Saturday, April 19, 2008

BRING IT ON GEORGE! AL-SADR THREATENS ALL OUT WAR AGAINST US IN IRAQ WITH A GIANT BLOOODBATH.

Let's see how tough President Bush is NOW that Muqtada al-Sadr is threatening an all out war against US forces in Iraq that will result in a giant bloodbath. Bush is great at his tough guy talk when the "tough guys" doing the fighting are neither him or his twin daughters and certainly not that wimp Dick Cheney who used six deferments to avoid getting drafted during the Vietnam War.

In fact unless you have been living in a cave for the last five years, the US military in Iraq has been proven to be a "paper tiger." All bark and no bite. Aftter five years of fighting, the US military in Iraq is no closer to settling the problems of Iraq than when we invaded and occupied the nation in 2003.

Also, Iraq was a helluva lot better off when Saddam Hussein was in charge of the country than the Mickey Mouse government that is now in place that can't provide water or electricity to a vast majority of the people of Iraq.

More then TWO MILLION Iraqis have fled the country to live in Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, but anywhere but back in their home country where violence continues to grow every single day but the mainstream press in the United States is immune to covering the war in Iraq.

This blogger hears all the time from military families who are outraged that the ONLY place they can find out what is happening in Iraq is on my blog. FOX NEWS and the rest of the so-called maistream media have totally soldoutout their journalistic credentials to the Bush White House and are worse than Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, was at the height of Hitler's Third Reich.

No wonder nobody wants to join the military anymore. Why should they? Just to become human cannon fodder for a bunch of wimps like Bush, Cheney all the Republican chicken-hawks and the lowest form of journalism in the history of the world....FOX NEWS.

Bring it on says Georgie, but Georgie is stashed away in the comfy confines of the White House and doesn't even have to drag his buns to Walter Reed Hospital to see what he has done to 30,000 young Americans who have been seriously injured from Bush' War, including many of them who will be disabled for LIFE He doesn't go, because Georgie doesn't care. Our troops are nothing more than pawns in a political chess game run by beady-eyed Bush and "Darth" Cheney---the man who once said he had better things to do than serve in the United States military.

How in God's name anyone can still stick up for this war is beyone this blogger. I have come to realize that the reason is because very, very few people have EVER served in the United States military for a variety of reasons, but most of all because they were too chicken to ever put on the uniform of the United States military.

So bring it on George. None of your followers will be there when Muqtada al-Sadr turns the US military into mincemeat with his highly trained and ruthlessly effective Mahdi Army---a real Army and not a bunch of paper tigers.

Editorial comment by BILL CORCORAN, editor of CORKSPHERE, http://corksphere.blogspot.com/ and a former Squad Leader in the United States Army Combat Engineers and a Korean War veteran.

Sadr threatens open-ended "war" as government presses offensive
By Raviya H. Ismail McClatchy Newspapers
Posted on Saturday, April 19, 2008

