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August 2006

Kurd Testifies about Saddam Atrocities

    "On April 16, 1987, in the evening as the cattle were returning home and the sun was setting in the sky, about eight to 12 jets covered the sky.  The jets started firing on the villages of Belisand and Sheikwasan. The explosions were not very loud. There was green smoke rising from the bomb later … Lots of citizens immediately had red eyes and began to vomit." - Kurdish villager, Ali Mustafa Hama, testifying about the murder of his village by Saddam Hussein

There are some that say our endevour in Iraq is not worth the price we are paying.  I doubt that those people ever talked to the Kurds.

We have sacrificed to protect the Kurds for years.  And they have a flourishing state now.  Bloggers like Michael Yon and Michael J. Totten (here, here, and here) have seen it.

But no one seems to think that Kurdistan is part of the *cough* quagmire of Iraq...

The Brain Dead Politicians

    "Suppose you were an idiot ... and suppose you were a member of Congress... but I repeat myself."- Mark Twain

I've got to say here that John Donovan speaks for me about this travesty in "funding" that is complete bull$h!t.

Okay, lemme see if I've got this straight, ladies and gentlemen.  I'll add my voice to that of Cassandra and Grim.

From Military.com, quoting USA Today:

According to USA Today, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury center, which is devoted to the treatment and understanding of war-related brain injuries, is set to lose half its funding, from $14 million down to $7 million, next year. The House and Senate versions of the 2007 Defense appropriation bill contain only half of the funding the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center received last year. "Honestly, they would have loved to have funded it, but there were just so many priorities," a spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee told the paper. "They didn't have any flexibility in such a tight fiscal year." Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is becoming one of the most common injuries among soldiers fighting in Iraq. Research by the center has concluded that ten percent of troops in Iraq suffer concussions during combat.


"Honestly, they would have loved to have funded it, but there were just so many priorities," a spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee told the paper.


That would be the same bleeping Senate Appropriations Committee that didn't have any trouble finding $160 Million for the VA so that the VA could pay for a service - credit monitoring - that victims of identity theft can, with a touch of a telephone keypad, get for free?

Lessee, $160 mil, minus $7 mil, equals (takes off shoes) um, $153 mil. 

Y'know, it just TORQUES ME RIGHT OFF that the Honorables of this Committee could rummage about and find $160 mil for an unneeded service to cover an embarrassing faux pas by an agency of this government, but, well, there just isn't $7 mil to continue funding research into what is the Signature Injury Of This War...

There's a lot more with updates.

Amputee Surfers - Follow Up

RE: Amputee Surfers (read first)

Here's the (AAR) message I received about the event:

Operation Comfort and Ampsurf.
The mission: To give some amputee soldiers and marines a chance to surf.
The outcome: A stoke beyond all belief.  
Operationcomfort.org and ampsurf.com teamed up in Pismo Beach, CA August 16-20 to give a bunch of amputee soldiers and marines the opportunity to surf. For 4-5 hours a day they learned to surf thanks to a small army of fortunate volounteers. Whether they had day two, one or no legs to stand on, the vets gave it their all. Local coverage was huge - the whole surf community was in on it. Even CNN, and National Geographic showed up.
I was blessed by the presence of the soldiers and marines here on the Central Coast. The determination that these guys and gals showed as well as the "determined fun" that they were working for was an inspiration to us all.
When I looked at these guys - my eyes started to mist, not out of pity, but of pride at the quality of our young men and women in our armed services. I was so happy to actually give something tangible to them (a taste of the coolest sport ever) for all that they and hundreds of thousands have done for me and my family. Bcause they are "out there" sacraficing. My family can sleep peacefully.
Seeing these guys (me at 42) I thought that I had the opportunity do do what they did - serve in the armed forces. But I didn't. Getting in the water and pushing a board ahead of the wave for these guys was an honor. It is a stoke that will last a lifetime. Again, I was given a gift I didn't deserve. Guys and gals - keep the stoke alive and thank you.
Operationcomfort.org, you're awesome! I look forward to seeing you next year.
Glenn Norberg

