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Saturday, November 22, 2003

WFAA.com | Dallas-Fort Worth | State/Regional News

At least 17 U.S. troops have committed suicide in Iraq


By RANDALL RICHARD / Associated Press

Rebecca Suell wants answers, and not the ones the U.S. Army is giving her.

Why does the Army keep calling the last letter her husband sent to her, the one he mailed from Iraq on June 15, a suicide note? Can taking a bottle of Tylenol really kill you? And how did he get his hands on a bottle of Tylenol in the middle of the desert anyway?

The questions may differ, but experts say the desperate search for answers — and the denial — are usually the same.

Since April, the military says, at least 17 Americans — 15 Army soldiers and two Marines — have taken their own lives in Iraq. The true number is almost certainly higher. At least two dozen non-combat deaths, some of them possible suicides, are under investigation according to an AP review of Army casualty reports.

No one in the military is saying for the record that the suicide rate among forces in Iraq is alarming. But Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American military commander in Iraq, was concerned enough, according to the Army Surgeon General's office, to have ordered a 12-person mental health assessment team to Iraq to see what more can be done to prevent suicides and to help troops better cope with anxiety and depression.

Army spokesman Martha Rudd said the assessment team returned from Iraq two weeks ago, but that it will take several weeks to come up with recommendations. Until then, she said, no one on the team will have anything to say to the press.

Whether the suicide rate among the troops should be considered high is impossible to say because there is nothing to compare it with, experts say. What would be considered a "normal" rate for an all-voluntary military force of men and women on extensive deployments to the Middle East, under constant pressure from guerrillas who use terror tactics?

Rudd said that by the Army's calculations, its suicide rate in Iraq is roughly 12 per 100,000 — well below the civilian suicide rate for U.S. men of 17.5 suicides per 100,000. The comparison is misleading, however.

The civilian rate is an annual figure, and the Iraq figure covers only about seven months. Furthermore, the troops have not yet spent their first holiday season in Iraq — a time when the risk of suicide is traditionally at its highest.

The troops in Iraq include thousands of women, who typically have a lower suicide rate than men. And the Army figure does not include possible suicides among the non-combat deaths yet to be explained.

Whatever the 12-month suicide figure turns out to be, the Army is not satisfied that it is low enough. The Army has an extensive suicide prevention program, with soldiers "all the way down the chain" of command trained to recognize the warning signs of suicide and how best to intervene, Rudd said.

"Zero suicides is our goal," she said. "We may not get there, but we're going to try."

In all, 422 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. The military has characterized 129 of the deaths as "non-hostile," including 105 since President Bush officially declared major hostilities over on May 1. Most if not all the confirmed suicides occurred after May 1, according to the military. According to an AP analysis of military reports, non-combat deaths include 13 caused by a weapons discharge, two from drowning, one from breathing difficulties and one described only as "medical." An additional 13 are listed with no cause given.

For Rebecca Suell and many of the families of soldiers who are believed to have killed themselves in Iraq, answers are as hard to come by as sleep.

Night after night, Suell said, she lies awake asking herself the same questions.

Why, as sad and as tired of Iraq as he said he was, would her husband take his own life when she had just told him how much she loved him, how much the kids missed him and needed him?

Why would a man who loved the Lord so much — who told her on the day he died that he felt he was getting closer and closer to God every day — defy his Lord's strictures against taking his own life?

But the more she sobs, the clearer it becomes that Joseph D. Suell, posthumously promoted to sergeant, was in crisis the day he died — so desperate to come home that he even asked his wife to talk to his commanding officer.

And she did.

She told him, she said, how life was so hard without her husband, how going to nursing school and working at Wal-Mart and trying to raise three children, all at the same time, was too much for her to bear alone.

She told him how her husband had no sooner finished serving a year and half in Korea than he was sent to Iraq, that in five years as a soldier she had been with him less than 18 months.

She told his commanding officer that their youngest daughter didn't even know her father, that he was away the day she was born, and that all her husband really wanted was to be at home with his family in Lufkin, Texas, for Christmas.

Just a month or two, she begged, and then you can have him back.

His commanding officer, she said, told her that the Army was doing everything it could to get him back to her but that he couldn't promise it would happen in time for Christmas.

The Army will not talk about Suell's death, nor does it publish, out of concern for the families, the names of soldiers who have killed themselves in Iraq.

But Rudd, the Army spokesman, said it is not unusual for family members to question whether a loved one's death was a suicide. It is for that reason, she said, that it often takes months to complete an investigation into a soldiers death.

For the sake of the family, Rudd said, "we need to be absolutely certain."

In many respects, Joseph Suell does not fit the profile of a soldier who commits suicide. Typically, mental health experts said, such suicides are triggered by a "Dear John" message from home.

Even among civilians, one of the common triggers "is a rupture of a relationship," said David Shaffer, a Columbia University psychiatrist and former consultant for the Department of Defense.

But there are always deeper reasons, usually far murkier and far more complex, experts said. Like the wars they fight, no two soldiers who commit suicide face the same mix of potentially deadly stress.

"In most previous conflicts you went, you fought, you came home," Rudd said. "In this one they went, they fought, they're still there."

Rudd said she knows of no studies that show a definitive correlation between length of deployment and military suicide rates. But Michelle Kelley, a psychiatrist who studies deployment-related stress for the Navy, said the longer the deployment, the greater the strain on a relationship with a loved one.

The military, she said, needs to be especially watchful for anxiety and depression among its troops in the weeks ahead. For civilian and soldier alike, the Christmas season and depression go hand in hand, Kelley said. But for a soldier, she added, a weapon is always at hand.

Soldiers, she said, must be encouraged to seek help when they need it. For that reason, she expressed concern about the case of Pfc. Georg-Andreas Pogany.

The soldier, assigned to a Green Beret interrogation team, began throwing up after seeing the severed body of an Iraqi civilian three days after being deployed to Iraq. After seeking help for a self-described anxiety attack, he was ordered back to the United States and became the first soldier since Vietnam charged with cowardice — a charge later reduced to dereliction of duty.

That, Kelley said, is "the last thing you want to do" if you want soldiers to seek help in times of stress.... You need to make it clear to those people who have witnessed something traumatic that they need to talk about it — that they won't be stigmatized for doing so and that it's not going to follow them through their military career."

Shaffer, the Columbia University psychiatrist, said it is not that simple. A commanding officer's decision to file a cowardice charge might, in some circumstances, even be a morale boost for the soldiers under his command, he said.

Shaffer warned against drawing any conclusions based on the number of suicides in Iraq.

