Staff Sgt. Mary Flynn
Army News Service
WASHINGTON - Like many Soldiers deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Soldiers from the Oregon National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry brought their personal cameras to Iraq during their deployment in 2004. They snapped photos of each other firing weapons, shot video of explosives they detonated and logged plenty of footage of their own commentaries intermixed with Soldier humor.
But they never expected that their day-to-day antics would one day represent deployed National Guard Soldiers everywhere, preserved in a feature-length documentary film called "This is War: Memories of Iraq."
The National Combat History Archive and Lucky Forward Films used the unscripted testimonies of nine Soldiers of varying ranks and experiences to narrate the events. Photos and video they shot with their own personal cameras illustrate their experiences.
"We wanted to make a very non-political film that took someone who's never been to Iraq ... to show what it means to go into combat," said the film's director, Gary Mortensen. "We told it in a non-specific way so that it could represent Soldiers everywhere - we wanted to tell a tale that anyone who has been over there can identify with."
Mr. Mortensen added that the unique thing about the film is that these Soldiers had their own personal recording devices on hand, giving an intimate view of what they saw on a daily basis. The Soldiers had no idea any of it would be turned into a film, so the result is a very honest and raw portrait of their experiences.
"It's very powerful," said Sgt. 1st Class Phillip "Vince" Jacques, one of the Soldiers featured in the film. "It really represents the professionalism of these guys and shows exactly what troops are going through over there. They're the ones fighting the war. You might as well hear their story."
Present at various screenings of the film, Sgt. 1st Class Jacques noticed that the audience's reaction was often one of awe. "Whether they support the war or not, they come away with a whole different view of what Soldiers are doing over there," he said.
National audiences are also beginning to take notice. "This is War" won the Audience Choice Award and Best Documentary at the Idaho International Film Festival, and received the Jury Award: Best Documentary at the Florida International Media Market. It also took home awards for best documentary and best director at the Sweet Onion Film Festival in Walla Walla, Wash.
Unfortunately, the film isn't available in local video stores yet; Mr. Mortensen explained that they are working on the film's distribution and broadcast rights. It can be purchased by calling (503) 597-7030 or by checking out the Web site at www.luckyforwardfilms.com.
According to the site, all sales of the film help support the Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund, the National Combat History Archive, the Iraq/Afghanistan Oregon Memorial Fund and the Wounded Warriors Project, a non-profit organization that helps injured servicemembers by providing programs and services to meet their unique needs.
Photo - The National Combat History Archive and Lucky Forward Films used the unscripted testimonies of nine Oregon National Guard Soldiers of varying ranks and experiences to narrate the events of the film "This is War: Memories of Iraq." Photos and video the Soldiers shot with their own personal cameras illustrate their experiences. (Contributed Photo).
LATEST IRAQ NEWS
Thursday, December 20, 2007
By Staff Sgt. Mike Andriacco, USAF
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HERO, Afghanistan – Airmen in a medical mentoring team here have been working hard to ensure the successful opening of an Afghan National Army hospital for the past several months.
The team’s original mission was to mentor their Afghan counterparts and teach them medical skills to treat Afghan military and police members, said Air Force Col. Mike Skidmore, the team’s senior mentor officer and administrator.
All that changed when the team arrived several months ago, he said. The hospital was 500 days behind schedule, and instead of finding equipment and eager ANA medical personnel, the team found an empty, incomplete facility.
“We had to move from a mentoring mission to a new mindset of equipping the hospital, opening it and then mentoring,” said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Thomas Seay, the senior medical mentor and chief radiologist.
Most of the state-of-the-art equipment, to include a digital X-ray and digital ultrasound machines, were purchased by the United States, with some items – such as wheelchairs -- donated by a nonprofit organization based in Canada, he said.
The hospital is one of the most advanced of its kind in the southern region of Afghanistan.
“Phase one of the construction consisted of a $5.6 million, 50-bed main hospital,” Skidmore said. “It will serve the entire ANA 205th Corps, including four combat brigades, their associated garrison clinics and more than 27,000 ANA soldiers, Afghan National Police and their families. There are two isolation rooms, one trauma room, two operating rooms, and an intensive care ward that can accommodate up to six patients.”
One of the most impressive elements of the project is the water processing plant, he added. It uses a multi-stage process to clean and sterilize water to the standard necessary for hospital conditions and also is being used as a model for future water plants throughout the country.
Contractors also recently broke ground on phase two, a $2.6 million hospital expansion that will house an additional 50 patients, Skidmore said.
With the hospital ribbon-cutting held Dec. 15, the mentoring team now is looking forward to starting the job it came to do.
The team is made up of a total of 18 airmen: three doctors, three nurses, three administrators, a radiologist, a pharmacist, a medic, two lab technicians, a pharmacy technician, a radiology technician, a biomedical equipment technician and a logistician. Team members will work with their Afghan counterparts to create a baseline of skills, Seay said. There also will be a lot of focus on sterilization and sustainment of equipment and resources, he added.
Together, the team hopes its efforts can help the Afghan National Army to rebuild the country and be effective at maintaining peace and security.
“This is arguably the best ANA hospital in the entire country, given the building, the equipment and the water treatment plant, but the most impressive part of this hospital is its staff,” Skidmore said. “They are incredibly excited and enthusiastic to learn new clinical and managerial techniques in health care.”
Photo - Air Force Tech. Sgt. Edward Weaver, a medic deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., instructs Afghan National Army medical personnel on spinal immobilization techniques at the newly opened Kandahar ANA regional hospital in Afghanistan. The medical mentoring team arrived to find the construction 500 days behind schedule and immediately took on the task of supplying the hospital and getting it opened before continuing the mission of mentoring Afghan National Army medical personnel. Photo by Col. (Dr.) Thomas Seay, USAF.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/20/2007 04:22:00 PM
From U.S. Central Command
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition forces held a release ceremony for 100 detainees Wednesday at Camp Cropper in a gesture of goodwill and reconciliation during the holiday of Eid al Adha.
“On this joyful occasion, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome you back to the new, peaceful Iraq,” said Maj. Gen. Doug Stone, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq Detainee Operations, in Arabic. “I hope and believe that you will be the role models for the generations to come and contributors to Iraq’s glory and prosperity.”
The ceremony honored the joint effort by the Government of Iraq and Coalition forces to increase the average number of detainee releases per month. Individuals are only released after they are deemed to no longer be an imperative threat to the security of Iraq.
The majority of the detainees were released through a review board process, when they had the opportunity to address their cases personally. They also made a pledge to an Iraqi judge, swearing to maintain peace and good conduct.
“We pledge to Allah, the Almighty, to be faithful servants in safeguarding and building Iraq,” said one releasee on behalf of the group. “And we ask of Him to fill our hearts with love and compassion to the Iraqi people and reject all aspects of violence and hatred.”
While in detention, the detainees had the opportunity to volunteer for a number of programs, including basic education courses, religious discussions, vocational training and work programs designed to help them reintegrate and function as productive members of the community.
All 100 detainees were released Wednesday. Approximately 850 detainees have been released so far during the Hajj and Eid al Adha holiday season.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/20/2007 04:20:00 PM
From U.S. Central Command
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition forces captured a Special Groups leader and detained two other suspected criminals during operations to disrupt criminal element networks early Sunday in the Baghdad area.
The targeted individual reportedly supplied various weapons, such as explosively formed penetrators, rocket propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices and mortars, to various Special Group criminal elements to aid in attacks on Coalition forces. He was coordinating criminal cells throughout the Diyala province. In addition, he was reportedly an associate of several other senior-level criminal element leaders who were involved in attacks on Coalition forces.
Intelligence led ground forces to the target area, where they captured the targeted individual and detained the two other suspects without incident.
During the operation, ground forces also discovered two assault rifles, two pistols, two machine guns, night vision goggles and large amounts of American and Iranian currency.
“Groups honoring al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr’s ceasefire pledge are helping to make Iraq a safer place,” said Maj. Winfield Danielson, MNF-I spokesman. “Criminal elements dishonoring Sadr’s pledge can not be allowed to undermine the improvements in security and stability the Iraqi people have fought so hard to achieve.”
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/20/2007 04:19:00 PM
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Saturday , December 08, 2007
NBC reversed course Saturday and decided to air a conservative group's television ad thanking U.S. troops.
The ad, by the group Freedom's Watch, asks viewers to remember the troops during the holiday season. NBC had refused to air the ad because it guides viewers to the Freedom's Watch Web site, which NBC said was too political.
But in a statement issued Saturday evening, NBC said:
"We have reviewed and changed our ad standards guidelines and made the decision that our policy will apply to content only and not to a referenced Web site. Based on these amended standards the Freedom's Watch ad will begin to run as early as Sunday."
NBC' head of standards and practices, Alan Wurtzel, notified Freedom's Watch's media consultant Saturday by e-mail, writing: "This will confirm that the Freedom's Watch spot is approved for air."
NBC initially said that airing the spot would violate the network's prohibition on controversial issue ads. Wurtzel, in an interview Friday with The Associated Press, said NBC found nothing wrong with the ad's content, but rather objected to the link to http://www.FreedomsWatch.org, viewing the Web site as too political.
