13/10/03 GI Special #112: Dual Power in Baghdad?
“Thomas B” <thomasfbarton@earthlink.net>
Subject: GI Special 112: Dual Power in Baghdad?

GI SPECIAL #112


BAD DAY: A U.S. Army soldier secures the scene after attacker slammed an explosives-rigged car into a barrier Sunday outside the Baghdad Hotel Oct 12, 2003, home to many U.S. officials and security agents.  

BRING HIM HOME NOW, ALIVE.

Dual Power?

Shia Leader Sets Up New Government To Oppose Occupation Stooges As Baghdad Protests Grow

NDTV Correspondent and Ian Fisher, The New York Times, 12 October 2003

Saturday, October 11, 2003 (Baghdad): (NDTV Correspondent) In yet another sign from the Iraqi people that they want the Americans out, a prominent Shi’ite leader has said he has formed a new government rejecting the American occupation.

One of Iraq’s most powerful religious leaders, Moqtada al Sadr, said during yesterday’s Friday prayers that he would form a new government today.

He promised that the government will be a republic without terrorism and without occupation. It will include a ministry of religious endowment, apart from regular ones like finance and foreign affairs.

The underlying and not-too-subtle message was directed at the American-led occupying forces that Iraqis were perfectly capable of running their country.

And the announcement is a clear sign rejecting the U.S. handpicked “governing council.”

“I have formed a government made up of several ministries,” said Sadr

With Shi’ites making up 60 per cent of Iraq’s population, so far repressed by the Sunni-dominated Saddam regime, the Shi’ite leader enjoys enormous influence.

“Although this declaration will be dangerous for me, I have established and created a new government, with new ministers. Our new country will be dignified, free and will give people their rights,” Sadr said.

While it’s still unclear what Sadr’s next move will be, the declaration of a rival government is likely to add to the growing American headache of governing Iraq.

His comments come amidst growing signs of discontent in Baghdad, which has witnessed huge demonstrations against the US-led coalition forces in the past days, leading to the death of two US soldiers and two Iraqis in Baghdad.

The US is already finding it hard to control protests and keep casualties low, but the Shi’ite leader’s call could provide momentum to more protests.

Officials with the American-led occupation here are watching Mr. Sadr — who controls an armed militia called the Jaish Mehdi — with wariness, though not outright alarm at the moment.

For now, allied officials said they would separate Mr. Sadr’s words from his deeds. “If he wants to make silly statements, that’s one thing,” an allied official said.  ”If he starts challenging directly law and order in this country, we have to react.  And Iraqi police, I know, will want to react.”  (A.  When he said last month he was going to form an armed militia in Baghdad, they said that was a silly statement too.  B. Now what they’re saying is that it’s time to pass the buck to the Occupation Police.  Let the Iraqis kill each other.)

Though it is unclear how far Mr. Sadr intends to push, tension has been growing in recent days between him and Iraqi and American officials. On Tuesday, his supporters took over the city council office in Sadr City, the huge Shiite slum in northeast Baghdad where he has the most support and which is named for his father.

American officials say the takeover has sidelined various reconstruction works in Sadr City.

The next day, about 1,000 of his supporters staged a demonstration in front of the American headquarters in downtown Baghdad, blocking streets as they demanded the release of a cleric who had been arrested by the Iraqi police.

MORE:

New Government Says U.S. Troops “Forbidden To Enter Sadr City;”

Has Army “Of Thousands”

AN-NAJAF, Iraq, October 11 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – Hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets of this Shiite holy city Saturday, October 11, in support for a shadow cabinet formed a day earlier by anti-U.S. firebrand Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

Delivering Friday sermon, Sadr asked his followers to demonstrate peacefully if they agreed to his self-declared government, which includes several ministries, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“I have decided and I have formed a government made up of several ministries, including ministries of justice, finance, information, interior, foreign affairs, endowments and the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice,” Sadr told Shiite worshipers.

Demonstrators gathered Saturday in front of Sadr’s office on a narrow street next to Imam Ali shrine in central An-Najaf, an AFP correspondent reported.

“We are ready to sacrifice our souls for you, Sadr,” they chanted as they roamed the streets of the city, 180 kilometers (110 miles) south of Baghdad.

Sadr, who heads the thousands-strong Mehdi Army, was ignored by the U.S.-led occupation authority while forming the interim Governing Council, said AFP.

“It is forbidden for the Americans to enter Sadr City. They intimidate and incite the people,” Sheikh Abdul Haji al-Darraji said during outdoor prayers before the procession.

One man wearing a funeral shroud to symbolize his readiness to sacrifice his life called on the crowd to “salute the martyrs.”

“Yes to the martyrs, no to America,” the crowd chanted.

