Target Centermass

11/30/2004

Rough Day at Work

Filed under: — Gunner @ 9:28 pm

… and it just ended. Now I’ve got to come up with a Christmas wish list before my girlfriend kills me. All suggestions (for gifts, not methods of my murder) are welcome and can be left in the comments.

Otherwise, limited or possibly no blogging tonight.

11/29/2004

Seven Ft. Hood Soldiers Die in Helicopter Crash

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:59 pm

Seven troops, including a fellow Aggie, died when their Blackhawk apparently ran afoul of both bad luck and bad weather.

Six soldiers and a brigadier general from Fort Hood died today when a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter crashed near Waco after hitting the guy wire of a television station tower in heavy fog.

The accident occurred about 7 a.m. between the Central Texas towns of Moody and Bruceville-Eddy. The UH-60 Blackhawk was flying from Fort Hood to the Red River Army Depot in Texarkana. Col. Jonathan Withington said all seven of those on the aircraft were members of the 4th Infantry Division.

“Our condolences and our hearts go out to the families and friends of the seven soldiers aboard this aircraft,” he said.

The helicopter was headed to check out equipment being readied for use in Iraq, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, spokesman for the Fort Hood-based 4th Infantry Division. The names of the victims, all from Fort Hood, were not immediately released by the military.

A military official at the home of Brig. Gen. Charles B. Allen told The Associated Press that Allen was among those killed. In his 27-year career, Allen, an assistant division commander for the 4th Infantry Division, was stationed at several U.S. and overseas military posts and also worked at the Pentagon.

Brad and Becky Christmas of Wagon Mound, N.M., were notified today that their son, Capt. Todd Christmas, was among those killed, said family friend Patti Goetsch, who answered the phone at the family’s ranch.

Christmas, 26, had just returned to Texas after spending Thanksgiving with his family, she said. She said the Texas A&M graduate, who joined the Army in 2001, served a year in Iraq, where he received the Bronze Star. She said he had been based at Fort Hood since the spring.

“He was doing what he loved,” Goetsch said. “He was a career military man. He was proud to serve his country.”

….

The helicopter hit a guy wire that stabilizes a 1,800-foot television broadcasting tower, Jerry Pursley, general manager of Waco-Temple-Killeen television station KXXV, told the Associated Press. The tower itself was not hit, he said.

The tower’s lights stopped working early last week after strong storms hit the area, Pursley said. The station notified the Federal Aviation Administration, he said. The agency’s spokesman in Texas did not return a phone call to The Associated Press seeking comment.

Other reports state that the FAA gave the television station a fifteen-day window to repair the lights and sent out notifications of the danger.

Texas A&M has a fairly unique tradition to honor Aggies who have passed. At an annual gathering with a long and storied history and called Aggie Muster, the names of those Aggies lost over the past year are read, with family or friends or fellow Aggies answering “Here” to signify the continued presence of the lost in our lives.

For Capt. Todd Christmas from a fellow Aggie and former serviceman, “Here.” And thank you, sir.

Quote of the Week, 29 NOV 04

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:01 pm

If they make an Aunt Sally of our army they will get an Aunt Sally army.

—Lord Moran

Schools Win Battle Over Campus Military Recruiting

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:43 pm

In a ruling destined to be appealed and hopefully overturned, a federal court has ruled the colleges can bar military recruiters without financial repercussions from the Department of Defense.

A federal appeals court on Monday barred the Defense Department from withholding funds from colleges and universities that deny access to military recruiters.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a decade-old federal law which allows withholding the funds infringes on the free speech rights of schools that wish to limit on-campus recruiting in response to the military’s ban on homosexuals.

Ruling in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of more than a dozen law schools, a three-judge panel said the government’s threat to withhold funding amounted to compelling the schools to take part in speech they didn’t agree with.

“The Solomon Amendment requires law schools to express a message that is incompatible with their educational objectives,” the court wrote.

By a 2-1 vote, the panel overturned an earlier decision by a federal judge that those challenging the law were unlikely to prevail at trial.

