Sunday, November 21, 2004



1) More Blood, More Chaos

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **

November 21, 2004

2) In Defense of Unity: The following letter is in response

to a number of serious redbaiting attacks on ANSWER and

other Socialists involved in the antiwar movement from some

people on the UFPJ discussion list. One from

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, printed below, started the debate.

It couldn't have come at a worse time. A time when

overwhelming unity against this war is demanded of all of us.

Also printed below are the wise comments of Carlos Rovira that

I was inspired by.

Bonnie Weinstein, BAUAW

3) The Crushing of Fallujah

By JAMES PETRAS (from Counterpunch)

4) In Falluja, Young Marines Saw the Savagery of an Urban War



November 21, 2004

5) Iraq Schedules National Elections for Jan. 30


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 21

6) Booming prison numbers prompt reexamination of harsh sentencing



Associated Press

Posted on Sat, Nov. 20, 2004

7) Soaring Interest Compounds Credit Card Pain for Millions



This article was reported by Patrick McGeehan, Lowell Bergman,

Robin Stein and Marlena Telvick and written by Mr. McGeehan.

November 21, 2004

8) MSNBC 'Imus' Segment Refers to 'Raghead Cadaver'

Muslims urged to renew demand for apology, reprimand

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/19/04)

9) Holiday in Falluja

Sent: Friday, November 19, 2004 2:03 PM

hEkLe Falluja, Iraq

10) Fate of Lawyer in Terror Case Hinges on Sheik's Words


November 14, 2004

11) Government Looking at Military Draft Lists


The Monitor

McALLEN, November 15, 2004

12) 47 Parties Boycott Elections in Iraq

Xinhua News Agency (China)

November 17, 2004

13) Greenspan Sees No Rise Soon for the Dollar



November 20, 2004

14) US soldiers in Iraq suffer horrific brain and mental injuries

By Rick Kelly

20 November 2004

World Socialist Web Site

15) Troops Round Up Corpses, Weapons in Fallouja


Their operation in the city has shifted to cleanup and

rebuilding, amid sporadic fighting.

By Patrick J. McDonnell

Times Staff Writer

November 19, 2004,1,370254


1) More Blood, More Chaos

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **

November 21, 2004

In Ramadi today 6 civilians were killed in clashes between the

resistance and military.

The military sealed the city, closing all the roads while announcing

over loudspeakers for residents in the city to hand over "terrorists."

A man, woman and child died when the public bus they were riding in

approached a US checkpoint there when they were riddled with bullets

from anxious soldiers. A military spokesman said the bus was shot

because it didn't stop when they asked it to.

The city remains sealed by US forces as fierce clashes sporadically

erupt across the area while the military decides how to handle yet

another resistance controlled.

As the mass graves in Fallujah continue to be filled with countless

corpses, sporadic fighting flashes throughout areas of the destroyed


"The Americans want every city in Iraq to be like Fallujah," said

Abdulla Rahnan, a 40 year-old man on the street where I was taking tea

not far from my hotel, "They want to kill us all-they are freeing us of

our lives!"

His friend, remaining nameless, added, "Everyone here hates them because

they are making mass graves faster than even Saddam!"

I never tell people I interview I am from America. I tell them I am

Canadian of Lebanese descent-which is close enough since I am from

Alaska. With this information, I am always greeted warmly, invited to

meals and to spend the night wherever I go. Arab culture continues to

impress me as the most beautiful, warm, civilized culture of any I've

experienced in all of my travels.

But as Abu Talat told me the other day when I asked him what he though

about going to Ramadi or Fallujah, "Sure Dahr, we can go-but not until

you get a steel neck!"

He laughs his deep laugh, and I fake a laugh with him while peering out

my car window.

After conducting other interviews during the day, Salam and I are in my

room working on a radio dispatch. As we begin recording, his cell phone

and my room phone ring simultaneously.

He gets news of another friend who has been shot by soldiers, while I am

told by Abu Talat that al-Adhamiya is under a 6pm curfew as the military

begins house to house searches. His frustrated voice tells me his wife

and boys are afraid as he speaks above helicopters thumping the air over

his home.

Over in Sadr City, the military are now sealing off neighborhoods doing

home searches as well-this after having agreed to a deal with Sadr's

Mehdi Army the fighters turned in many of their weapons and agreed to a

truce. Last night a small boy was shot there because he was out after


Lieutenant-General Lance Smith, deputy US commander of the region of the

Middle East that includes Iraq, announced that his command might be

asking for 3-5,000 more troops for Iraq.

This goal will most likely be attained by delaying the already scheduled

departure of soldiers already here, and was announced at about the same

time that the commander for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in

Fallujah, Lieutenant-General John Sattler said that he believed the

assault on Fallujah had "broken the back of the insurgency."

Refugees from Fallujah have yet to be allowed to return to their city.

One of my friends here works on the election commission for Iraq-he

stopped by tonight laughing at the new date which has been set for the

election of January 30th. "They have this new date for their rigged

elections," he rolls his eyes, "And nobody in Iraq believes their

propaganda. Elections? Here? I don't know anyone who will vote. Perhaps

the entire country can vote absentee for reason of car bomb!"

He and I were interviewed on a radio program this evening-while I was

listening to commercials waiting to come back on, I laugh to myself as

one of the advertisements is for folks to trade in their old Hummer for

a new one with low financing!

This against the backdrop of the show, where my friend and I had shared

stories with the host and callers of death in the streets, Iraqi outrage

over the failed occupation and other love stories from Iraq.

Meanwhile, more oil facilities are sabotaged in the north, the "Green

Zone" takes more mortars, and the usual gunfire is audible over the

generators running out my window.

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2) In Defense of Unity: The following letter is in response

to a number of serious redbaiting attacks on ANSWER and

other Socialists involved in the antiwar movement from some

people on the UFPJ discussion list. One from

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, printed below, started the debate.

It couldn't have come at a worse time. A time when

overwhelming unity against this war is demanded of all of us.

Also printed below are the wise comments of Carlos Rovira that

I was inspired by.

Bonnie Weinstein, BAUAW

Dear fellow antiwar activists,

What takes precedence over all right now is the bloody devastation

this government is bringing to the people of Iraq. What is first and

foremost for the American antiwar movement is the obligation we have

to make our movement huge--to bring together all those who oppose this

war inside the belly of this most ferocious beast.

Opposition to this war is the common thread we all agree upon. History

demands that we, who are already organized into this movement, come

together and act in unison and LEAD A CALL FOR UNITY. The future of

the planet demands this of us.

There is no room for red-baiting or any propaganda that will divide

instead of unite. That is the ongoing job of the warmongers--to

divide and conquer. Now is the time to put aside our differences.

The world will want to protest the inauguration of this warmonger

and the "2nd anniversary" of the declaration of war against Iraq.

We have had a series of National demonstrations--the Democratic

National Convention, the Republican convention, the Million Worker

March. What we don't have is a united grassroots movement based in

cities and towns across the country--even though there is obviously

tremendous sentiment against this war festering and waiting to be


There are antiwar groups all over. But each of us is "doing our

own thing." There is nothing wrong with "doing your own thing"

routinely. What is criminal is if we refuse to act in unison when

it is necessary. Now is the time!

How much more bloodshed will it take to convince folks that this

is necessary.

Every petty delay in the call for nationally unified actions gives

this bi-partisan government the mandate to continue to escalate their

terror on the world.

Every delay in unity by the current leaders of the movement gives

this bi-partisan government the impression that they can carry their

war over to Iran, Korea, Cuba, Venezuela--to escalate this war and

take it to wherever opposition to the U.S. oil-grab is growing.

The entire world is waiting and watching for what the American people

are going to do about their government. The world is demanding that

we act.

On inauguration day all the cities and towns across this country

will see thousands of angry protesters in the streets in massive

opposition to this war no matter who calls the demonstration.

Coordinated, unified, national demonstrations throughout the country

could give the antiwar movement the chance to reach out to all those

opposed to the war and bring them into grassroots working groups

with ties to a unified, national movement to bring the troops home

now--no matter which group they belong to. This is the idea behind

a United Front. This is the power of a United Front.

In San Francisco, we proved that the majority of the people want

to bring the troops home now. Our referendum won with 63.9% percent

of the vote--a wide margin.

The antiwar movement in our city, for sure, has a mandate to

organize and act in unity.

Suggestions such as Arthur Wascow's (see his email reprinted below)

to demonstrate the day before inauguration day in order not to

demonstrate with ANSWER is, in my opinion, profoundly shameful‹

criminal, in fact, since it's redbaiting--something that should

have ended with McCarthy. All such divisive speech should be viewed

as actions benefiting the warmongers and should be reviled by the


The truth is self-evident. Tens of thousands have demonstrated in

this country and throughout the world in demonstrations called by

ANSWER, UFPJ, Not In Our Name and by many other small groups and

large groups. In other words, demonstrators have been acting in

unity in spite of the differences and fights for hegemony within

the leadership of the movement.

The people who are opposed to this war throughout the world have

voted with their feet for unity many times over.

When will the "leadership" catch up to the people of the world who


Yours for peace and solidarity,

Bonnie Weinstein, Bay Area United Against War


On 11/21/04 6:13 AM, "Carlos Rovira"

Dear Hany and everyone

The issue here IS NOT ANSWER or the

ANSWER demonstration condemning the Bush

inauguration. Entities like UFPJ have

a right to decide with whom they unite

or not unite at given times. ANSWER,

like UFPJ, has its problems, but ANSWER is

not the enemy, unless that is what is

being said here (?).

My question is - what do you all propose

instead? Enough with the anti-ANSWER

language because it is redolent of

anti-communism, a pillar of the Bush

doctrine, which I will most definitely

NOT remain quiet about.


Carlos Rovira - "Carlito"


From Rabbi Arthur Waskow:

Present counter-inaugural plans for Washington on Jan. 20

are liable to turn into a zoo that hurts, rather than

strengthens, the anti-war movement, particularly if they

are (as now seems likely) dominated by ANSWER and if they

bring down extreme security controls.

What about combining a mass march in Washington the day before

Jan 19 -- on the model of the mass march in NYC the day

before the Republican Natl Convention that does not have

an endless boring rally (at the time because we could not

get a rally permit; in retrospect, I think, a blessing) --

FOLLOWED BY doing a REAL "counter-inaugural" on January 20

that is, an Inauguration of a continuing Opposition movement

--a riff on the "Social Forum" form as was created during the

National Conventions four years ago, an eclectic mix of progressive

intellectual & political & cultural leaders in and out of the

Democratic Party with a major gathering of people OUTSIDE WASHINGTON ­

maybe in the Maryland suburbs? or Baltimore?

Could such a People's Inaugural bring together a People's Cabinet

with people like Ariana Huffington, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich,

Jesse Jackson Sr & Jr., Ralph Nader, Maxine Waters, Howard Zinn,

Julian Bond plus ideally some of the music stars that campaigned

against Bush? Could it include interactive Internet and

alternative-radio/ TV coverage around the country so people

off the East Coast could take part?

The Jan 19 event could create media buzz as the pre-convention

march in NYC did, without trapping us in ANSWER-like politics

and in street vandal acting-out (both likely on Jan 20), and

then a much richer political/intellectual/cultural event on

Jan 20 could actually advance our political vision and cohesion.

Shalom, Arthur

Rabbi Arthur Waskow directs The Shalom Center, a prophetic voice I

n Jewish, multireligious, and American life. To subscribe to The

Shalom Report (weekly on-line newsletter) and for a wealth of

information on social action and its spiritual roots, click to --


3) The Crushing of Fallujah

By JAMES PETRAS (from Counterpunch)

I am reading William Shirer's Berlin Diary, a journalist's account

of Nazi political propaganda during the 1930's, as I watch the US

'news' reports of the violent assault on Fallujah. The US mass

media 'reports', the style, content and especially the language

echo their Nazi predecessor of 70 years ago to an uncanny degree.

Coincidence? Of course! In both instances we have imperialist

armies conquering countries, leveling cities and slaughtering

civilians--and the mass media, private in form, state appendages

in practice, disseminate the most outrageous lies, in defense and

praise of the conquering 'storm troopers'--call them SS or Marines.

Both in Nazi Germany and contemporary US, we are told by the mass

media that the invading armies are "freeing the country" of "foreign

fighters", "armed terrorists", who are preventing "the people" from

going about their everyday lives. Yet we know that of the 1,000

prisoners there are only 4 foreigners (3 Iranians and 1 Arab);

Iraqi hospitals report less than 10% of foreign fighters. In other

words over 90% of the fighters are Iraqis--most of who were born,

educated, and raised families in the cities in which they are


Like the Nazi media, the major US radio and TV networks only report

what they call "military casualties"--failing to report the civilians

killed since the war started and the thousands of women and children

killed and wounded since the assault of Fallujah began. Like in Nazi

Germany, the US mass media feature unconfirmed reports by the US

military of the bloody murders, beheadings and kidnapping "by the

foreign terrorists". The unconditional support of Nazi/US mass

media of the killing fields is best captured in their reports of

the massive bombing of densely populated city districts. For the

US network NBC, the dropping of 500-pound bombs in the city of

Fallujah is described as targeting an "insurgent tunnel network

in the city". And the houses, markets, stores--the mothers and

children above those tunnels--vaporized into "pink mist". Their

existence never acknowledged by the leading reporters and


Almost the entire population of non-Kurdish Iraq is opposed to the

US military and its puppet regime--yet the media refer to the

patriots defending their country from the imperial invaders as‹

'insurgents' minimizing the significance of a nation-wide

patriotic liberation movement. One of the most surreal euphemisms

is the constant reference to the 'coalition forces'--meaning the

US colonial conquerors and the mercenaries and satraps that they

direct and control.