Darraji denounced the “the criminal silence of the Governing Council in the face of the violence.”

He also called U.S. forces a threat to the Muslim and Arab worlds and urged people to rise up against them.

“How long will you be silent? Americans threaten Syria. They are threatening Iran. In the future, they will threaten more Arabs,” Darraji said.

Thursday, heavily armed members of firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia put on a show of force, parading in the streets of the capital.

Armed Shia Militia Guard Sadr City

By Charles Clover in Baghdad, October 10 2003, Financial Times

A powerful Shia Muslim movement warned US troops on Friday not to enter Baghdad’s largest Shia neighborhood after a gun battle there on Thursday night killed two US soldiers and two Iraqis.

Iraq’s Shia population until now have not joined in attacks against US forces seen mainly in Sunni areas.

Dozens of armed Shia militiamen stood guard at the site of the battle on Friday, outside the headquarters of Muqtada al-Sadr, a popular Shia preacher. His followers insist the building was the target of a US raid on Thursday night, although US officials deny this.

Seyd Hassan al-Mussawi, head of Mr al-Sadr’s Jaysh al-Mahdi militia, said on Friday that his soldiers were not involved in the fighting, but the US troops were fired on by “ordinary citizens, who were defending the holy place [the headquarters]”.

Sheikh Abdel Mahdi Darraji, a representative of Mr al-Sadr, called on the US-appointed Governing Council to resign “for the sake of their honour” and warned US troops to stay away from Sadr City.

After the sermon the coffins of two “martyrs”, apparently killed in the battle with US forces, were paraded through the neighbourhood, cheered by a crowd of 5,000-10,000.

10,000 Protest Killing Of Shias;

Shia Armed Forces March

By Jack Fairweather in Baghdad, (Filed: 11/10/2003)

About 10,000 Shia Muslim demonstrators surged on to the streets of Baghdad yesterday. They were protesting against the Americans after a night that left two US soldiers and two Iraqis dead.

Militiamen armed with assault rifles and pistols escorted the funeral procession, led by a cleric who waved a ceremonial sword. (Sky News October 11, 2003)

Raising their fists in the air, the men roared, “There is no God but Allah. America is the enemy of God.”

In the run-down area of Sadr City, where the shootings took place, the crowd chanted “No to America, yes to the martyrs” as the coffins of the Iraqis were held aloft.

An American military spokesman appealed for calm in Sadr City, which was known as Saddam City under the dictator’s regime.  (Too late for that now.)

“We regret the loss of life on both sides,” he said. “Our soldiers are trying to restore order in the area.”

Sheikh Darraji had earlier compared the Americans to wolves.  ”They come at night and disappear in the day,” he said.

“They want to eliminate every believer who stands against their mistakes.”

House searches and intrusive patrolling have angered residents. But they said they were not the attackers.

Fars Daoud, a building worker, said: “We want to live in peace under our own laws. But the Americans make people nervous.”

IRAQ WAR REPORTS:

Six Dead In Attack Outside Hotel Used By US Security Staff

BAGHDAD, Oct 12 (AFP) and CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent

At least six people were killed Sunday in a car bomb attack outside a central Baghdad hotel housing US security staff and Iraqi government officials.

The attack occurred just beyond a checkpoint outside the Baghdad Hotel, which US officials said housed US security staff and contractors, as well as members of the US-installed Governing Council.

The lunchtime attack sent terror-stricken Iraqis fleeing up Saadoun Avenue, over broken window glass from banks, restaurants and shops and past the bloodied bodies of injured. American helicopters and combat vehicles converged on the chaotic scene as black smoke from burning cars billowed over the central city.

But along Saadoun Avenue, feelings ran high against the Americans and their inability to stop the bombings. “Hey! Hey! This regime’s a failure!” a group chanted in Arabic at a group of U.S. soldiers as the fires raged.

“Two vehicles detonated, wounding three U.S. personnel slightly,” a witness said. She didn’t specify whether the U.S. personnel were military or civilian; at least one civilian gunman who looked American was seen at the scene.

“Initial reports indicated six people killed. The specifics of who those people are still under investigation,” said US military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel George Kirvo.

A government official who was at the hotel at the time of the blast spoke of seven deaths, as did a US army colonel at the scene who said the figure included the car bomber.

Doctors at nearby hospitals said at least 38 people were wounded, and Krivo said 10 sustained serious injuries in what he said were two simultaneous car bomb explosions.


BAGHDAD, IRAQ, 12-OCT-2003: Iraqi police officers secure the area of a bombing in the centre of the Iraqi capital October 12, 2003. [Photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye, copyright 2003 by AFP, Getty Images, and ClariNet]

Police said the car driven by a bomber, and another parked outside the hotel blew up simultaneously.

