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Bush: Job well done.

Our airwaves are consumed with Anna Nicole Smith and Imus racial remarks. Makes you realize how lucky you are.

Fri. Apr 13, 1:23pm

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honestly, the infiltration of the jesus and church topics on this forum are just as, if not more, annoying than watching the news these days.

Friday, April 13, 2007, 1:36 PM

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The whole White House staff has to be overjoyed every time one of these "psuedostories" takes over the airwaves. Never mind that Wolfowitz
(Bush apointee) got his girlfriend a cushy State Dept. job with a salary that puts Condi's pay to shame.....the cronyism in this administration was directly responsible for one inept move (Katrina response) after another (Gonzales).
But never mind that, breaking news is the talking heads' take on the talking head's snafu.

Friday, April 13, 2007, 1:39 PM

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Bush and his camp definitely have to be thankful that we listen to the mindless drivel about Anna Nicole and Britney Spears and whatever other pseudo celebrity has done something stupid every other day. If we weren't busy being mindlessly entertained by this non-sense we would be outraged at what has been done to our country and our service men and women.

Democracy only works well when people use their brains and their right to vote at the same time. I think we've failed miserably on both counts.

But by all means, if you have no brain or lack the ability to educate yourself about issues then please continue voting for American Idol contestants instead of the leader of our country. Maybe we'll actualy be able to elect a decent leader in 2008 if you refrain from voting.

Friday, April 13, 2007, 7:51 PM

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well, they have managed to "dumb up" our country, ruining our food supply, our medicines, our water and our air. we the people have become a flock of sheep, following--no brains to speak out. i wonder how many more young folks are going to die before someone does something about it. it is sickening what this administration has done to our country

Saturday, April 14, 2007, 11:34 AM

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Listen to your local public radio station, watch news on your local public radio station .. they are not obsessed with the sensationalist stories.

Saturday, April 14, 2007, 9:14 PM

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And don't get your news from standard US sources. Check out BBC. Don't be afraid to go where they think more globally in terms of finding out what's going on. I for one have never heard Sanjaya sing and could care less about whether he's on the show or not.

Our current president refelcts our image well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007, 7:07 AM

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the comment from 4-14-07, 11:34 AM sums up what is a growing problem in this country..."...before someone does something about it." many are wating for someone, mind you that means "someone else", to make changes. the thing is, too many are waiting for someone else while watching from the sidelines and complaining about the plays on the field. we are all on the same team. we all have an equal responsibility to do something about it. send a letter, or 1000 letters, to your state senators, representatives, congressmen/women, hold a town meeting to collect letters from the entire community, protest and offer support surrounding the issues that you feel are important. make yourself heard. it's not some unreachable force that is governing the US, it's an administration that has lost it's way and we, the people, need to get the administration (back) in check and moving forward. don't just wait for "someone" to do "something about it", do something yourself! set an example!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 9:23 AM

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in keeping with the discussion:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 3:50 PM

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Here, here, 9:23 am poster!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 5:33 PM

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KIRKUK, IRAQ – Kirkuk, like Baghdad, is one of the most dangerous places in the world. Car bombs, suicide attacks, shootings, and massacres erupt somewhere in the city every day. It is ethnically divided between Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmens, and is a lightning rod for foreign powers (namely Turkey at this time) that interfere in the city’s politics in the hopes of staving off an ethnic unraveling of their own.

The city’s terrorists are mostly Baathists, not Islamists, and their racist ideology casts Kurds and Turkmens as enemies. They’re boxed in on all sides, though, and have a hard time operating outside their own neighborhoods. In their impotent rage they murder fellow Arabs by the dozens and hundreds. They have, in effect, strapped suicide belts around their entire community while the Kurds and Turkmens shudder and fight to keep the Baath in its box.

Kurdish and Turkmen neighborhoods are safer than the Arab quarter, but the city is out of control. Car bombs can and do explode anywhere at any time.

Typical Kirkuk.jpg
Kirkuk, Iraq

I spent the day with Peshmerga General “Mam” (Uncle) Rostam and Kirkuk’s Chief of Police Major Sherzad at a house Mam Rostam uses a base in an old Arab neighborhood that now belongs to the Kurds. Just after lunch Major Sherzad’s walkie-talkie began urgently squawking.

Major Sherzad Walkie Talkie.jpg
Kirkuk Police Chief Major Sherzad answers a call from the station

“There has been a shooting,” he said. “Two men on a motorcycle rode down the street and fired a gun at people walking on the sidewalk. One of the men was apprehended. They are bringing him here.”

For some reason I assumed when the chief said “here” he meant the police station. He did not. He meant Mam Rostam’s.

“They will be here in two minutes,” the chief said.

“Here?” I said. “They’re bringing him here? To the house?”