The group's home page is critical of liberals and has a link to a page urging lawmakers not to "cut and run" from the war in Iraq. The home page also links to another Freedom's Watch page dedicated to ways to assist the troops and provides links to organizations that send care packages to soldiers.
News of NBC's initial rejection caused an angry reaction on the Internet. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, appearing on the Fox News Channel on Friday, called for a boycott of NBC.
Freedom's Watch, a group backed by wealthy Republican fundraisers, has emerged as one of the best-financed conservative groups. It seeks to be a vocal advocate of President Bush's current policy in Iraq.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/08/2007 10:37:00 PM
Group Says NBC Refuses to Air Ads Thanking Troops Over Holidays
Saturday, December 08, 2007
NBC has nixed holiday advertisements meant to thank troops for serving overseas in opposition to the inclusion of a non-profit's Web address.
The ads, paid for by the non-profit Freedom's Watch, are a simple thank you, the group says, with people shown paying gratitude to members of the military and the final frame showing the group's Web address, www.freedomswatch.org.
Click here and here to view the ads that NBC won't air.
NBC is refusing to air the ads as long as the address is included, according to an e-mail exchange between NBC and the group, which Freedom's Watch provided to FOX News.
"Per my previous email, the www.freedomswatch.org website will have to be redacted from the commercials for approval. This comes from Alan Wurtzel and Rick Cotton," according to one of the notes.
Wurtzel is president of research at NBC. Rick Cotton is general counsel for NBC Universal.
Speaking with FOX on Friday, Wurtzel said NBC has no problem with the content of the ad, specificallythe well-wishes to troops.
However, he said, the link to the website violates their policy on controversial issue advertising because it encourages political action and other activities. He said the policy is applied consistently across the board and this group was not targeted in any way.
Wurtzel also expressed general concerns that NBC has about people with "deep pockets" being able to buy up a great deal of advertising and affect public perception on any issue, solely because they have the money to do it.
Freedom's Watch President and CEO Bradley Blakeman told FOX on Friday that this is not the first time NBC has turned down his group's ads and believes it has a specific objection to his group's support for the War on Terror.
"NBC asked us to re-vamp our Web site. They wanted to censor us, and we said, 'No we're not going to be censored,'" Blakeman said, noting that the organization's Web site points to more than 20 other non-profit Web sites where readers can thank and support troops.
NBC also objected to using images including military uniforms and vehicles and asked for proof of government approval for the group's use of the images in its ads.
Freedom's Watch says it has never been questioned on that before and paid for the rights to use the images from an independent licensing company.
E-mails provided to FOX show that NBC also might have objected to the ads on its in-house issue advertising policy.
FOX News' Shannon Bream contributed to this report.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/08/2007 01:15:00 AM
Monday, December 03, 2007
By PAUL von ZIELBAUER
Published: December 3, 2007
BAGHDAD, Dec. 2 — Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, in Baghdad after a week of meetings with Iraqi provincial leaders, said Sunday that lawmakers must take advantage of the decline in daily violence in recent months to pass crucial legislation and improve basic government services.
Mr. Negroponte, a former ambassador to Iraq, said if Iraq’s sharply divided Parliament did not reach a consensus “in the near future” on matters that would improve the lives of Iraqis, it risked losing the gains in security that had come in part because of the increased number of American combat troops.
“It’s one thing to have brought the violence under some semblance of control,” Mr. Negroponte said during a news conference in the heavily fortified Green Zone here, after meeting Iraqi officials in Baghdad and seven other provinces in Iraq’s north, south and west. “But it’s another matter now to follow up with the necessary reconstruction and stabilization projects that will safeguard regions and protect them from this type of violence.”
In particular, he said, Washington was counting on Iraqi lawmakers to pass two languishing bills that would help stabilize the central government: an oil revenue-sharing law, and a measure that would allow more former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to take government jobs.
“It would be extremely helpful if this could be passed and go forward as an indication that the people and government and the legislature of Iraq are prepared to build on the security gains that have been achieved,” he said.
Mr. Negroponte also said a referendum vote in Kirkuk on whether to join the Kurdish-controlled region would probably not occur this year. “Clearly it’s not going to be possible between now and the end of this year to mount a referendum,” he said.
Also on Sunday, the leader of Iraq’s largest Sunni Arab political bloc said he and his fellow lawmakers would return to Parliament after his release from a three-day house confinement. The lawmaker, Adnan al-Dulaimi, the leader of the Iraqi Consensus Front, told an Iraqi television station on Sunday that he was allowed to travel from his house to a hotel in the Green Zone.
After Mr. Dulaimi left his house, Iraqi Army troops arrived and removed the blast walls surrounding it, said his son, Muthanna Adnan al-Dulaimi. The removal of the walls appeared to suggest that Mr. Dulaimi would no longer have the benefit of government protection unless he was in the Green Zone.
Consensus Front members walked out of Parliament on Saturday to protest what they said was the government’s restriction on Mr. Dulaimi, part of a law-enforcement operation on Thursday in which dozens of his security guards were arrested after a car bomb was discovered in an alley near his Baghdad office compound.
The episode was another in a series illustrating the profound problems within the Iraqi government in stopping infiltration by insurgents. While Mr. Dulaimi’s colleagues privately expressed doubt that the politician, an elderly man, was directly involved in the criminal activities that his guards were accused of engaging in, he also seemed unable to stop them.
Also Sunday, a roadside bomb in the Mansour district of west Baghdad killed two policemen and wounded four others, an Interior Ministry official said. Gunmen in the same neighborhood also killed a police official as he was heading to work, the Interior Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Iraqi security forces were subject to other attacks around Iraq on Sunday. In Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police patrol, wounding 14 people, a city police official said. In Hawija, west of Kirkuk, gunmen killed five Iraqi solders as they drove out of an army base, a police captain said.
In Falluja, Iraqi security forces found a mass grave containing about 20 bodies of men, women and children, the police said, Reuters reported. In Mosul, Iraqi policemen discovered six bodies, including those of two policemen, in different areas of the city, the Interior Ministry official said.
Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Mosul, Diyala and Kirkuk.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 12/03/2007 09:43:00 PM
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
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 Houfes of Congress have, by their joint committee, requefted 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 eftablifh a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and affign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of thefe States to the fervice 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 fincere and humble thanksfor His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the fignal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpofitions of His providence in the courfe and conclufion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have fince enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to eftablish Conftitutions of government for our fafety and happinefs, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are bleffed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffufing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleafed to confer upon us.
And also, that we may then unite in moft humbly offering our prayers and fupplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and befeech Him to pardon our national and other tranfgreffions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private ftations, to perform our feveral and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a bleffing to all the people by conftantly being a Government of wife, juft, and conftitutional laws, difcreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all fovereigns and nations (especially fuch as have shewn kindnefs unto us); and to blefs them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increafe of fcience among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind fuch a degree of temporal profperity as he alone knows to be beft.
GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand feven hundred and eighty-nine.
(signed) G. Washington
Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 11/21/2007 11:32:00 PM
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Thank you to the men and women of the American Armed Forces and their families. Past, present & future.
A Proclamation By the President of the United States of America
Throughout our history, America has been protected by patriots who cherished liberty and made great sacrifices to advance the cause of freedom. The brave members of the
United States Armed Forces have answered the call to serve our Nation, ready to give all for their country. On Veterans Day, we honor these extraordinary Americans for their service and sacrifice, and we pay tribute to the legacy of freedom and peace that they have given our great Nation.
In times of war and of peace, our men and women in uniform stepped forward to defend their fellow citizens and the country they love. They shouldered great responsibility and lived up to the highest standards of duty and honor. Our veterans held fast against determined and ruthless enemies and helped save the world from tyranny and terror. They ensured that America remained what our founders meant her to be: a light to the nations, spreading the good news of human freedom to the darkest corners of the earth.
Like the heroes before them, today a new generation of men and women are fighting for freedom around the globe. Their determination, courage, and sacrifice are laying the foundation for a more secure and peaceful world.
Veterans Day is dedicated to the extraordinary Americans who protected our freedom in years past, and to those who protect it today. They represent the very best of our Nation. Every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman has earned the lasting gratitude of the American people, and their service and sacrifice will be remembered forever. In the words of Abraham Lincoln: " . . . let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the Nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle . . . ." On this Veterans Day, I ask all Americans to express their appreciation to our Nation's veterans.
With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our service men and women have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor our Nation's veterans.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2007, as Veterans Day and urge all Americans to observe November 11 through November 17, 2007, as National Veterans Awareness Week. I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through ceremonies and prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to support and participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I invite civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, businesses, unions, and the media to support this national observance with commemorative expressions and programs.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 11/10/2007 09:49:00 PM
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Corporate America Accelerates Military Recruiting Efforts as Baby Boomer Retirements Cause Growing Nationwide Talent Shortage
BPITTSBURGH, Nov. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- On Oct. 15, 2007, Kathleen Casey- Kirschling -- America's first official baby boomer -- applied for social security. She is the first in a wave of 80 million baby boomers who are expected to retire at a rate of over 10,000 per day for the next two decades. This shrinking quantity and quality of the U.S. workforce, combined with even modest economic expansion, will make transitioning military personnel -- one of only two renewable talent pools in the U.S. -- even more coveted as companies compete for top talent.
