Monday, July 16, 2007

Right Wing Power Broker Questions Bush's Sanity -Calls for withdrawal from Iraq

Scaife-Owned Newspaper Calls for Iraq Troop Withdrawal -- Questions Bush's 'Mental Stability'

NEW YORK The Pittsburgh newspaper owned by conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife yesterday called the Bush administration's plans to stay the course in Iraq a "prescription for American suicide."

The editorial in the Tribune-Review added, "And quite frankly, during last Thursday's news conference, when George Bush started blathering about 'sometimes the decisions you make and the consequences don't enable you to be loved,' we had to question his mental stability."

It continued: "President Bush warns that U.S. withdrawal would risk 'mass killings on a horrific scale.' What do we have today, sir?

"If the president won't do the right thing and end this war, the people must. The House has voted to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by April. The Senate must follow suit.

"Our brave troops should take great pride that they rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein. And they should have no shame in leaving Iraq. For it will not be, in any way, an exercise in tail-tucking and running.

"America has done its job.

"It's time for the Iraqis to do theirs."

The editorial said it agrees with its local congressman on this: Democratic U.S. Rep. John Murtha.

Richard Mellon Scaife (born July 3, 1932 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is an American billionaire and newspaper publisher.

Scaife owns and publishes the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. With $1.2 billion, Scaife, a principal heir to the Mellon banking, oil, and aluminum fortune, is No. 283 on the 2005 Forbes 400.

Scaife is particularly well known for his financial support of conservative public policy organizations over the past two decades. Scaife has provided support for conservative and libertarian causes in the U.S., mostly through the private, nonprofit foundations he controls: the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Carthage Foundation, and Allegheny Foundation, and until 2001 the Scaife Family Foundation, now controlled by his daughter Jennie and son David [1] [2]. Scaife also helped fund the Arkansas Project, which ultimately led to the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton.



From Publishers Weekly
Conason and Lyons (Fools for Scandal), veteran journalists respectively for the New York Observer and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, argue that if the opposition to the Clintons didn't quite constitute a "vast right-wing conspiracy," as the First Lady famously alleged, it was at the very least a "loose cabal" of "Clinton adversaries,... an angry gallery of defeated politicians,... right-wing pamphleteers, wealthy eccentrics, zany private detectives, religious fanatics and die-hard segregationists." They reveal how notable right-wingers like Richard Mellon Scaife (heir to the Carnegie Mellon fortune) and Jerry Falwell bankrolled the muckraking that led to scandals like Whitewater and Troopergate, neither of which, the authors claim, ever produced evidence of Clinton misconduct. Conason and Lyons also point out the ultraconservative credentials of Paula Jones's supporters, including Kenneth Starr, who privately abetted the harassment suit before he was appointed as a supposedly independent counsel. But what disturbs Conason and Lyons even more than the zeal of these conservative critics is the conduct of the national press. They make a case that their colleagues at the New York Times, Washington Post and elsewhere colluded with the most unsavory elements of the fringe right to bring unverified and frequently libelous allegations into the center of the mainstream media. The story of the Clinton scandals is a tortuous, labyrinthine puzzle, and Conason and Lyons do their best to simplify it. But their cast of characters is enormous, and their research overwhelming. Readers may not ultimately agree with the authors that the tactics of the Clinton enemies were worse than any mistake made by the president, but they will nevertheless gain a considerably more balanced and complex picture of the road to impeachment. 16 pages b&w photos. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc
The Hunting of the President

A Solution to the War in Iraq offered on Ebay

3PM Central Standard Time

Current high Bid = $6,100.00

81 bids

Among the bootleg albums, second-hand golf clubs and bargain linens on Internet auction site eBay, lot 150141399174 is perhaps more likely to attract the attention of the Pentagon.

"A Solution to the War in Iraq," is being offered by a US Army intelligence officer fed up with the conflict and anxious to attract some attention to what he says is a viable and face-saving solution to the four-year-old conflict.

"I am offering the winning bidder the solution to the war in Iraq," the seller, identified as "cptnabil," says in the bid.

"This is not a flippant or facetious offer... If you are the high bidder, I will send you a viable solution to the conflict in which we are currently engaged," the seller wrote.

The New York Post on Monday identified the seller as Army Captain Thad Krasnesky, who describes himself on eBay as a US Army military intelligence officer with an extensive background in the Middle East.

"I speak the language and understand the culture, history, and religion, well enough to construct a fair, honorable, and successful plan."

Cptnabil says he served in both the Gulf War and Iraq in military intelligence and had been involved in planning over 400 combat operations ranging from "terrorist cell take-downs to single-handed arms market raids."

"I disagree with the way the war is being handled," Krasnesky told The Post. "I think we're doing some good things over there but I think the end result is going to be bad."

Cptnabil did not immediately respond to email requests from AFP to confirm his identity.

Among potential bidders were senators, congressmen or possible presidential candidates, cptnabil wrote, suggesting to aides: "Maybe you should get everyone at the office to chip in and purchase my solution for them."

The lot comes with a buy-it-now price tag of five million dollars and if not sold will go to the highest bidder when the auction ends on Sunday.

The top bid around midday Monday was 20.50 dollars from a buyer whose most recent other bids were for gun parts, knives and military memorabilia.

A competing buyer had recently bid for women's shoes and unidentified body piercing accessories.
Copyright AFP 2005, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Executive Privlage to conceal the truth about Pat Tillman's Death

Panel Demands Records on Tillman's Death
House Committee Accuses Administration of Withholding Key Documents on Tillman Death

You can just see President Bush asking Vice President Cheney what he should do about this Tillman problem. Cheney smiles and rubs his hands together :" Just say no. Executive privilege.

President Bush:: Heh, Heh, good idea Dick.

And is just what they have done.

Withholding key documents -Why?

Two influential lawmakers investigating how and when the Bush administration learned the circumstances of Pat Tillman's friendly-fire death and how those details were disclosed accused the White House and Pentagon on Friday of withholding key documents and renewed their demand for the material.

The White House and Defense Department have turned over nearly 10,000 pages of papers mostly press clippings but the White House cited "executive branch confidentiality interests" in refusing to provide other documents.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Tom Davis, R-Va., the committee's top-ranking Republican, said Friday the documents were inadequate. They insisted that the Defense Department turn over the additional material by July 25 and asked that the White House do likewise.

Killed April 22, 2004, by friendly (?) fire in Afghanistan.

Tillman, a San Jose native, turned down a lucrative contract with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals to join the Army following the Sept. 11 attacks. He was killed April 22, 2004, by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

Public Lied to at first

Although Pentagon investigators determined quickly that he was killed by his own troops, five weeks passed before the circumstances of his death were made public. During that time, the Army claimed he was killed by enemy fire.

Tillman's family and others have said they believe the erroneous information peddled by the Pentagon was part of a deliberate cover-up that may have reached all the way to President Bush and then-Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. The committee said Friday it had scheduled a second hearing on Tillman's death for Aug. 1, this time to probe what senior Pentagon officials knew and when.

Rumsfeld and Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were among those the committee invited Friday to appear.

The White House has turned over nearly 1,100 pages of documents and the Defense Department nearly 8,500 pages since the committee requested information from them in April, part of an inquiry into why Tillman's family and the public were misled.

"The document production from the White House sheds virtually no light on these matters," Waxman and Davis wrote to White House counsel Fred Fielding, part of a renewed request for additional papers.

because they implicate executive branch

The committee made public a letter last month in which Fielding said the White House was holding back certain papers "because they implicate executive branch confidentiality interests." He added the White House had blacked out portions of "purely internal e-mails between White House personnel."

