Sunday, January 28, 2007

Video :BLACKWATER the US Secretive Mercenary Firm

In this post:
1. a two part interview with Jeremy Scahill author of a book on Black Water
2. 'Iraq For Sale' bonus scene: Blackwater
3. A short bio of Blackwater's leader Erik Prince from Wikapedia
4. An interview with Erik Prince
5. Links to a couple of good books about Blackwater

Part Two

'Iraq For Sale' bonus scene: Blackwater

BLACKWATER USA, is the world's most secretive and powerful mercenary firm. Based in the wilderness of North Carolina, it is the fastest-growing private army on the planet with forces capable of carrying out regime change throughout the world. Blackwater protects the top US officials in Iraq and yet we know almost nothing about the firm's quasi-military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and inside the US. Blackwater was founded by an extreme right-wing fundamentalist Christian mega-millionaire ex- Navy Seal named Erik Prince, the scion of a wealthy conservative family that bankrolls far-right-wing causes, including President Bush.

This civilian reserve force is used by the President without needing Congress' approval. Fred Fielding was Blackwater's lawyer is now Bush's lawyer replacing Harriett Myer. Ken Star the special prosecute in the Clinton's impeachment fiasco is now Blackwater's counsel.

Erik Prince, born in 1969 in Holland, Michigan, is the founder and owner of the military support contractor Blackwater USA. A millionaire and former US Navy SEAL, after high school he briefly enrolled in the Naval Academy before attending and graduating from Hillsdale College. After college, he earned a commission in the Navy and served as a Navy SEAL officer on deployments to Haiti, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, including Bosnia. When his father Edgar Prince unexpectedly died in 1995, he ended his Navy service prematurely. He sold his family's automobile parts company, Prince Corporation, for $1.4 billion and later moved to Virginia Beach and personally financed the formation of Blackwater USA.

Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Michigan and wife of former Alticor (Amway) president and Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. Prince's first wife died of cancer in 2003, and he has since remarried and has six children. He now runs Prince Group, Blackwater’s parent company, from an office in McLean, Virginia and also serves as a board member of Christian Freedom International, a nonprofit group with a mission of helping "Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ".

Due to its controversial role as an independent, though US-supported, military entity, Erik Prince and Blackwater USA have been the target of several allegations, leading to at least one major court case. Among these allegations are claims of unethical hiring practices and war profiteering.

Q&A: Blackwater's founder on the record

Erik Prince
Erik Prince

The Virginian-Pilot
© July 24, 2006

Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater USA, is famously media-shy. But the former Navy SEAL agreed to an e-mail interview with The Virginian-Pilot. Here’s the complete text:

Q. Can you tell me a little about your personal history? I know you were a SEAL. When was that? Is that what brought you to the Hampton Roads area? How long did you live in Virginia Beach?

A. I was raised in Holland, Mich. My dad was a very successful entrepreneur. From scratch he started a company that first produced high pressure die-cast machines and grew into a world-class automotive parts supplier in west Michigan. They developed and patented the first lighted car sun visor, developed the car digital compass/thermometer and the programmable garage door opener.

Inside America's
Private Army

Not all their ideas were winners. Things like a sock-drawer light, an automated ham de-boning machine and a propeller driven snowmobile didn’t work out so well for the company. My dad used them as examples of the need for perseverance and determination.

I earned my pilot’s license at 17 and entered the Naval Academy after high school intending to be a Navy pilot. I didn’t like the academy but loved the Navy. This is where I was first exposed to the SEAL teams. I resigned after three semesters at the academy and attended Hillsdale College in Michigan, where I graduated in 1992. I re-entered the Navy through Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a naval officer. I then joined the SEALs, where I served as an officer at SEAL Team 8. I deployed to Haiti, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, including Bosnia.

As I trained all over the world, I realized how difficult it was for units to get the cutting-edge training they needed to ensure success. In a letter home while I was deployed, I outlined the vision that is today Blackwater.

I lived in Virginia Beach for about five years.

Q. Can you tell me a little about the genesis of Blackwater? What was your motivation in starting the company? Did you have any inkling that it would come so far so fast?

A. Just prior to a deployment, my dad unexpectedly died. My family’s business had grown to great success and I left the Navy earlier than I had intended to assist with family matters. I wanted to stay connected to the military so I built a facility to provide a world-class venue for U. S. and friendly foreign military, law enforcement, commercial, and government organizations to prepare to go into harm’s way. Many special operations guys I know had the same thoughts about the need for private advanced training facilities. A few of them joined me when I formed Blackwater. I was in the unusual position after the sale of the family business to self-fund this endeavor.

Q. How do you account for the phenomenal growth of Blackwater and the private security industry? Do you expect this growth to continue?

A. Blackwater's growth is due to a few simple, but important facts: We have always delivered our services complete, correct, and on time, and we continue to attract committed professionals who value service over self and who want to have an immediate positive impact for our customers.

Growth in this industry is not restricted to Iraq alone. Because of the demand, the companies who have continually invested for the long-term will be the companies who are looked at to provide services whenever they are needed. As I said before, when Blackwater got started there was little focus on training and readiness in individual skills.

We have a very long-term view to our work. We see ourselves assisting in the transformation of the DoD into a faster more nimble organization. The private sector has always led innovation in our country. If the government sees some of the things we are doing, and chooses to utilize us or to adopt and adapt some of our innovations in the defense of the nation, then all the better.

Q. Can you discuss the role played by Blackwater and other contractors in the Pentagon’s “total force,” as referenced in the latest Quadrennial Defense Review? What is its significance for Blackwater?

A. The "total force" refers to all resources available to be used in the nation's defense. Blackwater considers itself a partner to the DoD and all government agencies, and we stand ready to provide surge capacity, training, security and operational services in various areas at their request. We are honored to contribute in some small way.

American history details the contributions of private contractors in the development of our Nation. Examples include the Jamestown, Plymouth, and Massachusetts Bay colonies; all started as private investment endeavors whose security was provided by PMCs. Across the street from the White House is Lafayette Park; on its four corners stand statues of Lafayette, Von Steuben, Rochambeau, and Kosciusko. All were foreign professional military officers that came here to help build and develop the capacity of the Continental Army. The base of one of the statues bears the inscription: “He gave military training and discipline to the citizen soldiers who achieved the independence of the United States.” Lewis and Clark’s expedition to explore the American West consisted of some active duty soldiers but their “Corps of Discovery” crew also consisted of what would now be considered contractors.

Q. What are the economics of this industry? How is it cost-effective for the government to outsource these functions?

A. Blackwater and the private sector are able rapidly to tailor a custom solution to solve the customer’s problem. Our ability to quickly react with a right-sized solution whose entire cost is only associated with the duration of the contract is cost-effective because there are no subsequent carrying costs like salary, medical care, retirement, etc.

My family’s business was automotive supply, one of the most efficient and globally competitive in the world. You wake up in the morning having to drive efficiency throughout the organization or you will be driven under. We strive for that level efficiency in what we do today. In very competitive industries, the purchasing/contract officers understand your business as well as you do. The government can ensure good value for the taxpayer by pushing that level of competence and accountability to its purchasing agents and contracting officers too.

Q. There have been calls for more regulation of this industry. Do you agree that any further regulation is needed? If so, what could you support?

A. Given the sensational tone of the media coverage our industry receives, it is understandable that there are calls for more regulation. We certainly agree that our industry should be accountable and transparent, but we should carefully analyze the domestic and international regulations that already exist so that further conversations can be had from a common foundation of accurate information. There are already many tools at the disposal of purchasing agents, government contracting officers and law enforcement officials to ensure proper behavior of PMC’s. For example, early privateers (the forbearers of the U.S. Navy) would post a significant performance bond to receive their Letter of Marque. We fully support high standards with high enforcement that drive unethical, immoral players from our industry.