The terror bombing of homes, hospitals and religious buildings by

hundreds of airplanes and helicopter gunships are described by

the media as 'securing the city for free elections'.

'Freeing the city of insurgents' includes the systematic murder

of friends, neighbors and relatives of every Iraqi living in the

city of Fallujah.

'Surrounding the insurgents' means cutting off water, electricity,

medical aid for 200,000 civilians in the city and putting tens of

thousands who fled under threat of a typhoid epidemic. 'Pacifying

the city' involves turning it to absolute desolate poisoned rubble.

Why do Washington and the mass media resort to gross, systematic

lying and euphemisms? Basically to reinforce mass support at home

for mass murder in Iraq. The mass media fabricates a web of lies

to secure a gloss of legitimacy for totalitarian methods in order

that the US armed forces continue to destroy cities with impunity.

The technique perfected by Goebbels in Germany and practiced in the

US is to repeat lies and euphemism until they become accepted

'truths', and embedded in everyday language. The mass media by

effectively routinizing a common language implicates the listeners.

The tactical concerns of the Generals, the commanders directing the

slaughter (pacification), and the soldiers murdering civilians are

explained (and consumed by the millions listening and watching) by

the unchallenged authorities to the compliant journalists and famous

news anchors. The unity of purpose between the agents of mass murder

and everyday US public is established via 'news reports': The

soldiers 'paint the names' of their wives and sweethearts on the

tanks and armored vehicles which destroy Iraqi families and turn

Fallujah into ruins. Returning soldiers from Iraq are 'interviewed'

who want to return to 'be with their platoon' and 'wipe out the

terrorists'. Not all of US combat forces experienced the joys of

shooting civilians. Medical studies report that one out of five

returning soldiers are suffering from severe psychological trauma,

no doubt from witnessing or participation in the mass killing of

civilians. The family of one returned soldier, who recently

committed suicide, reported that he constantly referred to his

killing an unarmed child in the streets of Iraq--calling himself

a 'murderer'. Aside from these notable exceptions, the mass

propaganda media practice several techniques, which assuage

the 'conscience' of US soldiers and civilians. One technique

is 'role reversal' to attribute the crimes of the invading

force to the victims: It is not the soldiers who cause destruction

of cities and murder, but the Iraqi families who 'protect the

terrorists' and "bring upon themselves the savage bombardment".

The second technique is to only report US casualties from

'terrorist bombs'--to omit any mention of thousands of Iraqi

civilian killed by US bombs and artillery. Both Nazi and US

propaganda glorify the 'heroism', 'success' of their elite forces

(the SS and the Marines)--in killing 'terrorists' or 'insurgents'

--every dead civilian is counted as a 'suspected terrorist


The US and German military have declared every civilian building

a 'storehouse' or 'hiding place' for 'terrorists'--hence the

absolutely total disregard of all the Geneva laws of warfare.

The US and Nazi practice of 'total war' in which whole communities,

neighborhoods and entire cities are collectively guilty of shielding

'wanted terrorists'--is of course the standard operating military

procedure of the Israeli government.

The US publicizes the cruel and unusual punishment of Iraqi 'suspects'

(any male between 14-60 years) taken prisoner: photos appear in Time

and Newsweek of barefoot, blindfolded and bound young men led from

their homes and pushed into trucks to be taken to 'exploitation

centers' for interrogation. For many in the US public these pictures

are part of the success story--they are told these are the 'terrorists'

who would blow up American homes. For the majority who voted for Bush,

the mass propaganda media has taught them to believe that the

extermination of scores of thousands of Iraqi citizens is in their

best interests: they can sleep sound, as long as 'our boys' kill

them 'over there'.

Above all the mass propaganda media has done everything possible

to deny Iraqi national consciousness. Everyday in every way the

reference is to religious loyalties, ethnic identities, past

political labels, 'tribal' and family clans. The purpose is to

divide and conquer, and to present the world with a 'chaotic'

Iraq in which the only coherent, stable force is the US colonial

regime. The purpose of the savage colonial assaults and the

political labeling is to destroy the idea of the Iraqi nation--and

in its place to substitute a series of mini-entities run by

imperial satraps obedient to Washington.

Sunday morning: November 14 .Today Fallujah is being raped and razed,

captured wounded prisoners are shot in the mosques .In New York the mega

malls are crowded with shoppers .

Sunday afternoon: the Marines have blocked food ,water,and medicine

from entering Fallujah..Throughout the US millions of men sit in

front of the television watching football.

Shirer reported that while the Nazis invaded and ravaged Belgium

and bombed Rotterdam.,in Berlin the cafes were full,the symphony

played and people walked their dogs in the park on sunny Sunday


Sunday night November 14, 2004, I turn on the television to 60 Minutes

and watch a replay of Mike Wallace's 'interviews' with Yasser Arafat.

Like all US mass media 'stars', he ignores the Israeli invasion of

Lebanon and Sharon's murder of thousands of Palestinians, the

military occupation of Palestine and the wanton destruction of Jenin

and Gaza City. Wallace accuses Arafat of being a liar, a terrorist,

of being corrupt and devious. Thirty million US households watch this

ugly spectacle of a self-righteous Zionist apologist flaunting the

'Western ideals', which are so useful in razing cities, bombing

hospitals and exterminating a nation.

Yes, there are differences between Shirer's account of Nazi propaganda

in defense of the conquest of Europe and the US media's apology for

the invasion of Iraq and Israel's slaughter of the Palestinians: One

is committed in the name of the Fuehrer and the Fatherland, the other

in the name of God and Democracy. Go tell that to the bloated corpses

gnawed by dogs in the ruins of Fallujah.


James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University,

New York, owns a 50 year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser

to the landless and jobless in brazil and argentina and is co-author of
Globalization Unmasked (Zed). He can be reached at:


4) In Falluja, Young Marines Saw the Savagery of an Urban War



November 21, 2004

FALLUJA, Iraq, Nov. 18 - Eight days after the Americans entered the

city on foot, a pair of marines wound their way up the darkened

innards of a minaret, shot through with holes by an American tank.

As the marines inched upward, a burst of gunfire rang down, fired

by an insurgent hiding in the top of the tower. The bullets hit the

first marine in the face, his blood spattering the marine behind him.

The marine in the rear tumbled backward down the stairwell, while

Lance Cpl. William Miller, age 22, lay in silence halfway up,

mortally wounded.

"Miller!" the marines called from below. "Miller!"

With that, the marines' near mystical commandment against leaving

a comrade behind seized the group. One after another, the young marines

dashed into the minaret, into darkness and into gunfire, and wound

their way up the stairs.

After four attempts, Corporal Miller's lifeless body emerged from the

tower, his comrades choking and covered with dust. With more insurgents

closing in, the marines ran through volleys of machine-gun fire back

to their base.

"I was trying to be careful, but I was trying to get him out, you know

what I'm saying?" Lance Cpl. Michael Gogin, 19, said afterward.

So went eight days of combat for this Iraqi city, the most sustained

period of street-to-street fighting that Americans have encountered

since the Vietnam War. The proximity gave the fighting a hellish

intensity, with soldiers often close enough to look their enemies

in the eyes.

For a correspondent who has covered a half dozen armed conflicts,

including the war in Iraq since its start in March 2003, the fighting

seen while traveling with a frontline unit in Falluja was a qualitatively
different experience, a leap into a different kind of battle.

From the first rockets vaulting out of the city as the marines moved

in, the noise and feel of the battle seemed altogether extraordinary;

at other times, hardly real at all. The intimacy of combat, this

plunge into urban warfare, was new to this generation of American

soldiers, but it is a kind of fighting they will probably see again:

a grinding struggle to root out guerrillas entrenched in a city, on

streets marked in a language few American soldiers could comprehend.

The price for the Americans so far: 51 dead and 425 wounded, a number

that may yet increase but that already exceeds the toll from any battle

in the Iraq war.

Marines in Harm's Way

The 150 marines with whom I traveled, Bravo Company of the First

Battalion, Eighth Marines, had it as tough as any unit in the fight.

They moved through the city almost entirely on foot, into the heart

of the resistance, rarely protected by tanks or troop carriers,

working their way through Falluja's narrow streets with 75-pound

packs on their backs.

In eight days of fighting, Bravo Company took 36 casualties, including

6 dead, meaning that the unit's men had about a one-in-four chance of

being wounded or killed in little more than a week.

The sounds, sights and feel of the battle were as old as war itself,

and as new as the Pentagon's latest weapons systems. The eerie pop

from the cannon of the AC-130 gunship, prowling above the city at

night, firing at guerrillas who were often only steps away from

Americans on the ground. The weird buzz of the Dragon Eye pilotless

airplane, hovering over the battlefield as its video cameras beamed r

eal-time images back to the base.

The glow of the insurgents' flares, throwing daylight over a

landscape to help them spot their targets: us.

The nervous shove of a marine scrambling for space along a brick

wall as tracer rounds ricocheted above.

The silence between the ping of the shell leaving its mortar tube

and the explosion when it strikes.

The screams of the marines when one of their comrades, Cpl. Jake

Knospler, lost part of his jaw to a hand grenade.

"No, no, no!" the marines shouted as they dragged Corporal Knospler

from the darkened house where the bomb went off. It was 2 a.m., the

sky dark without a moon. "No, no, no!"

Nothing in the combat I saw even remotely resembled the scenes

regularly flashed across movie screens; even so, they often

seemed no more real.

Mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades began raining down on Bravo

Company the moment its men began piling out of their troop

carriers just outside Falluja. The shells looked like Fourth of

July bottle rockets, sailing over the ridge ahead as if fired by

children, exploding in a whoosh of sparks.

Whole buildings, minarets and human beings were vaporized in barrages

of exploding shells. A man dressed in a white dishdasha crawled across

a desolate field, reaching behind a gnarled plant to hide, when he

collapsed before a burst of fire from an American tank.

Sometimes the casualties came in volleys, like bursts of machine-gun

fire. On the first morning of battle, during a ferocious struggle

for the Muhammadia Mosque, about 45 marines with Bravo Company's

Third Platoon dashed across 40th Street, right into interlocking

streams of fire. By the time the platoon made it to the other side,

five men lay bleeding in the street.

The marines rushed out to get them, as they would days later in the

minaret, but it was too late for Sgt. Lonny Wells, who bled to death

on the side of the road. One of the men who braved gunfire to pull

in Sergeant Wells was Cpl. Nathan Anderson, who died three days

later in an ambush.

Sergeant Wells's death dealt the Third Platoon a heavy blow; as

a leader of one of its squads, he had written letters to the parents

of its younger members, assuring them he would look over them during

the tour in Iraq.

"He loved playing cards," Cpl. Gentian Marku recalled. "He knew all the

More than once, death crept up and snatched a member of Bravo Company

and quietly slipped away. Cpl. Nick Ziolkowski, nicknamed Ski, was a

Bravo Company sniper. For hours at a stretch, Corporal Ziolkowski would

sit on a rooftop, looking through the scope on his bolt-action M-40

rifle, waiting for guerrillas to step into his sights. The scope was

big and wide, and Corporal Ziolkowski often took off his helmet to

get a better look.

Tall, good-looking and gregarious, Corporal Ziolkowski was one of

Bravo Company's most popular soldiers. Unlike most snipers, who

learned to shoot growing up in the countryside, Corporal Ziolkowski

grew up near Baltimore, unfamiliar with guns. Though Baltimore boasts

no beach front, Corporal Ziolkowski's passion was surfing; at Camp

Lejeune, N.C., Bravo Company's base, he would often organize his

entire day around the tides.

"All I need now is a beach with some waves," Corporal Ziolkowski

said, during a break from his sniper duties at Falluja's Grand Mosque,

where he killed three men in a single day.

During that same break, Corporal Ziolkowski foretold his own death.

The snipers, he said, were now among the most hunted of American


In the first battle for Falluja, in April, American snipers had been

especially lethal, Corporal Ziolkowski said, and intelligence

officers had warned him that this time, the snipers would be targets.

"They are trying to take us out," Corporal Ziolkowski said.

The bullet knocked Corporal Ziolkowski backward and onto the roof.

He had been sitting there on the outskirts of the Shuhada neighborhood,

an area controlled by insurgents, peering through his wide scope.

He had taken his helmet off to get a better view. The bullet hit

him in the head.

Young Men, Heavy Burdens

For all the death about the place, one inescapable impression left

by the marines was their youth. Everyone knows that soldiers are

young; it is another thing to see men barely out of adolescence,

many of whom were still in high school when this war began, shoot

people dead.

The marines of Bravo Company often fought over the packets of M&M's

that came with their rations. Sitting in their barracks, they sang

along with the Garth Brooks paean to chewing tobacco, "Copenhagen,"

named for the brand they bought almost to a man:

Copenhagen, what a wad of flavor

Copenhagen, you can see it in my smile

Copenhagen, hey do yourself a favor, dip

Copenhagen, it drives the cowgirls wild

One of Bravo Company's more youthful members was Cpl. Romulo

Jimenez II, age 21 from Bellington, W.Va.. Cpl. Jimenez spent

much of his time showing off his tattoos - he had flames climbing

up one of his arms - and talking about his 1992 Ford Mustang. He

was a popular member of Bravo Company's Second Platoon, not least

because he introduced his sister to a fellow marine, Lance Cpl.