SFC Danny Hall and MSG Robert Collins - Someone You Should Know Radio

Last Sunday night on Pundit Review I talked about four soldiers (SFC Stephen C. Kennedy, SSG Christoper W. Dill, SFC Danny Hall and MSG Robert Collins) but focused on the two Special Forces Sergeants - SFC Hall and MSG Collins.  Hit the link at Pundit Review to listen to the podcast (also available on iTunes):

Someone You Should Know: Green Beret’s Sgt 1st Class Danny Hall and Master Sgt. Robert Collins

This week we heard the story of two Green Beret’s who were awarded Silver Stars for their bravery under fire in Iraq. They are Sgt 1st Class Danny Hall and Master Sgt. Robert Collins.

What is Pundit Review Radio?
Pundit Review Radio is where the old media meets the new. Each week Kevin and Gregg give voice to the work of the most influential leaders in the new media/citizen journalist revolution. Called “Groundbreaking” by Talkers Magazine, this unique show brings the best of the blogs to your radio every Sunday evening from 7-10pm EST on AM680 WRKO, Boston’s Talk Station.

The 12th Imam is HERE!

Bruce reports that our Intelligence Agencies have found him.  Click the link for the photographic evidence that he exists.

The 12th Imam

Here's some background about the whole August 22nd/12th Imam belief:

Speculation Rages About Iran's Plans for August 22
By Patrick Goodenough
CNSNews.com International Editor
August 21, 2006

An article published by the pan-Arabic media organization al-Bawaba noted Ahmadinejad's adherence to the Shi'ite belief in the 12th imam - also known as the "hidden" imam, Mahdi, who disappeared more than a thousand years ago but has been miraculously kept alive, pending his emergence at a time of global chaos and war.

"Some believe that Imam Mahdi will be returning some time this August, also the time some military experts predict that Iran will be ready to construct its first nuclear weapon," it said.

"Apparently, Ahmadinejad sees himself as an instrument to pave the way for the arrival of Imam Mahdi as well as an important successor to Saladin in terms of the liberation of Jerusalem."...

FOX reporters still kidnapped

And the rest of their intrepid colleagues in the MSM yawn. Why do I assume if this were CNN or ABC the amount of coverage and the howls of outrage about this crime would be greatly increased. I guess this doesn’t make the rest of them nervous since the terrorists know they are on the same team and kidnapping them just slows down the news cycle.

Good Luck Steve and Olaf!

Michelle Malkin called for some noise about this and I am happy to help out.

A Word of Thanks

I just wanted to report back to the B5 crew about the laptop drive for Navy SEAL Ryan Job at Bethesda.  You may remember that Ryan was shot in the face in Ramadi on August 2nd and lost his right eye.  His platoonmate, Marc Lee, provided the suppressing fire that allowed the platoon to medevac Ryan off of the roof where he was wounded.  Marc's sacrifice of his life to allow Ryan a chance to survive earned him the Silver Star and his rightful place in the pantheon of fallen SEAL Team heroes. 

I spoke to Ryan in the hospital last week and told him that I was going to try to raise money to get him a Valour-IT laptop-which we did here on B5 in EIGHT HOURS!  I asked the Soldier's Angels rep to total up the donations received last week for Ryan and she just wrote me back to say that all told, we raised $2535!  In addition to Ryan's laptop, three more wounded warriors will be getting one as well.  I want to thank the B5 readers for their compassion and for actually putting their money where their heart is. 

I also wanted to give a shout out to Beth, Lynette, Patty, and Adele  from Soldier's Angels for their rapid response to my request for Ryan and for personally ensuring that Ryan received the computer last Saturday morning.  Your efforts are appreciated.  And I don't want to forget the man who started it all-Chuck Z- has been working behind the scenes to oversee the delivery.  HOOYAH Chuck!

Help "Operation Gratitude" Find a New Home!