Suicide rates vary greatly over time, he said, and also vary with race, ethnicity, religion and other factors. African Americans, for example, have a lower suicide rate than the general U.S. population. So do those who describe themselves as deeply religious. Drug use, alcoholism and a low education level, on the other hand, are correlated with higher suicide rates.

A comparison of the suicide rate among troops in Iraq with troops in other wars such as Vietnam are meaningless, he said, because the makeup of the fighting forces were so different. (According to the Army, there are no reliable statistics on the suicide rate during the Vietnam War.)

Shaffer said there is also some evidence that those who serve in the Army for a long time have a higher suicide rate than civilians. This is probably because "some longstanding servicemen do develop alcohol problems over time, and alcohol use is very strongly related to suicide," he said.

Rudd, the Army spokesman, also adds something else to the mix:

"Technology today allows people to connect with the home front much more quickly and intimately and often than in previous conflicts," she said. That's not necessarily a good thing if the news from home is bad. Young people can be impulsive, she said, "and Dear John letters and things like that can be very upsetting to a young soldier."

For Rebecca Suell, who so badly wanted her husband back, there are still only questions.

Why, she demands to know, her voice rising in anger, did the Army send her husband to Iraq after he had mangled his arm in Korea? After they discovered that his asthma was getting worse?

She has taken her 4-year-old daughter, Jada, to the cemetery, she said. "I've told her, 'That's where your daddy lives now — right next to your grandfather. And that's where we will all live someday, next to the people we love most.' But she doesn't understand."

So what is she supposed to tell Jada, Rebecca Suell said, the next time she asks: "When is my daddy coming home?'"
WFAA.com | Dallas-Fort Worth | State/Regional News
Iraq War News
U.S. rips Iran for nuke program 'lies': "The United States assailed Iran on Friday for "lies" about its nuclear program and voiced unprecedented criticism of the U.N. atomic agency chief, suggesting he glossed over 18 years of deception that included enriching uranium and processing plutonium."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Militants call Palestinians traitors: "A leader of the Hamas militant group told thousands at a rally Friday that Palestinians who negotiated a symbolic peace agreement with Israel are traitors."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

U.S. Has Too Few Informants in Iraq: "The U.S. military still has too few trained intelligence specialists and Arabic interpreters in Iraq, despite stepped-up efforts, as it works to find out who's behind a surge of guerrilla attacks, the Pentagon's intelligence chief said Friday. (AP)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

NATO Chief Hopeful on Afghan Aid, Seeks Iraq Talks: "NATO chief George Robertsonvoiced confidence Friday that allies would offer resources toextend Afghan peacekeeping beyond Kabul and called successthere a requirement before discussing any NATO role in Iraq. (Reuters)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

Guerrillas Fire Rockets at Fortified Baghdad Sites: "Guerrillas fired rockets from donkeycarts at Iraq's Oil Ministry and two Baghdad hotels used byWesterners on Friday in audacious strikes on heavily fortifiedsites linked to the U.S.-led occupation. (Reuters)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

Iraqis Shut Out of Lucrative Rebuilding Deals: "BAGHDAD, Nov 21 (IPS) - U.S. officials have shut Iraqis out of the business of reconstruction contracts, many local businessmen say. (OneWorld.net)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

Iraqis on Iraq: "A fascinating journey through Iraq written up in the Israeli newspaper Haaretzexamines the question of Iraq's future through conversations and encounters with Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, concluding that "The longing of the Iraqi people for a society based on basic human rights sometimes appears strong enough to overcome fragmentation into ethnic groups and religious differences, but at other times seems fragile and tentative.""

In Alternet: War On Iraq

Friday, November 21, 2003

Iraq War News

Cyber cafes bringing Iraq closer to home

SPAWAR-developed systems give soldiers an instant link to loved ones

Of The Post and Courier Staff
HANAHAN--In the old days, roughly two months ago in an ever-changing Iraq, American GIs had to be assigned to or stationed near a headquarters unit to have any practical chance of getting an e-mail through to the folks back home.

Field Engineer Frederick Bellamy sets up laptops Wednesday in a cyber cafe similar to those being sent to troops in Iraq.

But as a series of portable, wireless "cyber cafes" goes up across Iraq, the days of the old snail-mail military are drawing rapidly to a close.

These modern communications stations feature Internet e-mail access and satellite telephones and were developed as a morale support tool through a crash program at the high-tech Space and Naval Warfare Systems center at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station. Pentagon plans call for 145 of the stations to serve U.S. forces deployed to Iraq.

Each cafe boasts 20 laptop computers and eight satellite phones that provide instant, low-cost, global communications.

More than 40 of the cafes already have been set up in Iraq, military and SPAWAR spokesmen say, and they have been an instant hit.

"We've lost track of how many (military members) told us they hadn't talked with their wives or parents in months," said Ken Crawley of Summerville, a lead engineer with the SPAWAR project in Iraq.

Crawley, together with SPAWAR's Steve Nielsen of Goose Creek and Jim Watson of Pensaco-la, Fla., spoke Wednesday by satellite phone from Anaconda base, about 40 miles north of Baghdad. As they spoke, Brad Hoisington of Goose Creek, a SPAWAR logistics manager, demonstrated a model of the cyber cafe installed inside a 32-foot by 20-foot tent at the weapons station.

Crawley, Nielsen and Watson have been setting up the cafes since last month.

The cyber cafe nickname is misleading -- there's no espresso being served here.

Instead, GIs will see a simple, functional layout. Twenty laptops sit on a row of tables down the center of an air-conditioned tent.
Iraq War News

PittsburghLIVE.com - Seward Family Mourns Its 'Gentle Giant'

Seward Family Mourns Its 'Gentle Giant'

By Jeff Himler
Staff writer
Friday, November 21, 2003

SEWARD--Rick Hafer Jr. had planned to surprise his father for Thanksgiving, showing up on the doorstep of his home here unannounced. The reunion would have ended more than 10 months the 2001 Laurel Valley High School graduate spent overseas, serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Instead, on Saturday night, it was three Army officials who knocked at the door of Rick Hafer Sr. They delivered the heart-shattering news that his son was among 17 soldiers killed that same day, when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

"I was in shock, I couldn't say anything for five minutes," the elder Hafer said Monday, recalling his reaction when the Army contingent arrived at about 10 p.m., escorted by a local police officer. "It's something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."

The incident in Mosul marked the greatest one-day loss of U.S. troops since the war in Iraq began on March 20.

Sixteen of the soldiers belonged to the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, Ky. That includes Hafer, 21, who handled field artillery for his unit.

Early this week, conflicting reports about the deadly episode over Mosul had yet to be resolved.