“A car tried to negotiate its way in but had no proper credentials. When it didn’t stop they (Iraqi police) opened fire to prevent it from penetrating,” US army Colonel Peter Mansoor said at the scene.

Krivo said US troops also opened fire.

“The driver ignited the bomb and there was an explosion 20 meters inside the checkpoint and 100 meters from the hotel,” said Mansoor.

Limbs could be seen scattered some 100 meters (yards) from the site of the explosion, which shattered windows as far as 300 meters away.

Iraqi interim planning minister Mehdi al-Hafez also condemned the attack.

He said the US-led forces “bear the key responsibility for security in Iraq”, but added that security issues “should be handed over to the Iraqis”.

More Wounded Soldiers

By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent, 10.12.03 And Agence France-Presse, October 11, 2003, Patrick Moser

Two U.S. soldiers — military police — were slightly injured in Sunday in a blast, apparently from a roadside bomb, just outside the main U.S. Army base in Tikrit, 120 miles north of Baghdad. Another soldier was wounded when his convoy came under small-arms and grenade attack 60 miles south of the northern city of Kirkuk.

A man claiming to speak for an Iraqi resistance group warned in a compact disc recording against foreign troops joining U.S.-led occupation forces, saying they will be treated as occupiers and provoke attacks on their home countries.

A statement signed by the same unknown group, “The Jihad Brigades of Imam Ali bin Abi-Taleb,” promised to kill every member of the Governing Council and Iraqis who cooperate with the occupation.

On Friday, a US soldier was wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on an armored military vehicle guarding a bank in Baghdad, according to a US officer.

In Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, three Iraqis were wounded by US troops who opened fire after an man hurled a grenade at their convoy, an AFP correspondent said.

Four Iraqi Policemen Wounded In Attack Near Baqubah

BAQUBAH, Iraq, Oct 10 (AFP) – Four Iraqi policemen were wounded overnight Thursday near Baqubah, 65 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of the Iraqi capital, one of the policemen said Friday.

“The attackers threw grenades at a police post in the town of Azim (north of Baqubah) around 12:30 am (2130 GMT Thursday), wounding four policemen,” said Hussein Alwan, 28, without providing details.

IRAQ RESISTANCE ROUNDUP

Iraqi Farmers Turn Towards Resistance After US Troops Destroy Their Orchards

DULUIYAH, Iraq, Oct 10 (AFP) – Khudeir Khalil was a quiet farmer before US troops drove tanks onto his property and levelled the plantations, saying the lush date and orange groves provided camouflage for resistance forces.

“The Americans — who claim they want to help us rebuild our country — are now destroying our trees and fruits. Tell me, what kind of civilized people destroy plants,” a clearly angered Khalil shouted.

“They say resistance fighters could hide in the fields, but I tell you these are my fields and nobody goes into them. There are no attacks around here,” he said, as a mob of angry men in traditional Arab white robes nod in support.

Khalil is sitting on the side of a dusty road leading to his native Duluiyah, a large village where Sunni Muslim tribes farm a modest living out of the banks of the Tigris river.

But the plantation fields are barren resembling the aftermath of a hurricane after US troops last week razed the paddocks of fruit trees. Now a handful of residents are scavenging the trunks and debris to make charcoal.

“We cannot benefit from the fruits anymore, so we will try to earn some money from charcoal,” explained Mohammad Saleh amid the stone houses which were once shaded by the plantation.

Duluiyah, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Baghdad, lies in the so-called Sunni triangle, where most anti-coalition attacks are being launched.

The village is also home to large and powerful tribes.

US authorities in occupied Iraq are tight-lipped about the plantation clearing, as US overseer Paul Bremer said he had “no idea” when asked why the plantations were cleared, adding: “It’s the first I’ve heard about it.”

And Master Sergeant Robert Cargie, of the 4th Infantry Division controlling the area, told AFP: “We cannot get specific on these operations.

“But if an area is determined to be useful as an ambush point, we will seek to eliminate that as a threat.”

Such operations may not be widespread across the country, but trees have been felled around Baghdad International Airport, which has been attacked by mortar fire since the US took control with the fall of the regime on April 9.  

But for Khalil and his neighbors, recent history does not excuse destruction of more than 25,000 square meters (30,000 sq. yards) of palm groves and fruit trees by coalition forces which farmers said were feeding around 500 people.

“They came in last week without prior notice, cut off the main road and worked for three days and three nights to destroy our plantations with their bulldozers,” recalled farmer Fida’ Shehab.

“Some women and children tried going into the fields to pick and salvage some of the fruit from destruction, but the American troops fired into the air to scare them off,” he said.

Mubarak Saleh, another farmer from the area, explained that a delegation of farmers and municipality officials held meetings with the top US officer in town in a bid to settle the spiraling dispute.