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/iraq/

BAGHDAD — Renegade cleric Muqtada al Sadr on Saturday issued a "final warning" to the Iraqi government, threatening an open-ended "war until liberation" if U.S. and Iraqi troops don't stop their offensive against followers of his militant Shiite Muslim movement.
Sadr's threat signals his growing fury with the joint U.S.-Iraqi offensive against his strongholds in Baghdad's Sadr City and in the volatile southern port city of Basra. Such a rebellion would end Sadr's eight-month-old ceasefire, which was widely credited — even by U.S. military officials — with curbing violence in Baghdad and throughout the Shiite south.
The U.S.-backed Iraqi military continued its two-front attack Saturday against the Mahdi Army and other outlaws, retaking government buildings from militiamen in Basra while waging fierce gun battles in the densely packed slums of Sadr City.
"I'm giving the final warning to the Iraqi government," Sadr said in the statement, which was released by his office in Najaf. "To desist and take the path of peace and denounce violence with its people…(or) we will announce an open war until liberation."
Fighting overnight in Sadr City, the militia's main Baghdad support base, killed at least five people and injured 19, according to officials at the district's Imam Ali Hospital.
U.S. air strikes and daily skirmishes have made life extremely hard for the area's estimated 3 million residents. Food rations are in short supply and hundreds of families have fled Sadr City in recent days. Residents expressed frustration and anger with both the Iraqi government and Sadr's political representatives.
"The missiles hit us without us knowing where they came from," said Najam Abu Nour, 38, who lives in Sadr City. "Where are the 20 Sadrist parliament members? Why don't we hear their voices? Why does everybody keep silent, nobody mentions the suffering of the citizens in this city?"
Gun battles also erupted between the Iraqi police and Sadr's followers near the southern city of Nasiriyah, where a curfew was imposed Friday. At least 20 militiamen were killed and another 37 were arrested in and around Nasiriyah, authorities there said. Two policemen died and 19 were wounded in the clashes.
In Basra, home to about 2 million people and most of the country's vast oil reserves, Iraqi forces backed by British troops stormed a neighborhood in the southern part of the city Saturday, seizing weapons and vehicles. Iraqi forces also discovered a large cache of weapons including rockets, mortars and bombs in the district of Hayaniyah, where Sadr's forces are concentrated, according to the U.S. military.
"The Mahdi Army didn't interfere in the clashes with the Iraq and foreign forces in Hayaniyah despite the aggressive procedures which were used by these troops against the innocent civilians by using different kinds of weapons randomly," said Harith al Athari, a Sadr spokesman in Basra.
"The criminal actions conducted by the government against the sons of the Sadr (group) in Sadr city, Basra, Karbala and the rest of cities...is what pushes us to settle accounts with everyone who acted wrongly," said Mohammed Hassan al Musawi, a prominent member of a Sadr office in Najaf. "And we will have in the next few days, a reaction to these criminal actions, and we might respond by a military armed uprising or other responses to end these violations against the citizens and families all over Iraq."

FACTBOX: TOTAL MILITARY AND CIVILIAN DEATHS IN IRAQ

Factbox - Military and civilian deaths in Iraq, 19 Apr 2008

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/MUMA-7DV3T6?OpenDocument&rc=3&cc=irq

April 19 (Reuters) - A roadside bomb killed one U.S. soldier when it struck his vehicle on Friday just north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement.

A car bomb blast killed another U.S. soldier when he was conducting a patrol on Friday in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad.

Following are the latest figures for soldiers and civilians killed since the U.S.-led invasion in March, 2003:

U.S.-LED COALITION FORCES:
United States 4,040
Britain 176
Other nations 134

IRAQIS:
Military Between 4,900 and 6,375#
Civilians Between 82,856 and 90,390*

# = Think-tank estimates for military under Saddam Hussein killed during the 2003 war. No reliable official figures have been issued since new security forces were set up in late 2003.

* = From www.iraqbodycount.net (IBC), run by academics and peace activists, based on reports from at least two media sources. The IBC says on its Web site the figure underestimates the true number of casualties.

The U.S.-led military coalition toll includes casualties from Iraq and the surrounding area where troops are stationed. (Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

WOMEN AND CHILDREN AMONG 14 KILLED IN SADR CITY

14 killed, 50 wounded in Sadr City clashes

Baghdad - Voices of Iraq
Saturday , 19 /04 /2008 Time 11:21:53

http://www.aswataliraq.info/look/english/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrArticle=76828&NrIssue=2&NrSection=1

Baghdad, Apr 19, (VOI) – Fourteen people were killed and more than 50 others, including women and children, wounded in clashes between gunmen and Iraqi security forces in the troubled eastern Baghdad district of Sadr City, a medic said on Saturday.

"The death toll of the clashes reached 14 while the wounded exceeded 50, including women and children," the medical source, speaking on condition of anonymity out of security concerns, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).Sadr City has been witnessing sporadic clashes for more than three weeks now between Iraqi security forces and gunmen believed to belong to Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militias.

CALCULATE THE COST OF THE IRAQ WAR FOR YOUR COMMUNITY

Click on this link and watch the cost of the Iraq war grow second-by-second and then you can also calculate how much goods and services it would have provided your community if we werent spending all this money on the war:

http://www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar_home

A LIST OF THREE MORE US SOLDIERS KILLED IN IRAQ

Latest Coalition Fatalities CLICK ON PART IN "BLUE" FOR MORE DETAILS
04/19/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualty: DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Staff Sgt. Jason L. Brown, 29, of Magnolia, Texas, died April 17 in Sama Village, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked using small arms fire and grenades. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Ky.