Sean Evans, and the couple married.

In the days before the battle started, Corporal Jimenez called his

sister, Katherine, to ask that she fix up the interior of his

Mustang before he got home.

"Make it look real nice," he told her.

On Wednesday, Nov. 10, around 2 p.m., Corporal Jimenez was shot

in the neck by a sniper as he advanced with his platoon through

the northern end of Falluja, just near the green-domed Muhammadia

Mosque. He died instantly.

Despite their youth, the marines seemed to tower over their peers

outside the military in maturity and guts. Many of Bravo Company's

best marines, its most proficient killers, were 19 and 20 years old;

some directed their comrades in maneuvers and assaults. Bravo

Company's three lieutenants, each responsible for the lives of

about 50 men, were 23 and 24 years old.

They are a strangely anonymous bunch. The men who fight America's

wars seem invariably to come from little towns and medium-size

cities far away from the nation's arteries along the coast. Line

up a group of marines and ask them where they are from, and they

will give you a list of places like Pearland, Tex.; Lodi, Ohio;

Osawatomie, Kan.

Typical of the marines who fought in Falluja was Chad Ritchie,

a 22-year-old corporal from Keezletown, Va. Corporal Ritchie, a

soft-spoken, bespectacled intelligence officer, said he was happy

to be out of the tiny place where he grew up, though he admitted

that he sometimes missed the good times on Friday nights in the


"We'd have a bonfire, and back the trucks up on it, and open up

the backs, and someone would always have some speakers," Corporal

Ritchie said. "We'd drink beer, tell stories."

Like many of the young men in Bravo Company, Corporal Ritchie

said he had joined the Marines because he yearned for an

adventure greater than his small town could offer.

"The guys who stayed, they're all living with their parents,

making $7 an hour," Corporal Ritchie said. "I'm not going to be

one of those people who gets old and says, 'I wish I had done

this. I wish I had done that.' Every once in a while, you've got

to do something hard, do something you're not comfortable with.

A person needs a gut check."

Holding Up Under Fire

Marines like Corporal Ritchie proved themselves time and again in

Falluja, but they were not without fear. While camped out one

night in the Iraqi National Guard building in the middle of city,

Bravo Company came under mortar fire that grew closer with each

shot. The insurgents were "bracketing" the building, firing shots

to the left and right of the target and adjusting their fire each


In the hallways, where the men had camped for the night, the

murmured sounds of prayers rose between the explosions. After

20 tries, the shelling inexplicably stopped.

On one particularly grim night, a group of marines from Bravo

Company's First Platoon turned a corner in the darkness and headed

up an alley. As they did so, they came across men dressed in

uniforms worn by the Iraqi National Guard. The uniforms were so

perfect that they even carried pieces of red tape and white, the

signal agreed upon to assure American soldiers that any Iraqis

dressed that way would be friendly; the others could be killed.

The marines, spotting the red and white tape, waved, and the men

in Iraqi uniforms opened fire. One American, Corporal Anderson,

died instantly. One of the wounded men, Pfc. Andrew Russell, lay

in the road, screaming from a nearly severed leg.

A group of marines ran forward into the gunfire to pull their

comrades out. But the ambush, and the enemy flares and gunfire

that followed, rattled the men of Bravo Company more than any

event. In the darkness, the men began to argue. Others stood

around in the road. As the platoon's leader, Lt. Andy Eckert,

struggled to take charge, the Third Platoon seemed on the brink

of panic.

"Everybody was scared," Lieutenant Eckert said afterward. "If

the leader can't hold, then the unit can't hold together."

The unit did hold, but only after the intervention of Bravo

Company's commanding officer, Capt. Read Omohundro.

Time and again through the week, Captain Omohundro kept his

men from folding, if not by his resolute manner then by his

calmness under fire. In the first 16 hours of battle, when the

combat was continuous and the threat of death ever present,

Captain Omohundro never flinched, moving his men through the

warrens and back alleys of Falluja with an uncanny sense of

space and time, sensing the enemy, sensing the location of his

men, even in the darkness, entirely self-possessed.

"Damn it, get moving," Captain Omohundro said, and his men,

looking relieved that they had been given direction amid the

anarchy, were only too happy to oblige.

A little later, Captain Omohundro, a 34-year-old Texan, allowed

that the strain of the battle had weighed on him, but he said

that he had long ago trained himself to keep any self-doubt

hidden from view.

"It's not like I don't feel it," Captain Omohundro said. "But

if I were to show it, the whole thing would come apart."

When the heavy fighting was finally over, a dog began to follow

Bravo Company through Falluja's broken streets. First it lay

down in the road outside one of the buildings the company had

occupied, between troop carriers. Then, as the troops moved on,

the mangy dog slinked behind them, first on a series of house

searches, then on a foot patrol, always keeping its distance,

but never letting the marines out of its sight.

Bravo Company, looking a bit ragged itself as it moved up

through Falluja, momentarily fell out of its single-file line.

"Keep a sharp eye," Captain Omohundro told his men. "We ain't

done with this war yet."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times


5) Iraq Schedules National Elections for Jan. 30


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 21

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 21 - The Electoral Commission of Iraq said

today it has set Jan. 30 for the national elections, according

to news agency reports.

The announcement was made after violence surged through central

and northern Iraq on Saturday as a tenacious insurgency led by Sunni

Arabs kept up relentless assaults in several major cities, including

Baghdad, Ramadi and Falluja, which the Americans devastated during

an intense weeklong offensive aimed at routing the insurgency.

But areas still beset by violence, including Falluja and Mosul, will

participate in the elections, according to a spokesman for the electoral
commission, Farid Ayar, who was quoted in a report by The Associated Press.

"No Iraqi province will be excluded because the law considers Iraq as

one constituency, and therefore it is not legal to exclude any province,"

he said.

Elsewhere, the United States military said today that Iraqi and American

forces detained more than 1,450 people in connection with the Falluja

offensive, but more than 400 detainees were later released after being

deemed to be non-combatants.

In the capital on Saturday, insurgents armed with Kalashnikov rifles

and rocket-propelled grenades tried storming a police station at dawn

in the northwestern neighborhood of Amariya, where American and Iraqi

soldiers had engaged in a mosque shootout on Friday. The attack on the

police station left three Iraqi police officers dead and two others

wounded, said Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman, a spokesman for the Interior


Hours later, a car bomb exploded in downtown Baghdad, at the eastern

end of the bridge over the Tigris River leading to the Green Zone,

the fortified compound housing the American Embassy and the headquarters

of the interim Iraqi government. The bomb was aimed at a convoy of

vehicles from a Western security contractor. At least one Iraqi was

killed and another wounded, witnesses said.

Four employees of the Public Works Ministry were gunned down from

a passing car, and three Iraqi national guardsmen died in explosions

in western Baghdad during gun battles with insurgents, Iraqi

officials said.

An ambush on an American military convoy in central Baghdad ended

with the death of one soldier, the military said. Nine others were

wounded in what appeared to be a highly coordinated attack, with

insurgents using explosives, automatic rifles and rocket-propelled

grenades. Fighting raged in the rubble of Falluja. Two marines were

killed and four wounded in an ambush on Friday in which an insurgent

deceived the Americans by waving a white flag, military officials

said Saturday.

The weeklong offensive, which began Nov. 8, smashed a haven for the

insurgents, but guerrillas still roam the devastated streets,

sniping at American troops and deterring military engineers brought

in to try to rebuild the city.

American commanders in Falluja say they are seeing an increasing

number of guerrillas using white flags to pose as unarmed civilians.

In a bit of positive news, a Polish woman abducted in October by

insurgents announced her release to reporters in Warsaw in a brief

news conference on Saturday with the Polish prime minister, Marek

Belka, broadcast by the BBC and CNN.

The woman, Teresa Borcz-Kalifa, 54, said her captors had treated her

well. She is married to an Iraqi and had lived in Iraq for 30 years.

Her captors made at least two videos that were shown on Al Jazeera,

the Arab satellite television network, demanding the withdrawal of

Polish troops.

And today, news agency reports said that the Iraqi prime minister's

75-year-old cousin, Ghazi Majeed Allawi, had been freed by captors

who had detained him and two other family members on Nov. 9. A group

called Ansar al Jihad had posted an Internet message saying the three

would be beheaded unless Dr. Allawi called off the siege of Falluja

and released all prisoners in Iraq.

Two of the relatives, both women, were released last week. And today,

Al-Arabiya news channel, quoted by Reuters, reported that Ghazi Allawi

had been freed.

The unrelenting wave of assaults in the Sunni-dominated parts of the

country indicate that the attack on Falluja could have inflamed Sunni

resentment against the American presence.

American and Iraqi officials have found it impossible in the 19 months

since the invasion to persuade hostile Sunni Arabs to lay down their

arms and engage in the emerging political system.

The Sunni Arabs, who make up a fifth of the population here, ruled

the region known as modern Iraq for centuries, until the American

invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Hussein, himself a Sunni, heightened ethnic and religious

differences by installing Sunnis in the most senior positions and

persecuting Shiite Arabs and Kurds. Now, with a power and security

vacuum throughout Iraq, those tensions are reviving and threatening

to unravel the very social fabric of the country.

Sunni-dominated cities exploded during and immediately after the

Falluja offensive. In April, when the Marines tried to take control

of Falluja, thousands of unruly Shiites rose up also, led by the

firebrand cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

During the more recent invasion, Mr. Sadr condemned the Americans'

use of force but did not call on his militia to fight. These days,

even radical Shiites appear ready to use legitimate politics to

ensure that Shiites seize majority rule of the country. The most

restive areas in Iraq are in Anbar Province, including Ramadi and

Falluja, and, in the north, Nineveh Province, whose capital is Mosul,

a city of two million that has become a second front of the insurgency.

On Saturday, marines set up roadblocks around Ramadi, the capital of

Anbar, and broadcast messages calling on residents to turn over

"terrorists," Reuters reported. The marines are engaged in a holding

action there. They have a presence at the government center and

several outposts downtown, but they do not have real control of

the city. Insurgents operate freely and regularly murder residents

they say are collaborating with the Americans or the interim Iraqi


Senior American commanders believe that many guerrillas fled Falluja

before the offensive and sought a haven in Ramadi, just 30 miles

west, causing a spike in violence there.

In Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, 225 miles north of Baghdad,

nine bodies of Iraqi Army soldiers with bullet wounds to the head

were discovered Saturday, said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, an Army

spokesman. Seven of those were also decapitated. On Thursday, he

said, four headless bodies were found in eastern Mosul.

The group of the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted an

Internet message dated Thursday that said it had decapitated two

Iraqi soldiers in public. At least one witness said that he saw

the killings and that the bodies had been left in the street for

hours because people had been afraid to collect them.

American and Iraqi forces are trying to root out resilient insurgent

bands in Mosul that pushed the city to the brink of chaos last week.

On Nov. 11, groups of guerrillas stormed a half-dozen police stations

and made off with weapons and uniforms after setting fire to the

buildings and squad cars. Only 800 of the city's 4,000 police

officers stayed on the job.

The Army of Ansar al-Sunna, one of the country's most militant

groups, posted a message on the Internet on Saturday saying it

had shot and killed two members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

A video showed two gagged and blindfolded men being shot in the

back of their heads, Reuters reported.

The car bombing in Baghdad took place at around 12:30 p.m., as a

convoy of sport utility vehicles carrying Western security contractors

drove near the Jumhuriya bridge. A suicide car bomber tried ramming

into the convoy. The security contractors escaped, but an Iraqi man

in a pickup truck behind the bomber was incinerated.

Robert F. Worth contributed reporting from Falluja for this article,

Richard A. Oppel Jr. from Mosul, Khalid al-Ansary from Baghdad and

Christine Hauser from New York.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times


6) Booming prison numbers prompt reexamination of harsh sentencing



Associated Press

Posted on Sat, Nov. 20, 2004

HARRISBURG, Pa. -The state prison population grew by 44 percent over

the past decade as Pennsylvania embraced mandatory sentencing and

dramatically increased the number of violent criminals forced to

serve their maximum sentence.

But the lock-'em-up approach to corrections - part of a national

trend - has been accompanied by an ever-more-costly price tag and

growing doubts about its effectiveness.

Last month, Pennsylvania quietly joined a growing number of states

taking a step back from the stiffer sentencing policies of the 1990s.

The Republican-controlled Legislature approved a bill that would get

nonviolent drug and alcohol offenders out of prison more quickly and

into treatment programs, and on Friday, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell

signed it.

The policy change is expected to save the state more than $20 million

a year and reduce pressure on a prison system now housing nearly 41,000

convicts, up from 28,302 in 1994. Corrections officials say treatment

has also been shown to reduce the chance the inmates will end up back

in prison.

The typical inmate now spends about four years behind bars before being

released. By one study, Pennsylvania keeps its inmates the longest of

any state, more than twice the national average.

The costs have been staggering. The Department of Corrections has

proposed a $1.34 billion budget for next year, an increase of 295

percent since fiscal year 1992-93, when the budget was just $453

million. It currently employs more than 15,000 people.

Nationally, more than half the states have loosened sentencing

policies in the past three years, said Daniel F. Wilhelm, director

of the State Sentencing and Corrections Project at the Vera Institute

of Justice in New York.

Driving those changes are budget pressures, concerns about the

fairness of sentencing, and falling public concern about crime as

the crime rate has dropped, he said. The nation currently spends

an estimated $40 billion annually on corrections.