Hafer said Army representatives told him his son's death resulted from an accident: the helicopters collided while flying on a night maneuver over Iraq's third largest city. "One went the wrong way when they turned" and "flew into the other," according to the account he received.

Military officials said one of the helicopters carried a quick reaction force and the other was ferrying soldiers on a transport mission in northern Iraq. But there was no official word Monday on the cause of the 6:30 p.m. collision of the aircraft.

Some witnesses reported hostile fire from the ground, and an Iraqi group claimed responsibility for shooting down the helicopter. The two choppers reportedly crashed onto two rooftops about 250 yards apart.

Hafer took one consolation in his son's death: "He died a hero," continuing a family tradition of service in the armed forces. But "I'd rather have him alive."

Hafer said "There are more casualties now than during the war; that's not right," indicating American troops should be brought home. "With the war over, none of this should have happened. Other families are going through the same thing I am."

An all-star defensive end with the Laurel Valley football team, the younger Hafer also took part in the school's Junior ROTC program, making staff sergeant. He competed in junior wrestling in his native Blairsville and jv wrestling in Ligonier after his family moved to the Laurel Valley area.

He also studied welding at the Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center near Latrobe.

Jerry Page, longtime coach of the Ram football team and a neighbor of the Hafers when they resided in New Florence, remembered Rick Jr. as a "gentle giant."

At 6-5, 265, Page said, "He was an imposing figure" who played havoc with opposing offenses. But, "He never threw his weight around other than on the football field."

When stopping an opponent with a tackle, "He'd hit them and then pick them up," Page said. "He had such a pleasant outlook on life. He always seemed to have a smile on his face."

Page also recalled that Hafer Jr. was "respectful" and a hard worker, helping his father maintain the family vehicles and offering to assist neighbors with chores. "He was just an outstanding personality," Page said.

"He would help you faster than anybody I know," his father agreed. "He'd give you the shirt off his back."

"It certainly is a sad day for this community," the coach said of the younger Hafer's demise.

Page, who has seen hundreds of his players enter the military, added, "I really appreciate what these young people are doing for their country. You have to feel proud."

Sgt. Rick Lambing, one of Hafer's ROTC instructors at Laurel Valley, said the former cadet "was the nicest kid you'd ever want to talk to. Society lost his contribution."

In memory of Hafer, Lambing said, the school's flag was flown at half mast and students met to share their memories of the recent graduate.

One student saud Hafer used his strength to help free a fire truck stuck in some mud. "He was strong as an ox," Lambing said; he is planning to install a remembrance of Hafer in the ROTC classroom.

Though the younger Hafer's first love was football, he was planning to study business at Marshall University. After graduating from high school, he went to the neighboring state, where he got a job painting houses and stayed with his former step-mother, Sherry Barclay, and younger half-sisters, Holly, now 17, and Heather, 16.

"He was very protective of his sisters," Rick Sr. said.

According to his father, Rick Jr. eventually decided to delay his college plans, opting to enlist in the Army so he could later take advantage of the educational benefits.

Said Hafer, "I tried to talk him out of it." But, "He made his own decision. He was going to join the Army like I did and his grandfather did."

William R. Hafer served three years in the Marine Corps and four years in the Air Force before being killed in an automobile accident when his son, Rick Sr., was 18.

In response to the loss of his own father, Hafer senior formed an especially close bond with his own son: "He was my best friend, too. We did a lot of hunting and fishing together. We had a camp in Bedford where we'd go on weekends."

From shooting at wild game, the younger Hafer would take aim at different targets when he trained for a field artillery position. "He would ride around on trucks with big guns mounted on them," said his father, who received weekly calls from his son once his unit had settled into Iraq.

Father and son also regularly exchanged letters, and he sent care packages of his son's favorite snacks: cashews, peanuts and powdered grape Gatorade.

Also, to keep track of news from Iraq, Hafer watched CNN every morning before work. He bought a t-shirt with a map showing Iraq and the names of its major cities.

Hafer tried to dissuade his son from his choice of specialty. While field artillery positions are among the best paid in the Army, his father noted the danger also is high.

"The most dangerous places to be are with the field artillery or infantry," he said. "I knew it would be on the front line."

His unit shipped out of Kentucky in late December of last year, spending a period in Afghanistan before joining the conflict in Iraq. He had been stationed at Mosul, near the Turkish border, for at least four months.

According to his letters, Hafer was assigned to reconnaissance missions, to search and seize weapons which might be used against Americans.

During one such mission, "He got caught in a sandstorm. He said it felt like thousands of little bees stinging you in the face."

The younger Hafer also saw inside some of Hussein's palaces. He told his father, "Everything was made of gold. Then, when he stepped outside, he would see that the people in the street were all poor."

Iraqis' reactions to the American soldiers were mixed: "Some people viewed them as saviors and others would throw apples and tomatoes at them."

One young Iraqi girl was particularly grateful to Rick Jr., his father related. He said his son rescued the girl from an Iraqi man who was trying to rape her in a back street.

To thank her defender, "Two days later she came back and gave him a string of beads she had made."

Overall, his son "liked doing his job" in Iraq. "When he accomplished a goal they set for him, he was excited."

At the same time, noted his grandmother, Ellen Cameron of Derry Township, "He was so looking forward to coming home" for a two-week leave this Thanksgiving, after two previous stateside visits had been cancelled.

Hafer learned from a friend in the younger Hafer's unit that his son had planned to surprise his family with a reunion this month.

But in his last phone conversation with his son, on Nov. 7, he kept his plan under wraps. "He said, 'I'll see you when I get home in March,' " adding that "he had a surprise for me. I told him seeing him was the only thing I wanted."

In August, the family received a final photo e-mailed from Iraq. Though sunburned, "He looked good," his father said.

The elder Hafer noted his son was "into extreme things," enjoying training which involved rappelling.

Due to his strength, he was nicknamed "Superman" by his fellow trainees.

In an example of the affectionate humor father and son shared, Hafer sent his son some briefs bearing the "S" logo of the famous superhero: "He had to do some push-ups for that, but he thought it was funny."

The last time his father and grandmother saw Rick Jr. in person was when he graduated from basic and advanced individual training at Ft. Sill, Okla., shortly after Thanksgiving last fall. "He grinned all over, he was so happy to see us," his grandmother recalled.

Shortly after Christmas, his unit was activated for duty in the Middle East. He never had the chance to meet the newest Hafer, a two-month-old half-brother, Nicholas.

Now the family is waiting to reclaim the remains of the newest member to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Herbert Goff, a great-great-uncle of Rick Jr., was shot down and killed while serving with the Air Force in World War II.