"Hiring America's military veterans is a smart business decision for which all of the Top 50 companies should be commended," said Chris Hale, general manager of the publication. "Sure, it's patriotic to hire military, but that's not why corporate America does so. These companies understand how military knowledge, training and real-world experience positively affect their bottom line."
BNSF Railway unseated two-time repeat performer Union Pacific to capture the No. 1 position of America's Top 50 "Military Friendly-Employers" in the fifth annual list published by G.I. Jobs, the nation's premier career guide for military job-seekers. "We are humbled, and proud, to be selected the No. 1 of 2,500 companies," said Connie McLendon, military staffing manager for BNSF. "We have worked hard to increase our outreach to members in transition from the military to civilian work. Just to be among the Top 50 is an honor."
The annual list is a "who's who?" of FORTUNE® 1000 firms who have made the greatest effort and have had the greatest success in hiring military veterans. The list spans the entire industry spectrum of the U.S. economy.
The pool of eligible companies (minimum of $1 billion annual revenues) was approximately 2,500. Only 2 percent made the list. Seven firms -- American Electric Power, Brinks, GE, Merrill Lynch, Sprint Nextel, The Home Depot and USAA -- have earned a spot on the list in all five years of its existence. Johnson Controls, Lockheed Martin and Union Pacific have made the lists in four of five years.
Criteria for the rankings included assets dedicated to military hiring (40%), Reserve/Guard policies (25%), percentage of total new hires in the past two years who are veterans (20%), and veteran recruitment / training / promotional programs (15%).
ABOUT G.I. Jobs
G.I. Jobs is published by Victory Media, a veteran-owned business, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa. The company also publishes Military Spouse and Vetrepreneur magazines.
G.I. Jobs 2007 Top 50 Military-Friendly Employer List
1 BNSF Railway
2 Union Pacific
3 ITT Systems
4 EG&G (Lear Siegler)
6 Schneider National
7 Johnson Controls
8 CSX Transportation
9 ManTech International
10 Applied Materials
11 Booz Allen Hamilton
12 The Home Depot
13 Lockheed Martin
14 J.B. Hunt Transport
18 General Electric
21 Southern Company
22 Werner Enterprises
23 Norfolk Southern
24 Morgan Stanley
25 Sunbelt Rentals
26 Sprint Nextel
27 Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold
28 Constellation Energy
29 ENSCO International
32 Merrill Lynch
33 Brink's U.S.
34 State Farm
36 Health Net
38 Xcel Energy
39 Progress Energy
40 FMC Technologies
42 Bank of America
46 American Electric Power
47 Southern California Edison
50 Sears Holdings
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 11/07/2007 08:17:00 AM
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I read a blog piece about one of the videos I had posted from Iraq. The piece, which can be found at Caitlin's Journalism Blogs has led me to reconsider having my videos available to the general public. While I appreciate the author's respect for the troops, I do not appreciate their statement, "I take issue with our training of soldiers."
The video the author is referencing is from Sunday August 21, 2005 around 2015 hours (8:15 pm). My platoon had just returned from conducting a BDA (Battle Damage Assessment) of a popular family restaurant just outside the gates of our Forward Operating Base in Kadhimiya that had been hit with two vehicle born improvisational explosive devises (car bombs). It was messy. You can read my original posting from August 22, 2005 here.
Upon completion of the Battle Damage Assessment we returned to base to rest and prepare for a mission we were to go on a few hours later. As we were downloading some of our gear and prepping our vehicles for later that evening, a series of mortar rounds began impacting and our fighting positions along the Tigris River began taking small arms fire.
Being the target of both direct and in-direct enemy fire, we did what we were trained to do. The video I had posted was of a M240B (machine gun) laying a belt of tracer rounds right into the source of the small arms fire that was aimed at us. From the video I posted, you couldn't see our rounds meet their targets. You couldn't see the mussel flashes from the barrels that were sending bullets down range aimed at us. What you could see was some Army National Guard Infantrymen immediately gain fire superiority over the enemy with a PFC screaming in the background, "light those mother fu*kers up!"
The author indicated a concern over the comments the PFC screamed in the video, and when the author thought about where those 7.62 rounds spraying from that M240B were going, they felt sick.
Well maybe if the author had been in our Battalion two weeks earlier when we lost two soldiers (Pfc. Hernando Rios and Sgt. Anthony Kalladeen), they would have felt sick then. Maybe if the author had conducted a Battle Damage Assessment of a crowded family restaurant that had just been hit with two car bombs, they would have felt sick. And maybe if the author had been with us when we were the target of mortars and bullets just moments before, they would not have felt so well.
Perhaps if the author had been with us the preceding eleven months they would have understood why that PFC was screaming when he was only a few weeks from being home, standing toe to toe with the enemies of his nation, and perhaps more importantly at the time the enemies of his friends. After all, isn't that what it is all about?
The terror and the adrenaline slamming together amidst the psychological conundrum of fight or flight syndrome balanced with discipline and effective training somehow results in the right thing being done time and time again. From the jaded hardness that comes from a year of walking the streets of Baghdad as a young Infantryman, staring into the face of a faceless enemy is eerily romantic, an opportunity to be cherished in the land of road side bombs and falling mortars.
I do regret that to many civilians that video may have made American soldiers seem anything other than professional and disciplined. But having the luxury of passing judgment from the safety of home or the floors of Congress can't be had without the trigger pullers.
Considering Anderson Cooper can show our soldiers getting shot by snipers on CNN, I didn't think that me showing our soldiers shooting back would be such a big deal. But if there is even the slightest indignation, then maybe this small window into Iraq shouldn't be made available to everyone. I don't want anyone to question the professionalism, the discipline or the training of America's Army National Guard.
And while the Author may be a student of sociology and psychology, the beast that is war and the preparation that is necessary to survive it will never be something even an expert in those studies could comprehend. No book, no seminar, no degrees and no interviews could ever come close.
It is one of those things you have to experience to understand. And because of people like the PFC with a vulgar tongue, the Author and the vast majority of every day America will never have that experience, thank God. That just means we are doing our job and doing it well.
I don't blame the Author for having abject opinion of military training or naivety of the real world outside the American bubble. I blame a plethora of variables beginning with horrific representation of this war by the media and western news outlets. I blame members of Congress for speaking of things they know nothing about for political gain. I blame people like John Kerry, Jack Murtha, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi for condemning our troops and condemning this war without ever giving it a chance.
They have watered down our nation's motives and politicized the War on Terror to a state of dejection.
The less intense the motives, the less will the military element's natural tendency to violence coincide with political directives. As a result, war will be driven further from its natural course, the political object will be more and more at variance with the aim of ideal war, and the conflict will seem increasingly political in character.
- Carl Von Clausewitz
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/30/2007 06:11:00 PM
Monday, October 29, 2007
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer
The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.
The immunity deal has delayed a criminal inquiry into the Sept. 16 killings and could undermine any effort to prosecute security contractors for their role in the incident that has infuriated the Iraqi government.
"Once you give immunity, you can't take it away," said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
State Department officials declined to confirm or deny that immunity had been granted. One official — who refused to be quoted by name_ said: "If, in fact, such a decision was made, it was done without any input or authorization from any senior State Department official in Washington."
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd and FBI spokesman Rich Kolko declined comment.
FBI agents were returning to Washington late Monday from Baghdad, where they have been trying to collect evidence in the Sept. 16 embassy convoy shooting without using statements from Blackwater employees who were given immunity.
Three senior law enforcement officials said all the Blackwater bodyguards involved — both in the vehicle convoy and in at least two helicopters above — were given the legal protection as investigators from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security sought to find out what happened. The bureau is an arm of the State Department.
The law enforcement and State Department officials agreed to speak only if they could remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the inquiry into the incident.
The investigative misstep comes in the wake of already-strained relations between the United States and Iraq, which is demanding the right to launch its own prosecution of the Blackwater bodyguards.
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell declined comment about the U.S. investigation. Based in Moyock, N.C., Blackwater USA is the largest private security firm protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.
The company has said its Sept. 16 convoy was under attack before it opened fire in west Baghdad's Nisoor Square, killing 17 Iraqis. A follow-up investigation by the Iraqi government, however, concluded that Blackwater's men were unprovoked. No witnesses have been found to contradict that finding.
An initial incident report by U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Iraq, also indicated "no enemy activity involved" in the Sept. 16 incident. The report says Blackwater guards were traveling against the flow of traffic through a traffic circle when they "engaged five civilian vehicles with small arms fire" at a distance of 50 meters.
The FBI took over the case early this month, officials said, after prosecutors in the Justice Department's criminal division realized it could not bring charges against Blackwater guards based on their statements to the Diplomatic Security investigators.
