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Archive: December 2006
Hundreds Flock To See Saddam's Grave
12/31/2006 2:08 PM ET
Steven R. Hurst of Associated Press has written that hundreds of Iraqis flocked to the village where Saddam Hussein was born on Sunday to see the deposed leader buried in a religious compound 24 hours after his execution.

The article reports that at Saddam's funeral, dozens of relatives and others, some of them crying and moaning, attended the interment shortly before dawn in Ouja. A few knelt before his flag-draped grave. A large framed photograph of Saddam was propped up on a chair nearby.

Daughter Asks for Burial in Yemen
12/30/2006 03:15 AM ET
From the website of Gulf News: Saddam Hussein's daughter has asked that his body be buried in Yemen, a source close to the family said on Saturday. Also reported: "The source said that Saddam's daughter Raghd, who is exiled in Jordan, asked for the burial in Yemen, which will be temporary "until Iraq is liberated and can be reburied in Iraq." Defence lawyer Issam Jhazzawi said Saddam's family members "are praying for him every minute and are calling on God that He let his soul rest in peace among the martyrs."
Choosing Executioner? Where to Hang? Who is Present?
12/29/2006 11:23 PM ET
For those fascinated by the details of Saddam's execution, the Times Online UK has published a primer on the execution of Saddam Hussein, answering important questions, including: How to choose an executioner? Where will he hang? Who is present?

Included in the story, an interesting tidbit: hundreds of Iraqis from around the world volunteered to be the executioner at today's execution. Some emailed their requests to Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister. The man selected for this gruesome but perhaps satisfying task be someone who had suffered at the hands of Saddam. For the execution he wears a hood with slits for his eyes.

Breaking News
U.S. Govt.-Funded Arabic-Language TV Net Breaks News
12/29/2006 10:25 PM ET
Saddam Hussein was executed just before 6am Baghdad time (10pm et), according to U.S. government-funded TV network Al Hurra.
From Pope's Prelate to Prodi to EU President
12/29/2006 10:04 PM ET
The Arabisto blog gives an excellent summary of some major world leaders who are against the execution of Saddam Hussein. A few below:


"The Iraqi government should not implement the death sentence against Saddam Hussein, which was imposed after a deeply flawed trial for crimes against humanity. The Appeals Chamber of the Iraqi High Tribunal, which was first reported by Iraq's national security adviser to have upheld the sentence, should have conducted a thorough legal review of the verdict and then announced its findings. Imposing the death penalty, indefensible in any case, is especially wrong after such unfair proceedings. That a judicial decision was first announced by Iraq's national security advisor underlines the political interference that marred Saddam Hussein's trial."

UN COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS LOUISE ARBOUR " The appeal judgment is a lengthy and complex decision that requires careful study. There were a number of concerns as to the fairness of the original trial, and there needs to be assurance that these issues have been comprehensively addressed. I call, therefore, on the Iraqi authorities not to act precipitately in seeking to execute the sentence in these cases."

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL "We are against the death penalty as a matter of principle, but particularly in this case because it comes after a flawed trial."

CARDINAL RENATO MARTINO, POPE BENEDICT XVI'S TOP PRELATE FOR JUSTICE ISSUES, FORMER VATICAN ENVOY TO UN "Saddam's execution would punish a crime with another crime. The death penalty is not a natural death. And no one can give death, not even the State."

ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER ROMANO PRODI "While I don't want to minimize the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein, and the ferocity with which he governed during his regime, and while respecting the autonomy and legitimacy of Iraqi institutions, I must express the Italian government's, and my personal, firm opposition to the death sentence."

EUROPEAN UNION PRESIDENT ERKKI TUOMIOJA "The EU opposes capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances, and it should not be carried out in this case either."

EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK "Carrying out this verdict will explode violence like waterfalls in Iraq. The verdict will transform (Iraq) into pools of blood and lead to a deepening of the sectarian and ethnic conflicts."

COMMENT IN PAN ARAB AL-QUDS AL-ARABI "He will go to the gallows with his head held high because he built a strong, united and non-sectarian Iraq. We urge honourable people such as Talabani and Maliki and all those who practised all sorts of deceits against the people of Iraq to apologise and face the national courts of Iraq on charges of participating and legalising the killing of 665,000 and wounding five-fold this number. We also call for their prosecution for igniting the fire of civil war, sectarianism and ethnic cleansing."

EDITORIAL IN PAN ARAB AL-QUDS AL-ARABI US officials are making a new mistake more dangerous than any in the past. They think executing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will lead to calm in Iraq, but the exact opposite is likely to happen. The US Administration may gain more by keeping Saddam alive behind bars and using him as a bargaining card... to negotiate with the Baath party for the sake of calm.

EDITORIAL IN PAN ARAB AL-ARAB AL-ALAMIYAH "We urge parties, organisations, national and Islamic figures and official bodies in Arab countries to engage in a public, political and human rights action against the Maliki government's adventure - supported by the US and Iran - to execute Saddam. This is a political execution which will lead to violence. It is in the interests of the occupation and its agents, and Iran and its allies, for Saddam not to be executed, and for the crisis to be solved through serious dialogue."

TARIQ MASARWAH IN JORDAN'S AL-RA'Y "The US, UK and the ruling parties have so far not been able to provide Iraqis with a better Iraq than Saddam's! He remains a symbol for the failure of the occupation and its project."

TIMES OF INDIA One of the main criticisms of the trial was that the special court was not equipped to handle such a complex case. Questions have also been raised about timely disclosure of evidence, the rights of defendants to confront witnesses and impartiality of the judges. New Delhi has rightly condemned the trial as lacking credibility. It has also raised the issue of the effect of the death sentence on Iraq's future. There is good reason to believe that executing Saddam can only worsen the situation in Iraq. The memory of Saddam as a martyr is likely to have much more of a hold on popular imagination than a Saddam behind bars.

ASIAN TRIBUNE The confirmation yesterday of the death sentence against Saddam Hussein is the final act in a legal charade directed from Washington. The Iraqi Appeal Court upheld the verdict against Hussein and two of his co-accused--Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad Hamed al-Bandar--brought on November 5 for the execution of 148 Shiites from the town of Dujail in 1982. With the only avenue of appeal exhausted, all three can be hanged at any time within the next 30 days. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel hailed the court decision, declaring it to be "an important milestone" in efforts "to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law." In fact, the Bush administration has repeatedly demonstrated its contempt for basic legal norms, riding roughshod over international and US law. It has pressed for the execution of Hussein as a means of demonstrating to the world that it is capable of killing its opponents with impunity.