Four other great-uncles also served: Reid Goff of Morgantown, W. Va., and Russ Hafer of Blairsville, both served with the Army in Vietnam; Ronald Hafer of Hampton, Va., a retired sergeant major with 30 years of service in the Army.

On Tuesday, Hafer learned his son's body had been returned to the states, taken to the Air Force base in Dover, Del. He wasn't sure how long it would be before the family could claim their loved one.

Funeral arrangements were indefinite but were expected to be under the supervision of Ferguson Funeral Home, with interment in Blairsville Cemetery.
PittsburghLIVE.com - Seward Family Mourns Its 'Gentle Giant'
U.S.-Backed Mayor of Fallujah Resigns: "Taha Bedawi, the U.S.-backed mayor of this volatile city west of Baghdad, resigned Thursday amid mounting criticism of his performance, the local U.S. military commander said. (AP)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

Scholars discover parts of New Testament: "A barely legible clue - the name "Simon" carved in Greek letters - beckoned from high up on the weather-beaten facade of an ancient burial monument."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Bomb Attack in Iraq Kills U.S. Soldier, Army Says: "A bomb detonated as a U.S. convoy drovepast Thursday killed one American soldier and wounded two nearthe restive Iraqi town of Ramadi, a military spokeswoman said. (Reuters)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

US forces arrest Saddam's brother-in-law: Iraqi police: "US forces have arrested Arshad Yassin, a brother-in-law of Saddam Hussein who was also his personal helicopter pilot and a senior figure in his close protection force until the early 1990s, a high ranking Iraqi police officer said. (AFP)"

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Bush Says Will Send More Troops to Iraq if Needed: "President Bush left open the possibilityon Thursday of sending more American troops to Iraq but saidsecurity on the ground would be the deciding factor. (Reuters)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

Arab countries condemn Turkey blasts: "Arab countries joined the rest of the world in condemning Thursday's suicide bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, with the Syrian information minister calling the attacks "a barbarous crime.""

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

HSBC bank says it won't leave Turkey: "HSBC Holdings PLC, the London-based bank targeted in one of Thursday's deadly terrorist bombings in Istanbul, said the attacks wouldn't force it to leave Turkey."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Iraq war updates
Six arrested for Turkey synagogues blast: "Authorities arrested six people in connection with the suicide bombings of two Istanbul synagogues as opposition leaders accused Turkey's government on Wednesday of being too lenient toward Muslim radicals."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Bush Acknowledges Iraq Gesture to Iran: "The Bush administration confirmed on Wednesday that Iraq has made overtures to Iran and said it was up to Baghdad to work out its relations with its neighbors. (AP)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

Accused U.S. commander at pretrial hearing: "An Army officer fought back tears Wednesday as he acknowledged threatening to shoot an Iraqi detainee to extract information about a planned attack, saying that to protect his troops, he would "go to hell with a gasoline can in my hand.""

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Child killed in Iraq car bomb attack: "A car bomb exploded outside the home of a tribal leader in a city west of the capital on Wednesday, killing one child in yet another attack aimed at a U.S. ally."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Rumsfeld: NATO help in Iraq not expected: "More direct help from NATO in Iraq would be welcome but is unlikely, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Ramadi car bomb kills child, hurts others: "A car bomb exploded late Wednesday outside the home of a pro-American tribal leader in Ramadi, killing one child, a resident said."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

U.S. Changes Military Strategy in Iraq: "The U.S. military's counteroffensive in Iraq features a major shift in tactics: aggressive combat against guerrilla hide-outs and training camps using American precision bombs and missiles rarely seen since the war last spring. (AP)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

Iraq blast targets pro-US leader: "A bomb explodes near the home of a tribal leader in central Iraq, as US forces tackle insurgents in the area."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq

Protests hit Iraq 'Coalition TV': "Iraqis protest against "immodest images" on the coalition-run national television station, reports say."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq


Vaccines Eyed In GIs Death: "One health panel says it suspects vaccines may have played a role in the death of a 22-year-old Army medic, but another board disagrees. It's the latest development in a running debate over vaccine safety."

In CBS News: Iraq Crisis

Bush issues Iraq peace vow in London: "George Bush has told an audience of foreign policy and defence experts in London's Banqueting House that he is still determined to bring democracy to Iraq and the wider Middle East."

In Ananova: War In Iraq

US pounds Iraqi targets with massive bombs: "The US Air Force has used some of the largest weapons in its inventory to attack targets in central Iraq as part of the escalating crackdown on suspected guerrilla strongholds."

In Ananova: War In Iraq

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Iraq War News
Japan PM Set for Re-Election, Iraq Dispatch on Hold: "Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was setto be re-elected on Wednesday at the start of a briefparliamentary session as Japan grappled with the touchyquestion of when to send non-combat troops to help rebuildIraq. (Reuters)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

US says new UN resolution on Iraq could be a "possibility": "The United States said that a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq's accelerated transition to self-rule could be a "possibility," but officials underlined the US is not actively seeking such a measure. (AFP)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

List of Victims in Iraq Copter Collision: "Two Black Hawk helicopters collided Saturday in Iraq, killing 17 soldiers from the 101st Airborne based in Fort Campbell, Ky. The Department of Defense and family members have identified those killed as: (AP)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

U.S. Plans New U.N. Iraq Resolution: "The United States wants a new U.N. resolution to endorse the agreement between the Iraqi Governing Council and the U.S.-led coalition for a handover of power to a provisional Iraqi government in June 2004, U.N. diplomats said Tuesday. (AP)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

A Look at U.S. Daily Deaths in Iraq: "As of Tuesday, Nov. 18, 422 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. (AP)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

Mosul's pacification messages: "Mosul could have been a firecracker in post-war Iraq, but understandings on both sides have allayed trouble."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq (UK Edition)

Italy honours its Iraq dead: "A final tribute has been paid to the 19 Italians killed in Iraq last week with a state funeral and a national day of mourning."

In Ananova: War In Iraq

Bush flies in to Fortress London (18 Nov 03) in Radio Free USA




International seminar on the Role of the Media in Peacebuilding in RISQ

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Sharon says he'll meet Palestinian PM: "Israeli and Palestinian premiers will meet soon, Israel's prime minister said Monday, opening prospects for talks to end more than three years of conflict as a top Egyptian official came to the West Bank to promote a cease-fire."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Brit Envoy: We Warned U.S.: "A former British ambassador to the United States says British officials warned their American counterparts that more postwar planning was needed, but were ignored."

In CBS News: Iraq Crisis

Did Saddam Dupe His Generals?: "Writing in The Weekly Standard, former CIA director James Woolsey says U.S. intellgence may have thought Saddam had WMDs because that's precisely what Saddam's own generals thought."

