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Watch It Here
Kyra Phillips Reports on Baghdad's Only School for Blind, the al-Nour Institute
03/06/2008 12:50 PM ET
Daily Column
Small-town America bearing brunt of war deaths; US wants wide rights in Iraq
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 01/25/2008 01:44 AM ET
The killing of Brig. Gen. Saleh Muhammad Hassan al-Jubouri, Ninevah provincial police chief, in Mosul yesterday dominates the datelined news out of Iraq. But both the Washington Post and The New York Times also have stories out of Washington dealing with contractor management and rights for the U.S. in Iraq.

Murder in the north The Christian Science Monitor's Sam Dagher returns to Iraq after a break to the grim news of al-Jubouri's death. He was killed by a suicide bomber while touring the site of that bomb factory that exploded Wednesday in an attack that killed two other Iraqi policemen and wounded a U.S. and Iraqi soldier. It should be obvious now that the tactics of al Qaeda in Iraq, who is suspected in the attacks, have shifted from mass bombings to targeted assassinations -- and they seem to be even better at penetrating defenses. Dagher gives good detail on the Wednesday bombing of the building in this piece and excellent context on the situation in the north, but he's a little short on details of the attack that killed al-Jubouri.

Solomon Moore has the story for the Times, and has some good details from the scene of al-Jubouri's murder. Rescuers were still digging corpses out of the rubble from Wednesday's blast when al-Jubouri showed up. An Angry crowd quickly gathered and began throwing stones at the chief. He and his bodyguards began to withdraw and in the confusion, the bomber got close to his truck and detonated. Moore says six civilians were wounded, including an Iraqi journalist. The police chief in Tal Afar said the attack was well organized. "After the insurgents booby-trapped the building the day before, the Iraqi Army knew that someone important would come into the area," he said. Is he suggesting someone in the Iraqi Army tipped them off? There are conflicting reports that the bomber wore a police uniform. Elsewhere, a top aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was wounded when an IED exploded near his convoy in Karbala. Sheikh Abdul Medhi al-Karbilai is the chief cleric at the Imam Hussein, one of the most important shrines for Shi'ites. Another bomb exploded near a police convoy in Baghdad, killing two officers and wounding three other people. Police in Baqoubah discovered a body.

Rounding out the roundups, Amit R. Paley of the Post reports on the killing of al-Jubouri. He also has the highest death toll from Wednesday's building blast: 38, making it the deadliest attack since mid-December. He notes that with the combined attacks, Mosul has once again become an important hub for al Qaeda in Iraq. Both American and Iraqi officials say that Nineveh is where all the al Qaeda in Iraq fighters are fleeing to, and that's the only province where attacks are rising. Paley also has an intriguing bit of information. Residents in Mosul accuse the Iraqi Army of setting of Wednesday's building blast because they improperly destroyed a weapons cache that was in the building. That's the reason for the angry mobs that met al-Jubouri.

Home front
USA Today's Rick Hampson reports on the agony of a small town in Maine that has lost two of its own to Iraq, as many as it lost in all of World War II. In just five months, Lee, Main, pop. 850, lost two young men who lived a mile apart. They both died from roadside bombs and both had had their tours extended. "It feels like we're being picked on, and we don't know why," says Gail Rae, the Red Cross volunteer. Joel House used to mow her lawn. "It was a punch in the stomach," says Kendra Ritchie, the guidance counselor. She played the piano at both funerals. According to USA Today's investigation, Lee is the smallest town to suffer more than one death from the Iraq war. It's the smallest of four communities with populations under 1,000 to have lost two people. A score of cities with more than 100,000 people have lost no one, indicating small town American is withstanding the worst of the war. It's a story about demographics, heartache and social patterns. Well worth a read.

