Archive for September 12th, 2007

This makes us unbearably sad:

Two U.S. soldiers whose signatures appeared on an op-ed piece in The New York Times critical of the war in Iraq were among seven Americans killed in a truck accident outside of Baghdad, family members said Wednesday.

Staff Sgt. Yance Gray and Sgt. Omar Mora were members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Gray, Mora and five other soldiers died Monday when their truck overturned near the Iraqi capital, U.S. officials said.

Gray and Mora were among seven soldiers, mostly sergeants, who wrote the op-ed piece that appeared in the Times on August 19. It called the prospects of U.S. success “far-fetched” and said the progress being reported was being “offset by failures elsewhere.”

“Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence,” they wrote. “When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages.”

Gray, 26, joined the Army out of high school in Ismay, Montana, in 2000, said his father, Richard Gray. Tance Gray is survived by a wife and daughter.

A relative at Mora’s family home in Texas City, Texas, confirmed his death but had no other comment.

In their article, Mora, Gray and their comrades wrote that American troops in Iraq are operating “in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear.”

However, they concluded, “As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.”

Another of the signers of the Times article, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Murphy, was shot in the head a week before the article appeared but survived.

We posted the article from the New York Times here or re-read it below:

The War As We Saw It 

By BUDDHIKA JAYAMAHA, WESLEY D. SMITH, JEREMY ROEBUCK, OMAR MORA, EDWARD SANDMEIER, YANCE T. GRAY and JEREMY A. MURPHY

Baghdad

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

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We do not think of ourselves as conspiracy theorists – but we do have to admit that, when you add them up, there are WAY too many “coincidences” for us not to increase our questions. Here’s one man’s take on it:

I don’t think I have seen such an amount of strange goings at the same time in a very long time; maybe never. The last time this happened was 9/11 and I didn’t see any of that until afterwards.

There’s this stranger than fiction aspect to the nukes in flight. Here’s an excellent article where you can inform yourself if you aren’t informed yet http://freeworldsurvey.blogspot.com/2007/09/6-nukes-fly-over-us-big-problems-with.html here’s the nukes http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=3548 does any of this seem strange to you? I’ll tell you what looks strange to me, grounding entire air defense squadrons of fighters on the 14th of the month when it is bombers that were involved. Read the first link above and you’ll be in the picture. The other thing is how did that squadron commander get control of those nukes? There are all of these fail-safes and protocols in place so; who waved them through? Who waved them through? Surely someone would have been named. Surely this is the sort of thing the press would be right on top of… surely. “Don’t call me Shirley.”

And then, like a jack in the box, up comes the animated corpse of the long dead Bin Laden in a video that stops for minutes at a time while the voiceover continues unimpeded. What you are to take away from this is that when Bin Laden pops up it means another terror attack is about to happen. Right on cue, the head of the CIA announces that Al Qaeda is planning another terror attack http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14523542&vsv=SHGTslot2

Meanwhile the Fed is pumping money into the system like no tomorrow because of an immense financial crisis that isn’t being discussed at the level it really exists at and Israeli fighter jets are violating airspaces all over the Middle East and America and ‘unnamed allies’ are all upset with El Baradei and there’s booga-booga here and booga-booga there. It really feels like the carnival has come to town. The carnival has come to town folks and the freak show is the big attraction.

I could put so many links in here that there wouldn’t be an article when I was done. Maybe you should head over the http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/ and http://www.signs-of-the-times.org/ and inform yourself. Look over what’s been showing up in the last couple of weeks and then see what your reasonable mind makes of all the happenings and signs.

Shortly before all of this the History Channel did a smear job on the 9/11 truth movement and that is because no one with a brain in their head believes the official version any more. You can see who owns what in the media here http://www.freepress.net/ownership/chart.php and then you can speculate on why whoever owns the History Channel felt that they needed to do a big disinfo special at this time. Then you might remind yourself that fascism occurs when corporations control the government. Finally you can check out this 3 part rebuttal of the History Channel’s hit piece here http://www.innworldreport.net/video_launcher.php?2007-08-29i and here http://www.innworldreport.net/video_launcher.php?2007-08-30i and here http://innworldreport.net/video_launcher.php?2007-09-04i

Okay, that’s it for the links. Have you checked out some of what is available for you here? Have you looked at the two major sites that I included which give a comprehensive view of all the news the mass media has spun or ignored these last weeks? Then you should be up to speed.