In CBS News: Iraq Crisis

CIA: Not Sure Saddam Tape Real: "An audiotape supposedly made by Saddam Hussein urged Iraqis to escalate attacks against the occupation and "agents brought by foreign armies." The CIA says it can't tell whether that's really Saddam on the tape."

In CBS News: Iraq Crisis

Bush to find warmth, antagonism in London: "President Bush is joining with America's staunchest ally in the war in Iraq for a state visit that promises contrasting pictures of elegant ceremonies at Buckingham Palace and noisy street protests by thousands of anti-war demonstrators."

In JuneauEmpire.com: Associated Press

Muhammad seeks to avoid death sentence: "Was John Allen Muhammad a man who tenderly looked after his children while they lived in a shelter, or a callous killer who deserves to die for masterminding the Washington area sniper shootings?"

In JuneauEmpire.com: Associated Press

U.N. agency begins Afghan withdrawl: "The U.N. refugee agency began pulling foreign staff out of large swaths of southern and eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday in the wake of the killing of a French worker, a decision that could affect tens of thousands of Afghan returnees."

In JuneauEmpire.com: Associated Press

Bomb blast wounds 2 U.S. troops in Mosul: "A bomb blast wounded two U.S. soldiers Tuesday in the northern city of Mosul while U.S. aircraft and tanks blasted trees and abandoned buildings along a road north of Baghdad to deny insurgents cover for rocket attacks."

In JuneauEmpire.com: Associated Press

Monday, November 17, 2003

The Sun Newspaper Online - UK's biggest selling newspaper

Nut 'dies in Iraq battle'

A MARTIAL arts instructor with a pregnant wife and baby son in Sheffield is thought to have been killed trying to blow up US troops in Iraq.

Black belt Wail al Dhaleai left his family in the South Yorkshire city five weeks ago, telling friends he had landed a job teaching Tae Kwon Do in Dubai.

The 22-year-old, who came to Britain from Yemen seeking political asylum and married a British woman, allegedly died attacking Americans earlier this month.

Islamic fighters are said to have phoned his parents in Yemen with the news.

Yesterday his martial arts pals back in Sheffield were stunned.

Fellow instructor Andy Hill said: “It’s incredible, he was so friendly — the last man you’d think was involved with fanatics.”

Andy, 43, added: “He was a very good teacher — all the youngsters used to get on well with him.

“His religion was very important. We once took him to a pub, but he said he couldn’t go in because he couldn’t drink.

“His wife is a Sheffield girl and she converted to his religion after they married two years ago.”

Sources believe a number of men have been recruited in Britain to attack coalition forces.

American troops in Iraq yesterday continued their offensive against terror groups.

They shelled enemy positions near Saddam’s home town of Tikrit and destroyed extremists’ homes, killing six.

Two US soldiers were killed and two wounded in attacks near the town of Balad, near Baghdad.
The Sun Newspaper Online - UK's biggest selling newspaper

The Record

For this Cohoes family, duty calls

By: Robert Cristo , The Record 10/14/2003

COHOES - Bolstered by the support of both friends and strangers, a city family is torn between the pride of having their 19-year-old son fighting for freedom in Iraq and the anguish of knowing that on his mission, danger lurks at every turn.

The last time Dan Forant III saw his father, Dan Forant Jr., and his grandmother, Connie, was two months ago when he
got the call that sent him to join his comrades with the U.S Army's Charlie Company, First Brigade, in Iraq.
"I was absolutely mortified, terrified. ... I told him 'I wish I could go in your place,'" said his grandmother, a retired graphic artist. "But he's still such a hero to me. ... I remember him telling me that this was the job he had to do, even though he didn't have to go."
Since then, communication between Dan and his close-knit family has consisted of one phone call and the occasional e-mail.
"He was saying positive things, but his voice sounded down and he wasn't himself. He knows it's a very dangerous place," said Forant's father.
During the past few weeks, Forant's unit has moved west of Baghdad to the deserts of Ar Ramedi, where soldiers in his unit have been killed in roadside ambushes.
"We worry every day, especially when you watch the news and see the car bombings and the soldiers getting ambushed and killed," said Dan's father, 39, a financial marketer who served in the military in the mid-'80s.
"You never know what's going to happen, but I support the war and I'm proud of my son and I believe in the job all the soldiers are doing over there.
"When you think about how we have 150,000 troops in Iraq holding down a population of 21 million with less than 400 deaths ... that's definitely an overwhelming military success," he added.
Just a few weeks ago, Forant's family read letters sent from Iraq to local elementary school children and also initiated a campaign to send care packages to soldiers overseas.
The Forants also set up a Web site designed to allow supporters to learn more about their son and the war in Iraq. A banner with a photograph of Dan can also be seen stretched across the family's home on Columbia Street.
The overwhelming response from the community has already produced more than a dozen care packages of everything from paperback books, magazines and games to toiletries, candy and cameras.
"They (soldiers) really only get ammo, water and meals, so this outpouring from the public really gives them a good feeling of home and it boosts morale," said Forant Jr., "and that's really all they have to hold onto while they're there."
Both father and grandmother are praying every day that their pride and joy will return home in 12 months without a scratch to his body, mind or spirit.
"Being over there is such a tremendous burden, especially for someone so young," said Forant Jr. "I just hope he can go on with his life and is not psychologically damaged by what he's seen and done."
The Forant family wants to thank the city of Cohoes mayor's office and many schools and churches throughout the Capital District, including the Cohoes school district and St. Ambrose Church in Latham, for their support.
Anyone interested in learning more can check out www.danforantiniraq.com.

The Record
Iraq War Updates
What Iraq will get isn't self-rule (17 Nov 03) in Radio Free USA

Questions for President Bush's next press conference (17 Nov 03) in Radio Free USA

Bush pulls out of speech to Parliament (17 Nov 03) in Radio Free USA

Top Iraqi Scientist Flees to Iran: "The Iraqi scientist who headed Saddam Hussein's long-range missile program has fled to neighboring Iran, a country identified as a state sponsor of terrorism with a successful missile program and nuclear ambitions, U.S. officers involved in the weapons hunt told The Associated Press.
Dr. Modher Sadeq-Saba al-Tamimi's departure comes as top weapons makers from Saddam's deposed regime find themselves eight months out of work but with skills that could be lucrative to militaries or terrorist organizations in neighboring countries. U.S. officials have said some are already in Syria and Jordan.
Full story at Fox

