Wednesday, April 23, 2008


SAN FRANCISCO - Roughly 18 U.S. veterans commit suicide every week, advocates told a federal judge April 21 in San Francisco, blaming the United States government for doing such a bad job of caring for wounded war veterans.

VA Sued Over Care, High Suicide Rates
April 23, 2008Inter Press Service

"The suicide problem is out of control," said Gordon Erspamer, an attorney representing the groups Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth in a class action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs. "Our veterans deserve better."

Erspamer's comments came in opening arguments for what is expected to be a week-long trial, the first class action brought on behalf of 1.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

Early arguments were punctuated by allegations that top government officials deliberately deceived the U.S. public about the number of veterans attempting suicide.

An e-mail made public during the trial revealed that the head of the VA's Mental Health division, Dr. Ira Katz, advised a media representative not to tell reporters that 1,000 veterans receiving care at the VA try to kill themselves every month.

"Shh!" the e-mail begins.
"Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" the e-mail concludes.
According to CBS News, Katz's email was written shortly after the VA provided the network with data showing there were only 790 attempted suicides in all of 2007 -- a fraction of Katz's estimate.

Earlier this month, the city of Dallas, Texas, closed its psychiatric unit after the hospital experienced its fourth suicide of the year.
"On April 4, a man fastened a bed sheet to the bottom corner of a door frame, draped a noose over the top, and hanged himself," the Dallas Morning News reported last week. "Before that, a veteran hanged himself on a frame attached to his wheelchair. And in January, two men who met in the psychiatric ward committed suicide in Collin County days after being released."

"The system is in crisis, and unfortunately the VA is in denial," Erspamer told the court, urging U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Conti to appoint a special master to oversee the troubled agency. The veterans groups are also seeking a judge's order forbidding the VA from turning away any veteran who shows up at a facility seeking mental health care.
In a number of high-profile cases, Iraq war veterans have killed themselves after being turned away from the VA.

Lawyers for the government disagreed strongly with the veterans, claiming that the VA runs a "world-class health care system." Multiple times during his opening statement, Justice Department lawyer Richard Lepley portrayed the veterans' groups as "special interests" and argued the changes the groups seek in their lawsuit -- better and faster mental health care, and more rights for veterans appealing denials of benefits -- are beyond the judge's authority.
"You have no standards to judge," Lepley told Conti. "This court shouldn't be trying to be a substitute for what the medical professionals at the VA decide."

No veterans are set to testify at the trial, which focuses on the nature of the Byzantine bureaucratic system that veterans must navigate to receive health care and disability benefits. According the Department of Veterans Affairs, the average time a veteran must wait to learn if his or her disability claim has been approved is 185 days, or about six months.
Veterans' groups have asserted that the real wait is much longer, noting that if a veteran appeals the disability ruling, the appeals process can drag on for years. According to internal VA documents provided by the plaintiffs, 526 veterans have died this year while their disability claims were being reviewed.

None of this surprises Kelly Conklin of Chunchula, Ala.
Her husband Manuel became wheelchair-bound after experiencing a negative reaction to an anthrax vaccine administered as he was preparing to deploy to Iraq with the U.S. Navy in 2003. Military doctors pumped him with steroids and other medicine in hopes that he would recover, Conklin said, but in 2005 she came to realize that a recovery was unlikely, so she filed a claim with the VA for disability compensation.
After three years, the family is still waiting.
"It's an every day battle," Kelly Conklin said. "We're having grits and eggs for supper tonight and a lot of nights. Sometimes we don't eat anything but lima beans for supper -- it depends on what we have."

In the absence of a regular paycheck or a disability check, Conklin said her family of four is now living almost completely off charity, with much of the food they eat coming from the local food bank.
She said she used to be proud of her husband for his service in the Navy but has now forbidden her youngest son from joining the Armed Forces.
"If it sounds like I'm down -- yes I am down," she said. "If I sound like I'm bitter, you got that right. They've taken everything away from me. The only thing left for them to take from me is my birthday."
"When we give them our spouses, we give them whole," she said. "And if you can't make him whole [again], then you make sure he's taken care of."

Click here for more information on PTSD.


