Kirkuk, a tale of two cities

After decades of Saddam’s manipulative ethnic policies, is there a chance for this city to live in peace, or will divisiveness, revenge and greed for oil be the pattern here…and for the rest of Iraq?

Down a potholed road, past a cemetery where her ancestors are buried, Farida Said sits on the floor of a darkened tent in the pouring rain, 10 feet from an open latrine. Farida, a Kurd, was born in Kirkuk as was her father and grandfather. Before being expelled in 1991, she once owned a house here.

Across the street in a modest home sits Riyadh Hasan, a soft-spoken geography teacher and ethnic Arab who came to Kirkuk in 1978 as part of Saddam Hussein’s effort to Arabise the city.

Both Farida and Riyadh have become political footballs in a highly emotional, sometimes violent contest between Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, Christians and even foreign states, over who should live in Kirkuk and who should control the oil-rich city from which half of all Iraq’s oil exports flow.

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Bittersweet times for war widows

As Ft Campbell, KY eagerly awaits the return of the 101st Airborne Division from Iraq, some won’t share that joy.

The widows living in the military community 50 miles north of Nashville have until now been able to blend in with the other spouses living without a loved one. Some spouses go weeks without hearing from their soldiers in Iraq. It can be awkward and painful for the widows, however, as others excitedly plan reunion parties and resume life with their military spouses. Already, the first planeloads of an expected 20,000 soldiers from the 101st have started to return.

Christine Bellavia, whose husband, Sgt. Joseph Bellavia, 28, was killed Oct. 16 in Karbala, acknowledges she’s ”a little jealous” of the other spouses. She looks forward to talking to her husband’s buddies but still dreads the homecomings. ”That’s going to be the hardest thing for me,” said Bellavia, 32, of Clarksville, Tenn…

The enormity of the emotions associated with seeing others return hit her last year at an airport as she was returning from her husband’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. A crowd at the airport applauded when a group of soldiers walked by, and tears welled up in Bellavia’s eyes. She was holding the box with the American flag from her husband’s burial inside. ”It was like they got to come home,” said Bellavia, who is studying to be a nurse. ”It was like, not fair.”
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The Pentagon fibs again

Once more, our troops have been “misled” about the length of their deployment. They were assured they would serve no longer than one year in Iraq, which is a very long time when you are a target in an unnecessary war “chosen” for you by the Bush Administration. During an October 2003 interview with Stars & Stripes, prompted by reports of morale problems among military personnel serving in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, in response to questions about troop rotation stated, “At this point there’s still a lot of discussion going on. But I think that the message is clear to American military forces that they’ll be on the ground for a year. That’s for (U.S. Central Command) and Washington – with, of course, input from me – to figure out how we’ll replace them.”

Now it turns out the message wasn’t clear and that some are not going to be allowed to leave Iraq even after their year on the ground is up, much to the anger and dismay of their families. This is in addition to a series of stop-loss and stop-movement orders issued over the last several months, effectively changing military service from voluntary to compulsary, the most recent order on 1/9/2004. Not being able to trust the words of your superiors must be the ultimate morale breaker. Our troops all deserve far better than this; they deserve to come home, and immediately would not be too soon.

“This is the worst news,” said Jessica Corey, 29, whose husband flies Black Hawk helicopters for the unit. “Besides being absolutely stunned, we’re completely heartbroken, too.”

The Pentagon announced this week that 1,500 soldiers, National Guardsmen and reservists would be forced to stay in Iraq beyond their one-year rotation dates…

Other U.S. Army Europe units from Germany affected include: the 19th Combat Support Center from Wiesbaden; the 27th Transportation Battalion, with units in Hanau and Bamberg; the 71st Corps Support Battalion, from Bamberg; and the 181st Transportation Battalion, from Mannheim. All of them deployed to Iraq between January and March 2003.

Thousands more soldiers just missed a similar fate. A Pentagon spokesman, who requested anonymity, said U.S. Central Command at first sought permission to extend at least 50 units beyond their first anniversary. The Department of Defense pared the list by more than three-fourths.…..Read more

Death Toll Tops 500

CentCom reports:

Three 4th Infantry Division soldiers and two Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members were killed this morning at approximately 7:45 a.m. when their combat patrol was ambushed with an improvised explosive device north of Baghdad

In another incident, a US soldier died from a non-hostile gunshot wound.

These deaths bring the US death toll since March 20th to 502, and the total since the war “ended” to 363. Unfortunately, the Iraqi resistance movement has sure “brought it on”: 297 American soldiers have died since Bush’s infamous invitation for more violence (July 2nd). Major news outlets, in particular the Associated Press, report that today’s deaths bring the US total to 500. CNN reports the total as 501. The discrepancy in the count may stem from two recent incidents. First,a still unnamed US solider died of a heart-attack in Qatar, while on the 5th of January the DoD released the name of a Spc. Luke P. Frist who died in an Army hospital in the US from wounds received in an attack on his fuel truck in Iraq. Finally, — a website that meticulously reports and databases deaths in Iraq — shows the total as 502.

Whatever the total — 500, 501, 502 — too many young American men and women have died to wreak chaos in a distant land, increase the scope of the government’s power and ensure the reelection of a interventionist administration. will continue to track this cost of war until all troops and American influence leave Iraq.

To do your part in spreading the word of this costly war, place a “casualty counter” on your web site.

UPDATE 3 am EST: A car bomb exploded outside the coalition headquarters in Baghdad, reportedly killing 18 Iraqis and 2 American contractors.


That’s the projected price of “defense” for 2004. Why so much higher than the $399 billion Pentagon budget request?

Many of the Pentagon’s new expenses are unplanned, indirect consequences of the continued fighting. The Army, for instance, is shipping home and reconditioning the tanks and combat vehicles that spearheaded last spring’s attack on Baghdad.

That unanticipated cost is $12 billion to $19 billion this year and each year on into the future as forces rotate through the combat zones, Army Gen. Paul Kern, who oversees the effort, said in an interview. … Continue reading “$461,000,000,000”