“They will bring him here before taking him down to the station,” he said. “I’ll interrogate him here. I’m not going to feel good until I slap him.”

An Iraqi Police truck pulled up in front of the house and slammed on the brakes.

“Here he is,” the chief said.

I grabbed my video camera, flipped the switch to on, and ran out the door.

Both Major Sherzad and Mam Rostam slapped the suspect around, rifled through his personal items, and discovered the astonishingly stupid excuse he and his friend had for shooting at people – an even dumber excuse than if they had been political terrorists.

It was a strange and surprising interruption in the middle of a relaxed interview – basically an episode of Cops in Iraq.

Watch the video. Don’t continue reading until after you’ve watched the video.

The suspect was taken down to the station. Chief Sherzad went down there to interrogate the shooter – assuming the shooter actually turned himself in. Mam Rostam, my colleague Patrick Lasswell, our translator Hamid Shkak, and I returned to the porch and sat again in our plastic chairs.

“Where were we?” Mam Rostam said, as though nothing important had happened and we could return to our interview now. What else was there to talk about, though, aside from what had just happened? I still wasn’t sure who this guy was and why he and his friend were shooting at people.

“Those guys are not terrorists,” Mam Rostam said. “But they are troublemakers, young people messing around in the town. But we have to seize them and investigate them to find out why they are doing this. People think there are terrorists and that we are not taking care of it.”

“Well, what happened exactly?” I said. I obviously did not yet have an English-language transcript of the video. Our translator Hamid couldn’t hear everything that was said during the interrogation. “What makes you say he is not a terrorist? He was shooting at people.”

Mam Rostam 2.jpg
Peshmerga General “Mam” Rostam

“This guy’s identification card in his clothes, in his luggage, shows that he belongs to the Kurdistan Democratic Party,” Mam Rostam said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not a terrorist, but he’s not a stranger, he’s from the city, he’s known by people who work with the Peshmerga [the Iraqi Kurdish army]. But there are still some questions to be answered as soon as we capture the other guy.”

“You hit him very exactly, it seemed,” Patrick said. “You knew exactly how hard to hit him. His face wasn’t damaged. I would have broken his nose.”

Mam Rostam laughed. “He still seems like a teenager,” he said. “We have to fight them a little bit, to teach them not to do dangerous things, just to stop them where they are. They need to be adjusted more than they need to be punished. So we’re trying this stage with them first. If it doesn’t work, then there is another issue.”

“His teeth were still intact,” Patrick said.

Mam Rostam laughed again. “Those slaps were advice,” he said. “Because the city is unstable, we have to be a little bit violent with people to stop them. Otherwise they won’t be afraid to do many other evil actions. We have to be a little bit severe.”

Kirkuk Hideous.jpg
Everything in Kirkuk is severe.

“What do you think is going to happen in Kirkuk if the United States withdraws from Iraq next year?” I said, wondering if the city would become much severe very quickly.

“It will not be good,” Mam Rostam said. “Not for Iraq and especially not for Kirkuk. At a minimum there will be trouble with the neighbors, with Turkey and Iran. They will interfere.”

“They will interfere in Kirkuk in particular?” I said.

“Especially in Kirkuk,” Mam Rostam said. “Turkey is always interfering. But I believe the U.S. won’t leave Iraq until 2025. That’s my guess.”

“Even in 2025,” Patrick said, “you will ask us to stay longer for tea.”

Really. It’s hard to extract yourself from any kind of social event in the Middle East without being ordered to drink yet another tea.

“If America pulls out of Iraq, they will fail in Afghanistan,” Mam Rostam said.

Hardly anyone in Congress seems to consider that the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan might become much more severe if similar tactics are proven effective in Iraq.

“And they will fail with Iran,” he continued. “They will fail everywhere with all Eastern countries. The war between America and the terrorists will move from Iraq and Afghanistan to America itself. Do you think America will do that? The terrorists gather their agents in Afghanistan and Iraq and fight the Americans here. If you pull back, the terrorists will follow you there. They will try, at least. Then Iran will be the power in the Middle East. Iran is the biggest supporter of terrorism. They support Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Ansar Al Islam. You know what Iran will do with those elements if America goes away.”

I seriously doubt Iran would actually nuke Israel, as many fear, if the regime acquires nuclear weapons – although I’ll admit I’m a bit less certain of that than I am of, say, Britain and France not nuking Israel. The Iranian regime, most likely, wants an insurance policy against invasion and regime change. The ayatollahs will then be able to ramp up their imperial projects in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Gulf with impunity.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 6:17 PM

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“Is Iran doing anything here with the Shia Arabs in Kirkuk?” I said. When Saddam Hussein ethnically cleansed Kurds from portions of Kirkuk he replaced many of them with Shia Arabs from Najaf and Karbala that he wished to be rid of. “And what about Moqtada al Sadr? Does he have a presence here?”

