in Iraq.
U.S. officials have pointed to Shiite militias as a major cause of sectarian violence. In a bid to curb militia influence, American troops moved Saturday against the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad.
U.S. troops reported killing 15 gunmen in a three-hour firefight in Musayyib but described them only as "thugs and criminals" who had tried to take over the city. Sheik Jalil al-Nouri, an aide to al-Sadr, said U.S. and Iraqi forces attacked the Mahdi Army office in Mussayib and that sporadic shooting was still underway late Saturday.
Local officials said the Americans conducted a similar raid on al-Sadr's office in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad and scene of an attack five days ago in which 50 people were killed.
In London, the British military announced Saturday that British troops arrested the Mahdi Army commander in Basra in raids last weekend against militia weapons depots.
With violence rising, the United States is moving to bolster American troop strength in the Baghdad area, putting on hold plans to draw down on the 127,000-member U.S. military mission in Iraq.
The security crisis in Baghdad is expected to figure prominently when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meets President George W. Bush at the White House on Tuesday. U.S. officials are expected to push al-Maliki, a Shiite, to move quickly to calm sectarian tensions and abolish Shiite militias blamed for much of the violence.
But the visit comes amid rising anger among Iraqis over Israel's attacks in Lebanon, launched after Shiite Hezbollah militiamen seized two Israeli soldiers.
On Saturday, the Fadhila party, which is part of al-Maliki's Shiite alliance, urged the prime minister to call off his visit.
"Fadhila demands that the prime minister cancel his visit to the U.S. in solidarity with the Lebanese people and over what is going on there, the disasters due to the Zionist aggression amid international silence about these crimes," party official Sheik Sabah al-Saiedi told The Associated Press.
Despite public anger over Lebanon, the Shiite political establishment has too much to lose politically by risking its ties with the Americans over the fate of Hezbollah.
Nevertheless, al-Maliki, a former Shiite activist who spent years in exile in Syria, has condemned Israel's offensive and has complained that the United States and the international community have not done enough to stop it.
Al-Maliki told reporters he would convey that message personally to Bush.
"The hostile acts against Lebanon will have effects on the region and we are not far from what is going on in Lebanon," al-Maliki said. "We will speak with the United Nations and American government to call for a cease-fire quickly."
Al-Maliki spoke following the first meeting of a government committee formed to reconcile Iraq's disparate sectarian and political groups, but differences emerged immediately between top Shiite and Sunni officials over the issue of amnesty for insurgents.
Al-Maliki told reporters that despite his proposal for amnesty for some insurgents, "all those whose hands were tainted with blood should be brought to justice."
But the Sunni speaker of parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, snapped back, saying that "if we punish a person who killed an American soldier, who is an occupier, we should punish the American soldiers who killed an Iraqi who fought against occupation."
Most of the insurgents who have been fighting U.S. forces are Sunnis. The United States and the Iraqi government have sought to reach out to selected insurgent groups in hopes of convincing them to lay down their arms.
In other news Saturday:
• 10 Iraqi soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb struck a convoy in Karmah, west of Fallujah in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, police Lt. Ahmed Ali said.
• Three people died and five were injured in a bombing and shooting in the market in Baqouba, where U.S. forces killed five civilians the day before. The U.S. military expressed regret over the civilian deaths and blamed extremists for putting civilians in danger.
• An American soldier died Thursday of a non-combat related injury, the U.S. military reported. He was assigned to the 43rd Military Police Brigade.
• One civilian was killed when masked gunmen attacked Iraqi police in Mosul, and three gunmen died in an a separate firefight with police there.
Eds: Associated Press correspondents Bassem Mroue, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Qais al-Bashir and Ryan Lenz contributed to this report in Baghdad.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 7/22/2006 08:31:00 PM
Friday, July 21, 2006
This is good stuff. Check it out by clicking the link above.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 7/21/2006 06:24:00 PM
From Central Command:
TWO IRAQI FORCE RAIDS IN BAGHDAD NET FOUR INSURGENTS
BALAD – Iraqi security forces conducted two separate operations in Baghdad on July 20, capturing four insurgents who may be involved in ‘extra judicial killing,’ or EJK cells.
