Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I'm Famous!

I was interviewed by Mister Ghost at Iraqi blogger's Central. Clearing house for blogs that post from or about Iraq.

You can catch it Here.

A small taste:

MG: Speaking of Sam, he reported that one of the Terrorists they had captured in Iraq, had confessed to torturing people by pulling out their eyeballs before he killed them. Do you think the Mainstream Media in this country would devote more attention to this story, if the terrorist made his victims wear panties on their heads and flushed down a couple of Korans?

Kat: No. The only way it would get more coverage is if he suddenly came out with a confession that he was a born again Christian that attended Bob Jones University, was a faithful follower of Falwell, slept in the Lincoln bedroom during the First Bush administration, had secret documents showing that President Bush hadn't completed his National Guard Service and had once snorted a line of coke with the President in Kennebunkport while Barbara Bush made them cookies in case they got the munchies and Laura Bush danced naked on the coffee table with a lampshade on her head.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

I Parted Then With Valiant Men

'Twas down the glen one Easter morn
To a city fair rode I.
When armed line of marching men
In squadrons passed me by.
No pipes did hum, no battle drum
Did sound its loud tattoo
But the Angelus bell o'er the Liffey's swell
Rang out in the foggy dew....

The bravest fell, and the solemn bell
Rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Watertide
In the springing of the year.
And the world did gaze with deep amaze
At those fearless men, but few
Who bore the fight that freedom's light
Might shine through the foggy dew.

Ah, back through the glen I rode again
and my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men
whom I never shall see more.
But to and fro in my dreams I go and
I'd kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, when
you fell in the foggy dew.

May 30, 2005 is Memorial Day. The day we remember those who served and those that died.

In, Afghanistan, the Iraq War and the War on Terrorism, men from Missouri and Kansas, from small towns and big cities, have given their all so that we might be safe and that others might be free.

Roll Call:


Spc. Barnes, Jonathan P. Anderson, Mo
Spc. Bertoldie, Joel L. Independence, Mo
CWO. Blaise, Michael T. Macon, Mo
Sgt. Burkhardt, Travis Lee Edina, Mo
Spc. Campbell, Michael C. Marshfield, Mo
Sgt. Campbell, Ryan M. Kirksville, Mo
Spc. Carter, Justin B. Mansfield, Mo
Spc. Crane, Richard M. Independence, Mo
1st Lt. Edens, William A. Columbia, Mo
Pfc. Farnan, Colby M. Weston, Mo
Cpl. Fleischer, Jacob R. St. Louis, Mo
Sgt First Class Gottfried, Richard S. Lake Ozarks, Mo
Sgt. Hodson, Nicholas M. Smithville, Mo
Staff Sgt. Huggins, Jamie L. Hume, Mo
Sgt. James, Lindsey T. Urbana, Mo
Capt. Johnson, Christopher B. Excelsior Springs, Mo
Cpl. Kerns, Dallas L. Mountain Grove, Mo
Master Sgt. Kerwood, William J. Houston, Mo
Staff Sgt. Kisling Jr., Daniel Leon Neosha, Mo
Sgt. Mora, Melvin Y. Columbia, Mo
Sgt. Mowris, James D. Aurora, Mo
Spc. Neusche, Joshua M. Montreal, Mo
Staff Sgt. Sanders, Charles R. Charleston, Mo
Capt. Smith, Benedict J. Monroe City, Mo
Pfc. Smith, Jeremiah D. Odessa, Mo
Staff Sgt. Spink, Trevor Farmington, Mo
Sgt. Svitak, Phillip J. Neosho, Mo
Sgt. Walters, Donald R. Kansas City, Mo (1st MO casualty, Iraq. Ambushed Nasariyah)
Sgt. Wilkerson, William T. Kansas City, Mo


Sgt. Barry, Michael C. Overland Park, Ks
Sgt. Butler, Jacob L. Wellesville, Ks
Cpl. Cabral, Juan C. Cabral Banuelos Emporia, Ks
Sgt. Clary, Don A. Troy, Ks
Pfc. Cox, Ryan R. Derby, Ks
Pvt. Drexler, Jeremy L. Topeka, Ks
2nd Lt. Goins, James Michael Bonner Springs, Ks
Spc. Hall, David E. Uniontown, Ks
Spc. Herndon, Joseph F. Derby, Ks
Pvt. Kreider, Dustin L. Riverton, Ks
Spc. Lister, Joseph L. Pleasanton, Ks
Sgt. Maugins, Jamie O. Derby, Ks
Spc. McGaugh, Dustin K. Derby, Ks
1st Sgt. Millsap, Timmy J. Wichita, Ks
Sgt. Morton, Benjamin C. Wright, Ks
Sgt. Perez, Christopher S. Hutchinson, Ks
Staff Sgt. Peters, Dustin W. El Dorado, Ks
Spc. Thomas, Kyle G. Topeka, Ks
Lance Cpl. Wasser, Christopher B. Ottowa, Ks
Sgt 1st Class Wisdom, Clinton L. Atchison, Ks

[Legacy: In Rememberance via Castle Argghhh!

Men of Harlech stop your dreaming;
Can't you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors' pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Harlech stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!

I did not know these men, but I know men like them. I read everyone of their profiles, young men, men in their 20's and 30's. They were pranksters, dreamers, football players, fathers, sons and friends. They each had a reason to join the military. Some volunteered two and three times to go back so that they could be with their men or because they believed they were doing something important. Some had been boy scouts and volunteered to help disadvantaged children or coach children's soccer. Others were sons of military men, created in their fathers' image. There were men who joined directly from high school, the ones that joined after September 11, the ones that had served for many years. They were all colors, ethnicity and backgrounds.

They were loved and they will be remembered as have been all those that came before.

I know the places that they come from, places that most people have never heard of: Bonner Springs, Kansas with it's town square where a gazebo has stood for years and every Saturday and holiday during the summer, a band plays the old songs and patriotic songs. Sometimes the people sing along.

Troy, Derby, Wright and Wellesville; just little towns on the map with little populations, a small grocer store, the local gas station and, if they're lucky, a bank. A place where people know your name and remember. A place where a small patch of land in the town square, in front of the court house or on the corner of Main Street, memorials to men fallen in the wars, sometimes clear back to the civil war, stand in granite and are always well maintained.

Mountain Grove, Urbana, Neosho, Weston; in every town a small diner where the older men sit around and drink coffee in the mornings talking about the weather, debating politics and whether they should pay to connect to the water rural water system or just keep their wells. The high schools where the football and basketball team are the pride of the town, regardless of how well they do in their districts.

Independence, Witchita, Topeka, Overland Park, Kansas City; the suburbs and the cities where these men might have been just another guy on the street, but, when they fell, their names were called out and the whole city felt the sadness and the pride. A place where the flags are lowered at half mast for a day when the news comes.

These are all places that sent boys to join the military, who then became men. Men who you would want your sons to grow up to be. Places where we don't forget what it means to serve and sacrifice.

Psalm 87

His foundation is in the holy mountains
The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob
Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah.
I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ehtiopia; this man was born there
And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her.
The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah.
As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there: all my springs are in thee.

My family has served our country in every conflict over 100 years in the military, not including those that have served as peace officers since they first settled in the Kansas and Missouri area.

In the Spanish American War, "Remember the Maine", brought my grandfather's great uncle from his farm to join the army.

In World War I, "Babe" Howard (deceased-non-military) served in the Marines, infantry. Much of his story is lost over the time and dispersal of our family, but we know that he was decorated for bravery.

In World War II, my grandfather Leroy Henry (deceased-non-military) and his cousin (deceased-non-military) served in the Navy. I wrote about my grandfather's service and what he meant to us last year in "The Flag on My Wall".

My mother's brother, Donald Kuehl (disabled-non military), served in both the Army, occupying Germany in 1948 and the Air Force during the Korean conflict. My grandfather's younger brother, Leon Henry (deceased-non-military) and my grandmother's youngest brother, Lonnie Howard (deceased-non-military), both served in the Navy.

My uncle, Louis Henry (disabled-military related), served in the Army during Vietnam. He was a helicopter crew chief. He was shot down twice and managed to escape capture both times. Part of his story is here. He enlisted so that my dad, who was newly married and me on the way, could get his status changed. On one occasion, when he was shot down, both of the M-60s were disabled, but he set them up in a perimeter to make the enemy think they had more fire power. The pilot was injured, the co-pilot was dead. He and another crewman took turns going from each spot with their M16s, talking loudly to each other and calling out the names of other non-existant crewman, answering each other and firing from those positions, to make the enemy believe that there were more men on the ground. They were surrounded by enemy on all sides, hiding in the tall grass around the field they had landed in. Finally, the helicopters came to rescue them.

