Friday, March 25, 2005

Iraqi Civilians Fight Back Against Insurgents

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 22 - Ordinary Iraqis rarely strike back at the insurgents who terrorize their country. But just before noon on Tuesday, a carpenter named Dhia saw a troop of masked gunmen with grenades coming toward his shop here and decided he had had enough.

As the gunmen emerged from their cars, Dhia and his young relatives shouldered their Kalashnikov rifles and opened fire, the police and witnesses said. In the fierce gun battle that followed, three of the insurgents were killed, and the rest fled just after the police arrived. Two of Dhia's nephews and a bystander were wounded, the police said.

"We attacked them before they attacked us," said Dhia, 35, his face still contorted with rage and excitement, as he stood barefoot outside his home a few hours after the battle, a 9-millimeter pistol in his hand. He would not give his last name.

"We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen," he said. "I am waiting for the rest of them to come, and we will show them."

It was the first time that private citizens are known to have retaliated successfully against the insurgents. There have been anecdotal reports of residents shooting at attackers after a bombing or an assassination. But the gun battle on Tuesday erupted in full view of at least a dozen witnesses, including a Justice Ministry official who lives nearby.

The battle was the latest sign that Iraqis may be willing to start standing up against the attacks that leave dozens dead here nearly every week.

After a suicide bombing in Hilla last month that killed 136 people, including a number of women and children, hundreds of residents demonstrated in front of the city hall every day for almost a week, chanting slogans against terrorism. Last week a smaller but similar rally took place in Firdos Square in downtown Baghdad. Another demonstration in the capital is scheduled for Wednesday.

Like many of the attacks here, Tuesday's fight had sectarian overtones. Dhia and his family are Shiite Arabs, and they cook for religious festivals at the Shiite Husseiniya Mosque across from his shop. The insurgents are largely Sunni Arabs, and they have aimed dozens of attacks at Shiite figures, celebrations and even funerals.

The conflict has grown sharper in the last year, with Shiites dominating Iraq's new police force and army and holding a narrow majority in the newly elected national assembly.

In the past, Shiite religious leaders have counseled against revenge after attacks. But there are indications that some are no longer willing to turn the other cheek. Last fall an armed group called the Anger Brigade was formed after attacks on Shiite pilgrims south of Baghdad.

Elsewhere in Iraq, insurgents continued their campaign of violence. In the northern city of Mosul, 4 civilians were killed Tuesday morning and 14 were wounded when a roadside bomb detonated near an American military convoy, health officials said. The bomb did not appear to harm the convoy, witnesses said, but destroyed four or five civilian cars that were passing near it on the Sunharib bridge in the city center.

On Monday evening in Mosul, 17 insurgents were killed in a gun battle after they ambushed a convoy of Iraqi security officers, The Associated Press reported.

In Anbar Province, the violence-plagued area west of Baghdad, gunmen kidnapped six Iraqi soldiers on Tuesday as they walked to a bus station, The A.P. reported.

Dhia's gun battle on Tuesday unfolded in Doura, a working-class neighborhood in southern Baghdad where much of the capital's violence is concentrated. Killings and bombings have taken place there in recent weeks, and the police acknowledge that they have little control. Before the fight, an Interior Ministry official was gunned down in Doura as he drove to work, officials said.

Witnesses saw the gunmen circling near the Husseiniya Mosque in three cars just before the violence started, said Amjad Hamid, 25, who works at the Justice Ministry. They stopped near Dhia's shop, across from the mosque. The men carried pistols and rifles, and one had a belt full of hand grenades, he said. They drove an Oldsmobile, a gray Honda and a red Volkswagen Passat.

When the shooting began, Mr. Hamid said, his mother ran outside shouting his name and was struck by bullets in the leg and the ear.

After the insurgents fled, without the Honda, one was left behind, the Doura police chief said. That gunman broke into a nearby house and hid there, holding the residents at gunpoint until his friends arrived and drove him away, the police chief said.

The owner of the house, who spoke on condition that he not be identified, said the gunman had entered through the garage and made his way to the living room. "I heard the screaming of the women," the owner said, "so I went to see what was the matter, and I saw a man holding an AK-47."

The owner said the gunman then shouted: "Keep me here for a short time until I can leave the area or I will kill you all. I don't want anyone to leave this room."

They obeyed. The gunman telephoned some friends and stayed for about an hour until they arrived to pick him up. Before he left, the owner of the house said, he issued a final warning: "If you scream or call the police, my friends will come and kill you. They know where you are."

Two of Dhia's nephews who were with him during the attack, one 13, the other 24, were wounded, family members said. After the police arrived, they recovered the bodies of the three dead insurgents, who were identified through documents in their clothing as Abdul Razzaq Hamid, Abdul Hamid Abed and Zaid Safaa, officials said.

Hours later, Dhia was still furiously cursing the insurgents when he spoke to a reporter outside the front gate of his home, a short walk from his shop. A Shiite cleric standing nearby quickly told him to stop talking, and he went silent.

Meanwhile, a group of armed neighborhood men stood watch on the roof of the house.

"I am sure they will be back," one of the guards said. "We killed three of them."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Apparently We Can't Handle The Truth

I got this on villianouscompany.com:

Baghdad: American soldiers on Monday night killed an Iraqi man and a boy and wounded four others in a car that was driving behind their convoy after a roadside bomb went off nearby, said witnesses, a police official and relatives of the family in the car.

The soldiers, traveling in a convoy of two Humvees, opened fire on the family, which was riding in a dark blue station wagon, after the bomb exploded on Palestine Street about 300 yards from the Oil Ministry, witnesses said.

The family's driver, a man whose first name was Haider, was killed, as was a 10-year-old boy named Mustafa in the seat beside the driver, said family members, a neighbor and a police officer. Mustafa's mother and two of his siblings and his aunt were injured and taken to local hospitals.

''You want to know the truth?'' said Lt. Muhammad Ali, an Iraqi policeman who was driving away from Al Kindi Hospital with several colleagues after taking one of the women there. ''I'll tell you the truth. The Americans did this. I know after this conversation they will fire me from my job, but that's what happened.''

Just what we need -- more bad news from Iraq. Out of control, trigger-happy American soldiers targeting the people they are supposed to be protecting.

Except that the outside investigation concluded that it never happened: an inconvenient little fact the New York Times' in-depth "investigation" didn't manage to uncover: because they never bothered to talk to the military:
Two weeks ago an incident occurred in the Ready First Combat Team zone that was covered by the New York Times, then picked up by other news outlets as a result of that article. None of the news outlets (to my knowledge) interviewed any of the soldiers involved in the incident, and most of them based their stories on the initial report from the Times, which erred badly.

At 2040 hours on 12 January 2004, a roadside bomb (IED)
exploded on Palestine road just north of the Martyr's Monument. The target was a three vehicle military police (MP) patrol. A dark blue Opel station wagon carrying five Iraqi civilians was traveling between the second and third HMMWV's.

Upon detonation of the IED, the MP patrol responded by moving rapidly away from the explosion site and proceeded to the Martyr's Monument for medical treatment of two wounded soldiers. No soldiers fired their weapons during the incident. A patrol from 1-36 Infantry, hearing the explosion, moved to the site and assessed that the IED had exploded between the second and third HMMWVs, hitting not only the U.S. vehicles but killing the two Iraqi males in the front seat of the Opel and injuring two passengers in the back seat. U.S. medics attended to the wounded before turning them over to Iraqi Police (IP) for transport to a civilian hospital.

On January 13th, The New York Times published the story that appears at the beginning of this post. It was written by a reporter named Edward Wong, who I learned of in the comments section of this post by Greyhawk. Mr. Wong, it seems, has a habit of getting things... well... Wong.
The 1st Armored Division surgeon attended the autopsy of the two dead Iraqi civilians and noted that there was no evidence of wounds caused by rifle or machine gun bullets. The wounds were irregular in shape and caused by shrapnel - pieces of which were removed from the wounds during the autopsy. There were no bullets in the bodies. Wounds to the two injured Iraqi civilians were likewise determined to have been caused by shrapnel.Likewise, visual inspection of the Opel station wagon revealed an irregular pattern of damage but no bullet holes, just what you would expect from damage caused by a large explosion. All the holes in the car were either too mishapen or too large for them to be bullet holes.

And then we have Giuliana Sgrena. And Abu Ghuraib. And Guantanamo Bay. All important stories. All stories where the American people deserve to hear the truth.

All the truth.

The Song Remains The Same: Liberal Myths Of War

I found this on villianouscompany.com:

We found also that all too often American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw first hand how money from American taxes was used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by our flag, as blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties.

- John Kerry, 1971 Winter Soldier Testimony

What the draft does is it spreads risk among all economic levels, and it brings it closer to home because right now, inner-city kids, blacks and Latinos and poor rural kids are dying on a daily basis in Iraq, and it's not fair."

- Senator Neil Breslin

The disproportionately high representation of the poor and minorities in the enlisted ranks is well documented. Minorities comprise 35 percent of the military and Blacks 20 percent, well above their proportion of the general population. They, along with poor and rural Whites do more than their fair share of service in our ground forces.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D, NY War's Burden Must Be Shared


When you take a look at who the liberators will be, who will be put in harm’s way, it won’t be the sons and daughters of members of Congress or the President’s cabinet. It won’t be the rich and affluent who insist that we “take them out now.” No. It will be good Americans, patriotic Americans, who evaluated the economic situation in this country, and decided that the military gave them a better shake than they could get in the private sector.

And so they, like me and so many others, go into the Army. When the flag goes up, they salute it because they made a contract to fight--if they were called on. Don’t tell me that they’ll be checking out who is in the foxhole to see whether they were drafted or volunteered. Don’t tell me that, in this great country, only those who can’t do better economically should be forced to carry the burden of being killed in war. I refuse to accept that.