04/19/08 MNF: MND-N Soldier attacked in Salah ad Din: MNF: MND-N Soldier attacked in Salah ad Din
A Multi-National Division – North Soldier was killed when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated while Soldiers were conducting a patrol in the Salah ad-Din Province April 18.

04/18/08 MNF: MND-B Soldier attacked by IED: MNF: MND-B Soldier attacked by IED
A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier was killed in an improvised-explosive device attack at approximately 1:45 p.m. April 18.

NEW US CASUALTY REPORT FROM IRAQ: SECURITY INCIDENTS FROM ALL OVER IRAQ

Here are additional casualty reports of US soldiers from Iraq as well as security incidents in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

War News for Saturday, April 19, 2008
Casualty Reports:Army Capt. Andrew J. Lynch, 31, suffered head and facial injuries caused by shrapnel, according to his parents, Gary and Nancy Lynch, of Geiger. “He received major injuries, and it was touch-and-go for awhile, but it is no longer life-threatening,” Gary Lynch said.He is with the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y. This was his third tour of duty overseas. He has also served in Pakistan and in Afghanistan.Lynch was injured April 14 by an improvised explosive device in Tuz, Iraq, while with his patrol. Spc. Arturo Huerta-Cruz, Clearwater, Fla., was killed in that attack. Another soldier was also severely injured.

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - North soldier in a roadside bombing in Salah ad-Din Province on Friday, April 18th. No other details were released.

Security incidents:Baghdad:#1: Twelve people died in overnight clashes in Baghdad's Sadr City. In Sadr City's general hospital, officials said 71 people were admitted for treatment of injuries received in the fighting. The hospital also received 12 bodies, said an official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to release the information. The fighting came amid reports that Iraqi troops backed up by U.S. forces were trying to recapture a position in the district abandoned a day ago by a company of government soldiers.

#2: Security forces in the area also have come under repeated attack by militants trying to prevent the construction of a concrete wall through the district. The wall _ a concrete barrier of varying height up to about 12 feet _ is being built along a main street dividing the southern portion of Sadr City from the northern part, where Mahdi Army fighters are concentrated.

#3: The U.S. military said one of its attack helicopters located and hit a mortar crew in Sadr City at 3:30 a.m. Saturday, killing two gunmen and destroying the weapon.

#4: One Iraqi soldier was killed and four others wounded when a roadside bomb struck their patrol in Yarmouk district, in western Baghdad, police said.

Nasiriyah:#1: Clashes were also reported near Nasiriyah, a city about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. Authorities imposed a curfew on the town of Suq al-Shiyoukh after a firefight in which one militant was killed and six policemen injured.

Mussayab:#1: One body was found with gunshot wounds in Mussayab, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

Basra:#1: Heavy fighting broke out in the Iraqi city of Basra on Saturday, where police said government forces entered a neighborhood known as a stronghold of fighters loyal to the anti-U.S. cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr. A Reuters reporter in the city said he had heard the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions at dawn. He described it as the heaviest fighting for weeks in the southern city, where Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a crackdown on Sadr's followers late last month. Police said Iraqi forces had entered the centre of Hayaniya, a neighborhood known as a stronghold of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia. No information about casualties was immediately available.

#2: British artillery and U.S. warplanes were supporting the Iraqi army operation, which met minimal resistance, military spokesman Maj. Tom Holloway said. He said that as a show of force British gunners fired a barrage of shells into an empty area near Hayaniyah and U.S. warplanes bombed it.

Kirkuk:#1: A roadside bomb struck a police patrol, killing one policeman and wounding another in the southwest of Kirkuk, police said.#2: A parked car bomb killed one person and wounded three others in southern Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.Mosul:#1: A roadside bomb killed two people and wounded 12 others in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Afghanistan:#1: A roadside bomb hit a civilian vehicle Saturday in southern Afghanistan, killing three people and wounding another, an official said. The bomb hit the car in the Shahjoy district of Zabul province, in an area frequently patrolled by Afghan and international troops, said Shahjoy district chief Qayum Khan.