Hey, folks, one of the best operations out there, Operation Gratitude, has outgrown it's home and needs help finding a new one.  Operation Gratitude has helped many personal friends of mine (and their units).  In fact, they were able to get Christmas stockings for every soldier in my friend's Company as they arrived in Iraq in December.

I owe 'em, so please help if you can.  Here's the details:

They would be grateful for new home

LA Daily News

The two recent e-mails from Iraq taped to Carolyn Blashek's home computer tell the story.

"I live with 17 Marines and sailors in one room," a young Marine writes. "Everyone got one of your care packages and everyone loved it, especially the cookies and Beanie Babies.

"The cookies are excellent and the Beanie Babies help us out a lot with the local kids. We give them candy and toys, and they give us the location of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in the area."

The other e-mail, written by a medic, said Blashek's care packages have helped the troops in some unexpected ways.

"After our patients took the items they wanted, a soldier asked if he could take everything that was left," the medic wrote.

"Two weeks later, he returned and told us he had taken the boxes out on one of his patrols and given them to a couple of local families.

"These familes, in turn, gave out the names and locations of insurgents in the area. Your boxes saved the lives of many soldiers who patrol the streets where these insurgents set up bombs.

"Thank you for all you've done for us. You never know how completely you can affect someone's life."

Whenever Blashek got frustrated and down this past week, thinking that maybe no one cares, she remembered the e-mails and kept on going.

"I'll use every penny we have and take out another loan on my house to keep going," she said Thursday. "What we're doing for our troops is too important to stop now."

Operation Gratitude - which started as Blashek's one-woman effort to send packages to troops who weren't getting any mail - has grown with hundreds of volunteers. After sending more than 150,000 packages over the last three years, the nonprofit group needs a new home...

Continue reading "Help "Operation Gratitude" Find a New Home!" »

Blackfive Interviews "Sheik Lion"

Want the truth on the ground in Iraq?

Thanks to the good folks at Central Command Public Affairs, I was able to interview a Marine that's sort of been one my favorites to watch in Iraq.  He is US Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Erik E. Duane, and he's a Civil Affairs detachment chief in the Denver Area of Operations.  Since the Iraqis call their Gunnys "Lions" and Gunny Duane was inducted into a local tribe as a Sheik, he is Sheik Lion.

Here's the interview unedited (except for my spelling errors) with Gunnery Sergeant Erik E. Duane:

Iraqi police Col. Shaban Barzan Hamreen Al-Aubaidy (left) and Gunnery Sgt. Erik E. Duane discuss ways to improve the living conditions of the local Iraqis at Jubbah, Iraq, May 13. Duane, chief, Detachment 1, 3rd Civil Affairs Group, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, stays in constant contact with both the Iraqi people and the Iraqi police.  Photo by Lance Corporal Brian J. Hallorhan.

B5: Tell me about AO Denver.  What are the Iraqis like (how many are working, kind of jobs, crime rates, etc.)?:

AO Denver covers approximately 33,000 square miles, about the size of South   Carolina. The area I work in is the western Euphrates River Valley near the Al Asad airbase. The airbase is the largest US base in AO Denver. The Iraqis in our area are predominantly Sunni Muslims who were primarily left alone by Saddam during his 30+ year tyrannical reign mostly because Saddam himself is a Sunni. The people here aren't much different than any other part of Iraq in the east/west/southern sectors of the country. They are mostly curious and many times great us warmly and invite us for a meal or tea. In most of the areas I travel people recognize me or my team members and are openly affectionate with their greetings. People are working here in the local area in various infrastructure jobs. We have hundreds of local policemen, and Iraqi soldiers to provide security for the region. We have hundreds of Iraqis employed in waste removal, water treatment and electrical works. Right now the best paying jobs are in the security sector with Police and Army jobs being the top of the list.

B5: Since water, electricity and waste management are key issues for Iraqis, can you give me an idea of what the status of AO Denver was last year and what it is now (do you know of any stats about how many Iraqis were sick due to poor waste management before)?  How are the reconstruction projects doing in cities like Haditha, Hit and Rawah?