- Rep. Charles Rangel, D, NY Burden of War Must Be Shared By All

Well Rep. Rangel, I refuse to accept it too. Because it's untrue.

These are the Liberal Myths of War. Cherished grievances, nourished by willful misdirection, elliptical reasoning, and half-stated conspiracy theories that won't bear close inspection. But they serve well enough for those who need little convincing to think ill of their government.

Let's start with Mr. Kerry's quote. This is the Grandpappy of all grudges: blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties in Vietnam. It's been used to great effect by the anti-war Left to foster distrust and opposition against the war in Iraq. Democrats persistently misuse statistics (the overrepresentation of blacks and minorities in the Armed Forces) to imply that blacks, minorities and the poor suffer a disproportionate percentage of combat casualties during wartime. There's just one problem with this theory: it just isn't true. A look at the facts is instructive:

During Vietnam, the Army was neither disproportionately poor, nor disproportionately black. Nor did the casualties suffered by Americans unfairly impact blacks or the poor:
86% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasians, 12.5% were black, 1.2% were other races
Black fatalities amounted to 12 percent of all Americans killed in Southeast Asia - a figure proportional to the number of blacks in the U.S. population at the time and slightly lower than the proportion of blacks in the Army at the close of the war."

Myth: The war was fought largely by the poor and uneducated.

Servicemen who went to Vietnam from well-to-do areas had a slightly elevated risk of dying because they were more likely to be pilots or infantry officers.

Vietnam Veterans were the best educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat. 79% had a high school education or better.

Facts are stubborn things, aren't they? But that was under the draft, which could be said to be an equalizing force. Now let's look at the Gulf War: a war fought with an all-volunteer force:
"Minorities make up 35 percent of the military, and blacks 20 percent, well above their proportion of the general population," Rangel wrote. The Pentagon released the number on minorities in the volunteer army on Jan. 13; 21 percent of the enlisted force is black (and blacks comprise 15 percent of infantry, armored and artillery units), while 12 percent of the U.S. population is black.

This sounds darned unfair on the face of it, until you wonder how loud Rep. Rangel would scream if someone tried to prevent his minority constituents from signing up for reenlistment bonuses on the basis that they were overrepresented in the services.
In the Gulf War, however, minorities didn't suffer more casualties than whites. African Americans accounted for 23 percent of troops sent, and 17 percent of the deaths, the Washington Times reported; Hispanics represented 4 percent of Gulf War troops and 4 percent of deaths, while whites made up 71 percent of Gulf War troops, and 76 percent of Gulf War deaths.

As KGO news anchor and Vietnam veteran Pete Wilson noted, the myth that minorities will suffer disproportionate casualties is "one of those things that people have come to believe that isn't backed up by the facts." Since Vietnam, Wilson adds, whites have been over-represented in combat service.

One interpretation would be that this is quite possibly a side-effect of eliminating the draft. Care to discuss this one, Rep. Rangel?

One other very interesting side note in all this discussion: what ever happened to Asians? They tend to disappear in any discussion of minorities. Last time I checked "Hispanic" was not a race; it's an ethnicity. When's the last time you saw "Oriental" broken out on any of these studies? Are we now ignoring the contribution of Asians to our Armed Forces? How did an entire race become invisible during a study of... dare I say it... minority and race? I'm confused. I often suspect it's because Asians aren't causing any problems. They do just fine on their own and would throw off the studies of well-meaning sociologists who want to find inequities in the system.

On to OIF. And here I'd have loved to bring you the story straight from the horse's mouth, but oddly I can't seem to find the original piece anywhere in the New York Times, even using the search feature. I wonder why? So I had to dig it up on FreeRepublic:
Two years after the invasion of Iraq, the rising American death toll has prompted some commentators to suggest that poor and minority soldiers are bearing the brunt of the war's human cost. An analysis of casualties by the Center for American Progress in Washington suggests otherwise. The majority of the dead are Army and Marine enlisted personnel, white men in their mid 20's, who graduated from high schools in major cities and suburban areas. (Navy and Air Force personnel accounted for less than 3 percent.) Moreover, a look at the poverty rates in the high schools many of them attended suggest that these young men and women are from working-class communities that are neither disproportionately poor nor rich.

Well dang... let's take a look at the numbers:
Race of personnel killed
*72.5% were white vs. 67% of all military personnel
*11.5% were Hispanic vs. 8.7% of all military personnel
*10.9% were African-American vs. 18.6 of all military personnel

Apparently, despite Rep. Rangel's much-ballyhoo'd overrepresentation of blacks in the armed forces, they are in fact UNDERREPRESENTED in the combat arms and are dying at a far lower rate than their representation in either the military or the general population.

Furthermore, his contention that minorities are doing "more than their fair share" in the ground forces is intentionally misleading and contradicted by the facts. He seeks to imply that minorities are overrepresented in the combat arms by including the clerical MOS's (where they are indeed overrepresented) in the "ground forces", in hopes the careless reader will equate "ground forces" with "combat arms" and conclude that a disproportionate number of minorities are therefore placed in harm's way. This is a conclusion that has NEVER been supported by the facts: not in Vietnam, not in Gulf I, and not in the current war.

It would seem that perhaps a draft is needed - to remedy the tragically high death toll among whites and Hispanics in the combat arms. So far no reaction from Senator Kerry.
Age: Average age of personnel killed
*Enlisted: 25 years vs. 27 years for all enlisted military personnel
*Officers: 31 years vs. 34 years for all military personnel who are officers
Education Level of personnel killed
*95.5% graduated from high school vs. 94.2% of all military personnel, and 85.5% of all Americans 18 to 44 years old

Military casualties are much more likely than the average American to have graduated from high school.
Total U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq
*1,512 as of March 9
*2.5% were women vs. 16% of all military personnel
Branch of service of personnel killed
*29.9% were Marine Corps vs. 11.6% of all military personnel
*50.7% were regular Army vs. 21% of all military personnel
*16.1% were Army National Guard and Reserve vs. 24.3% of all military personnel

The Army and Marine Corps are bearing a disproportionate share of the casualties, but do not enjoy a disproportionate share of the defense budget.
Geographic Distribution of personnel killed
*26.2 were from cities and large towns
*40.5% were from suburbs
*33.3% were from rural areas

So much for the military preying on inner-city youth.
Poverty: Average poverty rate of public schools attended
*29.1%* vs. an average poverty rate of all public high schools of 30.1%
(Figures are weighted to reflect the fact that of the 1,213 casualties whose high school information was available, 1,084 attended public high school. Poverty data was available for 1,034 of those 1,084 schools.)

And poor kids who only join the military because they have no other options...
Rank of personnel killed
*89.2% were enlisted (i.e., not officers) vs. 85.5% of all military personnel

The poverty and geographic data is borne out by this article on military recruiting:
Representative Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York, says society places what should be a shared burden of defense only on those poor enough to be induced to risk their lives for a chance at college or a signing bonus. Those who sign up with the infantry for five years get $12,000 in cash or a smaller bonus, as well as up to $70,000 in college aid.

"These young people are not 'volunteers,' " Rangel said. "They're not there, because they're patriotic. They're there they need the money."

Rangel's critique also has a strong sense of racial grievance, but data suggest that the military is not putting its energy into high schools attended by poor minority students. Instead of race, the clearest indicator of how hard a sell a student will receive is class. Generally, recruiters focus on the lower middle class in places with little economic opportunity

...in 1999, the RAND Corp. conducted a study seeking patterns among qualified high school seniors.

"It turned out that kids who were of upper income were more likely to go to college, but it also turned out that kids from lower incomes had better chances of getting need-based financial aid to college," said Beth Asch, a RAND military personnel analyst. >"So when you look at who goes to the military, you tend to get those in the middle."

Local recruiters use a computer system that combines socioeconomic data from the census, high school recruiting data for all four services, ZIP codes with high numbers of young adults, and other information to identify the likeliest candidates.

The obvious school districts that get screened out are those affluent enough that most of their students are probably college-bound. But recruiters also put less energy into underclass high schools, because they do not want prospects who might be ineligible because they drop out of school, have criminal records, or do not score high enough on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

Facts are stubborn things.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Congress Passes and Bush Signs Legislation on Schiavo Case

The House early Monday gave final Congressional approval to legislation that would allow a federal court to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, and the measure was signed quickly at the White House by President Bush, who flew back to Washington from his Texas ranch on Sunday.

Despite protests from some Democrats who accused Republicans of inappropriately injecting Congress into medical decisions related to the severely brain damaged Florida woman, the House voted 203 to 58 for the bill at the end of four tumultuous days and an emotional debate that began Sunday night at 9 and ended shortly after midnight.

Voting yes were 156 Republicans and 47 Democrats, while 53 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted no.

The Senate, with no objections, approved the measure Sunday afternoon by a voice vote with just a few senators on hand. Its backers hope that it will result in a federal court order as quickly as Monday to restore a feeding tube that was removed Friday afternoon at the direction of a state judge.

President Bush said in a statement just after 1 a.m.: "In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. This presumption is especially critical for those like Terri Schiavo, who live at the mercy of others."


Before the House vote, Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, who has led the effort, urged his colleagues to act. "Every hour is incredibly important to Terri Schiavo," Mr. DeLay said.

Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, acknowledged that such concerted Congressional action on behalf of a single person was highly unusual.

"These are extraordinary circumstances that center on the most fundamental of human values and virtues: the sanctity of human life," said Senator Frist, who is a physician.

While the Senate acted without any objection, the bill ran into resistance from some House Democrats, who said the Republican-led Congress had overstepped its authority by inserting itself into what was a family matter best left to state authorities

The Democrats' refusal to allow the bill to pass without a roll-call vote prevented the House from taking up the measure early Sunday afternoon and sent Republican leaders scurrying to summon lawmakers scattered for the Easter recess back to Washington to provide a quorum.

House rules required that such a vote could not occur until Monday, so the Republican leaders suspended the vote until Monday morning so they had time to assemble at least 218 of the 435 House members.