THE AUSTRALIAN "The Iraqi Government should have spared Saddam the death penalty."

Update From The Streets
12/29/2006 9:42 PM ET
Iraq the Model, a blog written from Baghdad. The latest: the situation now that everyone is anticipating Saddam's execution.

"The situation in Baghdad is tense now and US and Iraqi forces are heavily deployed on the streets.

We're hearing and reading more confirmations that US military has already turned Saddam in to the Iraqi authorities and I don't think the government is willing, or able, to keep him in custody for too long. Rumors are spreading fast through phones and text messages in Baghdad, mostly saying that curfew will be imposed in the city tomorrow. No word about that from state TV though.

Friends and relatives are calling me asking me whether he's been already executed, some are claiming he already has. Meanwhile lots of updates are coming through news TV here; al-Arabiya reporter said the noose is already set in a yard in the IZ. Al-Hurra reported that preparations for the execution are underway and no delay is expected.

It's going to be a long night but it looks like the morning will bring the news Iraqis have long waited for....

By the way, check out Pajamas Media for a good roundup of related news and updates.


-Tariq Harb, Iraq's most famous judicial expert who's been following and commenting on the trial since the beginning said he expected the execution to take place in the next few hours.

-The Sadrist said they would return to the cabinet and parliament after Saddam is executed.

-Bahaa' al-Aaraji, a Sadrist and member of the parliament's legal commission told al-Iraqiya TV that two execution sites have been prepared; one in the IZ and one in another location he wouldn't disclose.

-Al-Aaraji told al-Iraqiya TV that the government is asking clerics whether it's allowed to carry out executions during religious holidays. He added that he expects Saddam to be executed no later than noon tomorrow.

Hundreds of Rodents Poisoned, Snakes Deprived of Chow
12/27/2006 10:03 AM ET
U.S. Army photo by Major Bobby Hart

From the U.S. military's wire service

By Maj. Bobby Hart, USA Special to American Forces Press Service BAGHDAD, Dec. 26, 2006 - It was a scene straight from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," or maybe "Willard." American soldiers walking through a dimly lit, underground command bunker once used by a brutal dictator, now filled with hundreds of rats. Throw in a snake or two, and you have the perfect setting for a horror movie. But it was not a movie.

Soldiers of the 3rd Medical Command, Fort Gillem, Ga., found themselves in just such an environment when they went to investigate a potential rat infestation.

Civilians on a forward operating base near Baghdad reported they had seen increasing numbers of rodents in the area surrounding what was known locally as Saddam Hussein's presidential bunker -- a massive, two-level, network of tunnels and rooms estimated to be able to support upwards of 100 people for several months.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Sam McLarty

The bunker included meeting rooms, a kitchen, huge underground generators, restrooms, showers, private living quarters and rats. Lots and lots of rats.

Army Lt. Col. Van Sherwood, a 3rd MEDCOM preventive medicine specialist, said he had seen rat infestations before, but nothing compared to what he saw when he pulled open the doors and entered Saddam's bunker.

"We saw some rats around the entrance when we walked up with our lights," said Sherwood, a Gainesville, Fla., native and graduate of the University of Florida, who currently works at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C. "Once we opened the doors and walked in, it was like rat heaven."

Sherwood said American Special Forces troops had taken over the bunker and used them for operations and storage until January 2006. When they left, they left behind pallets of military food rations and water.

"I really had no preconceived idea of what to expect when I heard they had a rat problem," Sherwood said. "I've been called out on these types of cases before, and most of the time, they are pretty mundane. For most people, one or two rats can be an infestation. As soon as we opened the doors, you could see rats scurrying down the corridors and could smell the rat urine. I knew then there were a lot of rats there."

The rats had moved in to take over the bunker when the American soldiers left and the limited access hindered the entry of predators. The rats had a secure nesting area with a high-calorie, high-protein food source and water. A healthy female rat is capable of producing a brood of around a dozen offspring monthly. It didn't take long for the rat population to reach epidemic proportions.

Until Sherwood and his rat patrol arrived, about the only thing the rats had to worry about was the snakes -- one which was tentatively identified as a sand boa estimated to be at least five to six feet long.

"We knew we had to get rid of the rats some way, but it wasn't as easy as it might seem," he said. "There were so many cracks and crevices that they could easily escape the bunker and go to ground level, where there were hundreds of rodent burrows that would provide them harborage."

Sherwood said the last thing he wanted to do was to take away the food supply and water or do anything that would drive the rats out of the bunker to the base camps to forage for their next meal.

The rats had devoured most of the military rations -- they ate everything but the salt and pepper and Tabasco sauce -- and shredded everything else except the spoons to use for nesting material. The cases looked intact, except for one or two small holes in each.

"I think that was the most surprising thing," Sherwood said. "The boxes looked fine, but when you picked them up they were empty except for the ones that had nests built in them."

Another surprising thing was the consistency with which the rats emptied the water bottles, which were almost all chewed through at the same height on the bottle with the holes all being very similar in size.

Sherwood decided to place poison near the now-empty pallets, which still contained ample food for the thriving rodent population, to rid the area of the problem. He said after placing the poison, his team returned and picked up dead adult rats by the hundreds and estimated many more may have died in their nests or in underground burrows.

The body count of the dead rats did lead Sherwood to believe the problem had been solved and shouldn't happen again.

"Absolutely," he said. "Once we got rid of the population and cleaned out the food and water, there was nothing down there that would make a rat want to go there."

Jordanian PM says U.S. Delivered Escapee to Jordan
12/26/2006 11:06 PM ET
A former Iraqi cabinet minister has surfaced in Jordan after escaping his Baghdad jail 10 days ago before facing a second trial on corruption charges.

Jordan's prime minister said today that Aiham Alsammarae, who has dual Iraqi-American citizenship, arrived in Jordan as a U.S. citizen on a U.S. plane.

U.S. authorities have denied any role in Alsammarae's escape.