“We tried to make them stop destroying our fields or at least ask for compensation,” he said.

“But all they said was: ‘When the resistance will stop, we will stop destroying the fields,’” said Saleh.

“We are not responsible for the Americans’ failure to stop attacks, and killing trees will not stop them,” he added.

Khalil, a 35-year-old father of seven children, said: “I just lost 15 million dinars (7,500 dollars) in dates and eight million dinars (4,000 dollars) in oranges.

“This is a fortune here in Iraq and my only way of living,” he said.

A tall man standing behind the crowd suddenly raises a warning finger and says: “Some people who lost their fields are begging, others are stealing cars, but now that we have nothing to do, maybe we will join the resistance.

“Is this what the Americans want?”

OCCUPATION ISN’T LIBERATION

BRING ALL THE TROOPS HOME NOW!

Soldiers Defenseless Against Roadside Mines;

“We’re Far Too Constrained To Go Out Looking”

October 8, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle, Anna Badkhen

These bombs, officials say, are becoming increasingly sophisticated, usually camouflaged and equipped with remote controls, allowing just one rebel to mount an attack on several soldiers from a safe distance.

“They are the weapon of choice for the guerrillas. They put them in the ground, in crates, in concrete blocks, in light posts, even in watermelons,” said Maj. Robert Isabella, a public affairs officer with the 4th Infantry Division stationed in Tikrit. “They stuff them into dead dogs.”

On Oct. 1, a bomb made in an impromptu lab in the northern city of Tikrit and wired to a remote-controlled detonator was stuck under a manhole cover on Highway 1 to Baghdad.

When a southbound U.S. convoy of three humvees approached at 4:45 p.m., the rebels ignited it.

The blast went off near the head humvee. Jagged shrapnel tore through the chest and leg of the driver, Army Pfc. Analaura Esparza-Gutierrez, 21, and wounded three other soldiers.

Iraqi rebels used roadside bombs in at least 20 percent of the 558 attacks on U.S. troops reported by the military between Aug. 17 and Sept. 28, USA Today reported last Friday. Last week alone, soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division located 18 roadside explosives — which soldiers here call IEDs, or improvised explosive devices — in and around Tikrit, said Capt. Ian Weikel, a division spokesman.  Eight of those bombs went off, killing or injuring soldiers, he said.

Weikel said insurgents set up bomb-making labs in rooms of their own houses.

U.S. soldiers have found at least seven such labs in Tikrit since Sept. 3.

The roadside bombs vary in size from small bags to 105mm rounds stuffed with explosives, said Maj. Ronald Zimmerman of the 299th Engineer Battalion of the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. Sometimes the rebels pack their bombs with TNT, sometimes with white phosphorus, making the so-called “Willie Petes” that burn victims with a fire that water can’t put out.

The guerrillas most likely obtain their explosives at thousands of storage sites used by former Iraqi military and security forces, which may contain as much as 650,000 tons of ammunition, officials say. Most of these sites remain unguarded — like the abandoned Iraqi military airfield east of Tikrit, where at least 39 SA-2 surface-to-air missiles lay scattered, some half-covered with camouflage netting, some exposed to the sun on the arid earth.

I haven’t seen a place that has more ammunition lying around,” Zimmerman said. “The SA-2s we find every day — there were some lying behind an elementary school. They are all over the place.”

The Soviet-made SA-2s have warheads packed with 300 pounds of explosives each — enough to make several smaller explosive devices, Zimmerman said.

Engineers of the 4th Infantry Division regularly come out to the airfield to blow up the rockets.  Behind a berm, presumably safe 2,000 feet away, Lt. Adam Rasmussen began the countdown. “Three minutes. Two minutes and 50 seconds. One and a half minutes. One minute. 20 seconds. Now!”  A giant plume of fire erupted.

But then the engineers got into their humvees and drove off, leaving the rest of the missiles undestroyed. The military has no plans to safeguard them anytime soon, said Huron.

Nor do his troops — who risk being attacked if they leave their base to search for weapons dumps in Iraq’s deserts and palm groves, Huron said.

“We’re far too constrained to go out looking,” he said.

On a night patrol last week, soldiers in C Company of the 299th Engineers drove their rattling armored personnel carriers up and down Highway 1, which the GIs half-jokingly call “IED Alley.”

Scanning the dusty horizon through night-vision goggles for rebels planting explosives by the road, the men occasionally brought the scopes of their M249 machine guns to their eyes, then put them down again. They didn’t bother trying to spot bombs already in place, which are nearly impossible to distinguish.

“It’s so easy to say: ‘You oughta be able to see them,’ “ Zimmerman said. “But in a country covered with litter, this concrete block could be wired; that plastic bag could have an IED inside of it.”

