Electrical Risks at Bases in Iraq Worse Than Previously Said
By JAMES RISEN
Published: July 18, 2008
WASHINGTON — Shoddy electrical work by private contractors on United States military bases in Iraq is widespread and dangerous, causing more deaths and injuries from fires and shocks than the Pentagon has acknowledged, according to internal Army documents.
During just one six-month period — August 2006 through January 2007 — at least 283 electrical fires destroyed or damaged American military facilities in Iraq, including the military’s largest dining hall in the country, documents obtained by The New York Times show. Two soldiers died in an electrical fire at their base near Tikrit in 2006, the records note, while another was injured while jumping from a burning guard tower in May 2007.
And while the Pentagon has previously reported that 13 Americans have been electrocuted in Iraq, many more have been injured, some seriously, by shocks, according to the documents. A log compiled earlier this year at one building complex in Baghdad disclosed that soldiers complained of receiving electrical shocks in their living quarters on an almost daily basis.
Electrical problems were the most urgent noncombat safety hazard for soldiers in Iraq, according to an Army survey issued in February 2007. It noted “a safety threat theaterwide created by the poor-quality electrical fixtures procured and installed, sometimes incorrectly, thus resulting in a significant number of fires.”
The Army report said KBR, the Houston-based company that is responsible for providing basic services for American troops in Iraq, including housing, did its own study and found a “systemic problem” with electrical work.
But the Pentagon did little to address the issue until a Green Beret, Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Maseth, was electrocuted in January while showering. His death, caused by poor electrical grounding, drew the attention of lawmakers and Pentagon leaders after his family pushed for answers. Congress and the Pentagon’s inspector general have begun investigations, and this month senior Army officials ordered electrical inspections of all buildings in Iraq maintained by KBR.
“We consider this to be a very serious issue,” Chris Isleib, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday in an e-mail message, while declining to comment on the findings in the Army documents.
Heather Browne, a KBR spokeswoman, would not comment about a company safety study or the reports of electrical fires or shocks, but she said KBR had found no evidence of a link between its work and the electrocutions. She added, “KBR’s commitment to the safety of all employees and those the company serves remains unwavering.”
In public statements, Pentagon officials have not addressed the scope of the hazards, instead mostly focusing on the circumstances surrounding the death of Sergeant Maseth, who lived near Pittsburgh.
But the internal documents, including dozens of memos, e-mail messages and reports from the Army, the Defense Contract Management Agency and other agencies, show that electrical problems were widely recognized as a major safety threat among Pentagon contracting experts. It is impossible to determine the exact number of the resulting deaths and injuries because no single document tallies them up. (The records were compiled for Congressional and Pentagon investigators and obtained independently by The Times.)
The 2007 safety survey was ordered by the top official in Iraq for the Defense Contract Management Agency, which oversees contractors, after the October 2006 electrical fire that killed two soldiers near Tikrit. Paul Dickinson, a Pentagon safety specialist who wrote the report, confirmed its findings, but did not elaborate.
Senior Pentagon officials appear not to have responded to the survey until this May, after Congressional investigators had begun to ask questions. Then they argued that its findings were irrelevant to Sergeant Maseth’s electrocution.
In a memo dated May 26, 2008, a top official of the Defense Contract Management Agency stated that “there is no direct or causal connection” between the problems identified in the survey and those at the Baghdad compound where Sergeant Maseth died.
But in a sworn statement, apparently prepared for an investigation of Sergeant Maseth’s death by the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division, a Pentagon contracting official described how both military and KBR officials were aware of the growing danger from poor electrical work.
In the statement, Ingrid Harrison, an official with the Pentagon’s contracting management agency, disclosed that an electrical fire caused by poor wiring in a nearby building two weeks before Sergeant Maseth’s death had endangered two other soldiers.
“The soldiers were lucky because the one window that they could reach did not have bars on it, or there could have been two other fatalities,” Ms. Harrison said in the statement. She said that after Sergeant Maseth died, a more senior Pentagon contracting official in Baghdad denied knowing about the fire, but she asserted that “it was thoroughly discussed” during internal meetings.
Ms. Harrison added that KBR officials also knew of widespread electrical problems at the Radwaniya Palace Complex, near Baghdad’s airport, where Sergeant Maseth died. “KBR has been at R.P.C. for over four years and was fully aware of the safety hazards, violations and concerns regarding the soldiers’ housing,” she said in the statement. She added that the contractor “chose to ignore the known unsafe conditions.”
Ms. Harrison did not respond to a request for comment.
In another internal document written after Sergeant Maseth’s death, a senior Army officer in Baghdad warned that soldiers had to be moved immediately from several buildings because of electrical risks. In a memo asking for emergency repairs at three buildings, the official warned of a “clear and present danger,” adding, “Exposed wiring, ungrounded distribution panels and inappropriate lighting fixtures render these facilities uninhabitable and unsafe.”
The memo added that “over the course of several months, electrical fires and shorts have compounded these unsafe conditions.”
Since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, tens of thousands of American troops have been housed in Iraqi buildings that date from the Saddam Hussein era. KBR and other contractors have been paid millions of dollars to repair and upgrade the buildings, including their electrical systems. KBR officials say they handle the maintenance for 4,000 structures and an additional 35,000 containers used as housing in the war zone.
The reports of shoddy electrical work have raised new questions about the Bush administration’s heavy reliance on contractors in Iraq, particularly because they come after other high-profile disputes involving KBR. They include accusations of overbilling, providing unsafe water to soldiers and failing to protect female employees who were sexually assaulted.
Officials say the administration contracted out so much work in Iraq that companies like KBR were simply overwhelmed by the scale of the operations. Some of the electrical work, for example, was turned over to subcontractors, some of which hired unskilled Iraqis who were paid only a few dollars a day.
Government officials responsible for contract oversight, meanwhile, were also unable to keep up, so that unsafe electrical work was not challenged by government auditors.
Several electricians who worked for KBR have said previously in interviews that they repeatedly warned KBR managers and Pentagon and military officials about unsafe electrical work. They said that supervisors had ignored their concerns or, in some cases, lacked the training to understand the problems.
The Army documents cite a number of recent safety threats. One report showed that during a four-day period in late February, soldiers at a Baghdad compound reported being shocked while taking showers in different buildings. The circumstances appear similar to those that led to Sergeant Maseth’s death.
Another entry from early March stated that an entire house used by American troops was electrically charged, making it unlivable.
Since the Pentagon reports were compiled, more episodes linked to electrical problems have occurred. In late June, for example, an electrical fire at a Marine base in Falluja destroyed 10 buildings, forcing marines there to ask for donations from home to replace their personal belongings.
On July 5, Sgt. First Class Anthony Lynn Woodham of the Arkansas National Guard died at his base in Tallil, Iraq. Initial reports blamed electrocution, but his death is being investigated because of conflicting information, according to his wife, Crystal Woodham, and a spokesman for the Arkansas National Guard.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Electrical Risks at Bases in Iraq Worse Than Previously Said
CHAIRMAN BOB FILNER
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
For Immediate Release: July 15, 2008
VA Details New Suicide Awareness Campaign at House Veterans Oversight Hearing
Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, July 15, 2008, the House Veterans’ Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, led by Chairman Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), conducted a hearing to review the new plan for media outreach at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
On June 16, 2008, the Secretary of the VA, Dr. James Peake, issued a memorandum rescinding a restriction on the purchase of paid media advertising. The Subcommittee led a proactive discussion to determine how best the VA can use modern media to reach veterans dealing with combat stress and other reintegration issues, as well as to ensure that veterans are fully aware of the benefits to which they are entitled.
“The military and the VA provide information to our troops during the discharge process, but numerous hearings have shown the necessity for VA to proactively seek out veterans after discharge,” said Chairman Mitchell. “Many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are dealing with combat stress and reintegration issues. Many veterans have been exposed to blasts that may have cause subtle visual dysfunctions, or hearing loss, that need attention. And veterans have earned a number of benefits provided by a grateful nation, including a newly enacted G.I. Bill educational benefit.”
Witnesses on the first panel discussed the need to take advantage of the communication possibilities of modern media. Iraq War Veteran Elizabeth O’Herrin offered the following testimony: “The Department of Veterans Affairs’ reliance on traditional mailing campaigns to inform veterans of their earned benefits may work well for older, more sedentary veterans. However, for many recently discharged veterans, this form of communication is less than optimal. For example, in the past seven months, I have changed my address from my college apartment, to my parents’ house, to my deployment address in Iraq, back to my parents address, to my current residence in Washington, D.C. Trust me when I say that there have been a few key pieces of mail that have slipped through the cracks—and the amount of address changes that I have experienced is not unusual among veterans trying to find a foothold in the civilian world after separating from active duty.”
Vanessa Williamson, policy director at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, discussed IAVA’s partnership with the Ad Council to “conduct a multiyear Public Service Announcement campaign to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health care and to ensure veterans seeking access to care and benefits, and particularly those who need treatment for their psychological injuries, get the support they need.”
On June 4, 2008, Chairman Mitchell and Ranking Member Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) asked the Committee to examine the VA’s prohibition on TV advertising as a means to conduct outreach to veterans at risk for suicide. At the hearing, VA announced a new public awareness campaign designed to reach veterans at risk for suicide, and let them know where to find help. The campaign will begin July 21 with a three-month pilot program which will include a television public service announcement featuring “Forrest Gump” co-star Gary Sinise.
“I am pleased that the VA has opened the door to using the tools of modern media to better connect to veterans,” said Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “It is essential for the VA to better understand the veterans it is trying to reach and ensure that each veteran is fully informed of the services available to them. As the VA reaches more veterans, it must be fully prepared to provide the mental health care, education benefits and health treatments that these veterans have been promised and have bravely earned.”