In Command Post: Irak

Iraq war news
U.S. Launches "Massive" Offensive: ""The 4th Infantry Division and Task Force Ironhorse has launched a series of combined arms operations to include air and ground strikes against identified targets," a statement from U.S. Central Command said, "along with precision raids against non-compliant groups and individuals focused on neutralizing paramilitary, former regime loyalists, foreign fighters and other extremist and subversive elements with task force area of responsibility."
More at CNN

In Command Post: Irak

U.S., Canadian Jews head to Jerusalem: "More than 4,000 U.S. and Canadian Jews on Sunday began a four-day convention in Israel, the largest of its kind, planning to discuss issues like immigration and anti-Semitism and show support for the embattled country."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Palestinian groups seem ready for truce: "Palestinian militants are sending "very positive" signals that they are ready for a cease-fire with Israel, a top aide to the Palestinian prime minister said Sunday, a day before Egypt's intelligence chief arrives for truce talks."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

U.S. troops take on guerrillas in Iraq: "Troops flooded a Baghdad neighborhood in a new U.S. military offensive against guerrillas Sunday, as an audiotape purportedly made by Saddam Hussein urged Iraqis to escalate their fight against the occupation."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Iraq handover too slow - France: "The French foreign minister urges the US to act sooner on the creation of a provisional Iraqi government."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq (UK Edition)

Sunday, November 16, 2003

French U.N. worker killed in Afghanistan
JuneauEmpire.com: Associated Press: "One of two Afghan men on a motorcycle opened fire Sunday on a marked United Nations' car, killing a French aid worker, the first international U.N. staff member slain in postwar Afghanistan. Police identified the captured assailants as Taliban militants."
Iraq War News
'Saddam' tape taunts US military: "A recording purportedly of Saddam Hussein says the occupying forces in Iraq have reached "a dead end"."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq (UK Edition)

Bremer: US in tough fight in Iraq: "America's top man in Iraq says the US is in "a tough fight" there and its forces will stay on after political power is handed over."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq (UK Edition)

Gambling on Plan B: "The US decision to hand over power by the end of June is a recognition that its policy has failed, writes Paul Reynolds."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq (UK Edition)

Unreported attacks: "The BBC's Martin Asser sees victims of violent crime at a Baghdad hospital."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq (UK Edition)

US To Help Ink Iraqi Constitution: "Iraq?s new constitution will embody American values, including a bill of rights, says America's chief postwar administrator, L. Paul Bremer. Enemy fire may have caused the crash of two U.S. helicopters Saturday that killed 17 American soldiers."

In CBS News: Iraq Crisis

Ledger-Enquirer | 11/16/2003 | Struggling for answers

Posted on Sun, Nov. 16, 2003

Struggling for answers
Staff Writer

ST. CHARLES, Mo. - The card with the floral bouquet on its cover is postmarked July 3, 2003.

Dear Rich,

How are you? Iraq is dominating the news... the government realizes you guys need to come home. The military analysts say, 'The military is undermanned and over committed.' Please be patient and take care. Never let your guard down. We are looking forward to your safe return.

Much love and prayers, Mom, Dad, and Lisa.

(P.S.) I'm sorry to see you in this position. I wish you will have children and grandchildren to tell your war stories to some day and to bake some 'wartime' cookies with. Stay strong for mom, OK?

A little more than a week after that postmark, having returned from Iraq, 25-year-old Army Spc. Richard T. Davis would be lying dead in a wooded area, 40 yards off a busy commercial strip in Columbus, killed not by the Iraqi enemy, but by his fellow soldiers, police and military investigators allege.

He had been stabbed multiple times, his body doused with lighter fluid, then set on fire.

Nearly four months later, on the afternoon of Nov. 7, investigators found his remains beneath a piece of blackened log scattered among some leaves. Davis was later positively identified by his dental records.

Three of his fellow soldiers, all originally charged with murder, remain jailed on $25,000 bond each on charges of concealing the death of another. They may still face indictment on murder charges, according to the district attorney's office. A fourth soldier, who is being extradited from California, awaits a preliminary hearing on a murder charge.

The Army brat

On Thursday, at her home in St. Charles, Mo., Remy Davis' hands shook as she tried to stuff that card, the one postmarked July 3 and returned unopened, back into its envelope.

He was her baby, her only son.

A child of military parents -- his mother a medic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; his father a retired military police sergeant and 20-year veteran -- Rich Davis wound up carrying the "Army brat" mantle.

Born in Germany where his father, Lanny Davis, was stationed at the time, Rich Davis would attend schools in Kansas, Missouri and California before settling in the early '90s with his parents in the city of St. Charles, Mo., population of about 200,000 at that time. The family bought a three-bedroom, ranch-style brick home in the oldest city along the Missouri River.

Though he didn't especially like school, he excelled in reading and painting. Photo albums showcase his accomplishments: the "Junior Author" blue ribbon from sixth grade, for example, and the A+ he got for a drawing project at Francis Howell Central High. He was suspended for a day after some classmates scribbled obscenities on that drawing project, said his mother.

"Back then, there weren't many kids like him in town," said Remy Davis, 53, who is of Filipino-Chinese descent. "He looked different."

In high school, Rich Davis went through the normal rebellion period, spending his after-school hours with the skateboarding crowd and his cousins. Dyeing his hair with blond streaks, wearing pants that swept the floor. Racking up speeding tickets in his pride and joy -- the electric-blue Honda Civic that still sits in the driveway of the family's home.

At 16 he joined Weekend Warrior, a reserve program that entailed training a few weekends during the year. He also worked part-time. Remy Davis remembers when he came home one afternoon, ecstatic over a promotion he got at the Gingham Restaurant, a family diner nearby.

"Mom, Mom, guess what!" he screamed to her. "I got promoted!" The raise was from dishwasher to busboy, Remy Davis recalled last week, sighing.

Upon high school graduation, Rich Davis joined the Army. After training at Fort Jackson, S.C., he was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, in a field artillery unit. In the late '90s, he served in wartime Bosnia as a driver for the battalion commander and as a machine gunner.

Rich's entry into the Army brought pride to the family, relatives said. "Richard knew it pleased his dad, and knowing that it did made him happy," said Martha Green, Rich's aunt. Green recalled a visit home after he'd been in Bosnia, when Rich arrived at his Uncle Tom's home and introduced his father.

"They came in together, with their arms on each other's shoulder," Green said. "You know, my brother Lanny is not the affectionate type. And then Rich, holding his dad's shoulder, announces, 'This is my best friend.' Lanny just smiled and said, 'We've been talking.' "

When his son came home from Bosnia, Lanny Davis, 54, says, he noticed a change in him. There was hurt in his son's eyes.

"Dad, how can people treat people like that -- babies, women and children -- and just throw them in graves," Lanny Davis remembers his son asking. A veteran of three tours in Korea and a year in Vietnam, Lanny Davis said he tried to sympathize with his son.

