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News :: Peace & War

Report: U.S. Failed to Limit 'Friendly Fire' in Iraq

Report: U.S. Failed to Limit 'Friendly Fire' in Iraq

Thu October 2, 2003 06:33 PM ET
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon failed to do enough to prevent incidents of "friendly fire" in the Iraq war despite acute concern about the same problem after the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. military said on Thursday.

A "lessons learned" report, compiled by the military and aimed at correcting mistakes made during the war, also criticized the way the Pentagon notified, mobilized and trained reservists and the slowness of assessing the amount of damage inflicted on Iraqi targets.

Two generals testified before Congress and briefed reporters about the findings, but declined to release the report.

The Pentagon did not take the needed steps to prevent friendly fire incidents -- accidental attacks by U.S. forces on other Americans or allied troops, said Adm. Edmund Giambastiani Jr., head of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, responsible for the report. The military calls such incidents fratricide.

"In the area of capabilities that fell short of our expectations where we needed substantial improvement, in our view, fratricide prevention is the first one that I list," Giambastiani told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

Giambastiani testified that "statistically, we did better" in the Iraq war than in the Gulf War, but neither he nor Maj. Gen. Robert Cone, who directed the report, revealed how many friendly fire incidents occurred in the Iraq war or how many casualties resulted.

Known friendly fire incidents during the Iraq war included a U.S. Patriot missile downing a British Tornado jet, a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle bombing an American artillery position, and a U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt strafing a convoy of British armored vehicles.

The U.S. military viewed the rates of friendly fire deaths in the Gulf War as unacceptable. Of the 147 U.S. troops killed in battle in the Gulf War, 35 died in friendly fire incidents.

But the Pentagon in 2001 terminated as too costly an Army program to equip tanks and other military vehicles with electronic devices enabling troops to distinguish U.S. vehicles from those of the enemy amid the chaos of war.

As a result, pilots in U.S. warplanes and troops manning guns in tanks did not instantly have a way to identify before pulling the trigger that a target was not, in fact, a friend rather than a foe.

"In terms of combat ID (identification), I don't think we've made a lot of progress in the last 10 years," Cone told reporters at the Pentagon.

In the absence of such a system, U.S. officials scrambled to place combat identification panels, which have a distinctive signature when viewed with infrared technology, on tanks and other vehicles. U.S. forces also used a "blue force tracker" system showing the location of friendly forces on the battlefield, but Cone said, "We rushed that stuff" into actual use in a war.

Regarding Reserve and National Guard troops, Cone said there were problems in giving reservists called to active duty for the war sufficient notice of mobilization. He added that the inability to get battle-damage assessments more quickly sometimes left U.S. forces in the dark about how much harm they had inflicted on Iraqi targets.


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News :: Peace & War

Attacks on U.S. forces increase Incidents in Iraq average 17 a day

Attacks on U.S. forces increase Incidents in Iraq average 17 a day

By Jim Michaels

Attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq have escalated over the past several months, and insurgents are now launching an average of 17 assaults a day against patrols, convoys and bases, an analysis of coalition security reports shows. The data also show insurgents are using more sophisticated tactics and weapons.

There were few attacks against coalition forces immediately after Baghdad fell in April. But by early summer, the Army said attacks were averaging about a dozen per day. In September, the number of attacks exceeded 20 on some days. The attacks are killing an average of three to six American troops per week.

''The enemy has evolved,'' Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said Thursday in Baghdad. ''It is a little bit more lethal, little bit more complex, little bit more sophisticated and in some cases a little bit more tenacious.''

Sanchez said coalition forces need to be prepared for more casualties and a long stay in Iraq.

The increase in resistance suggests that raids on rebels and their arms caches so far are failing to reduce the number of attacks against the U.S.-led occupation. Three U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks Wednesday. That brought the U.S. death toll from hostile action to 87 since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat operations over.

USA TODAY examined 30 daily security reports filed from Aug. 17 to Sept. 28. An analysis of the 558 attacks detailed in those reports shows:

* Violence has spread from the capital to northern Iraq. The most troublesome region remains Baghdad and the ''Sunni Triangle'' areas to the north and west of Baghdad, where support for Saddam Hussein remains strong. But rebels are also active in the north, where the predominantly Kurdish population opposed Saddam's regime. In Mosul, rebels have attacked coalition forces or their Iraqi allies at least 40 times in the past six weeks.

* Attacks are more coordinated. Attackers increasingly initiate an ambush by firing a rocket-propelled grenade or detonating a roadside bomb. The assailants then shoot at coalition soldiers with AK-47 assault rifles. On occasion, attackers have detonated an explosive to lure quick-reaction forces into ambushes.