“I am encouraged by today’s hearing,” concluded Chairman Mitchell. “The actions outlined today will save lives and show veterans we will do everything we can to keep our promise in giving our veterans the care they deserve.”
· Elizabeth O’Herrin, Washington, D.C., Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom
· Vanessa Williamson, Policy Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
· Ronald C. Goodstein, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marketing, The Robert Emmett McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University
· Sharyn M. Sutton, Ph.D., Washington, D.C., Communication and Social Marketing Expert
· The Honorable Lisette M. Mondello, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Prepared testimony and a link to the webcast of the hearing are available on the internet at this link: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?NewsID=278.
Terrorism Funds May Let Brass Fly in Style
Luxury Pods for Air Force Debated
SLIDESHOW Previous Next
An Air Force document specified that the capsule's seats are to swivel such that "the longitudinal axis of the seat is parallel to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft" regardless of where the capsules are facing. (Special To The Washington Post)
The Air Force's new capsules, which will fit in large aircraft, are meant to ensure that senior military officers and civilian leaders can travel in comfort. (Special To The Washington Post)
By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 18, 2008; Page A01
The Air Force's top leadership sought for three years to spend counterterrorism funds on "comfort capsules" to be installed on military planes that ferry senior officers and civilian leaders around the world, with at least four top generals involved in design details such as the color of the capsules' carpet and leather chairs, according to internal e-mails and budget documents.
Production of the first capsule -- consisting of two sealed rooms that can fit into the fuselage of a large military aircraft -- has already begun.
Air Force officials say the government needs the new capsules to ensure that leaders can talk, work and rest comfortably in the air. But the top brass's preoccupation with creating new luxury in wartime has alienated lower-ranking Air Force officers familiar with the effort, as well as congressional staff members and a nonprofit group that calls the program a waste of money.
Air Force documents spell out how each of the capsules is to be "aesthetically pleasing and furnished to reflect the rank of the senior leaders using the capsule," with beds, a couch, a table, a 37-inch flat-screen monitor with stereo speakers, and a full-length mirror.
The effort has been slowed, however, by congressional resistance to using counterterrorism funds for the project and by lengthy internal deliberations about a series of demands for modifications by Air Force generals. One request was that the color of the leather for the seats and seat belts in the mobile pallets be changed from brown to Air Force blue and that seat pockets be added; another was that the color of the table's wood be darkened.
Changing the seat color and pockets alone was estimated in a March 12 internal document to cost at least $68,240.
In all, for the past three years the service has asked to divert $16.2 million to the effort from what the military calls the GWOT, or global war on terrorism. Congress has twice told the service that it cannot, including an August 2007 letter from Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) to the Pentagon ordering that the money be spent on a "higher priority" need.
Officials say the Air Force nonetheless decided last year to take $331,000 from counterterrorism funds to cover a cost overrun, partly stemming from the design changes, although a senior officer said yesterday in response to inquiries that it will reverse that decision.
The internal Air Force e-mails, provided to The Washington Post by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a nonprofit Washington group, and independently authenticated, make it clear that lower-ranking officers involved in the project have been pressured to create what one described as "world class" accommodations exceeding the standards of a regular business-class flight.
"I was asked by Gen. [Robert H.] McMahon what it would take to make the [capsule] . . . a 'world class' piece of equipment," an officer at the service's Air Mobility Command said in a March 2007 e-mail to a colleague, referring to the mobility command's top officer then. "He said he wanted an assurance . . . that we would be getting a world class item this week."
Air Force officials say the program dates from a 2006 decision by Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb that existing seats on transport planes, including some that match those on commercial airliners, may be fine for airmen and troops but inadequate for the top brass. McNabb was then the Air Mobility commander; he is now the Air Force's vice chief of staff, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates nominated him in June to become head of the military's Transportation Command.
In a letter of complaint sent yesterday to Gates, POGO asserted that the new capsules will provide no special communications or work capabilities beyond those already available for top officials on Air Force transport aircraft. It is "a gross misuse of millions of taxpayer dollars that could otherwise be used to train and equip soldiers," wrote Danielle Brian, the group's executive director.
She added that "in a time of war, it is critical for senior officials to visibly prioritize the needs of the men and women on the frontline." The Air Force program, she said, represents an "egregious failure of leadership."
A military officer familiar with the program, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about it, likewise said that its extravagance has provoked widespread contempt among lower-ranking Air Force personnel. "This whole program is an embarrassment," the officer said, particularly because transport seating for troops en route to the battlefield is in his view generally shoddy.
The criticism is the latest in a series of volleys to hit the Air Force over the past year, stemming from an inadvertent flight of nuclear warheads over the continental United States, the mistaken transfer of secret nuclear-related materials to Taiwan, and a corrupt $50 million contract for a Thunderbirds air show. Gates fired the top two Air Force military and civilian leaders last month, citing defects in their stewardship of nuclear arms.
The Air Force already has two trailers, known as Silver Bullets, that can be loaded aboard large transports for use by top military and civilian officers, plus a fleet of about 100 planes specifically meant for VIP travel. But McMahon, who is now the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for logistics, installations and mission support, said the new program was started because the service ferried more "senior travelers" to distant regions after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and identified a "gap" in its capability.
It initially planned to build 10 of the capsules, he said, for use by four-star generals, fleet admirals and federal officials at the level of assistant secretary and above. "It is not opulent and it is not a box," McMahon said, but meant to match the comfort level of the VIP fleet.
Explaining his instructions to subordinates, McMahon said he used the term world class "in just about everything I discuss. . . . That represents an attitude." He said he wanted to "create an environment that whoever was riding in that would be proud of," the government would be proud of and "the people of the United States" would be proud of.
Construction of what the Air Force initially termed the new Senior Leader Intransit Comfort Capsules, or SLICC, has already begun, under a contract paid from general Air Force funds. One of the 18-by-9-foot capsules has been partly completed. But McMahon said the program has recently been downsized from 10 capsules to three, plus the four pallets fitted with swiveling leather chairs, known as Senior Leader Intransit Pallets, or SLIP.
The reason, he said, is that the Air Force has upgraded the VIP fleet by adding new air defenses to the planes, reducing its need for new capsules. All four pallets will be finished this year, McMahon said, but he added that building them is much more complicated than "going down to your neighborhood store and buying a recliner and slapping it" onto a platform.
Because of the cutback in the number of capsules and pallets, the program is currently estimated to cost $7.6 million.
Air Force documents about the SLICC, dated June 8, 2006, emphasize the need to install "aesthetically pleasing wall treatments/coverings" -- in addition to the monitor, footrests and a DVD player. The beds, according to one document, must be able to support a man with "no more than 50% compression of the mattress material." The seats are to swivel such that "the longitudinal axis of the seat is parallel to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft" regardless of where the capsules are facing, the document specified.
In a draft document dated Nov. 15, 2006, that spelled out the requirements for the SLICC, the word "Comfort" was repeatedly crossed out with a horizontal line and replaced by a less cushy-sounding alternative, "Conference." McMahon said he thinks the term "comfort" was dropped from the name to distinguish it from pallets of latrines that could be loaded aboard military aircraft.
Although the program's estimated $20 million cost is nearly equivalent to what the Pentagon spends in about 20 minutes, the e-mails show that small details have so far received the attention of many high-ranking officers, including McMahon; Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, the current Air Mobility commander; and Brig. Gen. Kenneth D. Merchant, the mobility command's logistics director.
The leather and carpet color choices were made by McNabb, according to several of the e-mails exchanged by lower-ranking officers, although a spokesman for the general said those selections were McMahon's responsibility. The e-mails state that McMahon ordered that the seats be re-covered, and one e-mail complains that the contractor "would not swap out the brown seat belts for replacement blue seat belts." The changes delayed the project by months and added to its cost.
McMahon said he does not recall intervening on the leather color change, but said he was sure it was unrelated to the Air Force's color. He said that it was probably because blue would not show dirt as much as tan or brown would.
I realize a small contract of this size is hardly worthy of a Congressional Inquiry, but it is exactly rhis kild of idiocy that causes heart burn across America. Air Force Blue rather than a cheaper brown seat belt, etc, do Generals really need to ravel like the Vice President in these special "equipped units" designed for comfort and quiet"? Given themoney we are spending onnthe 2 wars this is a miniscule amount, it's just the way it is being handled that makes it egrigious.
Dear Mike Bailey,
A recent video has been unearthed, in which Senator John McCain in 2003 says we can just "muddle through in Afghanistan."
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO AND WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The video offers a glimpse into the true thinking of those, like McCain, who backed launching the war in Iraq and committing our forces there indefinitely. Particularly, they believed that Afghanistan wasn't a concern and we didn't need to take it seriously. In fact, just a year earlier, on CBS' Face the Nation, McCain said capturing Osama bin Laden wasn't "that important."
Five years later, we now see where that poor judgment and lack of insight has gotten us. The Taliban has regained large swaths of Afghanistan, al Qaeda has reconstituted itself, Osama bin Laden still is free, and Afghanistan is in crisis. All of that lends itself to our nation being that much less secure, and in much greater danger of another terrorist attack from extremists from the Pakistan/Afghanistan region.
This is not the way to win the war on terror and keep America safe. But, don't expect the mainstream media to report on and analyze all of this. It's up to you. That's why we've set up a Letter to the Editor tool, where you can view this video, and send a letter to your local newspaper about it.
CLICK HERE TO SEND A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Letters to the editor are the most read section of the daily paper. So when you write a letter, it will be seen by thousands of people in your area. So, take a moment to view this shocking video, and tell your local newspapers what you think.
Thanks for all of your support.