Q. Some contractors have been involved in financial or abuse scandals. How can that kind of thing be avoided?

A. Those companies or individuals who disregard the moral, ethical, and legal high ground are not long for this industry. Closely working together with contracting agencies, contracting officers, and policy makers can only reduce the opportunities for financial and other abuses. The key to success is leadership and balance; strong corporate governance, and operational and "field” leadership at all levels carries the day always. We want to reduce opportunities for abuse without constraining the flexibility that makes our industry so valuable.

Video: Rajiv Chandrasekaran talks about the Green Zone

Brian speaks to Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post about the sometimes-surprising policies put in place by civilian decision-makers like Paul Bremmer. He talks about how the decision makers hidden in their sanctuary were not listening to the soldiers who were out in the country experiencing the reality of the situation.

Chandrasekaran has written a highly regarded book on the subject. It's called "Imperial Life in the Emerald City". It's a fascinating look inside the "Green Zone", the heavily protected and lavish neighbourhood of the U.S. civilian force, a community that lives in relative safety, strangely remote from the violent city outside.

About the book:
As the Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran has probably spent more time in U.S.-occupied Iraq than any other American journalist, and his intimate perspective permeates this history of the Coalition Provisional Authority headquartered in the Green Zone around Saddam Hussein's former palace. He presents the tenure of presidential viceroy L. Paul Bremer between May 2003 and June 2004 as an all-too-avoidable disaster, in which an occupational administration selected primarily for its loyalty to the Bush administration routinely ignored the reality of local conditions until, as one ex-staffer puts it, "everything blew up in our faces." Chandrasekaran unstintingly depicts the stubborn cluelessness of many Americans in the Green Zone—like the army general who says children terrified by nighttime helicopters should appreciate "the sound of freedom." But he sympathetically portrays others trying their best to cut through the red tape and institute genuine reforms. He also has a sharp eye for details, from casual sex in abandoned offices to stray cats adopted by staffers, which enable both advocates and critics of the occupation to understand the emotional toll of its circuslike atmosphere. Thanks to these personal touches, the account of the CPA's failures never feels heavy-handed

Friday, January 26, 2007

Video: Senator Jim Webb Responds to the President State of the Union


Good evening.

I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown - an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

Senator Jim Webb
Senator Jim Webb replied on behalf of the Democrats

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the president's message, nor would it be useful.

Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the president has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party.

We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programmes.

We look forward to working with the president and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight.

The first relates to how we see the health of our economy - how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans.

The second regards our foreign policy - how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.


When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries.

The President took us into this [Iraq] war recklessly

Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits.

But these benefits are not being fairly shared.

When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times.

In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world.

Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table.

Our workers know this, through painful experience.

Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalisation, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

'Recapturing spirit'

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy - that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base.

Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so.

The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in 10 years, and the Senate will soon follow.

We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people.

We've established a tone of co-operation and consensus that extends beyond party lines.

We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.

Iraq war

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years.

Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years.

This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home.

When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing.

I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country.

I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a marine in Vietnam.

My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country.

On the political issues - those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death - we trusted the judgment of our national leaders.

We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it.

But they owed us - sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

'Hostage nation'

The president took us into this war recklessly.

He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs.

We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable - and predicted - disarray that has followed.

The war's costs to our nation have been staggering.


The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism.

And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

'New direction'

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military.

We need a new direction.

Not one step back from the war against international terrorism.

Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos.

But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

Class divisions

On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th Century.

America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines.

The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions.

He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other."

And he did something about it.

Bush 'must act'

As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate.

"When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War II.

And as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world.

Tonight we are calling on this president to take similar action, in both areas.

If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

Thank you for listening. And God bless America.

Four soldiers abducted in sophisticated attack

By STEVEN R. HURST and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writers1 hour, 7 minutes ago

In perhaps the boldest and most sophisticated attack in four years of warfare, gunmen speaking English, wearing U.S. military uniforms and carrying American weapons uth of Baghdad, was conducted by nine to 12 gunmen posing as an American security team, the military confirmed. The attackers traveled in black GMC Suburban vehicles (the type used by U.S. government convoys), had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues, and spoke English, according to two senior U.S. military officials as well as Iraqi officials.

None of the American or Iraqi officials would allow use of their names because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The confirmation came after nearly a week of inquiries. The U.S. military in Baghdad initially did not respond to repeated requests for comment on reports that began emerging from Iraqi government and military officials on the abduction and a major breakdown in security at the Karbala site.

Within hours of the AP report that four of the five dead soldiers had been abducted and found dead or dying about 25 miles east of Karbala, the military issued a long account of what took place.

"The precision of the attack, the equipment used and the possible use of explosives to destroy the military vehicles in the compound suggests that the attack was well rehearsed prior to execution," said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, spokesman for Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

"The attackers went straight to where Americans were located in the provincial government facility, bypassing the Iraqi police in the compound," he said. "We are looking at all the evidence to determine who or what was responsible for the breakdown in security at the compound and the perpetration of the assault."

The Karbala raid, as explained by the Iraqi and American officials, began after nightfall on Jan. 20, while American military officers were meeting with their Iraqi counterparts on the main floor of the Provisional Joint Coordination Center in Karbala.

Iraqi officials said the approaching convoy of black GMC Suburbans was waved through an Iraqi checkpoint at the edge of the city. The Iraqi soldiers believed it to be American because of the type of vehicles, the distinctive camouflage American uniforms and the fact that they spoke English. One Iraqi official said the leader of the assault team was blond, but no other official confirmed that.

A top Iraqi security official for Karbala province told the AP that the Iraqi guards at the checkpoint radioed ahead to the governor's compound to alert their compatriots that the convoy was on its way.

Iraqi officials said the attackers' convoy divided upon arrival, with some vehicles parking at the back of the main building where the meeting was taking place, and others parking in front.

The attackers threw a grenade and opened fire with automatic rifles as they grabbed two soldiers inside the compound. Then the guerrilla assault team jumped on top of an armored U.S. Humvee and captured two more soldiers, the U.S. military officials said.

In its statement, the U.S. military said one soldier was killed and three were wounded by a "hand grenade thrown into the center's main office which contains the provincial police chief's office on an upper floor."

The attackers captured four soldiers and fled with them and the computer east toward Mahawil in Babil province, crossing the Euphrates River, the U.S. military officials said.

The Iraqi officials said the four were captured alive and shot just before the vehicles were abandoned.

Police, who became suspicious when the convoy of attackers and their American captives did not stop at a roadblock, chased the vehicles and found the bodies, the gear and the abandoned SUVs.

The military statement said: "Two soldiers were found handcuffed together in the back of one of the SUVs. Both had suffered gunshot wounds and were dead. A third soldier was found shot and dead on the ground. Nearby, the fourth soldier was still alive, despite a gunshot wound to the head."

The wounded soldier was rushed to the hospital by Iraqi police but died on the way, the military said.

The military also said Iraqi police had found five SUVs, U.S. Army-type combat uniforms, boots, radios and a non-U.S. made rifle at the scene.

Three days after the killings, the U.S. military in Baghdad announced the arrest of four suspects in the attack and said they were detained on a tip from a Karbala resident. No further information was released about the suspects.

Friday's military statement referred to the attackers as "insurgents," which usually suggests Sunnis. Although Karbala province is predominantly Shiite, Babil province is heavily populated by Sunnis in the north, near Baghdad. Babil's central and southern regions are largely Shiite.

A senior Iraqi military official said the sophistication of the attack led him to believe it was the work of Iranian intelligence agents in conjunction with Iraq's Shiite Mahdi Army militia, which Iran funds, arms and trains.

The Defense Department has released the names of troops killed Jan. 20 but clearly identified only one as being killed because of the sneak attack.

Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, Calif., "died of wounds suffered when his meeting area came under attack by mortar and small arms fire." Freeman was assigned to the 412th Civil Affairs Battalion, Whitehall, Ohio.

