Janet's Conner

This Blog tell the Truth and will never not tell the Truth. Impeach Bush

Saturday, July 29, 2006

'WAITING TO GET BLOWN UP'




Some Troops in Baghdad Express Frustration With the War and Their Mission

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thurday, July 27, 2006

Baghdad, July 26---Staff Sgt. Jose Sixtos considered the simple question about morale for more than an hour. But not until his convoy of armored Humvees had finally rumbled back into the Baghdad military base, and the soldiers emptied the ammunition from their machine guns, and passed off the bomb-detecting robot to another patrol, did he turn around in his seat and give his answer.

"Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat," he said. "Then ask how morale is."

Frustrated? "You have no idea," he said.

***What was it that Rumsfeld recently said?.......Oh yeah, "this is a professional military. The troops won't mind staying." I bet you he didn't go directly to the troops for that one! It's like this guy pulls his answers out of a hat, no matter what the question is! I know it's double-talk and he just doesn't want to give an answer which he has no answers for because he's lied so much! Someone said that he's slow in answering his questions because he calculates his answers. HE'S SLOW IN ANSWERING HIS QUESTIONS BECAUSE ALL THIS GUY DOES IS CONTRADICT HIMSELF!

As President Bush plans to deploy more troops to Baghdad, U.S. soldiers who have been patrolling the capital for months describe a deadly and infuriating mission in which the enemy is elusive and success hard to find. Each day, convoys of Humvees and Bradley Fighting vehicles leave Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad with the goal of stopping violence between warring Iraqi religious sects, training the Iraqi army and police to take over the duty, and reporting back on the availability of basic services for Iraq civilians.

But some soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division---interviewed over 4 days on base and on patrols---say they have grown increasingly disillusioned about their ability to quell the violence and their reason for fighting. The battalion of more than 750 people arrived in Baghdad from Kuwait in March, and since then, six soldiers have been killed and 21 wounded.

"It sucks. Honestly, it feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you," said Spec. Tim Ivey, 28, of San Antonio, a muscular former backup fullback for Baylor University. "You lose a couple friends and it gets hard."

"No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do," said Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader. "We were excited, but then it just wears on you---there's only so much you can take. Like me, personally, I want to fight a war like World War II. I want to finght an enemy. And this, out here," he said motioning around the scorched sand-and-gravel base, the rows of Humvees and barracks, toward the trash-strewn streets of Baghdad outside, "there is no enemy, it's a faceless enemy. He's out there, but he's hiding."

***Now these kids have only been there since March. That was 5 months ago and they can't stand it. Can you imagine how the troops that were supposed to leave there after being there a year already, and this isn't a lot of their first tours. It's their second and third tours, must feel? It must be like beating their heads against a wall and there's no one there to help them!

"We're trained as an Army to fight and destroy the enemy and then take over," added Dugger, 26, of Reno, Nev. "But I don't think we're trained enough to push along a country, and that's what we're actually doing out here." "It's frustrating, but we are definitely a help to these people," he said. "I'm out here with the guys that I know so well, and I couldn't picture myself being nywhere else."


'Never-Ending Battle'

After a five-hour patrol on Saturday through Southern Baghdad neighborhoods, soldiers from the 1st Platoon sat on wooden benches in an enclosed porch outside their barracks. Faces flushed and dirty from the grit and a beating sun, they smoked cigarettes and tossed them at a rusted can that said "Butts."

The commanders in Baghdad and the Pentagon are "looking at the the big picture all the time, but for us, we don't see no bigger picture, it's just always another bomb out here," said Spec. Joshua Steffey, 24, of Asheville, N.S. The company's commanding officer, Capt. Douglas A. DiCenzo of Plymouth, N.H., and his gunner, Spec. Robert E. Blair of Ocala, Fla., were killed by a roadside bomb in May.

Steffey said he wished "somebody would explain to us, 'Hey, this is what we're working for.' "With a stream of expletives, he said he could not care less "if Iraq's free" or "if they're a democracy."