Michigan abolished its mandatory sentencing scheme in December 2002.

Kansas passed the nation's most comprehensive mandatory drug-treatment

diversion act last year. Texas put more money into drug treatment.

Other reforms were considered or passed in Washington, Hawaii and

North Carolina.

"What's interesting to note is in a lot of these states, it's not

the liberal Democrats who are championing reforms. It's Republicans

who are at the forefront," Wilhelm said.

In Pennsylvania, prison spending has grown faster than any other part

of the budget, said Montgomery County Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf,

Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, "so I think

we have to be smart in regard to how we incarcerate people."

Despite the changes in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, much of the

harshest anti-crime legislation from the past decade remains on

the books, and earlier this month California voters narrowly rejected

a referendum to weaken its three-strikes law.

Pennsylvania's decision to pursue more treatment for inmates comes

nearly a decade after tough anti-crime policies were pushed through

a receptive Legislature by then-Gov. Tom Ridge, helped along by two

highly publicized murder cases.

Ridge's 1995 campaign was in its final weeks when pardoned inmate

Reginald McFadden killed two people; Ridge's Democratic opponent had

voted to pardon him. And during the Republican governor's first year

in office, a New Jersey police officer was murdered by parolee Robert

"Mudman" Simon.

Almost immediately, inmates found it much harder to make parole and

parole violators were increasingly sent back to complete their


Those changes were widely supported, and many experts believe tough

sentencing laws help reduce crime by keeping habitual criminals off

the streets.

But in Pennsylvania, new mandatory sentencing laws also fed an

astronomical growth in the number of inmates convicted of drug

offenses and other comparatively less serious crimes, so-called

"Part 2" offenders. Their numbers are up 80 percent in the past

seven years.

"I think that there are people that we're confining that we either

don't need to confine for as long a period of time or we don't need

to confine at all," said Corrections Secretary Jeffrey A. Beard.

"There are Part 2 offenders we have in our system that don't need

to stay as long as they're staying."

William DiMascio, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison

Society, recalled the case of a young grandmother from Berks County

with no prior record who was arrested for distributing a small

amount of marijuana within a block or two of a school.

"So all of a sudden she had this horrendous mandatory imprisonment

(the judge) had to give her," he said. "It happens almost every day.

We have these ridiculous situations that serve no one's best interests."

Longer sentences don't necessarily lower the crime rate and can

create problems of their own, said Ryan S. King, a research associate

with the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C., reform advocacy


"You've got people that are being removed from families, social

networks being disrupted, people losing connections to jobs, education.

In essence - particularly when it's concentrated in communities of

color - you have an overall impact that basically disrupts the

community," King said.

The reforms that became law Friday will divert inmates with nonviolent

convictions involving drugs or alcohol - even a theft conviction to

support a drug habit would qualify - into an "intermediate punishment"


Inmates will first do at least seven months in prison, although Beard

said 12 months will probably be more typical. After that, they will

spend at least two months at a community-based therapeutic facility

and the rest of the minimum 24-month sentence at a halfway house or

group home while receiving addiction treatment.

The savings will come because they will spend less overall time in

the system, and considerably less time in state correctional

institutions, where it currently costs $28,000 annually per inmate.

Beard said he is hopeful there will be additional long-term savings

as a result of an expected drop in recidivism and through an

expansion of the program to other classes of inmates.

He said intensive drug or alcohol treatment, combined with aftercare,

could cut in half recidivism rates from their current range of 50

percent to 60 percent. Through shorter sentences, less costly forms

of incarceration and lower numbers of probation violators coming back

in, the state expects to eventually save more than $20 million annually.

"They're still going to do hard time in prison, but we're going to

give them a program that meets their needs, so that when they go out,

they're going to be less likely to prey on society," Beard said.

"I see it as a public safety issue."

Supporters who see the new law as a relatively modest change of

direction hope it is a harbinger of even broader reforms.

"It's not the most creative thing in the world, but insofar as

it's the world we're operating in, it's a good step in the right

direction," DiMascio said.

(c) 2004 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.


7) Soaring Interest Compounds Credit Card Pain for Millions



This article was reported by Patrick McGeehan, Lowell Bergman,

Robin Stein and Marlena Telvick and written by Mr. McGeehan.

November 21, 2004

When Ed Schwebel was whittling down his mound of credit card debt

at an interest rate of 9.2 percent, the MBNA Corporation had a happy

and profitable customer. But this summer, when MBNA suddenly doubled

the rate on his account, Mr. Schwebel joined the growing ranks of irate
cardholders stunned by lenders' harsh tactics.

Mr. Schwebel, 58, a semiretired software engineer in Gilbert, Ariz.,

was not pleased that his minimum monthly payment jumped from $502 in

June to $895 in July. But what really made him angry, he said, was the

sense that he was being punished despite having held up his end of

the bargain with MBNA.

"I paid the bills the minute the envelope hit the desk," said Mr.

Schwebel, who had accumulated $69,000 in debt over five years before

the rate increase. "All of a sudden in July, they swapped it to 18

percent. No warning. No reason. It was like I was blindsided."

Mr. Schwebel had stumbled into the new era of consumer credit, in

which thousands of Americans are paying millions of dollars each

month in fees that they did not expect and that strike them as

unreasonable. Invoking clauses tucked into the fine print of their

contract agreements, lenders are doubling or tripling interest rates

with little warning or explanation.

This year, credit card companies are changing the terms of their

accounts at a historically high rate, said Michael Heller, an

industry consultant.

As those practices spread, they are creating a rift between the

lenders and some of their more lucrative customers, according to

cardholders, current and former bank consultants and regulators

who were interviewed for a joint report by The New York Times and

"Frontline," the PBS documentary program.

People like Mr. Schwebel, who carry balances from month to month

and pay finance charges regularly, feel they should be the favored

customers of the credit card business, which is now the most

lucrative segment of banking. They make up the profitable majority

of the 144 million Americans who have general-purpose credit cards.

To a degree, they subsidize the 40 percent of credit card customers

who pay in full each month without incurring any fees or charges.

But increasingly, they say, what should be a warm embrace has

turned into a painful squeeze as lenders employ new tactics to

extract more and bigger penalties for even the slightest financial

transgressions. In the last few years, lenders have more frequently

raised customers' rates because of slip-ups elsewhere, like late

payment of a phone or utility bill, or simply because they felt

a customer had taken on too much debt.

The practice, called universal default, started after a rash of

bankruptcy filings in the mid-to-late 1990's and has increasingly

become standard in the industry. While MBNA declined to comment on

any specific customer's account, its general counsel, Louis J. Freeh,

the former F.B.I. director, said in a statement that it was being

prudent by raising rates when it had reason to think the risk of

not being repaid had increased.

Edward L. Yingling, executive vice president of the American Bankers

Association, said bankers must have the flexibility to change terms

on short notice. The bankruptcy filings of the 90's - many by customers

who had been paying their bills on time - caught banks off-guard,

he said.

Lenders decided they needed to watch for signs of trouble elsewhere,

like missed car payments, he said. In those cases, he added, there are

only two logical responses: "We're not going to let you have this credit

card loan anymore and we're going to say, 'Pay it off,' or we can say,

'You're now more risky; we're going to raise your rate.' "

Still, some critics say the severity of the punishment does not match

the risk of default. The suddenness and perceived unfairness of the

penalties have left many consumers feeling burned by lenders who

relentlessly courted them with promises of low rates.

To some cardholders and consumer advocates, credit card companies

are acting like modern-day loan sharks, strong-arming their customers

to pay more - with no legal limit on how much they can charge.

In eight years, the major card companies have increased the fee

charged to cardholders for being even an hour late with a payment

to $39, from $10 or less.

Unleashing an Industry

Duncan MacDonald, who, as a lawyer for Citibank was involved in its

successful case for deregulation of fees before the United States

Supreme Court in 1996, now says he fears that he helped to unleash

a monster.

Until that ruling, most banks still charged an annual fee of about

$25 for the use of a card and a single fixed rate to all borrowers,

usually around 18 percent. Applicants either qualified for the

privilege of carrying a card or they did not.

"I certainly didn't imagine that someday we might've ended up

creating a Frankenstein," said Mr. MacDonald, who predicted that

the penalty fees could rise to $50 in another year. "I look at that

and I say to myself, 'Is $50 a fair fee, plus a 25 percent interest

rate and all these other fees that are thrown on, for folks who are

probably not that risky? Is that fair?' "

Mr. MacDonald said federal bank regulators should investigate the

fairness of universal default and some of the banks' harsh penalties.

But regulators and lawmakers have been reluctant to crack down on

a popular consumer product that fuels America's economic engine.

Consumer spending pulled the country through the last economic

downturn, powered largely by purchases financed with debt, to

the tune of $2 trillion.

Few consumer products today are as cherished or reviled as credit

cards. The typical household has eight cards with $7,500 on them.

People like Mr. Schwebel are known as "revolvers" in the industry

because they roll balances over from month to month, never paying

in full.

Without the 85 million Americans who revolve, card issuers would be

struggling to please their investors. But with them and the hefty

finance charges they accrue from the moment cashiers swipe their

cards, the industry is reaping record gains. Last year, card issuers

made $2.5 billion a month in profit before taxes.

"I think it is generally understood that those that use the revolving

part of the credit card are kind of the sweet spot," said Mr. Yingling

of the bankers' association, who spoke on behalf of several of the

biggest issuers, including Citigroup ,J. P. Morgan Chase and MBNA,

all of which declined to make executives available for interviews.

But the lenders' aggressive tactics have prompted a surge in

complaints and lawsuits and even a warning from the primary regulator

of national banks in September. In an advisory letter, the Office of

the Comptroller of the Currency said banks should not raise card rates

without having fully and prominently disclosed the circumstances that

might cause an increase.

Changing the Terms

The case that opened up the industry came in 1978 when the Supreme

Court decided that a bank could charge its cardholders any rate allowed

in the bank's home state. Major banks swiftly moved their credit card

operations to places like South Dakota and Delaware that had removed

caps on interest rates. There is no federal limit on consumer credit


After that ruling on interest rates, credit cards, which until then

had generally been an uncertain business, started to look potentially

lucrative. Banks began to innovate and compete. They cut the required

minimum monthly payment to 2 percent of the balance, from 5 percent,

to encourage customers to borrow more and stretch out the repayment.

They dropped annual fees and dangled offers of low interest, or none

at all, to lure new customers.

At the same time, legal teams crafted contracts of 12 or more single-

spaced pages that gave the banks the leeway to change their terms

whenever they wanted. A typical term sheet for a Visa card issued by

Bank One , which was acquired this year by J. P. Morgan Chase, includes:

"We reserve the right to change the terms at any time for any reason."

John Gould has worked in and around the credit card business for 25

years, but he said he was shocked when his wife tried to make a last-

minute payment over the phone and was charged an extra $15.

"What a rip," he said. "That does get me mad."

Fees like that are accounting for a greater share of the revenue that

card companies garner from their customers. Last year, they collected

$11.7 billion in penalty fees, more than half of the total $21.5 billion

in fees they collected from cardholders, according to CardWeb, a research


Mr. Gould, a former executive of MasterCard International who conducts

research for TowerGroup, a company owned by MasterCard, said he did not

think that card companies were trying to trap people into financial

distress. But he said it was "absurd" that 44 percent of them tell their

customers that they might be penalized for one or two late payments with

maximum rates that now exceed 28 percent.

This practice has gone on while the short-term interest rates set by the

Federal Reserve Board have been unusually low, now at 2 percent, he noted,

but the rates have been rising in recent months.

"What are they going to do if we have a spike in interest rates?" Mr.

Gould said. "What are they going to start charging people, 35 percent,

38 percent? If it comes to that, you might as well go to the loan sharks."

But Andrew Kahr, a financial services consultant who devised some widely

used consumer-lending strategies, including the zero-percent teaser

rates, said consumers should be able to recognize that the business

is a "game of chance." Interest rates shooting past 25 percent may

seem scandalous to some, Mr. Kahr said, but they are "no less

realistic" than the low introductory rates many cardholders receive.

The lenders offer tantalizingly low initial rates because that is

what it takes to lure customers from competitors, said Mr. Kahr,

who was a founder and chief executive, until 1986, of the San

Francisco lending company now known as Providian. After he left,

Providian ran afoul of state and federal regulators for some of

its credit card practices, and agreed to a $300 million settlement.

But, he said that banks cannot earn an adequate return by lending

for less than it costs them to borrow, so they look for ways to

recoup losses on the low-rate chasers.

"They do better when they apply these price increases selectively

to customers who statistically have become more risky, or to those

who have violated the rules of the account," Mr. Kahr said.

Still, some cardholders complain that they did not know the rules

until after they were punished for breaking them. Linda Sherry,

editorial director for Consumer Action, an advocacy group, said

"the consumer really has no rights to find out anything, to demand,

'Why is this being done to me?' "

Last month, a consumer advocacy group in San Diego, the Utility

Consumers' Action Network, filed suit against Discover Financial

Services, the issuer of the Discover card, asserting that it had

changed the rules late in the game. The group contends that a

recent rewording of Discover's universal-default policy is unfair

to consumers, especially those in difficult financial situations.

The change, disclosed to cardholders in April, allowed Discover

to raise the interest rate to 19.99 percent, from as low as zero,

for a single late payment. But the infraction did not have to

follow the revision, because Discover reserved the right to look

back 11 months for a late payment that could justify the increase.