The only other troops killed that day in that region of Iraq were four Army soldiers said to have been "ambushed while conducting dismounted operations" in Karbala.

The four were identified as 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Neb.; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Prairieville, La.; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Homer, N.Y., and Pvt. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Ala. All were with the 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, of Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Keith Oberman takes on Bush's proposed troop increase in Iraq. Or is it meant for Iran? Video Courtesy of Crooks and Liars. (A great blog

As usual, a stong argument with great background video.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The bug causing the military infections

A homemade bomb exploded under a Humvee in Anbar province, Iraq, on August 21, 2004. The blast flipped the vehicle into the air, killing two US marines and wounding another - a soft-spoken 20-year-old named Jonathan Gadsden who was near the end of his second tour of duty. In previous wars, he would have died within hours. His skull and ribs were fractured, his neck was broken, his back was badly burned, and his stomach had been perforated by shrapnel and debris.

Gadsden got out of the war zone alive because of the Department of Defense's network of frontline trauma care and rapid air transport known as the evacuation chain. Minutes after the attack, a helicopter touched down in the desert. Combat medics stanched the marine's bleeding, inflated his collapsed lung, and eased his pain. He was airlifted to the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, located in an old health care facility called the Ibn Sina, which had formerly catered to the Baathist elite. Army surgeons there repaired Gadsden's cranium, removed his injured spleen, and pumped him full of broad-spectrum antibiotics to ward off infection.

Three days later, he was flown to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the largest American military hospital in Europe. He was treated for his burns, and his spine was stabilized for the 18-hour flight to the US. Just a week after nearly dying in the desert, Gadsden was recuperating at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, with his mother, Zeada, at his bedside.

The surgeons, nurses, medics, and pilots of the evacuation chain have saved thousands of lives. Soldiers wounded in Vietnam were six weeks of transit time away from US hospitals, and one out of every four of them died. By contrast, a soldier's odds of surviving battle injuries in Iraq are nine out of 10. Unfortunately, this remarkable advance in battlefield logistics has also resulted in an increase in the number of traumatically injured patients who are particularly susceptible to infections during their recovery. In Gadsden's case, from the moment he was carried into the Ibn Sina, the injured marine was in the crosshairs of an enemy he didn't even know was there.

An in-depth investigation by the Veterans Administration of the death of a Marine named Jonathan Gadsden who acquired an acinetobacter infection while being evacuated from Iraq. He later died of meningitis caused by another organism called Nocardia. His mother, Zeada, was told at first that her son had died of his wounds.

A report from a team of US Army perioperative nurses describing problems with infection control in the combat support hospitals in Iraq in the early days of the war.

At first, he did quite well. By early September, Gadsden was weaned off his ventilator and breathing on his own. For weeks he gradually improved. His buddies took him to a Washington Redskins game in his wheelchair, and the next day he navigated 50 feet with a walker. Soon Gadsden was transferred to a veterans' hospital in Florida called the James A. Haley Medical Center, where he offered to serve as the eyes of a fellow marine blinded in an ambush. The doctors told Zeada that her son might be able to go home by the end of October.

But he still had mysterious symptoms that he couldn't shake, like headaches, rashes, and intermittent fevers. His doctors gave him CT scans, laxatives, methadone, beta-blockers, Xanax, more surgery, and more antibiotics. An accurate evaluation of his case was difficult, however, because portions of his medical records never arrived from Bethesda. If they had, they would have shown a positive test for a kind of bacteria called Acinetobacter baumannii.

In the taxonomy of bad bugs, acinetobacter is classified as an opportunistic pathogen. Healthy people can carry the bacteria on their skin with no ill effects - a process known as colonization. But in newborns, the elderly, burn victims, patients with depressed immune systems, and those on ventilators, acinetobacter infections can kill. The removal of Gadsden's spleen and the traumatic nature of his wounds made him a prime target.

On October 17, the marine was given a day pass to accompany his mother to Wal-Mart, where he bought her a purse. Hours after returning to the hospital, his condition deteriorated abruptly. His heart rate and blood pressure were elevated, and his white blood cell count was spiking. Nurses noted in his chart that he had become "disoriented to place, time, and people - thinking he is at home - sitting up thinks he's lying down." He struggled through occupational therapy the following morning, shivering and complaining of the cold.

Gadsden had a seizure and a heart attack the next day. The neurology team discovered that his cerebrum and cerebellum had swelled up overnight; he was clinically brain-dead. His family and minister were called to the hospital, and on October 22 he was taken off life support.

The Marine Corps public affairs office sent out the customary press release attributing Gadsden's death to "injuries as a result of enemy action." But then a few weeks later, Zeada's dentist told her a Florida newspaper was reporting that her son had died of bacterial meningitis. Aided by US representative Bill Young, Zeada - who works as a cardiac-care technician in South Carolina - demanded an investigation.

She discovered that an autopsy was performed shortly after her son's death. The coroner recorded the "manner of death" as "homicide (explosion during war operation)" but determined the actual cause of death to be a bacterial infection. The organism that killed Gadsden, called Nocardia, had clogged the blood vessels leading to his brain. But the acinetobacter had been steadily draining his vital resources when he could least afford it. For weeks, it had been flourishing in his body, undetected by the doctors at Haley, resisting a constant assault by the most potent antibiotics in the medical arsenal.

"No one said that my son had anything like that," Zeada says. "I never had to wear gloves or a mask, and none of the nurses did either. No one had any information."

Since OPERATION Iraqi Freedom began in 2003, more than 700 US soldiers have been infected or colonized with Acinetobacter baumannii. A significant number of additional cases have been found in the Canadian and British armed forces, and among wounded Iraqi civilians. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology has recorded seven deaths caused by the bacteria in US hospitals along the evacuation chain. Four were unlucky civilians who picked up the bug at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, while undergoing treatment for other life-threatening conditions. Another was a 63-year-old woman, also chronically ill, who shared a ward at Landstuhl with infected coalition troops.

Behind the scenes, the spread of a pathogen that targets wounded GIs has triggered broad reforms in both combat medical care and the Pentagon's networks for tracking bacterial threats within the ranks. Interviews with current and former military physicians, recent articles in medical journals, and internal reports reveal that the Department of Defense has been waging a secret war within the larger mission in Iraq and Afghanistan - a war against antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

Acinetobacter is only one of many bacterial nemeses prowling around in ICUs and neonatal units in hospitals all over the world. A particularly fierce organism known as MRSA - methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - infects healthy people, spreads easily, and accounts for many of the 90,000 fatal infections picked up in US hospitals each year. Another drug-resistant germ on the rise in health care facilities, Clostridium difficile, moves in for the kill when long courses of antibiotics have wiped out normal intestinal flora.

Forerunners of the bug causing the military infections have been making deadly incursions into civilian hospitals for more than a decade. In the early 1990s, 1,400 people were infected or colonized at a single facility in Spain. A few years later, particularly virulent strains of the bacteria spread through three Israeli hospitals, killing half of the infected patients. Death by acinetobacter can take many forms: catastrophic fevers, pneumonia, meningitis, infections of the spine, and sepsis of the blood. Patients who survive face longer hospital stays, more surgery, and severe complications.

Nevertheless, the bug makes an unlikely candidate for the next mass plague. It preys exclusively on the weakest of the weak and the sickest of the sick, slipping into the body through open wounds, catheters, and breathing tubes. Colonization poses no threat to people who aren't already ill, but colonized health care workers and hospital visitors can carry the bacteria into neighboring wards and other medical facilities. Epidemiologist Roberta Carey at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls acinetobacter the Rodney Dangerfield of microorganisms: "It doesn't get a lot of respect because it's not out there bumping off normal, healthy people." But lately the bacteria has been getting its due, because it is rapidly evolving resistance to all of the antibiotics that used to keep it in check.