Officials said the Blackwater bodyguards spoke only after receiving so-called "Garrity" protections, requiring that their statements only be used internally — and not for criminal prosecutions.
At that point, the Justice Department shifted the investigation to prosecutors in its national security division, sealing the guards' statements and attempting to build a case based on other evidence from a crime scene that was then already two weeks old.
The FBI has re-interviewed some of the Blackwater employees, and one official said Monday that at least several of them have refused to answer questions, citing their constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. Any statements that the guards give to the FBI could be used to bring criminal charges.
A second official, however, said that not all the guards have cited their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination — leaving open the possibility for future charges. The official declined to elaborate.
Prosecutors will have to prove that any evidence they use in bringing charges against Blackwater employees was uncovered without using the guards' statements to State Department investigators. They "have to show we got the information independently," one official said.
Garrity protections generally are given to police or other public law enforcement officers, and were extended to the Blackwater guards because they were working on behalf of the U.S. government, one official said. Experts said it's rare for them to be given to all or even most witnesses — particularly before a suspect is identified.
"You have to be careful," said Michael Horowitz, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan and senior Justice Department official. "You have to understand early on who your serious subjects are in the investigation, and avoid giving these people the protections."
It's not clear why the Diplomatic Security investigators agreed to give immunity to the bodyguards, or who authorized doing so.
Bureau of Diplomatic Security chief Richard Griffin last week announced his resignation, effective Thursday. Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said his departure was directly related to his oversight of Blackwater contractors.
Tyrrell, the Blackwater spokeswoman, said the company was alerted Oct. 2 that FBI would be taking over the investigation from the State Department. She declined further comment.
On Oct. 3, State Department Sean McCormack said the FBI had been called in to assist Diplomatic Security investigators. A day later, he said the FBI had taken over the probe.
"We, internally and in talking with the FBI, had been thinking about the idea of the FBI leading the investigation for a number of different reasons," McCormack told reporters during an Oct. 4 briefing.
Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered a series of measures to boost government oversight of the private guards who protect American diplomats in Iraq. They include increased monitoring and explicit rules on when and how they can use deadly force.
Blackwater's contract with the State Department expires in May and there are questions whether it will remain as the primary contractor for diplomatic bodyguards. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said his Cabinet is drafting legislation that would force the State Department to replace Blackwater with another security company.
Congress also is expected to investigate the shootings, but a House watchdog committee said it has so far held off, based on a Justice Department request that lawmakers wait until the FBI concludes its inquiry.
Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this story.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/29/2007 09:12:00 PM
JOINT STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR RYAN C. CROCKER AND GENERAL DAVID H. PETRAEUS ON THE TRANSFER OF SECURITY RESPONSIBILITY FOR KARBALA PROVINCE
Release Date: 10/29/2007
Release Number: 07-01-03P
Description: The United States and Multi-National Force-Iraq welcome the transfer of security in Karbala Province to Iraqi responsibility as a positive step on the path to Iraq’s self-reliance.
Karbala is the eighth province to be transferred to Iraqi security responsibility as the Government of Iraq and its security forces continue to develop and assume greater responsibility for governing and providing security for the citizens of Iraq. The first province transferred to Government of Iraqi security control was Muthanna in July 2006, followed by Dhi Qar, An Najaf, Maysan, and most recently Irbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Dahuk in May 2007.
The transfer of provincial security responsibility is particularly significant because it includes the city of Karbala, a center of Shi’a Muslim worship, pilgrimage and religious instruction. Saddam Hussein once restricted religious observances at this city and non-Iraqi Shi'a were not allowed to travel there. Today, Karbala is again an international center of worship, pilgrimage and religious instruction.
Iraqi Security Forces in Karbala have been successfully operating independently, maintaining their own security for the past three months. Working with local government officials, they have demonstrated their readiness to assume responsibility for the province. Today this responsibility is theirs.
The transition of responsibility for security in Karbala Province represents the most recent step toward a future of improved security, self-reliance and increasing prosperity that will benefit all Iraqi citizens. The United States and Multi-National Force-Iraq congratulate the Government of Iraq on this important milestone.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/29/2007 09:09:00 PM
Monday, October 22, 2007
MANAMA (Reuters) - Two American sailors were shot dead and one was critically wounded at the U.S. navy base in Bahrain, the navy said on Monday.
There were no indications that non-U.S. citizens were involved, a navy spokeswoman said.
The shootings took place at about 5 a.m. (0200 GMT), the navy said in a statement, adding that they were investigating the incident.
The navy gave no explanation for the shootings, which took place in the base's barracks, and said the names of the sailors were being withheld. No further information was immediately available.
Bahrain is the home of the U.S. navy's fifth fleet, which patrols Gulf waters, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.
About 3,000 U.S. personnel, not including the crews of visiting ships, live and work on the base. Staff generally keep a low profile in the tiny Gulf Arab kingdom of about 750,000 people.
© Reuters2007All rights reserved
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/22/2007 05:50:00 AM
Friday, October 19, 2007
Stark stated on the House floor: "You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement."
In a debate on the State Children's Health Insurance Program on the House floor, Rep. Stark used a typical liberal tactic, accusing our military of targeting civilians and making a mockery of combat fatalities and the sacrifice the men and women of the American Armed Forces and their families make day in and day out.
Mr. Starke is either guilty of hating the military, hating America, or being so dillusional he is unable to make rational decisions and exercise sound judgement on behalf of the American people. I am under the impression he suffers from all three, but any of them is enough cause for his resignation.
Starke has a long history of disservice to the American people. Please watch the video clip below from Fox News.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/19/2007 12:42:00 PM
Thursday, October 18, 2007
By JENNIFER C. KERR
Associated Press Writer
ABOARD THE NEW JERSEY (AP) - For 10 months, Iraq war veteran Andrew Schumann has been looking for a job. So far, no luck.
"Transitioning from the military has been a little bit difficult as far as trying to seek employment," said Schumann, 25, of Glassboro, N.J. "You get out of the military and you're kind of lost."
The Labor Department is trying to help veterans like Schumann, but some lawmakers in Congress are questioning whether federal money dedicated to finding vets employment is being spent wisely and fairly.
The House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity is checking out a veterans outreach program at the department. The program, with a budget of $161 million, sends federal money to the states to hire local veteran employment specialists.
Veterans' groups, such as the American Legion, have complained that the outreach is substandard in some states, leaving downtrodden and homeless vets without the help they need.
Subcommittee Chairwoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D, says lawmakers want to ensure that decorated veterans with polished resumes aren't the only ones getting help.
"You have to look at the entire veteran community and those that face different barriers," Herseth Sandlin said in an Associated Press interview. She plans a hearing on the program next week.
The assistant secretary for veterans' employment and training at the Labor Department, Charles Ciccolella, defended the program.
"You will never find a more dedicated group of veterans out there working to help veterans get jobs," he said. "They're always focused and always very, very dedicated."
The department runs a separate Web campaign called HireVetsFirst that aims to raise employer awareness about the value of hiring veterans. As part of the project, the department will announce on Thursday a major expansion of its job fairs for veterans, with more than 100 fairs in all 50 states starting this week and running through the week of Veterans Day.
The HireVetsFirst campaign also has helped with the marketing for dozens of career fairs run by private recruiting firms, such as the job fair Andrew Schumann attended last week in Camden, N.J., aboard the New Jersey, a decommissioned battleship. He and hundreds of other veterans distributed resumes to more than 50 employers from companies big and small _ from BAE Systems and Lowe's to local police departments and schools.
A recruiter for Florida-based CSX Corporation said veterans make excellent job candidates.
"They've had leadership training. They've worked in teams," said recruiting manager Mark Miner. "They're disciplined, hardworking individuals who have a lot more experience for their age than their civilian counterparts."
Still, it's been a struggle for Schumann, the father of a 1-year old who is living with relatives and whose wife has taken on a full-time job to help pay the bills. He's looking for a job as a videographer. While he didn't walk away with an offer, he remains encouraged.
"Coming here today, you see a lot of employers eager to hire veterans," he said.
Labor department officials say they don't track the number of vets who secure employment through career fairs. They estimate that about 10 percent to 15 percent of veterans receive job offers.
The Pentagon says over 300,000 military members returned to civilian status last year. Finding jobs in the civilian world isn't a considerable challenge for many vets _ the unemployment rate for all veterans last year was a low 3.8 percent.
But younger veterans face obstacles. The unemployment rate was 10.4 percent last year for veterans aged 20-24. Since the 90s, the unemployment rate has been somewhat higher for younger vets than for their civilian counterparts.
"When they come off of a period of active duty service, it takes them time to find a job," said David Loughran, a senior economist at Rand Corporation. "For some veterans, the skills that they learned in the military are not necessarily immediately transferable to a civilian job."
Marine Sgt. Garth Troescher, 25, who spent six months in Iraq, drove more than two hours with his fiancee to the career fair on the New Jersey _ and it may have paid off.
"This is great," said Troescher of Dagsboro, Del. "Here I am and people are offering me jobs. It's kind of nice."
He said he received two job offers and may relocate to Dallas for work.