AL-BASRAH AIRPORT OPENING DELAYED AGAIN

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, October 10, 2003

The reopening of the Al-Basrah airport has been postponed indefinitely, Voice of the Mujahedin Radio quoted British Army spokesman Hisham Halawi as saying on 9 October. The delay is due to continued instability in the area and inadequate infrastructure at the airport. KR

Right On Schedule

Pipeline Blown Up;

Oil Company Bus Hit

(Every two to three weeks, the northern pipeline is wrecked, which takes about three weeks to repair.  Not a drop of oil has gone thru it to the Turkish port since the invasion.)

Oct 11 (AFP): Two explosions caused large fires at two parallel oil pipelines in northern Iraq on Friday, the director general of Iraq’s Northern Oil Company said.

The first explosion started a fire on a pipeline linking the northern city of Kirkuk with al-Debs oil fields, further to the north, Adel Gazzaz said.

A second blast started a fire on a parallel pipeline running at about five metres from the first, he said.

Firefighters rushed to the area in an attempt to extinguish the fires, Gazzaz added.

The first explosion was caused by a bomb planted on the pipeline and the second pipeline blew up because of the heat, firefighters said.

Earlier on Friday, unknown assailants hurled hand grenades at a disused portion of an oil pipeline outside Kirkuk, starting a small fire, police and oil company officials said.

Iraqi police, firefighters and coalition troops converged on the area to put out the fire and search for the assailants, Mohammad said, adding no arrests had been made so far.

TWO DIE: Two employees of the Northern Oil Co. were killed and four wounded in a roadside bombing in northern Iraq on Friday, the NOC director general said.

The explosion ripped a company bus on the road between Baiji and the town of Riyadh, 40 kilometres west of Kirkuk, the company’s director Adel Ghazzaz said.

“Two people were killed and the other four seriously wounded,” he said.-AFP

Police Officer Killed, Six Injured In Grenade Attack

Agence France-Presse, October 11, 2003

KARBALA, Iraq, Oct 11 (AFP) – An Iraqi officer was killed and six other policemen wounded in a hand grenade attack near this city south of Baghdad, a police spokesman said Saturday.

Assailants hurled hand grenades on a police checkpoint about five kilometers (three miles) south of Karbala, killing one officer and wounding six policemen, spokesman Rahman Mashawi Zhiab told AFP.

______________________________________________________________________

Freed From Hussein Dictatorship,

Iraqi Teen Takes Active Interest In Current Events

Reuters, 12 October 2003

Earlier Sunday, a roadside bomb struck a convoy of three civilian vehicles in central Baghdad, injuring five Iraqis, including a Shi’ite cleric, witnesses said.

When U.S. forces sealed off the area, a crowd gathered and one Iraqi teen-ager lobbed an explosive at a U.S. Humvee armored vehicle.  One U.S. soldier was slightly injured.

Snapshots

By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad, 10 October 2003

An Iraqi businessman said acidly: “They claimed that we were smart enough to build weapons of mass destruction capable of threatening the world, but now they treat us like Red Indians on a reservation at the end of the 19th century.’’

At 8.15 am a white Oldsmobile with two men in it drove to the gate of a police station in al-Sadr City, the great Shia Muslim slum in west Baghdad. Policemen opened fire but the car exploded, killing 10 and injuring another 45 people.

A crowd assembled outside the wrecked police station chanting: “No, no, to America!’’ A policeman was stabbed as he tried to keep order. No foreigner is very popular these days in Sadr City, whose impoverished people were deeply hostile to Saddam.

TROOP NEWS

Forms Letters From Soldiers Praise Occupation;

Sergeants Told To Get Signers

The Olympian, October 11, 2003, LEDYARD KING GANNETT NEWS SERVICE

Newspapers around U.S. get identical missives from Iraq

WASHINGTON — Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.

And all the letters are the same.

A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Rock,” in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash.

The Olympian received two identical letters signed by different hometown soldiers: Spc. Joshua Ackler and Spc. Alex Marois, who is now a sergeant. The paper declined to run either because of a policy not to publish form letters.

The five-paragraph letter talks about the soldiers’ efforts to re-establish police and fire departments, and build water and sewer plants in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the unit is based.

“The quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored, and we are a large part of why that has happened,” the letter reads.

It describes people waving at passing troops and children running up to shake their hands and say thank you.

It’s not clear who wrote the letter or organized sending it to soldiers’ hometown papers.

Six soldiers reached by GNS directly or through their families said they agreed with the letter’s thrust.  But none of the soldiers said he wrote it, and one said he didn’t even sign it.