The pilot credited my uncle and the other crewman with saving his life and keeping them from being captured. He received the bronze star. He also received a purple heart and still carries with him a bullet and a mangled piece of M60 which he credits with saving his life. He received many other medals, but they are all in a box.
My brother served in the Air Force Active Duty during Gulf War I, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo. His main duty station was Korea near the DMZ. Today he is a reservist and National Guard.

My third cousin Scott is Army infantry. He served a tour in Iraq, 2003.

There are some I know I'm missing. These are the men whose stories, at least some, I know.

Every year, we have a family reunion about this time. When I was younger, the old men would set around and tell stories. I was always too busy running and playing to listen long and now many of them are gone. Stories lost, but to a few.

Still, today I remember and salute them and all those known and unknown who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Arlington National Cemetary: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

"Here Rests
In Honored Glory
An American Soldier
Known But To God

Previous thoughts on The Boys in Blue and Khaki and Heroes

Swift Wind and Gentle Breeze

I dreamed a dream so sweet and true
Of skies the color of fearless blue
I soared with eagles on swift wind and gentle breeze
But one by one they took their leave

I flew for miles, searching far and wide
I missed them soaring by my side
With them near I felt secure and free
Without them I had lost part of me

Then came a dove that did sing
Of peace and love everlasting
Feel no sorrow nor shed a tear, it cried
On swift winds and gentle breeze they reside

It took to wing and left me there
Contemplating all my cares
It was for me they had taken leave
So that I might enjoy swift wind and gentle breeze

Suddenly, it little mattered
That sometimes my wings felt torn and tattered
I soared with eagles in skies of fearless blue
A privilege given to just a few

Finally, I had to go
Return to earth far below
As I touched down and closed my eyes
I felt them still by my side

I woke to skies of fearless blue
I heard the taps sound out the news
Another eagle had taken its leave
Soaring forever on swift wind and gentle breeze
-K. Henry

I parted then, with valiant men who I never shall see more

Zarqawi About To Be Captured?

According to the Arab Times Online, some folks at the Ministry of Interior (responsible for internal secuirty) are stating that Zarqawi might be holed up and surrounded. [via: Winds of Change]

BAGHDAD (Agencies): A force of Iraqi commandoes, supported by US forces, have surrounded the village of Abu Shallal, north of here, after reports indicated that Abu Musab Zarqawi might have taken refuge there, Interior Ministry sources told KUNA on Friday. The sources have indicated that Zarqawi has been spotted by eyewitnesses driven in a red Opel in the village of Abu Shallal, near an area called al-Tarmia. He was said to have taken refuge in the home of an individual named Sheikh Hatem al-Amir. The Iraqi commandos and US forces are said to be ready to start an operation aimed at capturing him in that village, said the sources. Interior Ministry forces last week surrounded an area named al-Etaifiya, in the middle section of Baghdad, where the Karkh hospital there was inspected for a possible sighting of Zarqawi.

As with all sightings and rumors of deposed, injured or dead despots and lunatics, please stand by for DNA testing and other validations from US military sources.

If you can get past the "scape goat" comment, you can find a decent account of Zarqawi's injury and subsequent fleeing for his life here.

Actually, I kind of found it amusing how much they were talking about Zarqawi being a "mastermind" and then claiming that the US was using him for a "scape goat". So typical. Which is he? A "mastermind" or a "scape goat".

Aiy! These people.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

State of the "Insurgency" Part II

Deciphering Media Reports

With limited space and limited information, the media has resorted to limp reporting of body counts and "incidents" without any real analysis of the situation. Whether it is in two minute sound bites on network or cable news or five sentences in a paragraph trying to squeeze in all the daily happenings in one report either in print or on websites, true analysis of the situation is lacking. Without the analysis and context, one would be hard pressed to understand the situation in Iraq.

By standard methods, most of these reports attempt to be "objective" (ie, we report you decide) but by the very lack of information puts a spin (unintended or otherwise) on the information for the basic viewer and provides an almost simplistic, yet effective, propaganda for certain elements inside Iraq.

Objects in the mirror may seem larger than they are in real life.

For months, I've been reviewing media reports of the violence in Iraq. I have been slowly trying to decipher the situation. Using the blogs of Iraqis and soldiers to decipher the news has been helpful. Obviously, not everyone has the time or desire to read through stacks of media reports and blogs to come up with a clear picture of the situation. Even for me, the picture is still a little foggy.

Before we delve into the recent reports, I think it is helpful to understand how these reports are generated. Michael Yon, a free lance reporter in Iraq had an interesting piece on his website called An Now, for the rest of the story.... Here he explains how and why these reports are generated and the basic concepts of modern day journalism.

The media is an industry; but their business is not to report news. The industry needs a captive audience to beat the bottom line. The product is advertisement.

This is not a right or wrong. It's just a business concept for moving merchandise, and every profession or industry has one.

This has been said before, but for common folks who are still looking at the media to get their daily dose of local and world happenings, it should be a reminder that its not everything and somethings you don't know are because of the industry not seeing it as a story that will attract attention, increase ratings and develop advertisement dollars. Advertisement during news programs are placed for best effect during specific segments or time slots based on ratings, estimated viewers and their demographics. The best slots cost an arm and two legs while the lesser slots cost only an arm and one leg. The advertiser with the most money wins the prime slots. In order to obtain the most amount of money from advertisement, it is the media's job to generate as many "prime" slots as possible.

Finding or generating news can be costly. A good businessperson buys cheap, sells high. These points are obvious, but less conspicuous is how the media squeezes news cheaply from Iraq.

Michael goes on to explain how most news from Iraq is generated:

Western media cannot free-range Iraq, asking questions and jotting answers on notepads, particularly where insurgents cut off the heads of anyone they do not agree with, later posting "news" videos of their own. Here in Iraq, where bullets are often the background noise, most news agencies get their daily facts spoon-fed straight from the military. The basic building block for just about any news item reported in mainstream press is something called a SIGACT.

SIGACTs are Significant Actions; anything that significantly affects friendly or enemy forces, from sandstorms to IEDs. SIGACTs originate at the smaller units and feed to higher units quickly; sometimes in seconds.[snip]

Public Affairs Offices (PAO) are like news bureaus for the military, constantly taking SIGACTs and translating them into unclassified press bulletins called "media releases." [snip]

...journalists settled in places like Tikrit or Baghdad rely on the PAO for printed media releases. Once in hand, the "news" can be broadcast or posted on the internet in minutes.

Something we already should be aware of. Most news agencies really don't have reporters "embedded" with units anymore and they cannot "free range" as Michael puts it because they could be kidnapped and become "news" themselves. Security is costly and not always effective for reporters. Most media organizations have opted for keeping their costs down, limiting their "reporters" to "safe areas" inside the green zone or other AOs (area of operatioins) that are largely secure. Any reporting that does come from outside these areas or military reports is largely gleaned from Iraqi government press releases, Iraq newspapers, radio and television broadcasts or Iraqi "stringers" that don't require or buy their own security and get paid much less than their western counterparts (ie, expendable).

When you hear the press complaining about the number of journalists killed in Iraq, particularly foreign or local, the first thing that comes to mind is that these are a direct result of either coalition action or their inability to secure these journalists. The truth is, these journalists are putting it on the line, going outside the wire to report while most of their western counterparts stay safe near their air conditioned hotels, computers and bar. With but a few exceptions. Michael Yon is one of them.

For those that go outside the wire, everyday is a test of diplomacy and skill. Knowing who to talk to, when a situation might turn from being friendly to angry if the wrong questions are asked. Even here, as brave as some of these folks are, the reporting is necessarily less than satisfactory for those of us trying to get a full picture. In most cases, what we need to look for is what is not being said as well as what is. Worse yet, once all the reports are in, the editors go to work to look for the most "effective" and immediate information to develop quick soundbites and columns with headings that will grab the viewer/reader's attention. Thus, context and analysis are judiously clipped from the reports and we get what is left over while the news agencies create more advertising space.

For your average reader and viewer, searching and analyzing for themselves can be too much of an effort, thus, views on the situation are by defult skewed, foggy and downright unclear.

Michael continues to explain how SIGACT goes from the military to a media report we see:

If it bleeds, it leads...

If US forces are killed or wounded, the SIGACT might start like this:

Blam, Blam, Blam!...explosions…followed by a roar of small arms. So many weapons firing from so many directions, tracers bouncing off roads, zinging off buildings, rooms exploding, dust and smoke, a soldier cries out, "I'm hit!" and his buddies run across a road to help him and another is shot, "I'm hit!"