The White House's argument for withholding some papers is the same one it used last month as it rejected congressional subpoenas for documents in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Executive "confidentiality" is a lesser claim than "executive privilege" more a polite way of declining than a firm refusal and thus still leaves room for negotiation, congressional staffers involved in the matter said.

Fielding added the White House had blacked out portions of "purely internal e-mails between White House personnel."

Waxman and Davis fired back that "these are not appropriate reasons for withholding the documents from the committee." And they charged that the White House had simply held other papers back.

In particular, they expressed doubt that the two documents they'd received on communications between the White House and Pentagon on Tillman's death were the only ones of their kind. One was simply a packet of newspaper clippings.

"Corporal Tillman's death was a major national story," they wrote. "It is not plausible that there were no communications between the Defense Department and the White House about Corporal Tillman's death."

"The committee was fully aware that certain documents were withheld as our letter to them made clear last month along with our offer to discuss possible accommodation that meets the committee's interests while respecting separation of powers principles," Blair Jones, a White House spokesman, said Friday evening. "We continue to offer an opportunity for the committee to move forward in a spirit of accommodation, rather than conflict."

Waxman and Davis complained to Defense Secretary Robert Gates of a "failure to provide a complete production to the committee." For instance, the committee received no documentation on how Rumsfeld learned of Tillman's death.

They said the Pentagon had not produced any papers from, among others, the offices of Gen. John Abizaid, then head of Central Command.

A week after Tillman died, a top general sent a memo to Abizaid warning that it was "highly possible" that Tillman was killed by friendly fire. The memo made clear that the information should be conveyed to the president. The White House said there is no indication that Bush received the warning.

Two days later, the president mentioned Tillman in a speech to the White House correspondents dinner, but he made no reference to how Tillman had died.

A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

Separately, Waxman asked the Republican National Committee for copies of e-mail communications that involved Tillman and White House officials. That request was an outgrowth of the oversight committee's finding last month that 88 White House officials had e-mail accounts with the RNC, and that the administration may have committed extensive violations of a law requiring that certain records be preserved.

Chairman Waxman responds

Today Chairman Waxman and Ranking Minority Member Davis sent a letter to the White House objecting to the withholding of documents related to the death of U.S. Army Corporal Patrick Tillman, who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. As a result of deficient responses from both the White House and Defense Department, the Committee also announced an August 1 hearing to examine what senior Defense Department officials knew about Corporal Tillman’s death.

Following the Committee’s April 24, 2007, hearing on the Tillman fratricide, the Committee wrote to White House Counsel Fred Fielding seeking “all documents received or generated by any official in the Executive Office of the President” relating to Corporal Tillman’s death. The White House Counsel’s office responded that it would not provide the Committee with documents that “implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests” and produced only two communications with the officials in the Defense Department, one of which was a package of news clippings. The response of the Defense Department to the Committee’s inquiry was also deficient.

The next date in the battle with the White House : July 25, 2007

In response to the deficiencies in the White House and Defense Department productions, Chairman Waxman and Ranking Member Davis today sent letters to White House Counsel Fred Fielding and Defense Secretary Robert Gates requesting complete document production by July 25, 2007.

Oh, and how about copies of emails wrongly controlled by the Republican National Committee?

Chairman Waxman also wrote the Republican National Committee to request communications about Corporal Tillman’s death by White House officials using e-mail accounts controlled by the RNC.

In addition, the Oversight Committee announced that a hearing will be held on Wednesday, August 1, 2007, to investigate what senior officials at the Defense Department knew about Corporal Tillman’s death.

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

Other notes about Pat Tillman

Katie Couric's Notebook: Pat Tillman

Pat's brother gives evidence under oath of how they lied when his brother died.

When Bruce Snyder, Pat Tillman’s football coach at Arizona State University, told Pat he planned to redshirt him as a freshman—extending his eligibility for a year but also necessitating an additional year in college—Tillman said, "You can do whatever you want with me, Coach, but in four years, I’m gone. I’ve got things to do with my life."

And Tillman wasn’t kidding. Through sheer drive and determination, he turned an overachieving college career into a long shot at NFL stardom, becoming a late-round pick by the hometown Cardinals in the 1998 draft. Not only did the rookie make it through his first training camp, he eventually earned a starting role and, over time, became one of the league’s top players at his position.

But Tillman’s will to succeed was not confined to the football field. Deeply affected by the horrific events of September 11, 2001, he turned down a $3.6 million contract offer from the Cardinals, quit the NFL and, with his brother Kevin, enlisted in the army for a nation at war. Not just any army unit, either, but the hardcore, hard-as-nails Rangers, training for dangerous special-ops combat that would eventually put him in harm’s way in the sands of Iraq and, later, in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.

Real heroes never think of themselves as heroes. They see themselves as ordinary people performing acts any other right-minded person would do if in their shoes. Save the baby from the burning house. Jump into the foxhole and sprawl across the bodies of your buddies, shielding them from the grenade’s flying shrapnel. Bust down the cockpit door of your hijacked jetliner and dive the plane into the ground before it can crash into the U.S. Capitol. True heroes are ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

Pat Tillman was just such an American hero, killed in action on April 22, 2004. I’ve Got Things to Do with My Life is the inspirational story of this exceptionally heroic life of victory and valor.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Will our leaders be charged with War Crimes?

Called to Account

The BBC has a must-listen show on radio tomorrow titled Called to Account (times noted further below) offering a theatrical version of Tony Blair's indictment for Iraq War-related crimes. This may inspire many on this side of the Atlantic pond to think about various strategies to hold America's current political leadership accountable for duplicity and mismanagement of America's national security portfolio -- and particularly for the Iraq War.

Democracy = Western Duplicity

Democracy has become a term derided in much of the world today because for many beleaguered peoples it has come to mean Western duplicity, uneven standards between the mighty and the weak, an excuse for invasion and occupation, a code word for regime change, or obsessive focus on ballots rather than healthy civil society institutions like courts and a free media that help to keep power accountable.

If 'Democracy' is ever going to shed its bad name, accountability must be one of its fundamental pillars in any genuine system of checks and balances. There should be a price paid for serious errors by national leaders -- and an even higher price paid by those who wield power with impunity and who lie to their publics in so-called democracies.

When the revelations of Abu Ghraib became public, Donald Rumsfeld should have resigned. The fact that he did not and was not fired did more to undermine the American brand than virtually anything up until that point.

If there was no accountability for crimes of that scale, why should other foreign states abroad empty their torture prisons or work against corruption or not falsely promise reforms to their people while engaging in self-dealing for themselves or their sectarian interests?

America is struggling with the mess it is in and trying to figure out the power dynamics of fixing blame and responsibility for the Iraq War on national leaders. The current reality is that there is little stomach among moderates and conservatives in the United States to impeach Cheney or Bush for lying America into a war whose end one way or another has disastrous consequences for the nation. This may change -- and certainly the calls for an impeachment process against Cheney have picked up some momentum.

But BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting a play titled Called to Account this Saturday, 14 July 2007, at 2:30 pm UK Time and at 9:30 am EST. This can be listened to over the web live or downloaded to a podcast for later listening.

One of the principals involved in this production is British barrister and writer Philippe Sands whose book, Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules -- From FDR's Atlantic Charter to George W. Bush's Illegal War, exposed the important fact that Prime Minister Blair and President Bush decided on war with Iraq in January 2003 no matter what the outcome of diplomatic efforts.

