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Daily Column
US Papers Sat: One Quarter of Iraqi Army Unfit
Generals Find Suicide a Frustrating Enemy, Green Zone Deaths
By DANIEL W. SMITH 05/23/2009 02:00 AM ET
Though there were no big bombings, there is some good reporting from Baghdad today. A new look at the Iraq Army shows less-than positive results, an unhappy reaction in Iraq to the sentence given former US soldier, some deaths in the Green Zone and suicide among US servicemen are all looked at today.

From Baghdad
In the Christian Science Monitor, Jane Arraf talks to US Brig. Gen. Steven Salazar about an ongoing rescreening of Iraq's 253,000 soldiers, nearly one fourth of which were found to fall below the Iraqi Army’s own minimum standards. The rescreening, which has surveyed 46,000 soldiers so far, was undertaken “because neither the Iraqi Ministry of Defense nor US officials knew who exactly was in the Army.”

Araff writes of the US’s rush to build a military force after the 2003 invasion, budget problems which have caused a freeze on new hiring (even as there are large unknown numbers of “ghost soldiers – a form of corruption in which absent or fictitious troops’ salaries go to officers) and of course, the decision to disqualify hundreds of thousands of trained Saddam-era soldiers in 2003. Even as they would be accepted now, their reintegration is now limited, as is just about everything else, by Iraq’s inadequate budget.

Marc Santora and Suadad al-Salhy of the New York Times report that Iraqi tribal and political leaders complained bitterly on Friday after an American court spared the life of a United States soldier convicted of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and then murdering her and members of her family in 2006. Steven D. Green was sentenced instead to life in prison without parole.
The attack in 2006 in Mahmudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, was so brutal that American commanders initially thought it was the work of insurgents. When it was revealed that American soldiers were involved, the attack became a rallying point for opponents of the occupation. The immediate family of the victims had only a muted public reaction, in part because the sexual nature of the crime is viewed as a mark of deep shame. But leaders of the Janabi tribe, of which the girl, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, was a member, were joined by other tribal leaders in condemning the sentence.
Santora and al-Salhy not only print the normal angry reaction quotes, but also build up some context by giving a small spectrum of how it has played out in some of the Iraqi media.

The Washington Post’s Ernesto Londoño writes that an American working for a small company with a Defense Department contract was found dead in a vehicle on Friday morning in the Green Zone. "Our suspicion is that it was some kind of an argument that went bad," and also the possibility that it was a “crime of passion” are given as possible explanations by US officials. However...
The man found in the car had been stabbed multiple times, according to a U.S. official familiar with the investigation. He had been blindfolded and his hands were bound, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

A security alert sent by Western security officials in the Green Zone to an American client said the man was apparently abducted Thursday night as he was leaving a shop in the Green Zone. The alert, which was provided to The Washington Post, said the man's throat had been slit.
Londoño couples the incident with changes in security measures, a recent mortar shell landing within the Green Zone’s walls, and restrictions for US personnel traveling outside certain compounds within the fortified section of Baghdad.

Also in the Washington Post, Ann Scott Tyson and Greg Jaffe cover GI suicide levels, which have been worrying top officers in Iraq and Afghanistan enough to have monthly meetings dedicated to the problem. There has been much coverage of soldiers’ mental health affected by combat stress, and the usual points are brought up. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, is the main character of the article. "We probably don't know how many mental health care providers we need after eight years of war and three and four deployments," he said. The main gist of the article is Chiarelli’s push to find objective ways of assessing and treating the problem. "We can't just be players in a game of Clue here," he said. "We have to find a formalized way to get these lessons out."

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