Then someone makes the radio call:

"Deuce-Main, Apache-Six, Contact, over." [Deuce-Four headquarters, this is the Alpha Company Commander]
"Apache-Six, Deuce-Main, send it."
"This is Apache-Six. Heavy small-arms and RPGs vicinity 4-West. Three friendly casualties, one is litter-urgent. Still in contact. We are in pursuit trying not to lose contact. Estimate 25 AIF [insurgents], all dismounted. Request QRF, over."
"Apache-Six, Deuce-Main, QRF spinning up. Warmonger is en route and fast movers in vicinity. Bulldog Company has a platoon two kilometers west en route to you. They are under your control time now. Don’t let the AIF break contact. Over."
"Roger, at least four enemy KIA. All Apache elements remain in contact and we have them isolated in a four-block area, over."
"Apache-Six, Deuce-Main, keep up the good work, don't let them get away. More combat power is on the way to assist in isolation."
"Deuce-Main, Apache-Six, roger, out."

Within seconds, someone will be typing up a SIGACT that might look like this:

Subject: Smalls Arms Engagement
Time/Date: 2120 L 24 May 05
Narrative: Alpha Company 1-24 INF reports small arms and RPG, vicinity…. Reports 3 friendly WIA (1 litter-urgent, 2 routine). 4 Enemy KIA...

When this SIGACT is translated by a PAO, this might come out: "3 US soldiers were wounded by small arms in Mosul, Iraq. The soldiers were assigned to Task Force Freedom." News agencies that call or request information will get some variation of this report.

Such reports flow from all over Iraq to a place in Baghdad called the CPIC (Combined Press Information Center). The CPIC is like the Uber-PAO for Iraq, serving all branches of the military, and other nations in the Coalition. The CPIC collects those reports and makes a release that might go like this:

"3 US soldiers were wounded in a small arms engagement in Mosul. 3 US soldiers from Task Force Baghdad were wounded by a car bomb in Baquba while conducting convoy operations in Diyala Province. 1 US soldier was slightly wounded by an IED while conducting combat operations in Baghdad. 2 US Marines were killed in a Humvee accident in Anbar Province. A Blackhawk helicopter made an emergency landing near Ramadi. No injuries were reported."

This will hit pages all over the world, but in a newsier voice:

"A US helicopter made an emergency landing near Ramadi under unknown circumstances. An insurgent website claiming affiliation to Al Qaeda in Iraq says they shot down the helicopter with a surface-to-air missile. A US military spokesman would not comment. Elsewhere, one US soldier and two Marines were killed and seven other service members were wounded in Iraq, along with at least 18 deaths from a suicide car-bomber near the Syrian border. This brings total Coalition deaths in Iraq to 1,800. In other news, photos of the former dictator of Iraq in his underwear have infuriated the Arab world and angered the Pentagon, which promised a full investigation…"

Thus you are left with the impression that somebody asked someone in the military whether the helicopter was shot down and they said, "no comment" and there is a possibility that Al Qaida in Iraq did shoot it down. Body counts are reported without context to the fight or the outcome, leaving you with the impression that the attackers were able to hit and run witout taking casualties, thus making them appear "larger in the mirror" than they really are. Before you can take that in, the story is switched to a story that they can get their hands around, photos of Saddam in his underwear.

Please be sure to read the rest of Michael Yon's interesting post on all the news that's not fit to print (or simply gets missed).

His parting paragraphs are good points for both the military and the media:

Cynicism aside, the media really is important to this war. Not only is this a war for public opinion, at home and abroad, but also, people's lives are won and lost every day in Iraq as a direct result of how the media uses its cameras and keyboards. Iraq is extremely dangerous. There are relatively few reporters here, and those here cannot operate as if it were "business as usual." The military makes it easy for journalists to nibble at facts and then dash back to their desks. Nobody is well-served by this arrangement; the media could still sell advertisement without stirring and blowing new life onto dimming brimstone.

Yet, finally, the ultimate decision-maker is the person reading or watching the news. We cannot expect mainstream media to give quality reporting if we accept drive-through service every night.

Now, on with the rest of the story: the state of the insurgency by deciphering media reports.

With Michael's helpful hints, it should be easier to review today's Associated Press reports, at least in regards to military casualties. Unfortunately, we don't have a similar idea on how to deal with reports of Iraqi casualties. Much of what is reported is jumbled together and appears to be the work of this giant, all encompassing "insurgency" that has its tentacles everywhere in Iraq, able to reach out and touch people whenever it wants.

By the method of reporting currently being used, this is free and fantastic propaganda; building up their image for the "folks back home" in their native countries and making them appear to be invincible and unstoppable. Excellent recruiting material, particularly when their audience is even less deciphering than a western one that at least has some built in cynicism for reports of "perfection" and other resources not blocked or controlled by our government.

The "jihadist" elements can lay claim to every act of violence on their websites or through Arab media without being challenged on the truth. It is then reported to us as if it were fact and without context or understanding of the Iraq populace or history, we and our middle eastern counterparts suck it up with little ability to no the difference. Even the things they don't claim directly are attributed to them by the sheer lack of information.

What one first needs to know has been put out by many sources on the internet, specifically Iraqi bloggers, who have taken the time in the past to explain how Iraqi society has and is operating. Zeyad at Healing Iraq explained this very well in a four part series:

Iraqi Tribal Society Part I
Iraqi Tribal Society Part II
Iraqi Tribal Society Part III
Iraqi Tribal Society Part IV

Also of interest have been comments by The Messopotamian who explains the situation as largely attributable to the Iraqi "peasants". Which he later translated to mean the rural tribes that still operate on long standing traditions of reprisals and superstition:

Seldom did we see somebody from decent middle class background involved with these atrocities, at least not amongst those who appeared on T.V.; [snip]

Also, 99 % of those men belong to particular clans, tribes and a certain sect, that I am sure you will not have much difficulty at guessing which. [snip]

However, most of these men actually are seen to be of provincial origin.[ed...rural tribes][snip]

The whole thing can be traced back to our history, and particularly the Revolution of 1958 that deposed the Monarchy that essentially consisted of a social system based on the hegemony of the cities allied with feudal Lords or Shiekhs ( as they were called here).

To understand the current situation, based on this information, you would also need to understand how it worked under Saddam. First, his base was largely the minority Sunni. Whether they were directly involved with the Ba'ath government or simply bystanders, made no difference. Saddam gave precedence to Sunni and particularly Ba'athist members in regards to university placement, jobs and assistance. Even the rural tribal elements had their parts to play. They were able to send their sons to the city to obtain education and work. Unfortunately, most of them did not return to the tribal rural areas when they left, thus "civilized" urban ideas not related to tribal culture didn't filter back. There was also a distinct lack of radio, television and other media in the areas, so there was nothing to really challenge how they lived or perceived the situation.

Crime Families and Petty Gangs

Further, while there was definitely "ba'athi" [ed...Saddam] presence in regards to party leaders and basic government, these tribes by either agreement or lack of desire on the part of the central Baghdad government, were left to their own devices and governance, continuing the tribal ways of justice (basically an eye for an eye) and means of making money, which wasn't all related to shepharding cattle. Many of these tribes were and still are basically "organized crime" families. Some were more capable and prosperous than others at smuggling in blackmarket goods and smuggling in or out people. Tribute was (and is) exacted in terms of ransoms or tolls.

Putting them in context to what your average American viewer can relate to, imagine them in a heirarchy such as our own criminal elements. There are those that are highly organized and at the top of the food chain like the Gotti organized crime family in its hay-day. Most of these groups make their money through good connections in and outside of Iraq. They have staked out territory and a heirarchy that vets out jobs to the lesser or lower clans while the top guys direct and rake in the main part of the profit. This, by necessity requires them to protect routes and territories as well as the "outlets" for the goods and people. They have no compunction against killing rivals or their own that cheat them or are disloyal. Rival killings and kidnappings are farmed out to the lower elements, while internal disputes are handled within the clan or tribe itself.

Then there are those elements that are similar to gangs like the Bloods and the Crips, doing jobs like stealing or hijacking cars, breaking into shops and homes, and are often the first level for "kidnapping" a victim who is then passed on to other, more connected tribes who have contacts with groups like "The Association of Muslim Scholars", which is a Sunni cleric organization, that then makes arrangements to ransom the victims. Make no mistake, the largest part of the "kidnapped" population is affluent Iraqis who are asked to provide exhorbitant ransoms to get their fathers, mothers and children back. These are also the people who most likely perform the first step in kidnapping western journalist, businessmen and aid workers.

If the kidnap victim is valuable enough, they may be "sold" or moved up the chain to the main clan groups who make contact with the Islamist groups like AQ and are sold for money or assurances that the tribe will continue to provide as long as these elements do not target them directly. Lesser victims are probably maintained and ransomed by the local gang elements. Many victims of kidnappings end up dead and floating in the river (usually shot) because their families cannot pay the ransom. The women and children may be smuggled out of Iraq and sold into prostitution or virtual slavery. This includes Saudi Arabia where many of the "foreign" workers are picked up around the middle east and Asia then their "employers" hold their visas or passports to insure they don't leave before "fulfilling their contract".