Until a few years ago, most strains could be dispatched with a wide variety of drugs. For the most tenacious infections, doctors could rely on a family of ultrabroad spectrum antibiotics called carbapenems. But strains of acinetobacter are emerging now that are immune to every known remedy. Multidrug - resistant pathogens are an epidemiologist's nightmare - reminders of the dark ages when millions of people died every year of runaway infections.

"We've been looking at acinetobacter in real time for years and years in our lab," says John Quinn, scientific director of the Chicago Infectious Disease Research Institute. "Then all of a sudden in 2005, we started seeing more bugs that were resistant to the carbapenems. First one out of 10 bugs, then four out of 10, and then almost all of the bugs. So there's a new sheriff in town. That's a clinical disaster."

To battle these new strains, clinicians are being forced to dust off a World War II-era relic called colistin, which is so toxic that it causes kidney damage in as many as one in four patients who take it. In 2004, the Infectious Diseases Society of America included acinetobacter on its "bad bugs, no drugs" short list of pathogens that are "raising significant public health concerns." According to a recent CDC study, the new multidrug-resistant organisms are almost four times more deadly than older strains.

And they're spreading fast. A major outbreak in Chicago two years ago infected 81 patients, killing at least 14. Arizona health officials tracked more than 200 infections in state hospitals early last year. Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee used to see an infection or two every year; now it's one or more a month. "These bacteria are developing very, very quickly," says CDC epidemiologist Arjun Srinivasan, who has been consulting with the DOD about the military outbreak. "The bad news is that we're many years away from having new drugs to treat them. It should be a call to arms."

I VISITED WALTER REED in 2004 to write about anesthesia on the front lines. As I spoke with an Army sergeant who had survived a brutal attack in Najaf, US senator John McCain and talk-radio host Don Imus came into the room to thank him for his service. When we walked out, McCain's assistant whipped out a bottle of sanitizing gel and passed it around. A nurse explained to me, "It's this bug that grows in the soil over there and gets blown into their wounds by IEDs. These poor guys are covered with it. Around here we call it Iraqibacter." Rumors were circulating at the hospital that insurgents dosed their homemade bombs with the flesh of dead animals.

Nearly four years into the war, the notion that deadly bacteria is lurking in the Iraqi dirt is still proposed by DOD officials as the most likely explanation for the military infections. In November, Duane Hospenthal, an infectious-disease expert at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas and a consultant to the Army Surgeon General, said, "The question really has been: Is it coming from these old facilities we're using in Iraq? Is it coming from some of the Iraqi patients we have? Is it normal flora for our deployed soldiers who have been there for a while? Or is it being blown into them from shrapnel, dirt, and other materials by these explosive devices?"

Hospenthal added that he believes there is little cause for concern. "It's a low-grade, low-virulence pathogen that can be recovered from soil and water. Without having it blasted into you or your being immunocompromised, it's not going to hurt you. We still see acinetobacter, but now that it's been recognized, people are less excited about it here. It's hard for me to even understand if this is a big issue."

It's true that many species of acinetobacter flourish widely in the environment. Thriving colonies have been recovered from soil, cell phones, frozen chicken, wastewater treatment plants, Formica countertops, and even irradiated food all over the world. But the particular species causing the military infections, baumannii, is almost always found in just one environment - hospitals.

Lenie Dijkshoorn, a senior researcher at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, has studied the bug since 1984. "My colleagues and I have been looking for Acinetobacter baumannii in soil samples for years, and we haven't found it," she says. "These organisms are quite rare outside of hospitals."

In fact, they are supremely adapted to life in critical-care facilities. They can survive for weeks on a stethoscope, a blood-pressure cuff, a mattress, or a computer keyboard. The short, plump, rod-shaped bacilli are so adept at mining nutrients from recalcitrant sources that Israeli geneticists have engineered strains to bio-degrade oil spills. Even before the bug evolved resistance to multiple antibiotics, it knew its way around a sponge and bucket. A Norwegian microbiologist noted in 1973 that disinfectant used to clean catheters in a gynecologist's lab contained "a veritable culture of the strain."

Hospenthal also told me that the acinetobacter has been recovered from the skin of those who have never been to war: "We've swabbed nondeployed soldiers and found the bacteria in their toe webs and other parts of their bodies." The study he was referring to, however, published last July in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, pointed out that those organisms were genetically very different from the bacteria infecting men and women evacuated from Iraq. The Acinetobacter baumannii colonizing new enlistees in Texas was still susceptible to antibiotics; the organisms infecting veterans are highly resistant.

In Europe, multidrug-resistant acinetobacter is spreading through civilian hospitals, precipitating a public health crisis. A 2003-2004 epidemic hit more than 50 hospitals and long-term care facilities in France, making scores of patients sick and killing 34 people. Thirty-nine infected patients died at St. Mary's Hospital in London two years ago.

British health care officials are deeply concerned about a possible link between the civilian outbreaks and coalition troops carrying the bacteria home from Iraq. The UK's Health Protection Agency sent out a notice in 2003 asking doctors to submit samples of acinetobacter - from patients known to have returned from Iraq, or from patients on a ward where there have been Iraq returnees - to a lab for genotyping. Three months ago, a health official in England told The Independent that the same strain of bacteria infecting troops had been implicated in at least three civilian outbreaks. Prime minister Tony Blair recently announced that a major civilian hospital will open a ward just for military patients.

Bacteria that know how to disable or block the efficacy of multiple drugs are highly educated organisms. They're typically the product of an environment where antibiotics are in frequent use, and they have downloaded genetic cheat codes from other resistant bacteria into their own DNA. Multidrug-resistant staph, for example, hijacked genes from a bug called Enterococcus that have made it resistant to vancomycin - the drug of last resort. Once a strain acquires these upgrades, Darwin's selective pressure weeds out the late adopters.

So where are these highly educated military bugs coming from? "It would be very interesting," Dijkshoorn says, "to investigate the routing of these patients."

THE FIRST NEWS that US troops had engaged an unforeseen enemy in Iraq appeared on a physicians' email list called ProMED on April 17, 2003. A communicable-disease expert in the Navy named Kyle Petersen posted a request for information about unusual infections he was seeing aboard the USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed hospital ship off the coast of Kuwait.

The Comfort was taking in 50 new patients a day by helicopter, many of them Iraqi civilians and prisoners of war. Petersen told the ProMED list that he had seen "several cases of [multidrug-resistant] acinetobacter amongst Iraqi natives wounded by gunshots, shrapnel, burns or motor vehicle accidents." Reviewing the literature, he found reports of an outbreak in Turkish hospitals after an earthquake in 1999, which suggested to him that "acinetobacter species are fairly common pathogens in traumatic wounds, especially if they are dirty." The bugs on the Comfort, however, were more resistant than the Turkish strains. He continued: "Can anyone familiar with the soil biology of Iraq or the drug prescribing practices of the pre-regime medical system explain the severe drug resistance pattern we are seeing among our trauma victims medevaced from Iraq" Any comments would be greatly appreciated."

The bug's emergence on the Comfort made a tough job even tougher. In infected burn victims, skin grafts failed. Two Iraqi patients died. Luckily, the acinetobacter on the Comfort was still susceptible to imipenem, one of the carbapenem-based "magic bullets" kept in reserve for the day when nothing else works. The staff quickly ran through its stock of the drug, firing off urgent requests for more. By isolating carriers in an area of the ship nicknamed Acinetobacter Alley and maxing out the imipenem, the medics finally brought the spread of the bacteria under control.

Soon, however, the bug started popping up in other hospitals along the evacuation chain. More than 70 patients at Walter Reed eventually contracted acinetobacter infections of the blood. Other infected patients and carriers surfaced at Landstuhl, Bethesda, and Balad Air Base, the embarkation point for troops on their way out of Iraq. By early 2005, nearly one-third of the wounded soldiers admitted to the National Naval Medical Center had been colonized by the bacteria. Only a handful of the early cases could be traced directly to the bugs on the Comfort, because the ship steamed out of the Gulf three months into the war. But almost all of the infected patients and carriers had received medical care at field hospitals in Iraq.