As the House opened debate just after 9 p.m., Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Ms. Schiavo needed to be protected from a "merciless directive" from a state judge.

"The Florida courts have brought Terri and the nation to an ugly crossroads by commanding medical professionals sworn to protect life to end Terri's life," Mr. Sensenbrenner said.

But Representative Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat and an opponent of the bill, told colleagues that Congress was substituting its judgment for that of the Florida judges and doctors who have been intimately involved in the case.

"This is heart-wrenching for all Americans," Mr. Wexler said. "But the issue before this Congress is not an emotional one. It is simply one that respects the rule of law."

With just a few senators on hand for an emergency session on a rainy Sunday, the Senate quickly approved the legislation. Its authors hope the measure leads to a federal court order to resume providing nutrition to Ms. Schiavo over the objections of her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo. A series of state court decisions have sided with him.

The mood in the Capitol was subdued as members of both parties gathered to plot strategy. Some said the atmosphere reminded them of a vote on going to war, colored by a life-and-death decision.

"I have been here 13 years," said Representative Donald Manzullo, Republican of Illinois, "and I have never seen anything like this before."

The session was extraordinary for a number of reasons, including its falling on a Sunday and in the middle of the Easter recess for Congress.

r. Schiavo said Sunday that he was outraged that Congress had intervened, criticizing Mr. DeLay, in particular, for what he said were politically motivated moves.

"I think that the Congress has more important things to discuss," Mr. Schiavo told CNN.

Ms. Schiavo's mother, meanwhile, issued a national appeal for parents to call their Congressional representatives and pressure them to vote for the bill to prolong her daughter's life.

"There are some congressmen that are trying to stop this bill," Mrs. Schindler told reporters gathered outside her daughter's hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla. "Please don't use my daughter's suffering for your own personal agenda."

The steady flow of House members back to the Capitol was just one aspect of the extreme efforts being made on behalf of Ms. Schiavo, whose parents would be empowered to ask a federal court to intercede as a result of the legislation - first to restore her feeding tube while the court reaches a decision.

David Gibbs, a lawyer for Ms. Schiavo's parents, said Sunday that he was prepared to file suit as soon as the bill was signed and that he had asked the Federal District Court in Tampa to remain open to receive the papers. A computer program will decide which of the court's seven judges will hear the case, as is routine there. Mr. Gibbs also filed a request with a federal appeals court for an injunction to have the tube reinserted once the bill is passed, The Associated Press reported.

While House Democrats initially allowed the broader measure to pass, the public attention the case has drawn, combined with some of the Republican maneuvering, helped provoke the objections on Sunday. Democratic critics called the intercession a violation of the separation of powers and said it was unseemly and infused with politics. The opposition was from individual Democrats and not an official position taken by the party leadership.

"Everyone can understand and feels compassion and perhaps some empathy with the parents of Ms. Schiavo," said Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia. "But they have to ask themselves, in this situation, would they want this to be so nationally publicized, to have politicians get into the most intimate anguishing details of a family's situation? In many ways they become political pawns to a larger political issue."

Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, another Florida Democrat who joined the opposition, said her own family had faced the same decision five weeks ago, when her husband's relatives decided to remove a feeding tube from his aunt. "No one felt it essential that I file legislation to stop it," Ms. Wasserman-Schultz said. "This type of end-of-life, gut-wrenching decision happens every day."

But Republicans asserted that Ms. Schiavo's case was unique in that she was not getting any life-sustaining treatment beyond the feeding tube and that on video they had seen she did not appear to be in the physical state normally associated with decisions to end medical assistance. "Remember, Terri is alive, Terri is not in a coma," Dr. Frist said.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Iraq, March 19 - Three police officers were killed Saturday morning in the northern city of Kirkuk when a bomb exploded near the funeral procession of an officer who was shot the day before, Iraqi officials said.

The attack came on the second anniversary of the American invasion, as political protests in many countries and scattered violence here underscored the instability that continues to afflict Iraq in the wake of Saddam Hussein's fall.

The attack in Kirkuk, in which five officers were wounded, was the latest of several recent attacks aimed at funeral processions, including a suicide bombing in Mosul last week that left at least 53 people dead.

Falluja, formerly an insurgent stronghold, has been engaged in a difficult reconstruction since the American invasion last fall, with American and Iraqi engineers struggling to rebuild the city's institutions so that residents who fled the violence can return in peace.

In Iraq's rebel stronghold of Ramadi, a suicide car bomber attacked an American military convoy on Saturday, Reuters quoted a police official as saying. No information on casualties was immediately available. A militant organization led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility on a Web site.

An American soldier was killed Friday in Baghdad when his patrol came under small-arms fire, American military officials said.

An unknown group said that it had kidnapped two Egyptian engineers in Iraq and issued a video that it said showed the hostages, according to an Internet posting on Saturday, Reuters reported.

In Baghdad, several dozen leaders of Iraq's Sunni Arabs gathered on Saturday to discuss their participation in the government and the writing of a constitution. The Sunnis, a powerful minority who formed Iraq's ruling class under Mr. Hussein, largely boycotted the elections.

The conference was organized by Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, the leader of the Constitutional Monarchy Party. In his opening address, he urged Iraq's Sunnis - who form the core of the insurgency here - to become part of the new government.

congress to pass bill

the congress is about to pass a bill in the schiavo case and I am very glad:


I'm sick of the 'right to die' lunatics crying on and on about how congress ought not to get involved. well if not them then who? the answer; nobody.

they say that the federal government has no say in this matter, that terri would have wanted to die if she could think at all. but you notice that many of these people are the same ones who said we ought not to get involved in iraq. and you something? I've looked all over and haven't seen one iraqi saying that he or she wasn't glad that we went in. (i've heard a few say that they wanted the americans out, but never that we shouldn't have gotten in in the first place.

the schiavo case has more controversy than any since the 2004 elections, and you know what? I find myself once again lined up with president bush (and I hate the man!).

I hate it when people use the term 'assisted suicide.' I think that it's a euphemism for murder, and every time it's used I want to punch the user's light's out (which is pretty frustrating because I nearly always hear it over the internet).

when I was thirteen I went to boston to protest with 'not dead yet' a group of disabled people who (quite naturally) don't want to die.

they had a theme song, only the chorus of which I remember:

we're not dead yet,
we love our crippled lives,
we want to live,
not to be euthanised.
wo-oh they lie,
wo-oh they lie,
wo-oh they lie.
it's really genocide.

odd, nu? we all lined up at crosswalk and handcuffed ourselves together. for some reason, the cops couldn't or wouldn't unlock them. they used chain cutters (I can't remember the word and it's driving me batty) to cut the cuffs apart.

"Today it's Terri, tomorrow it's another disabled person," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and he's very right. be careful oh 'right to die' nuts it could be you.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Palestinian Factions Agree to Extend Truce With Israel

By GREG MYRE

Published: March 18, 2005



JERUSALEM, March 17 - Palestinian factions agreed Thursday to extend an informal truce through the rest of the year, adding momentum to recent efforts to end four and a half years of fighting.

The 13 Palestinian factions meeting near Cairo stopped short of declaring a complete cease-fire. They also set conditions on their offer that Israel is unlikely to meet fully, saying they would observe "the current atmosphere of calm in return for an Israeli commitment to stop all forms of aggression against our land and the Palestinian people and also the freeing of all prisoners."

Still, the Palestinian agreement strengthens the de facto truce announced on Feb. 8 at a meeting between Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas. The agreement should buy time for Israeli and Palestinian political leaders to work on solidifying the truce and negotiating on the many issues that divide them.

In a related step aimed at strengthening Mr. Sharon's hand in securing Israeli backing for the withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, Bush administration officials disclosed that the prime minister would visit President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., for the first time next month.

Administration officials say they want to do everything they can to show that American support is solid for Mr. Sharon as he faces challenges from the right wing in his own governing coalition against the coming withdrawals, which are expected to start this summer.

Mr. Sharon, in a telephone conversation with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the host of the Palestinian meeting, called its outcome a "positive first step." But Mr. Sharon also emphasized that the diplomatic process would not advance unless the "terrorist organizations" were disarmed.

Mr. Abbas, who attended the talks, did not get the full cease-fire he has advocated. Still, the agreement is viewed as a success for the Palestinian leader and should improve his hand as he seeks to revive peace negotiations that collapsed after the current fighting began in September 2000.

Israel said the calm, while welcome, was not enough. "We're thankful for the quiet," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, "but this isn't a real solution. We have to see the Palestinians start to move to disarm these groups."

Still, Israel already is taking several steps cited by the Palestinian factions. On Wednesday it handed over security control to the Palestinians in the desert town of Jericho, and similar transfers are planned in four more West Bank towns. Last month, Israel freed 500 prisoners, and 400 more are to be released in the coming months. Israel is still holding about 7,000 prisoners, according to the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Sharon also plans to evacuate Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers from the Gaza Strip this summer.

In addition, Hamas, the most potent of the armed Palestinian factions, says it will compete in Palestinian parliamentary elections this July. Mr. Abbas says that he wants groups like Hamas to take part in Palestinian politics, and that he believes this will make them less likely to carry out attacks.

The truce, now more than five weeks old, has been largely effective, but there are still frequent confrontations. In the worst single attack, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed five Israelis at a Tel Aviv nightclub on Feb. 25.

Since that bombing three weeks ago, the only death on either side occurred during an Israeli Army raid on March 10 that killed Muhammad Abu Khazneh, a member of Islamic Jihad who according to Israel had helped plan the Tel Aviv bombing.

Israeli officials say that the calm is somewhat deceptive and that Palestinian factions are rebuilding their arsenals. "Our concern is that the terror groups are using the timeout to prepare and train," said Mr. Regev, the Foreign Ministry spokesman. "At a time of their choosing they can launch an attack."