The lower elements are much more prone to do violence and less concerned about covering their tracks or whom they kill in order to protect themselves and their operations. For a price, they will do a job, whether robbery, assassination, kidnapping, laying IEDs, smuggling people and product, you name it, they will do it.

Inter Tribal/Non-Sectarian Violence: Rural

Other tribal violence is not necessarily "criminal" related in regards to crime families and gang members. In the tribal areas, land is power. Grazing land, water rights and roads in and out of areas dominate the tribal power structure. Infringment by other tribes without prior arrangement or in direct hostility towards the managing tribe can result in retaliation through kidnapping or killings. It may be easier to understand if you view this as tribal warfare as seen in American Native Indian culture or even through medieval feudal systems as Alaa and the Mesopotamian demonstrates.

Land, water and control of roads means the survival of the clan and it's worth fighting for in these turbulent times when there is a definite power vaccuum. Local police are less concerned about maintaining the peace and enforcing uniform, equal law, but are more likely to work based on their tribal/clan affiliation, sometimes doing the dirty work of their clan.

From these tribes, young men are also tempted to join the gang elements in either urban or rural settings or the Islamist movements. Where ever they may be able to improve their situation and send back some remittance to their tribes or if they have been overtly schooled in religious dogma, considering it their duty to protect Islam. Usually, they don't really know or understand what the greater Islamist cause is beyond their simple understanding that a non-muslim country has invaded their land and attacked other Muslims. These have been filled with the rhetoric that it is their duty to defend Muslims and kill infidels (whoever doesn't believe as they do). This was also seen during round up and interviews of "Taliban" fighters in Afghanistan. Many of the conscripts from the rural tribal areas did not know or care who Al Qaida was or what had happened on September 11 before the bombs began to fall. They simply saw it as their duty to fight non-muslims attacking them.

These young men are what we normally call "cannon fodder" for the criminal, sectarian and Islamist elements.

For another view of the tribal effect on Iraqi life, read Iraqi Bloggers Central: Hope In the Middle East for a basic review of how tribal and sectarian violence has been common and predominant over the ages.

Sectarian Violence Urban, Suburban and Rural

Whenever we hear or read the words "sectarian", this is to indicate violence between the different ethnic and religious groups within Iraq. Unfortunately, this term is used with too wide a brush and any deaths that cannot be directly related to Islamist or "Ba'athi" insurgents (the only real "insurgents" are "ba'athi" and home grown Islamists as described in the previous section) are immediately ascribed to "sectarian" violence, particularly if the dead person or persons can be identified by their names as belonging to one tribe or another that is largely one sect (Sunni, Shi'a, Kurd, etc) or another.

It is important to remember that many tribes, particularly in more suburban or urban settings, are inter-ethnic/sectarian. Marriages and other affiliations means that they have elements of Sunni, Shi'a, Christian, etc in their ranks as noted by both Alaa the Mesopotamian and Iraq the Model:

I woke up this morning and headed to my clinic and as usual I need first to walk to the garage where buses stop but today while walking my way at the same time I was curiously inspecting people's faces; I passed by tens, maybe hundreds of them during that 15 minute walk. The same questions jumps in my mind with every new face I pass by "is this one Sunni or She'at?" maybe he or she is Kurdish, Turkmen or Assyrian.

I failed to reach a satisfying guess in any case.[snip]

Back at home, at the end of the day I turned the TV on and sat to watch. There was a show where an Iraqi family was interviewed and my nagging question didn't bother me this time but then came the news hour and I started looking at the faces again and this time I was able to find answers, I was so able to recognize who those people were; this one is Sunni and that one is She'at and this and this and….

I couldn't get these answers back in the streets or at the hospital but they were so clear to me on the news.

Do I see the shadows of a civil war? Yes but this war will not extend beyond the HQs of parties and the 21 inches of the screen while the street, the bazaar, the clinic and my city Baghdad (which is a smaller version of Iraq) tell me a different story than that of corrupt politicians and fake clerics.

My proof to that is that I couldn't find anything on the faces I see everyday but features that I can't have doubts about; Iraqi features only that indicate nothing except that who carries them is a son or daughter of this country.

Of course I'm wrong. Who am I to disagree with all the big names and brains of strategy sitting in big offices and surrounded by lights and guards?

The death of a person or persons identified by their "sect", may or may not be related to this "sectarian" in-fighting.

However, sectarian "in-fighting" does exist on many levels. The highest levels are the political/religious groups. There is Dawa and SCIRI (Supreme Council Islamic Revolution in Iraq) which are both Shi'ite political/religious groups. Dawa is loosely associated with Iranian groups, but can be largely traced back to Al-Sistani, the Shi'ite moderate cleric. However, the Badr corps, once a rebelious militia, is now the "security" apparatus for this group. SCIRI is more directly connected with Iran and is the more vocal about creating a Shia dominated Theocracy. The Association of Muslim Scholars, is Sunni. These groups and many smaller ones do have influence in all three areas (rural, suburban and urban). These groups have resorted to retaliatory strikes on their rivals though, not always across "sectarian" lines. Some Shia groups are killing people from other Shia groups that do not work with or seem to oppose the group they belong to. Same can be said for the Sunni.

Whenever you hear words like "a moderate Sunni Cleric was shot", this doesn't mean that it was a Shia that did it. It could be people from within their own groups that think he was selling them out or opposing their position or it could be Islamists who have decided that this "moderate" was an apostate. Most likely, if they were shot in a drive by, it's either internal, sectarian or political strife, not necessarily "insurgents" or "Islamists".

Another known "sectarian" group, most likely involved in "sectarian" violence, is headed by Mugtada al-Sadr, the leader of the failed Najaf rebelion in 2004. His sect is made up of largely poor Shia living in the Sadr City suburb of Baghdad. Some estimates have his following as large as 6,000 people. He is nominally held in check by the power of Al-Sistani, but that does not stop him and other Sunni sects from retaliating against one another.

In the suburban areas and outlying towns, sectarian strife can be seen a little more clearly, though it also bleeds over into "tribal" violence. In smaller towns across Iraq and even the large city of Mosul, where the population is mixed Shia and Sunni, the effects of Sunni "Ba'athist" and "Islamist" violence against the towns have resulted in some Shia populations attacking the Sunni citizens often without knowledge of whether they are really and directly involved. If a Sunni that is known to be from a specific tribe is caught or killed during and Islamist, ba'athist or sectarian operation, it is largely assumed that the entire tribe is involved in the perpetrating groups. Thus, what is first "insurgent" or "criminal" activity will quickly melt down to tribal warfare as each group begins to retaliate.

The 19 dead Iraqis in the soccer stadium (most identified as "shia"), may have been Islamist or insurgent activity, but may have been sectarian, criminal or inter-tribal related retaliation.

In short, one cannot assume that all deaths are "sectarian" or "insurgency" related. Being able to tell the difference from this distance or even close up in Iraq is very difficult, but the few details eeked out from the press can assist us.


The real "insurgents" can be described as a conglomeration of groups that opposed the overthrow of Saddam and want to stop the democratic process. In hopes of the ensuing chaos, their violent and unmerciful killing of anyone and everyone that does not support their cause is a direct off shoot of how they used to rule the land: terrorize the people and then give them "order" at the end of an AK-47. In reality, there isn't much hope of them coming back into power. What gives them hope is that there are still members that are in power in ministries, police and the military. They obtain information form these people and hope that, if the time is right, these groups will be able to subordinate their underlings and use them to take power again.

This group is not strictly "Iraqi Sunni Arabs", but include Palestinians, Syrians and other nationals that were given power, positions and wealth under Saddam. These also have ties with political/sectarian/tribal groups either through blood relationships, criminal activities or a simple desire for groups to play both ends of the game in case the ba'athi are able to pull it off and come into direct power or in case the remaining elements still in power come to have control over their area or they can get something from that government office in regards to economic or material assistance.

This element also includes other groups that are not directly allied with either the sectarian outfits or the Islamists, but think they have a beef with the coalition or new government. They are assisted by the Syrian intelligence, military, and Ba'ath party along with remaining elements of Saddam's regime currently stationed in Syria.

They use tribal and criminal organization relations to move men and material in and out of Iraq. These groups will also fight between their organizations for power and position, though these efforts are probably more like "assassinations" then large attacks against each other.

Their tactics can be related to stationary VBIED; IEDs; frontal attacks with mortars, RPGs and AK-47s on coalition and Iraqi military/police patrols and bases; assassinations of government officials, police officers, military commanders or other "collaborators". These are less likely to be suicide bombers since the point of the movement is to come back into power and people want to be around for that opportunity. It is possible that they have recruited their own "cannon fodder" for suicide missions, but less likely as a major tactic.