Sands is a very serious and thoughtful legal commentator who is part of the "reasonable middle" of British political society -- and the BBC's support of such a provocative legal simulation is something that might inspire similar exercises -- even in theatrical form if not real -- in the United States.

Philippe Sands: when Bush and Blair set off to war

An updated version of international lawyer Philippe Sands’ book, Lawless World, details of a memo of a meeting between George Bush and Tony Blair’s drive to go to war against Iraq without a second United Nations (UN) security council resolution or any evidence of weapons of mass destruction was revealed last week.

The memo shows that George Bush had decided to go to war without a second UN resolution and Tony Blair was “solidly” behind him.

Philippe Sands told a press briefing last week, “A very important meeting took place between Bush and Blair on 31 January 2003 – a two hour meeting referred to in Bob Woodward’s book Plan of Attack by George Bush as the ‘famous second resolution meeting’.

“It is abundantly clear from the material I’ve seen, which was prepared by one of the very small number of people who attended that meeting, that two significant factors stand out.

“Firstly, president Bush had explicitly decided to go to war without a second resolution and he made that view clear to the prime minister.

No evidence

“The prime minister’s response was that he was ‘solidly’ with the president. That indicated that in terms of his own personal decision making the prime minister had decided to go to war with or without a second resolution.

“The second element is that the material that I have referred to is that these two gentlemen were not in possession of hard evidence of weapons of mass destruction, which would give them any degree of confidence that they would get a second resolution and hence the discussions on what some would refer to as ‘dirty tricks’.

“The prime minister wanted a second resolution for political reasons – an ‘insurance policy’ he describes it. The view was that if anything went wrong with the military campaign or Saddam increased the stakes by burning the oil wells, killing children, or fomenting internal divisions within Iraq, a second resolution would provide international cover, including with the Arabs.

“The president tells him: ‘We’re going to go without one and the starting date is pencilled in for 10 March. The diplomatic strategy has to be worked around the military planning but I’ll help you get that. We’ll threaten and twist arms.

If Saddam fires

“‘And we are thinking of taking US spy planes with fighter cover, painting them in UN colours and sending them over Iraq. If Saddam fires on them he’ll be in material breach.’

“If you have hard evidence of weapons of mass destruction you do not have to engage in this.”

Sands continued, “An early decision was taken by the prime minister. He had not by that point had legal advice. The attorney general had been told by the prime minister not to give advice at that time, presumably to give the prime minister a reasonably free hand in his decision making.

“The prime minister is 100 percent behind the US president and looking for ways to deal with difficult domestic issues.

“President Bush didn’t think there was going to be an insurgency. He tells Blair, he ‘thought it unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups’.

“One would have expected the prime minister to say, ‘Hang on a second I’m getting different advice.’ But there is nothing in the memo that indicates that the prime minister said, ‘I think you might be wrong.’

“The two of them had concocted a strategy as far back as March/April 2002. It was to go down the UN route.

“They then concocted a plan to do that but that went belly-up because they had no evidence and from their perspective [UN inspectors] Blix and El Baradei didn’t deliver the smoking gun and Iraq was cooperating.”

Sands new revelations reveal that the push for a second resolution was at best an attempt to get an “insurance policy” and at worst a facade.


Philippe Sands said, “From a political perspective of two leaders’ personal decision to commit troops to war everything that followed was a sham.

“The prime minister still had the problem of delivering troops as a domestic political issue – this was before the marches and the debates in parliament.

“He couldn’t deliver troops without overcoming significant domestic obstacles. But I think he had made up his mind and any language which suggested he was dependent on a second resolution had gone. His decision was to proceed.

“George Bush had decided much earlier he could live without a second resolution. He has been straighter than the prime minister. His view on international law is that it’s all nonsense. It wasn’t a domestic issue for him. Bush had the freedom to go politically, Tony Blair was subject to enormous political constraints.

“Bush genuinely wanted to help Blair if he could get the second resolution. If Tony Blair had a quiescent media and population, no parliament to get through, the situation would have been very different.

“People ask why is this important? We face other serious challenges, such as Iran which is on the cusp of going off to the UN security council.

“What this material tends to indicate is that we cannot have a high level of confidence in the US president and the British prime minister’s ability to take hugely important decisions in an informed and sensible way.”

State of War
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Lucid, balanced and brimming with surprises, this is a-to borrow a notorious phrase-slam dunk exposé of the CIA's recent snafus. New York Times reporter Risen is broadly sympathetic to the CIA, and his tactful use of inside sources shifts much of the blame away from field agents and toward the brass in Washington, where CIA Director George Tenet's eagerness to please his political masters and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's bureaucratic skills create the conditions for a perfect storm of intelligence failures. The book's disclosures about secret prisons, "renditions"-the transfer of suspects to countries which may torture them-and domestic wiretaps are likely to be talking points for some time, but its lasting value will be as a record of how the CIA came so tantalizingly close to the truth about Iraq's nonexistent nuclear arsenal. The retelling of one undercover operation shows the agency had direct evidence that there was no nuclear program in Iraq, but chose to doubt its source. Other scenes from the secret war on terror make novelist John Le Carre look like a timid plotter: a single misdirected message in 2004 brings down the agency's entire spy network in Iran, four years after a harebrained scheme had given Tehran flawed blueprints for a nuclear weapon-hoping to sow confusion, but possibly helping Iran to arm itself faster. Risen has written a thrilling, depressing and worrying book.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Assassins' Gate : America in IraqFrom Publishers Weekly
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens

It is extremely uncommon for any reporter to read another's work and to find that he altogether recognizes the scene being described. Reading George Packer's book, I found not only that I was remembering things I had forgotten, but also that I was finding things that I ought to have noticed myself.

His book rests on three main pillars: analysis of the intellectual origins of the Iraq war, summary of the political argument that preceded and then led to it, and firsthand description of the consequences on the ground. In each capacity, Packer shows himself once more to be the best chronicler, apart perhaps from John Burns of the New York Times, that the conflict has produced. (I say "once more" because some of this material has already appeared in the New Yorker.)

A very strong opening section traces the ideas, and the ideologists, of the push for regime change in Iraq. Packer is evidently not a neoconservative, but he provides an admirably fair and lucid account of those who are. There is one extraordinary lacuna in his tale—he manages to summarize the long debate between the "realists" and the "neocons" without mentioning Henry Kissinger—but otherwise he makes an impressively intelligent guide. Of value in itself is the ribbonlike presence, through the narrative, of the impressive exile Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya, upon whom Packer hones many of his own ideas. (I should confess that I myself make an appearance at this stage and, to my frustration, can find nothing to quarrel with.)

The argument within the administration was not quite so intellectual, but Packer takes us through it with insight and verve, giving an excellent account in particular of the way in which Vice President Cheney swung from the "realist" to the "neocon" side. And then the scene shifts to Iraq itself. Packer has a genuine instinct for what the Iraqi people have endured and are enduring, and writes with admirable empathy. His own opinions are neither suppressed nor intrusive: he clearly welcomes the end of Saddam while having serious doubts about the wisdom of the war, and he continually tests himself against experience.

