Monday, April 02, 2007

Baquba, Iraq

BAQUBA, Iraq, March 31 — In the last moments of his life, Sgt. First Class Benjamin L. Sebban saw the flatbed truck speed into the concertina wire guarding his small Army patrol base near Baquba.

“Everybody get down! Get down!” he screamed. Soldiers dropped to the ground.

A combination of the strong wire and muddy gravel stopped the bomber, who then detonated explosives packed into the truck bed. A 50-foot-wide fireball enveloped the base, an L-shaped school that weeks earlier had served as an insurgent hide-out. Soldiers were slammed into walls and windows, they later recalled, battered by pieces of brick and glass turned into shrapnel.

Unaware of a deep wound beneath his body armor, Sergeant Sebban, a 29-year-old medic, shook off the blast and staggered to his first-aid station to treat casualties, other soldiers recalled. “Let’s get ready!” he shouted, one soldier said. Then he collapsed. He bled to death even before the evacuation helicopter arrived to carry him away, 17 minutes after the 6 p.m. attack.

At almost precisely the same time another helicopter landed in Baquba. It carried Col. David Sutherland, commander of the American combat brigade in Diyala Province. He was returning from the large military base in Balad, where he had visited wounded soldiers and gone to the morgue, where he saluted and then prayed as he placed his hands on a long black body bag containing the body of a military policeman killed that day by a sniper in Baquba.

It had been a long day for Colonel Sutherland and his brigade chaplain, Maj. Charlie Fenton, who have taken it on themselves to visit every dead and badly wounded soldier in the 5,000-strong unit, the Third Brigade Combat Team of the First Cavalry Division.

But it was still not over. After arriving in Baquba, Major Fenton walked into the brigade headquarters and heard Colonel Sutherland on a loudspeaker informing officers that a soldier from another brigade had committed suicide in Muqdadiya. Then he was handed a list of nine new casualties, the dead and the wounded. At the top was Sergeant Sebban. Four hours later, he and Colonel Sutherland climbed into another helicopter, bound once again for Balad. “We’ve never had to see this many at once,” Major Fenton said as he walked in darkness in helmet and body armor to the landing pad just after 11 p.m., trailed by soldiers grasping stacks of Purple Hearts in navy blue leather cases.

The two officers have made the round trip to Balad more than 70 times since arriving in October. But on that day, March 17, the brigade suffered its highest daily toll, with two dead and 14 wounded.

Altogether, the unit has seen 39 soldiers die in five months, more in that brief span than the number killed in any brigade that preceded it in yearlong deployments here. Names of the dead are written on a piece of metal affixed to a tall concrete barrier on Forward Operating Base Warhorse, near Baquba. With the death of Sergeant Sebban, the barrier ran out of space. A new barrier was just erected next to it.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Win war on terror by leaving Iraq


This month, I delivered on one of my campaign promises when I voted to get the Bush administration refocused on winning the war on terror.

America removed a brutal dictator, and with $400 billion of your hard-earned money and our brave men and women's blood, sweat and tears, we have given the Iraqi people the hope of a better life through democracy. Now, it is the time for the Iraqi people to stand up.

It is their country. It is their children's future. For the first time in more than four years, the Iraqi government has a date by which it must be accountable for its people's own security. Our efforts must be focused on destroying Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and terror networks throughout the world. We must bring Osama bin Laden to justice. We must let Syria and Iran know that we are resolute in our mission and will hold them accountable.

I came to my decision after briefings with the generals, the secretaries of state and defense and the president's staff. I have spoken to soldiers and their loved ones. I have conferred with returning veterans. I have been to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and met with our wounded. I have spoken with Lee Hamilton and considered the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group he co-chaired and the 9/11 commission.

The conclusion was inescapable: The Sunni and Shia are engaged in a bloody religious civil war in Iraq and our troops should not be put in harm's way by being asked to be the local cop on the beat. While our presence may temporarily reduce the violence, we never will be able to change the Iraqis' hearts.

The House-passed bill is not a withdrawal from Iraq; it is an end to America's participation in Iraq's religious civil war. The president can continue to deploy troops in Iraq as long as he wants, provided they are fighting terrorists, training Iraqi security forces, and providing diplomatic protection, not engaging in nation-building or police work.

The emergency spending bill gives the president all the money he asked for, and more.

We increased financing for our troops in Afghanistan as they prepare for a spring offensive by a resurgent Taliban.

We stepped up and made sure that our returning soldiers had the money to get the best medical care available, and we increased financing for our veterans. We also provided the military with money to buy the equipment necessary to rebuild our army and get our troops combat-ready.

Finally, my vote exercises my constitutional responsibility to hold the president accountable to the American people for the promises he made to us when he chose to go to war in Iraq. After more than four years of mismanagement and broken promises, it would be unwise to give the administration another blank check.