Mass executions of police officers returning from Jordan over the past two years are probably largely associated with this group. Most of them had the tell-tale signs of blind foling their victims, tying their hands behind their backs and shooting them execution style, in the same manner that the old regime would get rid of its enemies.


There are many groups and elements that make up this section. Some existed in Iraq and had recruits and leaders well before the invasion. Others are new arrivals, basically creating their own corps and operational fronts. All of which is loosely affiliated with or coordinates with each other. They aren't all related to Al Qaida and they don't all take their orders directly from Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden.

Ansar al-Islam (Army of Islam) was in Iraq for years prior to the war and had loose relations with both Saddam and Al Qaida. Ansar al-Sunnah (Army of the Sunnah - sunnah are directives from Mohammed the Prophet on how to live a moralistic life as a Muslim) and Taweed and Jihad (Unity and Jihad) now currently known as Al Qaida in Iraq, were created durin the build up of the war and took off in late 2003. These are the main groups, but certainly not the only groups.

These are made up of hardened fighters and commanders trained by Al Qaida or other Islamist groups in Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabian, Palestinian and other countries around the Middle East and North Africa. These reside at the top planning and leadership positions along with a few Iraqis that have been promoted for their efforts.

Below them are the "cannon fodder" or untrained fighters that are also filtering in from countries around the ME and North Africa through Saudi Arabia, Jordan or largely Damascus, Syria. The "cannon fodder" elements also contain rural and urban Iraqis convinced by the local Imams or recruiters sent out to the mosques, via websites or of their own volition after seeing reports in the Arabic news, to join the operations.

These are further sorted out based on planned operations and skill sets of the recruited. Uneducated without practical skills in explosives, weapons, electronics or computers, will most likely end up as drivers for VBIED (vehicle bound improvised explosive devices usually mobile) or suicidal foot soldiers in direct frontal attacks as we saw at Qaim and Abu Graihb or the last stand of Fallujah.

  • During April and the first part of May, based on the story provided by Al Hayat in the previous post on this subject, new arrivals were all being pressed into action as homicidal car bombers.

  • Those with practical skills in electronics, explosives and computers are pressed into service for building VBIEDs, IEDs and other explosives or the propaganda apparatus that creates DVDs, websites, posters and press releases.

  • Anyone with the aptitude or previous military experience is pressed into service with an AK-47, mortars and rockets.

  • Speak English as a second language:, interpreter or analyst.

  • Religious training as an Imam or other level higher than a basic student or an aptitude for charisma and leadership: recruitment (this may also be based on who you know and how you got there).

  • Other support, courier and logistic positions exist, but these are usually proven people and extremely trustworthy.

    Depending on how the person arrived in Syria or Iraq and with whom they make first contact, determines which of the multiple groups they end up with and what possible positions they can fill within that group. Not all of the educated people with degrees end up in support positions.

    Centralized leadership is really a cooperative activity with leaders of each group. Last year, a message went out from Osama bin Laden pro-claiming Zarqawi as the leader of al Qaida in Iraq. This was done for several reasons. One of which was to provide propaganda that Al Qaida is in Iraq in a big way. Association with these deeds gives more prestige to Al Qaida and bin Laden since they were run out of Aghanistan. Secondly, Zarqawi must have been complaining about his abilities to coordinate people, materials and attacks. Bin Ladens announcement gave Zarqawi prestige and the leverage he needed to bring some of the multitude of elements together.

    Men and materials are moved through corresponding arrangements with the smuggling and criminal organizations as well as their own built in logistical support teams. Money and messages probably come solely through their own logistics.

    Several types of operations appear to be largely carried out by this group:

  • Homicide car bombs (VBIED) against coalition forces, Iraq police, military and government installations particularly where a high volume of casualties can be obtained with one or more coordinated attacks. Multiple bombings at coordinated times can be directly linked to the larger, organized groups with closer relations to AQ and Zarqawi. They know that "if it bleeds, it leads" and they use this for free propaganda.

  • Single VBIED events may be from the larger groups as well to keep the press attention that they seek, but could be smaller off shoot organizations with only loose coordination.

  • Large scale frontal attacks with VBIED, RPG, mortars and foot soldiers against coalition bases and patrols.

  • Large scale attacks with VBIED, RPG, mortars and foot soldiers against Iraqi military and police bases and patrols.

  • Assassinations of high ranking civilian, military and police officials.

  • Assassinations of educators, physicians and news people.

  • Mass murders inside Sunni towns that they attempt to take over (and often succeed).

  • Beheadings of kidnap victims, Iraqi military or police, town officials or citizens that do not cooperate with their take over and any Shia or Kurds they catch within their area of operations.

  • Video taped incidents are most likely from this group since they routinely use this tool as a recruiting method and home grown media releases.

  • What Do We Know?

    From this we can determine that media reports with body counts and words like "insurgents" and/or "sectarian" strife hardly cover the gamut of the activities in Iraq and should not be used in anyway to determine the status of the war or the effectiveness of our efforts.

    Sectarian and tribal infighting was occuring under Saddam, though at lower levels. Certainly, the Ba'athi were killing people before the war in either masses or in individual efforts. The only difference was that these actions were given a patina of "legal" since they were the ones in control.

    Criminal endeavors, including kidnappings, blackmail and blackmarket smuggling, were occuring before the war as well, but usually with the complicity of the governing apparatus. Even Islamists were in Iraq before the war, though their efforts were not directed against the Iraqi people.

    What's different now is that there is open media to report it. Activities once the domain of the governing body and thus kept away from outside eyes are now out in the open and reported around the globe. Sectarian and tribal infighting is less restrained and more volatile since there is a power vaccuum in the provinces. Islamists from all over the country are filtering in to Iraq or sending money or operating propaganda websites. Every activity, small or large, is simply and quickly diced up by the media as "insurgent" or "sectarian" and fed to the public who consumes it and what comes out after digestion is "terrorists", thus giving the Islamists more power and prestige than they rightfully deserve.

    Certainly, the Islamists commit some of the most heinous acts, but they don't commit all of them. Neither are the other killings, carelessly labeled "sectarian" necessarily indications of a coming civil war.

    Deciphering Today's Reports

    Using this information, I will now look at today's news and attempt to decipher Islamist, Insurgent, sectarian, tribal and criminal activities.

    Associated Press

    The new effort to make peace came as attacks killed a U.S. soldier and at least

    No information on how and when he or she was killed. This could be Islamists or Insurgents. No report of the action or enemy killed. Judiciously left out so we get the idea: dead soldier, nothing more to see here, move along.

    However, Centcom casualty report for May 28th indicates the soldier was actually wounded in actions on May 26th and died of his wounds today.

    45 Iraqis over the past two days — including 10 people returning from a religious pilgrimage in Syria whose bodies were left in the border city of Qaim,

    While Qaim has been the seen of fighting between between coalition forces and "insurgents", it is also the town that straddles the main road into Syria and is used by the "arhabi" or "ali baba" (thieves) to smuggle in goods and people as well as kidnapping, robbing and holding hostage businessmen and others returning from Syria.

    However, BBC adds additional information:

    The murdered pilgrims had apparently been blindfolded, tied up and shot in the head, police said. The corpses bore marks of torture.

    "Marks of torture" could be anything at this point. Beatings, cuttings, whippings, etc, all make a difference in what group killed them. Still, not necessarily related to "insurgents" or "islamists".

    as well as three suicide bombers


    and three men killed when a roadside bomb they planted exploded prematurely.

    Islamist, ba'athist or criminals in the pay of either. Either way, they were inept and probably less well trained. We will probably hear of more of these accidents as VBIED/IED building stations and their makers continue to be swept up.

    The group purportedly claimed responsibility for twin suicide car bombings in Sinjar. The attacks, 75 miles northwest of Mosul city, killed seven Iraqis and injured another 38 at the entrance to an Iraqi military base, according to hospital officials.

    Al Qaida-Zarqawi

    Another al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, announced the death of a Japanese contractor it abducted earlier this month.

    Al Sunnah Islamist loosely affliated with Al Qaida. As previously noted, beheaded hostages are Islamists.

    The Australian is still alive and not reported dead. If his release is negotiated, count his kidnappers as organized criminals or ba'athists looking for ransom. IF he's shot, it's criminals or ba'athists. If he's beheaded, it's Islamists.

    New York Times

    They do a slightly more credible job at providing information. Still, it needs a little more deciphering:

    [snip]with at least 30 new deaths reported across the country, some of them in what appeared to be sectarian killings.