The surreal atmosphere of Paul Bremer's brief period of palace rule is very well caught, but the outstanding chapter recounts a visit to the northern city of Kirkuk and literally "walks" us through the mesh of tribal, ethnic and religious rivalry. The Iraq debate has long needed someone who is both tough-minded enough, and sufficiently sensitive, to register all its complexities. In George Packer's work, this need is answered. (Oct. 15)Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His book Thomas Jefferson: Author of America (HarperCollins) was published last week.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bush's Private Millitia Blackwater management is to blame for 2004 massacre

Blackwater manager blamed for 2004 massacre in Fallujah

Military contractors write that a site manager sent four Americans on an ill-advised, fatal mission

Joseph Neff, Staff Writer

When four Blackwater USA security guards were ambushed and massacred in Fallujah in 2004, graphic images showed the world exactly what happened: four men killed, their bodies burned and dragged through the streets. A chanting mob hung two mutilated corpses from a bridge.

Since then, Congress and the families of the murdered private security contractors have been demanding answers: Why did the lightly armed and undermanned team go through the heart of one of Iraq's most hostile cities? Why did the two teams sent out that day have four members, not the usual six?

Some answers can be found in memos from a second team for Blackwater operating around Fallujah on March 31, 2004.

Blackwater, based in North Carolina, sent two squads through Fallujah without maps, according to memos obtained by The News & Observer. Both of the six-man teams, named Bravo 2 and November 1, were sent out two men short, leaving them more vulnerable to ambush.

The Bravo 2 team members had protested that they were not ready for the mission and had not had time to prepare their weapons, but they were commanded to go, according to memos written by team members. The team disregarded directions to drive through Fallujah and instead drove around it and returned safely to Baghdad that evening.

The November 1 team went into Fallujah and was massacred.

The Bravo 2 team memos, in emotional, coarse and damning language, placed the blame squarely on Blackwater's Baghdad site manager, Tom Powell.

"Why did we all want to kill him?" team member Daniel Browne wrote the following day. "He had sent us on this [expletive] mission and over our protest. We weren't sighted in, we had no maps, we had not enough sleep, he was taking 2 of our guys cutting off [our] field of fire. As we went over these things we new the other team had the same complaints. They too had their people cut."

The memos surface amid heightened congressional scrutiny of Blackwater, a private security firm based in Moyock, and the private security industry, which grows ever more valuable to the Pentagon. Reports last week indicate that there are now more private contractors than troops operating in Iraq. Blackwater has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts.

The aftermath of the killings shows one difference between contractors and the military. Had an officer sent four lightly armed soldiers into Fallujah, he would likely have faced public scrutiny in the military justice system. In this case, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has been trying to get documents such as these memos from Blackwater without success.

The families of the four men killed in the ambush -- Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona, Scott Helvenston and Michael Teague -- sued Blackwater in Wake County Superior Court in an effort to find out what happened. Blackwater countersued the estates of the four men in federal court, successfully arguing for arbitration, in which the proceedings are closed to the public and the investigation of the incident can be much more limited.

Powell, the site manager, left Blackwater shortly after the Fallujah incident
. He will not discuss the event while litigation is pending, said his attorney, Clifford Higby of Panama City, Fla. Efforts to reach the other Blackwater contractors for comment were unsuccessful.

Blackwater, owned by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince,
did not respond to requests for comment starting in early June. A company lawyer, John W. Phillips of Seattle, sent a letter protesting the paper's possession of the memos and suggesting possible legal action if they were used in a news report.

Mission under protest

Team Bravo 2 arrived in Baghdad late on the night of March 30, 2004, according to the memo written by team leader Jason Shupe. The team members had just driven up from Kuwait after flying in from the United States.

At that point in the war, attacks on the U.S. military had been growing steadily. Still, aid workers and journalists could travel throughout Iraq. Today, by contrast, they are largely confined to safe zones in Baghdad.

Then, as now, the U.S. was leaning more heavily on private security contractors than in any previous war. Many of the contractors are paid far more than soldiers for their work guarding U.S. officials or, in the case of the four who were killed, empty flatbed trucks.

In a meeting held just before midnight, Powell -- the Blackwater site manager -- told Shupe that his team would likely go on a mission the next morning. Shupe protested; his team members were fighting jet lag and had not "sighted" their weapons, or adjusted the scopes so that the bullets would hit the targets sighted in the cross hairs.

The next morning, Powell said the mission was on, according to memos from three team members. Bravo 2 was ordered to go to the Jordanian border and pick up an executive for ESS, a food catering company, and escort him to Baghdad. The team would go in two vehicles, with two men in each vehicle. Two team members would stay in Baghdad.

Shupe protested, calling it "a bad idea" to send out the crew shorthanded: "Tom disregarded our concern and stated, 'The guys in Falluja only have four guys, you can do this mission with four guys.' " Shupe and the other team members were concerned that vehicles with a driver and one passenger could not protect themselves against attack from the rear.

Powell said he was keeping two men from the squad in Baghdad.

Shupe argued back, according to his memo: "I stated very sarcastically, 'you are going to split my team so you can have an admin guy and a phone watch. ... [M]y guys were fighting jet lag, we have not sighted our weapons in, we have no maps of the route, and no one is familiar with the route.' "

Powell responded: "The route is easy you just drive to Falluja, then through Fallujah to Al Ramiadia then to the boarder."

Do the job or go home

Shupe wrote that he continued to argue against the mission and noted that Blackwater's contract with ESS didn't start until April 3.

"Tom stated 'everything is not a debate you do your job and I will do mine,' " Shupe wrote. Powell gave him an ultimatum, Shupe wrote: Do the job, or go home.

Shupe briefed his team. Like Shupe, they thought the mission was a bad idea, according to the written accounts of two other team members.

Shupe and his three teammates left Baghdad in two vehicles, with four extra cans of fuel. Shupe wrote that he had no idea where or when he would be able to refuel.

As Bravo 2 drove into Fallujah on Highway 10, the team came to an interchange and passed a road sign that pointed to Fallujah. They made a U-turn to go back into Fallujah, as Powell had instructed. But Shupe then decided to pull off the highway. He wrote that he found a map with Highway 10 on it and consulted a global positioning system device.

"I made the call to stay on the highway," Shupe wrote. "The road that we would have got on would have taken us into downtown Falluja. This was at approx. 1000 hrs."

A deadly ambush

Unknown to Shupe, about a half-hour before, Blackwater's November 1 squad had driven into Fallujah, on its way to Camp Ridgeway, an American base west of town. Two team members had been kept behind in Baghdad.

Batalona and Zovko were in the front vehicle, followed by three empty flatbed trucks, followed by Helvenston and Teague in the rear vehicle. Gunmen approached the rear of the convoy and shot Helvenston and Teague. When the lead vehicle doubled back, the gunmen shot and killed Batalona and Zovko. A crowd gathered, set the cars on fire, pulled the men out and dragged their bodies through the street.

Oblivious of the massacre, Bravo 2 drove to the Jordanian border.

Back in Baghdad, Troy James Lewis, one of the Bravo 2 members kept behind, was handed several boxes of maps and told to sort them out, he wrote.

"I came across a small bundle of maps, approximately 5-6, that were listed at the tops as Al Falluja," Lewis wrote. "I thought this to be an important find as I remembered that my team had gone out without any maps of Al Falluja because they were told there were not any to be had."

Lewis finished his task and sat around drinking coffee. After lunch, Lewis wrote, the other Bravo 2 team member who stayed behind, Jay Suits, pounded on his door, visibly upset. He said a Blackwater team had been hit. The two men ran into Powell's office. Powell told them that a Blackwater team had been attacked and that Powell would lead a "quick reaction force" of five men to Fallujah.