In another development, Egypt returned its ambassador to Israel after an absence of more than four years. The ambassador was withdrawn to protest Israeli military actions against the Palestinians after the Palestinian uprising began in September 2000.

on this day. . .

On March 18, 1965, the first spacewalk took place as Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov left his Voskhod 2 capsule and remained outside the spacecraft for 10 minutes, secured by a tether.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

the syrians are pulling out of lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 15 - The symbols of Syrian power began coming down in parts of Lebanon on Tuesday, as Syrian military intelligence agents emptied their offices in Beirut and Tripoli and workers took down an imposing portrait of Syria's president in the capital's seaside boulevard.

The retreat of Syrian intelligence, the arm through which Damascus controlled many aspects of Lebanese life, followed strong demands from the United States and an anti-Syrian rally on Monday that drew an estimated one million people - the biggest crowd ever seen in central Beirut.

Also on Tuesday, President Bush again called on the militant Shiite group hezbollah to disarm.

"We view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and I would hope that Hezbollah would prove that they are not, by laying down arms and not threatening peace," Mr. Bush said Tuesday after a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. He said he and the king had discussed their concern "that Hezbollah may try to derail the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians."

Hezbollah, whose officials declined to comment Tuesday on Mr. Bush's remarks, had organized a pro-Syrian rally of 500,000 people in central Beirut last week. The demonstration on Monday was seen as a reply from the anti-Syrian opposition.

Mr. Bush spoke after several thousand pro-Syrian demonstrators shouting "Death to America!" and "Ambassador get out!" had denounced American interference in Lebanon during a march toward the American Embassy. Lebanese police officers, troops and coils of barbed wire stopped the march just over a half mile from the fortified embassy compound.

Syrian intelligence agents packed up their files and furniture at their offices in beirut's commercial Hamra district, about two dozen Syrian agents left their office in a car and a van loaded with furniture and belongings. They were escorted by Lebanese police officers.

A short time later, a doorman hoisted two Lebanese flags at the entrance.

The intelligence offices in Beirut were the only remnants of Syria's military presence in the capital after the withdrawal of troops in 2000. Since then, the headquarters of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon have been in the town of Anjar, a few miles from the Lebanese-Syrian border.

now that the syrian military intelligence has left, the lebanese may (finally) start to put together a government based on the principles of 'false democracy.' you know; freedom, justice and all that.

the syrians have mostly pulled out of lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 15 - The symbols of Syrian power began coming down in parts of Lebanon on Tuesday, as Syrian military intelligence agents emptied their offices in Beirut and Tripoli and workers took down an imposing portrait of Syria's president in the capital's seaside boulevard.

The retreat of Syrian intelligence, the arm through which Damascus controlled many aspects of Lebanese life, followed strong demands from the United States and an anti-Syrian rally on Monday that drew an estimated one million people - the biggest crowd ever seen in central Beirut.

Also on Tuesday, President Bush again called on the militant Shiite group hezbollah to disarm.

"We view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and I would hope that Hezbollah would prove that they are not, by laying down arms and not threatening peace," Mr. Bush said Tuesday after a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. He said he and the king had discussed their concern "that Hezbollah may try to derail the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians."

Hezbollah, whose officials declined to comment Tuesday on Mr. Bush's remarks, had organized a pro-Syrian rally of 500,000 people in central Beirut last week. The demonstration on Monday was seen as a reply from the anti-Syrian opposition.

Mr. Bush spoke after several thousand pro-Syrian demonstrators shouting "Death to America!" and "Ambassador get out!" had denounced American interference in Lebanon during a march toward the American Embassy. Lebanese police officers, troops and coils of barbed wire stopped the march just over a half mile from the fortified embassy compound.

Syrian intelligence agents packed up their files and furniture at their offices in beirut's commercial Hamra district, about two dozen Syrian agents left their office in a car and a van loaded with furniture and belongings. They were escorted by Lebanese police officers.

A short time later, a doorman hoisted two Lebanese flags at the entrance.

The intelligence offices in Beirut were the only remnants of Syria's military presence in the capital after the withdrawal of troops in 2000. Since then, the headquarters of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon have been in the town of Anjar, a few miles from the Lebanese-Syrian border.

now that the syrian military intelligence has left, the lebanese may (finally) start to put together a government based on the principles of 'false democracy.' you know; freedom, justice and all that.

Case Stirs Fight on Jews, Juries and Execution

By DEAN E. MURPHY

OAKLAND, Calif., March 15 - The convictions of dozens of death-row inmates in California are coming under legal scrutiny because of accusations that Jews and black women were excluded from juries in capital trials in Alameda County as "standard practice."

A former Alameda prosecutor, John R. Quatman, made the contentions in a sworn declaration in the habeas corpus case of Fred H. Freeman. Mr. Freeman is a condemned inmate who is seeking to overturn his conviction in 1987 in a killing and robbery at a bar in Berkeley.

Mr. Quatman, who worked for 26 years as a deputy district attorney and prosecuted the case, said the trial judge, Stanley Golde, advised him during jury selection that "no Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber."

"Judge Golde was only telling me what I already should have known to do," Mr. Quatman's statement said. "It was standard practice to exclude Jewish jurors in death cases."

Mr. Quatman said the practice extended to African-American women, who have also been widely considered sympathetic to defendants, though in Mr. Freeman's case that has not been an issue.

Alameda County officials strongly disputed the claims, with the man who was district attorney in 1987 calling the accusations dishonest.

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal to reject jurors on the basis of race, and the California Supreme Court in 1978 extended that prohibition to religion. While habeas corpus petitions typically challenge trial procedures, it is highly unusual for the prosecutor in a case to support the petition. A hearing on Mr. Quatman's accusation, which State Supreme Court ordered in July, is scheduled for Tuesday in Superior Court in San Jose.

If Mr. Freeman's lawyers succeed, he would get a new trial. But the repercussions are possibly much broader. Forty-four people from Alameda County are on death row, and Judge Golde, who died in 1998 after 25 years on the bench, presided over more death penalty cases in the county than any other judge. At least eight inmates now on death row had trials conducted by Judge Golde.

"It is highly likely that this is going to be a recurring problem for Alameda County cases, and it could show up elsewhere," said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, is representing the county. "Legal arguments are not a fad for capital defendants. They are used until the law is settled."

Stefanie Faucher, program director for Death Penalty Focus, a group in San Francisco against capital punishment, said the accusations cast a shadow over death-penalty convictions statewide. California, with 640 inmates awaiting execution, has the largest death row in the nation.

"It is naïve to assume these practices only occurred in Alameda County, especially when district attorneys from across the state frequently get together to share theories," Ms. Faucher said. "We don't really know how many people were wrongfully convicted, not just because they are innocent, but because they didn't receive a fair trial."

Defense lawyers and groups opposing death penalty are combing county death-row files for evidence of possible bias involving black women and Jewish jurors. Already, Mr. Quatman's declaration is being used in the appeal of another condemned Alameda inmate, Mark Schmeck.

At Mr. Schmeck's trial in 1989, prosecutors used peremptory challenges to remove the two prospective Jewish jurors, court papers show. His lawyers protested, but the judge, who was not Mr. Golde, sided with the prosecution, which said there were reasons other than religion for excluding the two.

As part of the appeal, Mr. Schmeck's lawyers and the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, a group that represents Mr. Freeman, reviewed jury selection in 25 capital trials in Alameda from 1984 to 1994. The review found that 12 people who identified themselves as Jews were called to the jury box and that the prosecution rejected all 12.

The review found, 17 people who had surnames perceived as Jewish were called, with the prosecution excluding 15 . Over all, the review found non-Jews excluded at a rate of 49.97 percent, and Jews and people with Jewish surnames were excluded at a rate of 93.10 percent.

In papers in Mr. Schmeck's case, his lawyers state that another ex-Alameda prosecutor, Alex Selvin, confirmed that "it was the standard practice for attorneys on the capital team to exclude Jews from capital juries." Mr. Selvin did not make a sworn declaration.

"Judge Golde was unique in the sense that he would say what was on his mind in the chambers," a lawyer for Mr. Schmeck, Lawrence A. Gibbs, said. "But he was just simply giving voice to a practice that was occurring in all of the courts."

The accusations stunned the legal community in Alameda County, where Judge Golde was dean of Superior Court jurists and where the prosecutor's office has considered itself a model operation since the time of Earl Warren, district attorney for three terms in the 1920's and 30's.

In papers filed with the Supreme Court, John J. Meehan, who was district attorney at the time of Mr. Freeman's trial, said there was no practice of excluding jurors on ethnic or religious grounds.

"Our lawyers were trained to the contrary, that it was misconduct and unlawful for them to remove prospective jurors solely because they were members of a legally cognizable group," said Mr. Meehan, who retired in 1995.

James H. Anderson, a 35-year veteran of the office who retired last year as assistant district attorney for death penalty cases, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Quatman's accusations were laughable and that many prospective jurors, including Jews and blacks, were excluded because of backgrounds, professions and political beliefs.

"That is not a racist thing, but just common sense," Mr. Anderson said. "It is an axiom. It is not because of prejudice. Their politics are not going to be on your side."

Mr. Anderson suggested that Mr. Quatman might be seeking revenge against the district attorney's office, which he said Mr. Quatman had left after having been removed from the trial staff after "a major falling out" over a disciplinary case that involved an insult to a co-worker.

Mr. Quatman, who left the office in 1998 and is now a lawyer in Montana, declined to comment. In his declaration, he said Judge Golde had asked him in chambers why he had not removed a prospective Jewish juror.

"He said I could not have a Jew on the jury and asked me if I was aware that when Adolf Eichmann was apprehended after World War II there was a major controversy in Israel over whether he should be executed," Mr. Quatman said in his declaration. "Judge Golde said no Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber. I thanked Judge Golde for his advice and thereafter excused any prospective juror who was Jewish."