Iraq War Veteran
VA's National PTSD Center Deputy Honored
Ladies Home Journal Cites Work with Women Veterans
WASHINGTON (July 18, 2008) -- Dr. Paula Schnurr, deputy executive
director for VA's National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD), received the 3rd annual Ladies Home Journal "Health Breakthrough
Award" for her work with PTSD and women veterans.
"Dr. Schnurr's contribution to veterans is an exceptional example of the
Department's commitment to healing those who have borne the battle,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "Her research was
recognized for finding the best therapy among current treatment
approaches for PTSD in women."
The study led by Schnurr for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was
the largest clinical trial of individual psychotherapy for PTSD ever
conducted. The findings led to VA supporting a national training program
in "prolonged-exposure therapy," which had not previously been widely
Schnurr has been serving veterans at VA for 19 years and is responsible
for program development, consultation on research projects, and
strategic direction of the activities at the seven sites that make up
the National Center for PTSD.
She is also a research professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical
School, as well as the editor of the Journal of Traumatic Stress.
Schnurr is one of four doctors and researchers who is featured in the
August 2008 issue of the Ladies Home Journal, the fifth largest magazine
in the country, with more than 13 million subscribers. They were chosen
following a search of more than 80 medical organizations, medical
schools, teaching hospitals, universities and government agencies.
VA is a world leader in the research, diagnosis and treatment of PTSD,
providing specialized PTSD programs at its medical centers and clinics.
More about the National Center for PTSD can be found at
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Washington's Elite Pay Tribute to Tony Snow
Snow was the first working journalist in more than 30 years to take the spokesman's job, after stints as conservative columnist, commentator and speechwriter. "He had the sometimes challenging distinction of working for two presidents named Bush," the president said. "As a speechwriter in my Dad's administration, Tony tried to translate the president's policies into English. As a spokesman in my administration, Tony tried to translate my English . . . into English."
Snow would have loved that line.
Just underneath the speaker's lectern, a huge picture of Snow -- flashing his trademark grin -- captured his great gift: optimism. Speaker after speaker praised his determination to find the fun, the humor, the upside of everything in his life, even the cancer that ended it last week at age 53. The tributes could describe it, but never matched his gift of lightness.
"If Tony were here, he'd have the words," said college pal Matthew Covington. "He could say it better."
Before the White House job, Snow was best known for his work on Fox radio and television, and a number of prominent conservatives and colleagues--Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)--were front and center at the service. Congress was represented by Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Reps. Roy Blunt(R-Mo.) and John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). White House press secretary Dana Perino walked out in tears; almost every journalist in Washington -- including the White House correspondents whom Snow sparred with during his year as the White House -- came to pay their respects.
Bush went on to praise Snow's devotion to his wife, Jill, and three young children, who participated in the 90-minute Mass.
"He loved you a lot," Bush told them. "I hope you know we loved him a lot, too."
I realize that President Bush is a man of loyalty and that Tony Snow was part of the "family" so to speak, but as a soldier, every military person that dies in service to this nation is a member of President Bush's family, it was his decision to send them to war, as he infamously stated "He is the Decider in Chief" I realize that with there now being more than 4100 deaths of active duty personnel in Iraq since March 2003, that he can't possibly attend all of them, but he has NOT eeven attended one. These are the young men and women of this nation, our future so to speak, and due to President Bush and his administrations decision to take out Saddam Hussein, men that used to do business with him in the past either as Presidential envoys as Don Rumsfeld as a Special Envoy for President Reagan in 1988
In the early 1970s, Saddam became the power behind the presidency. He supervised modernization of Iraq's countryside, where most Iraqis lived. He mechanizing agriculture and distributed land to farmers. Farm cooperatives were established, with profits distributed according to individual work. Expenditures for agriculture doubled between 1974 and 1975. With the increase in production and Saddam's reforms the living standard of rural people increased. Oil profits were invested in industrialization. Saddam was associated with his Ba'athist Party's economic and welfare programs, and his appeal among Iraqis increased.
In 1976, Hussein acquired the rank of general. Although hardly a communist, Hussein's favorite reading had been about Joseph Stalin - who had acquired power and adulation early in the 20th century. Using intimidation, Hussein moved closer to such power. Bakr's fear of his vice president Hussein grew, and he tried to get rid him. Instead, in 1979, Hussein pushed his relative, Bakr, aside and took power.
In taking control, Hussein called a meeting attended by government and party officials. To secure his rule and as a warning, Hussein called out the names of the dozens of individuals he wanted to be rid of. They were obliged to leave the hall and were escorted to their executions.
These were prosperous times for Iraq, which was one of the world's big oil producers. And Hussein was popular among many of Iraq's common people in appreciation for their prosperity.
Hussein against Iran
Saddam Hussein was playing the anti-Communist West against the Soviet Union. He was buying weapons from the Soviet Union, while the West was hoping to lure him away from the Soviet Union and also selling him weapons.
With the fall of Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi in Iran, Hussein saw opportunity. The Shah had been friendly with the U.S. and was considered a great power in the Middle East. But the new regime in Iran was weakened by revolution, and it was hostile to the United States. The Iranians, moreover, were largely of the Shiite branch of Islam, in conflict with Sunni Muslims elsewhere in the Middle East, including Iraq. Saddam, it is said, feared Iran's influence in Iraq. Perhaps he also feared that the spread of fundamentalism to Iraq. Saddam went to several Middle East nations that had Sunni Muslim heads-of-state to gain approval for an invasion of Iran. In Jordan he met with King Hussein, and there, it is believed, he met with three senior CIA agents - Jordan having been a base of operations for the CIA in the Muslim world. Saddam Hussein was also seeking more weapons, and in this he had an advantage over Iran, which had only Libya and Syria for allies.
In September 1980, Saddam Hussein's government declared Iraq's 1975 agreement with Iran null and void, and, on September 22, Saddam launched a land and air invasion against Iran, claiming that Iran had been shelling Iraqi towns. He said he would be in Teheran, Iran's capital, in three days. His forces advanced along a broad front into Khuzestan province. They captured the city of Khorramshahr, but they failed to capture the oil-refining center at Abadan.
Publicly the United States was neutral regarding the Iran-Iraq war but in fact it was supporting Iraq. U.S. foreign policy strategists did not want a hostile power, Iran, to gain control over Iraq's oil fields. The United States had opposed any Security Council move to condemn Saddam's invasion of Iran. It removed Iraq's name from its list of nations supporting terrorism, and it began sending arms to Iraq, including strains of anthrax for chemical weaponry. France supplied Iraq with more high-tech weaponry, and the Soviet Union continued to supply the Iraqis with weapons.
In June 1981, Israel bombed a site in Iraq, to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring a nuclear bomb capability. The U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, condemned Israel's act.
The Israelis were selling weapons to Iran, and the United States provided both Iran and Iraq with arms and with intelligence information, the U.S. trying to win favor from moderates in Iran and trying to keep Saddam Hussein friendly. In 1984 the Reagan administration again applied trade sanctions against Iran, and in late 1986 the Iranians leaked information about U.S. arms dealing, which upset the Sunni Muslims, produced the Iran-Contra scandal in the United States and sent the U.S. tilting more toward Iraq. The United States saw its relations with the Sunni Muslim states as more important than its relations with Iran, and it still feared Soviet gains with the Sunni Muslim states.
Iran and Iraq attacked each other's oil industry. That Hussein used chemical weapons against the Iranians - a weapon abhorred in the West since World War I - created little stir in the West. But Iran's attacks on oil tankers prompted the United States and other western European nations to station warships in the Persian Gulf, and Iran's ability to obtain arms fell.
Stalemate prevailed, while millions were dying in the Iran-Iraq war, and, as always in war, wealth was being lost, with Iraq acquiring a huge debt. Saddam's war was costing him too much, and in 1988 he agreed to a cease-fire mediated by the United Nations.
Into 1990 a permanent peace treaty had not yet been created between Iran and Iraq. Accusations were made that Saddam was making nuclear bombs. On March 16, Iraq denied this but admitted to having chemical weapons and threatened to use them against Israel if it were attacked. Relations between the U.S. and Iraq were deteriorating. On April 10, 1990 the U.S. canceled an aerospace trade mission to Iraq. But still the U.S. sought to maintain good relations with Saddam, hoping that this was best for maintaining a favorable position and what civility still existed in the Middle East.
Steps toward War with the United States
In July 1990 Saddam appeared willing to give up his long-standing conflict with Iran, but he wanted also to do something about being short of money. He stunned his fellow Sunni nations with a vitriolic speech in which he accused Kuwait of sucking up too much crude oil from the oil fields that straddled their two countries. He accused Kuwait and other Persian Gulf states of catering to the wishes of the Western powers by conspiring to keep the price for crude oil low, thereby damaging Iraq. He demanded compensation for these "crimes " by canceling the 30 billion dollar debt that Iraq owned the Kuwaities, and he sent 100,000 troops to Kuwait's border.
Saddam Hussein demanded cash from Kuwait, and he raised the issue of Kuwait's independence. Kuwait had been ruled by Britain to 1961. After having granted Kuwait its independence that year, Britain had landed troops in Kuwait to defend that independence. Now, in 1990, Hussein renewed the old claim that Kuwait was part of Iraq.
The goal of the Bush administration remained normal relations and expanded trade with Iraq. On July 24 tens of thousands of Iraqi troops deployed to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. On July 25 an American diplomat, April Glaspie, met with Saddam Hussein. She spoke of U.S. disapproval of settlement of disputes "by any but peaceful means," which to Saddam Hussein might have sounded like pacifist nonsense and hypocrisy. Then she told Saddam that "we have no opinion of the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait."