"The first time somebody you know dies, the first thing you ask yourslf is, "Well, what did he die for?"

"At this point, it seems like the war on drugs in America," added Spec. David Fulcher, 22 a medic from Lynchburg, Va., who sat alongside Steffey. "It's like this never-ending battle, like, we find one IED, if we do find it before it hits us, so what? You know it's just like if the cops make a big bust, next week the next higher-up puts more back out there."

"My personal opinion, I don't speak for the rest of anybody, I just speak for me personally, I think civil war is going to happen regardless," Steffey responded. "Maybe this country needs it: One side has to win. Be it Sunni, be it Shiite, one side has to win. It's apparent, these people have made it obvious they can't live in unity."

It was dark now except for one fluorescent light and the cigarette tips glowing red.

"I mean, if you compare the casualty count from this war, to say, World War II, you know obviously it doesn't even compare," Fulcher said. "But World War II, the big picture was clear---you know you're fighting because somebody was trying to take over the world, basically. This is like, what did we invade here for?"

***What is up with this WW II talk? More than one soldier has said it! I wonder what the military has brainwashed these troops with!

"How did it become, 'Well, now we have to rebuild this place from the ground up?" Fulcher asked.

He kept talking. "They said we're here and we've given them freedom, but really, what is that? You know, what is freedom? You've got kids here who can't go to school. You've got people here who don't have jobs anymore. You've got people here who don't have any power." he said. "You know, so yeah, they've got freedom now, but when they didn't have freedom, everybody had a job."

Steffey got up to leave the porch and go to bed.

"You know, the point is we've lost too many Americans here already, we're committed now. So whatever the [expletive] end-state is, whatever it is, we need to achieve it---that way they didn't die for nothing." he said. "We're far too deep in this now."


'Our Biggest Fear'

The largest risk facing the soldiers is the explosion of roadside bombs, known among soldiers as improvised explosive devices, or EIDs, the main killer of U.S. troops in Iraq. Battalion commanders say they have made great strides clearing the main highways through their southern Baghdad jurisdiction, including the north-south thoroughfare they call Route Jackson, but insurgents continue to adapt.

"We do an action, he counters it. It's a constant tug of war," said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Wilmot, an IED analyst with the battalion. "From where I sit, the [number of] IEDs continually, gradually, goes up."

Each day, U.S. and Iraqi soldiers patrolling neighborhoods such as Sadiyah, al-Amil and Bayaa---an area of about 40 square miles where about a half a million people live---encounter an average of one to two roadside bombs, often triggered remotely by someone watching the convoys, he said.

"Motorola radios, cellphones, garage door openers, remote-controlled doorbells. Anything that can transmit, they can, in theory, use," Wilmot said. "Anybody who thinks they're stupid is wrong."

After the bombing in February of a golden-domed Shiite shrine in Samarra, sectarian killings between rival Shiite and Sunni Muslim factions exploded, and have continued to take thousands of Iraqi lives despite a security crackdown in Baghdad that started last month. U.S. military commanders in Baghdad say the killings extend beyond sectarian motives, to include tribal rivalries, criminal activity and intra-sect gang warfare. Most of the killing takes place out of sight of the Americans, commanders said.

"At this point, it's getting a little difficult to tell which groups are responsible," said Capt. Eric Haas of Williamsburg, Va., an intelligence officer for the 2nd Battalion. "Our biggest fear is this turninginto a Bosnia-Kosovo situation" where the police are allowing the slaughter to take place.

***That's already happening! The Sunni police don't think that the Shiite police will protect their people and visa-versa!

"We're definitely making progress," he added. "It's going to take some time to get there."

Into this fray, day and night, come the U.S. soldiers. Each infantryman conducts an average of 10 patrols a week, for a total of 50 to 60 grueling hours, "and it is having an effect," said the battalion's executive officer, Maj. Jeffrey E. Grable.