The area I work in is the western Euphrates river valley. All of the towns and villages have had some sort of improvement in the basic necessities (Sewage, water, electricity, trash removal) due to the efforts of Marines in our AO. Numerous trash clean-up and water treatment projects have been completed with regular services being provided and monitored through the local populace.

B5: What is the single best project that you are most proud of?

I don't have one. I'm not proud of projects, I'm proud of the relationships we have built here. I am most proud of one local community in particular. It's a former military housing complex which now houses a number of Iraqi police officers as well as employees of the various ministries. It is probably the safest community in the Western Euphrates River Valley.

B5: How did you earn the trust of the local Iraqis?

By action. We have performed various tasks that have shown the locals that we do what we say we are going to do. There was a large amount of debris and trash in the streets of a local housing complex. I said my team would set about to finding a solution to get rid of the trash. It was a health issue that we took seriously. What we ended up doing was hiring the people of the complex to pick up their own trash and dispose of it away from the complex in an appropriate manner. It provided a solution to the problem and provided jobs to over 50 local men and financial gain for their families. Actions - they speak volumes in our field.

B5: How did you come to be called "Sheik" and which tribe were you inducted into (and why)?

My best guess is that it is because I care about the locals as I would my own family. Sheiks are leaders of tribes, and tribes are families. The members of my Civil Affairs team have all become members of the local "tribe" and are accepted as family. All of my Marines are constantly looking for ways to improve the locals’ lives while ensuring the solution is an Iraqi one. We want them to help themselves, but sometimes that requires us to show them how.

B5: Have civilian organizations like Spirit of America made a positive difference in the lives of Iraqis?  How have they helped you?

Absolutely. My hat is off to organizations like SOA. They have helped our relationship building immensely. They have provided much need school supplies, the much sought after soccer balls, and the ever popular beanie babies. It's amazing what a small gesture such as a gift can do for fostering positive relationships.

B5: Has the main stream media had any affect on your ability, your team's ability or the Iraqis ability to improve their conditions?

No I don’t think so. The Marines don’t get much media intake other than Stars & Stripes, CNN and Fox news and only occasionally. To be honest, when we are done with the days work they last thing we want to do is watch the news. It’s time to unwind and relax. We also operate in a an area where Iraqi people don’t seem to pay much attention to media unless they are in it. We have had our local police chief on Fox news, in the papers and some of our city council members in the papers but none of this has had any negative affects on our operations.

B5: Do you think the media has fairly portrayed our efforts in Iraq?

Not in my experience. During this deployment I have tried to stay away from negative things like MSM because I don't want it to affect my own morale thereby affecting the mission. Mission accomplishment is every Marine’s priority and I don't want to be deterred by MSM negativity. In other areas like media embeds we have had great success. Embeds are able to see things from the ground perspective and it usually gives them a positive outlook on what we are doing here.

B5: What is the one story that you would want told that is not being told about Iraq?

How much the people want democracy. I get tired of the MSM articles about how it was better before we came. Maybe it was because all of the life and will of the people had been crushed. Is that any way to live? I think not and I think most Iraqis would agree. There is a lot of healing going on in this country and it is moving forward in baby-steps. It won't happen over night, but I feel the people here [want to] be allowed to make something of their nation worth being proud of.

B5: How has morale been in your unit?

The morale has been very good the entire deployment. In the Civil Affairs community, morale tends to be the highest on the tactical level. We're the boots on the deck and have direct impact on our environment. We are fortunate enough in most cases to be able to see the fruits of our labors, whether it be to get the lights turned on at night, or provide summer jobs for high school age boys, we are able to see the good things in Iraq.

B5: Can you tell me more about the formation of the city council?  How "interesting" was it (I'm from Chicago where politics is our number one sport)?

Initially it was formed with local elders and tribal leaders. In the way of western Anbar, sheiks do all the governing. It has been their way for a thousand years. It was the way they did business during Saddam’s time, and to some extent it continues. What has developed is that a few members of the community have decided to partake in the governance. They have become council members alongside the tribal leaders. So far they have felt some of the growing pains that a fledgling council would feel. Some frustration with their provincial government has been felt and they are seeing firsthand that democracy involves many people.