#2: Pakistan's envoy to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin, who went missing in February, appeared on Saturday in a video aired by Al-Arabiya news channel in which he said that he was held by the Taliban. "We were on our way to Afghanistan in our official car on February 11 when we were kidnapped in the region of Khyber... by the Mujahedeen (holy warriors) of the Taliban," said Azizuddin, according to an Arabic translation accompanying the video aired by the Dubai-based channel.

CNN REPORTS: FALLEN SOLDIER'S DOG STARTS A NEW LIFE

A man's best friend is his dog, and in this case Bo, a black Labrador, was wounded in Afghanistan had to adjust to the loss of his handler, Staff Sgt. Donald Tabb, who was killed when an IED hit their truck.

Fallen GI's military dog starts new life

Story Highlights
Bo, a 2-year-old black Labrador was wounded by roadside bomb February 5, 2007
His handler, Staff Sgt. Donald Tabb, 29, died in the attack
Bo is trained to clear roadways and find explosives and bomb-making materials
Tabb's brother, Willie, fought back tears Friday as he officially received the dog

LAWRENCEVILLE, Georgia (CNN) -- Bo, a 2-year-old black Labrador and specialized search dog, has good reason to be wagging his tail.

From Jim BarnettCNN Pentagon Producer
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/04/18/dog.adoption/index.html

The military working canine officially hung up his war leash at a moving ceremony Friday and retired to the good life in Georgia after being wounded in a roadside bombing that killed his handler in Afghanistan last year.

Staff Sgt. Donald Tabb, 29, serving his fourth deployment with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, died February 5, 2007, when his vehicle was hit by the roadside bomb. Bo, who was trained to clear roadways, find explosives and bomb-making materials, survived and has been adopted by Tabb's family.

Willie Smith, Tabb's brother, fought back tears Friday as he officially received the dog.
"I just want to say, having Bo means a great deal to myself and my family," he said.
"Mr. Smith, today you've agreed to take Bo into your home to be part of your family," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Timmins, kennel master with the 6th Military Police Detachment. "You're not just receiving a pet today. Bo is an outstanding soldier, and he served his country with distinction." Watch a report on Bo »

Bo and Tabb went through extensive training together, graduating in March 2007 from the Defense Department's Dog Training Center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The dog's specialized training allowed him to be "off the leash at distances up to 100 meters," according to an Army news release.

"It's impossible to spend two minutes with this dog without smiling at least once," Timmins said.
Of Tabb, Timmins added, "The one constant thing he would always tell me is how much everybody loved Bo. And I wholeheartedly believe that a dog takes on a personality of its handler ... because everyone who knew Sgt. Tabb loved him too."

Tabb served with the Military Working Dog section, 6th Military Police Detachment, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Traditionally, a military working dog outranks the handler by one grade. Bo was officially retired as master sergeant. Tabb, an Atlanta native, was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class at Friday's ceremony at the Gwinnett County Fallen Heroes Memorial.

NEW PROBLEM FOR US TROOPS: CIVIL WAR BREAKS OUT AMONG SUNNI

"God is Great," screamed a man seconds before he blew himself up, killing 10 people in a restaurant in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq.

A series of suicide bombings have shown over the past week that al-Qa'ida in Iraq, though battered by defections over the past year, is striking back remorselessly at Sunni Arab leaders who ally themselves to the US.

America's allies in Iraq under pressure as civil war breaks out among Sunni
By Patrick CockburnSaturday, 19 April 2008
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/americas-allies-in-iraq-under-pressure-as-civil-war-breaks-out-among-sunni-811801.html

In another attack in the village of Albu Mohammed, south of Kirkuk, an elderly man thought by guards to be too old to be a bomber, walked unsearched into a tent filled with mourners attending the funeral of two Sunni tribesmen who had been killed after they joined al-Sahwa, the Awakening Council, as the pro-US Sunni group is called. The man detonated the explosives hidden under his long Arab robes, killing at least 50 people.

A vicious civil war is now being fought within Iraq's Sunni Arab community between al-Qa'ida in Iraq and al-Sahwa while other groups continue to attack American forces. In Baghdad on a single day the head of al-Sahwa in the southern district of Dora was killed in his car by gunmen and seven others died by bombs and bullets in al-Adhamiya district.