An emergency supplemental bill it just that; it provides financing for all of America's emergencies including the Iraq War. Don't let politicians interested in winning back political power confuse the issue. Congress acted responsibly by increasing financing for veterans, by purchasing avian flu vaccine to protect our children and by taking care of farmers on the brink of bankruptcy. I would like to see those same politicians tell a citrus grower going broke, or a veteran waiting months to get an appointment, or a parent with a sick child that they are "pork projects."

I am proud that I voted to make America safer.

I am proud to have sent Osama bin Laden a message that America is committed to winning the war on terror and that we are no longer willing to allow a religious civil war to sap our strength.

I am proud to stand with our soldiers and our veterans and I am proud to represent the people of Florida's 16th Congressional District.


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Look at what is really going on in Iraq

Bill Sandt runs down the media. I noticed MDN ran his right-wing agenda letter twice (Feb 11 & 15). He said President George Bush is guided by Christian principles. Some of those should include the Ten Commandments, namely, "Thou shall not bear false witness (don’t lie)."
When the first three reasons we stated for war with Iraq failed, namely WMD, buying yellow cake for A-bombs and funding Al-Qaeda, suddenly they found a fourth reason – give the Iraqis democracy.
The last reason not voted on by Congress.
People who oppose the war are branded as cut and run cowards. What is the flip side of cut and run? We are doing something stupid – let’s do more!
The Bush people won’t talk to foreign governments but they can go halfway around the world to kill them. The right-wing Christians help put Bush in office and they claim to respect and protect human life from Terry Schivo down to the embryo. I have news: war kills people. Our country doesn’t torture people, we just fly them to countries that do.
Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and current World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz had their chance to serve in war and all opted out. Bush couldn’t even find time to attend his National Guard meetings. All the people who think war is the only answer should ask themselves, "Do you believe in this war so firmly that you would send your own son or daughter to fight? Or is it okay if they send someone else’s son or daughter?"
Most of the troops in our military come from poor and middle class families while the rich people hide their children in prep school. The Army recruiters promise sign on bonuses and college help to join and if the recruits survive services they can go to college and have a chance to compete with rich kids for the good jobs.
Most people say our troops shouldn’t complain because they joined a volunteer army, just do your duty. They didn’t sign on for a suicide mission or to be ducks in a shooting gallery in a civil war.
The Republicans say we are fighting a war. President Bush landed on the carrier, Abraham Lincoln, and declared the war was won. He was right. The Iraqi Army was defeated and disbanded.
When a war is over and you stay in that country, it is called occupation. Nobody wants to use this word. Our troops are caught between Sunni and Shiite who are fighting over division of Iraq’s oil, money and religious reasons since the death of the prophet Muhammad in the year 632, and both of them want American troops out of their country.
My grandson has done two turns in Iraq and is scheduled for a third. Have you not served your country until you return in a body bag or missing body parts? Sandt would have us click our heels and walk in lockstep with the White House like our congressman, Rep. Dave Camp. Letting people run wild without limits or accountability is part of the problem that got us into the Iraq mess. This kind of thinking got Germany in trouble in 1939 and then dragged the rest of the world into the conflict, They continue to say we are fighting a war on terror. Terror is a concept of a way to persuade people same as the Mafia, KKK and street gangs do.
You can’t defeat terror. However, you can defeat a terrorist.
How much war profit has been made by companies like Halliburton and defense contractors paid for by American blood? I think the god they talk about is Ben Bernanke from the Federal Reserve Board (Money god). The God most of us refer to must be Republican because they seem to think he gives sanction to all that they do and say. I believe they would like a government in Iraq who would work with us like the Shah of Iran did in the past for sweet oil deals.
There are other bad leaders in the world like Kim Jong Ill, but he doesn’t have oil. He needs some instead, hence, no invasion. President Bush said he is "the decider." I didn’t know we elected a one-person government. It sounds more like a dictatorship. Where was Bush and Cheney when the rehab center, Intrepid for Fallen Heroes, was dedicated, or didn’t they want to see what their handiwork caused?
It’s time more right-wing supporters take off their rose-colored glasses and see what is really going on in Iraq. They think if they get abortion stopped and the gays put back in the closet, the world problems will have been solved. We need the news media to keep the average person informed so devious people in high places can be held accountable.
When dictators take over a country, they grab the newspapers, radio and TV stations so the only message you get is their propaganda. The Patriot Act has nothing to do with patriotism. It should be called the Anti-terrorism Act, but then we would have to go after all terrorists such as the KKK, which the government turned a blind eye to since 1865, the end of the Civil War.
Our southern Christians push their Bibles and Ten Commandments in your face at the same time they belong to the KKK. The government of the people, for the people, and by the people has been sold to a shadow government controlled by lobbyists, corporations and some very rich people. Both parties spend millions of dollars to get elected and the people who give the money want influence so by the time they get elected they can’t make a decision for the people. Abe Lincoln couldn’t get elected in this crowd.
Mr. Bush spent years drunk and then found God and became president. Good for him. Mr. Sandt give me a call. I would like to discuss the Ten Commandments.

Charles E. Reid is a resident of Saginaw.