    The latest attacks raised the total number of Iraqis killed this month to about 650,

    In other words, the latest deaths have not been as big a number in the last day or two so, to garner your continuing attention, you need to be reminded how many total have died in a specific period. However, the "month" that they are speaking of is actually from mid April to today.

    [snip] in addition to at least 63 American troops who have been killed, the highest American toll since January.

    This means that the number of American Casualties have been going down in in the last four months, with January as the high point for 2005 by which to judge. In review of the past two years casualty count, January had 107 KIA while November had 135 KIA. In every period where American and coalition forces take the offensive, there are higher casualties among them. May is no exception with 63 to date. US forces swept through western Iraq in the al Anbar province, Haditha and other hotspots. Still, every month continues to be less casualties than before, even with offensive operations.

    In two of the worst incidents reported Saturday, three suicide bombers tried to blast into a base shared by American and Iraqi troops at Sinjar, 40 miles from the northwestern border with Syria, killing at least one Iraqi border policeman and wounding at least 18 others, including 15 civilians.


    Farther south along the Syrian border, in the Sunni Arab city of Qaim, a police commander confirmed the killing in recent days of 10 Shiite pilgrims returning from a shrine in Syria, The Associated Press reported

    This leaves the impression that they weren't all killed at once, as opposed to the previous report. Still most like criminal activity.

    In other attacks, two Sunni Arab tribal leaders, one in Baghdad and the other in the northern city of Kirkuk, were killed Friday, according to police reports. In the Kirkuk killing, local officials suggested that the victim, Sheik Sabhan Khalaf al-Jibouri, might have been a target because of his attempt to have friendly relations with Kurdish leaders.

    These are designated as "sectarian" killings, but the other information provided indicates that Sheik al-Jibouri was assassinated from within his own group. The second "Sunni Arab tribal leader" in Baghdad could have been tribal or criminal rivalry. Just because he's a Sunni, doesn't make his death related to "sectarian" violence or the "insurgency" or the "Islamists".

    Now, we see Reuters making this mistake:

    Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had fled the country after being seriously injured in a U.S. missile attack, a British newspaper reported on Sunday, quoting a senior commander of the Iraqi insurgency.

    Zarqawi and the Islamists are not insurgents, they are Islamist terrorists.

    That concludes our review for today. Stand by for tomorrow's "Status of the "Insurgency" - Deciphering Media Reports,

    Update: Read Athena at Terrorism Unveiled for additional views

    Who's In Charge?

    Friday, May 27, 2005

    The State of the Insurgency

    As I pointed out in Analyzing Zarqawi Statement, I believe that the insurgency is now having a rough time recruiting replacements for all of the lives they wasted in suicide VBIEDs in the last 45 days.

    Pretty difficult organizing and planning attacks when all the little indians are dead and the the big chiefs are sitting around scratching their asses. Worse yet, it's very difficult to convince people to come join your cause when the romance of fighting the "big Satan" turns into "how many innocent bystanders [read "Muslims"] can you take out with a car and a trunk load of explosives." I think the worst PR they could have gotten was the failed frontal attacks on Abu Graihb and Qaim along with a few other hotspots. The US military learned their lesson a long time ago in Beirut about how to properly barricade a base and what to do if crazy people in cars/trucks start driving towards you at high rates of speed and even Sgrena the Italian learned that they do mean to pull the trigger if you even wink suspiciously.

    In my previous post, I commented that there was a story in the Arab News about two would be jihadists having their illusions of the grand mujihadeen efforts smashed when they got to Iraq and found out all they wanted was volunteers to drive booby trapped cars and kill themselves. I found the link via Arab World Analysis:

    The sources added: 'At that point the leader of the group suddenly showed them the truth regarding which the young men felt the strongest bitterness. So then he said: We have a group of automobiles ready to perform suicide operations. The young men almost lost consciousness from the terror of the shock. And they said to him: how our coming to Iraq has come to this end in a suicide operation with such ease! He answered them indifferently: this is what we have now, and if you want you may look elsewhere! At that moment they decided to return to their country, and completely changed their minds about participating in what they thought was resistance in Iraq.'

    Add in a few "religious rulings" by the Saudi Mufti and Islamic Scholars:

    Now, Saudi religious scholars have come to a consensus that going to Iraq with the goal of killing in the current circumstances is not legal. Likewise the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia in an open meeting refuted the claims that what is happening now in Iraq is really jihad. He has said: 'Indeed, jihad in the cause of God is a great thing, no one doubts in its bounty or in its greatness, but the situation in Iraq differs. For our brothers in Iraq know the condition of their country and its circumstances and overall environment, and they work with their reality as they see fit.

    I imagine some complaints regarding religioius sermons have been lodged, not only by "outside forces", but by some unsuspecting parents who find out their boys aren't in Damascus going to university, but have their names posted on a jihad website as "martyrs". Not all Saudi parents are happy to have their kids' brains splattered on the pavement. Since the Saudi government controls the mosques and universities, it is obvious they are putting pressure on folks to stop convincing their 20 something young men to sneak across the border and cause the house of Saud a royal pain in the public relations.

    Continuing analyzing the insurgency, toss in things like using cows and dogs to carry explosives; some Iraqis meeting out immediate justice; operation clean sweep; operation Matador on the Iraq-Syrian border; recent news that the US and other countries have recently tied up another loop hole in transfering money to potential terrorists or their organizations through hawala by cracking down on unlicensed and unregulated organizations and, last but not least, rumors or fact of zarqawi being injured coupled with some internet confusion about who is in charge, pretty much point to a period of time when the "insurgency" is all screwed up.

    One thing is sure, whether he's wounded, dead or just doing a "strategic retreat" after pissing off so many people, replacing Zarqawi as the leader, isn't all that easy.

    Recall that these groups are small, insular cells. Working relations are built on absolute trust and not easily won. As much as some might believe otherwise, money is not handed over like candy at a barmitvah. Particularly, in today's atmosphere of slowly closing financial resources and other issues making it difficult just to "send money, will write". Requests are made and approved through regular, nearly beaurocratic processes and approved further up the food chain (see AQ manifest and other stories regarding operations, including September 11).

    Whether Zarqawi died, is wounded or just took the low road out of Dodge to save his ass, operations will be extremely slowed down for a bit. Certainly nothing like we've seen the last two months. What we will continue to see is the occasional car bomb and some drive by shootings probably committed by sectarian partisans, not necessarily Zarqawi/AQ terrorists.

    This will be further disrupted as continued sweeps and cordons of Baghdad net a few more low, medium and high value targets. With confusion in the ranks, leadership is reorganized and once long established trusting relationship between couriers and different cell leaders have to get re-established under the new guy, it is likely that some of these targets will yield up some decent intel to save their own asses.

    I expect any attacks (as seen today) to be less well coordinated and performed by amateurs who will try to get their names put forward with the new guy.

    I am not predicting them down and out for the count, but I would say, "seriously wounded".

    Thursday, May 26, 2005

    Prayers For Zarqawi

    According to Chrenchoff, immediately after the announcement of Zarqawis injury, several jihadist websites went up with forums to leave prayers for his recovery.

    In response, Chrenchoff has launched his own One Million Prayers for Capture campaign. Of course, he leaves the "capture or die" decision to the readers. Go over there and leave your own prayer or comment.

    This was my response:

    Dear Mr. al-Zarqawi,

    The Kevorkian Society has received information that you are serioulsy wounded and possibly dying a slow and painful death.

    As a charter member of our society and the top producer in assisted suicides, we'd like to offer you our platinum membership services. This membership includes:

    1) A DVD or Video taped recording of your death, artfully packaged and provided free to all of your loved ones and associates via live feed on all cable and network stations around the world.

    2) A 3ft by 5ft poster of you lying in repose and surrounded by a military escort. As we understand your religious beliefs we will try to insure they are virgins, but short notice may require some adjustments to this plan. The poster/picture of you lying in repose will be presented at a conference and also beamed around the world via cable and network news. It will then be reprinted in every newspaper from singapore to Mecca, New York and Los Angeles.

    3) Per our records, your wish is to go out in a blaze of glory. With our platinum membership, this can be easily arranged and you have a choice of procedures:

    a) AK-47s wielded by the Wolf Commando Brigade of the Iraqi army (per our agreement with them, they assure us that they will shoot you many times to insure that your final wish to die is fulfilled). This is free of charge.

    b) M16 rounds provided by the United States military, also free of charge. (they indicate that this can be done any time, night or day)

    c) A JDAM sent directly into your bedroom window with a video device that will record the spectacular moment for posterity and a second video that will record your passing from 30,000 ft or closer if you prefer. (Of course, if you prefer this method, we may not be able to provide the poster of you lying in repose with a military escort)

    If you are not sure which of these methods you wish to use to accomplish the deed, our associates in the field will be happy to assist you in making the decision.