* Mortars frequently are used against police stations and U.S. bases. At times, guerrillas fire mortars from the back of a truck and take off before coalition troops can respond. Abu Ghraib, a former Saddam prison now used by coalition forces, has been targeted by mortars at least four times in the past six weeks. Improvised explosive devices -- homemade bombs made from mortar and artillery shells hidden in dead animals or partially buried on the sides of roads -- were used in 20% of the attacks. They often are rigged to be detonated remotely, sometimes using wireless garage door openers.

* Rebels are shooting at aircraft. Coalition aircraft have been fired on at least eight times in the past six weeks, though the attempts missed their targets. Some of the guerrillas used assault weapons, which are mostly ineffective against helicopters or airplanes. But there have been three attacks using missiles or large-caliber anti-aircraft guns.

U.S. military officials say the attacks are the work of diehard members of Saddam's Baath Party and foreigners who want to undermine American-led efforts to rebuild Iraq. Coalition forces are trying to combat the resistance through raids against fighters and reconstruction efforts designed to win over Iraqis.


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News :: Peace & War

4,000 U.S. non-combat evacuations in Iraq

4,000 U.S. non-combat evacuations in Iraq

By Mark Benjamin
Investigations Editor
Published 10/3/2003 3:39 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Nearly 4,000 U.S. troops have been medically evacuated from Operation Iraqi Freedom for non-combat reasons -- with more than one in five of those for psychiatric or neurological problems, according to Pentagon data.

A total of 3,915 evacuations from the region have been for non-combat medical problems. A combination of what the Pentagon is calling evacuations for "psychiatric" and "neurological" problems make up 22 percent of the total, with 478 and 387 evacuations, respectively.

Another 544 evacuations have been for "general surgery," 290 for gynecological reasons and 118 for orthopedic problems.

Army Surgeon General spokeswoman Virginia Stephanakis, who supplied the data, said on Friday that she had few details, but that the Pentagon had not detected any "red flags" indicating troubling or unexpected health patterns.

Some of the evacuations were for accidental injuries, she said, adding that orthopedic, or bone, problems might reflect vehicle accidents.

A leading veterans' group said the data needed to be studied to understand the true cost of the war and potential health hazards.

"Clearly there is more detail that needs to be given about the nature and causes of these evacuations," said Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center.

In August, the Pentagon announced an investigation into a mysterious pneumonia that killed two soldiers and made 17 others so sick they needed ventilators to breathe. The probe is focusing on the role of smoking, those officials said.

An investigation by United Press International found that 17 soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom have died from sudden illnesses, including three with fluid in the lungs, eight who suddenly collapsed and three who were found dead in their cots.

Robinson questioned whether any of the psychiatric or neurological problems might be related to Lariam, a common anti-malaria drug given to many soldiers in the region. Lariam's FDA-approved product label warns of reports of hallucinations, seizures, paranoia, aggression, delusions and suicide.

Published reports this summer said the military was investigating several suspected suicides. UPI found that at least 15 service members in Operation Iraqi Freedom have died from what were described as non-combat gunshot wounds, the latest on Sept. 30.

The Pentagon says it sometimes uses Lariam, known generically as mefloquine, over other anti-malaria drugs because side effects are rare and must be weighed against the risk of getting malaria.

A total of 318 soldiers have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 20, according to the Pentagon. Another 1,380 soldiers have been wounded in action as of Oct. 1.

Contributing: Christine Moyer

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News :: Peace & War

A look at U.S. daily deaths in Iraq

A look at U.S. daily deaths in Iraq

The Associated Press Friday, October 3, 2003

(10-03) 16:13 PDT (AP) --

As of Friday, Oct. 3, 317 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq, according to the Department of Defense.

The British military has reported 50 deaths; Denmark, one; and Ukraine, one.

On or since May 1, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 179 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, according to the latest Defense Department figures.

Since the start of military operations, 1,393 U.S. service members have been injured as a result of hostile action, according to U.S. Central Command. Non-hostile injured numbered 330.

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News :: Civil & Human Rights : Police State

ACLU Chief Assails Patriot Spin

Coming on the heels of Attorney General John Ashcroft's summer tour to promote the Patriot Act, President Bush is pushing to expand government powers with Patriot Act II. But experts say the government's assertions about what the first Patriot covers constitute outright deception of the public.

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News :: Civil & Human Rights : Peace & War : Police State

Israeli Police Force Excessive in 2000

An Israeli commission concluded that Israel "must educate its police that the Arab public is not the enemy, and should not be treated as such."

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News :: Government & Elections

If Bush really wants to investigate...

The Bush Administration is clearly against any and all measures that actually help consumers. He and the GOP leaders in Congress are in the pocket of big energy, while local leaders work without fanfare to save things.

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News :: Environment & Food

Man faces jail time, hours of graffiti removal after tagging conviction

SANTA CRUZ — A 29-year-old Santa Cruz man faces a year in County Jail, three years of probation and hours of graffiti removal after he was convicted of tagging a Highway 1 overpass, court records show.

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