Marois, 23, told his family he signed the letter, said Moya Marois, his stepmother.  But she said he was puzzled why it was sent to the newspaper in Olympia.  He attended high school in Olympia but no longer considers the city home, she said.  Moya Marois and Alex’s father, Les, now live near Kooskia, Idaho.

A seventh soldier didn’t know about the letter until his father congratulated him for getting it published in the local newspaper in Beckley, W.Va.

“When I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said: ‘What letter?’ “ Timothy Deaconson said Friday, recalling the phone conversation he had with his son, Nick. “This is just not his (writing) style.”

He spoke to his son, Pfc. Nick Deaconson, at a hospital where he was recovering from a grenade explosion that left shrapnel in both his legs.

Sgt. Christopher Shelton, who signed a letter that ran in the Snohomish Herald, said Friday that his platoon sergeant had distributed the letter and asked soldiers for the names of their hometown newspapers.  Soldiers were asked to sign the letter if they agreed with it, said Shelton, whose shoulder was wounded during an ambush earlier this year.  (No pressure to go along, of course!)

“Everything it said is dead accurate. We’ve done a really good job,” he said by phone from Italy, where he was preparing to return to Iraq.

Sgt. Todd Oliver, a spokesman for the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which counts the 503rd as one of its units, said he was told a soldier wrote the letter, but he didn’t know who. He said the brigade’s public affairs unit was not involved.

“When he asked other soldiers in his unit to sign it, they did,” Oliver explained in an e-mail response to a GNS inquiry.  ”Someone, somewhere along the way, took it upon themselves to mail it to the various editors of newspapers across the country.”

The letter talks about the soldiers’ mission, saying, “one thousand of my fellow soldiers and I parachuted from ten jumbo jets.” It describes Kirkuk as “a hot and dusty city of just over a million people.” It tells about the progress they have made.

“The fruits of all our soldiers’ efforts are clearly visible in the streets of Kirkuk today. There is very little trash in the streets, many more people in the markets and shops, and children have returned to school,” the letter reads. “I am proud of the work we are doing here in Iraq and I hope all of your readers are as well.”

Sgt. Shawn Grueser of Poca, W.Va., said he spoke to a military public affairs officer whose name he couldn’t remember about his accomplishments in Iraq for what he thought was a news release to be sent to his hometown paper in Charleston, W.Va. But the 2nd Battalion soldier said he did not sign any letter.

Although Grueser said he agrees with the letter’s sentiments, he was uncomfortable that a letter with his signature did not contain his own words or spell out his own accomplishments.

“It makes it look like you cheated on a test, and everybody got the same grade,” Grueser said by phone from a base in Italy where he had just arrived from Iraq.

Moya Marois said she is proud of her stepson Alex, the former Olympia resident. But she worries that the letter tries to give legitimacy to a war she doesn’t think was justified.

“We’re going to support our son,” she said. But “there are a lot of Americans that are not in support of this war that would like to see them returned home, and think it’s going to get worse.”

CHECK OUT TRAVELING SOLDIER
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FORWARD OBSERVATIONS

Silencing The Reservists;

Vietnam Ghost Bites Bush

By T. Trent Gegax, Newsweek Web Exclusive

The Iraqi war has required the massive mobilization of Army reservists

The Army National Guard and Army Reserve are mobilized in numbers not seen since World War II.  And reservists are either staying away longer than their families ever imagined or they’re coming home in body bags.  

We can’t wage a large-scale conflict without them, thanks to a Vietnam-era policy—a strategic check-and-balance—established to prevent politicians from waging war without broad popular support. That you hear growing grousing and, lamentably, mourning coming from reservists’ homes means that the system is working exactly the way it was envisioned by former Army chief of staff Gen. Creighton Abrams.

It became known as the “Abrams Doctrine,” a shuffling of the war machine right after the Vietnam War that made the Reserves an indispensable part of large-scale war.

It was a recognition that active-duty soldiers are relatively rare among the general population, whereas reservists are woven into the fabric of the country’s car dealerships, professional firms and farm towns.

It may be unfair, but whatever happens to reservists ripples further than the fates of active-duty soldiers.  The Abrams Doctrine “was designed so that the Army couldn’t get involved in sustained operations without the Reserves,” says Renee Hylton, historian for the National Guard Bureau.  ”By doing that, the politicians could never play with the military again like they did in Vietnam.

At the time, President Johnson bucked when urged to tap the reserve ranks for more troops, “because you don’t call them up for long periods of time for unstated goals,” Hylton says. Instead, he drafted kids who were poor and unconnected. After the war, Hylton says, “the senior leadership said, ‘We can’t let this happen again’.”

True to predictions, reservists in Iraq are making their voices heard in Washington. “Many of us have written to our congresspersons,” Capt. Blaise Zandoli, a civil-affairs reservist posted in Kirkuk, said recently after the Pentagon doubled the reservists’ mobilization time.  ”All of us are completely bitter about what has happened.” L

Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, last month wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that said “patience is beginning to break” for families of reservists.