Known as combat support hospitals or CSHs, these facilities had been hastily erected in tents and other temporary structures, in keeping with the Pentagon's goal of a lean and mobile fighting force. Maintaining sterile conditions in the desert required creative efforts. Sand blew through every available opening in the walls, and the 130-degree days took their toll on drugs, power supplies, and diagnostic equipment. To move trauma care closer to the action, the DOD deployed modified shipping containers called ISO boxes as portable operating rooms. It was standard procedure to have a dozen nurses, surgeons, and anesthesiologists in each box crowded around two patients undergoing surgery simultaneously - an infection risk in any hospital.

At the 28th CSH near Camp Dogwood - home to more than 4,000 US and British soldiers - there was only one washer and dryer to launder all of the linen, including the surgical scrubs. Army nurses reported to the DOD that "sheets were more often than not soaked with blood and other body fluids - linen that covered the patients who were transferred back to Germany was not replaced." When hospital-grade disinfectants ran low, which was often, the supply crew stocked up on bleach from a local bazaar.

The derelict infrastructure of the Ibn Sina, where Jonathan Gadsden was treated during his evacuation, bedeviled the staff's best infection-control efforts. Rainwater dripped into operating rooms and supply closets, and pigeons roosted in the ventilation system, wafting the smell of droppings into the surgical suites. (A request was filed to the Iraqi Ministry of Health in September 2003 to "eliminate bird feces" from the air ducts.) Clean sheets and scrubs were scarce at the Ibn Sina as well, because the civilian laundry contractor was apparently selling them on the black market.

"When you're interested in immediate lifesaving, you can't be thinking about every infection-control nuance," says microbiologist Roberta Carey, branch chief of epidemiology at the CDC. "In any emergency room that deals with trauma patients, there's a limit - if they get too many patients from a car crash, they put the others on bypass and send them to another institution. But there is no bypass in a war zone."

The most effective way to curtail the development of multidrug-resistant bacteria is to limit the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics. But these drugs were dispensed widely in the CSHs. For wounded soldiers en route to Germany, they were employed as a kind of antimicrobial body armor to forestall future infection. But injured Iraqis would linger on antibiotic IV drips for weeks because the local medical facilities were overwhelmed or under rubble.

In the summer of 2003, civilian patients started getting sick at the Saarland University Hospital, one of the German facilities that admitted US troops evacuated from Iraq. A few months later, an elderly woman being treated for chronic lung disease at Landstuhl died suddenly of antibiotic-resistant acinetobacter pneumonia and bacteremia. DOD investigators found a perfect genetic match between the bug that caused her death and one infecting a military patient down the hall. Eventually, more than 30 civilian patients picked up acinetobacter infections at Walter Reed.

The bacteria was spreading beyond the theater of war.

Meanwhile, families of wounded US and British troops were being told -often in haphazard ways - that their loved ones were infected with an obscure organism they had somehow picked up in the desert.

A contractor named Merlin Clark was clearing mines near Baghdad for a company called Ronco Consulting when an IED took off the front of his left leg and severed a nerve in his right arm. When he first arrived at Walter Reed, his wife, Marcie, says, "They told us they had found bacteria, which you would expect from a dirty wound. We were more concerned that he might lose his leg."

Just before Marcie put her husband on a medevac to a hospital in Orlando, Florida, a nurse handed her a folder, which she put in her purse. "I went down to get Merlin's bags," Marcie recalls, "and the soldier who brought me to the van told me, 'Put everything in the laundry right away. Don't touch this stuff. Don't breathe around it. It's got that bug the guys are bringing back from Iraq.'"

She tossed the dusty clothes in a hotel washing machine and checked the folder, where she saw the words Acinetobacter baumannii for the first time. Frantic for more information about her husband's infection, she found little advice on sites for Iraq war veterans. "We felt so alone, having to figure out everything for ourselves," she says. (When, a Web site for doctors who treat vets, finally added an acinetobacter FAQ in 2005, it became one of the two most popular pages on the site.)

A veterans' activist named Kirt Love helped Marcie create a Web site to raise public awareness of the outbreak, which launched in 2004 at Email started pouring in. "After speaking with other family members at Brooke, I discovered that almost all of their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, had tested positive," wrote the mother of one infected soldier. Another message read: "An apparently healthy civilian registered nurse working in the ICU at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda has a life-threatening acinetobacter infection - Are other workers within the same environment equally at risk?"

As the bacteria spread through hospitals in the US and Europe, the DOD worked overtime to keep a lid on the rumors. In a PowerPoint presentation about acinetobacter and pneumonia delivered at the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, a slide labeled "How to handle the press" read: "Don't lie. Don't obfuscate. Don't tell them any more than you absolutely have to."

Quietly, in spring 2004, a group of military doctors, infectious-disease specialists, and microbiologists decided to find out what was really going on with this bug. "My concern was that we were changing the bacterial environment in our hospitals, and I wasn't seeing a whole lot being done about it," says Tim Endy, the former communicable-disease research director at Walter Reed. "And now there were infections in patients who had never been to Iraq. The potential consequences to health care and to the cost of health care are huge."

The bills for imipenem use were soaring at Walter Reed, and each dose of the drug contributed to the snowballing resistance of the bacteria. Endy drafted a paper that became the catalyst for a full-fledged epidemiological consultation (an epicon, in military-speak) under the authority of the Army Surgeon General. Dozens of infectious-disease experts joined the investigation, along with academic researchers and epidemiologists from the CDC.

The task force sent field teams into Iraq and Kuwait to gather soil samples, swipe stretcher handles, and scour chow halls. When a storm dumped sand onto the decks of the Comfort, they swabbed the gunwale. To put the IED theory to the test, they took samples of bacteria from the dirty wounds of soldiers as they were admitted to the Ibn Sina. They also analyzed soil archived by the DOD before the war began.

The investigators did find acinetobacter in Iraq. It wasn't in the dirt - except for a few bugs under a dripping air conditioner outside a health care facility in Mosul - or in the fresh wounds, either. But multidrug - resistant Acinetobacter baumannii was thriving in the emergency rooms, ICUs, and operating rooms of the combat support hospitals. As Paul Scott, one of the lead investigators, told a meeting of civilian epidemiologists in Chicago last spring, "This appeared to be a hospital-associated outbreak throughout our entire health care system."

The wounded soldiers were not smuggling bacteria from the desert into military hospitals after all. Instead, they were picking it up there. The evacuation chain itself had become the primary source of infection. By creating the most heroic and efficient means of saving lives in the history of warfare, the Pentagon had accidentally invented a machine for accelerating bacterial evolution and was airlifting the pathogens halfway around the world.

To stem the outbreak at its source, the epicon team proposed sweeping reforms throughout the combat zone. The CSHs had to be run more like real hospitals, with frequent scrub-downs, stringent hand-washing, and HEPA filters to clean the air. The dead tissue surrounding "frag?" wounds turned out to be an ideal colonization site for the bugs, so it had to be removed more aggressively up front. "If you don't have that necrotic tissue, your own innate defenses help keep the wound clean," says Kim Moran, a tropical-disease specialist who assisted the investigation when she worked at Walter Reed. Wound dressings needed to be changed less often, so bacteria from the hospital environ-ment had less opportunity to get in. And the broad-spectrum anti-biotics had to be reserved for the treatment of identified bugs.

At first, these reforms ran into a major obstacle: Each link in the evacuation chain was owned by a different branch of the DOD. "There was no coordination among the services about infection-control policy," Endy says. "No coordination about what kinds of antibiotics to use, no communication within the services about infectious disease problems. So it was almost impossible to coordinate any kind of broad policy changes." But then the task force phoned Donald Jenkins, a quick-thinking trauma surgeon at Balad who had already taken stock of the situation and tightened infection control in his own hospital. Jenkins briefed Elder Granger, head of the medical command throughout the region. "We basically tried to initiate a policy change from the bottom up, rather than the top down," Endy recalls. "And it worked."