The Reagan administration had sided with Hussein against Iran, but a dispute with Kuwait had not won for Saddam the approval the administration of President Bush the elder. And Saddam apparently believed that the United States would not intervene on the side of Kuwait. He believed that the United States was still reeling from its experience in Vietnam, and that the U.S. was overly concerned about the loss of lives of its military personnel. Hussein bragged to Glaspie that the United States was not the kind of nation that could absorb 10,000 casualties in one day as Iraq had during the Iraq-Iran war.
Saddam also met with Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, whom he knew was in close contact with the Bush administration. Mubarak asked him what his intentions were regarding Kuwait. Mubarak wanted reassurance from Saddam that he was not planning to attack Kuwait. Saddam was not about to confess his intentions, and Mubarak gathered from Saddam that he was bluffing the Kuwaities. Mubarak passed on to Bush his opinion that Saddam was bluffing. He advised the Bush administration to relax, that the Arab nations would sort things out among themselves.
Saddam also reasoned that he could accomplish what he wanted regarding Kuwait before the United Nations would respond and that he would not be resisted by the United Nations. On August 1, Saddam Hussein withdrew from negotiations with the Kuwaities. And at 2 a.m. August 2, 1990, Iraqi time, and 8 p.m. (August 1) Washington D.C. time, he sent his tanks rolling into Kuwait. Some would compare it with Hitler sending his troops into Poland. Some others would just look on, puzzled or mildly disturbed. For the Kuwaities it was terror, a loss of property, and for many it was death.
Some have speculated that if Saddam Hussein had merely taken the strip of land just within Kuwait's border where oil wells had been sucking up Iraqi oil and had taken a couple of small Kuwaiti islands, the U.S. and Britain would not have pursued war against Iraq. At any rate, Saddam Hussein was brasher than limiting himself to such a measured move. He wished to compare himself what he considered his great ancestor, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar - from a time when greatness was measured by military conquest and huge palaces. Hussein was living in the past. He was moving against all of Kuwait.
At 8:30 on the evening of August 1, a disturbed George Bush, President of the United States, was on the telephone hearing about the invasion and then seeking information from his National Security Advisor and the Central Intelligence Agency, and trying to find out what U.S. options were. The Pentagon had not been off guard. Intelligence officers had been watching Iraqi troop movements. As early as January they had been concerned, General Norman Schwarzkopf having then ordered an exploration of alternative responses to an Iraqi invasion in the Arabian Peninsula.
Now, just before 10 p.m., the American ambassador in Kuwait was on the phone with the U.S. State Department, passing on a Kuwaiti request for help. The help they wanted was military assistance.
Bush went to bed late and was up again by 5 a.m. and signed papers for the freezing of assets that it did not want Iraq to get its hands on - Kuwaiti assets, Iraq being broke and without assets of its own. At 6 a.m. at the United Nations in New York, the Security Council voted to condemn the invasion, and it demanded the unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
Early that morning, Schwarzkopf arrived at the Pentagon, and saw amateurish blunders in Iraqi troop movements. While Schwarzkopf and others gathered to meet with the President at the White House the press arrived and asked Bush whether he was going to authorize the dispatch of U.S. troops to the Gulf. Bush replied that he was "not contemplating such action."
Also on August 2, the United Nations Security Council condemned Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and passed Resolution 660, demanding an immediate and unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.
That day, President Bush kept his appointment for a conference in Aspen Colorado, where he met Britain's prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, there for the same conference. Thatcher told him that she was appalled that Saddam Hussein had lied about his intentions. She called him a brutal dictator and spoke of the need to defend Saudi Arabia as a priority. If Saddam took Saudi Arabia, she said, he would have 65 percent of the world's oil reserves. "He could blackmail us all," she said - in other words, Saddam would have too much leverage over the price of oil. She announced that "aggressors should never be appeased," that we had learned that in the 30s. "We have to move to stop the aggression," she said, and we had to "stop it quickly." If we let it succeed, she added, "no small country can ever feel safe again [and] the law of the jungle would take over from the rule of law." [note]
Margaret Thatcher's memoirs, The Downing Street Years, p. 817.
About her discussions with Bush at Aspen she was to write:
President Bush that day was an altogether more confident George Bush than the man with whom I had had earlier dealings. He was firm, cool, showing the decisive qualities with which the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest world power must possess. Any hesitation fell away. I had always liked George Bush. Now my respect for him soared. [note]
Margaret Thatcher's memoirs, The Downing Street Years, p. 817.
The United States had ordered naval forces to the Persian Gulf, but they were making slow headway against heavy seas. In Kuwait City, on August 3, some of Saddam's Republican Guards were outside the U.S. embassy and threatening to go over the wall. The twenty or so people inside with Ambassador Howell were terrorized but determined to fight, with shotguns, 357 Magnums, tear gas, gas masks, and with Marine Corps guards at the forefront. But soon Saddam's force would withdraw from the embassy wall.
On August 3, the Bush administration announced that it was committing Naval Forces to the Gulf region. On August 4, Bush met with his advisors at Camp David and discussed defending Saudi Arabia. And the following day, he met with the press and, referring to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, announced that "This will not stand."
The U.S. military was scrambling to put together a ground force that it could send to Saudi Arabia, and Bush was starting to put together a coalition force opposed to Iraq. By phone, King Hussein of Jordan told Bush that he was opposed to any U.S. action against Iraq and spoke of Saddam's promise to withdraw from Kuwait soon. King Hussein had much to worry about. Sixty percent of his subjects were Palestinians. Palestinians had been guest workers in Kuwait and had been treated there with contempt. Palestinians in Jordan were siding with Saddam, and many of them were willing to fight side by side with the Iraqis.
President Mubarak of Egypt also spoke by phone to Bush. He had been angered by Saddam having lied to him about his intentions, and of the invasion he had said, "We are at the end of the 20th century. Nobody will accept this in the whole world." But to Bush, Mubarak advised that the U.S. stay calm and give an Arab solution a chance. Bush told Mubarak "fine" but that Hussein's withdrawal from Kuwait must involve restoration of the "lawful government of Kuwait."
According to the CIA, the Saudis were considering buying Saddam's good will with a large gift of money. The Pentagon was presenting the Saudi ambassador in Washington with photos of an Iraqi build up of forces on its border. By August 6, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, with Norman Schwarzkopf and others, was in Saudi Arabia talking with King Faud. That day, Faud agreed to the stationing of U.S. and western military forces on Saudi soil - something never before done.
On August 7, President Bush ordered fourteen aircraft and supporting personnel to Saudi Arabia. And to the press Bush announced that the move was wholly defensive, that he was sending troops to the Persian Gulf "to assist the Saudi Arabian government in the defense of its homeland." Saddam Hussein was pleased. He complained to an U.S. diplomat in Baghdad that he had no intentions against Saudi Arabia, that the Americans were using a fictitious threat to Saudi Arabia as a pretext to put their soldiers into the Gulf region. But he felt victorious regarding Kuwait. He announced publicly that the Iraqis and Kuwaitis were now "one people, one state that will be the pride of the Arabs." In Baghdad the public was delighted. They danced in the streets and guns were fired in celebration.
Words, Hopes, and Organizing for War
Saddam Hussein believed that the U.S. would not risk the lives of its young people by going to war. George Bush remained determined to restore Kuwaiti independence, and he entertained the possibility that Saddam would do so voluntarily - a reversal that would have been a loss of prestige within Iraq. George Bush and Saddam Hussein were still on a collision course, but one that would take months to play out.
International diplomacy was working in Bush's favor. The United Nations Security Council condemned Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and called for sanctions. Iraq's old ally, the Soviet Union, voted in favor of the resolution, and so too did Cuba. But Hussein was not about to admit that he had already miscalculated or to defer to the United Nations. And he watched as British, French, Egyptian and Moroccan troops arrived in Saudi Arabia to join in protecting Saudi Arabia from a possible Iraqi attack.
To hold against further hostilities against him, Saddam Hussein offered Iran his withdrawal from all gains he had won during the Iraq-Iran war. But rather than show signs of weakening, or rather than just remaining quiet and impressing people with his peacefulness, Saddam Hussein tried threats. He sealed his borders, preventing thousands of foreigners from leaving Iraq or Kuwait. On August 16, Iraq ordered 4,000 Britons and 2,500 Americans in Kuwait to Iraq. He called Bush as liar and announced that an outbreak of war could result in "thousands of Americans wrapped in sad coffins."
On August 17, Iraq announced that until threats against it ceased, foreign citizens from "aggressive nations" would be placed at the would be targets of the aggressors. On the 19th, Saddam Hussein announced that he would free all foreigners detained in Iraq and Kuwait when the United States promised to withdraw its forces from Saudi Arabia and guaranteed that economic sanctions against Iraq would be lifted. On August 21, he promised "a major catastrophe" should fighting break out in the Persian Gulf. He appeared before the world on CNN with a group of hostages that he described as "guests," and tried to look kind and fatherly.
In Kuwait, Saddam Hussein's forces were executing people. And Bush announced that he was not going to allow the strong to swallow the weak. On August 22, Bush signed an order to call up 46,000 reservists to add to the military buildup in Saudi Arabia. Four days later the United Nations authorized military action to enforce a trade embargo against Iraq. On August 29, Saddam responded by announcing that the U.S. could not defeat Iraq and that he did not "beg before anyone."
Giving Peace a Chance
Bush was later to describe the coming weeks as "giving peace a chance." He was hoping that Saddam would realize that he would be force out of Kuwait one way or another and that Saddam should leave voluntarily. Some were hoping that sanctions would persuade Hussein to leave Kuwait. But Margaret Thatcher, on September 6, said that she was convinced that the only way Saddam would leave Kuwait was by being thrown out. She said that she saw no evidence that sanctions were working.
On September 14, Iraqi soldiers stormed the French, Belgian and Canadian diplomatic buildings in Kuwait and briefly detained five diplomats, including a U.S. consul. France responded by announcing that it would send 4,000 more soldiers to the Persian Gulf and by expelling Iraqi military attaches in Paris.