"I immediately thought this to be a very bad idea as it sounded tactically unsound as we were obviously out numbered and out gunned," Lewis wrote. "The mission was later scrubbed."

Meanwhile, Bravo 2 arrived at the Jordanian border and picked up the ESS executive, who had been waiting for hours. While filling up the vehicles, Shupe got a phone call from Kuwait telling him that a Blackwater team had been ambushed. Shupe spoke with Powell: "The conversation was very vague and he was still trying to figure out what the situation was."

After the call, Shupe decided he wasn't going to take any more information or orders from Powell. The team stopped at an American military base for information, then drove back safely to Baghdad, taking care to skirt Fallujah.

The next day, Browne typed up an angry report on the day: "If [Powell] had been right and by treating us like children had saved our lives I would be eternally grateful. As it is he [expletive] up and the mission that he sent them out on with no planning and preparation went bad and all aboard died."

Browne later wrote a second report in a more analytical tone. He did not, however, back away from his initial report: "While it is not cool, calm and collected it is accurate."

US Private mercenaries Mutilated in Fallujia

Video :BLACKWATER the US Secretive Mercenary Firm

Video- Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers (part 4 of 8)


Soldier to sue the military, fighting his fifth order to combat

After serving in Afghanistan and three times in Iraq, an Army Reserve sergeant from Port St. Lucie recoiled at still another deployment. BY AMY DRISCOLL

CARL JUSTE / MIAMI HERALD STAFF Erik Botta is an Army Reservist who has done four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is now being called for a fifth tour. Audio | Interview with Erik Botta Slide show | Called to duty

PORT ST. LUCIE -- Erik Botta believes he's done right by his country.

Days after 9/11, as a young Army reservist, he volunteered to go to war. He was soon in Afghanistan.

The next year, he was sent out again, this time to Iraq, part of a Special Operations team.

In the next two years, he was sent to Iraq again. And again.

He thought he was done. But now, the Army wants Sgt. Botta one more time.

The 26-year-old Port St. Lucie man has been ordered to report to Fort Jackson, S.C., on July 15 for his fifth deployment. And that has compelled Botta, a first-generation American who counts himself a quiet patriot, to do something he never thought he'd do: sue the Army.

''I'm proud of my service,'' he said. ``I never wanted it to end like this.''

Nearly seven years into his eight-year commitment to the reserves, the personal costs are higher for Botta. He could lose his home. His job at Sikorsky, working on the Black Hawk military helicopter, could be on the line. He's halfway to his electrical engineering degree, planning a career in defense work, but his professors say he'll suffer a significant setback if he is deployed. He doesn't mention the danger another deployment would bring, but his wife and parents do.

''I'm proud of being in the Army,'' he said. ``They taught me responsibility. They taught me maturity. And they gave me a good toolbox of technical skills to work with. I think I'd be more valuable to my country at this point by being here, getting my degree and working at Sikorsky.''

In a lawsuit he expects to file this week in federal court in Florida, Botta says he will ask for an exemption or delay so that he can complete his engineering studies. He will also ask the court to prevent the Army from requiring him to report for duty until the legal questions are settled.

His attorney, Mark Waple -- a West Point graduate and former military judge advocate who practices in Fayetteville, N.C. -- says Botta's case shows that the Army is inconsistent in its decisions when selecting reservists for involuntary mobilization, over and over.

''This is an arbitrary decision by the Army Human Resources Command with no rational basis,'' Waple said.


Deployment now would mean that he could no longer afford his house -- his wife would probably have to move in with her parents. Plans to start a family would be on hold. He would probably have to repeat some engineering courses after his return, and he might even lose the job he just landed about a month ago. Previously, he worked at Pratt & Whitney in the Joint Strike Fighter and Raptor engine programs.

''This is no peace protester,'' Waple said. ``I wouldn't have touched this case with a 10-foot pole if it was. He's put the boots on and been in combat.''

Although Botta knew there was a risk that he would be called to duty again, he assumed that it was very slight, given his four combat deployments, pursuit of an engineering degree and employment with military contractors, he said.

''The world pretty much stopped when I got the notice,'' said Botta, weighing each word. ``I've sacrificed a lot for the military. I didn't want to end with litigation, but I feel I've done my service to my country. I've done what I signed up for in more ways than one.''

The Army doesn't agree. It turned down one appeal, with another pending but unofficially denied. Last year, it granted Botta a 287-day delay, pushing his deployment date to this month, after an inquiry by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

''This is something we're starting to see more of,'' Bryan Gulley, Nelson's spokesman, said about repeat deployments. ``It's one of the reasons Nelson has been saying we have to stop relying so heavily on the [National] Guard and the Reserve.''

Army spokeswoman Maj. Cheryl Phillips issued a statement Friday regarding Botta's case, saying in part that the Army evaluates ``each request independently to determine if the mobilization will cause undue hardship for the soldier or the family. We appreciate the sacrifice our citizen soldiers and their families make when called to active duty.''

The Army has granted 87 percent of delays requested by soldiers -- most are 90 days or less -- and 54 percent of exemptions, the statement said. It did not comment on Botta's case, but the Army said in a letter sent to him regarding one of his appeals that he did not ``meet the requirements for a hardship exemption/discharge.''

Botta joined the reserves in 2000 and asked to be activated in 2001 -- ''I felt like I had to do something'' after 9/11, he said -- and his tours of duty have lasted up to eight months. He left active duty at the end of 2004.

Under his current reporting date, he might not even complete the semester; classes end in August.

Attorney Waple says the Army has granted an exemption in at least one similar case, in 2005. A 24-year-old North Carolina enlisted Army reservist with two combat tours under his belt -- in Iraq and Kosovo -- was involuntarily mobilized while attending community college in Raleigh, pursuing a degree in chemical engineering.

He had completed five of his eight years in the service, Waple said. The man's first appeal was denied, but after Waple filed a second appeal, he was given an exemption and honorably discharged, Waple said.

Botta's case may be even stronger. He has completed more years of service and more combat tours, has a job in the defense industry while pursuing his engineering degree, and was granted a 287-day delay already, Waple noted.

Botta has tried hard to avoid a suit, Waple said, filing every appeal available within the Army's justice system. Botta and his wife have sent letters to everyone from Sen. Nelson to the White House. His professors and employers have sent letters, too, on his behalf.

''It's an awkward thing for any serviceman,'' Waple said. ``He has a very strong sense of responsibility and duty to serve.''

In his own letters to the Army, Botta notes that he is attending school on the GI Bill, maintaining a 3.9 grade-point average, and is grateful that he can use his Army skills in his work with military contractors.

''If I was to go back to the Army at this juncture in my life, I could very well lose my house and be in considerable debt for years to come,'' Botta wrote. ``I am proud of the fact that I can still continue to serve my country with the knowledge that I have acquired from the U.S. Army.''

The Army's response during the appeals, Botta said, has been ``minimal communication.''

Carlos Botta, his father, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina, said he applauded his son's military service -- until now. ``He served in Afghanistan. He served three times in Iraq. The odds are getting slimmer and slimmer for him. He might get hurt. Don't you think he has served the country enough already?''


Botta's wife, Jennifer, who married him between Iraq stints, said she can't face the idea of his returning to combat. Losing their house, painful as that would be, is the least of her worries.

''He's been over there four times. There's only so many times you can go over without something happening . . . .'' Her voice trailed off.

During his deployments, she said, she would watch television news reports about bombings and then count the hours until he called. ''My cellphone was in my hand 24 hours a day,'' she said. ``I never let it go.''