Roughly 18 U.S. veterans commit suicide every week, advocates told a federal judge April 21 in San Francisco. "The suicide problem is out of control," said Gordon Erspamer, an attorney representing the groups Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth in a class action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs. "Our veterans deserve better." "Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities."

(Ed. Note: click on part in "BLUE" to read full story.)


While the media in the United States dissects the results of the primary in Pennsylvania yesterday, there were more US casualties in Iraq and we also have an hour-by-hour report of acts of violence carried out Wednesday, April 23 in Iraq and Afghanistan.

War News for Wednesday, April 23, 2008

US CASUALTY REPORT: (Click on part in "BLUE" for additional details)

Casualty Reports:Lt. Col. Ray Rivas, of New Braunfels, was presented with a Purple Heart on Tuesday at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Incoming mortars and indirect fire left Rivas with a serious brain injury on October 12, 2006 while he was working as a civil affairs officer at the Tallil Forward Operating Base in Iraq, according to an Army release. Rivas says he doesn’t remember the details of the incident, or what he was doing that moment he was wounded.In fact, Rivas — who then was employed as an Army engineer — returned to work immediately. That day in October, “he wasn’t even taken in immediately for treatment, but as the brain started to swell, his behavior got more and more bizarre,” his wife Colleen Rivas said. Soon, others began to notice Ray behaving strangely, and medical personnel gave him an MRI. The scan revealed serious brain injuries. Then, en route to Germany, his heart stopped.“He was down for four minutes,” Colleen said. “They were going to pronounce him dead, but they brought him back.”

Captain Martin Hewitt, aged 27, is still recovering from serious injury, having been shot in the right arm last July. The bullet severed the nerves in his arm, leaving him with dramatically impaired mobility in the limb. Martin joined the army in 2004 and is a platoon commander in the Parachute Regiment.

The DoD is reporting the death of a sailor, Airman Apprentice Adrian M. Campos was found dead in a non-combat related incident in Dubai on Monday, April 21st. No other details were released and the incident is under investigation.

The DoD is reporting the death of a sailor, Petty Officer 1st Class Cherie L. Morton who died in Galali, Muharraq, Bahrain on Sunday, April 20th. The details on her death weren't released and the cause of death is under investigation.

Roughly 18 U.S. veterans commit suicide every week, advocates told a federal judge April 21 in San Francisco. "The suicide problem is out of control," said Gordon Erspamer, an attorney representing the groups Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth in a class action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs. "Our veterans deserve better." "Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities."

Security incidents:Baghdad:#1: U.S. forces said on Wednesday they had killed 15 gunmen overnight in Shi'ite areas of Baghdad, where fighting has raged for weeks between militiamen loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and security forces. In a statement, the U.S. military said ground forces and aircraft had been involved in several attacks. The first began around dusk on Tuesday, the military said.One hospital in Sadr City, the cleric's stronghold in eastern Baghdad, said it had received five bodies overnight from clashes and air strikes. It said 22 people had been wounded.

#2: In eastern Baghdad, US and Iraqi troops launched more security sweeps in Sadr City, the enclave of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia. Explosions and an exchange of fire were heard in the slum area, where government troops backed by US forces are launching a crackdown on followers of al-Sadr. At least seven people were killed and 16 injured, most of them Iraqi troops, during operations against armed groups in Baghdad over the last 24 hours, according to an Iraqi military statement.

#3: Fierce fighting broke out during a military operation late Tuesday in Husseiniyah, a mainly Shiite area that sits to the north of Baghdad's embattled Sadr City district. U.S. and Iraqi troops were backed by helicopters as they fought until Wednesday morning with suspected Shiite militiamen who dominate the area, police said. Women and children were among 20 people who were wounded, they said.

#4: Police and hospital officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information, also said eight civilians were killed and 44 others wounded in fighting in Sadr City, a sprawling district in northeastern Baghdad.

#5: A seriously wounded man died as an ambulance speeding him to the hospital was caught in the crossfire, and an elementary school was damaged, police said.

#6: U.S. soldiers responded after they were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, killing 12 "criminals" in three separate incidents Tuesday in eastern Baghdad, the military said.

#7: A man planting a roadside bomb in northeastern Baghdad also was shot to death by American soldiers in northeastern Baghdad, while two others spotted with a mortar tube were killed in an airstrike, according to the military statement.

