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Old 06-02-2005, 11:10 PM   #16
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Friend-or-foe frustration
Attacks leave U.S. troops with little choice but to suspect everyone

Anna Badkhen, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Sgt. 1st Class Louis D'Angelo tosses a bag of flour looki... Sajida Turki, sister of two suspected insurgents, signs a... Samarra, Iraq. Chronicle Graphic


Samarra, Iraq -- Sgt. 1st Class Louis D'Angelo is angry.

Stomping on clothes, frying pans and construction tools strewn on the floor, D'Angelo storms into the living room where frightened Iraqi children cling to women in black abayas.

"They don't have weapons? They don't have weapons?" D'Angelo bellows, holding up two clips for a Kalashnikov semiautomatic rifle he has just found in the family's bedroom.

Soldiers from D'Angelo's unit, 2nd Platoon of the B Company of the 3-69 Armored Battalion, 42nd Infantry Division, are searching the downtown Samarra house of a suspected insurgent, Jamal Faluh Jasem, whom U.S. troops have arrested at least once for weapons possession. Jasem is not home.

They go from room to room, sifting through the family's meager possessions, tossing them on the floor. One of the women huddling on the living room carpet, they learn, is the sister of two other suspected insurgents, Ali Turki and Abu Basset Turki. But those men are not here either.

This angers D'Angelo further. Marching into a small bedroom, he spots three burlap bags lying in the corner. He rips the bags open with a pocket knife and spreads the spilled flour evenly across the floor with his combat boot, looking for hidden weapons. Nothing.

"We've been here since January," D'Angelo says, his voice raspy with rage. "I had two people shot. My track guy was hit with a VBIED (vehicle-born improvised explosive device, or car bomb), and we hit two land mines. With all that consideration it gets more personal." Many of the 1,200 U.S. soldiers in Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, share D'Angelo's sentiment. Day after day, they face elusive Iraqi insurgents, who launch hit-and-run attacks on coalition troops, making Samarra, home to about 150,000 mostly Sunni Arabs, one of the most volatile cities in Iraq.

Last week, two suicide car bombs blew up outside the southern wall of Patrol Base Uvanni, situated in the center of the town. Simultaneously, insurgents lobbed mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades at the base from the surrounding residential neighborhoods. The explosions destroyed an Iraqi house and damaged two others, killing at least one Iraqi civilian. The impact also threw a U.S. medic off the bunk, cutting his face. The organizers of the attack, like most of Samarra's elusive insurgents, were never found.

Attacks such as this leave increasingly frustrated U.S. soldiers with little choice but to suspect everybody.

At Jasem's house, soldiers of the 2nd Platoon have unearthed several rounds of Kalashnikov ammunition, a homemade shoulder-mounted missile launcher, a coil of copper wire and what looks like a detonator for a home-made bomb in the family's backyard. In a house next door, they find a rocket-propelled grenade.

"That's one less sniper bullet for us to get shot with, one less RPG round for us to get hit with, one less coil of wire for IEDs (homemade bombs), " says D'Angelo.

He turns to Pfc. Matthew Ghadban :

"Go in the sh-tter there and check it out. Look in the washer. These people hide stuff everywhere."

Ghadban tosses towels on the bathroom floor, and feels through a quarter- full burlap sack with sugar.

In the living room, Capt. Ryan Wylie interrogates Jasem's wife, Kaukem Abbas. She denies that her husband has anything to do with insurgents.

"I swear on the Quran that we have no weapons here," Abbas says, as other women try to hide their mouths behind their abayas. They look apprehensively at Wylie, who towers above them. He asks them to identify the men on documents Wylie's soldiers have found in a square tin in the bedroom. The women appear to know nothing about the men's whereabouts.

There's nothing more Wylie can learn here. He hands Jasem's wife $80, in U.S. bills, to compensate for the gate the platoon mowed down with a Bradley fighting vehicle earlier to get into the courtyard. The soldiers clamber into their Bradleys and take off. The vehicles raise clouds of fine dust as they rattle through downtown Samarra, past the 9th century Malwiya spiral minaret that dominates the city's skyline.

Now comes another part of the unit's mission.

In an alley a few blocks away, the Bradleys screech to a halt. Pungent black liquid seeps down the gutter that bisects the alley. Children and some adults stand in the gates, watching the Americans dismount from their Bradleys and fan out into the street, shaking hands and handing out notepads, toothpaste and crayons to children.

"The soldiers' ability to turn from one thing to another is amazing. They are engaging the enemy, and 20 minutes later, they are handing out candy to kids," says Col. Mark Wald, commander of the 3-69 Armored Battalion who was raised in Saratoga and graduated from UC Berkeley.