In mid-September, in an agreement with the U.S., the Iraqis broadcast an eight-minute videotaped address by President Bush, who warned the Iraqi people that Saddam Hussein's brinkmanship could plunge them into war "against the world." In exchange, Saddam Hussein's message to the American people was broadcast on September 25, Hussein warning that if Bush launched a war against his country, for Americans it would be a repeat of their experience in Vietnam.
The Pentagon was working on plans for a ground offensive against Iraqi forces, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, had an estimation of 30,000 Americans dying. Powell met with Bush and tried to talk him into using sanctions for a couple of years if necessary, rather than opt for military action. Like many soldiers, Powell abhorred war. Bush, who had seen action in World War II, thanked Powell, telling him that it was good to hear all points of view but that he was not going to accept Powell's recommendation. [link]
At the end of September, the deposed emir of Kuwait delivered an emotional address to the UN General Assembly, denouncing the "rape, destruction and terror" inflicted upon his country by Iraq, and the following day he visited the White House, reinforcing Bush's opposition to the invasion of Kuwait.
October and November
In early October, Saddam Hussein threatened to strike at Israel with a new missile, and Israel was handing out gas masks to its citizens. On the peace front, the Soviet Union announced that Iraq would be willing to negotiate an end to the crisis if it were assured that it could keep the Ar-Rumaylah oil fields in Kuwait and two offshore islands. Bush rejected any reward for Hussein's aggression and stood by the UN resolution calling for Iraq unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. Oil reached over 40 dollars a barrel, and, still trying to appeal to hearts and minds, Hussein offered to sell oil to anyone, including the United States, for $21 dollars a barrel.
By mid-month the build up of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf reached 200,000, and plans for 100,000 more were in the making. Military strategists, including General Powell, remained concerned about Iraqi forces outnumbering Allied forces by 2 to 1. Powell asked Bush for the activation of the National Guard. Bush agreed. Then, on November 8, shortly after congressional elections in the U.S., Bush announced that he was increasing U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia to 400,000 for adequate manpower to liberate Kuwait.
Saddam Hussein was now saying that he was prepared to fight a "dangerous war" rather than give up Kuwait. And British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher followed with a warning to Hussein that time was "running out" for a peaceful solution.
Thatcher was worried about delays and did not want to wait for the United Nations support for military action, but the U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker, argued that United Nations authority was crucial to sustain the support of American public opinion.
Debate in the U.S. was intensifying. On November 13, members of Congress demanded a larger role in U.S. Gulf policy. Trying to explain Bush's position, Baker told reporters that Bush was acting in the interest of American jobs. The next day, Bush told congressional leaders he had no immediate plans to go to war in the Persian Gulf. And a few days later he was in Europe trying to solidify support for his Persian Gulf policies. A suit filed by Congressional Democrats to force Bush to have congressional approval for military operations was failing, and on Thanksgiving a happy Bush and his wife Barbara, were viewed on television visiting joyous U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.
The Final Peace Offensive
On November 27, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee opened hearings on the Persian Gulf crisis. The former Secretary of Defense and architect of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Robert McNamara demonstrated his change of heart before the committee. "The point is that it is going to be bloody. There are going to be thousands and thousands and thousands of casualties" - a repeat of Hussein's warning. McNamara favored sanctions against Hussein, as did retired Admiral Crowe, who said was opposed to Hussein having more patience than the United States. The conservative arms advisor to former President Reagan, Paul Nitze, also preferred sanctions, saying that he thought that we could outlast Hussein.
Members of the UN Security Council proved tougher. The resolution that Thatcher feared would be too slow in coming from the United Nations arrived on November 29. On that day the Security Council authorized "all necessary means," including military force, against Iraq if it does not withdraw from Kuwait by Jan. 15, 1991. It was the first such resolution since UN sponsorship of the Korean War in 1950.
Armed with this resolution, Bush tried again to demonstrate his peaceful solution to the crisis. He proposed a meeting between U.S. and Iraqi foreign ministers, hoping that Hussein, faced with overwhelming world opposition, would come to his senses and agree to withdraw from Kuwait. But this would have demonstrated to the Iraqi people a failure and error by Hussein, and Hussein was not about to admit that he was anything but a great and infallible leader.
Hussein did try his nice-guy approach, announcing on December 6 that he was releasing all foreign hostages - including Americans. This was not about to alter Bush's longstanding determination to drive Hussein out of Kuwait. The hostages poured out of Kuwait, and Bush continued to urge Iraq to pull out of Kuwait and to agree to talks.
Instead, from Iraq came a statement that it was "ready for the decisive showdown." The January 15 deadline was approaching, and Iraqi were holding evacuation drills and stockpiling oil supplies. On December 22, Iraq announced that it would never give up Kuwait. On December 30, Iraq's information minister said that Bush "must have been drunk" when he suggested Iraq might withdraw from Kuwait, and added: "We will show the world America is a paper tiger." And the next day Iraq began drafting 17-year-olds.
The American public was awakening to the reality that war could be just around the corner. On January 3, Congress returned from holiday recess, and some Democrats plunged into acrimonious opposition to Bush's policy regarding Iraq. Debates continued in the coming days, and, across the U.S., hundreds of thousands demonstrated for peace and against war.
Among the demonstrators were those carrying signs with a message that had come late in the Vietnam War: "give peace a chance." There were those opposed to all violence, including some clergymen who held all warring to be immoral. One such clergyman was Bush's Anglican minister, who demonstrated in front of the White House, was called in to meet with Bush and told Bush in so many words that he was pursuing an immoral policy. Bush spoke to him about atrocities committed in Kuwait.
Among the demonstrators were university students - many of them the sons and daughters of Vietnam era protesters, eagerly taking up the cause that they believed had added significance to the previous generation.
Some took the position that the U.S. should let the Arabs settle their own disputes - and if Hussein became the dominant power in the Middle East so be it. And there were those who believed that Bush's policy was a manifestation of U.S. imperialism. Some reduced the conflict to an over-riding simplicity, claiming that it was all about oil. They ignored the issue that made U.S. entry into the war politically possible:that the Iraqis had invaded and forced themselves upon the Kuwaitis. Demonstrators chanted "Hell no, we won't go. We won't fight for Texaco." One sign carried by a middle-aged woman read, "No blood for oil. Bush, send your sons not ours." Bush was accused of gunboat diplomacy. The acid test of any progressive, wrote one Leftist, was taking a stand against U.S. imperialism. People were taking the generality that foreign policy was about access to resources to a certainty that in this specific instance that Bush had to be lying, that his motives for going to war could not be motivated by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Such as suggestion to people on the ideological far-left, going from the general (the ideological) to the specific, was absurd.
On January 11, Saddam Hussein assured his nation that victory would be theirs. The U.S., he said, relied too much on technology and that it "can never win the battle." Saddam saw the U.S. as hung-up on Vietnam and unwilling to shed the blood of its youth. By the following day, January 12, the U.S. Congress authorized Bush's offensive against Iraq. The vote in the Senate was 52-47. The House of Representatives voted 250-183.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar, was moving to and from Baghdad and other capitals, hoping that pressure would force Hussein to back down. Gorbachev tried to broker a peaceful settlement. Then Pope Jean Paul weighed in. On January 16, one day after the deadline for Hussein had passed, the Holy Father telephoned Bush and asked that Bush postpone his offensive. Bush refused.
In the early morning of January 17, Iraqi time, Operation Desert Shield (the defense of Saudi Arabia) became Operation Desert Storm. In Baghdad all was quiet until dogs began barking. Then the air raid began, watched across the world on television - an introduction to laser guided bombs. There were 1700 planes in the first, round-the clock assault, many of them flying from the Incirlik airbase near Adana, Turkey. The U.S. military had feared that 1 in 5 of its aircraft might be lost, but only one was lost.
In the air war, U.S. pilots flew alongside pilots from Britain, France, Italy, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Targeted were airbases, nuclear, chemical and biological facilities, missile sites, bridges, and communications facilities. The main goal of the air war was to make the Iraqi military dysfunctional by cutting off communications - analogous to severing one's spinal cord so that the mind could not direct instructions to the body.
In targeting communication, Saddam's palace was bombed - the attitude of the U.S. military being that if Saddam Hussein died in the process so be it. But Saddam was hiding in a residential area, and much more care was given to avoid civilian casualties than had occurred in Vietnam. In Vietnam villages had been targeted in hopes of encouraging people to separate themselves from Communist guerrillas. The U.S. military had learned something. In the Gulf War they were aware that bombing civilians created bad public relations.
Saddam Hussein declared that the "Mother of All Battles" had begun. Impotent against the Allied airforce, he resorted to the terrorism of the desperate - as Hitler had done in sending rockets against Britain. Saddam Hussein fired Scud missiles toward Saudi Arabia and Israel, with little accuracy pretended. And Saddam struck back at the allies by dumping millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off the Kuwaiti shore in the Persian Gulf.
Israel was eager to retaliate against Iraq's missile attacks, but Bush had a tough exchange with the Israeli prime minister, Yitzak Shamir, Bush promising Israel to do everything possible to stop the scud missile attacks. Israel held back from attacking Iraq, which Allied strategists had feared would break off Muslim states from the coalition.
General Schwarzkopf was concerned about the safety of Israelis, but he was opposed to aircraft looking for the mobile Scud launchers, easily hidden by the Iraqis. He urged other targets for aircraft but was overruled and could be seen on television, with pointer in hand, describing strikes against Scud missiles. Altitude made it difficult for pilots to distinguish between Scud missiles launchers and other kinds of trucks, and what were described on television as strikes against Scud launchers were not Scud launchers.