On the Net:
House Veterans' Affairs Committee: http://veterans.house.gov
(Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/18/2007 06:30:00 PM
Monday, October 15, 2007
NEWS RELEASE - HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
BRIGADE COMMANDER NOTES PROGRESS IN NORTHWESTERN BAGHDAD
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - A reduction in violence in neighborhoods on Baghdad's northwest side and an improved security situation are allowing reconstruction efforts and economic gains to flourish, according to the commander of the brigade that has patrolled the area for nearly a year.
Col. J.B. Burton, commander of the 2nd "Dagger" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, met with members of the Pentagon press corps for a briefing via satellite here Oct. 12 and highlighted the progress made in his area of operation, which spans most of northwestern Baghdad.
"In order to stop the cycle of violence, we set about to defeat sectarian expansion by Shia Extremists, while simultaneously defeating al-Qaeda and denying their access to the population," said Burton, a native of Tullahoma, Tenn. "In short, we had to get out into the city, live among the citizens, fight alongside the ISF and deny insurgents, criminals and extremists access to the population."
The implementation of the Baghdad Security Plan, Operation Fardh Al-Qanoon, allowed the Dagger Brigade to move into neighborhoods with a permanent presence, Burton added, with the end result being an 85 percent reduction in violence in the area since May.
"Of our 95 'Mulhallas,' or neighborhoods-58 of them are now considered under control, 33 remain in a clearing status with violence continuing to go down, and four remain in a disrupt status," Burton noted. He said murders in the area, which a year ago occurred more than 150 times each week, are down to an average of five a week.
He said a major contributor to the improving security situation in northwestern Baghdad is the commitment of concerned citizens, who have stepped forward to aid Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces provide safe neighborhoods and put a stop to sectarian violence and terrorist acts in their midst.
"These volunteers are actively providing security in partnership with our combined forces and concurrently increasing the citizen's confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces as a whole," Burton said. "To date, we have a total of 1,772 volunteers and recruits who are fully screened and ready to attend academy for integration into the ISF, with 500 scheduled to attend (the police) academy this month."
With an increased confidence in the security efforts in their neighborhoods, Burton said each of his 14 joint security stations have seen an increase in tips from residents, helping to thwart terrorist activity. Likewise, he said residents are becoming more involved in the local governmental process, addressing community issues together.
"Further, we are focused on extending the reach of the government by providing businesses access to financial capital and through the development of public works substations that employ locals in local areas to deliver essential services within their capacity," Burton told the media members. "Our Embedded Reconstruction Team and Joint Project Management Office are helping us achieve these effects."
Burton's brigade headquarters is slated to return to its home base in Schweinfurt, Germany, beginning next month. The Dagger Brigade commander said he is pleased with the progress he's seen during his year in the Iraqi capital.
"We leave an area of operations that has shown significant improvement in terms of reduced violence, improved essential services, improvement in the task of daily governing, Iraqi Security Forces that get better each and every day," Burton concluded. "And most importantly we are seeing citizens who are rejecting extremist organizations and standing up and volunteering to help improve the security and well-being of their families and their neighbor's families."
Tullahoma, Tenn. native Col. J.B. Burton, commander of the 2nd "Dagger" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conducts a press briefing via satellite with the Pentagon press corps from Camp Victory in western Baghdad Oct. 12. Burton's Schweinfurt, Germany-based brigade has been responsible for security in 95 western Baghdad neighborhoods for the past year. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. David Levasseur, 2nd BCT, 1st Inf.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 10/15/2007 10:46:00 PM
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
By Jonathan Weisman and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 22, 2007; A04
Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq's diverse political factions.
And now the Democrats, along with wavering Republicans, will face an advertising blitz from Bush supporters determined to remain on offense. A new pressure group, Freedom's Watch, will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign today designed to shore up support for Bush's policies before the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, lays out a White House assessment of the war's progress. The first installment of Petraeus's testimony is scheduled to be delivered before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a fact both the administration and congressional Democrats say is simply a scheduling coincidence.
The leading Democratic candidates for the White House have fallen into line with the campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.
"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Anbar province, it's working," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday.
"My assessment is that if we put an additional 30,000 of our troops into Baghdad, that's going to quell some of the violence in the short term," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) echoed in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I don't think there's any doubt that as long as U.S. troops are present that they are going to be doing outstanding work."
Advisers to both said theirs were political as well as substantive statements, part of a broader Democratic effort to frame Petraeus's report before it is released next month by preemptively acknowledging some military success in the region. Aides to several Senate Democrats said they expect that to be a recurring theme in the coming weeks, as lawmakers return to hear Petraeus's testimony and to possibly take up a defense authorization bill and related amendments on the war.
For Democratic congressional leaders, the dog days of August are looking anything but quiet. Having failed twice to crack GOP opposition and force a major change in war policy, Democrats risk further alienating their restive supporters if the September showdown again ends in stalemate. House Democratic leaders held an early morning conference call yesterday with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), honing a new message: Of course an influx of U.S. troops has improved security in Iraq, but without any progress on political reconciliation, the sweat and blood of American forces has been for naught.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) made a round of calls yesterday to freshman Democrats, some of whom recently returned from trips to Iraq and made news with their positive comments on military progress. "I'm not finding any wobbliness on the war -- at all," Emanuel said.
The burst of effort has been striking, if only because Democrats left for their August recess confident that Republicans would be on the defensive by now. Instead, the GOP has gone on the attack. The new privately funded ad campaign, to run in 20 states, features a gut-level appeal from Iraq war veterans and the families of fallen soldiers, pleading: "It's no time to quit. It's no time for politics."
"For people who believe in peace through strength, the cavalry is coming," said Ari Fleischer, a former Bush White House press secretary who is helping to head Freedom's Watch.
GOP leaders have latched on to positive comments from Democrats -- often out of context -- to portray the congressional majority as splintering. Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), an Armed Services Committee member who is close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said many of her colleagues learned a hard lesson from the Republican campaign.
"I don't know of anybody who isn't desperately supportive of the military," she said. "People want to say positive things. But it's difficult to say positive things in this environment and not have some snarky apologist for the White House turn it into some clipped phraseology that looks like support for the president's policies."
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), who made waves when he returned from Iraq by saying he was willing to be more flexible on troop withdrawal timelines, issued a statement to constituents "setting the record straight."
"I am firmly in favor of withdrawing troops on a timeline that includes both a definite start date and a definite end date," he wrote on his Web site.
But in an interview yesterday, McNerney made clear his views have shifted since returning from Iraq. He said Democrats should be willing to negotiate with the generals in Iraq over just how much more time they might need. And, he said, Democrats should move beyond their confrontational approach, away from tough-minded, partisan withdrawal resolutions, to be more conciliatory with Republicans who might also be looking for a way out of the war.
"We should sit down with Republicans, see what would be acceptable to them to end the war and present it to the president, start negotiating from the beginning," he said, adding, "I don't know what the [Democratic] leadership is thinking. Sometimes they've done things that are beyond me."
In the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, former senator John Edwards issued a scathing attack on Clinton's remark. But he said there has been "progress in Al-Anbar province."
"Senator Clinton's view that the President's Iraq policy is 'working' is another instance of a Washington politician trying to have it both ways," Edwards campaign manager David Bonior said in a statement. "You cannot be for the President's strategy in Iraq but against the war. The American people deserve straight talk and real answers on Iraq, not double-speak, triangulation, or political positioning."
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 8/22/2007 10:57:00 AM
Monday, August 06, 2007
August 4, 2007
Saving Soldiers' Jobs
By Amy R. Gershkoff
For tens of thousands of members of the National Guard and reserves who are called up to serve in Iraq, returning home safely may be the beginning -- not the end -- of their worst nightmare. Reservists lucky enough to make it home often find their civilian jobs gone and face unsympathetic employers and a government that has restricted access to civilian job-loss reports rather than prosecuting offending employers.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects members of the guard and reserves from job loss, demotion, loss of seniority and loss of benefits when they are called to active duty.
The act is supposed to protect reservists' civilian jobs for up to five years of military service. But the government has made it difficult for veterans to enforce their legal rights. Service members who return to find their civilian jobs gone also find that the burden is on them to prove that their jobs were taken away as a result of their military service and that there is no other reason that they could have been fired.
This onerous burden of proof discourages many from filing formal complaints.
Despite such bureaucratic hurdles, more than 16,000 reservist complaints were filed between 2004 and 2006, the Government Accountability Office said this year. But fewer than 30 percent of the reservists who experience USERRA violations file complaints, the GAO estimated.
Those who do file complaints with the Veterans Employment and Training Service Department (VETS) find that resolving their complaints, by the military's own admission, can take "months, if not years." A declassified Defense Department memo compiled for military lawyers stated: "Many VETS field investigators simply accept whatever the employer tells them in a response and close their files"
rather than continue an investigation, meaning the reservists never receive assistance. A 2005 GAO report found that the average time service members have to wait for USERRA complaints to be resolved is 619 days -- nearly two years.
