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Obama authorizes air strikes in Syria

WASHINGTON — In a major reversal, President Barack Obama ordered the United States into a broad military campaign Wednesday night to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants in two volatile Middle East nations authorizing airstrikes inside Syria for the first time as well as an expansion of strikes in Iraq.

In an address to the nation, Obama also announced he was dispatching nearly 500 more U.S. troops to Iraq to assist that country’s besieged security forces. And he called on Congress to authorize a program to train and arm rebels in Syria who are fighting both the Islamic State group and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Full Story.

Do you support the President's decision?

He knew what he was talking about

Back around the time this book came out in 2006, the author speculated that the events historians would one day point to as key moments in the war had not even happened yet. 

www.npr.org

Crocker’s DUI hearing postponed

The court hearing was postponed Wednesday for Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, who was charged last month with DUI and leaving the scene of an accident.

Crocker did not appear before Spokane County District Judge Sara Derr. But his attorney, Julie Twyford, did appear. She said the judge agreed to move the hearing to Oct. 10 at 1:30 p.m.

Crocker, 63, was charged Aug. 14 following a crash with a semi-truck at a busy Spokane Valley intersection. He reportedly drove away from the crash and was followed by a witness who alerted Washington State Patrol troopers.

The Spokane Valley native retired from the U.S. State Department in July, citing health reasons and left the Afghanistan capital of Kabul at a period of transition as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its troops from the country by the end of 2014. He also oversaw the reconstruction of war-torn Iraq.

Read previous coverage of the crash that resulted in his DUI charges here.

Briggs: ‘I Told You I’d Be Back’

The dust of Iraq still clung to the items crammed inside Spc. Blythe Briggs’ rucksack when she landed thousands of miles away in chilly Spokane. “I feel bad for her,” her brother, Austin Briggs, 20, said before she deplaned at Spokane International Airport late Friday. “She’s going to have climate shock.” Briggs, a 25-year-old Army medic with the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, of Fort Hood, Texas, was among the last American soldiers to leave Iraq as the nearly 9-year-old war came to a close. When she arrived in Spokane, she exchanged a tight embrace with her mother, Ruth Briggs. “I’m back,” she told her mother as the two hugged. “I told you I’d make it”/Chelsea Bannach, SR. More here. (SR photo)

DFO: My niece “Hannah Banana” (family nickname) is staying in Post Falls for a couple of weeks with her parents after finishing her second tour of duty in the Mideast (Afghanistan & Iraq). Army Reserve Capt. Hannah Banana gave her parents, grandmother, & brother flags that had flown on Blackhawk helicopters in those war zones for Christmas. It was great to watch them open those wonderful gifts. It was greater still to have her back and in one piece. Best. Christmas. Present. Of all.

Question: Have you had a friend of loved one who recently returned from a tour of duty in either Iraq or Afghanistan?

Heading home…finally

 After almost nine years, the American presence in Iraq is over. Early today the last  American soldiers rolled out of Iraq and into Kuwait.

 Since March of 2003, 4,500 American lives were lost; $800 billion - invested in this war.  Like all wars, the question, “Was it worth it?” cannot be easily answered and is subject to opinion.

 “My heart goes out to the Iraqis,” said Warrant Officer John Jewell, acknowledging the challenges ahead. “The innocent always pay the bill.”

For today, 500 American soldiers have rolled into their immediate future, home for the holidays.  What do they look forward to? 

“In a guard tower overlooking a now empty checkpoint at the base, Sgt. Ashley Vorhees and another soldier talked about what they looked forward to most in getting home. The 29-year-old Vorhees planned to go for Mexican food at Rosa's, a restaurant in Killeen, Texas. Another joy of home, she said: you don't have to bring your weapon when you go to the bathroom.”

(S-R archives photo)

U.S. Shuts Down War In Iraq

After nearly nine years, 4,500 American dead, 32,000 wounded and more than $800 billion, U.S. officials formally shut down the war in Iraq — a conflict that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said was worth the price in blood and money, as it set Iraq on a path to democracy. Panetta stepped off his military plane in Baghdad Thursday as the leader of America’s war in Iraq, but will leave as one of many top U.S. and global officials who hope to work with the struggling nation as it tries to find its new place in the Middle East and the broader world. More than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invasion in 2003, according to the Iraq Body Count website. Bombings and gun battles are still common. And experts are concerned about the Iraqi security force’s ability to defend the nation against foreign threats/AP. More here. (AP photo: rmy soldiers salute during ceremonies marking the end of US military mission in Baghdad, Iraq, earlier today)

Question: Was it worth it?