"Sometimes it's not obvious, the fruit of their labor," said Grable. But the patrols have a "deterrent effect on sectarian violence. Unfortunately, we just cannot be everywhere all the time."


'Only Promises'

The patrol led by Capt. Mike Comstock, 27, of Boise, Idaho---two Humvees and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle---started at 1 p.m. on Saturday. At about 15 miles per hour, the patrol passed down blighted Iraqi streets with dozens of cars waiting in gas lines, piles of smoldering trash, rubble-strewn vacant lots and gaping bomb craters.

On one stop, the patrol pulled up to the Saadiq al-Amin mosque in the Nayaa neighborhood. Some mosques in the city have stockpiled weapons and been operations for insurgents---used, said one officer, "like we use National Guard armories back home."

"How are you doing today, sir? A little hot?" Comstock asked Walid Khalid, 45, the second-ranking cleric of the Sunni mosque, who opened the gate wearing sandals and a white dishdasha, a traditional robe.

"Our imam was killed three weeks ago," Khalid said through an interpreter.

"This is actually the first I've heard about this," Comstock said, taking notes.

"The people around here are afraid to come here to pray on Fridays," Khalid said, going on to explain that the mosque didn't have water or electricity. He said that he was worried about corrupt Iraqi police attacking the mosque, and that he needed permits for the four AK-47 assault rifles he kept inside.

"Would it help if we brought the national police here so you could meet them? Comstock asked. "Maybe you guys could start building trust together."

"We would like to cooperate, but sometimes those people come to attack us, and we want to defend the mosque." Khalid said. "Inside the mosque is our border. If they cross the line, we will shoot these guys."

Comstock's patrol stopped at Bayaa homes and shops to conduct a "SWET assessment:" checking out the sewage, water and electricity services available to residents. Most said the sewage service was adequate, but the electricity functioned no more than four hours a day. Some say they had little running water and dumped their trash along the main streets. Inner neighborhood roads were blocked with slabs of concrete and the trunks of palm trees. The most repeated concern among residents was a lack of safety.

"I can't fix electricity or sewers all the time. We recommend projects to be done," Comstock told Muhammed Adnan, A Bayaa resident. "Patrolling your neighborhood is one thing we can do. I hope that helps."

"We receive promises around here, nothing else," Adnan, 40, told Comstock. "Three years, just promises, and promises and promises."

Comstock wrote down the words: "only promises."




CANTWELL (D-WASH) QUESTIONS VA OVER SPOKANE URGENT CARE CUTS




SPOKANE, Washington---A sharp reduction in urgent care hours at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Spokane has drawn the attention of U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, (D-WASH).

Cantwell sent a letter to VA Regional Director Max Lewis asking why urgent care hours had been cut from 24 per day to 8-1/2 per day at the beginning of July.

"I've heard from concerned veterans in Eastern Washington who worry that under this plan, they will no longer have affordable access to the care they need in an emergency," Cantwell said Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said a lack of business prompted the change.

"The numbers dropped significantly after 6 p.m.," said Jane Schlike, spokeswoman for the hospital. "We were seeing four to six people from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m."

The urgent care center is for relatively minor medical cases, Shilke said. It is not set up as an emergency room for serious injuries, she said. There are no laboratory or X-ray facilities and no trauma surgeon on call, she said.

The VA sent letters to some 23,000 clients announcing that the center would be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., rather than 24 hours a day, starting July 1, Schilke said. About 40 replies were received, she said.

The VA will pay for emergency room visits for veterans for service-related conditions, or those who have no other insurance, she said.

Medical care for veterans is a touchy subject in Eastern Washington. The VA in recent years has proposed closing or altering the VA hospital in Walla Walla. The exact fate of that facility is still not clear, although the VA sys it will not close it down.

Cantwell, who faces a tough re-election fight this year, said veterans deserve medical care.