"It has gotten to the point where the fine print is becoming

almost outright abusive of their customers," said Michael Shames,

executive director for the consumer group. "The customers who are

affected most by this practice are those who, for one reason or

another, are having trouble making payments and have a large balance."

Jennifer Kang, a spokeswoman for Discover Financial, said she could

not comment because of the pending litigation. Discover executives

declined repeated requests for an interview.

Mr. Heller of Argus Information & Advisory Services in White Plains,

the industry analyst who has studied the rate of change in credit

card terms, said that his research showed that in the first half of

this year, MBNA - the card issuer that doubled the interest rate for

Mr. Schwebel, the Arizona engineer - repriced a smaller share of its

card accounts than the industry average.

But MBNA, in the statement from Mr. Freeh, said: "If we see indications

that a customer is taking on too much debt, has missed or is late on

payments to other creditors, or is otherwise mishandling their personal

finances, it is not unreasonable to determine that this behavior is

an increased risk. In the interest of all of our customers, we must

protect the portfolio by adjusting a customer's rate to compensate

for that increased risk."

The Credit Score

The interest rate on a credit card is theoretically correlated to

the likelihood that a borrower will make good on his debts. Lenders

typically measure those odds by a three-digit number known as a

FICO score.

Calculated by and short for the Fair Isaac Corporation, a company

in Minneapolis, that score has become the most vital of statistics

to many Americans.

Credit scores are used to determine everything from how much a

person can borrow to how much he or she pays for life insurance to

whether he or she can rent a home. A utility company in Texas even

experimented last summer with using credit scores to set prices

for electricity.

The number crunchers at Fair Isaac do not make lending decisions.

They simply take information collected by the three largest credit-

reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, and apply

mathematical formulas to boil it down to a single number on a

scale that runs to 850.

"Lenders use that score, almost like a thermometer, to determine

if they're going to grant credit or not," said Tom Quinn, a

spokesman for Fair Isaac. He estimated that his company had

calculated a credit score for about 75 percent of American adults.

The average FICO score is 720, he said. A score below 620 lands a

consumer in the riskiest category, known as subprime, and virtually

ensures the highest borrowing rates, if the consumer can obtain any

credit at all. Credit reports generally note only those payments made

at least 30 days late.

Consumers with better-than-average scores are usually, but not always,

eligible for the lowest rates. As Steve Strachan, a flower importer

in York, Pa., learned, a relatively high credit score does not

guarantee favorable terms.

A thick credit report on Mr. Strachan from January showed a FICO

score above 730, but by then he had already been through a battle

with the issuer of a card that had once been his favorite method

of payment.

In the 1990's, Mr. Strachan traveled frequently from his home on

the West Coast to Amsterdam and other foreign cities to meet with

suppliers of tulips and exotic flower varieties that he distributed

to domestic florists and wholesalers. He obtained a WorldPerks Visa

card that rewarded him with seat upgrades through Northwest Airline's

frequent-flier program.

"I used that card whenever I possibly could because of the travel

benefits," he recalled, sitting in his living room before stacks

of credit card bills, change-of-terms notices and other correspondence

between him and several lenders. "Never paid a penny of interest."

He was such a valued customer then, he said, that US Bank, which

issued the card, had extended him a high credit limit of $54,000 even

though the card rate was just one percentage point above the prime rate.

When the economy wilted after the collapse of the stock market in early

2000, so did Mr. Strachan's business. He began using his credit lines

on that Visa card and a few others to stay afloat, paying smaller

portions of his growing balances.

Then, in May of last year, US Bank sent Mr. Strachan a letter telling

him that it planned to raise the card's rate to 20.21 percent, nearly

quadrupling the existing rate of 5.25 percent.

"I wasn't late, and I didn't go over the credit limit, and I didn't

write bad checks," Mr. Strachan said. A representative of US Bank told

him he was using too much of his available credit, he said.

A US Bank spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Strachan's account.

The monthly interest charge on his $50,000 balance jumped from $209

in June to $756 in July and $808 in August. He eventually persuaded

the bank to restore the original rate, but the bank closed the account,

shutting off a key source of credit.

By then, Bank One, another creditor, had compounded Mr. Strachan's

woes. He was carrying a balance of about $70,000 on one account when

the bank started raising his rates, first to 19.99 percent in April

2003, then to 22.99 percent the next month, then to 24.99 percent in

June. By October of last year, he was incurring a monthly finance

charge of about $1,500 on a $77,000 balance.

"It was like they almost all had a little meeting in the back room

and said, 'Let's get Strachan,' " he said of his creditors. "How does

it serve them to treat people like that? Are they trying to force

them into bankruptcy?"

Lawyers he consulted advised Mr. Strachan to take the easy - and

increasingly popular - way out by filing for bankruptcy protection,

but he refused. He is struggling to make good on his debts "because

I have principles and ethics."

But the battle to dig out of a deepening hole has taken a toll. Mr.

Strachan said he had lost 30 pounds and described himself as a

"broken man."

Lately, he said, Bank One has periodically reduced his credit limit

to a level just above his remaining balance, leaving him little

margin for error. Some months, he said, if he were to pay only the

minimum due, the ensuing finance charge would put his balance over

the limit, triggering a penalty fee.

By doing that, he said, "They create their own little monster."

The Regulators

Consumer complaints prompted the Office of the Comptroller of the

Currency, which oversees the nationally chartered banks that

constitute most of the major card issuers, to warn banks about

giving fair notice of term changes and about sending out tempting

offers to people who are unlikely to qualify for them.

Julie Williams, the acting comptroller, said in an interview that

as long as the lenders were not intentionally deceiving their

customers, they were free to set whatever rates and fees their home

states allow. If customers do not want to pay a particular rate,

"they have choice," she said. "They can find another card."

But consumers clearly are unhappy with the choices they have. About

80,000 people lodged complaints with the comptroller's office last

year. Ms. Williams said the largest single source of their ire was

credit cards. Those complaints are routed to examiners who monitor

the banks, she said, but the examiners' foremost concern is to make

sure the banks are financially sound.

Ms. Williams described her agency as a "tough regulator," but critics

contend that the comptroller's office has taken strong action against

only one major issuer of credit cards in the last five years. In

2000, the O.C.C. joined in an investigation into Providian that

had been started by the San Francisco district attorney's office.

Providian customers complained that they had been hit with late fees

for payments that had been sent in on time but not credited to their

accounts for days or weeks. Some said the resultant penalties pushed

them over their credit limits, leading to additional fees.

Later, Ms. Williams said, the two agencies joined forces to extract

$300 million in a settlement with Providian.

The comptroller's office has since angered state attorneys general

by trying to limit their ability to regulate how national banks

behave in their states.

Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York, said his office gets

"thousands of complaints every year about credit card issues relating

to the major banks, the major card issuers." But more often, he said,

the banks' response has been that " 'we don't need to deal with you

because the O.C.C. has told us - indeed, directed us - not to deal

with state enforcement entities.' "

Elizabeth Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School who has been a

vocal critic of consumer lenders, said the comptroller's office should

do more than express discomfort with the practices of credit card

companies, as it did in September.

The regulators did not say that "those are unfair practices, they are

unsafe and unsound and don't do them," Ms. Warren said. "Instead, they

said it's a problem. Look, if they think it's a problem, then tell the

credit card companies to stop doing it."

"Secret History of the Credit Card,"produced in conjunction with this

article, will be shown Tuesday on "Frontline" (PBS, 9 p.m. in most


Copyright 2004 The New York Times


8) MSNBC 'Imus' Segment Refers to 'Raghead Cadaver'

Muslims urged to renew demand for apology, reprimand

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/19/04)

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/19/04) - CAIR is once again calling on people of

conscience to demand an apology from the MSNBC cable television network for

anti-Arab/anti-Muslim remarks made on its "Imus in the Morning" program.

In a segment today commenting on the apparent execution of a wounded Iraqi

in Fallujah by a U.S. Marine, a fictitious "Senior Military Affairs

Advisor" to the program justified the killing by referring to a

"booby-trapped raghead cadaver." The fictitious advisor also said the

killing provided an "Al-Jazeera moment" causing the "Muslim masses to

respond with their routine pack of rabid sheep mentality."

Yesterday, CAIR issued a similar call for an apology for a November 12th

"Imus" program that referred to Palestinians as "stinking animals" and

suggested that they all be killed.

SEE: Palestinians Called 'Stinking Animals' on MSNBC's 'Imus'

"We thank all those who already contacted the network to express their

concerns about the racist remarks and ask that they keep up the pressure

until those concerns are properly addressed," said CAIR Executive Director

Nihad Awad.

Don Imus, the program's host, has a long history of controversy over

anti-Arab and Islamophobic remarks. As early as 1985, he was forced to

apologize for referring to Arabs as "goat-humping weasels." (Sunday Mail,

4/21/85) He has also been criticized for using the derogatory term

"raghead." (Accuracy in Media) In a reference to the crash of an Iranian

airliner earlier this year that killed 43 passengers, Imus said, "When I

hear stories like that, I think who cares." He then stated: "Too bad it

wasn't full of Saudi Arabians." (National Iranian American Council)

Earlier this year, CAIR announced a "Hate Hurts America" campaign designed

to counter hate speech on talk radio.



Contact NBC and MSNBC to renew your demand for an apology and a reprimand

for all those involved in both programs. (Send a demand for an apology even

if you sent one based on the earlier alert.)


Mr. Rick Kaplan



1 MSNBC Plaza

Secaucus, NJ 07094-2419

TEL: 201-583-5050

FAX: 201-583-5179

Mr. Neal Shapiro


NBC News

30 Rockefeller Plaza

New York, NY 10112-0002


COPY TO:,,,,



9) Holiday in Falluja

Sent: Friday, November 19, 2004 2:03 PM

hEkLe Falluja, Iraq

These are ugly times for the US military in Iraq. It seems everywhere

you turn, more and more troops are being killed and maimed in vicious

encounters with determined rebel fighters. The insurgency is mounting

incredibly in such places as Baghdad, Mosul, and Baquba; using more

advanced techniques and weaponry associated with a well-organized

guerilla campaign. Even in the massively destroyed city of Falluja rebel

forces are starting to reappear with a callous determination to win or

die trying. Many critics and political pundits are starting to realize

that this war is, in many aspects, un-winnable.

And why should anyone think that a complete victory is possible?

Conventionally, our US forces win territory here or there, killing a

plethora of civilians as well as insurgents with each new boundary


However, such as the recent case in Falluja, the rebel fighters have

returned like a swarm of angry hornets attacking with a vicious frenzy.

I was in Falluja during the last two days of the final assault. My

mission was much different from that of the brave and weary infantry and

marines involved in the major fighting. I was on an escort mission,

accompanied by a squad who's task it was to protect a high brass figure

in the combat zone. This particularly arrogant officer went to the last

battle in the same spirits of an impartial spectator checking out the

fourth quarter of a high school football game.

Once we got to the marine occupied Camp Falluja and saw artillery being

fired into town, the man suddenly became desperate to play an active

role in the battle that would render Falluja to ashes. It was already

rumored that all he really wanted was his trigger time, perhaps to prove

that he is the toughest cowboy west of the Euphrates.

Guys like him are a dime a dozen in the army: a career soldier who spent

the first twenty years of his service patrolling the Berlin Wall or

guarding the DMZ between North and South Korea. This sort of brass may

have been lucky to serve in the first Gulf War, but in all actuality

spent very little time shooting rag heads. For these trigger-happy

tough guys, the last two decades of cold war hostilities built into a

war frenzy of stark emptiness, fizzling out almost completely with the

Clinton administration. But this is the New War, a never ending, action

packed "Red Scare" in which the communist threat of yesteryear was

simply replaced with the white knuckled tension of today's "War on


The younger soldiers who grew up in relatively peaceful times interpret

the mentality of the careerists as one of making up for lost

opportunities. To the elder generation of trigger pullers, this is the

real deal; the chance to use all the cool toys and high speed training

that has been stored away since the '70s for something tangibly

useful.and its about goddamn time.

However, upon reaching the front lines, a safety standard was in effect

stating that the urban combat was extremely intense. The lightest

armored vehicles allowed in sector were Bradley tanks. Taking a glance

at our armored humvees, this commander insisted that our section would

be fine. Even though the armored humvees are very stout and nearly

impenetrable against small arm fire, they usually don't hold up well

against rocket attacks and roadside bombs like a heavily armored tank


The reports from within the war zone indicated heavy rocket attacks,

with an armed insurgent waiting on every corner for a soft target such

as trucks. In the end, the overzealous officer was urged not to

infiltrate into sector with only three trucks, for it would be a death

wish during those dangerous twilight hours. It was suggested that in

the morning, after the air strikes were complete, he could move in and

"inspect the damage".

Even as the sun was setting over the hazy orange horizon, artillery was

pounding away at the remaining twelve percent of the already devastated

Falluja. Many units were pulled out for the evening in preparation of a

full-scale air strike that was scheduled to last for up to twelve hours.

Our squad was sitting on top of our parked humvees, manning the crew

served machine guns and scanning the urban landscape for enemy activity.

This was supposed to be a secured forward operating area, right on the

edge of the combat zone. However, with no barbed wire perimeter set up

and only a few scattered tanks serving as protection, one was under the

assumption that if someone missed a minor detail while on guard, some

serious shit could go down.

One soldier informed me that only two nights prior an insurgent was

caught sneaking around the bullet-ridden houses to our immediate west.

He was armed with a rocket-propelled grenade, and was laying low on his

advance towards the perimeter. One of the tanks spotted him through its

night vision and hastily shot him into three pieces. Indeed, though it

was safe enough to smoke a cigarette and relax, one had to remain

diligently aware of his surroundings if he planned on making it through

the night.