One of Judge Golde's two sons, Matthew, is a deputy district attorney in Alameda. The other, Ivan, is a lawyer in Oakland. Both said they were suspicious of Mr. Quatman's timing, because their father was not able to defend himself. The Goldes said their father was opposed to the death penalty, in part because of Jewish religious teachings. He was a member of Temple Sinai in Oakland.

"It is something he had to philosophically struggle with and come to grips with," Matthew Golde said. "I remember having conversations with him about it. He felt it was his duty as a judge."

Mr. Anderson said the judge's chambers were a popular gathering place because he was a mentor to many lawyers. Mr. Anderson said he frequently heard Judge Golde give advice to prosecutors and defense lawyers about picking juries, but never during a trial and never about a particular juror.

"When I was a young D.A., he would tell me, 'If you have a cop case, be careful of blacks on the jury, because they don't like cops,' " Mr. Anderson said. "I heard him tell defense lawyers: 'Be careful of Asians. They are very law-and-order oriented.' "

Daniel Horowitz, a defense lawyer here who has handled more than a dozen death penalty cases in 20 years, said he had spoken with Mr. Quatman about his conversation with Judge Golde. Mr. Horowitz said Mr. Quatman related a much more casual exchange than the one reflected in the declaration.

"Everyone knows that Stanley would not do what Jack put in the declaration," Mr. Horowitz said.

Cliff Gardner, a lawyer for Mr. Schmeck, said the statistics from the 10-year review of the capital trials spoke for themselves. A declaration in Mr. Schmeck's appeal by a mathematician, Philip Farmer, states that the probability in those cases of the prosecution randomly striking 27 of 29 Jews is less than 1 in 1.6 million.

In Schiavo Feeding-Tube Case, Notoriety Finds Unlikely Judge (or; let's hear it for judge kevorkian!)

By ABBY GOODNOUGH

MIAMI, March 16 - For most of his career, Judge George W. Greer presided over mundane local disputes that drew little notice outside Pinellas County or even his courtroom. People who know him say he considers himself a "compassionate conservative," a man whose religious faith is as dear to him as his reputation as a legal scholar.

For the past seven years, though, Judge Greer, of Circuit Court, has been at the center of one of the nation's most contentious civil cases, the battle over whether to withdraw the feeding tube of a critically brain-damaged woman, Terri Schiavo. The case has made him a target of religious conservatives and others who object to ending any life prematurely. He resigned from his Southern Baptist church and lately travels under heavy police protection, not even going to lunch unaccompanied.

Over the years, the case has traveled all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Yet it always returns to Judge Greer, 63, who most recently ordered that Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube be removed on Friday. His finding that Mrs. Schiavo would rather die than be kept alive artificially, based on testimony from her husband, Michael, has prompted protests around the world.

Opponents have sent hundreds of letters and e-mail messages to the judge, picketed his courthouse in Clearwater, and, in a few cases, friends said, threatened his life. He stopped attending his longtime church, Calvary Baptist in Clearwater, in 2003 after it sent a publication to the congregation sharply criticizing him.

Now, as protesters descend on Pinellas County, where Mrs. Schiavo is in a suburban hospice, and Tallahassee, where they are lobbying Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature, the judge's friends say he remains resolute. Yet they say stress is afflicting him and his family, especially after the recent killings of a state judge in Atlanta and a federal judge's husband and mother in Chicago.

Judge Greer, a former Pinellas County commissioner who was elected to the Sixth Circuit Court in 1992, declined to be interviewed, and neither the court nor the county sheriff's office would discuss his security arrangements. But several of his friends said that in recent weeks, at least two sheriff's deputies have escorted him almost everywhere.

"It's killing me to watch him struggle with this," said Mary, a retired political consultant who worked on several of Judge Greer's campaigns. "Armed guards with him all the time. People threatening to kill him and claiming it has something to do with the right to life - explain that, will you? I know he's concerned about his family and his wife, because it has gotten so ugly."

Judge Greer was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Dunedin, a small Pinellas County town on the Gulf of Mexico. He stayed in Florida for college and law school, and returned to the Tampa area to practice law. He divorced and remarried, and has two adult sons and a Yorkshire terrier that friends said he dotes on. He won a seat on the Pinellas County Commission in 1984 and spent the next eight years learning how to weather political maelstroms.

"He always voted the way he sincerely believed to be right," Ms. Repper said, "regardless of how many people were standing in front of him screaming and carrying on."

Judge Greer, whose eyesight is so poor that he does not drive, has a soft voice and a patient manner in the courtroom. In his order that Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube be removed, he politely cited the "excellent argument" of both sides' lawyers, even as he wrote, "The court is no longer comfortable granting stays simply upon the filings of new motions and petitions since there will always be 'new' issues that can be pled."

The case, Schindler v. Schiavo, landed on his desk in 1998. Michael Schiavo wanted to remove the feeding tube, eight years after his wife suffered extensive brain damage when her heart briefly stopped, possibly due to a potassium deficiency.

from bill: there's a good few things that were inconsequential to the case: for one thing, michael schiavo took out a life insurance policy on his wife a little while before he petitioned to take away her feeding tube.
for another; terri schiavo was undergoinng therapy, and she was showing marked improvement before her husband halted it.
third; michael schiavo has a girlfriend, with whom he has had children.
fourth; this is setting a wild precident, judge greer has literally ruled that it is legal to kill a person because they aren't able to defend themself.

my mother has multiple sclerosis: she is disabled, she needs my father's help, mine and my siblings for many things. does the fact that she is disabled mean that I have to worry about some judge saying that it is legal to kill her? after judge greer's ruling, I do.

Terry Schiavo

From the Dallas Morning News:
American society is about to enter dangerous territory, in which the slow-motion killing of a woman by her faithless husband will have been sanctioned by the court. After Terri's death, where will we draw the line between one's right to privacy and another's right to life? Are our legislatures to have no say in the matter?

It is inconvenient to Michael Schiavo and to the Florida courts that Terri Schiavo continues to live and that her parents won't relent and let her die of thirst and starvation. If Mr. Schiavo prevails, then every person whose life is considered of negligible quality by a court or a legal guardian could be condemned. There is more at stake here than the fate of one solitary woman. After this Friday, it becomes possible that, in this country, if the unwanted and the weak are simply too burdensome to us as individuals, that the right to rid ourselves of inconvenient lives will be our courts' guiding principle.

George P. Bush, lawyer, Governor Jeb Bush's son.

We've discussed this here before, and there is some diversity of opinion among us - just as there is among readers of National Review's The Corner blog.


I ran across this today - and it simply further cements my belief that Ms. Schiavo should not have her feeding tube pulled.
Kate Adamson is the mother of two who suffered a double brain stem stroke and was in a coma for 70 days. She was completely unresponsive to stimuli and was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state. Doctors finally pulled her feeding tube and, for eight days, she lay dying. Instead of being unconscious as the doctors believed she was aware of everything.

During an interview on the O'Reilly Factor in 2003 she recounted the dehydration experience:
O'REILLY: When they took the feeding tube out, what went through your mind?

ADAMSON: When the feeding tube was turned off for eight days, I thought I was going insane. I was screaming out in my mind, "Don't you know I need to eat?" And even up until that point, I had been having a bagful of Ensure as my nourishment that was going through the feeding tube. At that point, it sounded pretty good. I just wanted something. The fact that I had nothing, the hunger pains overrode every thought I had.
Bob & Mary Schindler have invited Kate Adamson to address the Florida State House Committee on the Judiciary and share her remarkable story. Adamson, author of "Kate's Journey" and a renowned disability rights activist, hopes her story will change the way Terri is being perceived by those who hold her life in their hands.

Due to a catastrophic brain stem stroke, Kate was dependent on a feeding tube for all her nourishment and had the tube turned off for over a week. She, unlike most others, can understand what Terri is going through. Doctors had given up hope that Kate would ever recover, but she is now fully functional except for some paralysis on the left side of her body.

"I have a unique understanding of what Terri is feeling. I could feel everything that the doctors did to me, and I could do nothing. I was at the complete mercy of others, and they couldn't hear me. I have been given the opportunity to speak on behalf of one that has been robbed of her voice. We are praying that God will move on the hearts of Governor Bush and the Florida Legislature to stand up and protect the right of Terri not to be starved to death."

For those interested in taking action in support of Terri Schiavo here are a number of action items:

Pray for Terri Schiavo, her family and our government officials

Blog - make known Terri's plight and these action items. You can join the list of BlogsforTerri.

Support Florida House Bill 701 and Senate Bill 2128 by calling your Flordia representatives.

Support the Federal Incapacitated Person's Protection Act by calling your Federal representatives

Ask Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene and put Terri in protective custody
Finally, BlogsforTerri is sponsoring an ongoing campaign to bypass the mainstream media by purchasing advertising.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Train hard to make the fighting easy - but care for your men

(Filed: 15/03/2005)

(note from bill: I found this on opinion.telegraph.com and I'm afraid I could not find the name of the man who wrote this)

Several horrible incidents stick in the mind from the brief time I spent at Sandhurst when I was 17.

At one point, I was supplied with some wooden planks, rope and oil barrels and told to build a craft to transport myself and a five-man team around a small island in the middle of a lake. We did it, but halfway through the return journey we were hailed by loudspeaker from the shoreline to stop paddling, and to stand up on the rickety craft.

When we pulled this off, we were ordered to jump up and down. Of course the raft sank and we waded ashore to be greeted by an NCO demanding press-ups because we had left some rope in the water.


My low point came when I failed to find a padlock for my cupboard and returned to barracks to find all my personal stuff, including a photograph of my new girlfriend (now wife), stamped into the ground around my bed as punishment. I ran to the loo, sat down, and wept.


But after a few weeks, physical discomfort and humiliation ceased to matter. The hard-wired instinct to protect yourself, to arrive at the finish line first, to press your companion's face into the mud as you seal-crawled over him with a barking NCO on your tail, gave way to an awareness that you were henceforward going to be assessed only in relation to how you acted as a member of a group.