For Erik Botta, who keeps his hair military-short, the last few months have played out as a struggle between his battle-hardened loyalty to the Army and an abiding sense of what's right.

''We were in a wartime situation,'' he said. ``I did what they asked me to do. I went over and did it. And then when I was leaving, they told me I could leave. They told me to get on with my life, and I did. Now it seems they've changed their mind.''

But he doesn't regret his service -- at all. ``I'm proud to be in the Army, and I'm proud -- cheesy as it might sound -- I'm proud to be an American.''


The average soldier gains 10 pounds while deployed

Fattening menus for troops in Iraq
Dietitians note that fried food and desserts dominate the selection at dining facilities, putting U.S. forces at risk of weight gain.
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Times Staff Writer
July 9, 2007


The Army has loaded the menu at the 70 chow halls, run by contractor KBR, with a buffet of fattening fare, from cheese steaks to tacos and Rocky Road ice cream. Many soldiers gain more than 15 pounds on a deployment, military dietitians say. They are also seeing soldiers return from Iraq with higher cholesterol, mostly due to their eating habits.

Lt. Col. Maggie Brandt, a surgeon at the 28th Combat Support Hospital who had just come from a swim, said she was dieting but couldn't resist the pistachio ice cream.

"I'm on a 'see food' diet. If I see food, I eat it," joked Brandt, 44, of Ypsilanti, Mich.

Soldiers are just as susceptible to overeating and packing on the pounds as anyone else, said Donald Williamson, a professor of nutrition at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

"Iraq presents some added challenges people don't face here — sitting around a lot, then going from boring to distressing in a matter of minutes," he said.

In Iraq, it's up to a handful of military dietitians to steer the troops away from that second piece of pie a la mode and to the salad bars. Most recognize the hold food has in a place where a taste of home brings comfort.

"There are three things that are absolutely crucial for morale: mail, food and showers," said 1st Lt. Susan Stankorb, a licensed dietitian with the 28th Combat Support Hospital, a mobile unit that is currently based at Baghdad's Ibn Sina Hospital. "You have to have your chicken nuggets and your ice cream now and again. For the soldiers, that helps."

Counting the calories

But how many calories does the average soldier need?

Most MREs, or meals ready to eat, contain about 1,300 calories; three a day are recommended. Supplemented with energy bars and drinks, they give soldiers the 4,500 to 5,000 calories they need for an active day of patrols or on the front line.

But many of the 400,000 meals served daily at chow halls in Iraq are consumed by soldiers who spend most of their time on base or at desk jobs.

And dietary misconceptions abound. Some soldiers load up on high-calorie meat to avoid perceived protein deficiencies. They guzzle sugary sodas, energy drinks and fruit juice to avoid dehydration when they're better off with water.

Many times soldiers don't even realize how poorly they're eating, Stankorb said. So she photographed some of their white plastic dinner plates of food and posted the pictures outside her office with cautionary calorie breakdowns under the headline: "The average soldier gains 10 pounds while deployed. Don't let that happen to you!"

A sample meal of fried chicken, two cheese sandwiches, chili, cheesecake, Gatorade and orange soda racked up 2,395 calories. A more conservative meal of fried chicken, brown rice, peas and diet soda was only 716 calories, but still above the 500-calorie plate Stankorb recommends for those trying to lose or maintain their weight.

Of course, soldiers also snack between meals, on care packages full of cookies, candy from the post exchange, or fries, pizza and Frappuccinos ("liquid sugar" to military dietitians) from fast food purveyors. There are 73 such outlets on U.S. bases in Iraq, according to the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, which operates them. They include Burger King, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

"For some of them, it's their third or fourth deployment, and there's only so many menu options you can offer," Stankorb said. "They're burnt out on the dining facilities and so they go for the Burger King or the Easy Mac their wife sends."

Battling bulge

Soldiers have their weight checked against a chart every six months. If they're too heavy, a commander uses a tape measure around the waist, hips and other areas to gauge their body fat. If soldiers fail this "tape test" they won't be promoted or receive awards until they lose the weight.

A Pentagon study released in January found the number of overweight service members had increased 20% in the last decade. Almost one-third of 18-year-olds who applied for military service in 2005 were overweight, according to a recent Army report.

Dietitians here say their main concern is that soldiers be fit to fight and don't become a burden on their unit in the field.

"Our soldiers are like world-class athletes. They should train properly and they should eat properly because that can have a direct impact on the success of their missions," said Lt. Col. John Ruibal, who saw soldiers eat cheesecake for dinner when he served as dietitian with 30th Medical Brigade in Baghdad last year. "If they don't eat properly or drink properly the mission may suffer; one of their soldiers may be at risk."

But with so many extended deployments to boost the U.S. military buildup, dietitians realize it may be too much to ask soldiers already under stress and far from home to diet.

"Sometimes, I'm not sure it's appropriate to enforce the weight standards for soldiers in theater who are facing a lot of stress," Stankorb said. "At the same time, when you pick someone up who's 270 pounds on a litter, it's a challenge. And it does create some health risks."

So dietitians created a Weight Watchers-style program called "Operation Weight Loss," posted cards in the chow halls that show the calories, fat and sodium for different foods and even mounted "Biggest Loser" weight loss competitions.

But Hawks, 35, said eating healthily can be tough for soldiers in the field facing greater danger and fewer meal options. He said he couldn't blame a friend of his who holed up with some junk food after seeing the trailer next to his hit by a mortar shell, killing the soldier inside.

"I've heard people say, 'Today could be my last day,' and they'll eat," Hawks said. "But I want to be where I can run as fast as I can to that bunker when I hear a duck-and-cover order."


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Al-Qaeda threatens war against Iran

The leader of an al-Qaeda umbrella group in Iraq, who was thought to have been killed by US forces, has threatened to wage war against Iran unless it stops supporting Shias in Iraq within two months.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State in Iraq, said his Sunni fighters have been preparing to wage a battle against Shia-dominated Iran.

Al-Baghdadi made the announcement in an audiotape that was posted on a web site commonly used by armed groups.

The 50-minute audiotape, which was released on Sunday, could not be independently verified.

US forces had earlier claimed to have killed al-Baghdadi.

Major General William Caldwell, the commander of the multinational force in Iraq, told a press conference in Baghdad that US forces had killed Muharib Abdulatif al-Juburi on May 1.

Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf, operations director at the Iraqi interior minister, told state television that al-Juburi was also known as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.


"We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two-month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shia government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you," al-Baghdadi said.

Iraq's Shia-led government is backed by the US but closely allied to Iran.

The United States accuses Iran of arming and financing Shia militias in Iraq, charges Tehran denies.

In the recording, al-Baghdadi also gave Sunnis and Arab countries doing business in Iran or with Iranians a two-month deadline to cease their ties.

"We advise and warn every Sunni businessman inside Iran or in Arab countries especially in the Gulf not to take partnership with any Shia Iranian businessman, this is part of the two-month period," he said.

Al-Baghdadi said his group was responsible for two suicide truck bomb attacks in May in Iraq's northern Kurdish region. He said the attacks in Irbil and Makhmur showed the "Islamic jihad" was progressing in the Kurdish areas.

What this means:

That Al-Qaeda, at least in Iraq is Sunni.

The Sunni's are continually battling against militant Shiite groups in Northern Iraq.

The Government of Iraq is lead by a Shiite.

The Government of Iran is Shiite and has been sending weapons into Iraq to help the Shiites.