It's unclear whether Iraq will seek his extradition and, if so, it's unclear whether Jordan would send Alsammarae back to Jordan.

Here's the AP story. Here's the Reuters story.

This mysterious, bizarre story gets more intriguing by the day.

At the Barber shop: Buzzcut or Bald
12/25/2006 10:00 AM ET
Trusting fellow U.S. Marines is crucial in war zones - but at the barbershop too?

Makeshift "barbershops" are appearing on all over Iraq - not in town, but on the military bases themselves. With no barbershops nearby, troops have taken matters into their own hands, literally. The ambiance is nil - a plastic bucket to sit on and a makeshift cape - but the price is right. In other words: free.

Self-expression is not lost on these boys - some go for a medium regulation haicut, some go with high-and-tights, and others cut a "horseshoe."

Haircuts Make a Buzz With Marines, from the Marine Expeditionary Force website, was written by Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran.

Only on Slogger
Defense Secretary's Badly-Swollen Eyelid Appears Overnight
12/21/2006 3:17 PM ET
Swollen Left Eyelid Today
Dod Photo
Swollen Left Eyelid Today
Pre-Bug Bite Yesterday
DoD Photo
Pre-Bug Bite Yesterday

As if new Defense Secretary Robert Gates doesn't have enough challenges during his time in Iraq, he woke up this morning in Baghdad with a badly-swollen left eyelid. A tipster in Gates's traveling party tells us Gates "was bitten by a bug or something," apparently while sleeping last night in one of the Saddam Hussein-era palaces now used as U.S. military VIP sleeping quarters. The tipster quipped, "Call it Saddam's revenge."

Iraqi Troops Do So in Supposed Display of Courage
12/20/2006 4:35 PM ET
With so much horrific death and destruction in Iraq, very little that happens there comes as a shock any more.

Now this.

In a soccer stadium ceremony today marking the transfer of security oversight of Iraq's Najaf province from the U.S. military to Iraqi forces, Iraqi leaders and U.S. Army generals looked on as parading Iraqi soldiers "bit the head off frogs and ate the heart of a live rabbit."

So reports Reuters.

Embarrassing Leaked Video Shows Sadr, Deputies Bickering
By NIR ROSEN 12/20/2006 4:30 PM ET

One day after the Pentagon identified his Mahdi Army as eclipsing al Qaeda in Iraq as "the most dangerous accelerant" of violence in that country, IraqSlogger has obtained a video of Muqtada al Sadr in which he rambles, questions the loyalty of deputies, and appears to struggle to control his own organization.

The Arabic-language video, apparently recorded in October, recently surfaced on Iraqi Web sites critical of Sadr.

The seven-and-a-half minute video is streamed in its original Arabic-language above.

A translation of the entire video follows after background on Sadr and his Mahdi Army.

Background: The young cleric who rose to power from anonymity following the American overthrow of Saddam has basked in the glory of his father's name. Muhamad Sadiq al Sadr was one of Iraq's most important clerics who was assassinated in 1999 and was called the Second Martyr. Sadr represented the poor and oppressed Shia underclass that had remained in Iraq, and he built around him a vast following and a militia, the Mahdi Army, which now dominates the Iraqi Police and much of the Iraqi Army as well as various ministries and Shia neighborhoods.

But evidence on the ground suggests Muqtada al Sadr is merely a figurehead for an army with no real leadership or hierarchy, which acts locally. Sadr has also clashed with many deputies, firing close allies.

In a video of an internal debate among his men that was released without his approval, a different Sadr is seen, and it is clear how little control he has over his men and how jealously he guards his tenuous power.

Speaking in poor Arabic, all slang, Sadr reveals his jealousy and insecurity as well, criticizing a deputy for praising Abdul Aziz al Hakim, the leader of the rival Shia Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The video begins with a public relations man in a grey suit from Muqtada al Sadr's office in Baghdad's Kadhmiya district, which is run by Hazim al Araji.

The man in the grey suit is talking to Sadr in a tone that verges on disrespectful.

MAN: "The student organization will need ... We have done everything we could but if you want us to work more or to make more progress it's up to you. We will need you to direct all your offices and institutes to support the project. According to a formula you choose and you already know the importance of the project.

The students make up 90% of the Sadr Current. About 90% of the attendees in the Friday prayer are youth. The Sadr Current is a youth current and the youth are ignored. Instead of spending two million dinars on a celebration, what does a celebration do? You should use the money to organize the youth, otherwise someone else will come to organize them. There are so many secular organizations that will attract them like a magnet just like what happened during the time of Seyid Mohammed Baqir Al Sadr, when the Marxist party attracted all the youth including the sons of the clerics. This might reoccur within two or three years. Secularism is attractive in Iraq. It's true that the economy is not prosperous nowadays but in two or three years this could change. The league ..."

(Sadr interrupts the man, hunched over, and speaks in strong slang)

SADR: "Leagues and...? Unions and leagues but in practice what are they doing, my dear? We have spent over a year hearing: "found a league", "establish an institution", "make a foundation" and make I don't know what. Which all means actually "give me money" and I haven't seen any results. I am not talking about you only I am talking about you all."

(A cleric seated by Sadr interrupts him)

CLERIC: "Our master, we mean spending money on the organization is better than spending it on celebrations that cost two or three million dinars."

SADR: "I made celebrations, my dear? You can't come to criticize me. I didn't make celebrations."

CLERIC: "Some of your offices have done that."

SADR: "I had nothing to do with that. Why don't you go to the office and ask them why they have spent two million on celebration. I haven't given anybody any million to make celebrations. I don't have two million to give. This is not to be discussed in front of the camera and you don't have the right to. If I gave you two million, wouldn't you spend it, my dear? I am sure you will. Correct yourself and then criticize others. Enough with the nagging: criticism, criticism, criticism. You are like the newspapers after finishing criticizing the enemies they launch their missiles against Sadr Current. Not like this, my dear. Fear Allah, you are in the public relations office and I respect you but I won't let you insult others. Who spent two million? Come on tell me who is it that spent two million? From one side they beg me to give them money and the other side you come to tell me they spent two million, I don't know, unless that is Hawasim (looted). If it is Hawasim then I have nothing to do with that..."