US spokesmen speak of a "spike" in violence in recent weeks but in reality security in Sunni and Shia parts of Iraq has been deteriorating since January. The official daily death toll of civilians reached a low of 20 killed a day in that month and has since more than doubled to 41 a day in March. The US and the Iraqi government are now facing a war on two fronts.

The attack in Ramadi shows al-Qa'ida still has support in Anbar province where al-Sahwa was founded and has greater strength in Diyala, Salahudin and Nineveh provinces. In Sunni parts of Baghdad, al-Sahwa often includes members of al-Qa'ida whose loyalties have not changed or gunmen who think it safest to work for the US and al-Qa'ida. "No officer in al-Sahwa walks home unless he has a relationship with al-Qa'ida," said one al-Sahwa member. "It would be too dangerous for him otherwise."

The American-backed government of Nouri al-Maliki is in the meantime stepping up its campaign against the Mehdi Army militia of the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Iraqi troops sealed off the Basra office of the Sadrists yesterday. "Troops from the Iraqi army prevented us from holding Friday prayers and now they are cordoning off the office," said Harith al-Idhari, the head of the office. "They want to storm it and clear everybody out of it."

Click on link to continue reading.

DEFEATED IN IRAQ: HOW AMERICA LOST THE WAR

The journalist describes how when American troops first arrived in Iraq they were greeted by people carrying plates of figs, but very shortly the same people were setting up IEDs to KILL the American troops who they viewed as not only invaders but unwanted occupiers of their country.

It is accounts like this which you will NEVER see printed or reported in the mainstream media in the United States.

The media in the US has totally soldout to the Bush administration and no longer can be rightfully called the voice of the people. The mainstream media has become the voice of the Bush administration.

Defeated in Iraq: How America Lost the War

By Suzi Steffen, AlterNetPosted on April 19, 2008, Printed on April 19, 2008

http://www.alternet.org/story/82551/

Jonathan Steele is a senior correspondent and columnist for London's Guardian newspaper. He made eight reporting trips to Iraq between 2003 and 2006. His new book Defeat: Why They Lost Iraq was recently released in the United States. AlterNet caught up with Steele to talk about his book.

Suzi Steffen: When did you first think about the main thesis for this book -- that the invasion and occupation were unacceptable to Iraqis from the beginning?

Jonathan Steele: Before the invasion, I was keen to know what Iraqis actually thought. After all, it's their country; they're the ones being invaded. They're affected most by the continuation or removal of Saddam. So while I was in Amman [in the lead-up to and just after the U.S.-led invasion], I interviewed a lot of Iraqis. There was a community of about 300,000 in Jordan at that stage. And I thought, look, this is a good chance to talk to Iraqis; my colleague in Baghdad had to have a minder and had a much harder time. I spent several hours every day talking to Iraqis. It wasn't just stopping people in the street; I sat down with people in their homes, in caf├ęs and restaurants. I was struck by how divided and conflicted people were about whether they wanted an invasion.
They were against Saddam; after all, that's why they were exiles in Jordan. But in spite of the fact they were against Saddam, many were against the invasion, so I began to get the sense this was a very complicated thing. The sort of line we were getting from Washington and London that people were fed up and would welcome an invasion -- I realized it was much more complex than that. And when I thought about it more, it was obvious really. It shouldn't have come as a surprise. Occupations are going to be unpopular! People don't want foreign troops in their streets and foreign tanks driving around.

Steffen: And after you got to Iraq?