The first operation by Iraqi security forces, a raid on back-to-back objectives in southwest Baghdad, netted three primary targets. The first individual was a key insurgent leader believed to plan and coordinate insurgent operations in Baghdad. The second is allegedly involved in financing operations and supplying weapons to insurgents. And the third is believed to be involved in kidnapping Iraqi citizens, Iraqi police and Iraqi soldiers for ransom to finance insurgent activities. He is also allegedly involved in murdering kidnapping victims and participating in attacks against coalition forces.
Iraqi forces also seized three AK-47 assault rifles and three nine millimeter pistols.
During a second raid in southern Baghdad, Iraqi Army forces captured an individual known to deal improvised explosive devices, or IEDs and small arms to insurgent groups.
Coalition force advisers were on hand during both operations, and both occurred without incident.
No Iraqi or coalition forces were injured during the operation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT MULTINATIONAL CORPS PUBLIC AFFAIRS AT MNCI-PAO-VictoryMainJOC@iraq.centcom.mil.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 7/21/2006 06:12:00 PM
Thursday, July 20, 2006
July 21, 2006
Marines Return to Beirut to Aid U.S. Evacuation
By JAD MOUAWAD and STEVEN ERLANGER
BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 20 — United States marines landed in Beirut on Thursday for the first time in more than 20 years to help evacuate Americans from Lebanon, as Israeli officials suggested that Israeli ground troops might take a more active role in combating the Hezbollah militia. There were also more strong condemnations of Israel’s heavy use of force in Lebanon.
With the fighting continuing for a ninth day, fierce clashes erupted between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters inside Lebanon. Hundreds of Israeli troops were trying to destroy Hezbollah outposts and storage facilities, Israeli Army officials said.
Two Israeli soldiers and a Hezbollah fighter were killed late Wednesday as Israel discovered a warren of storage rooms, bunkers and tunnels. The death toll in Lebanon for the nine days passed 300; the vast majority were said to be civilians.
On Thursday evening, two Israeli soldiers were killed and three others wounded in further fighting. At least two Hezbollah fighters were believed to have been killed.
The Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, visiting northern towns hit by scores of Hezbollah rockets, hinted at a broader ground operation. “We have no intention of occupying Lebanon, but we also have no intention of retreating from any military measures needed,” he said. “Hezbollah must not think that we would recoil from using all kinds of military measures against it.”
Mr. Peretz continued, “You can mark one thing down: Hezbollah flags will not hang over the fences of Israel.”
At the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned the Israeli operation as an “excessive use of force.”
Russia, which reduced parts of Chechnya to rubble in its fight against rebels there, also sharply criticized Israel, with the Foreign Ministry calling Israel’s actions in Lebanon “far beyond the boundaries of an antiterrorist operation” and urging a cease-fire.
At the White House, President Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow, said, “I’m not sure at this juncture we’re going to step in and put up a stop sign,” although he called on Israel to “practice restraint” and said that Mr. Bush was “very much concerned” about a growing human crisis in southern Lebanon.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is arranging a trip to Asia and the Middle East; she could be visiting this region as early as Sunday.
Diplomats are investigating the idea of a more robust international force under United Nations auspices but more likely made up of European troops, that could help the weak Lebanese government move its army to the Israeli border and push back a weakened Hezbollah.
Ephraim Sneh, Israel’s deputy defense minister and a former Israeli commander in Lebanon, told Israeli television: “We have no choice but go in and physically clean up Hezbollah posts on the ground. The air force can’t do that. So when we talk about a ground operation, the intention is not necessarily a massive incursion but more pinpoint operations.”
The small force of about 40 marines who landed in Beirut on Thursday were the first American military personnel to be deployed in Lebanon since the withdrawal of forces after a Hezbollah suicide bomb attack killed 241 Americans, mostly marines, in 1983. The marines who landed Thursday were from the same unit as those killed 23 years ago.
Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown of the United States Naval Central Command in Bahrain said a small number of marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit landed on a beach north of Beirut, near shorefront belonging to the American Embassy on Thursday morning. They helped American citizens board a landing craft that ferried them to the amphibious assault ship Nashville stationed offshore.
By late afternoon, 1,052 evacuees had been boarded, and the Nashville was preparing to head to Cyprus, Commander Brown said.
Helicopters also evacuated 161 Americans on Thursday, the military said, and the Orient Queen, a cruise liner that had transported the first large group of American evacuees to Cyprus on Wednesday, was expected to reach Beirut on Thursday night for reloading.