#8: Almost 700 rockets and mortar rounds were fired from various locations in Baghdad in the past month, 114 of which hit at the highly fortified Green Zone, a US commander said on Wednesday.Colonel Allen Batschelet said that a total of 697 rockets and mortar bombs were fired in the Iraqi capital between March 23 and April 20.Of these 114 hit the Green Zone, also known as the International Zone (IZ), where the Iraqi government and US embassy are based, he said."Eighty-two percent of the rockets and mortars that hit the IZ originated from Sadr City," said Batschelet.

#9: Around 8am, a roadside bomb targeted an American patrol at Al-Butil at Zafaraniyah neighborhood (east Baghdad).Two civilians were injured with no information on the American’s side.

#10: Around 2 pm, a roadside bomb targeted an American patrol on the high way of Mikanik in Dora (south Baghdad). No casualties reported.

#11: Around noon, a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol at Nafaq Al-Shurta neighborhood (west Baghdad) .Six people were injured including two policemen.

#12: Around 2 pm, a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol at Qahtan intersection near Yarmouk neighborhood (west Baghdad).Three civilians were injured in that incident.

Diyala Prv:#1: update A woman suicide bomber killed 18 people and wounded two in an attack on a police station in Iraq's Diyala province, the US military said Wednesday. Eleven Iraqi civilians and seven policemen were killed in the attack on Monday evening, the military statement said.

Tikrit:#1: Iraqi police found two bodies near oil pipelines close to Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad. They said the dead were guards of the pipeline facility, police said.

#2: In the morning, An American squad raided Albu Marouf village at Al-Jazira area (25 km south west Tikrit) .One person was killed and seven others were arrested by the American squad who are from one family .Also six cars were damaged in that incident. We have no confirmation of that incident from the MNF-I at the time of this report.

Hawija:#1: In the morning, gunmen injured the teacher Jalal Khorsheed in Hawija Bahriyah in Dhulwiya (south of Tikrit and 80 km north of Baghdad).

Kirkuk:#1: Five unidentified bodies were buried on Wednesday in southern Kirkuk, the head of the religious committee said.

Mosul:#1: In Mosul, which has become a hotbed of Sunni insurgency, a bomb blast killed a civilian and injured four others in the northern Rashidiya district, Major Fadil Kuran from the city police told the Voices of Iraq news agency.

#2: In the centre of Mosul, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up inside a currency exchange office in Dawasa, killing two people, one of whom was an army officer, and injuring six, according to Brigadier General Khalid Abdel-Sattar, the spokesman for the Nineveh operations command.

#3: Shortly after the suicide bombing, a car bomb detonated by remote control went off, also in the centre of the city, injuring three people, including a policeman, Abdel-Sattar said.

#4: A policeman was killed in clashes between gunmen and police in western Mosul, police said.

Afghanistan:#1: In Kandahar province, a suicide bomber blew himself up next to a vehicle carrying intelligence agents in the border town of Spin Boldak, killing three civilians, Kandahar Gov. Assadullah Khalid said. Two children and three intelligence agents were among the 14 hurt, Khalid said. A 16-year-old boy who was wounded in the explosion said police shot at the bomber before he detonated explosives. "Police opened fire at the man after he ran toward a group of civilians. He then threw his shawl and then there was a big explosion," said Rehmat Ullah.

#2: In neighboring Helmand province, a suicide bomber struck a police convoy, killing two officers and wounding three, said district police chief Khairudin Shuhja. Shuhja was in the convoy but was not injured in the attack. As the bomber approached the car, guards opened fire, wounding the attacker, who then blew himself up, Shuhja said.

#3: In eastern Kunar province, Taliban militants attacked a police border post, killing five officers and wounding seven others, said provincial police chief Abdul Jalal Jalal.

#4: Separately, a border police patrol in northwestern Badghis province hit a mine, killing three officers riding in the vehicle, regional police chief Gen. Khalil Andarabi said.


VA covering up veteran suicide rate Wed, 23 Apr 2008 11:34:43

Dr. Ira Katz, VA deputy chiefUS Sen. Patty Murray has called for the resignation of Dr. Ira Katz, a chief mental health official of US Department of Veterans Affairs. Murray, the senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, called for the resignation of Katz on Tuesday, saying he, and other VA officials, tried to cover up the rising number of veteran suicides and deliberately withheld crucial information on the true suicide risk among veterans.