Let’s add to the whole picture the strange legislation that put the country solely into the hands of lil’ Bush should anything go wrong enough- according to him- to implement it. This happened around May 8th. Think about what happened to Posse Comitatus and all the other weird things, from Ashcroft’s sickbed to grabbing your property if the government feels you are supporting terror and… ask… yourself… why all of these things; all of the things I have mentioned so far and what is presented in all of the links has been happening. Remember too that Bush only does what he is told.

Is it all coincidence? Is it the result of the workings of deep and penetrating intellects with big hearts who are trying to protect all of us from an army of people who hate your freedom? Is it the natural out-workings of the collective mathematics of life? More likely it is none of the above.

This blog has been at pains to point out the psychopathic players behind all the smoke and mirrors. I don’t think that needs to be done one more time. This blog has mentioned a number of times, what an ordinary citizen can do; collectively strike in such a way that the money and product stops flowing. I don’t expect the ordinary citizen to do anything about any of this until they are forced to and the good news and the bad news is that I suspect that’s going to happen. I suspect you will find yourself in this position.

Trends are indicators, folks. If you watch trends you can see patterns. Life is composed of trends and the more successful among us are very mindful of them. Various organized groups of the successful often engineer the very trends they profit from. Depending on the industry they are a part of depends on the trends they engineer or manipulate. Observing the passage of trends can have a lot to do with your level of comfort and often whether you survive at all.

Right now, booga-booga and strange unexplained events have become trends. Those who profits off of the blood- sweat and tears of the rank and file know that there are certain primal instincts that you can always appeal to. You can generate a collective response from the public by inflaming desire or instilling fear. It’s a little more complex but mostly it has to do with activating people’s appetites or amplifying their fears.

Are you hungry yet? Are you scared? Most of you aren’t even thinking about any of this. Most of you are going along with the program the way sheep go along with the program until the day they become lamb chops; that’s part of the program too. Is there any truth to the fact that that bomber left with six nukes and arrived with five? I just put that in there because I love how it makes the rah-rah lemmings scream with outrage. People are talking about this though. People are saying there are weird things happening with Fosset’s missing plane and that unheimlich ‘flight of the nukes’.

I don’t know who did what, when. I don’t know the identity of “the man who squats behind the man that works the soft machine.” There are a lot of things that I don’t know and I’m happy to admit that. We don’t do advertising here. We don’t answer to a paycheck or write in hope of one. We just wonder a lot and we hope to make you wonder too. We would like you to be more informed. You might not wind up knowing any more than we do but at least you’d be wondering what the Hell is going on and maybe the more we all wonder, the more the smoke and mirrors will look exactly like smoke and mirrors.

Whatever is going on it is beginning to ratchet up. There’s an increase of tension and excitement. It’s kind of like getting to that part of the film where something is about to happen. If nothing happens you feel let down. Well, hopefully nothing does happen in this film. I would prefer that.

We need to wonder more and we need to ask more questions. We need to be less satisfied with the bullshit we are being fed. We need to stop being a nation of people that are glad to eat shit as long as they serve it to us warm. I don’t expect you to do much now. I hope you will act when the time comes and I hope the time never comes. For the moment it looks like the Boogeyman has shown up well before Halloween. Keep thinking; keep wondering and why not start being better informed?

From Smoking Mirrors

“At best, what you’ve got is the status quo from May or June of 2006.” ***Please note – 1,369 young men and women have been killed to maintain that “status quo.”

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration’s top two officials in Iraq answered questions from Congress for more than six hours on Monday, but their testimony may have been as important for what they didn’t say as for what they did.

A chart displayed by Army Gen. David Petraeus that purported to show the decline in sectarian violence in Baghdad between December and August made no effort to show that the ethnic character of many of the neighborhoods had changed in that same period from majority Sunni Muslim or mixed to majority Shiite Muslim.

Neither Petraeus nor U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker talked about the fact that since the troop surge began the pace by which Iraqis were abandoning their homes in search of safety had increased. They didn’t mention that 86 percent of Iraqis who’ve fled their homes said they’d been targeted because of their sect, according to the International Organization for Migration.

