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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #36 - 2 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. 'Bullet magnets' prepare for Iraqi frontline (Rania Masri)
   2. Chalabi, Garner Provide New Clues To War (Rania Masri)


Message: 1
From: "Rania Masri" <>
To: <>
Subject: 'Bullet magnets' prepare for Iraqi frontline
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2004 10:33:18 -0500

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

'Bullet magnets' prepare for Iraqi frontline

The largest troop rotation in US history starts this month - but the
reservists have little training or appetite for battle

Suzanne Goldenberg in Fort Bliss, Texas
Monday March 1, 2004
The Guardian <>

The lead vehicle in the convoy has disappeared over the hill. The road ahea=
is flanked by two suspicious-looking car wrecks. In the back of the pick-up
truck, the troops are getting twitchy.

All six soldiers jump out of the truck and sprawl in the dirt, triggers at
the ready. Minutes later, they clamber back in. Nobody thinks to look behin=
until a smoke grenade explodes three yards away. The buzzer sounds. "A
grenade. We're dead, dude," says Private Tyler Franzen.

They were wiped out within the first five minutes of their drill on convoy
movement, and the implications register quickly. Days from now, Pte Franzen
and the 319th Signals Battallion could be in Iraq. "This makes me more
scared," he says. "I am preparing for the worst."

Their trainer calls troops like these "bullet magnets" - army reservists or
National Guard soldiers, weekend warriors with minimal combat training
pressed into service.

Tens of thousands are on the move now as the Pentagon carries out the
largest rotation of forces in its history, relieving battle-weary soldiers
in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait with fresh forces. By late March, 130,000
troops will be leaving Iraq and 105,000, including some of the 319th, will
arrive. As many as 50% of these will be reservists or National Guard.

Some units, like the 319th, will be raised virtually from scratch. The
signals battalion, based in Sacramento, California, was barely at
half-strength when it was mobilised, and reservists have been drafted in
from as far away as Puerto Rico, Delaware, and Georgia to be sent off to
what the troops call the "sandbox"

They are joining a different war from the one fought by the invading force
that set off last year to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Today, the
mission is far less clear, and more dangerous. The original rationale for
the invasion - weapons of mass destruction - has been discredited, and so
has the notion of a swift military victory. The toll for US forces in Iraq
is approaching 550 dead.

A number of officers and troops at Fort Bliss say it is important to draw a
line between personal feelings and duty. A few reservists say they have had
run-ins with anti-war protesters; they feel the troops are not being
supported as they should.

Nobody at Fort Bliss is raring to go off to war, but they are going to
honour their obligations. Specialist Michelle Matthis, 21, volunteered to
fill vacancies in the 319th once it became clear her own unit would not be
deployed. But even she seems somewhat ambivalent. "It's so I can get the wa=
over with," she says.

Others are resigned to going to this war, but they say it will be their
last. The cost on family life is just too great, says Jim Akers, 40, a
warrant officer. This is his first deployment after 22 years in the

He knows the Pentagon is worried about a steep drop in re-enlistments in th=
National Guard and reserves, but after Iraq he will have done his bit. "Eve=
$1,000 extra a month is not going to keep me there," he says. "I will retir=
when I get back. I am not going to put my family through this - or myself."

By the time the troops have arrived at Fort Bliss in western Texas, they
should be all but ready to go. But the fact of their deployment has yet to
sink in. "I kind of expected this, but I didn't think it would happen," Pte
Franzen says. He signed on for the college benefits in January last year.
Two days before basic training, his girlfriend learned she was pregnant. No=
he is 19 - too young to drink in Texas - has a three-month-old son, and is
days away from war.

The shock of deployment was even greater for veterans like Maritess Leyson,
37, a computer systems administrator from Chicago who describes her 18 year=
in the army reserves as a "hobby job". When the call came last November, th=
single parent was in a panic to try to soften the news for her three teenag=
children. Then she had to find them a home after her sister balked at takin=
them. "When it was time for me to go, it hit me like a brick wall, oh my
goodness," she says. "It's scary, but I signed on the dotted line."

None of the reservists raises the possibility that they might be killed -
their instructors do that for them. "If the Iraqis executed an ambush with
any degree of efficiency some of you might not come home," says Major Shawn
Marshall, after drill.

What he does not need to say is that the death toll in Iraq has been
especially high for reservists, National Guard members and support units.
There is no frontline in Iraq, and no zone of safety for non-combat forces.
Most reservists and support units have not been trained for a guerrilla war
- with lethal consequences.

They simply do not know how to fight. Some freeze in training exercises. At
the firing range, they blast away, and the targets still stand. They were
trained in technical skills, not combat capabilities.

"These people are what I call bullet magnets," says Colonel Rick Phillips,
who is in charge of training. "What they find over there is that these kids
aren't pulling the trigger. They are waiting to engage."

At Fort Bliss, that knowledge is especially acute. The base was the home of
Private Jessica Lynch and the mechanised unit that took heavy losses in the
opening days of the war when their truck took a wrong turn near Nasiriya,
and drove into an ambush. Eleven soldiers were killed; and others taken

Those blunders led the Pentagon to institute basic battleground drills for
all forces departing for Iraq. Col Phillips has four days to drill survival
instincts into his people. He knows he can not make warriors out of them."I
just want to give them enough to help them to come home."