B5: How long would you estimate it would be before the Iraqis can do things on their own in your area? What is your guess as to their ability to continue to maintain the services?

I won't venture a guess.

B5: I know that RCT-2 was pretty busy in AO Denver last year.  How much insurgent activity is there in your area?  Does it affect your ability to deliver services to the Iraqis?

There is insurgent activity here still. It affected us initially when they attacked some of the local infrastructure, but the 7th Marines have done quite a job cleaning this place up and the Iraqis have stood up a working police force in the local area with a tenacious police chief at the helm. Now, we are rarely affected by insurgent activities.

B5: What do you miss most about home?

My wife and two children.

B5: Is there anything in Iraq that reminds you of home?

The families. They make me miss my own, but I know I have the support of my wife and children in this. My 7-year-old daughter told my wife that she's happy and sad about me being in Iraq. She says she's sad that I'm gone, but happy that I am helping the Iraqi people. That's enough validation to make this proud father and Marine cry. I feel truly blessed.

B5: What will you miss most about Iraq?

The people. I won't miss the weather that's for sure, but my Iraqi bothers will be missed. I will miss my adopted nephews and nieces and I will do my best to keep in touch and continue to help however I can. I pray that someday, the lives I touch will make something of themselves and make Iraq a better place. I hope to be able to point at the TV someday and say "I held Mohammed Hamreen when he was a baby, and now he's the Al Anbar Governor!"

B5: What parts of your upbringing helped you in your career and, especially, in Iraq (faith, parents, teachers etc)?

I was raised by a single mother in a bad neighborhood. Get out of that and you can pretty much do anything. I also rely on my faith for guidance. In my career, good leaders have helped me to achieve my goals and help develop me as a leader as well.

B5: What was the funniest thing you experienced in Iraq?

I can't think of one thing in particular. The Iraqis have a great sense of humor so we enjoy playing jokes on each other or telling them (jokes). We laugh a lot. Humor heals and it builds bridges. We enjoy their sense of humor as they do ours.

B5: What are your plans after returning home?

Return to my life! I have been on active duty 3 out of 6 years in this War on Terror (I am a reservist). I want to spend more time at home and with my wife and kids. I may also look for a different occupation (civilian type). I feel like after two tours in Iraq, I can pretty much do anything I set my mind to.

B5: Last question:  Last night during a radio segment, I talked with a 14 year old young man who plans on enlisting in the Marines as soon as he graduates from high school.  What words of advice would you give him?

Choose an MOS (military occupational specialty) that keeps you working. If you work behind a desk, the level of job satisfaction will be low and it will be difficult to keep your morale high. Choose a job that will teach you a skill that you can employ in the civilian sector after you've done your duty.

B5: Thank you for your service.  Because of people like you, my kids sleep safely at night. There are many, many people who appreciate what you are doing.

Thank you! It's privilege to serve Americans like you. Keep blogging! Your efforts are helping us more than you know.


Dying Soldier Feels 'Lucky'

But it is we who should feel lucky he ever served us. Thank you, COL Spanton.

Dying soldier feels 'lucky' to say goodbye

BLOOMINGTON (AP) – U.S. Army Col. Dirk Spanton survived three tours and 32 months in Iraq, only to come home and find out that he has just months to live because of cancer.

Still, the 50-year-old husband and father of five says he feels lucky.

"I could have gotten killed while I was over there and not gotten to say goodbye to my family," said Spanton of Bloomington. "This way, I'm lucky. How many people get to say goodbye to their kids, their wife and their family? You don't like the short time frame, but it's at least a time frame."

Spanton lived with the risk of dying every day while serving with the Special Forces in Iraq, where he says he was shot at by insurgents, sent to mine fields to disarm explosives, and once had a rocket-propelled grenade pass within feet of him.

Read the rest

Continued below the fold:

Continue reading "Dying Soldier Feels 'Lucky'" »