Complaints that cannot be closed are referred to the Justice Department for prosecution, but few cases make it that far. In 2005, of the 5,302 complaints filed by reservists, 111 cases were referred to the Justice Department. Only 16 resulted in benefits going to reservists.
The Justice Department special counsel in charge of prosecuting veterans' job cases, Scott Bloch, declared before Congress in May 2005 that he had "zero tolerance for violations of USERRA" and would "enforce the law vigorously." He promised lawmakers that the Justice Department would do better.
It did -- barely. In 2006, the Justice Department received168 cases and found in favor of the service members 48 times. Resolving 48 cases is better than 16, but tens of thousands of veterans are still without jobs and without recourse.
If the Justice Department has failed to prosecute employers who act illegally, the Defense Department has taken unprecedented steps to keep reservists'
reemployment problems secret. According to the GAO, the Pentagon's annual Status of Forces Surveys provide the only accurate account of the number of reservists experiencing reemployment difficulties. These surveys ask reservists about their service, job loss and whether they are receiving the legal protections -- occupational and otherwise -- guaranteed to them under federal law.
Status of Forces Surveys used to be available to the public. But the 2005 and
2006 surveys of returning reservists and guardsmen were designated "for official use only," putting them off-limits to civilians, journalists or anyone else outside government curious about enforcement of USERRA.
The Defense Department has effectively made oversight of this issue impossible.
America deserves a full accounting of the sacrifices our soldiers have made on and off the battlefield. Most reservists are not wealthy; when the government fails to redress their grievances, the majority cannot afford to hire lawyers to prosecute their cases, particularly if they have lost their civilian jobs.
Thousands of the brave men and women lucky enough to return safely from Iraq are being left without jobs, without hope and without recourse.
The government has failed to protect these reservists and has covered up the evidence. It is time for Americans to protect those who protect us by demanding thorough oversight of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
The writer is director of analytics at MSHC Partners, a Washington consulting firm.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 8/06/2007 05:56:00 PM
From USA TODAY:
USA TODAY's Susan Page reports that President Bush is making some headway in arguing that the increase in U.S. troops in Iraq is showing military progress.
In the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, taken Friday through Sunday, the proportion of those who said the additional troops are "making the situation better" rose to 31% from 22% a month ago. Those who said it was "not making much difference" dropped to 41% from 51%.
About the same number said it was making things worse: 24% now, 25% a month ago.
The number of those who favor removing virtually all U.S. troops from Iraq by next April 1 has dropped a bit, though two-thirds of those surveyed still support the idea.
In the July survey, a record high of 62% had called the invasion of Iraq "a mistake." That view is now held by 57%, roughly where it's been for more than a year.
The telephone poll of 1,012 adults has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.
Watch for more results from the poll tomorrow.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 8/06/2007 05:55:00 PM
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Jul 29 03:35 PM US/Eastern
Iraq erupted in joy and celebratory gunfire on Sunday when the country's national football squad won the Asian Cup and united its bitterly divided communities in a rare moment of celebration.
Thousands of Iraqis, including members of the security forces, defied a strict government ceasefire order to welcome the team's 1-0 victory over local rivals Saudi Arabia with an intense barrage of gunfire.
Soldiers, police and civilian gunmen loosed off long volleys of automatic fire skywards and into the waters of the Tigris within seconds of the final whistle in Jakarta, beamed live to cafes and homes across the country.
The Iraqi victory against the three-time Asian Cup champions was a precious moment of shared national joy in a country beset by civil strife.
"Now it is our right to enjoy this victory that our heroic team has brought to us. They have brought us joy that we never experienced in the past, when we suffered greatly," said Haidar Mustafa, a Baghdad student.
Around him in a downtown coffee shop, dozens of fans leapt and sang with joy after seeing skipper Younis Mahmoud's powerful header seal a first Asian Cup victory for his mixed team of Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds.
From the southern Shiite port city of Basra, to executed Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein's northern hometown of Tikrit and even to Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region, flag-waving crowds celebrated.
Earlier, Baghdad security authorities had imposed an overnight vehicle curfew in order to prevent insurgent car bomb attacks and ordered police to arrest anyone who took part in the traditional celebratory gunfire.
In the hours leading up to the match there were reports that two foreign Arab fighters had been apprehended while trying to move car bombs into Baghdad's Zayuna district, which has been targeted by Sunni extremists.
Zayuna was struck by one of two car bombs that went off following last week's semi-final victory against South Korea, shattering the celebrations and killing at least 50 people.
"The security leadership of Baghdad operations has decided to enact a curfew for vehicles, motorbikes and carts," Brigadier General Qassim Atta, spokesman for security operations in Baghdad, said before the match.
A senior interior ministry official strongly advised Iraqis to hold their celebratory fire and to stay in their own areas of the city.
Nevertheless, troops and cops were among the first to start pumping out rounds from their AK-47 assault rifles and Glock pistols at checkpoints and barracks in the centre of the war-torn capital.
Elsewhere in the city large crowds gathered in the streets waving flags, dancing and -- in Shiite neighbourhoods -- bearing aloft large banners with pictures of revered saints.
Iraqis traditionally celebrate sporting victories by firing guns into the air, a practice grown more lethal in recent years as arms have proliferated across the war-torn country.
People nevertheless welcomed the victory from their heroic team, one that would -- at least temporarily -- unite their divided country in jubilation.
In a statement released immediately after the match Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called the victory "a lesson in how to triumph over the impossible to realise victory".
"May you and Iraq live in freedom and victory, with no place for destroyers or killers. Your greatness will remain in the hearts of the Iraqi people, and your joy is stronger than the hate of the terrorists."
Since US-led forces overthrew Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in March 2003, the country has slipped into a chaotic turf war between rival armed factions, with extremists driving a wedge between Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Kurds.
With Maliki's coalition government riven by internal rivalries the national football team carries the rare honour of commanding support from across the country's fractured society.
The United States is pressing Iraq's government to make progress in national reconciliation efforts, and a senior US diplomat said politicians should follow the players' example.
"They were truly united, unlike the government and the political process, where the unity that exists is very much hedged," UN ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington's former envoy in Iraq, said following the match.
"This unity was truly a united effort by the team that produced results. And I hope that the Iraqi politicians will learn from the soccer team," he added.
Earlier this month, the White House released an interim report that found satisfactory progress by Iraq's government on only eight of 18 security and political benchmarks set by Congress.
Copyright AFP 2007, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 7/29/2007 05:45:00 PM
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Yahoo News July 4, 2007
Hundreds of U.S. troops marked the Fourth of July by re-enlisting in the military Wednesday while others took their oaths of American citizenship in ceremonies at the main U.S. headquarters in Iraq.
A total of 588 troops signed up for another stint in the military, according to a U.S. military statement. Another 161 became naturalized American citizens.
"No bonus, no matter the size, can adequately compensate you for the contribution each of you has made and continues to make as a custodian of our nation's defenses," the top U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, told the audience at Camp Victory.
"Nor can any amount of money compensate you adequately for the sacrifices you make serving here in Iraq or the burdens your loved ones face at home in your absence. And we certainly cannot put a price on the freedoms you defend or those we are trying to help the Iraqis establish and safeguard here in the land of the two rivers."
Petraeus dedicated the Independence Day ceremony to the memory of two soldiers who were killed in action before they could be sworn in as citizens.
They were Sgt. Kimel Watt, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was killed June 3 in Baghdad, and Spc. Farid Elazzouzi of Paterson, N.J., who died June 14 in a bombing near Kirkuk.
"Words cannot express the admiration I feel for these two men or the sadness I feel for our nation's loss and their families' sacrifice," Petraeus said.
Visiting Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., congratulated the new citizens and spoke of the hardships endured fighting in an unpopular war.
"You know that you who have endured the dangers and deprivations of war so that the worst thing would not befall us, so that America might be secure in our freedom," McCain said. "As you know, the war in which you have fought has divided the American people. But it has divided no American in their admiration for you. We all honor you."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., led the new citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance.
At a U.S. base outside Baqouba, Sgt. Jesse Jones, 24, of Olympia, Wash., spent Independence Day by taking a shower and getting a haircut. His platoon was on break before heading back to fighting in Baqouba.
"Today I'm just basically relaxing and refitting, getting ready to go back into the city," he said. "As much as I want to be home, I don't regret being here. This is a good place to celebrate the Fourth of July. Not only are we celebrating independence, we're fighting for independence, too."
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 7/04/2007 12:22:00 PM
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Taken from The Independent - UK:
The hunt for the London terrorists: Attempt may show change of tactics
Did the attackers simply fail to make a bigger device, or is this al-Qa'ida's new way of igniting fear on the streets?
Paul Lashmar and Cole Moreton report
Published: 01 July 2007
The London car bombers could not have destroyed the Tiger Tiger club and killed people in it, experts said last night. The huge manhunt for the would-be mass murderers by police and security services was given new urgency by an attack on Glasgow airport yesterday and the fear of further incidents.
However, it emerged that the Haymarket gas and nail bomb was almost certainly not big enough to have brought down the building, as previously reported. It would have killed and maimed within 100 metres.