British airmen made low level flights over Iraqi airfields, looking for mobile Scud launchers. But it was Special Forces units from Britain that performed effectively against the Scuds. Moving about in vehicles through the hills and valleys of Iraq's western desert, they destroyed radar sites, communications cables and destroyed Scud convoys, driving the Scud launchers farther from Israel.
The Scud launches continued, the U.S. throwing up Patriot missiles against incoming Scuds. And in Washington an exuberant Bush boasted joyously that 41 Scuds had been engaged and 41 downed.
The war was hopeless for Saddam Hussein. The allies controlled the air and sea. On January 30, an Iraqi force of 700 men and 45 tanks moved 10 miles across the border into Khafji, an abandoned coastal oil town in Saudi Arabia, and two other Iraqi battalions drove short distances into Saudi Arabia about 45 miles further west. They battled U.S. Marines, with eleven or twelve Marines killed in action - seven of them from the accident known as "friendly fire." Saudis and Qatari (mainly Pakistani mercenaries) participated in driving the Iraqis back to Kuwait, 400 Iraqis at Khafji surrendering after holding the town for only 36 hours.
U.S. intelligence officers collected data on the Iraqi attacks, and they saw weaknesses in Iraqi training. The Iraqis, they concluded, would be less formidable that earlier imagined.
On February 1, Iraq began setting fire to Kuwaiti oil wells, to be claimed as the world's worst man-made environmental disaster.
Saddam had long before lost the most important of wars - the diplomatic war - but King Hussein of Jordan was still on his side. On February 6, King Hussein denounced the Allied cause as an effort by outsiders to destroy Iraq and carve up the Arab world. Japan, meanwhile, had recently angered Iraq by contributing a large sum of money to the Allied war effort.
It was around February 6 that Allied forces were secretly moving westward across Saudi territory in preparation for a surprise flanking attack. The Iraqis were expecting an attack north into Kuwait nearer the coast and an amphibious landing.
On February 13, the U.S. bombed a military installation that, unknown to the Allies, was being used as a bomb shelter for civilians. More than 200 Iraqi civilians were killed. Iraq charged that the U.S. had intentionally attacked an air raid shelter. Many Iraqis accepted their government's claim, seeing the attack as nothing more than bloodlust by the Satanic U.S. military.
The Allied air campaign, meanwhile, was not targeting Iraqi soldiers. It was targeting supply stores and equipment, and Iraqi soldiers were staying away from their equipment and supplies to avoid getting killed.
The Allied Offensive Beings
In mid-February, Saddam Hussein was expecting the Allied offensive to begin soon, and he announced that he was ready to withdraw from Kuwait if Israel returned the territories it had been occupying since the 1960s. Gorbachev attempted a peace proposal to end the war before the Allies launched their assault against the Iraqis. The details of the proposal, agreed upon with Iraq, remained a secret, but later, according to the West German newspaper Bild, its major points were an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, the Soviet Union committed to maintaining Iraq's state structure and borders, the end of all sanctions against Iraq, and no punitive actions against Saddam Hussein.
The Iraqis were carrying out last minute executions of Kuwaities. On the 22nd, Bush gave Iraq 24 hours to begin withdrawing from Kuwait. Iraq spoke of a new Soviet peace plan and denounced Bush's ultimatum as shameful. Bush and the Allies rejected the plan. (By December there would be no Soviet Union to do any guaranteeing.)
The Bush administration began urging General Schwarzkopf to begin his assault. It took time for the supplies needed in a great war to arrive, and Schwarzkopf had long been complaining that he was not ready. Bush's Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, had a problem with Schwarzkopf's continuing requests for delays. From Washington, General Powell called Schwarzkopf, who lost his temper, telling Powell, in Powell's words, that "If you do not care about the lives of young people, well I do." Powell exploded, shouting back that he cared as much but that there was "a limit." Powell calmed down at told Schwarzkopf "Look Norm, we got a problem, we'll work our way through." About thirty minutes later, Schwarzkopf called back and said "Weather's fine. We can go."
The assault began in full on February 24. Schwarzkopf found that Saddam's frontline units were pretty much shattered. Iraq's frontline units melted away, these troops surrendering in droves. The Iraqis had accurate artillery but their fire was inaccurate. Iraqi tank units were no match against Allied tank units.
The Iraqis began setting fire to more oil facilities in Kuwait, and on the 25th the Iraqis fired a Scud missile into Saudi Arabia that struck the U.S. barracks in Dhahran, killing twenty-eight.
The Ground War Ends
On the morning of February 26, Baghdad radio announced that Iraqi forces had "performed their Jihad duty of refusing to comply with the logic of evil, imposition and aggression." Also the broadcast announced that Iraq would comply with United Nation resolutions.
That day tank battles were taking place, and many Iraqi tanks were being destroyed. That day also Iraqis and Palestinians were rushing northward out of Kuwait City on what would be called the Highway of Death. The columns consisted of tanks, trucks armored fighting vehicles and other vehicles included looted cars and stolen goods from Kuwait. Allied planes struck against the column. Tanks burned. Every vehicle was destroyed and no one was seen as having survived.
The sight was televised across the world. Muslims would begin responding to the "Highway of Death" with accusations of unnecessary killing. General Schwarzkopf was furious over reports by journalists suggesting that Allied pilots had wantonly destroyed civilians fleeing Kuwait City.
On the morning of February 27 in Iraq, fighting was still taking place, but that day General Powell in Washington saw the liberation of Kuwait as having been achieved. Powell viewed the television coverage of the highway of death. Powell later said "You don't do unnecessary killing if it can be avoided. At some point you decide you've accomplished your objectives and you stop."
Bush too had been moved by the sight of the Highway of Death. He too was of the opinion that U.S. forces did not kill wantonly - soldiers or civilians. He asked General Powell, his military advisor, "Why not end it now?" Powell called Schwarzkopf and asked his opinion, and Schwarzkopf is reported by Powell to have said something to the effect that it was probably the right thing to do but that he wanted first to have a look around. Bush and Cheney also spoke to Schwarzkopf, and they all agreed that it was time to end the fighting. They agreed to end the war 100 hours after the ground war had begun - at 8 a.m., Saudi time, on the 28th.
On the 28th the U.S. 24th Infantry Division fought against elements of Iraq's Republican Guards as they were fleeing north from Kuwaiti oil fields, resulting in one of the largest tank battles of the war.
For the United States the war ended with 148 battle deaths, the most one-sided victory in the history of modern warfare.
The Bush administration's declared goal was to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqis. That was the mandate provided by the United Nations. And that was all that the Muslim members of the coalition desired. Saudi Arabia and Egypt had wanted a quick end to the war. King Faud of Saudi Arabia was unconcerned about the welfare of the Shiite minority living in the south of Iraq and close to his border. Nor was he concerned about the Kurds in the north of Iraq. Faud and Mubarak of Egypt wanted an Iraq as big as it was before the Gulf War began, and they wanted an Iraq ruled by a Sunni Muslim, and if this were Saddam Hussein so be it.
Margaret Thatcher, no longer Prime Minister of Britain, was to speak of her surprise at the war being ended with Saddam in power. She was to say that when "dealing with a dictator, he has got not only to be defeated, well and truly, but he has got to be seen to be defeated." She added that "Half measures never work, you've either got to do the job properly and show the world you're serious so they better not let it happen again." Her successor, John Major, supported Bush's manner of ending the war, and he was to continue defending it in the years ahead.
President Bush and some others assumed that Hussein would not survive politically in the wake of Iraq's defeat. Intelligence agencies and analysts with information available to the Bush administration had seen in Hussein a special danger and had questioned whether a mere Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would suffice to pacify the region.
The Bush administration ended the war applying conditions on Iraq that were adopted by the UN Security Council. On March 3, the UN Security Council had adopted Resolution 687: a cease-fire, an extension of sanctions against Iraq, and a UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) concerning weapons of mass destruction within Iraq. Also on March 3, Allied military commanders and Iraqi military commanders met at a captured Iraqi airbase, at Safwan, to arrange terms of a formal cease-fire. Saddam Hussein wanted peace at any price. The U.S. wanted a return of prisoners. Not included in the U.S. demands was the deliverance of Saddam Hussein to stand trial at the world court. Schwarzkopf assured the Iraqis that the border separating the areas being occupied by the U.S. from the central part of Iraq that was unoccupied was temporary. The Iraqis claimed that they needed their helicopters to transport wounded soldiers and other tasks and asked if they could fly armed helicopters across this border. Schwartzkopt said yes. Later he was to say that he had been "suckered." In leaving the Iraqis the right to use their helicopters, helicopter gun ships were used in putting down the revolts against rule from Baghdad. Bush had encouraged risings against Hussein, and now Hussein's military was crushing these uprisings. Members of America's 1st Armored Division watched with frustration as Iraqis strode in front of them, waving their weapons. Pictures of Iraqi soldiers kicking and executing people were broadcast around the world. [link]
On March 5, in Resolution 688, the UN Security Council condemned the repression of Iraqi civilians and called for an immediate "end to this repression." This resolution was to be used by the American and British for "no fly zones," where Iraq was to be prohibited from flying fixed-wing aircraft, but it was to prove ineffective.
On March 6, an exultant Bush told a cheering joint session of Congress that "aggression is defeated. The war is over." Kuwait City was liberated, but on March 7 the Iraqis were still exploding oil facilities in Kuwait. On March 8, plane-loads of U.S. troops were arriving home from the Persian Gulf. That day, the Iraqis handed over to the Allied forces forty journalists and two American soldiers they had captured. On March 16, Saddam Hussein broadcast an address in which he promised to allow multi-party democracy.