As Lt. Ronald Hudak chats up local residents in fluent Arabic he had learned since his February deployment, and Cpl. Ed Capps tosses a soccer ball with a rowdy pack of kids, soldiers enter the tallest residential building in the neighborhood and walk up the steep, narrow stairs to the rooftop. From there, they scan the horizon for enemy fighters. Inadvertently, they scare two women, who run to a second-floor room and stand, rooted, in the corner.

Below, several soldiers kneel in the shade of sandstone buildings, holding their M-16 and M-4 rifles at the ready. D'Angelo surveys the alley from the turret of his Bradley.

The military calls this "cordon and talk," an attempt to win the hearts and minds of Samarra residents while aiming to minimize casualties in the process.

"You just say, 'shoku-moku' -- 'wassup?' " Hudak explains. "If they share an emotional connection with us, they overcome their fear, and maybe tell us where insurgents are. If you show up at their house and ask them: 'Where are the terrorists?,' they say: 'I don't know.' "

Before tossing handfuls of candy in the air, Ghadban makes the children chant, in unison, a rapper's name: "Suge Knight, Suge Knight!"

Spc. Shimson Welch tells the kids to chant the name of the veteran American porn star, Ron Jeremy.

Imad Fleih Asam, who runs a small grocery store, throws a bottle of cold Coca-Cola to Sgt. Michael Johnson, the gunner on one of the Bradleys. "America good," Asam says. "I love America."

How sincere this is, Wylie does not know.

"These people are all about surviving, and they'll say whatever they think you want them to say," says Wylie. "They know their life will be better if they show us they are friendly to us, but they also know they have to appear, if nothing else, condoning of the terrorists."

A couple of hours later, having run out candy and soccer balls, the 2nd Platoon heads back to base.

In a makeshift war room there, Lt. Nathan Adams examines the ordnance the soldiers have found, trying to match up the rocket-propelled grenade with a military manual on small missiles, guessing how long the sand-caked missile launcher had been lying in the ground.

Suddenly, a loud snap goes off on the eastern side of the base, followed by a hollow boom to its west. One, two, three mortar rounds hit near the base, the last one just behind an abandoned school yard 200 yards outside the base's walls. Dust and smoke rise from behind the pink school building. A rocket- propelled grenade hits somewhere outside the base with a smaller pop.

"Overshot," Wylie comments, calmly. "Must be letting rookies shoot nowadays."

A few minutes later, the base is shaken as two mortar shells explode inside Uvanni's anti-blast walls, spewing shrapnel.

"Get in! Get in!" somebody shouts.

In the war room, Wylie hears that the attack likely came from the area the 2nd Platoon had been searching earlier in the day. Wylie looks for an explanation.

"What if this is Abu Basset, who came back and got pissed off that we'd knocked down his gate?"
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Old 06-09-2005, 12:30 AM   #17
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Marines 'beat US workers' in Iraq

Contractors say they were treated like insurgents

Jamie Wilson in Washington
Thursday June 9, 2005


A group of American security guards in Iraq have alleged they were beaten, stripped and threatened with a snarling dog by US marines when they were detained after an alleged shooting incident outside Falluja last month.

"I never in my career have treated anybody so inhumane," one of the contractors, Rick Blanchard, a former Florida state trooper, wrote in an email quoted in the Los Angeles Times. "They treated us like insurgents, roughed us up, took photos, hazed [bullied] us, called us names."

A Marine Corps spokesman denied that abuse had taken place and said an investigation was continuing. According to the marines, 19 employees of Zapata Engineering, including 16 Americans, were detained after a marine patrol in Falluja reportedbeing fired on by a convoy of trucks and sports utility vehicles. The marines also claim to have seen gunmen in the convoy fire at civilians.

This is believed to be the first time that private military contractors have been detained in Iraq by the US military, and it has reignited debate about their status and accountability.

The security guards claim the shooting incident was a case of mistaken identity. A spokeswoman for the company told the LA Times that the guards had fired warning shots into the air when an unidentified vehicle approached their vehicle as it passed through Falluja, but had not fired at any marines.

Mark Schopper, a lawyer for two of the contractors, told the newspaper that his clients, both former marines, were subjected to "physical and psychological abuse". He said they had told him that marines had "slammed around" several con tractors, stripped them to their underwear and placed a loaded weapon near their heads.

"How does it feel to be a big, rich contractor now?" one of the marines is alleged to have shouted at the men, in an apparent reference to the large sums of money private contractors can make in Iraq.