    We understand at your final moment that you may wish to have friends and associates by your side and we will be happy to accomodate you. If any of them are feeling particularly depressed at your passing, we can arrange, also free of charge, for mass suicide by any of the selected methods above. (We also have the "surprise" package available if you wish to give them this gift without warning).

    As you may be aware, our founding member is unable to travel at this moment, but we did request volunteers for the honor of providing this service. You will be pleased to know that we received over 138,000 letters in English and several million in other assorted languages, all asking for the privilege of giving you your final wish.

    To obtain this platinum service, all you have to do is call our toll free international number 1-800-sui-cide and give us the location, date and time you wish this procedure to take place. To insure that all parts of your request are met in a timely fashion, you may need to provide a map to the location and mark it with a giant "X" on the roof. You will also need to provide us with a work and home phone number of a reliable contact person, in case of emergencies.

    As soon as we receive this information, we will dispatch the nearest team of qualified personnel to quickly and efficiently carry out the mission.

    We at the Kevorkian Society are pleased to have you as a member and hope that you are satisfied with our services. If you are, we hope that you will recommend them to your friends and family. We believe that everyone has a right to die in the manner they choose.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to call our customer service number 1-800-USA-TIPS or go to our website:

    Suicide Hotline

    Good luck and speedy death. Don't forget our motto: "keep smiling to the end".

    Dan Gerousmind

    My Opinions

    Issues of the Day Part II

    Well, yesterday's post seemed to spark some conversation and strangely some of us are not as far apart as we seem. So I thought I would try another day and see if we can't spark some controversy or conversation.

    Parental/Guardian Consent for Abortion

    I believe that children under the age of consent should have parental consent whenever medical procedures are performed and whenever medical circumstances allow. As a person that works in the medical field, we cannot provide medical equipment, medicine, much less an invasive procedure, including an IV, on anyone under the age of 18 or legal consent per state laws. The only circumstances that allow it is in medical emergencies where life and death are at issue.

    We cannot even have a child under the age of legal consent sign documents accepting delivery of relatively benign medical equipment like oxygen because it is a "legend" item (ie, prescribed by a physician). We certainly cannot have them sign legal or financial documents on behalf of themselves or even on behalf of their parent who may be receiving the services.

    As one friend recently said to me, "the school nurse can't even administer an asprin without parental consent". So, why would we allow an under aged person receive an abortion without consent?

    This is not solely an issue of government power deciding via a federal or state law. As you must know, in the court of law, an under aged person cannot consent to a number of things, including sex (ie, statutory rape if the other participant is above the age of consent). In lawsuits regarding medical mal-practice, even if the doctor had the child's name signed in blood on documents consenting to treatment, it would be thrown out in every other case.

    Except this one.

    The only exceptions I can think of denying a parent parental consent is in the case of incest or other abuse. In which case, I believe that it is a legal/criminal matter and even then, the mother or uninvolved parent (assuming it is usually the mother) could still give consent. Or, where the parents may be deemed unsuitable as guardians. In which case, I believe the state should and would be involved in determining a suitable guardian who would then have the ability to consent to treatment.

    If there is a case where no suitable guardian can be found in a near relative, I believe that outside sources could be brought in and ask the courts for an emergency hearing to determine the necessity of guardianship and the medical imperative.

    I do recall the recent incident of a 13 year old who ran away from foster care and came back pregnant. Technically, she was in state custody and the state would not consent to the abortion.

    I'm not sure which is worse, having a 13 year old with a baby or having one get an abortion.

    Yes, I know that it happens today (and at some fairly alarming rates), but I have to say that an abortion has not only medical effects but emotional as well. I do have a friend who had an abortion between her two children's birth. It's been almost ten years since then, but I recall several times over the years where she wondered what her other child would have been like had she not done so. So, I can imagine the trauma of being 13 or 15 and having these questions and issues and not having support. I've seen the "offered" counciling from planned parenthood. If it's asked for , it can be had, but does anyone think a 13 or 15 year old who can't or won't seek parental consent will actually come back for this counciling?

    My friend was an adult and didn't. I could see how it bothered her. Maybe some could be blase enough to simply treat it as the removal of cells, but I have to say that pregnancy and the idea of a living being growing inside of a woman by far usually creates a kind of bond or idea about motherhood and decisions to terminate can be tough and play on the person's mind for years. It would seem that parental consent has three important parts to play:

    1) Legal as all medical procedures are guided by this principal and protects both the patient and the physician.

    2) Support because it is a tough decision and a pregnant child already has many worries on their mind.

    3) Doesn't the parent have the right to know and to intercede if their child is having unsafe and unprotected sex?

    I know the last two are subjective and dependent on the child's home, but I believe that, while there may be some recriminations, by far, familial support plays a role in child development and certainly, if we should not be interfering in other issues of parental rights, we should not be interfering with this one. I might also mention that pregnant 13 and 15 year olds (just using those ages as examples) don't all come from disadvantaged or troubled homes.

    I also believe that pre and post counciling should be mandatory for underaged children who have this procedure. That, I wouldn't demand, but think it's a good idea.

    But the first issue, coming from a health compliance background, is a matter of previously set legal precedent and has a puprose that does not include embarassing or traumatizing a pregnant teen, but is there to protect everyone involved, medically, legally and financially.

    Wednesday, May 25, 2005

    Linked By a Snarky Lefty

    My Opinions

    Cruising the referrals, I caught site of this gentleman's blog, Alicublog, who had the graciousness to link to my commentary on Al Sadr = Jesse Jackson.

    From his snarky (though humorous) commentary, I take it he didn't appreciate the comaprison nor does he appreciate any one claiming to be a previous "liberal" and converting to conservatism, nor claims of being ostrasized by once close friends. Such as Cinnamon Stillwell and Keith Thomson.

    Well, if any bothered to read my history, they'd know that I probably never was a "liberal" in the class of anything goes (libertine), but more like a conservative Democrat that had no quarrels with most folks.

    However, it is a fact that my friend Roy would like to claim doesn't exist, but it is my life after all, that in January of 2003, prior to the Iraq war, I did have a friend, a close friend, who declared their inability to speak to me on the grounds that I was brainwashed or some such thing. And, it is a fact that a second friend, also a close friend, who, upon discovering that I did not support Sen. Kerry for President, also declared their inability to speak to me and did not for eight months.

    As a matter of fact, she finally sent me an email in March for my birthday asking me how I was after I had left several messages over the convening months asking her how she was, why didn't she give me a call on such and such day and here's my home and cell phone # just in case she had misplaced it.

    It isn't a lie nor a whine. It just happened.

    It's the truth that the last elections were full of vitriol and angst. And, it did bleed over into relationships.

    The one thing I can say is that it never had any impact at my work, mainly because the only politics that came up were discussions on the newest policies enacted that would effect our business from healthcare legislation, patient rights to taxes. Other than than, none. Not because I was afraid of talking to people about in case of being shunned, but because, in the course of business and even friendly discussions about personal life, no one brought it up. I felt no need to either since it had no place in my work.

    However, I'd say that, if I was a writer for a newspaper or a professor at a school where politics were regularly discussed and disected, I imagine that there would be some issues in the work place.

    My snarky lefty friend does make the common mistake that all who call themselves "liberal" do and that is to imagine that we are all waiting over here on the right to strip away civil liberties and stomp on the poor person while at the same time decrying what he perceives as the right's stereotyping folks from the left as commies, all homosexuals as potential pedophiles, etc, etc

    Tsk. Tsk.

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    But, he does do it with a sense of humor.

    Almost sounded like Scott for a minute. *wink*

    For the record, as I once told some conservative friends, I'm not conservative by any means. Rather, I like when somebody shakes up the norm once in awhile, challenges dogma and ideas supposedly set in stone. I like radical change and hate status quo.

    Frankly, it seemed pretty apparent after 9/11 that, in the realm of geo-politics, the status quo couldn't stand. Something had to give and it seemed like the US was one of the few countries that could or would do it. Certianly, the whole situation seems to be like walking through an alligator infested swamp filled with quick sand and a whole chicken tied to our leg. The area of world politics had barely ever crossed my mind until the last few years and now I pay attention.

    Stem Cell Research.

    I think we should do it, but I think it should be strictly controlled. It can hold the key to developing cures for diseases that I am all to familiar with from a professional and personal stand point. However, I do think that there is a risk that developing embryos for profit can occur and this is a danger. It is the same risk that forced the creation of the national organ donors data base to insure that, as much as humanly possible, the concept of illegal harvesting of organs to sell does not come to pass since this then creates the motives for criminal endeavors including theft and murder.

    Therefore, I am not opposed to it, but do believe that it should be strictly monitored and regulated. If there are other areas of stem cell research that can be advanced and has better results, I believe this should be pursued.