“Officially and obviously, no,” Mam Rostam said. “Neither the Iranians or Moqtada al Sadr exist here at all as far as we know. They might be here secretly. They probably are. But there is nothing official or apparent.”

Our encounter with the young punk of a Kurd notwithstanding, most of the violent troublemakers in Kirkuk are Arabs. Most of the victims of violence are Arabs, as well. While sitting a kilometer or so from Kirkuk’s Arab quarter I felt physically repulsed from the area. Going there without serious weapons and armor would be suicidal. What about average Arabs, though, in Kirkuk? They can’t all support the Baathists and Islamists.

“What do the Arabs who live here think of you?” I said to Mam Rostam. “And I mean the civilians, not the terrorist groups.”

General Rostam is well-known in Iraq as a formidable military leader and a genuine bad ass. His body is covered with battle scars, but he’s damn near invincible. He’s the last guy you want on your case if you work with Al Qaeda or the Baath.

Sherzad and Rostam.jpg
Major Sherzad (left), local tribal leader (center), Mam Rostam (right).

“I have good relations with them,” Mam Rostam said. “They come over to the house. Last time some of the Arab tribal leaders came over I took them to our headquarters in Suleimaniya. We enjoy our relations with them. We have no difficulties with them and no differences in our opinions.”

Don’t be surprised by his statement. Obviously he’s exaggerating to an extent. Somebody in that quarter doesn’t agree with his opinions or there wouldn’t be car bombs. But it’s only logical that a typical Arab in Kirkuk wishes to see an end to the insurgency and the terror campaign. Why wouldn’t they? Most of the bombs explode in their neighborhoods. Some of them kill hundreds of people. If the Kurds of Kirkuk live in fear of the bombs, imagine how most of the more-endangered Arabs must feel.


It was the end of the day and time for Patrick, our translator Hamid, and I to head back to the sanctity of the Kurdish autonomous region. There are no hotels in Kirkuk, and it would have been madness to spend the night in one if there were. Last year a reporter and a photographer from National Geographic were issued death threats by cell phone mere hours after they arrived in the city.

The three of us said our goodbyes to Mam Rostam after we finished our last glasses of tea. He told me to visit him again if I find myself in Kirkuk in the future while embedding with the American military.

“Do you know a safe way out of the city?” I said to Hamid, who was designated as permanent driver. “This is not the kind of place where we want to make a wrong turn and end up in the wrong neighborhood.”

Hamid Shkak 2.jpg
Hamid Shkak, driver and translator

We had nothing to worry about. Mam Rostam sent some of his men to guide us out of town in a convoy.

I kept snapping pictures on the way out. Kirkuk is unspeakably ugly. I felt gloomy and depressed just driving through in a car. It’s hard to believe people live in places like this and have to put up with its problems. The northern Kurdish cities of Dohuk, Erbil, and Suleimaniya are ramshackle and haywire compared with American cities, but they look like lovely Italian hill towns compared with Kirkuk. Perhaps it’s no surprise that some half-baked and immature individuals take to shooting at people on thrill rides to relieve the pressure.

Kirkuk Typical 3.jpg
A typical view of Kirkuk, Iraq, in the central government region

Dohuk Before Rain 2.jpg
A typical view of Dohuk, Iraq, in the Kurdish autonomous region.

“If the Los Angeles chief of police were caught slapping a suspect on video,” I said to Hamid as he drove, “he would likely be fired.”

Hamid bristled with annoyance. “Do you think American police officers could handle a city like Kirkuk?”

Actually, yes. I thought of that famous line in Casablanca when the German Major Strasser asked Rick, Humphrey Bogart’s character, if he could imagine Nazi troops in New York. “There are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.”

But that’s not the real reason. The real reason is that no American officers would join the Baath or Al Qaeda. Far too many officers do in Iraq, which makes a secure environment nearly impossible.

“I don’t mean it as a value judgment,” I said to Hamid. “That’s just how it is. Americans don’t tolerate police violence, even against someone who might deserve it. And yes, I think American police could handle a place like Kirkuk. At least we can be certain the police won’t defect and side with the terrorists, as they often do there.”

We arrived in Erbil, the capital of safe and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, in less than an hour. Central government territory is just a few minutes drive south of the city. It’s surreal that Erbil suffers no terrorism while Kirkuk explodes every day. There is no formal border between them, and you could ride a bicycle from one to the other in just a few hours.

There might as well be a border between them. I visited Iraqi Kurdistan four times in fourteen months. But I never felt like I’ve been to Iraq until I went to Kirkuk.

Iraq isn’t a country. It is a geographic abstraction.

Post-script: Patrick Lasswell also wrote about the police smackdown in Kirkuk, and he spent more time on that subject than I did.