The ruling affects all institutions of higher learning, but the case revolved around law schools because most had developed policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Monday’s ruling represented the first time a court has barred the government from enforcing the law.

The Justice Department, which represented the government in the case, said it was reviewing its appeal options. “The United States continues to believe that the Solomon Amendment is constitutional,” the agency said in a statement.

One judge on the panel wrote a stinging dissent, saying he was disturbed that law schools would ignore the consequences that a recruiting ban would have on the military’s ability to compete with law firms for young talent.

“They obviously do not desire that our men and women in the armed services, all members of a closed society, obtain optimum justice in military courts with the best-trained lawyers and judges,” Judge Ruggero John Aldisert said.

He said he disagreed with plaintiffs who argued that the schools were being asked to violate their own anti-discrimination policies by welcoming recruiters who won’t take openly gay men and women.

The two-judge majority based its decision in part on an earlier Supreme Court ruling that the Boy Scouts of America could bar homosexuals from becoming scouts or troop leaders.

The court reasoned that if the Boy Scouts could legally reject gays because it had a core belief that homosexuality is illegitimate behavior, then other institutions could impose an opposite type of restriction if it had a core value that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.

Realize first that we’re talking about an all-volunteer military that discriminates on a variety of factors in its hiring policies. I don’t recall my tank being wheelchair-accessible. Because of the special role that the military plays, it has long been legally held that even some constitutional rights are surrendered or curtailed for its members.

This ruling essentially seems to give a free hand to law schools and other institutions of higher education to ordain any aspect of the military that they feel is discriminatory and banish recruiters as they see fit. Well, without the ruling, they could already do this, but with the understanding that there could be financial repurcussions. The schools want to fight what they view as discrimination by the government with discrimination against the government, as long as it doesn’t hit the bottom line.

The Boy Scout rationale seems flimsy, and I expect this to be a short-lived hit against recruiting. Hopefully, anyway, as I’m sure a large chunk of left-leaning, anti-military professors and administrators are currently busy right now drooling over telling the folks in uniform to stick it. This ruling is probably the equivalent of Pavlov’s bell for hippie holdovers in academia.

Iran Offers to Train Iraqi Police

Filed under: — Gunner @ 9:21 am

Iraq must find it refreshing to have such helpful neighbors.

Iran offered to train Iraqi police and border guards two days before it was scheduled to host a meeting of security chiefs from Iraq’s neighboring states, the official news agency reported Sunday.

It was unclear how Iraq would respond to the Iranian offer. The countries fought a war from 1980-88 that killed or wounded nearly one million people on both sides.

“The Islamic Republic is ready to train Iraqi police and border guards and even equip them as well as help with the country’s reconstruction,” said Ali Asghar Ahmadi, Iran’s deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Ummm … I don’t think it’s a good idea to have a country helping train Iraq’s security when that country is blatantly working to undermine Iraqi security.

11/28/2004

Iran Group Signs Up Suicide Volunteers

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:15 pm

Just in case you were wondering about Iran and their role in the war against radical Islamist terrorism, there’s this little bit of planning for international atrocities.

The 300 men filling out forms in the offices of an Iranian aid group were offered three choices: Train for suicide attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, for suicide attacks against Israelis or to assassinate British author Salman Rushdie.

It looked at first glance like a gathering on the fringes of a society divided between moderates who want better relations with the world and hard-line Muslim militants hostile toward the United States and Israel.

But the presence of two key figures — a prominent Iranian lawmaker and a member of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards — lent the meeting more legitimacy and was a clear indication of at least tacit support from some within Iran’s government.

Since that inaugural June meeting in a room decorated with photos of Israeli soldiers’ funerals, the registration forms for volunteer suicide commandos have appeared on Tehran’s streets and university campuses, with no sign Iran’s government is trying to stop the shadowy movement.

On Nov. 12, the day Iranians traditionally hold pro-Palestinian protests, a spokesman for the Headquarters for Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement said the movement signed up at least 4,000 new volunteers.

Mohammad Ali Samadi, the spokesman, told The Associated Press the group had no ties to the government.

And Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters recently that the group’s campaign to sign up volunteers for suicide attacks had “nothing to do with the ruling Islamic establishment.”

“That some people do such a thing is the result of their sentiments. It has nothing to do with the government and the system,” Asefi said.

No government involvement or support? I call bullshit.

Yet despite the government’s disavowal of the group and some of its programs, there are indications the suicide attack campaign has at least some legitimacy within the government.

The first meeting was held in the offices of the Martyrs Foundation, a semiofficial organization that helps the families of those killed in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war or those killed fighting for the government on other fronts. It drew hard-line lawmaker Mahdi Kouchakzadeh and Gen. Hossein Salami of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

“This group spreads valuable ideas,” Kouchakzadeh told AP.

….

Iranian security officials did not return calls seeking comment about whether they had tried to crack down on the group’s training programs or whether they believed any of Samadi’s volunteers had crossed into Iraq or into Israel.

Suicide attacks against civilians, including an author, as valuable ideas? I call bullshit.

In general, Iran portrays Israel as its main nemesis and backs anti-Israeli groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah. It says it has no interest in fomenting instability in Iraq and that it tries to block any infiltration into Iraq by insurgents — while pleading that its porous borders are hard to police.

The focus on Israel is obvious, as it has long since become the modus operandi of all oppressive Moslem governments — focus the anger of a suffering, economically-beleaguered people outward towards anyone external who can possibly be blamed. This is not new to the current ruling zealots in Iran, but the hoped-for hatred is nowhere near as cultivated among the Iranian populace as it is among other Moslem peoples, such as the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Palestinians.

Regarding the Iranian government’s interest in augmenting the instability in neighboring Iraq, it is an absolute necessity. The Iranian people will be a rather restive bunch were a successful democracy to take hold right next door, as there is already a pro-Western sentiment among many of the citizenry.

In 1998, the Iranian government declared it would not support a 1989 fatwa against Rushdie issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But the government also said only the person who issued the edict could rescind it. Khomeini, angered at Rushdie’s portrayal of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in “The Satanic Verses,” died in June 1989.

I’m guessing fatwas don’t have a statute of limitations.

Samadi claimed 30,000 volunteers have signed up, and 20,000 of them have been chosen for training. Volunteers had already carried out suicide operations against military targets inside Israel, he said.

But he said discussing attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq “will cause problems for the country’s foreign policy. It will have grave consequences for our country and our group. It’s confidential.”

As devoted Muslims, members of his group were simply fulfilling their religious obligations as laid out by Khomeini, he said.

In his widely published book of religious directives, Khomeini says: “If an enemy invades Muslim countries and borders, it’s an obligation for all Muslims to defend through any possible means: sacrificing life and properties.”

Samadi said: “With this religious verdict, we don’t need anybody’s permission to fight an enemy that has occupied Muslim lands.”

Islam is not an evil religion per se, but it does seem to provide quite fertile ground for evil to grow. The radicals governing Iran, just like the Wahabbi radicals in other parts of the Islamic world, have happily kissed their ties to modern civilization goodbye. These animals have chosen to surrender their humanity, though this fact should not be projected on the Iranian population as a whole.

International Landmine Summit Opens

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:02 pm

Representatives of 143 countries opened a conference in Nairobi, Kenya today with calls for a “total ban of production, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel landmine to make the world mine-free.”

In his opening remarks, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said “unless all the existing stocks are destroyed, and unless production of these lethal weapons is brought to an end, the threat posed by landmines will continue to be with us.”

He urged governments to intensify conflict resolution efforts by resolving conflicts before they escalate into full-scale war.

Jointly organized by the United Nations, International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Kenyan Coalition Against Landmines, the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World, has brought together senior government officials of 143 countries across the world.

The summit, to be held in Kenya’s capital Nairobi from Nov. 29 -Dec. 3, will see the first review conference of the milestone Ottawa Convention and the most significant event of the treaty since its signing in 1997, according to the organizers.