Security forces have two theories. The first is that a recent crackdown stopped the terrorists getting their hands on as powerful a bomb as they would have liked. The second is that al-Qa'ida - still the most likely suspect - has changed its tactics. Instead of striking at showpiece buildings it is choosing smaller, unpredictable targets that will cause fear and panic on ordinary streets. One may, of course, have led to the other.
Police are also believed to be urgently seeking three men who went missing while under anti-terror control orders. One of them, a 26-year-old former Tube driver of Algerian descent, is alleged to have talked about wanting to blow up a nightclub. All three were previously thought to have left the country.
A first bomb was found in a Mercedes outside the Tiger Tiger club in Haymarket just before 2am on Friday. An ambulance crew treating a man who had hurt his head saw vapours in the car and alerted the police. Bomb disposal officers risked their lives to defuse the lethal combination of petrol, gas and nails inside.
Police think that an explosion here might have been intended to draw panicking revellers out on to the streets, where they would be have been joined by the emergency services. Then another, bigger bomb in a second Mercedes among them could have been triggered, causing hundreds of deaths.
A blue 280E model Mercedes was illegally parked in Cockspur Street, near Trafalgar Square, but was towed to a Park Lane car pound at 3.30am on Friday. The explosive device inside did not go off. If successful, the trap would have resembled the attack on backpackers in a Bali nightclub in 2002, when a suicide bomb led those escaping straight into the path of a van packed with explosives.
"The danger here is that we are entering the era of the car bomb," said an intelligence source. "In the past, al-Qa'ida-style terrorists have used high-explosive bombs aimed at symbolic, high-profile targets," he said, but that might have changed out of necessity. "It's easy to make a gas and nail car bomb without raising suspicion."
The plot has striking similarities with one that resulted in Dhiren Barot being jailed for life last November, for conspiring to park limousines packed with gas canisters underneath high-profile buildings, with the intention of later detonating them. Another member of the gang jailed in connection with that plot had a brother called Lamine Adam who allegedly spoke of attacking clubs. Adam was put under a control order with his younger brother Ibrahim, 20, and their friend Cerie Bullivant, 24. But all three disappeared.
It is now known that the bomb outside Tiger Tiger would have been set off by a call to a mobile phone in the car triggering a home-made incendiary detonator. This would have set light to petrol vapour, instantly exploding petrol cans in the car and the fuel tank. As the car burned very quickly the heat would have detonated gas cylinders containing compressed gas, causing a large explosion and scattering the nails.
Although deadly - the ambulance crew and any revellers on the pavement would have been killed - it would not have caused serious damage to the club or brought down the building.
The two cars were meant to have burned in the attacks, destroying all evidence. Instead they are now in the specialist Forensic Explosives Laboratory concealed in the countryside in Kent. That is where experts pored over the double-decker bus blown apart in the 7 July 2005 attacks in London.
In lab X47 teams of scientists are examining the two Mercedes, looking for evidence such as hair, skin, sweat or clothes fibres. Others are examining the chemical make-up of the bombs, which may lead them to a particular part of the country, even a specific supplier.
There could also be incriminating documents that were meant to be destroyed by fire. Police will take the mobile phone removed by the bomb disposal team and find out whether it had been bought or stolen. They will find the numbers it has called and received.
Although delighted at this high-quality forensic evidence, the police hope to capture clear images of the drivers and any passengers. The London car bombers chose to strike in one of the world's most heavily filmed areas. Yesterday there were reports that the police had captured a "crystal clear" image of a suspect leaving the vehicle outside the Haymarket club, but no pictures have yet been made public.
Experts were last night sifting through hours of material recorded by a network of 33 street CCTV cameras in the West End. Three more cameras are located in vans that tour the area, and Westminster council has an additional 30 cameras that can be moved around and operated through laptops. Detectives were also looking to trace the routes the cars took towards their destination, using 52 cameras that monitor every road entrance to central London.
This so-called "ring of steel" may tell police where the cars came from, enabling them to trace their starting points.
Whitehall sources said there had not been any specific intelligence and no one had claimed responsibility for the attempted bombings.
Intelligence sources say that two rather than one car bomb points to the existence of a cell of al-Qa'ida sympathisers. The unsophisticated devices suggest a "home-grown" cell of radical British Islamists rather than a cell infiltrated from abroad.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command, said yesterday's attack on Glasgow made it obvious that the public should be on their guard.
MI5 said last year it believed Islamist radicals were plotting at least 30 major terrorist attacks in Britain and it was tracking some 1,600 suspects.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 7/01/2007 02:12:00 PM
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Thursday, 28 June 2007
By Maj. Randall Baucom
1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
CAMP TAJI — For a second time this week, Iraqi citizens here turned in a large cache consisting of improvised explosive device-making material and mortar rounds.
The Taji neighborhood watch contacted Coalition Forces June 25, after the driver of a truck fled the scene when the volunteers stopped a suspicious vehicle moving through the rural village of Abd Allah al Jasim. The vehicle contained 24 mortar rounds, two rockets, spare machine gun barrels, small arms ammunition and other IED-making material.
"This grassroots movement of reconciliation by the volunteers is taking off all around us. The tribes that had once actively or passively supported al-Qaeda in Iraq now want them out," said Lt. Col. Peter Andrysiak, the deputy commander of the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
The neighborhood watch is made up of a group of 500 volunteers, from a number of tribes in the area, who want reconciliation with the Coalition Forces and the Iraqi government. The volunteers are currently being vetted for possible future selection for training as Iraqi Police or some other organization within the Iraqi Security Forces.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 6/28/2007 07:01:00 PM
Tuesday , June 26, 2007
JISR DIYALA, Iraq —
Newly arrived U.S. troops southeast of Baghdad are destroying boats on the Tigris River and targeting networks bringing powerful roadside bombs from Iran as the military cracks down on Sunni and Shiite extremists from all directions.
But a top U.S. commander warned on Monday that three or four times more Iraqi security forces are needed to sustain the progress in clearing the area and stanching the flow of arms and makeshift bombs into the capital.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, whose command covers the southern rim of Baghdad and mostly Shiite areas to the south, said the reinforcements who arrived as part of a troop buildup have had success in rooting out militants from their sanctuaries and preventing them from fleeing the area in an operation called Marne Torch — one of a quartet of offensives in the capital and surrounding areas.
• Visit FOXNews.com's Iraq Center for more in-depth coverage.
"All along the Tigris River valley, people knew this is where the Sunni extremists were storing munitions, training for operations, building IEDs to take them into Baghdad," he said, referring to improvised explosive devices, the term the military uses for roadside bombs.
"They just didn't have the reach to get down there. Now with the surge brigades they've got the reach. But the issue is we can't stay here forever and there's gotta be a persistent presence and that's gotta be Iraqi security forces. And that's always our biggest concern," he said while visiting troops from the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team at a U.S. patrol base on the southeastern edge of Baghdad.
The dusty base is nestled between high sand berms on what was the Tuwaitha nuclear complex, which was bombed during the U.S.-led invasion and subsequently looted, near the mainly Shiite village of Jasr Diyala, 12 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Lynch said his units had been successful in preventing the militants from fleeing the area ahead of the offensive and overall detained 150 people, including at least 30 high-value targets — most from the rural Arab Jubour area just south of the capital.
"In the past they had exit routes so they saw the operation coming," he said. "What we did is establish blocking positions all around Arab Jubour so the enemy couldn't leave but they had to stay and fight and as a result to either die or be captured."
Lynch's comments were the latest to signal a growing impatience among U.S. commanders with Iraqi security forces amid calls in the U.S. for the Bush administration to start bringing troops home. The Americans have expressed confidence in a new strategy aimed at flooding volatile areas with U.S. troops to quell the violence, but also concern that the progress could be reversed once U.S. troops leave.
Underscoring the dangers, Lynch said two helicopters adjacent to his came under "significant small-arms" fire while flying low over the desert landscape to the patrol base, causing no injuries but leaving one aircraft severely damaged.
The brigade commander, Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., said 21 boats had been destroyed on the river and in the reeds on the banks since the operation began in force on June 15, most with secondary blasts indicating many were filled with explosive material.
He also said the military had gained intelligence from a local sheik about networks bringing armor-penetrating explosively formed projectiles, known as EFPs, on a major road that travels from the border with Iran through Shiite areas to Baghdad.
Lynch said the area had two battalions from the 8th Iraqi army division but added "there needs to be three or four times more Iraqi security forces than are currently present to provide for sustained security. That's the critical piece in all of this."
Lynch said the Iraqi soldiers with whom he had worked were professional, although many still lacked training and equipment more than four years after the war started in March 2003. He said the main problem was with Iraqi police, a predominantly Shiite force that has been accused of being infiltrated by militias.
"In my battlespace my concern is police, local police. Either they're nonexistent or the ones that are there tend to be corrupt," he said.
"Then there are large portions of the battlespace where there are no Iraqi security forces at all. And the Iraqi security forces have to be grown to a level where they can occupy these places. This is an enemy sanctuary because nobody's been out there. There are no Iraqi security forces so the enemy fills the void."