Murray said, "Dr. Katz's irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans and it is time for him to go. The number one priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth." Murray made the comment after she and other Democratic senators said they were shocked when they found emails showing that Katz and other VA officials tried to conceal the number of suicides by veterans.

One email which was revealed at a lawsuit this week started with 'Shh!' referring to the 12,000 veterans per year who attempt suicide while under the VA Department treatment. Another email revealed at the trial said that an average of 18 military veterans kill themselves each day, with five of them being under the VA care when they commit suicide.

According to the VA facilities record, at the moment, the numbers of suicide deaths and attempts show an increase from 492 in 2000 to 790 in 2007, but do not record how many veterans overall take their own lives.


BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomb and roadside bombings have killed five US troops, including three marines, the American military announced on Tuesday.

The latest deaths bring the US military's overall toll since the March 2003 invasion to 4,044, according to a tally based on independent website The military has lost 32 troops since the start of this month.

Two marines were killed and three others wounded when a bomber slammed his explosives-laden car into a checkpoint near the western Iraqi city of Ramadi at around 7:30 am (0430 GMT), the military said.

Two Iraqi policemen and 24 civilians were also wounded in the attack near the city, the capital of Anbar province, which was once the symbol of Sunni Arab insurgency against US forces.
A third marine was killed and another wounded in a separate roadside bomb attack in Basra on Monday, the military said in a separate statement.

This is the first US military loss in Basra since Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a crackdown against Shiite militiamen there on March 25.

US forces have been sent to Basra to support Iraqi troops after fierce clashes broke out in the port city following the crackdown.

Basra and southern Iraq were under the overall command of British troops who late last year moved into one base near the city airport after handing over the province to Iraqi forces.
Another roadside bomb attack killed two US soldiers and wounded another two, as well as three Iraqis, in north-central Salaheddin province on Monday, the US military said.
The bomb detonated "during operations" in the province, the statement said without elaborating.

The Iraqis injured comprised two members of an "Awakening" anti-Qaeda front and an interpreter.


Iraqi Women Take On Roles Of Dead or Missing Husbands
For One Mother, Bedside AK-47 Signified Change

By Ernesto LondoƱoWashington Post Foreign ServiceWednesday, April 23, 2008; A01

BAGHDAD, April 22 -- Sabriyah Hilal Abadi began sleeping with a loaded AK-47 by her bed shortly after the war began.

It was a comforting possession for a woman who had lost her home, her husband and, last weekend, a room in a dilapidated building she shared with 27 squatter families, most headed by women.

The mother of four fought mightily to stay in the sparse, two-story building in the Zayouna neighborhood of Baghdad that once belonged to Hussein's Baath Party, but soldiers forced her out.

Iraq's government is intent on proving it can enforce the law. But in its determination to rid the party building of its squatters, the women say, the government has plunged them deeper into homelessness and may have pushed others toward violence.

Thousands of Iraqi women have in recent years embraced new roles as violence has claimed their men. For Abadi, 43, the turning point came when she accepted the powerful assault rifle from friends concerned about her welfare.

Click on link to continue reading.


Surging Towards Gaza: How the U.S. is Reproducing Israel's Flawed Occupation Strategies in Iraq

By Steve Niva, Foreign Policy in Focus
Posted on April 23, 2008, Printed on April 23, 2008

The new "surge" strategy in Iraq, led by General David Petreaus, has been heavily marketed as an example of the U.S. military's application of the "lessons of history" from previous counterinsurgencies to Iraq, foremost among them the need to win the population over from insurgents through cultivating human relationships, addressing popular grievances and providing security.

Yet one glance at the realities on the ground in Iraq today reveal that the cornerstone of current U.S. military strategy is less about cultivating human relationships than about limiting them, primarily through concrete walls and checkpoints. And it has been less about minimizing violence than containing Iraq's population and redirecting the battlefield from the streets to the skies above Iraq.