    I don't like it. I do believe that it is a net negative approach to shirking responsibility for practicing safe and protected sex in many, if not most, cases. I don't think the federal courts should have set in precedent that guaranteed it and I do believe it is the state's right and responsibility to allow or disallow it as an elective procedure to end pregnancy. Medically necessary abortions are without question appropriate. The question of partial birth abortions as an elective procedure, even to end a pregancy where the child may have physical defects, seems very barbaric and unnecessary. Further, it seems abortion has become about the money. Mainly, those who do not want to have a child so that their economic status is not hindered, whether from a healthy or disabled child, also seems cold and calculating.

    But, what I've said bothers me the most about it is that birth control is readily available in all forms, cheap or for free. Basic forms of birth control are available on store shelves, from condoms, to foam, to little spermicidal suppositories. It's on television. Not that I object to that, it was just embarrassing the night we were watching a scary movie with my nephews and the Trojan Man came on during commercial break. My 10 year old nephew told me he wanted to see at cartoon. I told him he probably would next year at school. Sex education is in every school starting as young as grade school.

    So, yes, I have a problem with abortion. Particularly, as a birth control method when less harmful (both physically and psychologically) and invasive methods are available, cheaper and certainly provides safety from the spread of disease, which I've discussed before as being on the upswing in teenagers, young adults and women.

    Gay Marriage.

    Do I care if someone is gay? No. Do I care if they live with someone who is gay? No. Do I care if they make a legal bond with each other? No. Do I have concerns about making same sex marriage legal? Yes. Not on moral grounds, but because it has certain legal and financial connotations for the future. Not in defining family, because family, though relatively similar through out the ages, has changed, regardless of whether we like to acknowledge it or not. Families are no longer simply a man and a woman and children. They are a man and his current wife and their children from previous marriages and the ex-spouses of those two and the children of the ex-spouses new mates.

    The legal and financial connotations of the future, as I have previously written, would be legalized same sex marriages that allowed people to basically create a symbolic marriage, between to men or two women, without romantic or physical relations, in order to take advantage of legal protections offered to spouses, insurance benefits, financial credit or assistance, custody of children or property, a whole gamut of issues that our legal and financial systems are not ready to handle these situations.

    I prefer, before we jump into this with both feet, that these issues be recognized and addressed by our body politic and not subborned under rhetoric from either side about morality or simple "civil rights". If it was that simple, the libertarian in me would support it. The "liberal" in me remembers things like "separate but equal" and the Mann Act used to persecute inter-racial marriages.

    Still, the conservative in me does hint around once in awhile about whether this was the intent of nature. I'd be able to suppress that and swallow the civil rights issues if I wasn't concerned about the other ramifications.

    Gay Tolerance Education In Schools.

    While I abhor mindless intolerance, I do question whether this is necessary. I don't mean simple things like Gay Straight Alliance clubs in schools. I do mean having specific reading for children as young as kindergarten. By far, schools have left their original intent and purpose of education and taken on aspects of social engineering. Some might claim that schools have long been studies in "social engineering" since the first desegragation act or even long before, when public schools brought children of all social backgrounds together.

    Still, I wonder how prevalent any real activities of intolerance kindergarteners could possibly be involved in. Secondly, if regular social behavior is taught and children are exposed to people of different race, creed or sexual orientation, there is the overall effect of "socialization" that takes place. I am at a loss why, above all other issues of tolerance, there is a special push and outcry for such "tolerance" education in schools. I know there are some that want to remind me of all the redneck racist bigots who allegedly populate this world and teach their children to be mean and intolerant, but I disagree that there are so many in this country raising little redneck children to bash gays.

    One thing that I am sure of is that sex education and any such "tolerance" education should be announced to parents and allow them to decide if their children can attend. I believe this because, as my civil liberties friends should believe, not doing so infringes on parental rights and smacks of "abuse of state power". But, I don't want to forget that my civil liberty friends only believe in certain civil liberties and believe that the power of the state should be used to infringe or smash others.

    Beyond insuring a safe place to learn and punishing those that do persecute or harm those of different sects of society, I don't believe that grade school is an appropriate venue to discuss homosexuality.

    I am also sure that there is no possible way to legislate, educate or otherwise create some utopia where everyone believes as the other and loves everyone. It just does not happen. However, what has happened over the years is that there has been an acceptance that persecution of people due to their gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation is not acceptable to society and certainly not acts of violence against any such people.

    That is the basis of good society, not tolerance education forced on kindergartners.

    Gay Adoption.

    In my mind, neither side has presented enough statistical data to support the concept that children are or are not influenced by their parents' sexuality. Both sides have certainly provided their own studies, but, to date, I have not found one that I would consider "unbiased".

    What I do know is that children can become aware of their sexuality at early ages, want to explore the difference, even in relatively innocent ways and, by nature, are relatively ambiguous about their sexuality until they are between 8 and 12 (by some studies; others have it younger, but I believe the picture is clear). They also have a tendency to form closer relationships with children of their own sex before becoming aware of the opposite sex. It seems to me that during this ambiguous stage, a childs preferences can be influenced by a number of things, not the least of which is what has been presented to them as the "norm".

    Further, it is confusing to me in this day and age when there is much discussion about the importance of nurturing and its influence on children, how the idea that sexual orientation of the parents and its influence on children can simultaneously be denied by the supporters of such an endeavor.

    So, until I read and decipher for myself a full, long term, unbiased study on its affects, I have to side with caution and say I disagree with this concept.

    And, yes, to my liberal friends, I'm quite aware of the number of children in foster care or in need of adoption. In reality, the number has been pretty big long before the idea of adopting children to gay couples or singles came about. Further, I question whether this is really effective as a means of increasing adoptions and foster care since the gay population is estimated at 3 to 4% of our own and certainly, as in other demographics, the actual number of gay couples or singles who are willing to adopt or do foster care barely puts a dent in the number of available children.

    I know it may seem painful to admit, but my conservative friends may be correct and this growing and painful phenomenom is a direct result of the breakdown of the family unit in the first place. I have yet to hear a liberal friend give me a better explanation, but I have heard ideas on treating the symptoms: parenting classes; welfare; therapy; etc.

    None of these seems like a cure as opposed to some good, old fashion doses of responsibility thrown in with some peer pressure from society.

    Oops. I said "old fashioned" and "responsbility".

    I know when I've said this to some of my liberal friends before, it's been brushed aside as if I was talking about alien concepts or as if I was not compassionate or understanding to the problems of modern family and child rearing in this cold and heartless world. Or worse yet, I was trying to strip away individuality by suggesting that maybe conformity to some ideas had a purpose that has served humanity for eons and is still servicable.

    Funny, though, those that I've had this conversation with are people who take their own responsibilities very seriously when it comes to family and children. It's always those "others" we are talking about that are incapable of doing the same.

    I just wonder who those "others" are?


    A good idea gone horribly wrong. What can I say? I've seen the best and the worst of this system, including those that are in a precarious state and could use some assistance to come about and would come about being turned away because they make $150 to much to qualify. I've seen sick people on fixed incomes turned away for the same reason or forced to use "spin down" or "share of cost" (ie, pay bills to a certain amount before it will kick in) and basically make themselves destitute to the point where they have to sell everything (including home, cars, etc) and empty their checking and savings to get assistance. I've known people who are on housing assistance, Medicaid and food stamps who are perfectly healthy and capable of working, doing only the minimum necessary to show they are doing something. At the same time, these people were partying three or four times a week, selling their food stamps for money to get booze, cigarettes and even drugs.

    This is not anecdotal from somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody. This is straight up personal experience.

    I have family members that actually needed it to keep from going under (I mean way under) and I have had a distant family member call and ask to borrow money to pay their electric bill because it was shut off after the same person had just shown me three days prior a two hundred dollar phone they had purchased with speaker, answering machine and a number of other nifty features that left me wondering why they needed it. Since they had two small children, I felt compelled to assist, but I also felt it necessary to hand the money over with a lecture about responsibility. Needless to say, they didn't call me again.

    Part of me felt guilty about it at the same time righteously indignant that this person held so little understanding of responsibility and would put themselves and their children at risk for lack of it.

    By the way, this person attended no less than three different parenting and budget courses, to no avail. Responsibility and work ethic. I'm thinking even my liberal friends would not feel comfortable with this kind of behavior.

    Needless to say, I think our current welfare system is a beauracratic heap of crap that has an incredible amount of paperwork, regulations and ineffective hodgepodge of programs that are not streamlined nor organized in any manner to really have the type of impact it should in helping people stand on their feet or support those who are really in need.

    I've definitely seen private organizations and programs that were more successful.

    I'll be adding to "My Opinions" in the next few days.