A planeload of Americans who had been on the Orient Queen’s first trip to Cyprus arrived at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport on Thursday morning. Five more naval vessels are expected to arrive in the area on Friday, along with a high-speed ferry hired to transport evacuees to Cyprus, the military said in a statement.
Citizens of Britain and other countries were also evacuated.
On Thursday, Israel continued its large-scale air attacks on Hezbollah positions and equipment. It also leafleted southern Lebanese villages, made taped phone calls, informed local leaders and broadcast messages in Arabic to warn residents to move north of the Litani River if their villages contained Hezbollah assets or rockets, but gave no deadline.
Israel dropped similar leaflets on Thursday in Gaza as well, possibly foreshadowing more attacks on populated areas where Israel believes Hamas is storing Qassam rockets.
The air attacks on Thursday also hit Beirut’s southern suburbs, following Wednesday night’s heavy attack by Israeli jets, using special burrowing bombs, to try to penetrate a bunker believed to be used by senior Hezbollah officials, including its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah said no one was hurt in the bombing, which Israeli officials said involved 23 tons of explosives in the Burj al Brajneh neighborhood.
According to Al Jazeera’s Web site, Sheik Nasrallah said in an interview on Thursday that the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in a raid last week would be freed only in the context of a prisoner exchange and otherwise would not be released even “if the whole universe comes against us.”
Hezbollah said its military capacity was largely undiminished. “The resistance has only used a small, small part of its strength,” Hussein Hajj Hassan told LBC television. “Nothing has been destroyed.”
Despite the continuous shelling of the Hezbollah strongholds of southern Beirut, the militia remains very much in control there, barring access to outsiders.
On Thursday, the militia led a group of reporters for a tour of the area, where Hezbollah’s headquarters are. Buildings as high as 12 or 15 stories had collapsed; some were still smoking.
According to Lebanese reports, four civilians were killed in a strike on a car in the coastal city of Tyre. Israeli jets also attacked a detention center in the town of Khiam in south Lebanon on Thursday, according to local television reports. The prison, formerly run by Israel’s Lebanese militia allies during its occupation of south Lebanon, was destroyed.
Israeli planes also struck at Shiite areas in the eastern towns of Baalbek and Hermil, where some Hezbollah leaders are said to live, and several southern villages.
About 50 rockets hit Israel on Thursday, the Israeli Army said, a sharp drop from 150 the day before.
The Israeli military reported that two of its helicopters collided near the border with Lebanon, injuring five of those on board.
In Gaza, Israel continued its military operation in the central sector, killing at least three Palestinians and wounding six in fighting around the Mughazi refugee camp. An airstrike on the same refugee camp killed one fighter and wounded eight more. One of the dead was a Palestinian girl, 10, wounded in an airstrike on Wednesday, when nine Palestinians, eight of them militants, were killed, according to The Associated Press.
The Israeli Army dropped the leaflets throughout Gaza on Thursday warning that “anyone who has, or is keeping an arsenal, ammunitions or weapons in their house must destroy it or will face dangerous consequences.”
On the West Bank, Israeli forces continued to surround the Mukata compound in Nablus, where Palestinians wanted by Israel have been taking refuge since Wednesday morning. About 15 wanted men gave themselves up but at least 10 remain inside. Tanks fired five shells at the buildings and army bulldozers worked to knock down the exterior walls, while warning those inside to come out or risk being buried underneath the rubble.
Israeli troops fired rubber-coated bullets at Palestinians who demonstrated against the troops, wounding five, one seriously, Palestinian medics said. About 4,000 Palestinians demonstrated in Nablus in support of Hezbollah, calling on the militia’s leader, Mr. Nasrallah, to attack Israel with rockets.
“Nasrallah, our dearest, strike, strike Tel Aviv!” the Palestinians shouted. Five Palestinians were killed in the Nablus operation on Wednesday.
The Lebanese government said it had so far sheltered as many as 120,000 refugees, mostly in public and private schools. It is considering setting up tents and temporary barracks for the refugees in public parks and sports fields. The United Nations estimates that a total of 500,000 people have been displaced.
“The losses are immeasurable,” said Nayla Moawad, the Lebanese minister for social affairs.
Ms. Moawad blamed Syria for setting off the crisis, saying that she was expressing her personal opinion. “The decision of the Hezbollah operation was not taken in Lebanon,” she said. “Lebanon was taken a hostage, a mailbox of other people’s interests. It has been taken in Damascus, probably with an Iranian coordination.”