As the evening wore on and the artillery continued, a new gruesome roar

filled the sky. The fighter jets were right on time and made their

grand appearance with a series of massive air strikes. Between the

pernicious bombs and fierce artillery, the sky seemed as though it were

on fire for several minutes at a time. First you would see a blaze of

light in the horizon, like lightning hitting a dynamite warehouse, and

then hear the massive explosion that would turn your stomach, rattle

your eyeballs, and compress itself deep within your lungs. Although

these massive bombs were being dropped no further than five kilometers

away, it felt like it was happening right in front of your face. At

first, it was impossible not to flinch with each unexpected boom, but

after scores of intense explosions, your senses became aware and

complacent towards them.

At times the jets would scream menacingly low over the city and open

fire with smaller missiles meant for extreme accuracy. This is what Top

Gun, in all its glory and silver screen acclaim, seemed to be lacking in

the movie's high budget sound effects. These air-deployed missiles make

a banshee-like squeal, sort of like a bottle rocket fueled with

plutonium, and then suddenly would become inaudible. Seconds later, the

colossal explosion would rip the sky open and hammer devastatingly into

the ground, sending flames and debris pummeling into the air. And as

always, the artillery-some rounds were high explosive, some were

illumination rounds, some were reported as being white phosphorus (the

modern day napalm).

Occasionally, on the outskirts of the isolated impact area, you could

hear tanks firing machine guns and blazing their cannons. It was

amazing that anything could survive this deadly onslaught. Suddenly a

transmition came over the radio approving the request for

"bunker-busters". Apparently, there were a handful of insurgent

compounds that were impenetrable by artillery. At the time, I was

unaware when these bunker-busters were deployed, but I was told later

that the incredibly massive explosions were a direct result of these

"final solution" type missiles.

I continued to watch the final assault on Falluja throughout the night

from atop my humvee. It was interesting to scan the vast skies above

with night vision goggles. Circling continuously overhead throughout

the battle was an array of attack helicopters.

The most devastating were the Cobras and Apaches with their chain gun

missile launchers. Through the night vision I could see them hovering

around the carnage, scanning the ground with an infrared spotlight that

seemed to reach for miles. Once a target was identified, a rapid series

of hollow blasts would echo through the skies, and from the ground came

a "rat-a-tatting" of explosions, like a daisy chain of supercharged

black cats during a Fourth of July barbeque. More artillery, more

tanks, more machine gun fire, ominous death-dealing fighter planes

terminating whole city blocks at a time.this wasn't a war, it was a


As I look back on the air strikes that lasted well into the next

morning, I cannot help but to be both amazed by our modern technology

and disgusted by its means. It occurred to me many times during the

siege that while the Falluja resistance was boldly fighting us with

archaic weapons from the Cold War, we were soaring far above their heads

dropping Thor's fury with a destructive power and precision that may as

well been nuclear. It was like the Iraqis were bringing a knife to a

tank fight.

And yet, the resistance toiled on, many fighting until their deaths.

What determination! Some soldiers call them stupid for even thinking

they have a chance in hell to defeat the strongest military in the

world, but I call them brave. It's not about fighting to win an

immediate victory. And what is a conventional victory in a

non-conventional war? It seems overwhelmingly obvious that this is no

longer within the United States hands.

We reduced Falluja to rubble. We claimed victory and told the world we

held Falluja under total and complete control. Our military claimed

very little civilian casualties and listed thousands of insurgents dead.

CNN and Fox News harped and cheered on the television that the Battle of

Falluja would go down in history as a complete success, and a testament

to the United States' supremacy on the modern battlefield.

However, after the dust settled and generals sat in cozy offices smoking

their victory cigars, the front lines in Falluja exploded again with

indomitable mortar, rocket, and small arm attacks on US and coalition


Recent reports indicate that many insurgents have resurfaced in the

devastated city of Falluja. We had already claimed the situation under

control, and were starting to turn our attention to the other problem

city of Mosul. Suddenly we were backtracking our attention to Falluja.

Did the Department of Defense and the national press lie to the public

and claim another preemptive victory? Not necessarily so.

Conventionally we won the battle, how could anyone argue that? We

destroyed an entire city and killed thousands of its occupants. But the

main issue that both the military and public forget to analyze is that

this war, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is completely guerrilla.

Sometimes I wonder if the West Point graduated officers have ever

studied the intricate simplicity and effectiveness of guerrilla warfare.

During the course of this war, I have occasionally asked a random

lieutenant or a captain if he at any time has even browsed through Che

Guevara's Guerrilla Warfare. Almost half of them admit that they have

not. This I find to be amazing! Here we have many years of guerrilla

warfare ahead of us and our military's leadership seems dangerously

unaware of what it all means!

Anyone can tell you that a guerrilla fighter is one who uses hit and run

techniques to attempt a breakdown of a stronger conventional force.

However, what is more important to a guerrilla campaign are the

political forces that drive it. Throughout history, many guerrilla

armies have been successful; our own country and its fight for

independence cannot be excluded.

We should have learned a lesson in guerrilla fighting with the Vietnam

War only thirty years ago, but history has a funny way of repeating

itself. The Vietnam War was a perfect example of how quick, deadly

assaults on conventional troops over a long period of time can lead to

an unpopular public view of the war, thus ending it.

Che Guevara stressed in his book Guerrilla Warfare that the most

important factor in a guerrilla campaign is popular support. With that,

victory is almost completely assured. The Iraqis already have many of

the main ingredients of a successful insurrection. Not only do they have

a seemingly endless supply of munitions and weapons, they have the

advantage to blend into their environment, whether that environment is a

crowded market place or a thickly vegetated palm grove. The Iraqi

insurgent has utilized these advantages to the fullest, but his most

important and relevant advantage is the popular support from his own


What our military and government needs to realize is that every mistake

we make is an advantage to the Iraqi insurrection. Every time an

innocent man, woman or child is murdered in a military act, deliberate

or not, the insurgent grows stronger. Even if an innocent civilian is

slain at the hands of his/her own freedom fighter, that fighter is still

viewed as a warrior of the people, while the occupying force will

ultimately be blamed as the responsible perpetrator.

Everything about this war is political.every ambush, every bombing,

every death. When a coalition worker or soldier is abducted and

executed, this only adds encouragement and justice to the dissident

fervor of the Iraq public, while angering and demoralizing the occupier.

Our own media will prove to be our downfall as well. Every time an

atrocity is revealed through our news outlets, our grasp on this once

secular nation slips away. As America grows increasingly disturbed by

the images of carnage and violent death of her own sons in arms, its

government loses the justification to continue the bloody debacle. Since

all these traits are the conventional power's unavoidable mistakes, the

guerrilla campaign will surely succeed. In Iraq's case, complete

destruction of the United States military is impossible, but through

perseverance the insurgency will drive us out. This will prove to be

the inevitable outcome of the war.

We lost many soldiers in the final battle for Falluja, and many more

were seriously wounded. It seems unfair that even after the devastation

we wreaked on this city just to contain it, many more troops will die in

vain to keep it that way. I saw the look in the eyes of a

reconnaissance scout while I talked to him after the battle.

His stories of gore and violent death were unnerving. The sacrifices

that he and his whole platoon had made were infinite. They fought

everyday with little or no sleep, very few breaks, and no hot meals.

For obvious reasons, they never could manage to find time to email their

mothers to let them know that everything turned out ok. Some of the

members of his platoon will never get the chance to reassure their

mothers, because now those soldiers are dead. The look in his eyes as he

told some of the stories were deep and weary, even perturbed.

He described in accurate detail how some enemy combatants were blown to

pieces by army issued bazookas, some had their heads shot off by a 50

caliber bullet, others were run over by tanks as they stood defiantly in

the narrow streets firing an AK-47. The soldier told me how one of his

favorite sergeants died right in front of him. He was taking cover

behind an alley wall and as he emerged to fire his M4 rifle, he was shot

through the abdomen with a rocket-propelled grenade. The grenade itself

exploded and sent shrapnel into the narrator's leg. He showed me where

a chunk of burned flesh was torn from his left thigh.

He ended his conversation saying that he was just a dumb kid from

California who never thought joining the army would send him straight to

hell. He told me he was tired as fuck and wanted a shower. Then he

slowly walked away, cradling a rifle under his arm.



10) Fate of Lawyer in Terror Case Hinges on Sheik's Words


November 14, 2004

Midway through the third day of a grueling cross-examination by a

prosecutor in her terror trial, Lynne F. Stewart used an offhand

phrase to summarize a telephone conversation she had with a news

reporter in June 2000 that is a central point of contention in the


"I'm just giving you the words of the sheik," Ms. Stewart said that

she told the reporter, a Reuters correspondent in Cairo, as she

read for him a statement from an imprisoned client, Sheik Omar

Abdel Rahman. Ms. Stewart, a veteran defense lawyer, is accused

of aiding terrorism by breaking strict gag rules imposed on the

sheik by the federal government and relaying a warmongering message

from him to his Islamic followers. The State Department has designated

the sheik's organization in Egypt, the Islamic Group, a terrorist


From the evidence presented by prosecutors during the trial, which

began in late June in Federal District Court in Manhattan, it is

clear they agree with Ms. Stewart's summation of the crucial phone

call. The prosecutors finished presenting their case last month and

Ms. Stewart's lawyer, Michael E. Tigar, rested his defense this week.

So far there has been little dispute about the key facts involving

Ms. Stewart and two co-defendants, Mohamed Yousry, an Arabic translator,

and Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a United States postal worker on Staten Island

and a paralegal for the sheik.

The trial is continuing as Mr. Yousry and then Mr. Sattar present their

defense cases. The issue the jury will decide is whether Ms. Stewart,

by disseminating Mr. Abdel Rahman's words beyond his jail cell, was

participating in terrorism, as the government says, or legitimately

defending a client shunned by the public, as Ms. Stewart contends.

Ms. Stewart's fate hinges on the weight and meaning the jury will

give to the words of the sheik, a blind fundamentalist Muslim cleric

serving a life sentence in federal prison for inspiring a thwarted

bombing conspiracy in New York City.

The prosecutors have produced no evidence of any terrorist action

that resulted from Ms. Stewart's conduct. In the statement that she

provided the reporter on June 14, 2000 after a prison meeting a month

earlier with the sheik, Mr. Abdel Rahman withdrew his support for a

cease-fire the Islamic Group was observing in Egypt. But he only

called for a debate among his followers. Indeed, the statement was

a mild one for a man who, the prosecutors' evidence has shown, had

in the past issued explicit calls for Muslims to murder Americans by

any possible means.

The trial has focused on events in Egypt and the prosecutors have

not suggested any direct threat to the United States.

Nor have they shown that Ms. Stewart had any detailed knowledge of

hundreds of telephone calls that Mr. Sattar, the paralegal, made from

his home to Egyptian militants across the globe, including one man,

Rifai Taha, who was working with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Transcripts of the calls, which were secretly recorded by the F.B.I,

make up most of the prosecutors' evidence.

Instead, the prosecutors' case against Ms. Stewart on terrorism

charges is based on showing what she knew of the sheik's past calls

for bloodshed in the name of jihad, or religious struggle, and of

his influence over his followers in the Islamic Group who had claimed
responsibility for several attacks before the cease-fire. This is

why the prosecutors spent several weeks early in the trial reading

aloud virulent sermons by Mr. Abdel Rahman that had already been

part of the evidence in his 1995 terror trial, in which Ms. Stewart

was his lead defense lawyer.

That is also why one prosecutor, Andrew Dember, unleashed a withering

sequence of questions to show that Ms. Stewart knew the sheik's

name had been associated, whether fairly or not, with gruesome

attacks against tourists in Egypt and with Al Qaeda's attack in

Yemen on the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000.

Mr. Dember also spent several hours of his cross-examination pressing

Ms. Stewart about her own avowedly radical views. He sought to show

that she was inclined to be an active supporter of the sheik's holy war.

"I think that to rid ourselves of the entrenched voracious type of

capitalism that is in this country that perpetuates sexism and racism,

I don't think that can come nonviolently," Ms. Stewart told the court.

"I'm talking about a revolution of the people that overthrows


But Ms. Stewart, who remained generally calm and articulate under

Mr. Dember's interrogation, said she was surprised by his questions

about her personal opinions.

"I have done a lot of cases that involved a certain level of violence

and my personal views were never at issue," she said. "Because I'm the

lawyer, it's not about my personal views. It is about what happened,

what could be the motive that led to violence, perhaps."

Behind these arguments are diverging assessments of Mr. Abdel Rahman

held by Ms. Stewart and her longtime legal adversaries, the prosecutors

in the Southern District of New York. One of them, Patrick J. Fitzgerald,

was one of the prosecutors in the 1995 trial that sent the sheik to

prison for life. He investigated and prosecuted several other Al Qaeda

cases and traveled to the Middle East to probe the Cole bombing.

Mr. Fitzgerald was familiar with several calls Mr. Bin Laden had

issued after 1995 to free the sheik from jail, and the trail of Al

Qaeda violence that had followed those calls. He wrote special prison

rules in 1997 that barred the sheik from communicating with anyone but

his lawyers and his wife, citing a high risk of bombings whenever Mr.

Abdel Rahman spoke.

To Ms. Stewart, however, Mr. Abdel Rahman was an ailing and weakened

client, an Islamic scholar unfairly muzzled from expressing his

theological views. Some of the more emotional parts of her testimony

involved her descriptions of him after years of solitary confinement.