By Sept. 11, 2001, Rich Davis had decided to leave the Army. He went home, but it didn't take long before he got restless. He rejoined the Army and by January 2002 had arrived at Fort Benning.

Last year, as the United States prepared for war with Iraq, he was sent to Kuwait. His unit -- the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment -- returned home in the fall of 2002. Rich returned to Kuwait in November 2002. During the next several months his unit would engage in some of the bloodiest battles in the Iraq war.

'Mom... Mom... Mom'

In February 2003, the Davises received a card from Rich. It would be the last they received from him. On the cover of it was a cartoon of a smiling camel with a holiday recipe inside, titled "How to Stuff a Camel."

Inside, Rich wrote:

"I live in a 60-man tent with no heat or electricity... get to take a cold shower every 4 days. It is only going to get worse from here. They don't know when we're coming home. Rumor is we're moving north on Feb. 12. All I'm doing now is training, that is all we do. The only thing keeping me going is watching all the REMFs complain about the living conditions. You can send me a package no bigger than a shoebox. Well that's all for now."

His parents got no more mail from Rich, but they did get three phone calls.

The first one, on May 5, lasted a few minutes, Remy Davis recalled. It was 12:49 p.m. in St. Charles and she was home taking care of Lisa, Richard's 21-year-old sister who has Down syndrome. "They had just reached Baghdad," Remy Davis recalled. She remembers doing most of the talking, but Rich talked about coming home in 10 to 15 days.

Two days later, on May 7 at 2:23 p.m., another call came. Her son seemed more talkative, Remy Davis said. "He was talking about his car, about his trip from Kuwait to Baghdad, that he was wearing the same clothes and had not taken a bath from the beginning of his trip from Kuwait to Baghdad and to the end of the war," his mother said. "I think it was something like 25 days. They just got used to each other's smell."

Morale, he told her, was very low. They were still eating MREs and sleeping in the dirt.

"He said that when he got home all he wanted to do was work on his car," Remy Davis said. When she told her son she would meet him at Fort Benning, Rich said that wouldn't be necessary.

"He said he'd just fly home and then I could bring him anywhere I wanted," Remy Davis said. She planned on a trip to her native Philippines, where Rich had expressed a desire to visit.

The lengthiest call came May 20, around 6 p.m. This time Lanny Davis was home and able to talk with his son for about 30 minutes while his wife listened in on another line in the bedroom. The call was markedly different from the first two, each parent said. Richard sounded "in distress" and was talking "irrationally," they said.

They were now going to be in Iraq indefinitely, Rich told his parents. He talked about holes in his boots, said he could no longer stand the MREs and that they were waiting for drinking water. His rucksack, which had been hanging outside a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, was blown up by a rocket propelled grenade. Rich mentioned seeing a lot of dead bodies, his father said.

"Everyone was quiet and keeping to themselves," Lanny Davis recalled his son saying. "He said he didn't trust friendly people -- I didn't know if he was talking about Iraqis or his fellow soldiers."

When the Davises told their son that Saddam Hussein still hadn't been found, he was in disbelief. At one point during that third phone call he cried, pleading with his father to "get me outta here."

A brief exchange of goodbyes and I-love-yous followed. It was the last time Lanny and Remy Davis would speak to their son.

On May 23, the couple got a letter from MCI threatening to disconnect their long-distance service. Lanny Davis did not understand. They had not been late on any bills and had received only a handful of calls from overseas. A few days later, their long-distance service was interrupted. It took a week before MCI restored the service.

In the meantime, two more calls came -- they believe were from their son -- but the connection was cut, Remy Davis said. During the last call she picked up, she heard a voice saying, "Mom, Mom, Mom," before the line went dead.

After that, there were no more calls from Rich.

Despite their son's wishes, the Davises planned for a surprise visit to Fort Benning for Rich's homecoming. They continued to follow national coverage of the war, scanning the news ticker on CNN for news of the 3rd Brigade's return home.

'It's about Richard'

On July 14 or July 15 -- they aren't certain -- the Davises got a call that was noteworthy only for its brevity and for the unknown person on the other end. It was a woman's voice. She called in the morning, sometime between 9 and 10 a.m.

"Hello, is this Mrs. Remedios Davis?" the woman asked.

Thinking it was a telemarketer, Remy Davis answered with a curt "yes."

"It's about Richard," the woman began. She sounded anxious and nervous, Remy Davis recalled.

"I said well, 'What about Richard?' " Remy Davis said. "Richard is not here."

Annoyed at what she thought was a sales call, Remy Davis then hung up, believing that her son was still in Iraq with the rest of his unit.

In fact, he had returned to Fort Benning a couple of days earlier, and may already have been dead.

A diary begins

It was July 21 before the Davises heard any more about their son. That's when Remy Davis started a diary. Inside a green notebook, she began making daily entries of times, dates, names and phone numbers. All of it documenting the Davises' effort to find Richard.

It was around 9 a.m. that day when a sergeant from Fort Benning called their Missouri home.

"Where's Richard?" he asked Lanny Davis.

"Richard?" Davis responded. "He's in Baghdad Airport. That's the last we've heard from him." Lanny Davis explained he knew this with some certainty since his son had called on May 20 after borrowing a phone from a group of reservists guarding a water purification plant in Baghdad.

It was then that the Davises learned their son had already returned to the United States. The sergeant told them the group had returned July 13 and that their son was last seen on July 14.

As of July 16, he was listed as AWOL, absent without leave, they were told.

"I thought he probably went and blew some steam off, called a girlfriend or whatever," Lanny Davis said. "They had just come back from a war, so that wouldn't be that surprising. I've done it myself."

It wasn't until the next day, July 22, that Lanny Davis began to feel uneasy. During a conversation with another sergeant, he learned that his son was last seen on July 14, shopping at the PX on post. His clothes, his toothbrush, his shoes -- all remained untouched inside his room. His father wondered, why would he go AWOL without all these things and the stuff he had just bought?

He wasn't the type to leave the military, his father reasoned. Plus, he hadn't called home, hadn't asked about his car or his mother, with whom he was extremely close.

"He would've called or contacted us in some way, even if it was just a card," Lanny Davis said. It was beginning to look like a missing person situation, he thought to himself.

The Davises made a slew of calls to Fort Benning, then to the Veterans Administration. Lanny Davis asked if anyone had checked the hospital, the morgue, the police station, the airports and bus stations. He asked if anyone had filled out a missing person's report.

On July 30, one sergeant promised him he would file a missing person report with the Columbus Police Department.