"We need to make sure these brave Americans who have given so much for our country always have access to quality health services, including urgent care," she said in a news release.

In her letter, Cantwell asked the VA to explain the changes in detail, outline potential efforts of the plan on area veterans and describe how veterans would get urgent care after hours.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Nicholas K. Geranios/AP Writer
July 26, 2006

VIETNAM VETS SUFFERED GENETIC DAMAGE: STUDY




Wellington: New Zealand troops exposed to the defoilant Agent Orange in the Vietnam War suffered significant genetic damage, according to a study by university molecular scientists released on Friday.

US forces used Agent Orange to strip away jungle foilage to make it harder for communist fighters to hide during th war.

The chemicals have been blamed for a range of illnesses, birth defect and other health problems among the Vietnamese people and troops who fought there.

The New Zealand study investigated the rate of "sister chromatid exchange" in veterans' cells, a test that analyses the way chromosomes self-replicate.

A comparatively higher level of sister chromatid exchange identified in the study indicated genetic damage, according to Massey University researcher Al Rowland, although he said more extensive study is needed.

The study of 25 veterans was compared with a control group of former servicemen who did not serve in Vietnam.

Rowland said the impact of smoking, alcohol consumption and the use of medical X-rays was taken into account.

"We don't know what causes the results that we see but all we know is that this group went to Vietnam and something happened," he said.


gulfnews.com
July 28, 2006

IRAQI OFFICIAL WARNS AGAINST COUP ATTEMPT




Shiite Cites Romors, Promises a Fight

By Joshua Partlow and Saad Sarhan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 29, 2006

Baghdad, July 28---A Shiite Mulsim political leader said Friday that rumors were circulating of an impending coup attempt against the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and warned that "we will not allow it."

Hadi al-Amiri, a member of parliament from Iraq's most powerful political party, said in a speech in the holy city of Najaf that "some tongues" were talking about toppling Maliki's Shiite-led government and replacing it with a "national salvation government, which we call a military coup government." He did not detail the allegation.

A new government would mean "canceling the constitution, canceling the results of the elections and going back to square one...and we will not accept that, he said. Amiri is also a top officiall in the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Court for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is the leading member of a coalition of Shiite political parties governing Iraq.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced that 4 Marines were killed Thursday in unspecified "enemy action" is the restive western province on Anbar. The names of the four Marines---three assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, and one from Regimental Combat Team 5---were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

In a sermon at the Fatimy mosque in Najaf, Sadr al-Din-al-Qubanchi aslo spoke about coup rumors. "We should go on with the political process in building a new Iraq," the preacher said, "and there is no space for thinking about a national salvation government or a military or a political coup."

Amiri's comments came during an event commemorating the third anniversary of the death of a respected ayatollah, Mohammed Bakir al-Hakim, who was assasinated in a car bomb attack in Najaf not long after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Hakim's younger brother, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, also spoke at the ceremony.

Hakim called on Iraqis to take a greater responsibility for securing the country, to set up neighborhood defense committees, and to establish greater autonomy in a region of nine provinces in southern and central Iraq, a predominantly Shiite area.

Hakim said that the "experience of Kurdistan"---a largely autonomous region in northern Iraq---"is a pioneering experience" and that "a serious movement should be made in that direction."

Also Friday, the day when many attend religious services, four people were killed and nine injured when a bomb exploded near a Sunni mosque in southeastern Baghdad, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. military provided more information about a clash with Shiite militiamen on Sunday in Musayyib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad. U.S. troops, along with Iraqi soldiers and police, killed 33 insurgents in the day-long battle, the U.S. military said in a statement. The U.S. troops came under gunfire and "rocket-propelled attack" when they entered the downtown area and responded with the assistance of Apache helicopters and Abrams tanks.

"Thugs and criminals tried to take over Musayyib, but they failed because the Iraqi army and police are unbeatable when they work together," Col. John Tlly, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said in a statement.