He could not even read Braille, she said, because diabetes had dulled

the sensation in his fingertips.

"He could not hear birds, he could not hear anything," she said. "He

was alone."

The sheik "commanded a certain respect with the public in Egypt," she

said. He had "a sense of righteousness," she said.

Apart from the terror charges against Ms. Stewart is a much more

concrete case in which she is accused of intentionally violating the

prison rules. By adding two counts of providing material aid to

terrorism, prosecutors have escalated what might be seen as procedural
transgressions by Ms. Stewart into accusations that could bring her

a jail sentence of at least 35 years, if she is convicted on all counts.

Mr. Dember succeeded in making Ms. Stewart appear somewhat oblivious,

in the global environment after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, to

the threats that her client's extremist anti-American views could pose.

But the jury will determine whether the prosecutors reached too far in

trying to construe her dissonant views and provocative legal practice

as acts of terror.


11) Government Looking at Military Draft Lists


The Monitor

McALLEN, November 15, 2004

McALLEN, November 15, 2004 - It's taken one year, seven months

and 19 days of combat in Iraq for the Lone Star State to lose

100 of its own.

Texas is the second state, after California, to lose 100 service

members, according to The Associated Press.

With continuing war in Iraq and U.S. armed forces dispersed to so

many other locations around the globe, Americans may be wondering

if compulsory military service could begin again for the first time

since the Vietnam War era.

The Selective Service System (SSS) and the U.S. Department of

Education now are gearing up to compare their computer records, to

make sure all men between the ages of 18 and 25 who are required to

register for a military draft have done so.

The SSS and the education department will begin comparing their

lists on Jan. 1, 2005, according to a memo authored by Jack Martin,

acting Selective Service director.

While similar record checks have been done periodically for the past

10 years, Martin's memo is dated Oct. 28, just a few days before the

Nov. 2 presidential election, a hard-fought campaign in which the

question of whether the nation might need to reinstate a military

draft was raised in debates and on the stump.

It took several more days, until Nov. 4, for the document to reach

the Federal Register, the official daily publication for rules and

notices of federal agencies and organizations.

The memo was also produced after the U.S. House voted 402-2 on Oct.

5, against House Resolution 163, a bill that would have required

all young people, including women, to serve two years of military


Under federal law, a military draft cannot be started without

congressional support.

About 94 percent of all men are properly registered for a draft,

according to Richard Flahavan, associate director of the office of

public and intergovernmental affairs for SSS.

Martin's memo is just a routine thing, Flahavan said.

"Back in 1982 a federal law was passed that basically linked

federal grants, student loans and federal assistance to students

with Selective Service," Flahavan said. "You had to register with

Selective Service with a Social Security number (in order to receive

federal assistance), and as a consequence of the law the Department

of Education came up with an agreement on how to exchange and compare

data to comply with the law.

"It just so happens that the current agreement in effect expires next

month," Flahavan said. "All we did is update the agreement slightly,

but it has no substantive changes. There is nothing new or shocking

to link this to some type of draft right around the corner because

its all been in place for almost 18 years."

Flahavan said the written agreements between SSS and the Department

of Education normally run for about four or five years and suggested

that a reporter search the 1999 or 2000 records of the Federal

Register for the most agreement.

A search of the Federal Register by The Monitor found four such

agreements between the two agencies, with effective dates as

follows: Jan. 1, 1995; July 1, 1997; Jan. 1, 2000; and July 1, 2002.

All four agreements lasted for 18 months, during which time the

SSS and the Department of Education could complete their comparisons.

The most recent agreement, which began July 1, 2002, actually expired

Jan. 1, 2004, according to federal records located by The Monitor.

"This has nothing to with current events," Flahavan said. "This is just

the periodic renewal of previous agreements - this one is 18 months but

normally it runs four years and that's why we're doing it now. I'm not

quite sure why it's 18 months versus the normal number of years."

Flahavan said the agency was required to place the agreement in the

Federal Register.

"That's fine and we did," Flahavan said. "We believe the public wouldn't

stand for a draft that isn't fair and equitable.

"And the only way to be fair and equitable is if everyone who should

register is registered, because that's the pool from which the people

who would be drafted would be selected from. So you want everyone who

should be in the pot in the pot," Flahavan said.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who officially begins representing

western Hidalgo County residents in January, said Congress has voted

on record against a draft.

"It was a near unanimous vote in the House," Doggett said. "When things

are filed in the Federal Register, there will be standards, and they are

a reminder that if we cannot get more international participation that

the risk of a draft remains out there.

"And I think we do need people to remain watchful of this possibility."

Doggett said one type of "draft" was already being used by the military.

"I'm concerned that a very real form of the draft is there now for those

already in the service," Doggett said. "People are being forced to stay

in beyond their commitment, and that's an indication of being overextended.

"I want us to pursue policies that don't overextend us and involve more
international participation, so that Americans don't have to do all the

dying and endure all the pain for these international activities,"

Doggett said.

Flahavan said the computer records check would help Selective Service

with its compliance rates.

"From 1999 to 2000, it was dropping about a percent a year," Flahavan

said. "It's now inching back up about a percent a year. Last year it

was 93 percent.

"At the end of 2004 we anticipate about a 94 percent compliance rate,"

Flahavan said. "We're pleased we've got it back on the rise and that's

where we want to keep it - that's our goal."

Draft Gear Up?

Who Has To Register?

All male U.S. citizens and

male aliens living in the U.S. between the

ages of 18 and 25

Dual nationals of the U.S.

and another country, regardless of

where they live

Young men who are in prison

or mental institutions do not

have to regsiter while they are

committed, but must do so if they

are released and not reached age 26

Disabled men who live at home and

can move about indiependently.


Contrary to popular belief, only

sons and the last son to carry a

family name must register and they can be drafted.

What Happens In A Draft

Congress would likely approve a

military draft in a time of crisis,

in which the mission requires more

troops than are in the volunteer military.

Selective Service procedures would

treat married men or those with

children the same as single men.

The first men to be called up will

be those whose 20th birthday falls

during that year, followed by those

age 21, 22, 23,24 and 25.

The last men to be called are 18

and 19 years of age.

Historical Facts

The last man to be drafted was in June 1973.

Number of Drafted for WWI : 2.8 million

Number of Drafted for WWII: 10 million

Number of Drafted for the Korean War: 1.5 million

Number of Drafted for the Vietnam War: 1.8 million

Source: Selective Service System

Posted by: Gilbert Zarate on Nov 15, 04 | 12:04 am | Profile


12) 47 Parties Boycott Elections in Iraq

Xinhua News Agency (China)

November 17, 2004

Baghdad - Forty-seven Iraqi political and religious

parties have decided to boycott the general elections

due in January in protest against the extended use of

force throughout the country, a joint statement said

on Wednesday.

The reason for the move was "the (US-Iraqi) assaults

in cities like Najaf, Karbala, Samarra, Sadr City,

Adhmiya, and especially the genocidal crimes in

Fallujah," said the statement obtained by Xinhua.

"These crimes prevent us from taking part in the

political process going on under the control of

occupation forces," added the statement, signed by the

parties and groups, mainly Sunni factions led by the

Muslim Clerics Association.

At least eight Shiite groups and one Christian party

were also among them.


13) Greenspan Sees No Rise Soon for the Dollar



November 20, 2004

FRANKFURT, Nov. 19 - Alan Greenspan came to the home of the euro

on Friday and suggested that the relentless decline of the dollar

might well continue, offering little relief to those here who worry

that the United States is seeking to gain a competitive advantage

for its industries from a weaker currency.

In a speech to a banking congress here, Mr. Greenspan, the chairman

of the Federal Reserve, said that ballooning foreign borrowing on

the part of the United States poses a future risk to the dollar's


He said that foreign investors, who help finance the large American

trade and budget deficits by buying Treasury securities and other

dollar-denominated assets, would eventually resist lending more money

to the United States, causing the dollar to fall further.

Mr. Greenspan's comments came two days after the Treasury secretary,

John W. Snow, appeared to rule out intervening in currency markets to

help Europe and Japan - both heavily dependent on exports to sustain

economic growth - stem the decline of the dollar. Mr. Snow, speaking

in London, prodded European leaders to tackle their home-grown economic


Taken together, the two speeches appear to be sending an unmistakable

message that Washington, on the heels of President Bush's election to

a second term, is prepared to tolerate a weaker dollar for the

foreseeable future.

A falling dollar makes it more expensive for Americans to travel abroad

and risks reviving inflation and sending interest rates higher in the

United States. But for American manufacturers, who have been shedding

jobs for years, it provides a powerful shot of adrenaline by making

their exports cost less abroad and adding to pressure on foreign

industries to raise the price of imported goods in the United States.

Given the uncertainties surrounding the global economy, Mr.

Greenspan likened predicting the dollar's path to "forecasting

the outcome of a coin toss."

While Mr. Greenspan, as he often does, relied on carefully chosen

phrases open to various interpretations, the message seemed clear

here to European bankers, who laughed nervously at the metaphor:

The dollar, which has fallen to record lows against the euro this

week - giving fits to European politicians and business executives

- is likely to fall even further.

To analysts, the speech had a laissez-faire tone, leaving events in

the hands of the market and giving speculators free rein to bet

against the American currency without worrying that officials would

get together to slap them down.

On Friday, in New York, the stock market reacted by falling sharply.

At the close of trading, the Dow industrial average was down more

than 115 points, to 10,456,91, a decline of more than 1 percent.

Currency traders drove the dollar to its lowest level in four and

a half years against the Japanese yen, and near its record low against

the euro. Treasury notes fell the most in two weeks.

The hints from Washington policy makers that they have no intention

of supporting the dollar could add to the strains between the United

States and Europe, which is increasingly worried that the rise of the

euro is choking off its tenuous recovery. In France and Germany,

growth in the third quarter dropped to 0.1 percent, as exports dried up.

European leaders are already raising distress flags. Germany's

minister for economics, Wolfgang Clement, urged Asia, Europe and

the United States to take coordinated action to stop the slide. The

president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet - who is Mr.
Greenspan's counterpart here - has called the shifts in exchange

rates "brutal."

Mr. Trichet, who traveled a few blocks from the headquarters of the

European Central Bank to appear on the same panel as Mr. Greenspan,

pointedly declined to repeat that characterization.

Both central bankers later flew to Berlin for a meeting of the G-20,

which includes the Group of 8 industrialized countries, as well as

emerging economies. The downward path of the dollar is likely to be

high on the agenda, but there is little hope for a concerted response.

Analysts said Mr. Greenspan's speech made it clear that the Federal

Reserve would make no effort to influence the process of narrowing

the United States' current account deficit, either through interest

rate increases aimed at deliberately supporting the dollar or by

intervening in the market.

The current account deficit, which encompasses annual trade as well

as the balance of financial flows, has gone from zero in 1990 to

nearly $600 billion this year. The nation's accumulated debt to

foreign investors is $2.6 trillion, equivalent to 23 percent of

the annual output of the economy.

"It was an either-or message," said Thomas Mayer, the chief European

economist at Deutsche Bank . "Either the current account deficit

comes down. Or the market will do it, but at a cost to the dollar.

Will the Fed play a role in this? Probably not. It will stick to

its mandate."

Speaking on a panel that included the deputy governor of the Bank

of Japan, Kazumasa Iwata, Mr. Greenspan devoted most of his remarks

to the effect that American fiscal policy has on global markets.

"Current account imbalances, per se, need not be a problem," he

said in a characteristically technical speech, "but cumulative

deficits, which result in a marked decline of a country's net

international position - as is occurring in the United States -

raise more complicated issues."

Mr. Greenspan said foreign investors, in part because they fear

having too much money at risk in the United States, would

eventually become reluctant to take on more such assets.

"It seems persuasive that given the size of the U.S. current

account deficit, a diminished appetite for adding to dollar

balances must occur at some point," Mr. Greenspan said. "But

when, through what channels, and from what level of the dollar?

Regrettably, no answer to those questions is convincing."

This is not the first time Mr. Greenspan has warned about the

risks of a rapidly widening current-account deficit. In testimony

before Congress last February, he said "foreign investors, both

private and official, may become less willing to absorb ever

growing claims on U.S. residents."

As he did last winter, Mr. Greenspan said on Friday that his

preferred remedy would be for the Bush administration to bring

down the current account deficit by taking steps to shrink the

federal budget deficit. That would make more domestic savings

available in the United States, reducing the dependence on

foreign borrowing.

But analysts did not interpret Mr. Greenspan's remarks as a

rebuke of the White House - which has indicated that it will

seek to make the deep tax cuts of its first term permanent -

but rather an effort to let the markets find their course.

That will be cold comfort to many Europeans, who say that

their currency is absorbing the bulk of the pressure from the

declining dollar, since Japan and other Asian countries have

intervened aggressively in the market to prevent their currencies

from rising significantly against the dollar.

Mr. Greenspan took issue with that suggestion, saying that based

on his review of recent statistics, Asia's "very large" central

bank interventions had had only a "moderate" effect on exchange


For his part, Mr. Trichet seemed determined not to breathe another

word about the dangers of a rising euro. Describing his previous

comments on the subject as "poetry," he turned aside questions

about the exchange rate.

Mr. Mayer of Deutsche Bank said Mr. Trichet's silence suggested

that his earlier efforts to talk down the currency had fallen short.