During the conference, participants will review the progress of the efforts made in ridding the world of landmines, and produce a concrete action plan for the next five years.

The President-Designate of the Nairobi Summit Wolfgang Petritsch also called at the opening ceremony for increased efforts and action to address the man-made humanitarian catastrophe posed by landmines.

“The problem of anti-personnel mines is unique, as the solution to it is within our reach if we maintain the same intensity and even increase in coming years as we have in the past. My expectation is that the summit will propel us close to our dream of a world free of landmines,” Petritsch said.

The Ottawa Convention, officially known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, was signed in 1997 and entered into force in 1999.

Africa is the world’s most mine-affected region and many saw it as fitting that the First Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention is being held in Africa.

The U.S. is not attending the conference, nor is it a signatory to the Ottowa Convention. Forty-two other countries, including Russia and China, also chose to not sign the convention. The main sticking point for the U.S. is the Korean peninsula, where anti-personnel mines are a large part of defense plans against a North Korean invasion. It should be noted that the U.S. has stated that it shares “common cause with all those who seek to protect innocent civilians from indiscriminately used land mines.”

Colombian Rebels Told to Kill Bush

Filed under: — Gunner @ 9:36 pm

Some bad people might want President Bush dead and, surprisingly enough, this time they aren’t Islamists.

Colombia’s main rebel group asked followers to mount an assassination attempt against President Bush during his visit to Colombia last week, Defense Minister Jorge Uribe said. There was no evidence Saturday that rebels even tried to organize such an attack.

Uribe told reporters late Friday that informants said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, told followers to attack Bush during his four-hour visit in the seaside city of Cartagena last Monday, where he met with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

The defense minister, who is no relation to the president, said security forces were on full alert during the visit. About 15,000 Colombian troops and police, along with U.S. troops and Secret Service agents provided security. There was no indication Bush’s life was ever in danger.

Uribe did not say where the informants had heard about the purported order to attack Bush.

The Secret Service did not comment on security details, as is its policy.

“We have full confidence in the fine work of the Secret Service and their work with security officials on the ground when the President travels,” White House spokesman Jim Morrell said Saturday.

The FARC has declared U.S. troops in Colombia military targets. The troops are training local forces and providing logistics and planning assistance for military operations against the rebels.

However, the rebels never publicly declared Bush a target during his first-ever visit as president to Colombia. Bush visited Colombia after attending a summit in Chile.

Damn drug-trafficking Marxists.

11/27/2004

U.S. Sends in Saddam’s Old Commandos

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:46 pm

Reuters is reporting that the U.S. has created a team of police commandos, comprised of former Iraqi army officers and special forces, and is employing them south of Baghdad.

Twenty months after toppling Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops still battling his followers in the heartland of Iraq’s old arms industry are hitting back with a new weapon — ex-members of Saddam’s special forces.

For five months, Iraqi police commandos calling themselves the Black Scorpions have been based with U.S. Marines in the region along the Euphrates south of Baghdad, which roadside bombs, ambushes and kidnaps have turned into a no-go areas and earned it the melodramatic description “triangle of death.”

“All of them were previously officers in the Iraqi army or special forces,” the Scorpions’ commander, Colonel Salaam Trad, said at the Marines’ Kalsu base near Iskandariya on Saturday.

“But Saddam was dirty and no good for Iraq.”

The performance of this SWAT team, as the Americans call it, could be a critical test of how U.S. forces can hand over to Iraqis to meet their goal of withdrawing from a stable Iraq. U. S. officers in the area say they are increasingly optimistic.

“The hardest fighters we have are the former special forces from Saddam’s days,” Colonel Ron Johnson, commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, told reporters.

Praising their local knowledge and fighting skills, Johnson singled out one man who fought against him at Nassiriya, the hardest battle of last year’s brief war against Saddam’s army.

“If I could have an Iraqi security force guy who’s honest, reliable and dependable, it’s worth five Marines,” he added.

Captain Tad Douglas, who leads almost daily raids with the Scorpions, said he believed it was a unique experiment that made use of the Iraqis’ feel for their home province of Babylon.