"I don't know if he ever did," Lanny Davis said.

Contacted by phone Thursday, Columbus Police Maj. Russell Traino said he believed no report had been made with the department's investigative unit, though any soldier listed as AWOL would have been automatically entered into a national crime database.

The Davises' calls in search of their son stretched into August. Fort Benning officials continued to tell them that Rich Davis was AWOL, and that they had no news of him.

On Aug. 19, a frustrated and very worried Lanny Davis got into his 2000 Silverado pickup truck and drove 700 miles until he reached Fort Benning. There he would spend two days and two nights in search of answers.

Two days, two nights at Benning

Upon arriving on post, Lanny Davis met with a sergeant he had spoken to during previous phone conversations.

"Really nice man," Lanny Davis said. "They were all very nice, very polite fellows."

But the sergeant could offer him nothing new. Rich was a good soldier, he explained, but no one really knew anything about him.

When Lanny Davis asked to meet or talk with anyone who might have known his son, he was told that his son was "a loner." During the two-day visit, everyone he asked to see -- any squad leaders, a captain, an executive officer, a platoon sergeant, assorted squadmates or roommates -- seemed to have been unavailable or busy. "So they're going to tell me that he's been there since last year, with them in Kuwait then in battle in Iraq, and no one knows him?" Lanny Davis said. "You don't go through combat with people and not become close if you're under life-and-death situations. It's just part of human nature."

Though the sergeant said he would try to find someone Lanny Davis could speak with, no one in a position of authority ever materialized.

"I guess it didn't matter that I was retired military and a concerned parent who drove 700 miles to find out about my son," Lanny Davis said. "Maybe they thought I just fell off a turnip truck and didn't understand."

One conversation stood out, Lanny Davis said.

Spotting a corporal standing near a row of offices on the first day of his visit, Lanny Davis approached.

"Do you know my son, Specialist Davis?" he asked.

"You mean Richard?" the corporal asked. "Well, yes of course, sure." The corporal began to tell Lanny Davis what a good man his son was when a voice from the first sergeant's office rang out.

"I need to see you in here," the voice urged.

"Then the corporal double-times it over there and the door is closed behind him," Lanny Davis said. "Just like that."

The exchange only reinforced the uneasy reception Lanny Davis felt he was receiving at this point.

On the second day of his visit, Lanny Davis stopped by the military police unit, then placed a call to the Army's Criminal Investigations Division from the station. On both counts, he said, he was told that no investigation had been started. According to a computer check, his son was still listed as AWOL. Furthermore, no one was available at CID to talk to him.

Because of privacy rules, Fort Benning officials could not release his son's personal effects for Lanny Davis to inspect. A sergeant instead promised to re-check the items and look into whether there was any activity on his son's bank account.

Appeals for assistance

On Aug. 23, Lanny Davis was back at home in Missouri. A couple of weeks later, after driving 127 miles to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for legal assistance, and after contacting a local congressman, he appealed to a friend in the FBI.

From him, Lanny Davis learned a bit of worrisome information: His son's bank account had remained untouched in recent weeks.

On Sept. 16, the congressman's secretary placed a call to the Davis family, informing them that the case had been reported to the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. That same day, Lanny Davis received a call from a CID agent at Fort Benning. After hearing the family's story, the agent told Lanny Davis, "that definitely sounds like a missing person."

Weeks later, on Oct. 29, a second CID agent assigned to the case informed the family that Rich had been placed on a national missing persons' list.

A tip, then a discovery

On Nov. 7, acting on what they learned from an informant, CID investigators called Columbus Police to a wooded area along the 4400 block of Milgen Road.

There they discovered skeletal remains of a young white male in his 20s, believed to have been in the woods for at least a month. He had been stabbed multiple times, said Muscogee County Coroner James Dunnavant. Court testimony would later indicate that his body was set on fire.

Within hours of the discovery, three soldiers were transported from military police headquarters at Fort Benning to the Columbus Police Department. The men -- Jacob Burgoyne, Mario Naverette and Douglas Woodcoff, all 24 -- were from Rich Davis' unit and were the last men he had been seen with.

The knock on the Davis family's door came the following day, Nov. 8. Silver oak leaves on his jacket sleeves indicated the man was an Army lieutenant colonel.

Lanny Davis answered the door. "Is this bad news or good news?" he asked. "They said it was bad news."

The lieutenant colonel told the family he had been contacted by the Secretary of Defense's office and asked to come to their home. Their son was dead, and his body had been found.

The accused

Burgoyne, Naverette and Woodcoff were initially charged with murder. In their first hearing, police detectives said the three men, in addition to a fourth, later identified as Alberto Martinez, had gone with Rich Davis to a Columbus strip club one day in mid-July. All the soldiers were kicked out, detectives testified, after Davis allegedly insulted a dancer. The soldiers fought. Davis was stabbed and died.

Recorder's Court Judge Michael Cielinski reduced the murder charge, but found probable cause to bind Burgoyne, Naverette and Woodcoff over to Superior Court on charges of concealing the death of another. Martinez is in California, and has waived extradition to Columbus, where he's expected to appear in court on a murder charge.

The Army addressed Davis' murder in a news conference Thursday. Col. Steven Salazar, 3rd Brigade commander, expressed "deepest sorrow and condolences" over Davis' death, saying it had a "profound effect" on the 3rd Brigades' 4,000 soldiers. Salazar said unnamed members of the 1-15 "went above and beyond those required by Army regulations" in assisting investigators on the case.

At home, grief

Back in St. Charles, Mo., Lanny and Remy Davis are grieving. They've each lost 30 pounds. Relatives tell them they're loved, but their loss is devastating. They talk of a future without their son, a future without grandchildren. A few days ago, a relative took Remy to a shoe store to distract her. After a few minutes browsing in the store, the relative heard Remy screaming, "My son, my son."

Lanny Davis doesn't know why his son died, but he doesn't believe it was because of an insult in a strip club.

"He wasn't even afforded an honorable death, after going through all that anguish," Lanny Davis said. "Instead, he comes home and is killed like an animal."

Ledger-Enquirer | 11/16/2003 | Struggling for answers
Two Black Hawks Down; 17 Dead: "Five troops were hurt and one was unaccounted for, military officials said. One chopper was said to have been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, and witnesses reported the two aircraft collided in mid-air."

In CBS News: Iraq Crisis

Timetable set for Iraq transfer: "The US-led coalition in Iraq will hand over power to a transitional government by next June, it is announced."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq (UK Edition)




US to hand over power by mid-2004: "The US-led coalition will hand power to a transitional Iraqi government by June, the Iraqi Governing Council says."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq (UK Edition)

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