Back in Washington, the DOD ramped up its medical surveillance networks to track the enemy as it moved instead of waiting for reports of full-blown infections. Epidemiological data across the armed services was logged in a central database for the first time. To pinpoint the particular strains causing the military infections, the investigators shipped more than 200 samples of acinetobacter to a biotech firm called Isis Pharmaceuticals, which has developed a new system for genetically fingerprinting unknown pathogens. For purposes of comparison, the Institut Pasteur in France also sent samples gathered during outbreaks in European hospitals years before the war.

"Lo and behold, most of the bacteria from the military hospitals were the same as the isolates from Europe - the same molecular signatures, the same patterns of antibiotic resistance," says Isis microbiologist David Ecker. "So my hypothesis became that there was a contamination of the US military health care system from organisms circulating in Europe, which happened somewhere along the path of the wounded soldiers."

The task force concluded that Camp Dogwood and Ibn Sina Hospital were likely the first links in the chain where the bugs took hold. At the epidemiologists' meeting in Chicago last spring, Paul Scott said that some of the medical equipment used at the two facilities was originally packed in Germany and may have been contaminated before it was shipped to Iraq. But the "index case" that set the whole process in motion may never be known.

It's not over. Acinetobacter is now a difficult part of daily life in many military hospitals, as it is in civilian ICUs and burn wards worldwide. And the rise of many other types of multidrug-resistant bacteria will make things even more difficult in the next few years, because there are few new antibiotics coming down the pipeline.

"The bugs are outpacing us, and these drugs are not the kind that bring in incredible profits," says Robert Guidos, director of public policy for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. "We're planning for bioterrorism and pandemic influenza, but what about the hundreds of thousands of people dying each year from nontheoretical situations? We need to think in longer terms."

One of the most unsettling long-term questions about the military outbreak is how far the bugs of war will proliferate now that thousands of Iraq veterans have entered the VA hospital system. Many of the older vets who are already there - struggling with chronic conditions for decades, in and out of nursing homes - fall into the bacteria's target demographic.

Duane Hospenthal of the DOD downplays the possibility that acinetobacter could become a problem in the wider population. "Mom comes to visit her son," he says, "and everybody's dressed up in gowns and gloves and hats and masks, and she wants to know, 'Is this something I'm going to drag home to my 4-year-old?'" Those are the misconceptions I have to deal with from day to day. I can easily tell the family, "No, this is something we do to keep it from passing from patient to patient. If you have it on your hands, it's not going to cause any disease.'"

Once acinetobacter makes itself at home in a health care facility, however, it's hard to get rid of and easy to pass along. Before Roberta Carey started working for the CDC, she spent months trying unsuccessfully to eradicate the bug from a university hospital in Illinois. "This organism requires many different assaults to get rid of," she says. "We see the bacteria metastasizing to neighboring institutions because medical personnel, students, families, and patients go back and forth into the community and to other medical centers. So we have to be vigilant."

When a team of geneticists unlocked the secret of the bug's rapid evolution in 2005, they found that one strain of multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii carries the largest collection of genetic upgrades ever discovered in a single organism. Out of its 52 genes dedicated to defeating antibiotics, radiation, and other weapons of mass bacterial destruction, nearly all have been bootlegged from other bad bugs like Salmonella, Pseudomonas, and Escherichia coli.

In the open source world of bacteria, everyone is working for the resistance. Ramping up the immunity of any single organism, while dramatically increasing the size of the population most susceptible to infection, only helps the enemy. To an aspiring superbug, war is anything but hell.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Full text of Ted Kennedy's bill to stop the `Surge"

1st Session

S. 233


January 9, 2007

Mr. KENNEDY (for himself, Mr. LEAHY, Mrs. BOXER, Mr. SANDERS, Mr. HARKIN, and Mr. KERRY) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations


To prohibit the use of funds for an escalation of United States military forces in Iraq above the numbers existing as of January 9, 2007.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(a) Findings- Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Congress, the representatives of the American people, should vote before any additional United States military forces are sent to Iraq.

(2) The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243) authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein because he was believed to have weapons of mass destruction and to have an operational relationship with Al Qaeda and because he was in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

(3) The mission of the Armed Forces of the United States today in Iraq no longer bears any resemblance to the mission of the Armed Forces authorized by Congress in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.

(4) Iraq has descended into civil war, and sectarian violence continues to escalate.

(5) On March 5, 2006, General Nash said `[w]e're in a civil war now; it's just that not everybody's joined in'.

(6) On December 3, 2006, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said `[w]hen we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war--this is much worse'.

(7) On December 17, 2006, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said `I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work'.

(8) A political solution is required in Iraq, not a military solution.

(9) The open-ended commitment of the Armed Forces continues to enable the Iraqis to avoid taking responsibility for their own future. Tens of thousands of additional United States troops will only serve to make the Iraqis more dependent on the United States, not less.

(10) On November 15, 2006, General Abizaid was unequivocal that increasing our troop commitment is not the answer in Iraq, saying `I've met with every divisional commander. General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey--we all talked together. And I said, `In your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?' And they all said no'.

(11) On December 29, 2006, General Casey said `[t]he longer we in the United States forces continue to bear the main burden of Iraq's security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to make the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias ... . They can continue to blame us for all of Iraq's problems, which are at base their problems'.

(12) More than 3,000 United States troops have died in Iraq, and more than 22,000 have been wounded.

(13) President George W. Bush should not be permitted to increase the number of United States troops in harm's way in the civil war in Iraq without a new authorization from Congress that reflects the reality of the changed circumstances on the ground in Iraq.

(b) Prohibition- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be obligated or expended by the United States Government to increase the number of United States military forces in Iraq above the number for such forces which existed as of January 9, 2007, without a specific authorization of Congress by law for such an increase.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Give us guns – and troops can go, says Iraqi leader

Give us guns – and troops can go, says Iraqi leader
Stephen Farrell in Baghdad
# Prime Minister wants change of US policy
# Mistakes over Saddam hanging, Times told

A mother comforts her daughter who was injured in the attack on university students in Baghdad, in which at least 60 people were killed (Ali Abbas/EPA)

America’s refusal to give Baghdad’s security forces sufficient guns and equipment has cost a great number of lives, the Iraqi Prime Minister said yesterday.

Nouri al-Maliki said the insurgency had been bloodier and prolonged because Washington had refused to part with equipment. If it released the necessary arms, US forces could “dramatically” cut their numbers in three to six months, he told The Times.

In a sign of the tense relations with Washington, he chided the US for suggesting his Government was living on “borrowed time”. Such criticism boosted Iraq’s extremists, he said, and was more a reflection of “some kind of crisis situation” in Washington after the Republicans’ midterm election losses. Mr al-Maliki conceded that his administration had made mistakes over the hanging of Saddam Hussein. But he refused to accept all criticism over the execution. When asked about the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s attack on Iraq’s capital punishment laws, Mr al-

Maliki cited the Italians’ summary killing of Benito Mussolini and his stringing-up from a lamppost.

Asked how long Iraq would require US troops, Mr al-Maliki said: “If we succeed in implementing the agreement between us to speed up the equipping and providing weapons to our military forces, I think that within three to six months our need for American troops will dramatically go down. That is on condition that there are real, strong efforts to support our military forces and equipping and arming them.”

The US Government is wary of handing over large amounts of military hardware to the Iraqis because it has sometimes ended up in the hands of militias and insurgents.

Gordon Johndroe, the White House national security spokesman, conceded that some of Mr al-Maliki’s criticism was “valid”. The training and equipping of Iraqi troops would be speeded up, he said, adding that by “self-admission we have had to redo our training and equipment programme”.

