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US Papers Tue: Smart Airborne Intelligence
After Iraq's Civil War, Lessons in Civility
By DANIEL W. SMITH 04/28/2009 01:58 AM ET
It is not a big day for Iraq-coverage. There are a few prominent stories picked up from wire services, but not much original work. Two out of the three stories deal with war technology, but most interesting is a piece about a school in Baghdad where, aside from arts, are taught how to counter having grown up in war by way of manners.

Stateside: High-Tech Warfare
Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reports from Washington on one way the U.S. military “stalks and kills its insurgent enemies these days,” as demonstrated by a recent U.S. airstrike in Diyala province, which the Pentagon said killed a group of al-Qaeda fighters

Says director of intelligence for U.S. Air Forces Central, Col. Eric J. Holdaway, "The problem we deal with now is . . . with enemies that not only hide amongst the population but also will open fire on our ground forces from amongst the population," he said. "So characterizing how they operate, trying to understand them, becomes even more important."

The goal is “to somehow get inside the minds of enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan with the assistance of airborne intelligence, which involves monitoring, tracking and targeting them.” Though the Diyala operation is set up as though the reader will hear details, it never happens, and there is a general vagueness that is unexpected from Pincus, who often piles on the details. What we hear is that Col. Holdaway talked to the press about the increasing use of unmanned drones to collect information and that the way that information is analyzed is developing, and there are a few notable points, but not really much for a reader to sink their teeth into.

An article about cyber warfare by David E. Sanger, John Markoff and Thom Shanker of the New York Times mostly deals with potential unpleasant dealings with Iran, China, and other countries. We are, though, given an example from Iraq, where American forces in Iraq wanted to lure members of Al Qaeda into a trap, and so hacked into one of the group’s computers and altered information that drove them into American gun sights.

President Obama is expected to expand a $17 billion, five-year cyberattack defense program that Congress approved last year. It is an expansive article, with plenty of information about ideas and programs in development. The Iraq example is a fairly uncommon one so far, as far the press knows.

From Baghdad
Jane Arraf of the Christian Science Monitor writes of Baghdad’s Peace Through Art academy. Aside from the strong focus on the arts given to teenagers and children who attend, classes are offered which aim to teach students from all backgrounds everything from dining etiquette to the art of conversation. “But the real lesson in a country emerging from civil war”, she writes, “is how manners can help Iraqis get along with one another.” It is a story that doesn’t have a huge body count, but it deals with the young people who are growing up, at times, surrounded by huge body counts, and some ways this environment is being addressed.

The academy was opened by the director of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, Karim Wasfi, who brings the same energy and resolve to the school which he did to the orchestra, which somehow continued performing throughout the worst of Iraq’s sectarian violence. "After a year, your whole life is going to change," Wasfi tells parents and students at the recent opening of the center. "There is no politics here – no Sunni, no Shiite, no Christian.... This is a place to leave your problems behind."

The etiquette classes are really a way of learning some sort of healthy discourse – a way of dealing with others from the outside world. Arraf writes that, though the school is not specifically geared toward young people who have suffered trauma, it is clear to an observer that war’s effects are evident in the students.
Bilal Abbass, who plays the oud (similar to a lute), tells the class he was the only survivor among four friends gunned down in Dora three years ago. For a year after the shooting he stayed in his room. "For two years I couldn't really talk about it," he says after class. "I was psychologically broken." When he started playing music again a year after the attack, he composed a piece called 'The remainder of hope.' " Bilal, who wants to be a teacher and to travel, aims to learn from the class how to behave outside Iraq.
A tenth-grade girl tells of seeing corpses on the way to school in past years, and another says, "War changes people." "Most people think only of themselves. It's their right, but they should try not to think of themselves all the time."

USA Today, no Iraq coverage.
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