Political battles
Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Meyers have a front page scoop of sorts for the Times, reporting details of what the U.S. is asking for as the U.N. mandate allowing its military presence runs out at the end of 2008. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. is asking the Iraqis for an arrangement that doesn't look that different from what it has now: wide authority to conduct combat operations and legal protection for civilian contractors. These demands, unsurprisingly, will be met with fierce opposition in Iraq's parliament, not to mention Democrats at home. The military-to-military agreement also includes demands that U.S. troops be immune from Iraqi prosecution -- a fairly standard arrangement around the world -- and that they maintain the authority to detain Iraqi prisoners. It's the contractor immunity that's the contentious part. No other country grants protection to American contractors working with the U.S. military. Also look for the Americans to push for the authority to conduct unilateral military actions instead of asking for Iraqi permission. Democrats say these negotiations will lock the U.S. into a long-term military obligation to Iraq, but the White House says, don't worry: there's no long-term agreement here. Why, it's not even asking for permanent bases, nor offering a security guarantee. An agreement like that would be a treaty, requiring Senate approval (pesky Constitution!) and the White House can't get the 2/3rds majority needed for that. Shanker and Meyers point out the differing circumstances surrounding these talks:

While the United States currently has military agreements with more than 80 countries around the world, including Japan, Germany, South Korea and a number of Iraq's neighbors, none of those countries are at war. And none has a population outraged over civilian deaths at the hands of armed American security contractors who are not answerable to Iraqi law.

The Post's Walter Pincus writes that lower officials with the Pentagon testified before Congress that the Bush Administration is not prepared to manage the squajillion contractors it has in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Actually, it's about 196,000. That's more than the number of combat troops.) Contractors "have become part of our total force, a concept that DoD must manage on an integrated basis with our military forces," said Jack Bell, deputy undersecretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness. "Frankly," he continued, "we were not adequately prepared to address" what he termed "this unprecedented scale of our dependence on contractors." Stuart W. Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, and William M. Solis, director of defense capabilities and management for the Government Accountability Office said there weren't enough trained service personnel available to handle the outsourcing to contractors.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

Wall Street Journal
No original Iraq coverage today.

Newsmakers
Erik Prince, al-Sadr, Anti-War Vets Also Cited for Taking "Space in Your Head"
12/12/2007 11:35 AM ET
Los Angeles, UNITED STATES: Actor Zac Efron arrives at the premiere of New Line Cinema's 'Hairspray' at Mann Village Theatre in the Westwood section of Los Angeles, 10 July 2007.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty
Los Angeles, UNITED STATES: Actor Zac Efron arrives at the premiere of New Line Cinema's 'Hairspray' at Mann Village Theatre in the Westwood section of Los Angeles, 10 July 2007.

"Anyone who understands power knows, it isn’t about corner offices and cocktail-party invitations—it’s about the space in your head," the editors of Details magazine advise in the introduction to their "Power 50"--the most powerful men under 45.

In their view, the most powerful men are the ones "who control your viewing patterns, your buying habits, your anxieties, your lust—the things you think about."

Though a significant number of individuals who've contributed to the surge aren't men under 45, the security developments brought by the infusion of manpower have been on the minds of many, making "the surge" an easy choice for #2--hilariously beat out for #1 by "Zac Efron, Shia LaBoeuf, and the Disney kids."

Erik Prince, Moqtada al-Sadr, and the "Vocal Vets" of groups like Iraq Veterans against the war came in at 8, 11, and 35 respectively. See what Details writes about its honorees below.

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 28: U.S. Army Specialist Zachery King of the D-CO 2/325 AIR 82nd Airborne Division on patrol April 28, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Joe Raedle/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 28: U.S. Army Specialist Zachery King of the D-CO 2/325 AIR 82nd Airborne Division on patrol April 28, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.
2 // The Surge
Average Age: 27

What do you call 20,000 soldiers sent off to fight a war that’s long since been lost? In George W. Bush’s politics of denial, they get a clever name: The Surge. It conveys power, momentum, and impermanence—military need and domestic political necessity—all in one word. But strategists argue that any increase is doomed unless it’s permanent. “Our biggest challenge has been convincing Iraqis the United States will be around long enough to help protect them—something so clearly finite doesn’t help,” says Stephen Biddle, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. And putting these soldiers in harm’s way has only made the war’s critics more rabid, meaning the administration can’t drown out the ever-louder cries to “Bring them home!”