Although Mr al-Maliki’s tone was measured throughout, he is clearly irritated at US criticism that he has failed to curb Shia militias. Robert Gates, the new US Defence Secretary, said that Mr al-Maliki could lose his job if he failed to stop communal bloodshed and Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, gave a warning that he was living on “borrowed time” and that American patience was running out.

Challenged on the point, Mr al-Maliki remarked acidly: “Certain officials are going through a crisis. Secretary Rice is expressing her own point of view if she thinks that the Government is on borrowed time, whether it is borrowed time for the Iraqi Government or American Administration. I don’t think we are on borrowed time.”

He added: “I wish that we could receive strong messages of support from the US so we don’t give some boost to the terrorists and make them feel that they might have achieved success. I believe that such statements give moral boosts to the terrorists and push them towards making an extra effort and making them believe that they have defeated the American Administration, but I can tell you that they haven’t defeated the Iraqi Government.”

He rejected the accusation that his Government was “lenient” with Shia militias, saying 400 al-Mahdi Army members had been arrested in recent days, in crackdowns in southern towns such as Karbala, Samawa, Diwaniya and al-Nasiriya.

And he insisted that he was prepared to fulfil his promises to Washington and confront the militias of Shia parties within his coalition, including Moqtada al-Sadr’s widely feared al-Mahdi Army. He conceded that some “sectarian” acts were being perpetrated. But he said there would not be a civil war because Sunni and Shia had lived in peace for many years.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reading: Petrodollar Warfare

The invasion of Iraq may well be remembered as the first oil currency war. Far from being a response to 9/11 terrorism or Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, Petrodollar Warfare

argues that the invasion was precipitated by two converging phenomena: the imminent peak in global oil production and the ascendance of the euro currency.

Energy analysts agree that world oil supplies are about to peak, after which there will be a steady decline in supplies of oil. Iraq, possessing the world's second-largest oil reserves, was therefore already a target of US geostrategic interests. Together with the fact that Iraq had switched to paying for oil in euros-rather than US dollars-the Bush administration's unreported aim was to prevent further OPEC momentum in favor of the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency standard.

Meticulously researched, Petrodollar Warfare examines US dollar hegemony and the unsustainable macroeconomics of 'petrodollar recycling,' pointing out that the issues underlying the Iraq war also apply to geostrategic tensions between the United States and other countries, including the member states of the European Union, Iran, Venezuela and Russia. The author warns that without changing course, the American experiment will end the way all empires end-with military overextension and subsequent economic decline. He recommends the multilateral pursuit of both energy and monetary reforms within a UN framework to create a more balanced global energy and monetary system-thereby reducing the possibility of future oil and oil currency-related warfare.

A sober call for an end to aggressive US unilateralism, Petrodollar Warfare is a unique contribution to the debate about the future global political economy.

William R. Clark is manager of performance improvement at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research on oil depletion, oil currency issues and US geostrategy received a 2003 Project Censored Award and was published in Censored 2004. He lives in Columbia, Maryland.

Iranian troops have shot down a U.S. pilotless spy plane

Iran shoots down U.S. spy drone amid growing military pressure 2007-01-17 08:41:25

Iran stays in the news:

Special report: Iran Nuclear Crisis

by Liang Youchang

TEHRAN, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Iranian troops have shot down a U.S. pilotless spy plane recently, an Iranian lawmaker announced on Tuesday as the Islamic Republic was facing increasing military pressure from its arch rival -- the United States.

The aircraft was brought down when it was trying to cross the borders "during the last few days," Seyed Nezam Mola Hoveizeh, a member of the parliament, was quoted by the local Fars News Agency as saying.

The lawmaker gave no exact date of the shooting-down or any other details about the incident, but he said that "the United States sent such spy drones to the region every now and then."


The announcement came amid reports that the United States is increasingly flexing its muscles to counter Iran's growing regional assertiveness and put more pressure on Tehran over its controversial nuclear programs.

It was reported Tuesday that a second U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, will arrive in the Middle East in about one month, the first time since the U.S.-led Iraq war in 2003 that the United States will have two carrier battle groups in the region.

The USS John C. Stennis, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered carrier that has a capacity for 5,000 sailors, is scheduled to sail Tuesday from its home port of Bremerton, Washington, said Commander Kevin Aandahl of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain.

In about one month, the USS John C. Stennis, including an air wing of more than 80 tactical aircraft, will join Fifth Fleet forces that includes aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

"This demonstrates our resolve to do what we can to bring security and stability to the region ... (and) dissuade others from acting counter to our national interest," Aandahl said.

U.S. President George W. Bush announced earlier this month that the United States was taking other steps to beef up security of Iraq and protect U.S. interests in the Middle East, such as sending an additional aircraft carrier to the Gulf and deploying Patriot air defense systems to the region.


The latest move comes just one day after new U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made harsh remarks against Iran, indicating that Iran's perception of U.S. vulnerability in the region was part of the reason the Pentagon sent the aircraft carrier and the Patriot missiles.

"The Iranians are acting in a very negative way in many respects," Gates told reporters on Monday after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Brussels.

"The Iranians clearly believe that we are tied down in Iraq, that they have the initiative, that they are in a position to press us in many ways," Gates said.

Gates also said that the deployment of Patriot air defense systems and the second aircraft carrier in the Gulf region indicated the Bush administration's "reaffirmation" of the importance of the region, adding that stability in the region is in "long-term, strategic, vital interests" of the United States.

The United States accuses Iran of using its influence to meddle in the region, especially in Lebanon and Shiite-majority Iraq, besides seeking a nuclear weapon, which has been rejected by Iran.

In an interview with Fox News earlier the month, Vice President Dick Cheney said that Iran was "fishing in troubled waters" in Iraq, adding "we think it's very important that they keep their folks at home."

Meanwhile, U.S. forces are still holding five Iranians arrested in northern Iraq last week, who the United States says have been connected to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard faction that arms insurgents but Tehran says are merely consular staff.

In a show of defiance, an Iranian government spokesman said on Monday that the country was pushing ahead with its plan to install at least 3,000 centrifuges for nuclear fuel production.

Suggested Reading:

From Booklist
As a U.S. Marine officer in the Gulf War, Ritter served as a ballistic missile advisor to General H. Norman Schwarzkopf and then became a high-up UN weapons inspector in Iraq until 1998. Now he is a vociferous, controversial critic of the Bush II administration and the Iraq War. In his latest expose, Ritter trains his inspector's eyes on Iran, meticulously analyzing the rhetoric about Tehran beginning with the first Bush presidency when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, then skeptically parsing the protracted, politically tangled wrangling over Iran's nuclear program, and vehemently objecting to what he sees as excessive American alignment with Israel. The most interesting figure to emerge from Ritter's flinty yet invaluable inquiry is John Bolton, current U.S. ambassador to the UN and a neo-con instrumental in pushing for regime changes in the Middle East "at any cost." In closing, Ritter offers shrewd observations about why things have cooled off regarding Iran as the midterm elections loom and cautions that war with Iran would be catastrophic and must be averted. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

US / Bush / Anti Iran actions draw Criticism

During President Bush last "speech of speeches", he laid out his "new way forward" in Iraq, which in a disturbing turn of events, included threatening the nations of Iran and Syria.

"Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity – and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing – and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region."

Bush followed up by attacking Iranian's in Iraq, which drew criticism from Russia: 2007-01-12 22:13:12

MOSCOW, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- The arrest of five Iranian consulate staff members in Iraq by the U.S. forces was an abuse of the mandate of the Multi-National Force, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said here on Friday.

The "illegitimate actions mean an open abuse of the mandate that was issued to country members of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq by the UN Security Council, an indispensable part of which is assistance to ensuring the guarding and safety of diplomatic missions in this country," Kamynin was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

U.S. forces raided the Iranian consulate in Iraq's northern city of Arbil and arrested five of its staff members, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.