While the coffee klatches between Marine commanders and Sunni tribal sheikhs may garner all the publicity, the real story on the ground in Iraq is that from Baghdad to Mosul, the U.S. military has been busy constructing scores of concrete walls and barriers between and around Iraqi neighborhoods, which it terms "Gated Communities." In Baghdad alone, 12-foot-high walls now separate and surround at least eleven Sunni and Shiite enclaves. Broken by narrow checkpoints where soldiers monitor traffic via newly issued ID cards, these walls have turned Baghdad into dozens of replica Green Zones, dividing neighbor from neighbor and choking off normal commerce and communications. Similar walls are being erected in other Iraqi cities, while the entire city of Falluja remains surrounded by a razor-wire barrier, with only one point of entry into the city. Moreover, the U.S. military has doubled its use of unmanned aerial drones and increasingly relies upon aerial strikes to quell insurgent activities, often through bombings and targeted assassinations.

While there is no question that overall levels of violence have temporarily decreased, Iraq has become virtually caged in a carapace of concrete walls and razor wire, reinforced by an aerial occupation from the sky. Reporting from a recent visit to the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, the seasoned journalist Nir Rosen noted in Rolling Stone that:
Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood.
The Israeli Laboratory

The explosion of walls and enclaves reinforced by aerial violence across Iraq suggest that the primary counterinsurgency lessons being followed by the U.S. military in Iraq today derive less from the lessons of "Lawrence of Arabia" than from Israel's experiences in the Occupied Palestinian Territories over the past decade.

Over the past decade, Israel has developed a pacification strategy against Palestinian resistance to its military occupation by erecting separation walls and checkpoints across Palestinian territory that has enclosed Palestinians within a proliferating archipelago of ethnic enclaves to separate them from each other and from illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. This wall and enclave strategy is maintained under a blanket of aerial Israeli surveillance and deadly unmanned drones, which target the frequent airborne assassinations and strikes. This strategy reached its apotheosis in Gaza following Israel's withdrawal of its soldiers and settlements in 2005. In Gaza, 1.5 million Palestinians are now living within an enclosed cage, while Israel controls access to the essentials of life through high-tech border terminals and unleashes "penetration raids" and airborne "targeted killings" when resistance is offered.
Iraq, it seems, is surging towards Gaza.

This fact is not missed by average Iraqis. Visiting the Sunni bastion of Amriya in Baghdad, Nir Rosen in The Nation recounts how his Iraqi driver pointed to a gap in the concrete walls with which the U.S. occupation forces have surrounded Amriya: "We call it the Rafah Crossing." He was referring to the one gate from besieged Gaza to Egypt that the Israeli army occasionally allows to open.

The U.S. military's virtual reproduction of distinctively Israeli counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq reveals that claims about applying the "lessons of history" of counterinsurgent warfare to Iraq are largely beside the point. The actual application of counterinsurgency on the ground in Iraq has a distinctly Israeli DNA, born of very recent lessons from Israel's own urban warfare laboratory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This should not be surprising. The Israeli DNA in the new "surge" strategy is only the latest manifestation of a widely overlooked but unmistakable American predilection to increasingly draw from Israel's urban warfare laboratory and its flawed efforts to devise fresh tactics in the service of rebooting its own military occupation of Palestinian lands. What we are seeing in Iraq today has much less to do with the declared shift in U.S. military doctrine than with a deeper and more far-reaching "Israelization" of U.S. military strategy and tactics over the past two decades that was only heightened by America's misadventures in the Middle East after September 11, 2001. In the search for new means to confront urban insurgencies in predominately Arab and Muslim lands, there has been a complex institutional and cultural harmonization between these two militaries under the banner of fighting "the war on terror," though the traffic is mostly in one direction. In light of the real lessons of counterinsurgency history, however, mimicking Israel is a recipe for failure.

The "Israelization" of U.S. Military Doctrine and Tactics
This "Israelization" of U.S. military doctrine and tactics can be traced back to the early 1990's, especially the "Black-hawk down" debacle of 1993 in Somalia, which led U.S. military strategists to rethink their approach to fighting urban warfare in poor Third World "battle spaces." In the following years, according to urban theorist Mike Davis in his 2004 article, "The Pentagon as Global Slum Lord," Israeli advisors were brought in to teach Marines, Rangers and Navy Seals the state of the art tactics against urban insurgencies that Israel was using to ruthlessly suppress Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