Some people criticized Bush's comment that he was reluctant to risk the life of one more American in going after Saddam Hussein. Bush's supporters, including Norman Schwarzkopf, spoke of the difficulty that would have been involved in moving against Baghdad in a last phase of the Gulf War. Schwarzkopf told Frontline that if "we went on another day we were going to kill some more of our people and we had already won an overwhelming victory with a minimum of casualties and that was good enough for me." [link] Some said that the U.S. was too cautious and too willing to kill others without risking the lives of their own troops. Some others argued that the U.S. should not have started the war against Iraq.
In the year 2001, on the 10th anniversary of the Gulf War, President Saddam Hussein, more securely in power than he had been in mid-March 1991, spoke to his nation and described the Gulf War as a "confrontation between good and evil that continues today." He denounced what he called the "aggression" launched by the "followers of Satan" and he praised Iraq's resistance both during and after war.
Frontline's "The Gulf War."
It seems that Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney's rise in power corresponded to Saddams rise in power, they both came into the highest levels of government in the mid 70s and by 1990 they began the military chess game, that continued into Bush 43 Presidency and to where we are today. I honestly can't tell you who is the good guys and who are the bad guys in this, when you look at the overall history all of them are pretty evil. Oh yea does anyone think President Bush might attend even "one" of the funerals of the military personnel he has sent to their deaths in either of the 2 wars? I don't think so, not before Jan 20, 2009 nor after he leaves office with both wars still ongoing.....Sphere: Related Content
Vets fault VA independent living program
By Cristian Hernandez - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jul 17, 2008 5:52:08 EDT
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Independent Living Program is failing to adequately address the needs of severely disabled veterans, a House subcommittee was told Thursday.
Bruce McCartney, a former soldier, told the House Veterans’ Affairs economic opportunity subcommittee that the ILP is riddled with problems related to application delays, staffing shortages and limited spots in the program.
The ILP, created as part of VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services, is designed to provide severely disabled veterans with specialized medical and mental health assistance and training in independent living skills.
McCartney, who spent 17½ years on active duty, applied for the ILP in 2003 and was taken on what he called a “four year-nightmare.”
His application spent four years going from local case managers to counselors and regional and local headquarters until he finally began receiving assistance last year.
“ILP should service all eligible [veterans], and it should be faster,” McCartney said. “It should not take two to three years.”
Part of the problem is high demand; the ILP can serve only 2,500 veterans at one time. Veterans can stay in the program for up to 30 months.
Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., said many severely disabled veterans have benefited from the program, but he also said he believes the cap on participants should be modified or removed.
Theresa Boyd, vocational rehabilitation consultant for Paralyzed Veterans of America, said case managers sometimes try to slow down the process for individual veterans to accommodate to cap. She said VA should hire more staff and remove the cap.
John Lancaster, executive director of the National Council on Independent Living, told lawmakers that the application process should take only about a month.
“VR&E should be the crown jewel of programs for disabled veterans,” said Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark. “While I am impressed with the overall program, I believe we must find ways to make improvements in performance assessment methods so that VR&E can be certain it is meeting the needs of disabled veterans.
Texas town a microcosm for service enlistment problems
By Russell Carollo, McClatchy Newspapers,
Published Wednesday, July 16, 2008
MIDLAND, TEXAS — Pvt. 1st Class Steven D. Green, accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her family, entered the Army with a criminal record for minor offenses that included possession of drug paraphernalia.
But a yearlong examination by the Sacramento Bee found that Green’s court record was not the worst among former and current Midland residents applying for the military since the Iraq war began, and he’s not the only one to later be charged with committing offenses in the military.
Unlike other courts approached by the Bee, the Midland Municipal Court retained records of all military requests for searches — requests that are routine when someone applies to join the military. Those records provide a rare look at a microcosm of the more than 250,000 applicants for military service every year.
JOSE LUIS VILLEGAS / SACRAMENTO BEE Staff Sgt. J.L. Garcia (right) reviews paperwork with recruits Edwardo Cardenas, 18 (foreground) and Troy N. Eplin, 21, at the Marine Recruiting Office in Midland, Texas. Five months prior, Midland police responded to a report that two men dressed in black T-shirts and camouflage pants pulled on vehicle door handles and then ran across a street. Officers found Cardenas trying to hide a dagger behind a tree as they approached, and both men had electrical tape on their fingertips, apparently to disguise their fingerprints. Cardenas was charged with two counts of misdemeanor vehicle burglary and one count of unlawfully carrying a weapon. He pleaded guilty to reduced charges of disorderly conduct and paid $449 in fines and court costs.
Of the 534 former and current Midland residents who applied to serve between January 2003 and July 2007, the Bee found, 150 had histories ranging from theft, traffic or alcohol offenses and failure to appear in court to more serious offenses such as sexual assault. Of those 150, at least 50 entered the military. Others were offered positions but did not enlist.
Among those who enlisted was a man with a history of inpatient treatment for mental illness and others with records of drug possession, assault, theft and illegally carrying weapons. At least 10 had outstanding charges, fines or sentences when they applied for military service.
When Green applied for the Army in 2005, a court record noted that he owed outstanding fines and “must contact court immediately.” The following year in Iraq, Green drank before going to a house he’d previously visited, where he emerged from a room to tell fellow soldiers, “I just killed them. All are dead,” according to an affidavit from an FBI agent.
Green was discharged from the Army “due to a personality disorder,” the affidavit says. He subsequently was charged by a federal court in Kentucky with murdering and sexually assaulting Abeer Kassem Hamza Al-Janabi and killing her parents and sibling.
Two months ago, Green’s attorneys notified prosecutors that they may use insanity as a defense.
Texas produces more military recruits than any other state, and Midland is as patriotic as a city can be, proud to be the childhood home of President Bush. Midland, with a population slightly over 80,000, hosts an annual dinner to honor wounded war veterans from across the country, and people in military uniforms frequently find their restaurant tabs picked up by strangers.
“I go to pay my bill, and it’s paid,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shawn L. Miller, station commander for the local Army recruiting office.
Still, Midland presents unique recruiting challenges. Well-paying, entry-level oil field jobs are plentiful, so much so that the local sheriff has trouble finding deputies for positions paying about $30,000.
And despite its patriotism and military foundation, the city is not immune to the obstacles faced by recruiting offices everywhere as the Iraq war continues. In the three-day period the Bee visited Midland, another 10 Americans were reported killed in Iraq.
At the beginning of the war, Miller said, he needed a revolving door to handle the seemingly endless line of applicants to the Army recruiting station. These days, his job is much harder.
“It’s been pretty challenging,” he said.
More than 100 of the 150 Midland applicants identified by the Bee with court and criminal records had drug or alcohol charges — or both — and at least 35 were accepted anyway.
The Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System-Recruiting Station database shows that 64 Midland recruits applying between 2003 and 2007 required one or more waivers and that the largest number of waivers, 43, were for marijuana use.
In 2001, Jonathan Lane Savage, 18, was arrested on a charge of being a minor with alcohol. Eight months later, a Midland officer pulled Savage over and found 13 bags of marijuana and two packages of rolling papers inside a yellow cigar box in his car. He was found guilty of misdemeanor marijuana possession.
Three years later, after being charged with failing to complete community service and failing to appear in Midland court, Savage surfaced in Enid, Okla., where security guards found him sleeping near the entrance to a long-term care hospital just after 3 a.m.
“I detected a strong odor of an intoxicating beverage,” an Enid police officer wrote. “I also observed Jonathan to have bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech and very unsteady balance.”
Less than three months later, in August 2005, Enid officers were dispatched to a Wal-Mart to investigate a report of two men near collapse from intoxication. Savage was cited a second time on a charge of public intoxication.
Three months later, the Army processed his application and it was accepted.
Following a 15-month tour in Iraq, Savage is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. He told the Bee he joined the Army to help pay off his student loans. He said he received a $15,000 signing bonus for joining and required waivers for his criminal history.
He attributed his record to partying as a young man.
“All I did was smoke a little pot,” he said.
WANTED TO BE A MARINE
At the Marine Corps office, a recruiter introduced Eduardo Cardenas, who was flopped on a couch in front of a television. Cardenas had been hanging around the office since his junior year in high school.
“I wanted to be a Marine since I was 7,” said Cardenas, 18, who had become a father a month earlier. “You can be part of a brotherhood.”
Cardenas worked for a local recycling company after graduating from Midland High School in 2007. A visit to the county courthouse downtown revealed Cardenas’ other activities since high school.
Five months earlier, Midland police responded to a report about two men dressed in black T-shirts and camouflage pants pulling on vehicle door handles and then running across a street. Officers said they found Cardenas trying to hide a dagger behind a tree as they approached, and both men had electrical tape on their fingertips, apparently to disguise their fingerprints.
The other man, wearing a knife in a sheath on his hip, was carrying marijuana and an iPod reported stolen from a Ford Explorer, and the driver of another car told officers someone had just taken stereo equipment out of her Mazda.
Cardenas was charged with two counts of misdemeanor vehicle burglary and one count of unlawfully carrying a weapon. He was convicted of reduced charges of disorderly conduct and paid $449 in fines and court costs.
The Bee called the recruiting office in March to find out what had happened to Cardenas’ military dreams.
“He’s in boot camp in San Diego,” a recruiter said.
The Marine Corps worked to waive Ethan Duncan Arguello’s criminal history even before it had it all.
“I have been working on getting this waiver together,” says a 2003 letter received by the Midland Municipal Court from a Marine sergeant, requesting court records on Arguello. “The information we are requesting will be used to submit for a waiver for Ethan to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.”
He had eight traffic citations dating back to when he was 16, but his record of more serious offenses began on Sept. 20, 2001, when a Midland officer saw a white Chevrolet pickup abruptly swerve to another lane, then back without signaling. Arguello, then 18, was charged with consumption of alcohol by a minor. Seven months later, another Midland officer stopped a Mazda Miata speeding through a residential neighborhood.