Post-script: If you like what I write, don’t forget to pay me. Travel in Iraq is expensive, and I am not able to do this job without your financial assistance. If you haven’t donated before, please consider donating now. If you have donated before (and a thousand thanks for doing that), please remember that my expenses are ongoing and my donations need to be ongoing too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 6:18 PM

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This was in an email sent to be from a friend in Iraq...

Two weeks ago, as I was starting my sixth month of duty in Iraq, I was forced to return to the USA for surgery for an injury I sustained prior to my deployment. With luck, I'll return to Iraq to finish my tour.

I left Baghdad and a war that has every indication that we are winning, to return to a demoralized
country much like the one I returned to in 1971 after my tour in Vietnam. Maybe it's because I'll turn 60
years old in just four months, but I'm tired:

I'm tired of spineless politicians, both Democrat and Republican who lack the courage, fortitude, and
character to see these difficult tasks through.

I'm tired of the hypocrisy of politicians who want to rewrite history when the going gets tough.

I'm tired of the disingenuous clamor from those that claim they 'Support the Troops' by wanting them
to 'Cut and Run' before victory is achieved.

I'm tired of a mainstream media that can only focus on car bombs and casualty reports because they
are too afraid to leave the safety of their hotels to report on the courage and success our brave men and
women are having on the battlefield.

I'm tired that so many Americans think you can rebuild a dictatorship into a democracy over night.

I'm tired that so many ignore the bravery of the Iraqi people to go to the voting booth and freely
elect a Constitution and soon a permanent Parliament.

I'm tired of the so called 'Elite Left' that prolongs this war by giving aid and comfort to our
enemy, just as they did during the Vietnam War.

I'm tired of antiwar protesters showing up at the funerals of our fallen soldiers. A family who's loved
ones gave their life in a just and noble cause, only to be cruelly tormented on the funeral day by cowardly
protesters is beyond shameful.

I'm tired that my generation, the Baby Boom -- Vietnam generation, who have such a weak backbone that
they can't stomach seeing the difficult tasks through to victory.

I'm tired that some are more concerned about the treatment of captives than they are the slaughter and
beheading of our citizens and allies.

I'm tired that when we find mass graves it is seldom reported by the press, but mistreat a prisoner and it is front page news.

Mostly, I'm tired that the people of this great nation didn't learn from history that there is no substitute for Victory.

Joe Repya,
Lieutenant Colonel, U. S. Army
101st Airborne Division

Interesting to get a point of view from someone who is/has actually been there.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 6:39 PM

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Supporting out troops DOES NOT mean supporting the war. That is straight propoganda which has sadly been used by war supporters to align the love and support we have for our troops with their agendas. It is simply false. Sadly some of our military also believe this because they want to believe that their incredible sacrifices will be worth it all in the end. That desire is completely understandable, but it does not turn a bad decision into a good one.

My dad has already served one tour in Iraq, and will probably be going back next year. Of course I support him, but him going there is his job, and his duty to his country as well as his duty to the men and women he serves with. The soldiers don't pick which battles they fight. They fight the battles our elected officials choose.

On the other hand, I think it is wonderful that people take the initiative to get out and protest the war. However, protesting at a fallen soldier's funeral is ridiculous! As the saying goes, there is a time and a place for everything. It is disrespectful to the family to tarnish the mourning of their lost loved one with your political views. A funeral is the family's time to say goodbye, not the time for anyone to try to make a political statement.

It is both selfish and cruel of the protesters to show up at funerals. Take your protests to the people who are causing the war NOT the people who are making the sacrifices for it. Protest the politicians who supported the war, not the soldiers who fought it as their duty to their country. The people who are protesting at soldier's funurals are sickening to me. They have let their agenda blind them just as much as those who believe that supporting the troops means you must support the war.

Thursday, April 26, 2007, 1:34 AM

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geez. a link would have been much appreciated. while you may have had some important points, i couldn't get through the pleas for cash. don't you have a website or blog that you can tie up with your "reporting"? and then post a link so anyone interested can pursue more material?

Thursday, April 26, 2007, 8:27 AM

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I support Bush! I support our military in Iraq

Thursday, April 26, 2007, 8:28 PM

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I come from a military family. So does my husband. Both our fathers and siblings have served. Now our nephews are serving. We are fierce supporters of the military. We do not support the war or Bush. If Bush was such a strong supporter of the military he would not have allowed budget cuts to the VA for years and years. He would have made sure troops had the baisc equiptment needed to keep them safe. He would have fired Rumsfeld when he stated you go to war with what you have not what you want. He would not be redeploying troops in an endless cycle. Bush says that if you don't support the war you demoralize the troops. Continuing to put them in harms way without basic protective equiptment, with no hope of returning home and no health care once they get here...THAT demoralizes the troops. Is it 2008 yet?

Friday, April 27, 2007, 4:51 PM

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