(Hawasim is a reference to Um al Hawasim, or the Mother of all Decisive Battles, the name Saddam gave to the last war; during the first Gulf War he called it the Mother of all Battles; following the war, all looted goods became commonly known as Hawasim)

(The cleric is still arguing in the background as Sadr speaks)

SADR: "All the offices (say), "Give us money to establish foundations" and I have been begging for the last six months to open a public library. I was telling you to support the charities like foundations for children, old people, and women, disabled, I don't know what... Only 'give money, give money, give money,' I was telling (them) to build schools. You are a public relations office man and I haven't seen anything from you with all respect to you.

CLERIC: "We have a lot of work to do!"

SADR: "I have seen only one thing from you. You were....As the Sadr current, we were insulting people 24 hours (a day) and now we are trying to open channels with the people that you were insulting. This is wrong. Not like this and not like this. We have to make standards and have to follow them. Don't insult them and don't beg them. I respect you a lot but I am not happy with the fact that you use the mosque's podium to praise Abdul Aziz (al Hakim)."

CLERIC: "who praised Abdul Aziz?"

SADR: "I heard you on TV"

CLERIC: "What did I say?"

(Sadr smiles)

SADR: "Shrewd politician," I don't know what..."

CLERIC: "I didn't say that. I said, "Thanks is due to Abdul Aziz al Hakim" and I think it is much less than what you said about him when you said "God praise him." I am ready to face anyone that says he heard me saying Abdul Aziz is a shrewd politician."

Sadr interrupts, laughs, and speaks in a high-pitched and dismissive voice)

SADR: "I heard you saying that on the TV myself."

CLERIC: "In the Friday mosque sermon?"

SADR: "Yes, in Friday's sermon in Kadhmiya"

CLERIC: "I have the Friday Kadhmiya speech recorded on a CD that Adil will get you, all I said was "thanks is due to Abdul Aziz" about the issue of Jordan. I said no one has condemned what the Jordanian tribe of Al Banaa has done (a suicide bomber in Iraq hailed from that tribe) except our office and "Abdul Aziz, which is commendable."

SADR: "Thanks is due, thanks is not due... Stay balanced, do not stoop low, and do not flatter. We have standards and don't get out of that. It's very important."

CLERIC: "What I said does not critique or flatter or make us beg him, ok? It was simply a stance, ok, I just want to point out his attitude. We simply made a reasonable commendation of his act I wanted to thank his attitude and to the limit of the reasonable. Despite the fact that his initiative on that subject was substantial."

SADR: "I am saying that I don't like what you are doing. I am talking about something else, what you are doing does not please me, it simply does not please me."

CLERIC: "And how would we know what you like and what you don't?"

SADR: "I'll tell you this. I don't agree you make connections with ministries. I don't agree that you visit a party ten times and I don't agree that you use the mosque pulpit to praise people and parties. Don't attack them and don't praise them. I'll tell you. You are the public relations manager of the Sadr office, for which I am responsible before society. You don't have the right to ignore my directives or not listen to me. Get me an agenda for the office work so I read it. Otherwise I won't agree."

CLERIC: "I criticized parties more than I praised them on the mosque pulpit. My criticisms are often acerbic, if you ever hear that I..."

(Sadr interrupts)

SADR: "Do not criticize either. Who said that I want you to criticise people? I don't want you to do that either. Act as if nothing happened or something never existed."

CLERIC: "The Iraqi street wants to hear politics."

SADR: "You are a religious man so talk about religion, talk about morals, talk about everything else..."

CLERIC: "The Iraqi street's main concern today is politics. I make the first part of the sermon about religion but who explains the political situation to Iraqis if not the Friday sermon? The satellite television channels are performing a horrific role. They make the right false and the false right. Who would clarify these things to the simple folk? People come to Friday prayer to hear politics and it is the role of the man on the pulpit to explain that. I can not keep people blind. I am following the fact that the second Martyr said in 1993 'I came to get the Shia out of the darkness.' I can not keep them in the darkness. This is not possible."

Service Members Urge Congress to Withdraw Troops
By ANNA SHEN 12/19/2006 7:35 PM ET
In a remarkable commentary on the war, more than 1,000 active duty soldiers have signed the online Appeal for Redress, which urges Congress to withdraw troops from Iraq.

While technically not a petition, the Web site allows users to sign their name, which, in essence, allows them to voice their opinion on the war. For the first time since Vietnam, writes Marc Cooper, in liberal magazine The Nation, these military personnel are publicly opposing the war and urging Congress to remove troops stationed in Iraq.

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice called the move unprecedented.

The Web site states: "Many active duty, reserve, and guard service members are concerned about the war in Iraq and support the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The Appeal for Redress provides a way in which individual service members can appeal to their Congressional Representative and US Senators to urge an end to the U.S. military occupation."

The site has been active for a little less than two months, but the number of soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and others signing continues to climb. The majority of them are on active duty. Signers are wide-ranging and include recent recruits and high-ranking officers. Some are serving in Iraq, others are based in the U.S. or elsewhere.

Several of those interviewed for the article gave detailed explanations about why they signed on, however, their reasons can be summed up as practical, ideological, strategic or moral. Some reported that they thought long and hard about what signing it could mean to their career, although they are protected by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which says that as long as they are not on duty or in uniform, they have first amendment rights.

Deadline For Express Mail on Tuesday
12/18/2006 12:06 PM ET
The post office estimates it will send 10.5 million letters and packages to military bases around the world. For those who do not have friends or loved ones overseas, there are services that will generate emails and cards.

For those who would like to send the troops overseas a bit of holiday cheer, the deadline for Express Mail military service cards and packages is Tuesday, December 19. However, this service is not available to Iraq.

IraqSlogger Tip: Despite the lack of priority mail you can ship gifts via FedEx (expect 5 days for delivery) to Iraq locations as long as the person its addressed to knows it is coming and can get to the FedEx location. For example in Fallujah, Taqaddumm (TQ) in Fallujah has a Federal Express office. Go to to see the list under Iraq.

An example of how to address the package:

Rank, First Name, Last Name Taqqaddum Air Base (TQ) Fallujah, Iraq (Hold at office for pick-up)

Note: it is not cheap; a 20lb. package worth $10 cost $855 to send to Camp Victory, a letter to Taqqadum is $364.64. The good news is the Fedex website will automate the process making it fast...but not cheap.