Lieutenant Colonel David Lapan, a Marine Corps spokesman, who did not respond to emails from the Guardian, said in an email to the LA Times: "The Americans were segregated from the rest of the detainee population and, like all security detainees, were treated humanely and respectfully."

The American contractors, who were working in explosives disposal, were arrested on May 18 and imprisoned for three days. All have since left Zapata Engineering, which is based in North Carolina, and have returned to the US. They also complained they were made to wear orange prison uniforms and fed the same "bad food" as Iraqi prisoners.

According to Peter Singer, a Brookings Institute scholar and author of the book Corporate Warriors, private military contractors in Iraq are operating in a black hole as they do not fall within the military chain of command. "What appears to have happened here is tension between forces bubbling to the surface," he told the Guardian.

But he said the incident also raised the question of what happens to contractors if they are caught doing something wrong, such as firing on civilians, as their legal status is not defined. "If the marines think [the contractors] did do something illegal there is no process they can go through. Who are they going to hand them over to?" Mr Singer said. "There have been more than 20,000 [contractors] on the ground in Iraq for more than two years and not one has been prosecuted for anything."
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Old 06-09-2005, 11:00 PM   #18
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Strained US Army relaxes new officer requirements

By Will DunhamThu Jun 9, 6:35 PM ET

The U.S. Army, facing recruiting woes and a reorganized force, will relax requirements for new officers, welcoming older candidates and allowing more tolerance of past minor crimes, officials said on Thursday.

Trying to stem the loss of current personnel, the Army also has made it more difficult to kick soldiers out of the military for alcohol or drug abuse, being overweight or "unsatisfactory performance," according to a recent memo.

"We are an Army at war and increasing levels of attrition of first-term enlisted soldiers in both the training base and units is a matter of great concern," the memo stated.

These changes come as the Army struggles amid the Iraq war to sign up new soldiers at the same time it restructures its force to add numerous additional combat brigades. The regular Army has missed four straight monthly recruiting goals and is in danger of missing its first annual goal since 1999.

Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman, said in a statement the Army was seeking 300 currently enlisted soldiers and 300 civilians with college degrees, up to age 42, to enter Officer Candidate School. Its graduates are second lieutenants, the Army's lowest-ranking officer.

The average age for graduates of the 14-week program is 27. Hilferty said current policy normally requires a waiver for anyone over 30 to enter the school. The oldest person to get such a waiver was 40, Hilferty said.

A May 25 memo also stated commanders "may recommend waiver of civil or military offenses" that otherwise might disqualify an applicant.
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Old 06-10-2005, 06:22 AM   #19
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I don't think we should pull all of the troops out just yet. I opposed the invasion, not because I had any love for Saddam, but hell, there are many odious dictators all over the globe, and we have a "normal" relationship with China, which sure as hell isn't a democracy. That said Iraq is a mess, and we need to finish what we started.
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Old 06-10-2005, 07:50 AM   #20
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i think NATO should take on the peacekeeping missions, and US soldiers should be under NATO command where they are deployed. But then, thats not exactly possible if you decide to attack some country against the public opinion pretty much everywhere.
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Old 06-11-2005, 03:08 AM   #21
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wothdrawing all the us troops and the u.s. having no troops stationed anywhere would not be good for the world over .....im sorry im not trying to be rude but this might be the most stupid question ever asked on an internet forum anywhere.. us troops lead the world in helping with humanitarian aid and getting it to where it needs to get to....but lets take them out of everywhere..

jesus christ and thank god you arent running any government in the world..your comment is so stupid it beats the ignorant comment i read on this site where soemone said that americans have no taste in music. meanwhile its because of america that u2 and coldplay and other bands have made it so big and remained relevant to begin with. thats why u2 schedule more concerts in new york and boston and chicago and every other big city in america compared to everywhere else...

the u.s. troops should never answer to nato. the UN doesnt want to do it, the US will. we are the greatest country on the face of the earth. the world wants to rely on us to fix all its problems, because obviously the UN wont, or is so inept it cant do anything,we should do it our way or the highway.