"I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of

- U.S. Deputy 'Defense' Secretary Wolfowitz,  Reuters, July 21

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

- Ella Baker


Ra=F1ia Masri

Director, Southern Peace Research and Education Center

Institute for Southern Studies <>

2009 Chapel Hill Rd.

Durham, North Carolina  27707


Message: 2
From: "Rania Masri" <>
To: <>
Subject: Chalabi, Garner Provide New Clues To War
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2004 12:02:32 -0500

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

ZNet | Iraq

Chalabi, Garner Provide New Clues To War

by Jim Lobe ;
ce> HiPakistan; February 26, 2004

WASHINGTON: For those still puzzling over the whys and wherefores of
Washington's invasion of Iraq 11 months ago, major new, but curiously
unnoticed, clues were offered this week by two central players in the events
leading up to the war.

Both clues tend to confirm growing suspicions that the Bush administration's
drive to war in Iraq had very little, if anything, to do with the dangers
posed by Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or his
alleged ties to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda - the two main reasons the US
Congress and public were given for the invasion.

Separate statements by Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National
Congress (INC), and US retired Gen Jay Garner, who was in charge of planning
and administering post-war reconstruction from January through May 2002,
suggest that other, less public motives were behind the war, none of which
concerned self- defence, pre-emptive or otherwise.

The statement by Chalabi, on whom the neo-conservative and right-wing hawks
in the Pentagon and Vice-President Dick Cheney's office are still resting
their hopes for a transition that will protect Washington's many interests
in Iraq, will certainly interest congressional committees investigating why
the intelligence on WMD before the war was so far off the mark.

In a remarkably frank interview with the London 'Daily Telegraph', Chalabi
said he was willing to take full responsibility for the INC's role in
providing misleading intelligence and defectors to President George W. Bush,
Congress and the US public to persuade them that Hussein posed a serious
threat to the United States that had to be dealt with urgently.

The Telegraph reported that Chalabi merely shrugged off accusations his
group had deliberately misled the administration. "We are heroes in error,"
he said.

"As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful," he told the
newspaper. "That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad.
What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking
for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if he wants."

It was an amazing admission, and certain to fuel growing suspicions on
Capitol Hill that Chalabi, whose INC received millions of dollars in
taxpayer money over the past decade, effectively conspired with his
supporters in and around the administration to take the United States to war
on pretences they knew, or had reason to know, were false.

Indeed, it now appears increasingly that defectors handled by the INC were
sources for the most spectacular and detailed - if completely unfounded -
information about Hussein's alleged WMD programmes, not only to US
intelligence agencies, but also to US mainstream media, especially the 'New
York Times', according to a recent report in the New York 'Review of Books'.

Within the administration, Chalabi worked most closely with those who had
championed his cause for a decade, particularly neo-conservatives around
Cheney and Rumsfeld - Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz,
Undersecretary of Defence Douglas Feith and Cheney's chief of staff, I.
Lewis Libby.

Feith's office was home to the office of special plans (OSP) whose two staff
members and dozens of consultants were tasked with reviewing raw
intelligence to develop the strongest possible case that Hussein represented
a compelling threat to the United States.

OSP also worked with the defence policy board (DPB), a hand- picked group of
mostly neo-conservative hawks chaired until just before the war by Richard
Perle, a long-time Chalabi friend.

DPB members, particularly Perle, former CIA director James Woolsey and
former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, played prominent roles in publicizing
through the media reports by INC defectors and other alleged evidence
developed by OSP that made Hussein appear as scary as possible.

Chalabi even participated in a secret DPB meeting just a few days after the
Sept 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon in which the main topic
of discussion, according to the 'Wall Street Journal', was how 9/11 could be
used as a pretext for attacking Iraq.

The OSP and a parallel group under Feith, the Counter Terrorism Evaluation
Group, have become central targets of congressional investigators, according
to aides on Capitol Hill, while unconfirmed rumours circulated here this
week that members of the DPB are also under investigation.

The question, of course, is whether the individuals involved were themselves
taken in by what Chalabi and the INC told them or whether they were willing
collaborators in distorting the intelligence in order to move the country to
war for their own reasons.

It appears that Chalabi, whose family, it was reported this week, has
extensive interests in a company that has already been awarded more than 400
million dollars in reconstruction contracts, is signalling his willingness
to take all of the blame, or credit, for the faulty intelligence.

But one of the reasons for going to war was suggested quite directly by
Garner - who also worked closely with Chalabi and the same cohort of US
hawks in the run-up to the war and during the first few weeks of occupation
- in an interview with 'The National Journal'.

Asked how long US troops might remain in Iraq, Garner replied, "I hope
they're there a long time," and then compared U.S. goals in Iraq to US
military bases in the Philippines between 1898 and 1992.

"One of the most important things we can do right now is start getting
basing rights with (the Iraqi authorities)," he said. "And I think we'll
have basing rights in the north and basing rights in the south ... we'd want
to keep at least a brigade."

"Look back on the Philippines around the turn of the 20th century: they were
a coaling station for the navy, and that allowed us to keep a great presence
in the Pacific. That's what Iraq is for the next few decades: our coaling
station that gives us great presence in the Middle East," Garner added.

While US military strategists have hinted for some time that a major goal of
war was to establish several bases in Iraq, particularly given the ongoing
military withdrawal from Saudi Arabia, Garner is the first to state it so

Until now, US military chiefs have suggested they need to retain a military
presence just to ensure stability for several years, during which they
expect to draw down their forces.

If indeed Garner's understanding represents the thinking of his former
bosses, then the ongoing struggle between Cheney and the Pentagon on the one
hand and the State Department on the other over how much control Washington
is willing to give the United Nations over the transition to Iraqi rule
becomes more comprehensible.

Ceding too much control, particularly before a base agreement can be reached
with whatever Iraqi authority will take over June 30, will make permanent US
bases much less likely. -Dawn/The Inter Press News Service.

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