“Ninety-five percent of our intelligence is from the SWAT,” he said. “They can put a guy in a cafe in the way we never could … They have a good finger on the pulse.”

U.S. officers are reluctant to discuss how big the SWAT team is and Trad and Douglas brush off questions on what they may or not have done to each other in last year’s war.

“It doesn’t matter to me what they did. They’re staunchly anti-insurgent,” said Douglas, who dismissed suggestions their training under Saddam might have made them too violent.

“We just had to polish them up a bit,” he said. This week, Johnson has stepped up raids against insurgents in an operation code-named Plymouth Rock, hoping to keep pressure on Sunni rebels after their rout at Falluja to the northwest.

Of Johnson’s 5,000-strong force in the region, which was once the heart of Saddam’s arms industry and base of the Medina armored division of the elite Republican Guard, more than 2,000 are Marines, 850 British soldiers and the rest Iraqi.

At the camp 30 miles south of Baghdad, the Scorpions are very visible, wearing the khaki jumpsuits of Marine special forces and black mustaches traditional in the Iraqi military.

Occupying powers have a long and patchy history of creating local units and Iraqi forces in other regions have had mixed success. This month, thousands of police in the northern city of Mosul fled or changed sides when Sunni insurgents took charge.

Johnson acknowledges the loyalties of some Iraqis in his force may be divided but says they “want to be on the winning side” and is confident that U.S.-led troops can end what he sees as limited and decentralized violence by at most a few thousand disgruntled Saddam supporters and local bandits.

Iraqi police here have stuck to their posts despite killings of comrades in bomb attacks and murders of off-duty officers: ” They don’t cut and run, despite their losses,” Johnson said.

Clearly exasperated by the “triangle of death” tag, he said: “I’m getting more optimistic every day.”

As for Colonel Salaam, a small, wiry man of 32, he shrugs off insurgent threats to himself and his family and says what he wants is: “Freedom, a new Iraq, peace.”

This move is no great surprise. It is an easily-made mistake to lump in professional soldiers with the evil regimes that control them. Look at the officers of the Wehrmacht and their entangled relationship with the Nazis as an example.

Much more could’ve and probably should’ve been done sooner with the Iraqi army, had it not been dispersed and disbanded. Granted, many would have to have been filtered out, but this story shows there were certainly some professional gems lost that could currently have already been serving for the betterment of their country.

Allawi, Shias: No Delay on Iraq Vote

Filed under: — Gunner @ 4:30 pm

Despite yesterday’s petition for delay, Iraqi officials are insisting that the January 30 balloting for the 275-member National Assembly should proceed.

Iraq’s main Shia parties insisted today that elections should go ahead on January 30 as planned, rejecting mounting calls from Sunni and secular politicians to postpone the polls because of guerrilla violence.

The dispute threatens to widen sectarian divisions in a country already racked by lawlessness and widespread unrest. A statement by 42 Shia and Turkmen parties, including the influential Dawa Party and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said a postponement would be illegal.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said if the election was postponed, “this would mean that the terrorists have been able to achieve one of their main objectives”.

The Shia statement followed a petition yesterday by 17 Sunni and secular groups for a delay of up to six months to ensure the broadest possible participation in the elections.

The parties that backed the petition drawn up after a meeting yesterday at the house of elder statesman Adnan Pachachi included the Iraqi National Accord of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the two main Kurdish parties.

Allawi’s spokesman said today the Prime Minister took very seriously his obligation to hold elections by the end of January, as mandated by Iraq’s interim constitution and a UN Security Council resolution. But the statement left open the possibility of a postponement.

“The Prime Minister is aware of the statement made by some parties yesterday, calling for a delay in holding elections,” spokesman Thaer al-Naqib said. The statement said Allawi believed “the key to a building real and lasting democracy and stability in Iraq is ensuring all Iraqi citizens can vote”. It added that “he does not believe that a delay will necessarily make such broad participation any easier to achieve”.

I agree with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim’s statement that a delay would appear a victory for the terrorists.

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