And as camaraderie took over from personal survival, things got easier. A senior NCO whom I approached for help during my stay at Sandhurst used my rugby background as a means of helping me see a point in all the pain.


He told me that the Army was a forward's game, and that its most effective manifestation was the rolling maul where strong men, bound together, hustle the ball towards the try line: "One falls out, and he is bound in again by his mates. Then we all get to walk back from the line kissing and cuddling."


I had been attracted to the officer's life by a promise during the selection process that training would unveil for me unique, hidden individual strengths and qualities I never knew I had.


But everything I was subjected to in my first week appeared to have little to do with personal discovery and everything to do with "breaking down" individuality. We were not allowed to enter or leave barracks without doing push-ups and pull-ups on a climbing frame situated just outside. We never had time to eat. We never really slept, either, because of the extraordinary demands surrounding personal effects - boots, properly made beds, correctly laid-out possessions.

We had to run everywhere and were constantly harassed by the NCOs who, out of respect for our superior rank, appended the title "Sir" to every insult screamed into our faces as we collapsed, vomiting with exhaustion, in a miasma of sweat, tears and tangled webbing.


Clearly, things at Deepcut and other training bases went way beyond my experiences. The pattern of suicides among recruits reveals an unforgivable climate of harassment and bullying that deserves our fullest condemnation.

With recent allegations of misbehaviour on the part of members of Her Majesty's forces in Iraq, the public could be forgiven for thinking that something is seriously awry with military discipline, and that Draconian safeguards need to be introduced.


But it would be very unfortunate if the wave of bad news was allowed to affect training methods and the traditional relationships between officers, NCOs and rank and file so as to undermine the soldier's most basic role: to attack or defend against opposing forces and to be ready to kill while doing so.


The pastoral role played by officers and senior NCOs seems to have broken down at Deepcut and elsewhere. Squaddies and NCOs are hard men, often from underprivileged backgrounds, who can have a one-dimensional way of looking at things. This is why they are good soldiers, because they do not over-analyse or question orders.


Training has to be hard, almost brutal, to bind them to each other and to make sure they obey, but there must always be a way for them, as there was for me at Sandhurst, to call a "time out" and to have access to help and counsel from senior ranks.

This is the "duty of care" referred to by MPs of the defence select committee. It is often unofficial, and it is always open and honest.


If this is not the case, the recruit in difficulty feels he or she has nowhere to go. Too ashamed to be seen wavering in front of the family or regimental "padre", the recruit can face intense psychological pressure if there is no avenue of understanding at NCO level and above.


When, towards the end of my time at Sandhurst, I began to search out such advice, it was always honestly delivered. The last thing my seniors wanted was a semi-convinced soldier in their care, and they knew that, if I wanted, I was to be accorded the chance to withdraw with dignity.


Eventually I did, my mum arriving, chequebook in hand, to buy me out. I did not like my experiences at Sandhurst, but I cannot argue with the training methods.


We should take care not to transform soldiering into a profession in which "rights" are allowed to outstrip "duties". Nor should the focus of recruiting, training and commanding soldiers become dominated by the need to avoid liability.

We pay our soldiers to kill people and they expect to risk their lives for us. Imagine what would happen to this already unequal contract (rank-and-file soldiers earn on average less than £20,000 a year) if they had to factor into split-second decisions the prospect of civil, as well as military, repercussions.


I am open to the notion of a public inquiry into events at Deepcut, not least because it would offer bereaved families a means of coping with their loss. But it would be unfortunate if such an inquiry were to result in measures that might dilute the ferocity of training required to produce our excellent soldiers.


A few years ago, I was told by a senior officer that two things count when engaged in operations: "Training, and the fact that every bastard around you has been through it, and so has been through Hell already.''

(note from bill: kinda makes you think 'band of brothers.' huh?)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Detectives Used Badges to Kill for the Mob, Indictments Say

By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
Published: March 11, 2005


Two retired New York City police detectives, onetime partners who had long been suspected of ties to organized crime, were charged by federal prosecutors yesterday with taking part in eight murders on behalf of the Mafia - most while one or both were still active members of the police force.

The charges, detailed in an indictment unsealed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, were among the most startling allegations of police corruption in memory. In one case, in 1990, prosecutors said the detectives, driving an unmarked police car, pulled over a Mafia captain on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn and shot him to death for a rival mob figure. In another, in 1986, they flashed their badges and kidnapped a mobster, threw him in the trunk of their car and delivered him to a rival, who tortured and killed him.

"In a stunning betrayal of their shields, their colleagues and the citizens they were sworn to protect, Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa secretly worked on the payroll of the mob while they were members of the N.Y.P.D," the United States attorney in Brooklyn, Roslynn R. Mauskopf, said at a news conference to announce the indictment.

For years, Ms. Mauskopf charged, the men had been paid handsomely for their role in the killings and for routinely funneling secret information about criminal investigations to other members of organized crime. In most of the killings, she said, they did not pull the trigger but helped other hit men track down the victims, at one point becoming so instrumental that they were put on the mob's payroll at $4,000 a month.

Mr. Eppolito, 56, who once co-wrote a book about his life as a police officer whose relatives were in the mob, and Mr. Caracappa, 63, who worked in a police unit that was responsible for investigating mob killings, were arrested on Wednesday night at an Italian restaurant in Las Vegas, Ms. Mauskopf said. Mr. Eppolito retired in 1990, Mr. Caracappa two years later.

For more than a decade, the men, while collecting their police pensions, have lived across the street from one another in an affluent gated community in Las Vegas, Mr. Caracappa working as a private investigator and Mr. Eppolito playing bit parts in nearly a dozen popular movies, including "Goodfellas" - portraying mobsters, hoodlums and drug dealers. They appeared in Federal District Court in Las Vegas last night, where an acting United States magistrate judge, Jennifer Togliatti, postponed an extradition hearing until today.

The charges, dramatic as they are, were not entirely surprising: the pair were investigated by the F.B.I. and the New York Police Department in 1994 after a Mafia informant provided officials with many details of the killings. But the informant, who prosecutors said had commissioned many of the crimes, was later discredited, and federal authorities at the time were unable to build a prosecutable case, officials said yesterday.

But now, with a new informant, whose name was not disclosed, and a team of what Ms. Mauskopf called tenacious investigators, several of them also retired city police detectives, the authorities were able to collect enough evidence over several years to persuade a grand jury to indict the men.

The former detectives were charged with a racketeering conspiracy, which includes their roles in the killings, two attempted murders, obstruction of justice, money laundering and other crimes. The indictment accuses them of working as secret associates of the Luchese crime family. They are charged with disclosing the identity of six cooperating witnesses - three of whom were killed - and compromising several federal and state investigations.

None of the eight murders charged in the case - all but one involving victims who were organized crime figures - occurred after the first, failed attempt to make a case against the men.

Mr. Eppolito's lawyer, Richard A. Schonfeld, said his client "absolutely denies the charges" and cited what he called an exemplary 21-year police career, with 107 medals, including several for valor, in arguing that he should be released.
Edward Hayes, a lawyer in New York who represented Mr. Caracappa when he was under investigation more than a decade ago, said he was shocked at the charges. He said the mob figure who made the accusations at that time, Anthony Casso, was "a homicidal maniac" and "a raving lunatic." He said his client, a Vietnam combat veteran who retired as a first-grade detective, had denied the allegations before.

The charges against the two men, who face up to life in prison if convicted, will be resolved over the coming months, or perhaps years, in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. But the accusations themselves are a bizarre and breathtaking chapter in the history of corrupt police officers, mobsters and murder.

Both men joined the force in 1969, a year in which the city, with abbreviated background checks, hired an unusual number of officers who were later arrested or fired. Mr. Eppolito had relatives in organized crime - his father, Ralph, was called Fat the Gangster and his uncle, James, was known as Jimmy the Clam. But Mr. Eppolito did not disclose any of that on his police application.

He went on to serve as a patrol officer and detective, working in the Brooklyn Robbery Squad and in South Brooklyn. And after he retired, he wrote, with Bob Drury, "Mafia Cop: The Story of an Honest Cop Whose Family Was the Mob," in which he chronicled what he said were wrongful accusations brought by the Police Department that he sold information to the mob. Mr. Eppolito was cleared of charges brought against him by the department in that case in 1985.

Mr. Caracappa, who was Mr. Eppolito's partner in the robbery unit, went on to join the department's prestigious Major Case Squad, where he helped form the Organized Crime Homicide Unit. There, he specialized in the Luchese family and served as a clearinghouse on police and F.B.I. investigations into all mob killings, collecting information. It was information, prosecutors now allege, that he sold to members of the Mafia - revealing the identities of confidential informants, wiretaps and pending cases. In one instance, the information allowed Mr. Casso and the Luchese family boss to flee before they were indicted.

One of the killings involved a case of mistaken identity. Mr. Casso, eager to avenge an attempt on his own life in 1986, asked the two detectives to track down a Gambino family soldier named Nicholas Guido, according to prosecutors. But when Mr. Caracappa used a Police Department computer database to find an address for the man, he retrieved the address for the wrong Nicholas Guido, according to prosecutors, and instead turned over the address of an innocent man who officials said was mildly retarded.

Mob killers found the wrong Mr. Guido outside his home on Christmas Day 1986. They shot and killed him.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Israelis Kill Palestinian Militant Linked to Tel Aviv Bombing

By GREG MYRE
Published: March 11, 2005

JERUSALEM, March 10 - Israeli soldiers on Thursday tracked down and killed an armed Palestinian militant who Israeli military officials said had helped orchestrate a recent suicide bombing and was planning further attacks. Palestinians criticized the action, saying it could jeopardize the fragile truce.

Israeli military officials said the militant, Muhammad Abu Khazneh, was a member of Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the bombing deaths of five Israelis at a Tel Aviv nightclub on Feb. 25. It was the deadliest single attack since the truce was announced Feb. 8.