Bush has openly condemned the Iraqi Sunni:

"The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein -- and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group."

The US claims to be `partners' with Iraq's current Shiite led government - however

US funding Al Qaeda Sunni Terroist.

Other Links:

Bombs Explode & Accusations Fly : US - Iran War Ratchets Up a Few Notches.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Video: Of protest song "Prarie Chapel Road"

A song and video for Cindy Sheehan written by Eric Folkerth. Pictures by Jeff Paterson of "Not in Our Name."

These images were taken in August of 2005, during the first weeks of Camp Casey.

The song, "Prarie Chapel Road" was written in honor of the peace movement, and Cindy Sheehan. More information about the song is available here:

Videos: Olbermann: The Administration doesn't support the Troops

Two short videos of Kieth Olberman on Nightline

"Our troops are idling in the kill zone They are sitting around while the leadership waits to see what happens."

There is no place that is truly safe. They never get a break while they are in conbat. We used to call it groundhog day, where every day seems like the last. Everyday you are in danger. Every day you are worried about your buddies. Everyday your trying to make sure that everyone around you stays alive."

Perry Jefferies, First Sergeant, USA (retired)

The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan, Gen. William Odom feels the only way to get the troops out of Iraq is to threaten President Bush with impeachment.

Gen. Wesley Clark weighs in:

The Administration does not support the troops.

3592 have died

The administration hasn't given the troops the body armor and other proper equipment.

The administration hasn't given them a winning strategies.

The administration hasn't taken care of the veterans when they come home.

The administration supports only their political aim.

Report from Iraq: many Servicemen and Civilians Slaughtered

Eight US Servicemen Killed

The U.S. military on Saturday reported that eight American servicemembers were killed in fighting in Baghdad and western Anbar province over two days, reflecting the increased U.S. death toll that has come with the new offensives.

Seven US Servicemen Killed days earlier

The U.S. military on Saturday said four soldiers were killed a day earlier in two roadside bomb attacks on their patrols in Baghdad. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were killed Friday when an explosively formed penetrator exploded near their patrol in southeastern Baghdad. Explosively formed penetrators are high-tech bombs that the U.S. believes are provided by Iran, a charge denied by Tehran.

On Thursday, two Marines were killed in western Anbar province and a soldier died in Baghdad, the latest military statement said.

Another soldier died Friday of non-battle-related cause and his death is under investigation, the military said without giving further details.

The deaths bring to 3,599 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

British troops also under heavy attack

In the far south of Iraq, British troops came under heavy attack by militants in Basra, killing one soldier and wounding three, the British military said Saturday.

The troops were hit by bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms during an arrest operation in the city before dawn, the military said in a statement. Coalition aircraft destroyed roadside bombs as the British soldiers were extracted from the city, it said.

Britain has withdrawn hundreds of troops from Iraq, leaving a force of around 5,500 based mainly on the fringes of Basra, BASRA (pronounced BAHS-rah) is Iraq's second-largest city, a port city and provincial capital in southeastern Iraq 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.. Population estimates range from 1.3-million to 1.7-million. It was badly damaged during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Predominantly Shiite Muslim, Basra suffered neglect and often repression under Saddam Hussein. British bases come under frequent mortar attacks from Shiite militias.

150 civilians killed -200 injured in Suicide bombing

TUZ KHORMATO, Iraq (AP) — A suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives in the crowded outdoor market of a Shiite farming town north of Baghdad on Saturday, levelling houses and stores and killing more than 100 people, officials said.

Saturday's blast ripped through the market in Armili at around 8:30 am, as crowds had gathered for morning shopping. The explosion destroyed old mud-brick houses and set cars on fire. Victims had to be transported in farmers' pickups to the nearest health facility, in Tuz Khormato, 27 miles to the north.

Authorities and residents spent hours digging bodies out of the rubble of two dozen shops and houses, police said. Accounts of the ftoll varied, hampered by the difficulty of the search and the farming town's remote location.

Deputy governor of Salahuddin province Abdullah Jabara, told state-run Iraqiya television that 115 died — 70% of them women, children and elderly. He blamed al-Qaeda for the attack.

Police Col. Sherzad Abdullah, an officer in the Tuz Khormato police, also told the Associated Press that 115 were killed and some 200 wounded. Tuz Khormato's police chief, Col. Abbas Mohammed Amin, set the toll at 150 dead.

At the market, "I saw destruction everywhere, dozens of cars destroyed, about 15 shops and many houses, even some more than 700 meters away," said Haitham Yalman, whose daughter and sister were wounded.

Weeping and screaming relatives search frantically for word of loved ones at Tuz Khormato's hospital. Ali Hussein read the names of victims being moved further north to Kirkuk for treatment. "My cousin has died in the explosion but I don't know the fate of my brother," he said in tears.

Armirli, 100 miles north of Baghdad, is a town of 26,000, mostly Shiites from Iraq's Turkoman ethnic minority. Residents said tensions were constantly high with Sunni Arabs who dominate the villages of the surrounding countryside. Iraqi security presence is scant in the region, at a remote corner of Salahuddin province near the border with neighboring Diyala province.

Earlier Blast killed 22 civilians -wounded 17

The blast — hours after a smaller suicide bombing in another Shiite village killed more than 20.

A suicide bomber detonated a boobytrapped car at around 9:30 pm at a funeral being held in the Shiite Kurdish village of Zargosh, in the Sadiya region of Diyala province about 75 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said.

The blast killed 22 people and wounded 17 others, said the head of Diyala provincial council, Ibrahim Bajilan, and a police official in the provincial capital of Baqouba, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. The village is home to about 30 Kurdish families who had been expelled under Saddam Hussein's rule and returned after his fall.

Sunni's moving attacks beyond US offensive

There is a great probability that Sunni militants are regrouping to launch attacks in regions further away from Baghdad where security is thinner, beyond the edges of a three-week old U.S. offensive on the capital's northern flank.

The U.S. military in Iraq, beefed up by new deployments this year, is conducting an intensified security crackdown in the capital aimed at bringing calm to Baghdad. At the same time, U.S. forces are waging offensives south of Baghdad and to the north, around Baqouba, aiming to uproot al-Qaeda fighters and other Sunni insurgents who use the areas as staging ground for attacks in the capital.

American commanders acknowledge many insurgent leaders fled Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, just ahead of the U.S. assault there.

The new back-to-back bombings suggest the militants have moved a step further frm the capital, but are still are able to unleash devastating attacks.

"Because of the recent American military operations, terrorists found a good hideout in Salahuddin province, especially in the outskirts areas in which there isn't enough number of military forces there," said Ahmed al-Jubouri, an aide of the province's governor.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Remembering the first Fallen: Sgt. Jacob L. Butler

When you here the number being of soldiers being killed in Iraq daily, some days many, others just a few, we loose sense that the numbers actually stand for lives. Lives with stories that have been ended. I hope to remember them all, find out as much as possible and then post a rememberance even though I am now meeting them for the first time.

Sgt. Jacob L. Butler :: Hometown: Wellsville, Kansas, U.S.
Age: 24 years old :: Died: April 1, 2003 in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Unit: Army, Headquarters Co., 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment

Incident: Killed by small-arms fire during a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Assamawah.

Official Report of his death

April 02, 200

The Department of Defense announced today the identification of the following two soldiers who were killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. They are:

Sgt. Jacob L. Butler, 24, was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, Fort Riley, Kan. He was killed in action on April 1, 2003, in Assamawah, Iraq, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle. Butler was from Wellsville, Kan.