While Petraeus stressed that civilian casualties were down over the last five weeks, he drew no connection between that statement and a chart he displayed that showed that the number of attacks rose during at least one of those weeks.

Petraeus also didn’t highlight the fact that his charts showed that “ethno-sectarian” deaths in August, down from July, were still higher than in June, and he didn’t explain why the greatest drop in such deaths, which peaked in December, occurred between January and February, before the surge began.

And while both officials said that the Iraqi security forces were improving, neither talked about how those forces had been infiltrated by militias, though Petraeus acknowledged that during 2006 some Iraqi security forces had participated in the ethnic violence.

Both officials said they believed that Iraq was on the path to potential success. Petraeus said that “the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met.” Crocker was similarly optimistic: “In my judgment, the cumulative trajectory of political, economic and diplomatic developments in Iraq is upwards, although the slope of that line is not steep.”

They both pleaded for more time, even as Petraeus said that the U.S. should begin pulling troops out, with the goal of being back to the pre-surge level of 130,000 troops by next July. Further reductions would be considered next spring, as conditions allow, he said.

Both men celebrated their plan’s success in encouraging residents in once-restive Anbar province to work with U.S. troops against al Qaida in Iraq.

Petraeus conceded that that success didn’t extend to Ninevah province, where progress “has been much more up and down.” But he didn’t say that many believe that al Qaida numbers increased there only after the surge began. Ninevah is where some of the largest bombings of the year occurred, including the attack on the Yazidis, which killed more than 300.

He also offered a tepid endorsement of the Iraqi security forces, at times saying that they were increasingly capable of defending Iraq, while conceding that they needed to show more progress.

“Iraqi security forces have also continued to grow and shoulder more of the load, albeit slowly and amid continuing concerns about the sectarian tendencies of some elements in their ranks,” Petraeus said. “In general, however, Iraqi elements have been standing and fighting and sustaining tough losses, and they have taken the lead in operations in many areas.”

He said 445,000 people were on the security forces’ payroll, but didn’t discuss that many officials believe that thousands of those don’t actually exist, but are phantoms whose salaries actually go into ministry officials’ pockets.

Both Iraqis and U.S. officials concede that militias have infiltrated the security forces and that political leaders continue to interfere with their operations to serve their sects’ interests.

Petraeus presented a series of maps to show how sectarian violence had dropped in Baghdad from December 2006 to August 2007. But all of the maps showed the same color-coding for Sunni, Shiite and mixed neighborhoods, even though the ethnicity of many neighborhoods have shifted dramatically over the previous year. U.S. military officials say that Baghdad was once 65 percent Sunni and is now 75 percent Shiite.

Questions from the 107 members of Congress who sat in on the hearing rarely produced more detail.

Still, the two men, considered by many to be among the most capable U.S. public servants to have served in Iraq, didn’t attempt to hide their reservations. Both said they couldn’t guarantee success.

Crocker, a fluent Arabic speaker and a lifelong student of the area, questioned the U.S. criteria for measuring success and said that the Iraqi government might never meet most of the 18 benchmarks laid out by Congress in a May law. Petraeus, who wrote the Army’s counterinsurgency manual, acknowledged that violence remained at unacceptable levels.

Independent observers said the numbers that Crocker and Petraeus provided showed the violence has dropped to about where it was in May 2006, a few months after a February 2006 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in the mostly Sunni city of Samarra, which the military uses to mark the rise in sectarian violence.

“At best, what you’ve got is the status quo from May or June of 2006,” said Kirk Johnson, who served for 13 months as the chief statistician for Crocker and who said he supports the current strategy in Iraq.

Rand Beers, a former White House counterterrorism aide who resigned to protest the invasion of Iraq, noted there was another troop surge, in Baghdad, in summer 2006.

“We’ve had two surges, and in a way, things are back to the level before the first surge,” Beers said in a conference call with reporters.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard said that it was understandable that Petraeus emphasized the positive.

“He’s a human being and he’s a military human being that wants to accomplish the mission,” Gard said.

(Youssef reported from Washington, Fadel, from Baghdad. Warren P. Strobel in Washington contributed.)

From McClatchy – Washington Bureau