He said the extra U.S. troops had provided the numbers to curb the militant activity, which included storing munitions, training and building roadside bombs.
"But if someone doesn't secure that presence, I mean have sustained security then it's not going to work. that's the concern," he said.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 6/28/2007 06:47:00 PM
Monday , June 25, 2007
Saddam Hussein's cousin and two other former regime officials were convicted Sunday of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to hang for the brutal crackdown that killed up to 180,000 Kurdish civilians and guerrillas two decades ago.
Two other defendants were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the 1987-1988 crackdown, known as "Operation Anfal." A sixth defendant was acquitted for lack of evidence. Death sentences are automatically appealed.
The most notorious defendant was Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for ordering the use of mustard gas and nerve agents against the Kurds, who had allegedly collaborated with the Iranians during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.
Visit FOXNews.com's Iraq Center for more in-depth coverage.
Al-Majid, once among the most powerful and feared men in Iraq, stood trembling in silence as Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa read the verdict against him and imposed five death sentences.
"You had all the civil and military authority for northern Iraq," al-Khalifa said. "You gave the orders to the troops to kill Kurdish civilians and put them in severe conditions. You subjected them to wide and systematic attacks using chemical weapons and artillery. You led the killing of Iraqi villagers. You restricted them in their areas, burned their orchards, killed their animals. You committed genocide."
Complete coverage is available in FOXNews.com's Iraq Center.
Al-Majid said "Thanks be to God" as he was led from the courtroom.
Also sentenced to death were former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai, who led the Iraqi delegation at the ceasefire talks that ended the 1991 Gulf War, and Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces.
Mohammed interrupted the judge as the verdict was being read, insisting the defendants were defending Iraq from Kurdish rebels who collaborated with Iran.
"God bless our martyrs. Long live the brave Iraqi army. Long live Iraq. Long live the Baath party and long live Arab nations," he said.
Al-Tai insisted he was innocent, telling the judge "I will leave you to God" as he was led away from the court.
Farhan Mutlaq Saleh, former deputy director of operations for the armed forces, and Sabir al-Douri, former director of military intelligence, were sentenced to life in prison. Taher Tawfiq al-Ani, former governor of Mosul, was acquitted.
Saddam himself was among the defendants when the trial began last Aug. 21. But he was hanged four months later for his role in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in the town of Dujail — the first trial against major figures from the ousted regime.
In northern Iraq, many Kurds welcomed the verdict, even though some were disappointed that Saddam did not have to face the gallows in the Anfal case.
In Halabja, where an estimated 5,000 Kurds were killed in a massive chemical attack in March 1988, a power outage prevented many people from watching the televised proceedings. But dozens gathered in cafes and restaurants which had generators to watch the verdicts.
"I would never miss this," said Peshtiwan Kamal, 24, who was too young to remember the attacks. "I always heard from my family what those criminals did to my people. So I just wanted to see how they would take the verdict and punishment."
A small rally was also held at a memorial garden in the Halabja cemetery.
"We thank God that we have lived to see our enemies being punished for all of the atrocities they have committed against our people," said Lukman Abdul-Qader, head of a local organization of chemical attack survivors.
Soran Ghasur, 92, who lost his father and a friend in the Halabja attack, was overcome with emotion as he embraced a headstone. "Those are my family," he sobbed.
As in the Dujail case, some human rights organizations questioned whether the Anfal proceedings complied with international standards for fairness.
Miranda Sissons of the International Center for Transitional Justice said the broad array of charges facing all the accused made it difficult to prepare a proper defense.
"It matters to the rule of law and the future of Iraq that individuals are sentenced after fair and critical trials that meet international standards," Sissons said. "My organization opposes the death penalty, but it's particularly important that if the death penalty is applied that it be done after a trial that meets international standards."
Besides Saddam, Four other members of the former regime have been executed for alleged atrocities against Iraqis during Saddam's nearly three-decades rule.
Besides Saddam, three other figures from the former regime have been executed — all in the Dujail case. They include Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief, Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, who headed the Revolutionary Court that sentenced the Dujail victims to death. They were hanged in January.
Former vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in Dujail but was hanged in March after an appeals court decided the life sentence was too lenient. Three other defendants were sentenced to 15 years in jail in the Dujail case, while one was acquitted.
Munir Hadad, a judge on the Iraqi high tribunal, said up to 15 officials were expected to go on trial in a few weeks in the suppression of a Shiite uprising in southern Iraq in 1991.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 6/28/2007 06:45:00 PM
Thursday, June 21, 2007
International Herald Tribune
By Jane Perlez
Thursday, June 21, 2007
LONDON: Increasingly, Muslim women in Britain take their children to school and run errands covered head to toe in flowing black gowns that allow only a slit for their eyes.
Like little else, their appearance has unnerved Britons, testing the limits of tolerance in this stridently secular nation. Many veiled women say they are targets of abuse. At the same time, efforts are growing to place legal curbs on the full Muslim veil, known as the niqab.
The past year has seen numerous examples: A lawyer dressed in a niqab was told by an immigration judge that she could not represent a client because, he said, he could not hear her. A teacher wearing a niqab was told by a provincial school to go home. A student who was barred from wearing a niqab took her case to the courts, and lost. In fact, the British education authorities are proposing a ban on the niqab in schools altogether.
David Sexton, a columnist for The Evening Standard, wrote recently that Britain has been "too deferential" toward the veil. "I find such garb, in the context of a London street, first ridiculous and then directly offensive," he said.
Although the number of women wearing the niqab has increased in the past several years, only a tiny percentage of women among Britain's two million Muslims cover themselves completely. It is impossible to say how many exactly.
Some who wear the niqab, particularly younger women who have taken it up recently, concede that it is a frontal expression of Islamic identity, which they have embraced since Sept. 11, 2001, as a form of rebellion against the policies of the Blair government in Iraq and at home.
"For me it is not just a piece of clothing, it's an act of faith, it's solidarity," said a 24-year-old program scheduler at a broadcasting company in London, who would allow only her last name, Al Shaikh, to be printed, saying she wanted to protect her privacy. "9/11 was a wake-up call for young Muslims," she said.
At times she receives rude comments, including, Shaikh said, when a woman at her workplace told her she had no right to be there. Shaikh said she planned to file a complaint.
When she is on the street, she often answers barbs. "A few weeks ago a lady said: 'I think you look crazy.' I said: 'How dare you go around telling people how to dress,' and walked off. Sometimes I feel I have to reply. Islam does teach you that you must defend your religion."
Other Muslims find the niqab objectionable, a step backward for an immigrant group that is under pressure after the terror attack on London's transit system in July 2005.
"After the July 7 attacks, this is not the time to be antagonizing Britain by presenting Muslims as something sinister," said Imran Ahmad, author of "Unimagined," an autobiography of growing up Muslim in Britain, and the head of British Muslims for Secular Democracy. "The veil is so steeped in subjugation, I find it so offensive someone would want to create such barriers. It's retrograde."
Since South Asians started coming to Britain in large numbers in the 1960s, a small group of usually older, undereducated women have worn the niqab. It was most often seen as a sign of subjugation.
Many more Muslim women wear the headscarf, called the hijab, covering all or some of their hair. Unlike in France, Turkey and Tunisia, where students in state schools and female civil servants are banned from covering their hair, British Muslim women can wear the headscarf, and indeed the niqab, almost anywhere, for now.
But that tolerance is eroding. Even some who wear the niqab, like Faatema Mayata, a 24-year-old psychology and religious studies teacher, agreed there were limits. "How can you teach when you are covering your face?" she said, sitting with a cup of tea in her living room in Blackburn, a town in the north of England, her niqab tucked away because she was within the confines of her home.
She has worn the niqab since she was 12, when she was sent by her parents to an all-girls boarding school. The niqab was not, as many Britons seemed to think, a sign of extremism, she said. The niqab, to her, was about identity. "If I dressed in a Western way I could be a Hindu, I could be anything," she said. "This way I feel comfortable in my identity as a Muslim woman."
No one else in the family wore the niqab. Her husband, Ibrahim Boodi, a social worker, was indifferent, she said. "If I took it off today, he wouldn't care."
When she is walking, she is often stopped, she said. "People ask, 'Why do you wear that?' A lot of people assume I'm oppressed, that I don't speak English. I don't care, I've got a brain."
Some commentators have complained that mosques encourage women to wear the niqab, a practice they have said should be stopped. At the East London Mosque, one of the largest in the capital, the chief imam, Abdul Qayyum, studied in Saudi Arabia and is trained in the Wahhabi school of Islam. According to the community relations officer at the mosque, Ehsan Abdullah Hannan, the imam's daughter wears the niqab.
At Friday prayers recently, the women worshipers were crowded into a small upstairs windowless room away from the main hall for the men.
A handful of young women wore the niqab and spoke effusively about their reasons. "Wearing the niqab means you will get a good grade and go to paradise," said Hodo Muse, 19, a Somali woman. "Every day people are giving me dirty looks for wearing it, but when you wear something for Allah you get a boost."
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 6/21/2007 08:05:00 PM