BASRA, IRAQ - FEBURARY 26: Firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks to his supporters on February 26, 2006 in the city of Basra, 340 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq.
Khaldoon Zubeir/AFP/Getty
BASRA, IRAQ - FEBURARY 26: Firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks to his supporters on February 26, 2006 in the city of Basra, 340 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq.
8 // Muqtada al-Sadr
Shiite Cleric; Age: 34

As the major players begin to plan for a post-U.S. Iraq, Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr has already burnished his statesman credentials, ordering a cease-fire for his Mahdi army (while still unofficially siccing them on his enemies). He’s also strengthened his grip on parliament and the government, including the Interior Ministry. Now, formerly warring Shiite and Sunni factions are uniting, apparently in the hopes of countering Sadr’s dominance. “This year his influence has been at least as high as it’s ever been,” says Austin Long, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation. “It’s very rare that someone has so much extralegal power—in the form of an armed militia—yet has so much influence within the government.” But Sadr’s real base of power is the street, where among nationalists and Shiite fundamentalists alike, his name is synonymous with resistance to the occupation. “It’s a name to conjure by these days,” Long says. “You saw that at Saddam’s hanging.” And you’ll see it when the last U.S. chopper leaves Baghdad.

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 02: Erik Prince, chairman of the Prince Group, LLC and Blackwater USA, listens to questions during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill October 2, 2007 in Washington DC.
Mark Wilson/Getty
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 02: Erik Prince, chairman of the Prince Group, LLC and Blackwater USA, listens to questions during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill October 2, 2007 in Washington DC.
11 // Erik Prince
Founder and CEO, Blackwater Worldwide; Age: 38

Four years into the war, we learned something about the face of America in Iraq: It isn’t the reconstruction worker building a school or even the U.S. soldier—it’s the wraparound-sunglasses-clad Blackwater mercenary. These private warriors answer to Erik Prince, a conservative Republican with ties to the Bush administration who built his army-for-hire from veterans of elite forces, who are trained at a 7,000-acre facility in Moyock, North Carolina. Since 2003, the private security firm has reportedly earned upwards of $100 million a year by supplying bodyguards to the Green Zone elite. But last September, when Blackwater’s hired guns killed 17 Iraqi civilians in an apparently unprovoked attack in downtown Baghdad, we got a frightening glimpse of what Iraqis have been seeing for years: Prince’s army.

WASHINGTON - MARCH 19: Iraq Veterans Against the War members, including USMC Sgt. Adam Kokesh (L), 25, of San Mateo, California, talk before a news conference across the street from the U.S. Capitol March 19, 2007 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty
WASHINGTON - MARCH 19: Iraq Veterans Against the War members, including USMC Sgt. Adam Kokesh (L), 25, of San Mateo, California, talk before a news conference across the street from the U.S. Capitol March 19, 2007 in Washington, DC.
35 // The Vocal Vets
Average Age: 25

To call the Iraq war “another Vietnam” is to overlook one critical difference: This time the protesters aren’t heckling the veterans; they are the veterans. Veterans Against the Iraq War, for instance, which formed three years ago, already has 27 active chapters. Then there was the August New York Times Op-Ed “The War as We Saw It,” written by seven loyal-but-dissenting servicemen on active duty who had ceased to see their purpose in Iraq. When Rush Limbaugh dismissed them as “phony soldiers,” antiwar vet Brian McGough, who had been awarded the Purple Heart, appeared on TV and dared the conservative radio host to utter the epithet to his face. “One of the hallmarks of our success is that now you can say ‘Support the troops: Bring them home,’” says Adam Kokesh, the 25-year-old George Washington University student recently discharged from the Marine Corps for protesting in his uniform. “Even a year ago, if you said that, you’d get laughed at by Middle America.”
Heroes
Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell Lauded for Founding Wounded Warriors Barracks
11/23/2007 3:50 PM ET
"I'm just trying to help these guys, to do as much as I can," Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell tells Mike Sager in a profile for Esquire, which has named the 42-year-old Marine one of its "best and brightest" of 2007 for founding a wounded warriors barracks at Camp Lejeune.