Jonathan Steele: When I arrived in Baghdad just after April 9, some of the obvious questions to ask Iraqis were, "How do you feel about an occupation?" and, "How long do you think it should last, and how long should the British and Americans remain here?" I got the same sense as in Amman that people were very torn about it.
In the book, I quote one of first people I talked to, a Shia geologist in his early 30s who had studied oil and decided when he graduated that he didn't want to work for the regime. There was no private sector in Iraq at that point. He was a man who was a firm opponent of Saddam; he had sacrificed his career and had become a taxi driver. So when I said, "What do you think about this war?" and he said, "Saddam betrayed us," I was absolutely staggered. I said, "What do you mean?" and he said, "He failed to resist and prevent the occupation of Baghdad."
That kind of comment was repeated in different forms constantly as the occupation continued.
Also, people expected great things from Americans, things that were perhaps a bit unrealistic -- electricity and water and jobs immediately. But they had the idea, "It's a superpower; they toppled Saddam in three weeks, how come they can't get the electricity going?"
Encapsulating the mood, about three months after the invasion, a graffito appeared on the plinth of the famously toppled Saddam statue. The graffito said, "All done, go home." I think that summed it up. It's the same sentiment I remember hearing on great march of [Shia] pilgrims through Karbala within three or four weeks of the toppling of the statue -- "Thank you, and now goodbye."
Of course, no date was ever given of when the occupation was going to end. President Bush talked about Mission Accomplished. The Iraqis echoed that and said, "There are no WMD; you've toppled Saddam; why are you still here?"
First there was a sense of confusion -- we want to be rid of Saddam, but we don't want our country invaded -- then a sense of humiliation with foreign tanks in the streets. Then came suspicion: what's the plan, what's the agenda? The United States must have own its intentions that are not necessarily in our best interests. Then it turned into anger at the Humvees with guns pointed at [Iraqis] -- "They say they liberated us, but now they're treating us as an enemy."

Steffen: I interviewed a Marine who was in the initial occupation. He tells the story that at first, people in the suburbs of Baghdad were bringing out plates of figs, saying, "Why weren't you here sooner?" But then, he said, that ended.

Jonathan Steele: And it ended very quickly in the areas west of Baghdad like Fallujah. I think it was just to be expected. The main thing is that the Americans and the British didn't seem to get into the mind of the Iraqis. The default option in any occupation is to say, people don't like us -- but Americans got the default option completely wrong.

Continue reading by clicking on link above.

MSNBC BREAKING NEWS: US SOLDIER KILLED, MASS DESERTIONS OF IRAQI ARMY, 12 KILLED IN SADR CITY

BAGHDAD - Twelve people died in overnight clashes in Baghdad's Sadr City district, which has become a chief battleground between U.S. and Iraqi forces and the Mahdi Army of hard-line cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, police and hospital officials said Saturday. A US soldier was also killed. There are mass desertions in the Iraqi Army.

MSNBC News Services
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24211736/

Iraqi troops also kept up the pressure on Shiite militants in the southern city of Basra, where they fanned out through a Mahdi Army stronghold.

Officials later announced that a roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier in Iraq's northern Salahuddin province. The attack occurred Friday while troops were conducting a patrol.

In Sadr City's general hospital, officials said 71 people were admitted for treatment of injuries received in the fighting. The hospital also received 12 bodies, said an official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to release the information.

The fighting came amid reports that Iraqi troops backed up by U.S. forces were trying to recapture a position in the district abandoned a day ago by a company of government soldiers.
Concrete wallSecurity forces in the area also have come under repeated attack by militants trying to prevent the construction of a concrete wall through the district.

The wall — a concrete barrier of varying height up to about 12 feet — is being built along a main street dividing the southern portion of Sadr City from the northern, where Mahdi Army fighters are concentrated.

American commanders hope that construction of the Sadr City wall, which began Tuesday, will hamper their ability to fire rockets and mortars at the Green Zone, the central Baghdad district where government offices and the U.S. Embassy are located.

Mass desertions
The zone has been regularly shelled since the Iraqi military launched an operation against Shiite militias in Basra on March 25. That operation quickly stalled amid fierce resistance from the militants and mass desertions from the security forces.

Militants have used mortars and rockets of various calibers in attacks on the Green Zone.
The U.S. military said one of its attack helicopters located and hit a mortar crew in Sadr City early on Saturday, killing two gunmen and destroying the weapon.

The near-daily clashes in Sadr City since then have fueled worries over a total breakdown of a truce called last year by al-Sadr, with fears of wider violence.
Basra bombardedThe government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also kept up the pressure on al-Sadr's followers in Basra, launching an operation early Saturday aimed at clearing militants from the Hayaniyah district, a Mahdi Army stronghold in Iraq's oil capital.