im not saying you are saying this, but i love it when people or countries bad mouth america. because then i find it extremely funny when they need americas help. like for example all the ignorant young irish people i meet every night on mclean avenue in yonkers who bad mouth bush and america but need america to help with the peace process in ireland and call on america to help with the good friday agreement and everything else associated with it.
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Old 06-11-2005, 05:24 AM   #22
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Originally posted by NYRangers78
like for example all the ignorant young irish people i meet every night on mclean avenue in yonkers who bad mouth bush and america but need america to help with the peace process in ireland and call on america to help with the good friday agreement and everything else associated with it.
The Bush administration's stance on Northern Ireland is non-interventionist for the most part, just a few subtle nudges now and again. And I agree with their policy in that regard. Hey, even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.
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Old 06-11-2005, 07:36 AM   #23
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on a side note:

hey finance, im not badmouthing irish people in ireland, my parents are from ireland, but if you ever wanna hear ignorance being spewed left and right, come to america for a holiday and listen to the young irish who are living in america, illegally, and taking construction jobs away from american union workers badmouthing bush, and this ocuntry left and right. if america is so bad, then why are they here??? if america is so bad, and the celtic tiger is so fierce and great, than why are they here in america and badmouthing Bush, America, and americans? they practically yell this shite on the streets and everything..can u shed any light on this?
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Old 06-11-2005, 07:38 AM   #24
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No but I'll have a think about it. It is a strange phenomenon right enough
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Old 06-11-2005, 07:58 PM   #25
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Originally posted by NYRangers78
wothdrawing all the us troops and the u.s. having no troops stationed anywhere would not be good for the world over .....im sorry im not trying to be rude but this might be the most stupid question ever asked on an internet forum anywhere.. us troops lead the world in helping with humanitarian aid and getting it to where it needs to get to....but lets take them out of everywhere..

jesus christ and thank god you arent running any government in the world..your comment is so stupid it beats the ignorant comment i read on this site where soemone said that americans have no taste in music. meanwhile its because of america that u2 and coldplay and other bands have made it so big and remained relevant to begin with. thats why u2 schedule more concerts in new york and boston and chicago and every other big city in america compared to everywhere else...

the u.s. troops should never answer to nato. the UN doesnt want to do it, the US will. we are the greatest country on the face of the earth. the world wants to rely on us to fix all its problems, because obviously the UN wont, or is so inept it cant do anything,we should do it our way or the highway.


im not saying you are saying this, but i love it when people or countries bad mouth america. because then i find it extremely funny when they need americas help. like for example all the ignorant young irish people i meet every night on mclean avenue in yonkers who bad mouth bush and america but need america to help with the peace process in ireland and call on america to help with the good friday agreement and everything else associated with it.
I think the poster was just trying to create a discussion attacking him is the only "stupid" and "ignorant" thing I've seen in here.
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Old 06-11-2005, 09:06 PM   #26
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Originally posted by NYRangers78
on a side note:

hey finance, im not badmouthing irish people in ireland, my parents are from ireland, but if you ever wanna hear ignorance being spewed left and right, come to america for a holiday and listen to the young irish who are living in america, illegally, and taking construction jobs away from american union workers badmouthing bush, and this ocuntry left and right. if america is so bad, then why are they here??? if america is so bad, and the celtic tiger is so fierce and great, than why are they here in america and badmouthing Bush, America, and americans? they practically yell this shite on the streets and everything..can u shed any light on this?
Hey, this is America. However they got here, legally or illegally, they are here now. And it's called freedom of speech. You don't have to like what they say. You don't even have to agree. Or what I say. And I say Georgie, Jr. is a jackass, the U.S. is NOT the greatest country on earth, and a lot of fellow Americans have an arrogance that I don't like one damn bit.

I don't know why they think or say things like that, but, hey, it's America.

And before you start beefing about how 'they're not here legally' thing, so what? I wish they were all legal. Immigration is part of the life blood of this country; one of the things that helps keep our society from becoming static and homogenous.
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Old 06-11-2005, 09:10 PM   #27
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LEGAL immigration should be the lifeblood of america...illegal immigrants come in here and arent tested, many have conviction records...but hey what the hell..let them all come in here and kill and rape everyone.....make them all legal....lol.
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Old 06-11-2005, 09:18 PM   #28
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Originally posted by NYRangers78
LEGAL immigration should be the lifeblood of america...illegal immigrants come in here and arent tested, many have conviction records...but hey what the hell..let them all come in here and kill and rape everyone.....make them all legal....lol.
Yes because we know the only reason people come to America is to rape and kill. Damn you are on a role.
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Old 06-11-2005, 09:19 PM   #29
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Oh yeah, like people actually come here just and only and simply to commit break-ins and rapes....

Anyway, criminals who come here are not likely to "practically yell this shite on the streets".
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Old 06-11-2005, 09:28 PM   #30
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i didnt say the irish yelling it were criminals... and who said they were committing crimes.? i just said they were yelling derogatory comments about america on more than one occasion....but generally speaking..there are a lot of illegal immigrants, particularly in california that are ex convicts and rapists...
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