Ms. Moawad was one of the leaders of the Lebanese revolt last year that led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
“Syria has tried to destabilize Lebanon since her troops pulled out,” she said.
Jad Mouawad reported from Beirut for this article, and Steven Erlanger from Jerusalem.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 7/20/2006 11:43:00 PM
By Scott Wilson and Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 21, 2006; A01
JERUSALEM, July 20 -- Israeli ground forces and Hezbollah guerrillas engaged in heavy fighting inside Lebanon on Thursday, as senior Israeli defense officials braced the country for a long conflict against the radical Islamic groups on its borders and indicated that a large ground operation could still lie ahead.
The Israeli military said at least two soldiers were killed and six others wounded in the fighting, the most intense ground exchange in the current military campaign. Israeli military officials later said two Apache attack helicopters collided at Ramot Naftali, about two miles inside the Israeli border, just after midnight. Israel's army radio said there were four casualties in the crash, Reuters news agency reported.
Israeli military aircraft pounded targets across Lebanon for a ninth straight day amid growing international calls for Israel to suspend a bombing campaign that has ravaged that country's civilian population. The airstrikes swelled the ranks of the displaced and accelerated the evacuation of U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals, thousands of whom sailed away from the tattered country in a chartered cruise ship and a military transport vessel.
Using local radio stations and other media, Israel warned the roughly 300,000 Lebanese civilians who live south of the Litani River, which runs about 25 miles north of Israel's border with Lebanon, to abandon their homes. Israeli officials, meanwhile, indicated that a large ground offensive could follow as rocket fire continued into Israel's Galilee region, although at a diminished rate.
During a tour of northern Israel, where more than 850 rockets have rained down since Hezbollah gunmen captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said the radical Shiite Muslim militia "must not think that we would recoil from using all kinds of military measures against it."
"We have no intention of occupying Lebanon, but we also have no intention of retreating from any military measures needed," Peretz said. The comments left open the possibility that Israel could move forces into southern Lebanon, the restive, Shiite-dominated region it has occupied before. Israeli military officials have raised the need to clear Hezbollah forces from a 12-mile-wide swath inside the Lebanese border to increase the distance between the group's increasingly long-range arsenal and the Israeli cities in the firing line.
Israeli officials have dismissed international proposals for a peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, saying they need more time to bombard Hezbollah launch sites, bunkers and supply routes before considering a cease-fire. They say the bombing effort has severely damaged Hezbollah forces -- an assertion denied by the group's leaders in Lebanon.
Hezbollah gunmen fired about 40 rockets into Israel, about a third of the number they fired the previous day. There were no casualties reported from Thursday's rocket strikes, which have killed 15 Israeli civilians since fighting began.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday urged Israel to halt its military operations in Lebanon, claiming it is inflicting unacceptable harm on civilians while increasing Hezbollah's popularity and undercutting Lebanon's fledgling democracy. But he voiced pessimism about the prospects for a quick halt to the violence and urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties in the meantime and provide access for humanitarian relief workers throughout Lebanon.
"The Lebanese people, who had hoped that their country's dark days were behind them, have been brutally dragged back into the war," Annan told the U.N. Security Council. He was accompanied by former Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar, who had just returned from leading a peace mission in the region.
"Let me be frank with the council," Annan said. "The mission's assessment is that there are serious obstacles to reaching a cease-fire, or even diminishing the violence quickly."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice launched her diplomatic effort at a working dinner with Annan on Thursday, with a Security Council briefing scheduled for Friday morning. The United States is now working on a package of ideas for Rice to take the region when she begins talks early next week, with timing and locations still up in the air, U.S. officials said.
The fighting near the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras, just across the border from the Israeli farming community of Avivim, pointed up Hezbollah's skill at fighting in terrain it has spent years preparing against another Israeli invasion. Sixteen Israeli soldiers have been killed so far on the northern front, and 61 have been wounded.
Heavy fighting broke out several times throughout the day after Israeli tanks and bulldozers pushed a few hundred yards inside Lebanon in search of tunnels, bunkers and posts used by Hezbollah gunmen.
The clashes involved small-arms fire and antitank missiles. Israeli attack helicopters provided support as soldiers removed the wounded. Hezbollah's television station, al-Manar, said two Israeli tanks were destroyed in the clashes.