President Declares End Of Iraq War

President Obama announced Friday that the United States will withdraw nearly all troops from Iraq by the end of the year, effectively bringing the long war in Iraq to an end. “After nearly 9 years, America's war in Iraq will be over,” said Mr. Obama, who said the last American troops will depart the country “with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the american people stand united in our support for our troops” by January 1st. “Our troops are finally coming home,” he added, saying they “will definitely be home for the holidays.” America has withdrawn nearly 100,000 troops from Iraq already as part of the current draw-down, and about 40,000 troops - who are deemed “non-combat” - remain/Brian Montopoli, CBS News. More here. (AP photo)

Question: With Osama bin Laden dead, Moammar Gaddafi dead, and the Iraqi war almost over, is it time to give President Barack Obama credit for running U.S. foreign policy well?

Iraqi-Mexican drug ring busted in Calif.

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy talks about the indictments evolving from arrest made in the undercover operation involving Iraqi Immigrants and Mexican drug cartels at a news conference Thursday in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

By JULIE WATSON,Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Federal officials said Thursday they've busted a drug trafficking ring involving Mexico's most powerful cartel and members of an Iraqi immigrant community in the U.S. who were caught selling illegal drugs, assault rifles, grenades and homemade explosives.

About 60 people from the Iraqi community were arrested after a six-month investigation carried out by the Drug Enforcement Administration and police in the city of El Cajon, a working-class city east of San Diego.

Many of the suspects are Iraqi Chaldeans — Christians who fled their homeland amid threats from al-Qaida and other extremists. Police say at least some of those arrested are suspected of being affiliated with the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate, an Iraqi gang based in Detroit.

Authorities say the suspects were working out of an Iraqi social club in El Cajon and shipping drugs supplied by Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel to Detroit, home to the largest Chaldean population in the United States, according to the federal indictment unsealed Thursday. El Cajon has the second largest Chaldean population.

 Officials were tipped off after neighbors and even some of the club members' spouses complained for years about the establishment's criminal activity, which has included attempted murder, sales of meth and marijuana, gambling and illegal firearms sales.

Authorities seized 18 pounds of methamphetamine, narcotics, cocaine and other drugs; more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana; $630,000 in cash; four IEDs; and more than 30 guns, including assault rifles.

In April, a DEA undercover operative was shown a hand grenade by one of the Iraqis and was told additional grenades were available from a Mexican military source.

Hundreds Remember Fallen Soldiers

Hundreds of friends, family and service members gathered in a Coeur d’Alene church today for the memorial of two young soldiers killed recently in Iraq. Sgt. Nathan R. Beyers, 24, and Spc. Nicholas W. Newby, 20, of Coeur d’Alene, were remembered as being dedicated servicemen who always upheld the Soldier’s Creed. “They always placed the mission first and never accepted defeat,” said Brig. Gen. Alan Gayhart. Beyers and Newby, who were assigned to 145th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Post Falls, Idaho, were killed by an improvised explosive device on July 7 in Baghdad. “Those two are like brothers,” said Sgt. Joseph Rozewicz. “They loved to hang out a lot, play pranks on each other. They’re both … my biggest heroes”/Chelsea Bannach, SR. More here.

116th Calvary Deploying To Mideast

After months of training in Idaho and Mississippi, hundreds of members of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team are now on their way to Iraq. At about 10:40MT Sunday morning, the first jumbo jet took off from Gulfport International Airport in Mississippi. It was filled with the first batch of Idaho Citizen Soldiers, prepared to serve their country in Iraq. It’s the first wave of a 4-day sendoff for the 116th. “There is an element of them being nervous and apprehensive about what they’re going to face when they get over there,” said Colonel Tim Marsano of the Idaho National Guard. “But I can tell you that they are extremely well-trained”/Justin Corr, KTVB. More here.

  • Cutline: A family farewell:Pvt. 1st Class Brian Borkoski says goodbye to his wife, Cassi Borkoski, and his 14-month-old daughter, Magdalena, at the National Guard Armory in Post Falls on Tuesday. (SR file photo from mid-September: Kathy Plonka)
  • Idaho Press-Tribune editorial tribute

Question: My niece, a lieutenant in the National Guard, is about to deploy for a second time to the Middle East. She served in Afghanistan last year. Now, she’s going to Iraq. Do you have a friend or loved one deployed in the Middle East?

Signe: Turning The Page

Signe Wilkinson/Philadelphia Inquirer

P.S. Obama Marks End Of Iraq Combat

President Barack Obama reads his speech for photographers after delivering a primetime televised address marking the the end of combat mission in Iraq from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. Los Angeles Times story here. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Question: Was Iraq worth it? Is our growing military presence and casualties in Afghanistan worth it?

Anderson: Resurgent Insurgency

Nick Anderson/Houston Chronicle

Delegation: ‘Some of the nation’s finest’

Idaho’s congressional delegation - Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Congressmen Walt Minnick and Mike Simpson - issued the following statement on the big Idaho Guard deployment to Iraq announced today:

 “First and foremost, our thoughts are with the families whose loved ones will be deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are pleased that the Idaho National Guard will be providing family support training sessions to help prepare them for the deployment. We have always supported efforts to ensure our military men and women have the resources they need to carry out and complete their missions successfully. The 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team is home to some of the nation’s finest, and we know they are trained and prepared for their upcoming mission. We wish them success and look forward to welcoming each of them home.”