Overall, the number of killings has dropped significantly since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, called for an end to violence. The two-week period between Thursday's incident and the Tel Aviv bombing was one of the longest without a killing on either side since the fighting erupted in September 2000.

(note from bill: according to the jeruselam post, the number of attempted attacks has gone down from an average of 120 a week to an average of 10 a week)

But shooting exchanges still break out almost daily, and the Israelis and Palestinians have been making little progress in negotiations, with both sides expressing frustrations.

In Thursday's operation, Israeli forces surrounded the home where Mr. Khazneh was hiding in the village of Nazlat al Awasta, near Jenin in the West Bank. Using a loudspeaker, the troops called for everyone to come out, and all of them did - except for Mr. Khazneh. The soldiers then sent a trained dog inside to look for him, the military said.

Mr. Khazneh shot and killed the dog, and then fired on troops, according to the military. Soldiers returned fire and tossed grenades inside, later demolishing the house.

When the truce was announced last month, Israel pledged not to carry out operations in Palestinian areas unless facing attack. Military officials said Mr. Khazneh was a target because he was directly involved in the Tel Aviv bombing and was planning additional attacks.

Nafez Azzam, an Islamic Jihad leader in the Gaza Strip, told The Associated Press that the killing "does not encourage us to continue the state of calmness that currently exists on the ground."

In another development on Thursday, about 20 Palestinian gunmen linked to Mr. Abbas's political movement, Fatah, stormed a large Fatah meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The gunmen smashed windows and chairs and ordered hundreds of Fatah members out of the hall. As the crowd moved outside, the gunmen fired shots in the air. No one was hurt, but the meeting was called off.

The gunmen, who belong to Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, an armed faction of Fatah, said they felt that they were being marginalized by the Fatah leadership.

The episode reflected the problems Mr. Abbas faces in his movement, which has dominated Palestinian politics for decades.

Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad and other armed factions have agreed in principle to a temporary halt in attacks, though compliance has been less than complete. The factions plan to discuss the truce in talks set to begin March 15 in Cairo.

Mr. Abbas plans to attend, and said he hoped the meeting would produce a stronger and more lasting truce. "There are no radical differences, and the Cairo dialogue should crown efforts that are under way," he told reporters in Gaza City.

But he also criticized the Israeli raid, saying it would make it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to prevent, or at least limit, attacks from the Palestinian side.

"Quiet is required from us," Mr. Abbas said. "At the same time, it is also required from the Israelis, and the Israelis must not carry out these actions."

from bill: I certainly do not think that the Israelis 'must not carry out these actions'. I think that they have a legitimate right to seek out and arrest, kill, or otherwise neutralize any threat to the lives of innocent people.

I'm a little late with this bit of trivia

On March 11, 1941, President Roosevelt signed into law the Lend-Lease Bill, providing war supplies to countries fighting the Axis.

my sister is going in the army

my sister is going into the army tomorrow. we don't know where she will be posted or what she will be doing. and I really don't know what to think.

part of my confusion is that we just moved house several times in the past month so I'm finding it hard to think anyway. another part is that while I'm glad that she's going off to do what she wants to do, the army is a dangerous place to be (in these times, very dangerous. no matter what army you're in). yet another part of it is that when she's gone, the family scene will be greatly changed: she's two years older than me and my brother is two years younger; we've almost always been together, we've almost always done everything together. and it's a little hard to think of life without her always there.

I guess I'm a little relieved: she was always wound a little too tight. (and if you knew my family, you could totally sympathize with her).

but still, there is always the dread that a war will start, a gun will backfire, some terrorist with a gun will get lucky, maybe some jerk in a tank will forget to look where he's going. I don't know! the army is a more dangerous place than normal life.

I guess what I'm dreading is that some day I'll have to watch as they lower her into the ground with a flag across her coffin. I'm not much of a praying man but I'm praying that will not happen.

-Bill

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Like thousands before him, a soldier comes of age

By JACK LEWIS

NORTHERN IRAQ -- He's young enough to be my son. Annoying enough, too.


When I beat on his hooch door this morning to get him up for a mission, he was his typical floppy-jointed, addle-headed, eye-rolling self. It was pouring down rain, I was standing out in it wearing PT shorts and a raincoat, and I had no patience: "Get up, time to move. You're going down with Apache."


Long groan -- but he knew what the mission was since last night.


"Quit your bitchin', Y---," I told him. "You're lucky as hell -- you get to hang out at the castle, and I have to ride the hatch in this shit."


Y--- was going downtown to broadcast over the LRAD -- i.e., "Long Range Acoustical Device," a gizmo originally designed to warn boaters away from the exclusion zone surrounding naval vessels, while I was going to charge around town in one of Charger Troop's Stryker armored vehicles, broadcasting pro-election messages, pre-recorded in Arabic, from a manpack loudspeaker system.


"Yeah ... I guess," he said, rubbing the back of his head, sullen as a teenager, which, at 21, he practically is.


"Be at the office no later than zero-seven-thirty," I told him, before throwing on a uniform and $400 worth of rain gear to go there myself.


I was closing in on a peak experience of blood pressure when he slouched through the door at 0729.


"I took the trailer off."


"Oh," I said. "How we doin' on fuel?"


"I filled it last night."


"All right, let's get your pack together."


"I already got it, sergeant -- it's ready to go."


"Damn, Y---. I hardly know you!"


Goofy grin from him: "I do what I can, sar'nt."


And so I dropped him down at Apache's hangar, ran to the DFAC (dining facility) to get him a box breakfast, and presently, off he went into Tall 'Afar.


But I never went out on my mission today. After I put together a briefing memo for the squadron commander, I ran straight into the battle captain.


He said, "Oh.


"It's good you're here. Y---'s your guy, right? We got a report he was shot in the neck --"


"WHAT?"


" -- but apparently he was wounded in the hand. A fragment hit him in the chin, and it bled all over, and they thought he had a neck wound."


"IDF or small arms?"


"We don't know yet."


"Are they bringing him in now?"


"We don't know yet."


Everything takes too long, and the cavalry's axiom is true: The first report is always WRONG. And so I grabbed my troop data notes, and dropped the Squadron Commanding Officer's memo, and Capt. Murphy and I settled the report.


Then I went to the aid station to wait. Everything takes too long, and Murphy's Law (no relation) never fails us: Y--- couldn't be evac'd immediately because of continuing small arms fire and mortar fire, which required all available combat power to stay on-site and fight. Then, after Apache's company commander rolled his own vehicle out to the castle and picked up my soldier, they hit an IED (improvised explosive device) on the return trip.


Everything takes too long. It took 20 minutes for Apache 66 to move from the front gate to the aid station, because a convoy of civilian fuel tankers was plugging up the roads.


When A66 finally rolled into the aid station lot and dropped ramp, my kid soldier was sitting inside, holding up a bloody bulb of gauze the size of his head. He looked mighty uncomfortable.


The first words out of his mouth were, "I'm all right, sergeant."


It seems that Y--- was running the LRAD when the castle came under fire, as it usually does when that bullet magnet is in operation. He put down his DVR/MP3, picked up his rifle, and took up a security position along the battlements. When the sniper found him, the neck-aimed bullet hit him in his forward hand, bounced off his rifle and dug into his armored vest with a heavyweight punch. A fragment of the bullet jacket flew up and cut his chin to the bone. Infantry and commo soldiers gave him buddy aid. They said he wheezed pretty hard. They said he stayed alert and responsive. They said he never complained.


What Y--- did do, after he was shot: He trained up a commo sergeant on how to run the LRAD, so that while he waited for evac, he could keep his mission going. He secured, or caused to be secured, all of his sensitive items and psychological operations equipment. He marveled at the bullet they dug out of his vest. He told everybody not to worry about him, and reminded them to keep their heads down.


Everything takes too long. At the aid station, one X-ray salvo wasn't enough; they had to go two rounds with that. The shaky-handed lab tech who tried to start Y---'s IV failed five times on his right arm before someone else took it away and plugged it in properly, upstream of his bullet-raddled left paw.


Through all that, nothing but some wincing and the occasional, "Oww."


And this comment: "I'll tell you one thing. These elections better work. They better get democracy, and freedom, and their rights, and hot chicks in tight jeans.


"I hope I didn't take this bullet for nothing."


And so, although everything seemed like it was happening in slow-mo, Specialist J----- Y--- was treated, given a bit of morphine, and presently evac'd to the 67th Combat Support Hospital by a UH-60 Blackhawk helo.


I made sure he had his IBA (interceptor body armor) with the souvenir slug in one pocket, helmet, coat and the bloody DCU blouse with his name on it -- they can wash it out at the hospital. They do it all the time.


I held onto his weapon, which caught the bullet as it exited through the meat of Y---'s left thumb. That weapon is NMC ("non-mission capable") and irreparable -- it won't ever cycle again without the bottom half of it being replaced. Later, I would have to strip rounds out one by one, and crush the magazine to remove it. I pray my driver's left hand will recover better than his rifle.


Then I stood and watched him lift off, and saluted him in my way. I doubt he noticed. He was trying not to drop his IV bag, which sounds like a simple trick until you try it while juiced to the gills on morphine and battling the shaky shock of adrenaline withdrawal.


I'll miss Y--- here, and not just for the work he does, which is plenty if I remind him often enough. I'll miss him pulling dumb stunts, working so hard at not working that it exhausts him just to think about it, starting to do push-ups just because I gave him a hard look, teaching me how to play Yahtzee (then beating the crap out of me), and schooling me at pingpong until he gets impatient and starts hitting the ball too hard to spin it down onto the table.


He's a near-total dingbat with no sense of planning who still manages to get things done; a lazy sloth who works like a sled dog. A good kid with bad manners; a graceful athlete who trips over his own size 12s. This is the overgrown boy I have to kick out of the rack every morning, remind him to check the oil, take his gloves on mission and shower periodically.