But the White House’s “global war on terror” can’t operate without the Reserves—the National Guard supplements the infantry and the Reserves provide support services. They’re people—Midwestern farmers, young rural poor from the South, Eastern lawyers—who thought they’d pad their income in exchange for training one weekend per month, two weeks each summer and maybe a six-month peacekeeping tour in the Balkans.

Rumsfeld’s proposed “rebalancing” would convert the most heavily used reserve jobs (military police, civil affairs, psychological operations) into active-duty Army positions. That would effectively reduce the number or reservists—and the number of complaints—needed for full-scale military operations.

Rumsfeld’s “rebalancing” is a five-year plan. So it won’t fix the Bushies’ immediate political problem. But it might grease the skids for America’s next war.

What do you think?  Comments from service men and women, and veterans, are especially welcome.  Send to the E-mail address up top.  Name, I.D., withheld on request.  Replies confidential.

OCCUPATION REPORT

Turkish Officials Worry About Deaths

Sky News (Britain), October 11, 2003

Turkish officials said they were disturbed by Iraqi opposition to a decision to send troops to the country and urged the United States to sort out the wrangle.

(Comment: “Iraqi opposition” included comments from some members of Bremer’s own “Governing Council” that Turkish soldiers would be killed if they set foot in Iraq anywhere.)

DANGER: POLITICIANS AT WORK

Fear And Loathing Inside The White House;

Rice Fails to Repair Rifts, Officials Say

Glenn Kessler and Peter Slevin, The Washington Post, 12 October 2003

Rice’s hands-off approach is most evident in the aftermath of the war with Iraq. Administration officials felt that the postwar effort in Afghanistan — a diverse collection of nations doing assigned tasks — had been inefficient and ineffectual.  So the Pentagon was given the primary responsibility for rebuilding Iraq.

Yet, after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and his armies vanished in early April, signs quickly emerged that the Bush administration had not completely prepared for the aftermath.  The early relief and reconstruction effort, assigned by Bush to the Pentagon in January, stumbled over such basics as staffing, transportation and communications. U.S. authorities sent inconsistent messages about Iraq’s political future and proved unable to provide a clear vision to Iraqis or Congress of what the Bush White House intended.

“The NSC is not performing its traditional role, as adjudicator between agencies,” said a State Department official, who described “a very scattershot approach to staffing and management. You never knew quite what you were supposed to be doing and with whom.”

A U.S. official who served in Iraq said the NSC failed to make decisions about Iraq’s postwar reconstruction and governance until long after the war ended. Decisions that some agencies thought had been settled were unexpectedly reopened or reinterpreted by the Pentagon, he said.

Even members of Rice’s staff expressed frustration.  The NSC and State Department staffers were stunned to learn, for example, that the Pentagon, with the approval of the vice president, had flown controversial Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi into southern Iraq after Bush had opposed giving Chalabi special treatment.

Some of Powell’s key lieutenants, who had gone along with the president’s decision to give the Pentagon the principal postwar role, were frustrated first by the Defense Department’s refusal to include them — and then Rice’s unwillingness to intercede.

“Everything went back to Washington, where it became tangled up in the bureaucratic food fights,” said the official who served in Iraq. “Absolutely everything.”

Why In-Fighting Is Losing Iraq and Could Cost Rumsfeld His Job

The Glasgow Sunday Herald, 12 October 2003,

The post-war mess in Iraq has been widely blamed on planning failures and strategic myopia on the part of Bush’s foreign policy team. And even White House officials have stopped denying that Bush’s overhaul of his top Iraq strategists reflects deep unhappiness with his national security people.

“It definitely reflects an awareness that something had to change,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a defence policy analyst at the Brookings Institution. “It shows that Rumsfeld is no longer thought to be the best person running the situation in Iraq.”

While many American newspapers have reported the opening of a bitter rift between Rice and Rumsfeld, Washington sources have suggested to the Sunday Herald that the rift is in fact between Rumsfeld and Bush, and that Condoleezza Rice has exploited it to her own advantage.

“The President is of the view that the bickering between the Pentagon and [the Department of] State is a factor that needs to be addressed,” one source said. “By transferring power to Condy Rice via this Iraq Stabilisation Group he is de-fanging them both.”

But Rumsfeld’s humiliation is more obvious, since it was the Pentagon that held most of the power over reconstruction.  Also, Bush sided with Powell in the bitter battle over whether or not to return to the UN and seek a new resolution authorising a multinational force under US command in exchange for some ceding of authority to the UN.  Rumsfeld had vehemently opposed any return to the UN, despite the increasing attacks on US troops in Iraq and the American public’s dwindling support for the war.