Idaho National Guard’s 116th headed to Iraq again

More than 2,700 members of the Idaho Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, shown here training near Gowen Field, are being mobilized in September for deployment to Iraq, the guard announced today. About 1,500 of the Guard members being deployed are from Idaho; the rest are from Oregon and Montana. The team will have two months of stateside training in Mississippi, then begin replacing other deployed units in Iraq starting in November. The 116th is the same team that was deployed to Iraq in 2004-05, the largest deployment in Idaho history.

“They were commended for their outstanding and professional service to our nation.  I know they will represent our state well again on this deployment,” said Idaho Gov. Butch Otter. “I want to remind Idahoans that this yearlong deployment will impact communities, businesses, families and individuals throughout our state.  I also ask Idahoans to join me in wishing the best to our men and women in uniform, and their family members.   With the help and understanding of friends, employers and other community members, I have no doubt our hometown heroes will succeed again.” Click below to read the full announcement from the Idaho National Guard.

Peace in Iraq? Why SURE!

Good afternoon, Netizens…


Tomorrow, June 30, Americans will withdraw from Iraqi cities, a first giant step toward the planned winding down of the War in Iraq. In this AP picture, Iraqis are already celebrating in the parks and on the streets. Why are they celebrating?


Some suggest it is because they are well-rid of the Evil Empire of the United States. Others, perhaps more sensibly, suggest that now the United States has left Iraqi cities, they are once more free to resume their bloody factional religious warfare free of anyones interference.


Does the United States leaving Iraq’s cities mean there will be peace in that country?


Why sure. Whatever would make you think otherwise?


Dave

The shorter trip…

Good evening, Netizens…


It is obvious Spring is drawing close upon us. If not the obscenely-raucous hordes of robins in my front yard, then it has to be the appearance of what I term utterly illiterate Comcast outsourced sales people needing a shave and a haircut, one of whom came to my door this week. They, of all signs of Spring appearing in the Pacific Northwest, annually ignore the large sign posted on the front of the house that says DO NOT DISTURB. That sign seems to work for all the other mentally feather weight sales people who are trying to sell everything from windows to insurance. Most literate, sensible people read the sign, which is right by the doorbell, and wisely decide to leave without touching the button. Even Mormon missionaries and other religious affiliations can read.


Comcast, however, cannot read or, at least have indicated they do not care what I want. After I verbally removed the obligatory half-inch of flesh from the Hippy-looking dude using less than three conjunctions, he left, only to encounter Foghorn, who removed yet another inch of his hide, brandishing her yard rake in his face. After his third attempt when Mr. Igor, who also has a sign, asked if he had anyone in his family who could read, the poor itinerant salesman skipped our block in search of better pastures. Yes, I do believe Spring is here now.


Normally when Spring arrives, one of the first things on my personal agenda is to go ride a good sorrel mare I know into the Alpine pastures between Hunters and Springdale and check out a friend’s spring calves. There is no one there but me, a gentle horse and lots of white-faced calves drifting around the pasture, the youngest which occasionally pause for mid-air refueling when the mood strikes their fancies.


However, after reading the New York Times Online, I am semi-seriously contemplating taking a tour of historic places in Iraq before I saddle up my horse. At the following URL it seems tourism has come to Iraq. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/21/world/middleeast/21iraq.html?_r=1 Yes, you heard me right. Tourism in Iraq.


It seems a British citizen has formed a tour company that travels to ancient places in Iraq http://www.hinterlandtravel.com/ nearly all of which hail before the time of Christ. On second thought, after reading the disclaimers on the web site, perhaps I’m better off hiding in a high meadow on the back of a good horse.


Dave

Obama To Pull Troops In 18 Months

Item: Obama to pull troops out of Iraq by end of August 2010/Reuters

More Info: President Barack Obama said on Friday he would pull U.S. combat troops out of Iraq in 18 months as he unveiled a new strategy that stressed diplomacy and engagement with foes like Iran and Syria. Winding down the Iraq war will allow Obama to boost troop numbers in Afghanistan, which he has declared the central front in the U.S. fight against terrorism. He hopes it will also help him slash a ballooning $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

Question: Do you support Obama’s decision to pull troops out of Iraq in 18 months?

Video: Obama announces Iraq drawdown

President Obama announced today the United States will be bringing combat troops home from Iraq by next August.

Photo of Gregoire in Iraq

Gov. Chris Gregoire had dinner with troops at Camp Prosperity, in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Thanks for reader Patrick McDonald, a deployed Army reservist from Washington, for sending the photo.