Maxwell Hall at Camp Lejeune now houses approximately 115 servicemen recovering from life-altering wounds of war, acting as a kind of halfway house to assist them men in their transition to a new life living with their injuries. Some of the men aim to recover enough to eventually return to their units, though many face the disconcerting reality of an uncertain future.

Maxwell himself suffered a traumatic brain injury after being hit by the shrapnel of a mortar attack on his base near Iskandiriyah in 2004 and now has to manage a cornucopia of medications, seizures, and the loss of short-term memory capabilities.

Sager devotes much of the profile to the men Maxwell refers to as "my Marines," giving a good sense of what life has become for the men of Maxwell Hall. Though their circumstances may not be ideal, they face the challenges of their new physical, mental, or emotional limitations with the camaraderie of those who can understand and support their struggle.

Most wounded warriors do not have access to something like Maxwell Hall, though since it opened at Camp Lejeune, a similar barracks has been established at Camp Pendleton, and the Marine Corps has established a Wounded Warrior Regiment.

Still on active duty, Sager has been tasked to advise the Marine Corps on how to expand the service's support mechanism for its war injured. Though he may not be able to return to battle as he would otherwise wish, Maxwell still has plenty of service left to give to his fellow Marines.

News Magazines
Head of Fisher House Foundation Also Makes US News' List of Honorees
11/21/2007 11:22 AM ET
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 6: Iraq Study Group co-chairmen former secretary of state James Baker (R) and former chairman of the House International Relations Committee Lee Hamilton (L) conduct a news conference by the The Iraq Study Group on Capitol Hill December 6,2006.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 6: Iraq Study Group co-chairmen former secretary of state James Baker (R) and former chairman of the House International Relations Committee Lee Hamilton (L) conduct a news conference by the The Iraq Study Group on Capitol Hill December 6,2006.

"It became virtually impossible for even the war's staunchest supporters to argue for staying the course" after the release of the Iraq Study Group report, Kevin Whitelaw writes in this week's US News and World Report.

For their efforts to forge agreement for the sake of having a true consensus of the report's recommendations, US News has named the ISG's co-chairs, former secretary of state James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, as two of America's Best Leaders.

Kenneth Fisher, chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, which finances the building of guest housing near military hospitals to accommodate the families of wounded soldiers, also garnered a nod on the list honoring 19 of the country's best leaders.

Over the past two decades, the Fisher House has built more than three dozen buildings to house military families near their wounded loved ones, and has plans for twenty more over the next four years.

Kent Garber writes that Fisher, 49, a senior partner at a Manhattan real-estate firm and architect of the foundation's expansion, is motivated by what he says is a desire to "give back" to U.S. servicemen. "People can be proactive," Fisher says. "You can sit back and play the political card. You can ask, 'Why is the government not doing this or not doing that?' But while you're wasting your time, the need grows and grows."

Whitelaw had Hamilton and Baker each comment on the working style and motivation of the other, and the respect the elder statesmen have for each other becomes immediately evident.

Hamilton says of Baker:

The conviction Jim had was that the Iraq Study Group report wouldn't amount to much if it wasn't unanimous, and it certainly wouldn't amount to much if it split along Democratic and Republican lines. There was a strong urge on his part to understand where the parties were coming from and to try to close gaps and reconcile differences.... If he had not been strongly committed to seeking that unanimity, we just wouldn't have gotten there.

Baker describes Hamilton:

He has had a voracious appetite for knowledge. He is an honest broker. He is a careful listener. He was always a person who would try to bridge the gap. He understood the political restraints the other side had with connection to any negotiation. He is not consumed by ideology, but he would not sacrifice principle for pragmatism.... My definition of leadership has always been that it is not some exalted principle reserved only for those in high authority. My view is that leadership is nothing more than simply knowing what to do and then doing it. And that personifies Lee Hamilton.

That kind of praise, respect, and cooperation crossing the ideological boundary between Democrat and Republican is refreshing and unusual and leaves one wishing Washington, DC had more leaders like Baker and Hamilton.

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