Lebanese officials say more than 300 Lebanese have died in the fighting, nearly all of them civilian, while more than 1,000 others have been wounded. It is unclear how many Hezbollah gunmen have died in the airstrikes or ground fighting.
In a statement, Hezbollah officials said bombing by Israel on Wednesday night that was described as an attack on a bunker in fact hit a mosque under construction and caused no injuries to senior Hezbollah leaders.
Hezbollah members of parliament, who number a dozen among the legislature's 128 members, appeared on Lebanese television to vow steadfastness and declare that the group's arsenal still has plenty of weapons for retaliatory strikes against Israeli towns. Hezbollah officials escorted journalists around their southern Beirut stronghold to show the damage to what they said were civilian residences.
Israeli aircraft roamed the southern Lebanese skies looking for targets, continuing their campaign to blast Hezbollah infrastructure and prevent vehicles from resupplying the militia's forces. But missile attacks seemed to diminish in the area around Beirut as foreign governments, including that of the United States, continued evacuation operations.
In the Gaza Strip, where Israeli tanks and troops clashed with gunmen from the governing Hamas movement's military wing, the death toll rose on Israel's second front. Palestinian hospital officials said four Palestinians were killed, including two children, as Israeli forces attacked Palestinian positions in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza for a second day.
[On Friday, Israeli tanks and troops withdrew from the Mughazi camp, Reuters reported, citing witnesses and an Israeli army spokeswoman.
"Yes, our forces are out, but it is important to emphasize that operations in Gaza continue," Reuters quoted the spokeswoman as saying.]
Hamas's military wing helped stage the June 25 cross-border raid on an army post in which a 19-year-old Israeli soldier was captured. Its members also regularly fire rockets into southern Israel, something Israeli officials say must stop. Hospital officials put the two-day casualty toll at 11 dead and more than 170 wounded.
About 40 Marines came ashore in a Maronite Christian area in Lebanon just north of Beirut to help U.S. nationals board a landing craft and move to the USS Nashville, a warship looming offshore. The Ocean Queen, a cruise ship chartered by Washington, returned late in the day for a second load of Americans.
U.S. authorities in Beirut also used a bus convoy Thursday to evacuate 341 American citizens from battered southern Lebanon and moved approximately 2,250 people out of the country on helicopters and sea vessels, military and diplomatic officials said. The departures marked the largest group of U.S. citizens to leave Lebanon on a single day since Israeli airstrikes began.
Since Marine helicopters first began lifting people out of Beirut on Sunday, the United States has been able to transport more than 3,850 citizens to safety, said Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs.
The U.S. move to rescue those in the south, the most dangerous area of the country, was hailed by U.S. officials as "successful," but they also said there could be more people there they just don't yet know about. Harty said another evacuation from southern Lebanon was possible. She urged U.S. citizens trapped there to "continue to stand fast" and monitor Lebanese radio for updates.
Harty said the 341 citizens who were bused out of southern Lebanon were scheduled to board a cruise ship for Cyprus.
European and other governments also proceeded with evacuations of their nationals, most of them Lebanese with foreign passports who had returned for summer vacations. Officials estimated that more than 12,000 foreigners have been taken out of the country in the past three days.
The Israeli public, while so far largely supportive of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's war effort, has been generally less tolerant of ground operations since Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the bloody 18-year occupation that followed. Israel left southern Lebanon in May 2000.
Amos Yaron, a retired general who commanded the paratroop division that entered Beirut in 1982, said that "people make a lot of mistakes when they are drawing lessons" from the Lebanon invasion.
"We didn't have any problem entering Lebanon in 1982," Yaron said. "The problem was leaving it."
Yaron said he believes a ground operation might be necessary before the fighting ends. "At the end of the day," he said, "you have to take Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. No one will do it for you."
Yagil Levy, a professor of public policy at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba and author of the "The Other Army of Israel," said most of Israel's senior commanders served as young officers during the 1982 invasion and the Hezbollah attacks that followed during the occupation.
He said the leadership is suffering "schizophrenia" from the lessons it learned from that experience. On the one hand, he said, military commanders understand "never to get involved in a war of attrition" that turns the Israeli public against it.
"But the opposite element is that some of these people carry with them a lot of frustration," Levy said. "For some of these officers, this operation now is something like unfinished business."
Cody reported from Beirut. Staff writers Josh White and Robin Wright in Washington and Colum Lynch at the United Nations also contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 7/20/2006 11:42:00 PM