A few great websites that allow you to send cards or greetings to anyone, anywhere, in the military:

America Supports You, which is a Department of Defense site with different options for emails and donations.

Let's Say Thanks, which allows you to select a design and send a postcard.

You may also check the website of the Military Postal Service Agency. Military Postal Service Agency

Mortuary Affairs IDs the Dead
By ANNA SHEN 12/18/2006 01:00 AM ET
Daily news from the major papers excludes the intricacies of war - the small, inner workings - and odd but essential jobs that few would imagine - like soldiers who work in the office of mortuary affairs.

Identifying the dead has come a long way - during the civil war, 42 percent of war casualties were unidentified. Today, the number is up to 100 percent, in part due to technological developments that make identification easier, according to the U.S. Army Mortuary Affairs Center.

Providing Dignity for Those Who Have Fallen, by Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown and published in military pub Band of Brothers, offers a view of this profession, which gives "dignity, honor and respect," for those killed on the front lines.

Daily Column
The Scoop from Key Arabic-Language Web Sites
By ZEYAD KASIM 12/17/2006 11:56 PM ET
The Haqq Agency reports that the gunmen in police uniforms who on Sunday abducted about 30 people from the Iraqi Red Crescent offices at Andalus Square, central Baghdad, videotaped the operation, according to a female employee of the Red Crescent. Eyewitnesses added that women were separated from men and their cell phones were confiscated, a similar method that was used in the abduction of Higher Education Ministry employees several weeks ago. There was unconfirmed news that six Shi'ite employees were released later Sunday at the Sha'ab district, according to the agency.

On the Medad Al-Siyouf Jihadi message board, the media bureau of the 1920 Revolution Brigades insurgent group published its "harvest of military operations" for November 2006, as follows: 35 destroyed U.S. Hummvee vehicles, 17 damaged Humvees, 9 destroyed trucks, 5 armored vehicles, 4 tanks, 1 destroyed robot, 5 sniper attacks, 1 destroyed 4WD vehicle, 1 destroyed mine sweeper, 7 C5K rocket attacks, 11 armed clashes, 7 RPG attacks, 48 mortar attacks.

The Fajr Media Center publishes a video address by the spokesman for the Islamic Iraqi State to the "Mujahideen" on December 17. Prominent points of the statement were the following: - The battle for Baghdad is against injustice of any form. It was against the Crusaders, and then it expanded to include the Rawafidh (Rejectionists, Shia) and the apostates from the Sunni community. - The battle with the Rawafidh is due to their corrupt beliefs and their actions against the Mujahideen and the Sunni community. They have done to Muslims what Crusaders have not dared to, such as killing women and burning mosques and the holy book. - A call on Jihadi groups to pledge allegiance to Sheikh Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi. - A call for Islamic youth to come to the aid of the Mujahideen in Iraq. - The battle for Baghdad is a battle for the whole Umma (Islamic nation). - The Mujahideen will not leave beloved Baghdad but will fight until they are victorious and it is purged from the Crusaders and the Rawafidh. - Those who have taken part in the government of the Rawafidh are even worse than them. - Praise for the Iraqi tribes of Dulaim, Jubour, Ubaid, Zoba', Qais, Azza, Tai, Janabiyeen, Suwamra, Mashahda, Bani Zaid, Shammar, Aniza, Tamim, Sumaida', Ni'aim, Khazraj, Bani Hamadan, Mujamma', Lihaib, Bani Ghanim, Sa'ida, and others who have supported the Mujahideen.

The Iraq News Agency (INA) reports that a joint American-Iraqi force raided the residence of MP Abdullah Iskender, of the Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc, in Hawija, west of Kirkuk, and detained his son and two other members of his family. Iskender was not in the house at the time of the raid.

Unknown gunmen attacked and attempted to storm Baghdad University's Dentistry College at the Medical City in central Baghdad, Sunday morning, but were repelled by college guards. There was no news of casualties. The attendance of students has been significantly low over the last few days, and the college administration had decided to cancel most classes and clinics for the rest of the term because of the unstable security situation.

Tribal tensions remain high in Basrah following the assassination of a leader of the Bani Tamim tribe yesterday. Dozens of vehicles full of Bani Tamim tribesmen drove around the southern city, firing their weapons in the air and promising revenge for the murder of the Tamim leader.

Buratha News reports that Sheikh Ismael Al-Khanfas, leader of the Sunni Al-Khanafus tribe in Iskenderiya, south of Baghdad, was assassinated by unknown gunmen, according to a Babel governorate police source. Alaa' Hussein Al-Janabi, an Iraqi Islamic Party official, was wounded in the attack.

The Iraqi Rabita website publishes a guide for Iraqis living in Syria and Jordan to avoid being targeted by possible Mahdi Army militiamen who had infiltrated these countries, as follows: - Only give your address and phone number to people in your own circle. - Avoid popular neighborhoods. - Try to take friends or relatives when going to these areas. - Return home early. - Take different routes to your residence and do not use the same one everyday. - Always inform your family where you are.

The Iraqi Rabita also posts a plea to former Iraqi army officers, warning them against responding to PM Maliki's recent invitation for former army officers to join the new Iraqi army. The Rabita explains that several Iraqi officers, particularly former air force pilots, were "eliminated" after they had responded to a similar appeal several months ago. Fliers had been distributed in several areas of Baghdad, in addition to Mosul, Samarra, Fallujah and Ramadi, signed by "The Organization of Expelled Officers," stating that Iraqi officers refuse to join an army that collaborates with the occupation.

The Aswat Al-Iraq Agency reports that Iraqi journalist Ayad Al-Aboudi, a reporter for the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper, escaped murder by a fake checkpoint in the Bayya' district, south of Baghdad. Al-Aboudi said that he was taken off the bus in Bayya' and after his ID was checked, he was severely beaten by the gunmen, who called him a "traitor." They put him in a car trunk and one of them pointed a pistol at his head, almost shooting him before another gunmen suddenly appeared and ordered them to release him.