Mostly, he's just too much of a goofy kid for me to have expected him to take this like a man.


Y--- doesn't want to be deployed to Iraq. He wants to chase women around Seattle, and go to college and find out what he wants to be. He wants to play video games, drink some beer and buy a Mustang.


Guys my age are supposed to gripe about how kids today are letting the world go to hell in a handbasket, how there aren't any standards for behavior anymore. After all, we've taken such good care of things. Maybe it's because guys my age usually work with guys my age. Guys Y---'s age are just parts for the big machine in civilian life: laborers, clerks, apprentices. Y--- went from busboy to combat soldier. Now he's wounded in action, and he doesn't even have the good sense to snivel about it.


He was subsequently evac'd to 67th CSH for surgery, then on to Landstuhl. As they loaded him onto the C-130, he was fretting about letting down my team and our detachment by flying out to Germany.


I don't want to hear any more about the passing of "The Greatest Generation." Ain't no generation better than his. Specialist Y--- didn't take it like a man. He took it like his brothers across the generations, and earned his flagon of mead at Valhalla or at least his pint of Bud at the local VFW.


He took it like a soldier.

Jack Lewis, who lives in Lake Forest Park, currently runs a small combat support team of deployed reservists in northern Iraq.

I found this on castle argghhh!

Please share the below message with your weBLOG viewers. We'd appreciate it if you'd give us a little publicity so we can get some website traffic for a change. We really do good work, but no one knows about us! Thank you very much!

- - - - - -


You can retire your tattered, worn out and frayed American flags without cost to you. Send your flags to the Kitchen Table Gang Trust, 42922 Avenue 12, Madera, CA 93638-8866 and we will dispose of your flags in a proper and dignified manner with full honors and dignity pursuant to the United States Flag Code Section 8K. We have been doing this for he past seven years. Our flag retirement ceremonies are held on Flag Day, June 14th each year and are conducted by an all volunteer U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard led by GySgt. Dan Kelley USMC (Ret.).


Thanks,

Charles Taliaferro
ctaliaferro@kitchentablegang.org
THE KITCHEN TABLE GANG TRUST
http://www.kitchentablegang.org

Across Iraq, Fresh Mass Graves and Fatal Bomb Attacks

By ROBERT F. WORTH

Published: March 10, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 9 - Twenty bodies, including those of civilian men and women, were found Wednesday in a remote valley near the Syrian border, Iraqi officials said, a day after 15 headless bodies were discovered south of Baghdad.

The 20 bodies were discovered by a shepherd near Qaim, a Euphrates River town about 250 miles northwest of Baghdad, a hospital official said. It was not immediately clear whether the victims were Iraqi Army and police officers, who have often been targets of large-scale killings by insurgents, or civilians suspected of collaborating with the Americans.

Insurgents continued a wave of attacks on Wednesday that left at least 10 people dead, including two suicide car bombings in central Iraq and an attack on a police patrol in Basra, in the south, where violence has been rare in recent weeks.

The attacks included the attempted assassination of Iraq's interim planning minister, Mahdi al-Hafidh, whose car was fired upon in Baghdad. Two of his the minister's guards were killed and a third was seriously wounded, Interior Ministry officials said. Mr. Hafidh was not injured.

Several prominent Iraqis have been gunned down in the past week or so, including an Interior Ministry official, a hospital director, and a judge and a lawyer working for the tribunal that will try Saddam Hussein and his associates.

Wednesday's violence began at 6:30 a.m., when a suicide bomber drove a garbage truck full of explosives into a parking lot next to the Sadr Hotel in central Baghdad, where American security contractors often stay. Gunmen exchanged fire with the hotel's armed guards for several minutes before the truck detonated about 35 yards from the eight-story hotel, which is next to the Agriculture Ministry building.

The explosion destroyed dozens of cars in the parking lot, leaving a huge crater in the concrete and sending a massive plume of black smoke into the sky near Firdos Square, where a statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down by Iraqis and American soldiers nearly two years ago. All the hotel's windows were knocked out, but it did not appear to have been damaged structurally.

One Iraqi police officer was killed and 40 people were wounded in the blast, including 30 American contractors, according to a news release by the United States Embassy in Baghdad. None of the Americans were seriously injured, but four were flown out of Iraq for medical treatment, the statement said.

Within hours, Islamist Web sites posted statements from the network of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted militant, claiming credit for the attack. The statements said the attackers had chosen the hotel because it had a "Jewish staff" and because Israeli intelligence agents were staying there.

Also on Wednesday, an American soldier was killed in Baghdad when his patrol vehicle his a roadside bomb, military officials said.

Gunmen also fired at a minibus carrying employees of a Kuwaiti company as it traveled through central Baghdad, killing one of the passengers and injuring three, Interior Ministry officials said.

In Habbaniya, 50 miles west, a suicide bomber drove an Oldsmobile sedan into an Iraqi Army base, killing two officers and a civilian and wounding at least 15 people, army officials said. The attacker is believed to have been a Sudanese, the officials said. Habbaniya is in the volatile Sunni Triangle, which has long been a stronghold of the insurgency.

In Basra, two police officers were killed and five were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their convoy. Attacks have been rare in southern Iraq in recent weeks. But several took place at the time of the elections in January in Zubair, about 20 miles west of Basra. Unlike most of the south, which is dominated by Shiites, Zubair is known as a haven for militant Sunnis.

The circumstances surrounding the bodies found near Qaim remained a mystery. One body was identified as that of Riyadh Aziz al-Sanad, a civilian who lives near Qaim and had been shot in the head, the hospital official said. All of the victims' bodies were returned to their families for burial, he added. Another hospital official in Qaim told Reuters that the victims had been killed two days ago.

The 15 bodies found Tuesday included women and children, and were discovered in an old military base between Karbala and Latifiya. Some of the men are thought to have been part of a group of Iraqi soldiers who were kidnapped two weeks ago, according to an Iraqi official cited by The Associated Press.

Mona Mahmoud and Ali Adeeb contributed reporting for this article.

Rebel's Death Stirs Debate on Strategy for Chechnya

By C. J. CHIVERS

Published: March 10, 2005


MOSCOW, March 9 - The killing of Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen rebel leader and president of the republic's underground separatist government, set off a debate in Russia on Wednesday as to whether the death was a step forward or back.

On the surface, the killing was a rare public success in Russia's Chechnya policy, in which capturing or killing prominent rebel leaders and terrorists has been a highly publicized goal. Politicians loyal to the Kremlin hailed it as a demoralizing loss to the separatists that would give Russia's security forces fresh momentum in the war.

"The elimination of a terrorist of international standing only means that there will be much less evil now," said Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament, in remarks broadcast on national television.

Human rights organizations, however, said Mr. Maskhadov's death meant the loss of both a willing negotiator and a moderating influence over the separatists, many of whom have turned to terrorism in recent years. Greater violence, they said, may now be in store.

"Maskhadov wanted peace, and he wanted to do something about it," said Valentina D. Melnikova, head of the Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers, an antiwar group that counsels Russian soldiers and veterans. "Now that he is dead the door is open for the Islamic radical leaders and movements."

The separatists themselves spoke in similar terms, announcing a three-day period of mourning but saying negotiations were now out of the question and calling for a jihad to avenge Mr. Maskhadov's death. They ordered the rebel units to continue their previously planned attacks in the spring and summer.

"The invaders and puppets claim to be celebrating victory," said one of several postings on Web sites the rebels often use. "A new period in the history of the Russian-Chechen military confrontation has started."

The divergent predictions of the effects of Mr. Maskhadov's death reflected the longstanding split between the Kremlin and critics of the Chechen war.

Russia's government describes the second war in Chechnya, which began in 1999, as a necessary part of multinational efforts against terrorist groups, and often contends that the Muslim separatists are an offshoot of Al Qaeda's international jihad.

Outside the Kremlin's circle of influence the war has been broadly condemned for the corruption and brutality of Russian forces and the Chechen proxies they support.

Mr. Maskhadov, 53, who in 1997 was legitimately elected president of the so-called Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, the name that separatists have given the tiny republic in the Caucasus, was one of the two most prominent rebel leaders.

The other, Shamil Basayev, heads an Islamic terrorist group and has claimed responsibility for the worst acts of terrorism in post-Soviet Russia, including the seizure in 2002 of a Moscow theater, the downing of two passenger jets and the seizure of a public school in Beslan last fall.

Mr. Basayev's group also deploys suicide bombers, including women, not only in the Caucasus but in Moscow. In recent years Mr. Basayev had become the Kremlin's more visible and vicious foe.

But Mr. Maskhadov presented his Russian adversaries with a political challenge.

A former Red Army colonel, he sometimes spoke against terrorism and made frequent overtures to the Kremlin to negotiate a political settlement to the war. He also quarreled with Mr. Basayev and said he would prosecute him.

Moreover, he maintained a network of supporters in the West, which gave him a mark of legitimacy that none of the other rebel commanders or terrorists could match. Last month, his government in exile convened a meeting in London with the Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers to discuss a possible peace settlement. The meeting attracted the attention of European diplomats, some of whom attended.

Mr. Maskhadov was trapped by Russian commandos on Tuesday in a bunker beneath a house in a Chechen village. Officials said Wednesday that after a standoff he was killed by a grenade. That represented a shift from previous accounts, in which they said he had resisted arrest and was killed after opening fire on Russian commandos.

Because there is no clear alternative to Mr. Maskhadov, his loss, critics of the war said, could lead to a dangerous reorganization of the Chechen fighters.

"There are a lot of moderates in the separatist movement who have no leader," said Tanya Lokshina, a program director at the Moscow Helsinki Group who frequently travels to Chechnya. "Now they have a choice: either to quit or to join with Basayev. And I think most will join Basayev."

(note from bill: I think this is not a good thing. the way things are now it looks as if chechnya could desolve into an IRA-style terrorist war.)