Spc. Brandon J. Rowe, 20, was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. He was killed in action on March 31, 2003, in Ayyub, Iraq, by enemy artillery. Rowe was from Roscoe, Ill. (1.)

Messages from his friends --after his death.

"Sgt Butler, this is Spc Kerns, i am a medic with the 307th Eng Bn in the 82nd abn div, i was there with you in the aid station when your vehicle was hit, i was the one trying to breath for you. nothing felt real. i am sorry for your family and friends. i wish i could have saved all the soldiers i came across. you will never be forgotten. thank you for what you did for us."
Spc Michael Kerns "Doc" of Ft Bragg NC

"i told you people would talk about you jake. wish the subject was better.i was jakes driver on the day of the attack and had the honer and privelage to serve with him from march 02 till that day. im there right now in baghdad fighting in your honer. i love you jake rest in peace brother
brandon k scanlon of hhc i-41 infantry

"have a cold one waiting for me bro"
8ball of iraq

"We Love You And Miss You Happy Birthday!"
Your Family of Wellsville , Kansas

"I worked for Jake and was a very close friend to him. He was always there up to the last moment helping me out. I was in the firefight that Jake was killed in and I know that he died helping us get out of there. I love you Jake and I owe my life to you."
SPC Kenneth Davis of Fort Riley, KS

"Jeez, it seems like just yesterday, we were sharing an apartment outside of Ft. Hood and then I get the news...... what are we to do without you. I feel awful that I couldn't have been there with you, but alas we all go our seperate ways. I saw SSG Mack a while back and we talked about you. Sfc. Heeter was there along with Rod and Blizz. We know you did the right thing, only wish it would've been different. We miss you and feel your family's loss, for you were a part of ours as well. We love you and always will."
Sgt. Newell of 1/509TH ING BN (ABN)

Other reports: Local News:

Butler graduated from Wellsville High School in 1996 and was remembered as a hard-working youngster, well-liked and respected.

Debbie Nolke owns the grocery store where Butler worked for about four years while in high school. He started as a stock boy and eventually was locking up the store at night. Nolke recalled he was responsible and "a real hard worker." Like others in town, she knew him as Jake.

Nolke said she asked Butler's family about their son each time they were in the store, but she heard about his death from a customer.

"Yesterday, they said he was guarding prisoners in Kuwait and today we heard this," Nolke said. "It was a great loss for the community and for the nation."

Librarian Becky Dodd remembered how Butler carried groceries to her car.

"He wouldn't take a tip for taking out my groceries," Dodd said. "I tried, I remember that."

Army officials told Butler's parents, Cindy and James Butler, that their son died in Assamawah, Iraq, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle.

Jerad Rhoades worked with Butler at the grocery store and like many others in town summed him up in two words - "nice guy."

"He was always nice to everybody. It didn't matter who you were, he was always friendly," Rhoades said.

Joe Butler, Jacob's twin brother, said, "I just know for a fact that he died fighting for our freedom and doing something that he loves to do."

Joe Butler said his brother joined the Army in 1998. He was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and transferred to Fort Riley in November 2001.(2_

Other reports: AP News:

As Jacob Butler's family bands together, his father is reminded of the reason his son was serving in Iraq. "He was kind, care-giving and loving," Jim Butler said. Butler of Wellsville, Kan., and based at Fort Riley, was killed April 1 by a rocket-propelled grenade. (3)

Butler Range Complex

The 1st Armored Division built a multi-purpose range complex at a location to the east of Baghdad (what the Iraqis used to call Kirzah. The Butler Range Complex will allow the soldiers of this division to continue to hone their gunnery skills in everything from small arms to tank and rocket gunnery.

The range is named in honor of Sgt. Jacob L. Butler, the first 1AD soldier killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Butler, a scout for 3rd BCT's 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, died during one of the first heavy engagements of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The battalion was supporting elements of the 82nd Airborne Division in and around the southern Iraqi town of as-Samwah when they ran into heavy opposition near a bridge as they crossed the Euphrates River. The battalion's scouts were sent forward to assess the enemy's strength on the far side of the bridge. When a fellow scout was wounded after a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle, Butler went forward to continue the reconnaissance mission and rescue his fellow Soldier. He was killed when small-arms fire and an RPG struck his vehicle. Butler was the first Soldier from the 1st Armored Division to die in Iraq during OIF. His death stunned the battalion. "Sgt. Butler took the fight to the enemy so the enemy couldn't bring the fight to us," said 3rd BCT commander Col. Russ Gold during the dedication ceremony. "His actions that day saved the lives of his fellow Soldiers and countless others that followed."

In the outskirts of Baghdad, the sounds of mortar rounds and tank blasts echo over a barren desert and Soldiers fight invisible enemies. It sounds like a war, but the ammunition fired is not from the heat of battle but rather a controlled training environment. Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, are supporting the Butler Range Compound. The service they provide allows units stationed in Iraq, as well as Iraqi forces, to conduct vital training. In November 2004 soldiers from 2 BCT provide force protection security for the small, isolated training base. This frees units to conduct training without incident.
The sounds of sporadic small arms fire and explosions have become commonplace here in recent months, but 20 miles east of Baghdad, a remote desert area, the sounds will be a constant. A new weapons firing range, known as the Kirzah Range, was built for coalition forces and will soon be fully functional. The opening date was scheduled 10 October 2003; however four ranges were open by late September. Ground was broken for the site Aug. 13. Built by the 1457th Engineer Battalion, a Utah Army National Guard unit and the 203rd Engineer Battalion, a Missouri Army National Guard unit, the site has all amenities of existing Army compounds in Iraq, and maybe even more than most.

"The intent is having a permanent range for as long as the U.S. is here," said Capt. Lance Pearce, A Company commander, 203rd Engineer Battalion. As of late September 2003 there were 46 16-by-32 foot barracks, large enough to hold 10 soldiers comfortably and up to 18 at maximum capacity. Nine structures will be home for the permanent party range controllers. All will be equipped with air conditioning and electricity. Restrooms equipped with showers, sink and toilets are under construction as well as a dining facility and a laundry facility. According to Pearce, up to 500 soldiers can live in the area at one time.

More than 300 engineers from the 203rd Engineer Battalion have taken on the task of building the wooden structures. For security purposes, the 1457th Engineer Battalion formed a berm with the use of heavy equipment. The work can be very rewarding for the soldiers. "Many of the soldiers do this in the civilian world," said Pearce.

Encompassing 56 square kilometers, there will be eight different types of ranges at the site which will include small arms firing, squad live fire, aviation, Paladins and artillery position, convoy live fire and machinegun transition, according to Sgt. First Class Bill Courchen, 1st Armored Division's Bradley master gunner. Courchen said the schedule of those units designated to use the range has already been made for the next six months. Each brigade will have six to eight weeks to use the range. "All weapons systems organic to the division will be able to shoot here," Courchen said.

Brig. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, 1st Armored Division's (AD) Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver), and Command Sgt. Maj. Nathaniel Hopkins, 3rd Brigade Combat Team Command Sergeant Major, unveil a sign marking the opening of the Butler Range Complex, Nov. 7, 2003. The first range of its type anywhere in Iraq, Butler Range Complex is capable of supporting various types of tank, artillery and infantry gunnery training, which is critical to maintaining a Soldier's war-fighting skills. The maneuver battalions in 3rd BCT have already begun blasting away at targets on the range, honing their skills should they be needed again in Iraq.

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