Daily price bulletin for Sunday, December 17, according to WNA News in Iraq:

Currency Currency Code Buying Price In IQD Selling Price In IQD

US Dollar USD 1409.000 1411.000

European Euro EUR 1846.781 1847.705

Sterling Pound GBP 2755.433 2756.812

Canadian Dollar CAD 1218.502 1219.112

Swiss Frank CHF 1155.316 1155.894

Japanese Yen JPY 11.968 11.974

"I Ate Five MRE's and None of Them Had an Exit Strategy"
12/17/2006 11:27 PM ET
Photo by Sgt. Thomas Day, 40th Public Affairs Detachment
Al Franken is in the midst of his 8th USO tour that continues through New Year's Day. The acerbic left wing gadfly is headlining with Darryl Worley and American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. The Dallas Cheerleaders and other stars are on the Baghdad to Kabul tour circuit entitled. Franken is careful to point out ""Although I have had some tell me that they do not agree with me politically, they are still happy that I am here."

Worley's haunting post-traumatic stress disorder anthem "I Just Came Home From A War" is climbing the country charts and may strike a somber chord amongst troops deployed overseas for many months. Despite his political convictions, Franken is poised to be the new Bob Hope, the comedian who tirelessly spent Christmas with troops since World War Two.

Franken's rival, Fox News star Bill O'Reilly, was visiting with U.S. troops elsewhere in Iraq at the same time, and there's no indication they crossed paths.

Why is the DoD Making it Available to Insurgents,Terrorists?
By EASON JORDAN 12/16/2006 4:55 PM ET
Your IraqSlogger editors are stunned that the Pentagon has released to the entire world and posted on the Web the U.S. military's new 282-page counterinsurgency war-fighting manual.

This is the first post-9/11 "war on terror"-era U.S. military counterinsurgency manual - the long-awaited doctrine meant in part to help turn the tide for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The counterinsurgency field manual's cover reads in part, "Distribution Restriction: Approved for Public Release; Distribution is unlimited."


Now you and everyone, including Al Qaeda terrorists and insurgents, can read the entire 282-page manual.

It's posted on multiple military Web sites.

While the manual doesn't contain classified secrets, it contains an astounding amount of seemingly sensitive military doctrine, with subject headings including:









Should such sensitive and detailed information be dished up to the U.S.'s enemies, especially via Pentagon Web sites?

In the manual's foreword, Lt. Generals David Petreaus and James Amos write in part, "With our Soldiers and Marines fighting insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is essential that we give them a manual that provides principles and guidelines for counterinsurgency operations."

How would a U.S. soldier or Marine now in Iraq or Afghanistan feel knowing the hot-off-the-presses counterinsurgency manual is available to the "bad guys" at the same time it is available to the "good guys"?

Granted, the Pentagon posts a lot on the Web, but it seems fair to ask whether this entire 282-page document (surely, there are additional classified components) should be made available to all.

Will the manual be of value to Al Qaeda terrorists, Iraqi insurgents, and the Taliban?

Would the U.S. think it had scored an intelligence coup if it got its hands on the insurgents' 282-page field manual?

How would the American people respond if asked in a poll whether the U.S. military's counterinsurgency manual should be shared with the insurgents?

Your IraqSlogger team will keep an eye out on terrorist and insurgent Web sites to see whether they provide links to Pentagon Web sites providing the counterinsurgency manual -- or whether they go so far as to translate the manual into Arabic and other languages.

Stay tuned.

Criticizes News Media's Iraq Coverage as Unfairly Negative
12/15/2006 9:44 PM ET
"But I do know that there are a lot of good things that are happening (in Iraq) that aren't covered. And I think the drumbeat in the country (U.S.) from the media, from the only way people know what's happening unless they happen to have a loved one deployed there, is discouraging and you know -- I know that the facts are not as discouraging." -- First Lady Laura Bush

Blogs and Web sites are buzzing with pro and con comments regarding First Lady Laura Bush's claim in an NBC interview broadcast Thursday that the reality on the ground in Iraq is "less discouraging" than reported by the western news media.

Here's the relevant transcript excerpt from the interview with NBC's Nora O'Donnell:

O'DONNELL: I know you read the newspapers. You know some of the discussion out there is that the president is going to dismiss the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and not take the fruit salad, as James Baker has called it, and pick and choose.

BUSH: Well, I don't know what that is but I'm sure that he will pick and choose because that -- it's important for him to do that, to pick the ones that are most effective, that the generals think are most effective, and he'll do that.

O'DONNELL: Let me ask you then, finally, just about public opinion when it comes to the Iraq war. NBC News -- we have a new poll out we sponsor with The Wall Street Journal, and the numbers showed two out of 10 Americans now approve of the president's handling on Iraq; seven out of 10 -- less confident that the war will be successful.

BUSH: Well, I, you know, I understand why those polls are like that, because of the coverage that we see every single day in Iraq, and it is not encouraging coverage, for instance -- for sure. There's no doubt about it. But I do know that there are a lot of good things that are happening that aren't covered. And I think the drumbeat in the country from the media, from the only way people know what's happening unless they happen to have a loved one deployed there, is discouraging and you know -- I know that the facts are not as discouraging.

O'DONNELL: But there are a lot of deaths every day.

BUSH: Absolutely, there are, and people do know that and see that, but there are also good things going on that people don't have the chance to see.

O'DONNELL: What are some of those good things that people should know about?

BUSH: Schools that are being built; parts of the country that are peaceful; and people are trying to rebuild their lives in a large part of Iraq. And we hear that, we hear that from friends, we hear that from Iraqis, we hear it from our troops who are there, and -- so, I'd like to see the media get a little bit more balanced view of it.

O'DONNELL: And we do know that our men and women over there do want support over there and we do --

BUSH: Sure, absolutely. And I know the American people support our troops, and that's what I hope our troops also see when they see the coverage of it, the way the American people support them. And I know they'll see it over the holidays, because many, many Americans will be reaching out to our deployed troops in a lot of different ways: by sending Christmas presents, by sending Christmas cards, by letting our troops know that we are with them. And I hope our troops get that message over the holidays.


Silver Medal's Silver Lining: No Celebratory Gunfire in Iraq
12/15/2006 10:00 AM ET
The scrappy Iraqi national soccer team lost a heartbreaker to Qatar 1-0 in the gold medal match of the Asian Games in Qatar tonight. Iraq takes the silver medal. The silver lining is there's no celebratory gunfire in Iraq, where countless people have been killed over the years when "happy" bullets fell from the sky.