But it is understood that Bush is frustrated by Powell’s failure so far to persuade the UN Security Council to sign up for a US-authored resolution.  So far the UN is dragging its heels on any new resolution that would send UN troops into the region without a more substantial transfer of power to the UN than Washington is prepared to grant.

Even by Washington standards, where political fortunes never remain fixed, Rumsfeld’s fall from grace has been spectacular.  He responded to Rice’s appointment by announcing that he had not been consulted in advance, claiming he was informed of the decision through a classified memo.  For an administration that prides itself on secrecy and discipline, his outburst to several European newspapers was extraordinary.  When one reporter pressed him for details about the chain of events leading to Rice’s assumption of control, he responded furiously. “I said I don’t know. Isn’t that clear? You don’t understand English? I was not there for the backgrounding.”

But doubts are being voiced as to whether the reshuffle will in fact accomplish anything and whether Rice’s appointment was merited.  They believe that as national security adviser she has failed to act as a referee in the turf wars between the Department of State and the Pentagon, and has been an ineffectual gatekeeper for Bush when it comes to foreign policy.

“She is prone to the naive view that ‘we are strong and they are weak and we should ruthlessly exploit this’,” said J Roy Stapleton, Bush’s ambassador to China, of her foreign policy leanings.

Others have been more forthright, suggesting that the changes are purely cosmetic, akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

“It’s a rhetorical reorganisation that doesn’t really change the power structure,” said James Thurber of the Centre for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University.

“It’s actually admitting that they’ve had problems and that they’ve failed, and now they’ve got to reorganise and do something.

Now The Quiz

Which politician or politicians decided to take the following actions?

Homeless shelter subsidies have been slashed.

Poverty stricken amputees with no longer receive government help in getting artificial limbs.

College students will pay more in fees.

Government funding for cancer research will be eliminated.

AIDS patients will have to pay more for their medications.

Public assistance payments to the blind will be cut.

BUT the prison system will receive an increase of $40 million to its $5.3 billion budget.

Answer:  Grey Davis, Governor of California. with the wholehearted support of The Democratic Party of California, in control of both houses of the California legislature that passed this budget.

But why be surprised?

The Democratic Party is wholly dedicated the preserving the wealth and power of those who really own and control America, the American capitalist class.

And why be surprised that people voted to throw Davis out of office? Working class people hated Davis, rightly so.

The electoral system is a rigged game and a stacked deck, set up so if you get rid of one party owned by our enemies, we just get the other capitalist political party, because that’s how it works.  The California election just cost $86 million dollars.  

(For discussion about what we can do about all this, please see www.isreview.org.)

Bush Whacked

Steve Neal, The Chicago Sun-Times, 10 October 2003

Bush is in trouble because of his foreign policy. His “axis of evil” comment and unilateralist approach are controversial. Only 45 percent of the public has confidence in his ability to deal with an international crisis, while 50 percent are uneasy, according to the CBS News/New York Times poll.

Americans are opposed, by 51 percent to 41 percent, to Bush’s request for $87 billion to rebuild Iraq, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Only 43 percent of the voters said that Bush deserved re-election, while 49 percent said they think it is time for someone new, according to the Zogby America poll.

Only 40 percent of voters have confidence in Bush’s ability to make the right decisions Bush about the economy, while 56 percent are uneasy, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll.

The CNN/USA Today poll indicated that 60 percent of voters believe that Bush’s economic policies favor the rich, while only 10 percent said they favored the middle class.

Do you have a friend or relative in the service? Forward this E-MAIL along, or send us the address if you wish and we’ll send it regularly. Whether in Iraq or stuck on a base in the USA, this is extra important for your service friend, too often cut off from access to encouraging news of growing resistance to the war, at home and in Iraq, and information about other social protest movements here in the USA.  Send requests to address up top.  For copies on web site see:www.notinourname.net/gi-special/

AFGHANISTAN: THE FORGOTTEN WAR

Up To 30 Resistance Fighters Escape From Kandahar Jail

Reuters, Kabul, October 11

Up to 30 Taliban prisoners escaped from jail in the volatile southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday night, security personnel said on Saturday.

“I can confirm that 20 Taliban have escaped,” said an intelligence official, who did not want to be identified.

A guard at the jail said that 30 prisoners had escaped. General Salem, head of security in Kandahar, confirmed that there had been an escape, but said he did not know exactly how many prisoners had got away.

He declined to say how the prisoners had escaped and said the incident was under investigation.

In late August, officials said the jail on the outskirts of Kandahar, an old stronghold of the Islamic militia overthrown by US-led forces in late 2001, was holding 50 to 60 “political inmates”. The term is usually used to describe Taliban members.

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