“I contacted the driver, and I was overwhelmed by the odor of marijuana coming from him,” the officer wrote in a report.
Arguello was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia, and a Texas judge denied his request for a new trial, citing rolling papers found near the driver’s seat. Another judge denied his request to expunge the drug conviction from his record.
Fourteen months after the drug arrest and hundreds of miles away, Austin police officers observed two vehicles moving suspiciously through an apartment complex parking lot, appearing to be part of a “narcotics transaction.” Officer Sandra Benningfield decided to move in after noticing the driver of one of the vehicles, later identified as Arguello, was bending down.
“As I was walking up to the vehicle, I observed a clear plastic baggie containing green leafy substance on the driver’s floor board,” she wrote.
The officers arrested Arguello on charges of marijuana possession.
Four months later, the Marines processed his application. He is stationed at Twentynine Palms, Calif., having served two tours in Iraq.
Arguello was among at least 16 Midland applicants with criminal records in other courts, but there likely were many more. The Bee checked the histories of fewer than 40 of the 534 Midland applicants’ names in other jurisdictions.
Darwin D. Cavil’s record in Midland Municipal Court indicated he had eight traffic citations.
But that was only a small part of his full court record.
Cavil, 32 when he entered the Texas National Guard in 2003, said during an interview that he was kicked out of the Navy in 1991 for being a discipline problem — once for falling asleep on duty — after serving less than two years. Cavil blamed part of his Navy troubles on racial discrimination by a commanding officer.
In 1992, a woman in neighboring Ector County accused him of punching her in the face. He was found guilty. The following year, he was found guilty again, this time of carrying a pistol. A year later, he was charged with evading officers after he fled from a vehicle that contained alcohol and at least one juvenile girl. Then he was found guilty of unlawfully carrying a 9 mm Luger pistol after a couple complained that a group of men had tried to break into their house.
“One put his foot in the door, and I pushed him as hard as I could,” Sally Borens told the Bee, adding that she watched through the window as one of them smashed the windshield on her husband’s vehicle. “I was hollering and screaming for my husband.”
Cavil told the Bee that he tried to force his way past Borens on behalf of an acquaintance who wanted to “settle a score” with her husband. Cavil said the woman he punched had punched him first, and he blamed the evading charge on a police officer who used a racial slur.
In 2002, the mother of Cavil’s children accused him of beating her and of threatening to kill her on “several occasions.”
“I feel that he will come after me if he finds me, and he will kill me,” she wrote in an affidavit filed in Ector County.
Cavil said he tried to join the Marine Corps and Army prior to the Iraq war but was rejected. After the war started, he said, recruiters seemed to have no problem with his criminal record.
“He [the recruiter] said as long as you don’t have any felonies,” Cavil said, adding that he required a waiver for his discharge from the Navy but didn’t recall if he required one for his criminal record. The recruiter, Cavil said, told him: “I’ve seen a lot worse.”
MORE LIKELY TO LEAVE
Military studies indicate that recruits with questionable qualifications — including those with criminal records — are more likely to leave before their enlistment is up, and at least three Midland recruits with criminal records who were part of the Bee examination were discharged early.
Between 1998 and 2003, when Alexander Michael Bird entered the Army, he was charged with seven offenses in Midland, including drunken driving as a minor and other traffic offenses. After he failed to attend court-ordered alcohol sessions and perform community service, he lost his driver’s license.
Seven months after Bird entered boot camp, he was discharged. Bird told the Bee he had required a waiver to enter the military because of his record, but was kicked out for medical reasons: He had concealed his diabetes, which was discovered when he was caught hiding insulin in his socks.
Robert Christopher-Eugene Brown was sent home after only a month in Marine Corps boot camp in Southern California.
Yet a year before the Marine Corps had submitted the first of six requests for a records check on Brown, Midland police officers, concerned he was suicidal, confronted him for the second time in one day.
“He continually made excuses for his suicidal statements,” an officer wrote in a court affidavit. The officer decided to commit him “to prevent Brown from doing harm to himself.”
While searching Brown, the officer said, he found marijuana in his pocket, and Brown later was convicted of drug possession. The previous year, Brown, who also had a history of traffic citations, pleaded no contest to possessing drug paraphernalia. Two years before that he was charged with drunken driving.
“I liked to smoke pot,” Brown said during an interview. “That’s the trouble I got into.”
Brown said the alleged suicidal incident was caused by a painful breakup with his girlfriend. A separate mental health problem, he said, got him kicked out of the Marines.
“I was treated for bipolar disorder when I was a teenager,” Brown said, explaining that he was an inpatient during at least part of that treatment. “I was about 13. I think I was treated for about a month.”
A recruiter encouraged him not to include his mental history on his application, he said, and no one would have found out had he not gotten pneumonia and collapsed at boot camp. Medical personnel who rushed to check his medical history, found the record of his previous mental problems.
“They came across it by accident,” said Brown, who now drives a truck in Midland.
Had he not gotten pneumonia, Brown said, “I’d be in Iraq right now.”
The same year 21-year-old Devon Earl Karle applied for the Marine Corps, the Texas Department of Public Safety published a new photo of him on its sex offender registry, linking him to the aggravated sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl when Karle was about 12 or 13.
Of the 150 applicants identified by the Bee with court and other criminal histories, 100, like Karle, did not enter the military for various reasons.
Christopher S. Langley said the Marine Corps refused to grant him a waiver for his drug arrests, but the Army accepted him, sending him via bus hundreds of miles to a processing station. Later he was disqualified because of high blood pressure, he said, and when he reapplied in better health, Army recruiters told him they had lost his paperwork and refused to grant him a waiver for his criminal record.
Douglas E. Bowling’s record included a charge of family violence.
“We got into a spat. It wasn’t a big deal at all. The cops were called because he hit me,” said his wife, Jennifer Bowling. “He applied right after he got out of jail.”
“He [also] had two DWIs on his record, and the military said he wasn’t eligible. He just gave up.”
Several were offered jobs but declined to enlist.
Jimmy J. Pearson’s record included family violence, possession of alcohol and drunken driving, but he said it was his bad ear that the Army was most concerned with, telling him he’d require a 45-minute procedure to correct it.
“I had a lot of arrests,” Pearson said, adding that he also was charged with assault at 16. “They were telling me that they had people getting in with a lot worse records. They didn’t seem concerned with my background at all.”
He gave up, Pearson said, after the Army claimed it lost his file when his recruiter was transferred.
Of the more than 30 people the Army checked through the Midland Municipal Court who did not enlist, at least two were allowed to sign contracts but dropped out, and the others were disqualified for excessive weight, medical issues or criminal histories, an Army spokesman said. The Army found no records on seven, and the Bee found others who apparently turned down military job offers.
Being rejected by one service doesn’t mean another will do the same.
After being kicked out of the Marines for reasons he wouldn’t disclose, Michael James Pinkerton applied repeatedly to get back in.
When that didn’t work he tried the Navy.
Then, the Army.
Pinkerton, the son of a Midland County sheriff’s deputy, had joined the Marines at 17 and headed to boot camp near San Diego, but he didn’t stay long.
“They sent me home,” Pinkerton said. “It was something I did on my own before I showed [up in California], and they found out about it when I was there.
“The Marines told me they consider what I had done a bad mark on my integrity.”
Though Pinkerton wouldn’t elaborate, he acknowledged that he was arrested on an unrelated juvenile felony charge for unlawfully carrying a weapon, a Chinese sword, to school. He said the sword was in his car from a martial arts contest.
Pinkerton insisted that was the only time he’d been arrested for carrying a weapon, but the Marine Corps request about him to the Midland Municipal Court indicated another arrest in May 1997 on misdemeanor charges of possessing nunchuck fighting sticks and drug paraphernalia.
After leaving the Marines, Pinkerton said, he worked as an exterminator, a juvenile detention officer and a landscaper.
“I was still lost, hadn’t found my way yet,” he said. He made several attempts to return to the Marines, he said, “and I went to the Navy. The Navy was like: If the Marines won’t take you, we’re not going to take you.”
Feeling a strong sense of patriotism when the Iraq war started, and wanting to support his new wife and 6-month-old son, Pinkerton said he applied to the Army, which accepted him. The Army gave him a signing bonus of about $20,000, he said, and sent him to Iraq for 14 months as a machine gunner.
Pinkerton, now 29, said the Army has helped him pay off bills and save money, but the long deployments have put a strain on his family.
“I’ve paid the price for my mistakes,” Pinkerton said, explaining why he was reluctant to disclose his full criminal history. “There’s no reason for me to go digging them up.”
Some of these men have committed some serious crimes, these are not just "pt smoking teenage problems" that should just be "waived away" some of them are serious moral lapses and show the proclivity for wanton destruction, and no remorse for illegal behavior. I do believe they want a "new chance" to get their lives together, but at what price as a nation should we be willing to pay, besides giving them a job they shouldn't even be given, then we are giving them 20,000 dollar bonuses for enlisting? Maybe some of their victims should have been paid restitution with that bonus money. Maybe the bonus money should have been withheld until they had completed the 3 or 4 year enlistmment contract and actually "earned" the benefit, ratherthan hopinglater that the government can recoup the funds if the men are thrown out of the military for "character issues" before the end of their service.
This is beginning to look a lot like during Vietnam where Judges gave young men the choice of enlisting or going to prison, is it really getting that bad or that ahrd to find qualified Americas aged 18-42 maybe we should reconsider and allow migrant Mexicans and other nationalities to enlist in the military for 3 years with a promise of citizenship as their bonus, we would actually get law abiding productive Americans who want to serve this nation instead of someone looking to hide from the law.