Mystery Robo Caller Causes Hysteria, Prompts Tears
By NIR ROSEN 12/15/2006 10:00 AM ET
(Editor's note: We're still searching for answers to the questions raised by this intriguing story, which IraqSlogger first reported exclusively early this week.)

A mysterious psychological operations campaign is underway in Iraq, with Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army as its target. In recent days, Baghdad residents report receiving phone calls that caller ID show to be originating from outside Iraq. When the phone is answered, the listener hears a recorded message from an anonymous man speaking formal Arabic. He condemns the Mahdi Army and describes how it destroys Iraqi infrastructure, including electricity. Baghdad residents are afraid to discuss details of the message over phone lines, believing them to be monitored. But an IraqSlogger source tells us the unnerving message left at least one Baghdad woman in tears. Who is responsible for these calls? We'd love to know. Tips? Write to us at

This Wickedly Morbid Joke is Making the Rounds in Baghdad
12/14/2006 11:21 PM ET
A driver is stuck in a traffic jam on the highway. Suddenly a man knocks on his window. The driver rolls down his window and asks, "What's going on?"

"Terrorists down the road have kidnapped George W. Bush and Dick Cheney," the man says, "They're asking $100 million ransom. Otherwise they're going to douse them with gasoline and set them on fire. We're going from car to car taking up a collection."

The driver asks, "How much is everyone giving on average?"

The man responds: "Most people are giving about a gallon."

Baghdad Buzz
Rare Unity Among Iraqis; Celebratory Gunfire Alert
12/14/2006 5:51 PM ET
Iraqis are abuzz about that nation's biggest sports match in memory: the Friday gold medal soccer showdown between Iraq and Qatar at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. The Iraqi team's players, including several teenagers and no player older than 24, are national heroes. The Iraqi players trained partly in Jordan for safety reasons. Iraqis will be glued to their TVs for the match, which begins at 1600 Iraq time (0800et). Iraqi and U.S. authorities have warned all in Iraq to remain under cover during and immediately after the game because celebratory gunfire is expected. Photos of all the players on the Iraqi team:

Marine Corps Holiday Tradition -- Baghdad Branch
12/13/2006 9:03 PM ET
Long a U.S. Marine tradition in America, Marines in Iraq are again this year conducting a "Toys for Tots" campaign for needy Iraqi children. Marines in Iraq have spent weeks collecting toys outside military base stores and at sporting events for presentation to "needy Iraqi children near Christmas time." An announcement on page two of the U.S. military's December 10 "Victory Times" newspaper calls on military personnel to deliver toys to a collection point at Camp Victory adjacent to the Baghdad airport.
Life Goes On
Tune Out Reality, Tune in Hit U.S. TV Series
By EASON JORDAN 12/13/2006 11:14 AM ET
Desperate for
relief from their every day nightmare, Iraqis are tuning out reality and tuning in "Lost," the hit ABC TV series, season two of which is being broadcast in Iraq. In the midst of a phone conversation a few days ago, an IraqSlogger in Baghdad suddenly barked, "It's time for 'Lost'" and then slammed down the phone.

U.S. Embassy Warns of Lethal Soccer Match Fallout
12/13/2006 08:36 AM ET
As the Iraq and Qatar soccer teams prepare to face off in the finals of the Asian Games Friday, U.S. and Iraqi officials are urging Baghdad residents to stay inside during and after the match because of the likelihood of celebratory gunfire -- bullets that can kill. In advance of the Iraqi soccer team's semi-final win yesterday, the U.S. embassy issued this advisory: "Personnel should try to complete outdoor activities such as physical training, sunbathing and holiday decorating prior to this time. Be advised this is a serious threat. A person was shot earlier this week in front of the embassy, the bullet lodged four inches into his leg from above." Indeed the bullets came raining down when Iraq upset South Korea to advance to the finals against Qatar. No word on whether any of those "happy" bullets struck anyone, although over the years several Iraqis have been killed by celebratory gunfire.

First in a Series of Reports Profiling Iraq's Cities
By RAFID AL IRAQI 12/12/2006 8:02 PM ET
Hawija is a town of about 200,000 people 70 kilometers west of Kirkuk. It consists of a majority of Sunni Arabs and a Kurdish minority that has been fleeing since the war ended in April 2003. A small river divides the city between its eastern and western sectors.

Hawija was once known as "Hawija of Ubeid" because Ubeid tribesmen were its first settlers, but after tribesmen from the Jubur tribe achieved a numerical superiority in Hawija, the influence of the Ubeid diminished.

Hawija is primarily an agricultural town and its main produce is traditionally wheat, barley, tomatoes, cotton and similar goods. The high cost of seeds, petrochemical manure and fuel for machinery have caused farmers to abandon their profession and seek jobs in places such as government offices or the Iraqi police and army. Others have become day laborers. Wheat, cotton and corn are still the dominant business however. Other businesses sell foodstuffs such as rice and flour.

Following the war there was an upsurge in demand for electronic appliances and carpets. Prior to the war very few houses had electronic appliances or carpets for their homes.

The al Fayhan family from the Jubur tribe are the most prominent businessmen in Hawija. They own vast agricultural lands as well as properties. The al Karfat family is also a prominent business leader. They specialize in transportation and own trucks. They transport agricultural products and also buy land to build residential areas.

Kamil Saqar Al Duri owns factories, such as ice and cement factories. Al Haji Abd Al Wahid Khalil Al Duri owns a large number of stores and markets and he holds stock in an Indian factory that builds water pumps in India. Zakaria Khalil, his brother, is a very wealthy businessman who also owns cement and ice factories as well as a mill.

There are several important mosques in Hawija. The al Tawba mosque is run by Imam Imad Abbas. The al Tawba mosque is popular with radical Sunnis called Takfiri Salafis, who despise Shias as well as other Sunnis who do not practice the strict Salafi interpretation of Islam. The Haj Abdul Wahid mosque is run by Imam Mahmood al Ithawi. It is popular with supporters of the Islamic Party of Iraq. The al Shuhada mosque is run by Imam Faisal Al-Salim. The al Asi mosque is run by Imam Taha Al Ithawi. The Mullah Hamdoon mosque is run by Imam Waleed Ismail Hamdoon. The al Awqaf mosque is run by Imam Muallah Nuri. The Technical Institute's mosque is run by Imam Naiyf Abu Muhamed. The Dur Al Zaraa mosque is run by Imam Muallah Younis.

