"We fire 10 bullets and it falls apart," he said. Zwayid patted a heavy machine gun mounted in the bed of the Humvee. "This jams," he said. "Are these the weapons worthy of a soldier?" He and others said it was a sign of the Americans' lack of confidence in them.
"We trust the Americans. We go everywhere with them, we do what they ask," he said. "But they don't trust us."
The Marines and the Army have struggled to supply adequate armor protection on humvees and trucks used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Marines were quicker than the Army in getting some level of armor protection - if only bolted-on plates - onto all of its vehicles last year.
But both services have said they will need until later this year to apply better-grade armor - principally in the form of factory-made kits - onto all vehicles.
Scott Allen, a Marine Corps official, said that of the 3,000 humvees the Marines are using in Iraq, about one-third are equipped with the highest level of protection. The goal is to have all humvees at that level by December, he said.
Members of Congress and family members of service personnel have criticized the pace of the up-armoring program. Military leaders have said that had they started early on to armor all vehicles, they could have completed the job well before now.
BY MARK HAMM
MIAMI-Point Blank Body Armor has become the focus of a controversy. The company sold the U.S. Marine Corps 19,000 bulletproof vests that failed the military's own quality tests, heightening safety concerns among GIs deployed in combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In face of damaging media coverage, on May 4 the Marines recalled about half of the 10,000 faulty vests that were given to U.S. troops.
The company has reaped hefty profits from Washington?s wars and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. DHB Industries, Point Blank?s parent company, has expanded dramatically to meet the military?s demands for one million vests. It opened two new, nonunion factories in Florida last year in addition to its now unionized plant in Oakland Park, just north of Ft. Lauderdale, near Miami, and saw its revenue jump from $130 million in 2003 to $230 million last year.
A number of workers at Point Blank were not surprised to hear about the Marines' recall of vests. In a number of interviews, workers at the Oakland Park plant said the recently reported quality defects are the result of top management decisions and policies aimed at maximizing profits.
Three early morning blasts in the Karrada commercial district left at least 15 dead and 50 wounded.
The attacks targeted a Shia mosque and a police patrol, killing at least three officers.
The third blast took place outside a public bath-house, or hamam.
The explosions came hours after at least 18 people died in five blasts in a Shia district of the city.
The attacks happened despite a continuing security operation in Baghdad specifically designed to reduce the number of car bombs.
PARIS - Money from the sale of stolen artifacts in Iraq is being used to fund
terrorists there, the director of Iraq's National Museum said Thursday.
Donny George told cultural experts at a UNESCO meeting that 15,000 objects had been stolen from the museum and only 4,000 had been returned.
"Rich people are buying stolen material ... Money is going to Iraq and they're buying weapons to use against Iraqi police and U.S. forces," George said during a meeting to assess the state of Iraq's cultural heritage.
On the outskirts of Baghdad, workmen have been toiling frantically to repair a huge broken water main.
It was blown up by insurgents at the weekend. They knew exactly where to place the charge for maximum damage. It has taken out the water supply for more than half of Baghdad.
"We've been affected badly," complained one man in the area. "We don't have any water to drink. What are we supposed to do? Sometimes they cut the power as well.
It's all the fault of the Americans."
It is typical of the frustration faced by the Americans and their allies, as they struggle to improve the quality of life in Iraq.
WASHINGTON, June 21 - A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.
The assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, was described in recent days by several Congressional and intelligence officials. The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.
Congressional and intelligence officials who described the assessment called it a thorough examination that included extensive discussion of the areas that might be particularly prone to infiltration by combatants from Iraq, either Iraqis or foreigners.
They said the assessment had argued that Iraq, since the American invasion of 2003, had in many ways assumed the role played by Afghanistan during the rise of Al Qaeda during the 1980's and 1990's, as a magnet and a proving ground for Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries.
No district of Baghdad, with Iraq's highest concentration of troops, is remotely safe. And a rare drive outside the capital last week showed how anarchic the hinterland has become. To move concrete blocks for a new checkpoint near a base at Taji, 15 miles from Baghdad, American troops blocked the main highway north for two hours with tanks, troop carriers and Apache helicopters circling overhead. In an 80-mile round trip, it was the only sighting of Americans, though the blight of war was everywhere. For mile after mile, the highway was strewn with rusting hulks of blown-up cars and trucks, with huge bomb craters beside the road.
Another journey last month pointed at the same challenge, not enough troops to establish control. Officers of the 42nd Infantry Division at Baquba, 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, presented a picture of restored calm. A few days later, insurgents hiding in a sprawling palm grove just south of the town shot down a Kiowa helicopter in a nighttime attack, killing both crewmen, and pitted another Kiowa with ground fire when it hovered over the burning wreckage, causing it to make an emergency landing. American officers said later that with most of their troops hunkered in their bases, they had been unaware that rebels had infiltrated the grove.
In some cases, American commanders say, the problem can be too many American troops, not too few. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American officer in Iraq, has said that American forces, while stabilizing in some areas, can be destabilizing in others, by encouraging Iraqis to depend too heavily on outsiders.
It is a lesson learned in Iraqi Kurdistan, where American officers concluded that helping to resolve political disputes tended to keep the Kurds from working out their differences themselves. It is a conviction, too, among some American officers in the field, who complain that newly trained Iraqi troops often malinger on operations, confident that Americans will step in where they fail.
But whether there are too many American soldiers or too few, a feeling is growing among senior officers in Baghdad and Washington that it is only a matter of time before the Pentagon sets a timetable of its own for withdrawal. These officers point to the effect on American public opinion of the slow disintegration of the 30-nation military coalition that America leads, and to frustration on Capitol Hill with the faltering buildup of Iraqi forces. These officers also cite the recruiting slump and fear the risk is growing that the war, like Vietnam, will do lasting damage to the Army and the Marines. Update:
The folks at First Draft have a contest going:
Via Atrios: Enough.
"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?" Mr. Rove asked. "Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."
Enough with this. I want you all to do something.
If you are represented by a Republican in either house of Congress, I want you to send him or her an e-mail along the lines of the following:
Dear Rep./Sen. [Name],
According to the New York Times, presidential advisor Karl Rove recently said that liberals in this country want our troops to die.
As a liberal, I find this deeply offensive. I don't feel this is the sort of rhetoric our country needs during wartime, and I resent the idea that I want any of our troops to come to harm. In making such statements Mr. Rove is not only impugning my politics, he is degrading my basic humanity.
As a constituent of yours, I would like to know, [sir/madam], if you agree with Mr. Rove's statements. Does he speak for you?
The first person to get a response back that either distances the congressman/woman from Rove's statements will get their good work recognized here when we post the entire e-mail on the blog.
You'll also get a free First Draft T-shirt of your choice from the swag store to your left. That's slightly less sucky. E-mail your responses to first_draft_blog at yahoo dot com.
Remember, it has to be a Republican. Democrats denouncing this shit is good, but not enough to get it all over the Sunday shows. We just need to find one good-hearted, non-pudding-headed Republican Congressman or Congresswoman who's willing to say Karl, you went a little too far.
I'm sure they're out there. We just have to find them.