This tactical "Israelization" of U.S. combat doctrine was accompanied by what Davis terms a deeper strategic "Sharonization" (referring to Israeli militarist and later Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) of the Pentagon's worldview in which U.S. military strategists began to envision the capacity of high-tech warfare to contain and possibly defeat insurgencies rooted in third world urban environments. Sharon is known to have kept by his bedside a well-thumbed Hebrew edition of Alistair's Horne's A Savage War of Peace, an account of the failed French effort to defeat the Algerian insurgency against French colonial occupation. While many viewed the French defeat as proof of the futility of military solutions to anti-colonial insurgencies, Sharon's belief was that Israel could learn from Algeria to get right what the French did not. In 2001, the journalist Robert Fisk reported, Sharon told French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac in a phone conversation that the Israelis were "like you in Algeria," the only difference being that "we [the Israelis] will stay."

The "Israelization" of U.S. military doctrine and tactics since the attacks on September 11, 2001, has gone so far as to create what the Palestinian academic Marwan Bishara, writing in Al-Ahram Weekly, has termed a new "strategic cult" in which Israel's "asymmetrical war" against the Palestinians became seen as a continuation of the U.S. "war on terrorism" in both theory and practice. Learning from Israel's experiences centered on the need for new precision weaponry and a tactical emphasis on aerial assassinations and armored bulldozers, as well as other elements of Israel's fighting style in the new "asymmetrical" and urban battle spaces. According to The Independent's Justin Huggler, Israel's unprecedented assault on Palestinian cities and the refugee camp in Jenin during "Operation Defensive Shield" in April 2002 was keenly observed by foreign militaries, particularly the United States and UK as they geared up to invade and occupy Iraq.

Click on link to read full account.


Baaquba, Apr 22, (VOI)- At least six policemen were killed and 12 persons were injured on Tuesday when a female bomber blew herself up near a police department in northeast of Baghdad, a police source said.

Diala - Voices of Iraq Tuesday , 22 /04 /2008 Time 9:18:24

“A female bomber blew up an explosive belt strapped to her body in front of the building of the Jololaa police department in Khaneqeen district, northeast of Baaquba,” the source, who asked to be unnamed, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq (VOI).“The explosion killed five policemen and a Kurdish security element and wounded 12 persons, including two policemen,” he explained.Baaquba, the capital of Diala, lies 57 km northeast of Baghdad.


Time adds that even Iraqi commanders, “hailed by the Americans and boastful of their recent fights, are doubtful of whether their troops could ultimately stand alone.”

Earlier this month, the southern Iraqi city of Basra was engulfed in violence as radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr calling for the “downfall of the U.S.-backed government.”

As Reuters noted, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s crackdown on the militias largely “backfired, exposing the weakness of his army and strengthening his political foes ahead of elections.” Yet the Bush administration and its allies have attempted to portray this violence as a success, demonstrating the capability of the Iraqi army:

– “It was a very positive moment in the development of a sovereign nation that is willing to take on elements that believe they are beyond the law.” [President Bush, 3/27/08]
– “This is an Iraqi led and Iraqi initiated operation. And this is what we’ve been wanting to see the Iraqis do is take on more responsibility.” [White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, 3/25/08]

– “As you know, we saw a thousand police and military desert their posts. But the rest of the military did a pretty good job, did a pretty good job. We did secure the port of Basra. Maybe I’m digging for the pony here.” [Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), 4/15/08]
– “We’re going to talk about Iraq and the Iraqi offensive, which I think, in a sense, is good news. Because it’s the Iraqi government, who’s mostly Shi’ite, taking on Shi’ite outlaw militias in the southern part of the country and this is after all what the whole point of the surge.” [Fox News’s Chris Wallace, 3/28/08]

According to a new Time magazine article, some U.S. troops are bristling at all the undue credit being lavished upon the Iraqi forces:
And at least one American soldier said he was angry that the role of Iraqi troops was exaggerated after the battle. “A gunfight broke out and we were fighting [the Mahdi Army] for about four hours,” the soldier told TIME. “The army article made it sound like we were just there supporting the Iraqi Army, but we did all the work. We just had four humvees out there with some Iraqi [troops].”

Another soldier at Forward Operating Base Kalsu in north Babil said he has little confidence in the battle abilities of the Iraqi forces. “Sometimes they start shooting because they heard or saw something, but then there’s nothing there,” he said.