"They are basically seeing that there is very little they can

do about it," Mr. Mayer he said. "They are not in a position to

change interest rate policy to address it."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times


14) US soldiers in Iraq suffer horrific brain and mental injuries

By Rick Kelly

20 November 2004

World Socialist Web Site

According to official figures, the Iraq war has so far seen 9,000 US

soldiers wounded in action, in addition to the more than 1,200 troops

killed. These wounded, whose numbers may well be underestimated,

include those with gunshot and shrapnel wounds, lost limbs and other

injuries caused by landmines and bombs. Less well known, however, is

the terrible toll enacted through brain and psychological injuries,

which frequently have devastating and permanent effects.

The war has seen unusually high rates of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

This head injury causes life-long damage in many cases. Symptoms

include memory loss, difficulty with attention and reasoning, headaches,
confusion, anxiety, irritability and depression.

TBI rates in previous wars have been estimated at about 20 percent.

In July, a San Francisco Chronicle survey of troops being processed

through Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington DC indicated

that as many as two-thirds of all soldiers wounded in Iraq suffer from

the condition.

The increase in brain injury cases is largely due to the advanced body

armor and helmets now used by US forces. As the death rate of wounded

troops has declined compared to previous conflicts, the rate of TBI has

shot up. The nature of the Iraq war has also increased the number of brain
injuries. Rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and other explosive devices

cause concussive shock blasts damaging to the brain.

Traumatic brain injury often goes undetected until the affected soldier

returns home and his or her family notices that something is wrong. The

San Francisco Chronicle reported on the case of Sgt. 1st Class Alec Giess,

of the Oregon National Guard, whose truck rolled over him as it crashed

while avoiding a suspected land mine:

"Geiss' wife, Shana, noticed after his return that the easygoing,

relaxed dad who went to Iraq had become a quick-tempered man who

couldn't remember the family's daily schedule, jumped up screaming

when the family cat landed on his bed and couldn't tolerate crowds.

The world inside his head, Giess said, was even stranger: he felt

bewildered, with no sense of time other than 'daytime' and 'nighttime.'

He also felt cut off from his emotions. 'When my kids come and hug me,

I don't feel a thing,' he said."

Many other incidents of TBI are even more severe. ABC News reported last

month on the situation in one Veterans Affairs hospital in Palo Alto,

California. "The majority of [TBI patients], they're incontinent, both

bowel and bladder, so we have to retrain them when to use the toilet,

how to use the toilet," nurse manager Stephanie Alvarez said.

Each patient at the facility is given a "memory book," which describes

that day's schedule, and other important information. For many wounded

soldiers this includes a reminder of why they are in hospital. "I had

a head injury from an explosion in Iraq on June 14, 2004," one

soldier's book read.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

The US military is also experiencing a very high rate of post-traumatic

stress disorder (PTSD) among troops. Many of the symptoms are similar

to traumatic brain injury. Post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers can

experience feelings of detachment and isolation, poor concentration and

memory, depression, insomnia, flashbacks, as well as headaches,

gastrointestinal complaints, and immune system problems. Like TBI,

soldiers suffering from psychological disorders have high rates of

alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide.

A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in July

found that up to 17 percent of the surveyed Iraq veterans suffered

from PTSD, generalized anxiety, or major depression. This probably

underestimated the true scale of the problem, since the soldiers in

the study served in the early phase of the war, before the Iraqi

resistance really intensified.

"The bad news is that the study underestimated the prevalence of what

we are going to see down the road," Dr. Matthew J. Friedman, executive

director of the Veterans Affairs (VA) national center for post-traumatic

stress disorder, told the Los Angeles Times last Sunday. "The

complexion of the war has changed into a grueling counterinsurgency.

And that may be very important in terms of the potential toxicity of

this combat experience."

"This is urban warfare," declared Dr. Alfonso Bates, the VA's national

director for readjustment counseling. "There's no place to hide in Iraq.

Whether you're driving a truck or you're a cook, everyone is exposed to

extreme stress on a daily basis."

There have been at least 30 reported suicides among soldiers in Iraq-a

rate nearly one-third higher than the Army's historical average. Many

more suicides occur in the US by those who have finished their tour

of duty, but since the Pentagon does not track these incidents the

number is not known.

Associated Press, however, reported on October 18 that at least 12

Marines had killed themselves after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Military people are heavily vetted for any psychological problems

before they enter the service," noted Steve Robinson, executive

director of the National Gulf War Resource Center. "They're screened

very well when they come in, and they're supposed to be screened

very well when they leave. So when a Marine takes the ultimate step

of checking out by taking his own life, it should make the hair on

the back of your neck stand up. These are the guys who aren't

supposed to do that."

There is mounting evidence that the rate of suicide and psychological

disorders is at least partially due to the brutality of the US-led

occupation. Most of those serving in the military were drawn from

working class and impoverished rural regions, and enlisted either

to get a job or to advance their education.

These young people have been dispatched to a war that was based on

a series of flagrant lies, and that violated numerous precepts of

international law. They are now being ordered to intimidate and

terrorize the Iraqi people, and to crush any resistance to the

occupation and Iyad Allawi's stooge interim government. The

killing and brutalization of the Iraqi people has triggered

guilt, shame and serious psychological problems for many soldiers.

Last month Associated Press reported the case of Jeffrey Lucey,

a 23-year-old Marine who suffered from serious depression and

became dependent on alcohol after returning from Iraq in July 2003.

On Christmas Eve he told his sister how he had been ordered to shoot

two unarmed Iraqi soldiers. "He took off two dog tags around his

neck, then threw them at me and said, 'Don't you understand? Your

brother is a murderer,'" she recalled. Lucey killed himself

in June.

Former Army sergeant, Matt La Branche, told the Los Angeles

Times that the memories of his nine-month stint as a machine-

gunner in Iraq left him "feeling dead inside." He constantly

struggles with the image of the Iraqi woman who died in his arms

after he had shot her. The woman's children were also wounded in

the incident. "I'm taking enough drugs to sedate an elephant, and

I still wake up dreaming about it," he said.

Affected soldiers receive grossly inadequate treatment from the

military establishment. Brain trauma and psychological injuries

often require months of expensive and intensive rehabilitation,

long-term drug therapy and psychological counseling. Facilities

that were already underfunded and overstretched are now at

breaking point.

Receiving treatment is especially difficult for sufferers of PTSD.

Army psychologists are pressured to get their patients back out in

the field as soon as possible, while the macho culture cultivated

within the ranks leads many soldiers to deny that they have a

problem. The New England Journal of Medicine study found that less

than half of all soldiers affected by PTSD sought treatment, fearing
stigmatization or damage to their careers.

Officials also leave many families of PTSD sufferers completely

unprepared for the shock of having to deal with the condition. One

woman told the New Yorker how she had been advised prior to the

return of her husband from Iraq: "When he was coming home, the Army

gave us little cards that said things like 'Watch for psychotic

episodes' and 'Is he drinking too much?' A lot of wives said it was

a joke. They had a lady come from the psych ward, who said-and

I'm serious-'Don't call us unless your husband is waking you up

in the middle of the night with a knife at your throat.' Or,

'Don't call us unless he actually chokes you, unless you pass

out. He'll have flashbacks. It's normal.'"

Such treatment is indicative of the way in which tens of thousands

of young people are being used as cannon fodder in Iraq.

Responsibility for their suffering rests with the criminals

in the White House who launched the war of aggression, and more

broadly, the entire US political establishment which is united

on maintaining the indefinite occupation of Iraq.

Copyright 1998-2004

World Socialist Web Site

All rights reserved


15) Troops Round Up Corpses, Weapons in Fallouja


Their operation in the city has shifted to cleanup and

rebuilding, amid sporadic fighting.

By Patrick J. McDonnell

Times Staff Writer

November 19, 2004,1,370254

FALLOUJA, Iraq - The Marines used a grappling hook with a long line

to shift the battered body, so they would be protected by distance if

the corpse were booby-trapped.

"It's tough work," said Pfc. Keel Jesse, wearing surgical gloves and

a mask, like the other U.S. troops collecting dead insurgents. "But

someone has to do it."

Down the road, in the city's gritty, industrial southeast, Army Capt.

Douglas Walters was getting ready to blow up a car bomb factory, where

an already-rigged Chevrolet Suburban was parked with a current Texas

registration sticker in the windshield.

"They had everything they needed here," Walters said, surveying what

might look like an auto body shop but for the boxes of mortar rounds

and other explosives.

The battle for this former rebel stronghold has shifted to cleanup and
reconstruction, even though pockets of resistance remain. Fighters

occasionally emerge from homes or bunkers to fire at U.S.-led forces,

but the troops are going house to house to wipe them out.

A trip with Marine officers on Thursday offered a glimpse of what passes

for life in this devastated, still largely deserted city, which became

a worldwide symbol of resistance to U.S. power last spring. Amid the

sporadic fighting, some troops have turned to such tasks as clearing

out arms caches and organizing humanitarian aid.

"This is not a linear battle, where one part ends and you move on to

the next thing," said Marine Col. Craig Tucker, who heads one of the

two regimental combat teams that swept down from the north early last

week. "We have a lot of things going on at once right now."

On Thursday, most of the explosions appeared to be the result of

troops blowing up some of the trove of captured munitions. U.S.

airstrikes, artillery blasts and mortar fire have diminished


More civilians are emerging now, often carrying white flags, but they

are still a rare sight in this beaten city. Some have gathered at

places like Al Hadra al Muhammadiya mosque, once a hotbed of rebel

activity but now a clinic and help center staffed by U.S.-allied

Iraqi troops.

"What about my father and my uncles?" Yhedder Ahmed, 14, asked as

Tucker stopped by the mosque. On a previous visit, the commander

had promised to find out the status of the men, who were arrested

as insurgents.

"Tell him that his father and uncles are doing well, but they were

found with weapons and will remain in custody," Tucker told the boy

through an interpreter. "No harm will come to them."

The Iraqi commander, Col. Saad Ali, was worried about what would

happen as refugees begin returning to a city that lacked a

functioning infrastructure or economy.

"The men must have jobs," said Ali, who hails from the southern

city of Basra.

Earlier in the week, an Iraqi who was waiting in line at the center

was shot dead. In Fallouja, even seeking medical aid at a clinic

sponsored by U.S. forces might be considered collaboration by some.

Across the street to the north, Marines used wheelchairs to lug ammo

boxes and weapons next to a building bearing the inscription, Islamic

Benevolent Committee of Fallouja. The two-story facility had

apparently been a combination clinic and guerrilla command center.

The compound, U.S. commanders said, had been overrun while it

was occupied by followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-

born militant said to have been based in Fallouja.

Inside, Marines found literature and banners of Zarqawi's group,

Jamaat al Tawhid wal Jihad, which has renamed itself the Qaeda

Organization for Jihad in Iraq. A computer and files also were


Outside, troops discovered two weapons caches in white metal

containers, including antiaircraft missiles, land mines, mortar

shells and AK-47 rifles. Lacking wheelbarrows, Marines used

wheelchairs from the clinic to take the materiel to a vacant lot,

where it was to be blown up.

Deep in the southeastern sector, a dense, mazelike neighborhood of

junkyards and anonymous automotive service outlets, soldiers had

cordoned off several blocks. This industrial zone had long been

known as a redoubt of insurgents; it had been pummeled by airstrikes

for weeks before the invasion.

Inside the cordoned zone, amid the dozens of seemingly identical

storefront workshops, troops found a car bomb factory and, two

doors down, a site where roadside bombs were manufactured.

At the car bomb site, parts of vehicle doors were hung on the

walls. They were often removed to pack explosives, then reattached

to the vehicles. A welding machine stood in the main work area

alongside boxes of ammunition, blasting caps, timers and various

explosive materials. Inside an office were dozens of license

plates, presumably from the stolen vehicles used in attacks.

"This one was ready to go," Walters said, pointing to the green

Suburban with tinted windows. No one could explain how the vehicle

got a 2004 Texas inspection sticker.

The vehicle, along with everything else in the shop and the bomb

factory, was later destroyed in a booming explosion that shook

the city.

In northeastern Fallouja, where some of the most intense fighting

has been concentrated in recent days, Capt. Lee Johnson tracked


Intelligence data led him to almost a dozen homes where suspected

rebels were holed up, had stayed or had stored weapons. He found

some of them sitting in a house, their athletic shoes off and

their weapons nowhere to be seen.

"They all took their sneakers off and pretended to be civilians,"

Johnson said.

As he spoke, he stood alongside a 6-foot bunker dug by insurgents.

A metal slab placed atop the ditch was meant to provide cover. On

the streets behind him, his troops - backed by two tanks - were

going through houses, a hazardous process.

The streets were littered with spent ammunition from battles that

occurred early in the invasion. Commanders suspected that guerrillas

reoccupied some of the houses as troops pushed south.

U.S. forces estimate that as many as 1,600 guerrillas have been

killed. Family members and Iraqi volunteers have removed some

bodies, but the threat of booby-trapped corpses has prompted

Iraqis to shy away from the grisly task.

On Thursday, U.S. teams began removing corpses to avert a health

crisis. Members of one crew threw a grappling hook attached to a

long line, then turned over the remains while taking cover. Other

Marines kept their weapons trained on nearby vehicles, alert for

attacks. After it was deemed safe, the bodies were quickly zipped

into black vinyl bags and hoisted onto a 7-ton truck.

They were taken to a makeshift morgue with refrigeration units on

the grounds of a former potato farm, Tucker said. There, he added,

the people of Fallouja could claim the remains of their husbands,

sons and fathers.

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times


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