Sheikh Anwar al Asi, of the al Asi branch of the Ubeid tribe is the leader of the Ubeid tribe. His brother is Sheikh Wasfi Al Asi, head of the United Arab Tribal Front, based in Kirkuk.

Sheikh Awad Al Mhawish and Sheikh Hasib Al Arif are two active and well known political figures in the region.

Sheikh Ibrahim Nayif al Mheri, a man in his early forties, has just succeeded his father as the leader of the al Jubur tribe.

Among the influential figures in the region is Atya Shindakh of the al Danandish branch of the al Jubur tribe. He was a leading member of the Baath party and has been detained by the Americans for more than a year and a half.

Atya al Sikandar, is the head of the Reconciliation and Liberation Movement in Hawija. This movement is a political party led by Mash'an Al Juburi.

Salim al Wahab leads the Jamila tribe. Dr. Hatam Dlyan al Ubeidi, the former head of Hawija hospital is an influential person in the region. He was once detained by the Americans. Dr. Subhi Abbas al Bayati is an influential local figure and is the current head of Hawija hospital. Dr. Muhamed Abd Wahid al Duri is the head of the Pediatric hospital in Kirkuk and is the head of the Islamic Party's Hawija branch.

Hawija is rife with violence. Armed militias fully control the region overtly and covertly. Groups have full control of the entire region both overtly and covertly. There is no other power to face them. They are described by locals not as an organized army, but as very dangerous gangs. Among the main groups that operate in the region are al Qaeda, the Islamic Army and the 1920 Revolution Brigade. The Iraqi forces have tried to defeat these groups but have failed because these Sunni militias have infiltrated both the police and the army. There is also no legal authority or power in the region. People who have committed violent crimes are released a few months after their arrest, which has disillusioned and disappointed the families of the victims. As a result people refuse to cooperate with local government authorities or security forces and it is impossible to prevent violent attacks of any kind. Locals do not trust their authorities and do not cooperate with them because of rampant bribery, criminality, disloyalty at work, discrimination and a feeling that their complaints are ignored.

Iraqi army and police patrols come under constant attack by road side bombs, as do American patrols. However the greatest danger in Hawija are the snipers belonging to Sunni militias.

Kidnappings and assassinations are regularly attempted. Often members of the Iraqi police and army are targeted. They are followed home where they are killed or kidnapped. Ransoms demanded are often in the thousands of dollars. Al Qaeda is said to be responsible for the most kidnappings which they use as a means of financing their military operations.

The Americans are not perceived to have any positive role and in fact are seen as just another militia. Locals believe the Americans witness how the Iraqi army harasses civilians and do nothing to protect the people of Hawija from the Iraqi army or the Iraqi police.

"Diva" Among Wrestlers Turning Heads on Iraq Holiday Tour
12/11/2006 5:59 PM ET
Wrestling Diva Torrie Wilson meets soldiers at Forward Operating Base Warhouse in Baquba
U.S. Army photo
Wrestling "Diva" Torrie Wilson meets soldiers at Forward Operating Base Warhouse in Baquba

Page one of the Tuesday Mideast "Stars and Stripes" provides ample eye candy: WWE wrestling "diva" Torrie Wilson, who's part of the annual WWE holiday barnstorming tour of U.S. bases in Iraq. Oh, yes, male wrestlers are part of the tour, too.

The Scoop from Key Arabic-Language Web Sites
By ZEYAD KASIM 12/10/2006 7:14 PM ET
The Association of Muslim Scholars released on its website "Statement No. 348 regarding the siege on Seiniya and the crimes of the occupation in it." It condemned the cordon that American troops have imposed on Seiniya, west of Baiji in the Salah Al-Din governorate, over the last two weeks, and called for intervention to lift the cordon that they said has caused "the murder of five children, two women and several residents with occupation sniper fire." The AMS also released a press statement today condemning the detention of "over 1,000 people in Haditha under the pretext of terrorism."

The Islam Memo website reports that sources close to Sadr's office in Basrah have offered the Basrah governor an ultimatum of six days to release several detainees from the Mahdi Army, who were arrested by British and Danish troops yesterday at the Hartha suburb, north of Basrah. One of the five detainees is the administrator of Hartha, who is accused of running death squads north of Basrah.

The Tariq-Karbala website reports that hundreds of demonstrators marched in Kadhimiya against Adnan Al-Dulaimi, head of the Iraqi Accord Front, yesterday, accusing him of involvement in the forced deportation of Shia families from the Adil district (where he resides) and Jami'a. Demonstrators shouted slogans such as, 'No, no Dulaimi. No, no Dhari."

The Haqq Agency reports that several men from the Sunni majority Adhamiya district, who were detained by American troops last Monday, were threatened during interrogation to be taken to Sadr City and left there if they did not reveal information about militants in Adhamiya. "We'll leave you there, and you know what is going to happen to you then," one interrogator reportedly told the detainees.

Several Iraqi websites reported the jailbreak of Badosh prison, west of Mosul, north of Iraq. Ayman Sab'awi, the son of Saddam's half-brother, Sab'awi Ibrahim Al-Hassan Al-Tikriti, fled the prison with the help of a local police officer, a police spokesman said, according to Reuters. Sab'awi was detained north of Tikrit in May 2005 by U.S. troops and was sentenced to life for charges of funding the Iraqi insurgency and crossing the border from Syria illegally. This is not the first incident of its kind at Badosh prison; a Saudi detainee also fled the prison several months ago, and Sab'awi also first attempted to flee last June.

Fear of Female Suicide Bomber Attacks Empties Streets
12/07/2006 6:11 PM ET
An IraqSlogger source in Baghdad tells us the streets of the Shia neighborhood of Amil emptied Tuesday after rumors swept the area of an imminent wave of female suicide bomber attacks. Shop owners franticly closed their stores and panick-stricken area residents fled to their homes. There was no suicide bomber attack.

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