"Five consulate personnel have been detained; documents and computers kept in it have been seized. The operation was allegedly aimed at intercepting the support of terrorist activity," Kamynin said.

"We believe such high-profile accusations should be backed by incontrovertible and solid proofs. But it's absolutely unacceptable that servicemen storm and seize a consulate of a foreign state in the territory of another foreign state," he said.

"It's grossest violation of the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations. It is also unclear how it conforms to the statement by the United States about Washington's respect for the sovereignty of Iraq, whose authorities, in accordance with the above Convention, should ensure the inviolability of consulates in their territory," Kamynin said.

"We consider it necessary to immediately settle this situation on the basis of the international law," the diplomat said.


Iran confirms U.S. arrest of five Iranian consulate staff in Iraq

TEHRAN, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- U.S. forces raided the Iranian consulate in Iraq's northern city of Arbil and arrested five of its staff members, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.

After disarming the consulate's guards and breaking into the gate, U.S. troops entered the office building early Thursday morning, IRNA said, confirming Iraqi state television's earlier reports.

The Iraqi state television reported earlier that Multi-National Forces in Arbil detained staff members of the Iranian consulate there and confiscated computers and some documents.

Terrified Soldiers Terrifying People

January 09, 2007

Terrified Soldiers Terrifying People

Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

FALLUJAH, Iraq, Jan 8 (IPS) - Ten-year-old Yassir aimed a plastic gun at a passing U.S. armoured patrol in Fallujah, and shouted "Bang! Bang!"

Yassir did not know what was coming. "I yelled for everyone to run, because the Americans were turning back," 12-year-old Ahmed who was with Yassir told IPS.

The soldiers followed Yassir to his house and smashed almost everything in it. "They did this after beating Yassir and his uncle hard, and they spoke the nastiest words," Ahmed said.

It is not just the children, or the people of Fallujah who are frightened.

"Those soldiers are terrified here," Dr. Salim al-Dyni, a psychotherapist visiting Fallujah told IPS. Dr Dyni said he had seen professional reports of psychologically disturbed soldiers "while serving in hot areas, and Fallujah is the hottest and most terrifying for them."

Dr. Dyni said disturbed soldiers were behind the worst atrocities. "Most murders committed by U.S. soldiers resulted from the soldiers' fears."

Local Iraqi police estimate that at least five attacks are being carried out against U.S. troops in Fallujah each day, and about as many against Iraqi government security forces. The city in the restive al-Anabar province to the west of Baghdad has been under some form of siege since April 2004.

That has meant punishment for the people. "American officers asked me a hundred times how the fighters obtain weapons," a 35-year-old resident who was detained together with dozens of others during a U.S. military raid at their houses in the Muallimin Quarter last month told IPS.

"They (American soldiers) called me the worst of names that I could understand, and many that I could not. I heard younger detainees screaming under torture repeating 'I do not know, I do not know', apparently replying to the same question I was asked."

U.S. soldiers have been reacting wildly to attacks on them.

Several areas of Fallujah recently went without electricity for two weeks after U.S. soldiers attacked the power station following a sniper attack.

Thubbat, Muhandiseen, Muallimeen, Jughaifi and most western parts of the city were affected. "They are punishing civilians for their failure to protect themselves," a resident of Thubbat quarter told IPS. "I defy them to capture a single sniper who kills their soldiers."

Many of those killed in the ongoing violence are civilians. The biggest local complaint is that U.S. forces attack civilians at random in revenge for colleagues killed in attacks by the resistance.

More than 5,000 civilians killed by U.S. soldiers have been buried in Fallujah cemeteries and mass graves dug on the outskirts of the city, according to the Study Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, a non-governmental organisation based in Fallujah.

"At least half the deceased are women, children and elderly people," group co-director Mohamad Tareq al-Deraji told IPS.

Overstretched U.S. soldiers appear to be punishing civilians while suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. IPS reported Jan. 3 that new guidelines released by the Pentagon last month allow commanders now to re-deploy soldiers suffering from such disorders.

According to the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes, service members with "a psychiatric disorder in remission, or whose residual symptoms do not impair duty performance" may be considered for duty downrange. It lists post-traumatic stress disorder as a "treatable" problem.

Steve Robinson, director of Veterans Affairs for Veterans for America told IPS correspondent Aaron Glantz that "as a layman and a former soldier I think that's ridiculous."

"If I've got a soldier who's on Ambien to go to sleep and Seroquel and Qanapin and all kinds of other psychotropic meds, I don't want them to have a weapon in their hand and to be part of my team because they're a risk to themselves and to others," he said. "But apparently, the military has its own view of how well a soldier can function under those conditions, and is gambling that they can be successful."

(Ali al-Fadhily is our Baghdad correspondent. Dahr Jamail is our specialist writer who has spent eight months reporting from inside Iraq and has been covering the Middle East for several years.)

Posted by Dahr_Jamail at January 9, 2007 12:33 AM

Monday, January 15, 2007

Video: Pelosi warns Bush shouldn't 'abuse power' on troop escalation

Pelosi warns Bush shouldn't 'abuse power' on troop escalation
- Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer
Monday, January 15, 2007

Click to View

(01-15) 12:37 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, returning to her hometown of San Francisco, strongly warned today that President Bush "should not abuse his power" with regard to troop escalation in the Iraq war and said it is the duty of Congress to "exercise oversight over his power.''

"If the president doesn't have a plan, Democrats will hold him accountable," Pelosi said in her first public appearance outside Washington since her election as speaker Jan. 4.

Regarding Bush's decision to push ahead with an escalation of about 21,500 troops in Iraq, she said, "Congress also has its role, and neither of us should abuse our power.''

The speaker's remarks, before an enthusiastic audience of 1,000 at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco, came just one day after the president and Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on talk shows maintaining the administration would forge head with the troop escalation despite strong opposition from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress and in the face of overwhelming public sentiment against the plan.

Bush, appearing Sunday on "60 Minutes," was asked about the opposition of the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

"I fully understand they could try to stop me,'' he said. "But I've made my decision, and we're going forward. I'm not going to try to be popular and change principles to do so."

Cheney was even sharper, telling Fox News that "you cannot run a war by committee," and pointedly suggesting the Democrats don't have a plan for Iraq.

"We have a plan, and he knows it," Pelosi said today as she was mobbed by well-wishers following her keynote address at the 22nd annual holiday breakfast.

Pelosi, addressing the crowd on themes regarding King's life, raised the issue of Iraq repeatedly and noted that America's troops in Iraq have shown themselves to be brave heroes and an example the nation -- just as King had.

She said that in the last election, "the American people spoke out for change," and "nowhere was that voice more clear than in the war in Iraq.'' Today, "Democrats oppose the escalation of the war," she said to cheers. "Let me repeat that: Democrats oppose the escalation of the war.

"We have said to the president ... we want you to have a plan, and this is what we suggest," said Pelosi, "a redeployment of our troops out of Iraq" to help "make the region more stable and make America safer.''

More than 3,000 Americans have died in the war, she added, and "as the numbers grows so, too, does the need for a new direction.''

With the nation spending about $2 billion a week on the Iraq war, "the costs in the readiness of our military" are becoming unacceptable -- and possibly dangerous to the country's safety, Pelosi said.

"Our troops are being overused in Iraq," she said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California Republican, appeared after Pelosi at San Francisco event and did not mention Iraq in his remarks, although this past weekend during appearances on talk shows he had supported the troop increase.

"We should give it everything in order to be victorious." Schwarzenegger said, adding that he does not want the U.S. to "pull out of this war as losers," because to do so would be "disastrous" for the region.

Schwarzenegger also repeated support for a "timeline" for U.S. troop withdrawals, saying that Iraqis have "got to be independent."

The California governor was greeted with a standing ovation, though there were scattered shouts of "Stop the War" as he took the podium.

E-mail Carla Marinucci at


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