Thundering explosions and gunfire could be heard at dawn under the heaviest bombardment since al-Maliki launched a crackdown on the anti-American cleric's followers late last month in the southern city.
The commander of Iraqi forces in Basra, Lieutenant-General Mohan al-Furaiji, told Reuters his troops had seized the center of the neighborhood.
"Our troops moved in there, and now they have reached the center of Hayaniyah. Now there are no confrontations, and anyone carrying weapons will be arrested," he said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

WOMEN AT WAR. THE STRAINS OF MILITARY SERVICE FOR WOMEN

The strain of Iraq forced the shock integration of women into the military. The results aren’t all pretty.

by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
April 7, 2008 The American Conservative Women at War
http://www.amconmag.com/2008/2008_04_07/article.html

A high point of Kayla Williams’s service as a noncommissioned Army officer in Iraq was receiving a commendation for her support on missions in Baghdad. Low points included getting molested by one of her own men and being asked to mock a naked Iraqi prisoner in an interrogation cage in Mosul.

Riding a line between woman and warrior, “bitch” and “slut,” Williams, 31, was not alone. The Bush administration’s “long war” has forced the military to shock integrate more than 180,000 women into Iraq and Afghanistan over the last six years. The consequences have been both impressive and ugly and do little to put to rest decades of debate over women in combat.

Critics say the rush to put women into combat-related roles for which they weren’t trained has made them more vulnerable, exacerbated male-female tensions in theater, and advanced a controversial policy while most of the country wasn’t looking.

“We have large numbers of women who have been willing to come into the Armed Forces, who are willing to do jobs for which we have a shortage of young men,” says one retired Army colonel, now in the private sector, who declined to be identified because of his ties to the defense community. “I think the women under these circumstances do the best they can.”

Veterans who have spoken to TAC say most female soldiers have exceeded expectations. But the experience of the largest contingent of female soldiers in modern history is not unclouded.

The rate of single motherhood among women on active duty is 14 percent, and nursing mothers are being deployed four months after giving birth. Reports of sexual assault are climbing, as are suicides and the number of women—now over 36,000—who have visited VA hospitals since leaving the service. As of February, 102 female soldiers had died in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Army, which represents most women in theater, won’t release figures on how many are evacuated from the field due to noncombat injuries, illness, or pregnancy.
“Whatever they are able to conceal or cover that’s not attractive—whether it’s unplanned pregnancy, rapes, whatever—everyone is prepared to pretend what is happening really isn’t,” says the retired colonel.

The drive to integrate women into every crevice of the military—the “ungendered vision” advocated by Duke law professor Madeleine Morris, a former assistant to Clinton administration Army Secretary Togo West—has created turmoil in Washington since the 1970s. And since then the number of women in the Armed Forces has increased dramatically, from 7,000 in Vietnam (mostly medical personnel) to over 40,000 in the Persian Gulf War to one in seven of our troops in Iraq today.

Thanks to Clinton-era liberals—like former Rep. Pat Schroeder and women-in-combat pioneers like Army Assistant Secretary Sara Lister, who was forced to resign in 1997 after she called the Marines “extremists”—new roles opened to women in the 1990s. Formerly all-male military academies and basic training programs turned co-ed. Today, tens of thousands of women are flying combat aircraft and serving as military police, gunners operating MK19 grenade launchers, interrogators, and prison guards.

Officially, women have not yet ventured into combat, held back by critics who argue that putting them into armored cavalry squadrons or rifle platoons will threaten unit cohesion, weaken standards, and increase injuries, hurting overall force strength. But advocates of full integration insist that women can hold their own on men’s terms. Making them “legitimate” will help transform military culture and bolster unit cohesion.

These arguments are academic, for women are in combat today. While the Bush administration initially appeared less interested in integration than its predecessor, the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, the miscalculation of the subsequent insurgency and civil war, and the desire to wage a global terror war have made it impossible for the all-volunteer force to function without women in combat roles. Reality has taken over.

But if this and future administrations want to continue waging protracted asymmetrical wars with multiple fronts, wars in which everyone—not just combat troops and Marines—has to be on point, the negative consequences of shock integration will have to be acknowledged and addressed.

Click on link above to read full story.