And The Beat Goes On

From Holden:

Georgie’s body count of US soldiers in Iraq stands at 1,124.

Bulgaria is reducing its deployment in Irag while Hungary will completely withdraw its 300 non-combat transportation contingent by the end of March due to growing popular opinion against the war at home.

The Army National Guard reached just 88 percent of its goal of 56,000 recruits by the end of September (signing up 49,210), so they’ve decided to offer new incentives to get more cannon fodder young men and women to sign on: free hunting and fishing licenses, more chances to get signing bonuses, pink T-shirts for women, pens, key chains and posters bearing the American flag or with red, white and blue themes.

Oh, and remember those explosives at al Qaqaa, the ones John Kerry unpatriotically concluded were looted after the fall of Baghdad? U.S. soldiers witnessed the looting but were helpless to stop it because they did not have enough men.

In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Iraqi looters loaded powerful explosives into pickup trucks and drove the material off the Al Qaqaa ammunition site, according to a group of U.S. Army reservists and National Guardsmen who said they witnessed the looting.

The soldiers said about a dozen U.S. troops guarding the sprawling facility could not prevent the theft of the explosives because they were outnumbered by looters. Soldiers from one unit — the 317th Support Center based in Wiesbaden, Germany — said they had asked commanders in Baghdad for help to secure the site but received no reply.

[snip]

“We were running from one side of the compound to the other side, trying to kick people out,” said one senior noncommissioned officer who was at the site in late April 2003. “On our last day there, there were at least 100 vehicles waiting at the site for us to leave” so that they could come in and loot munitions.

“It was complete chaos,” another officer said.

He and other soldiers spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared retaliation from the Pentagon.

[snip]

According to the four soldiers — members of the 317th Support Center and the 258th Rear Area Operations Center, an Arizona-based Army National Guard unit — the looting of Al Qaqaa occurred over several weeks in late April and early May.

[snip]

one soldier said U.S. forces had watched the looters’ trucks loaded with bags marked “hexamine” — a key ingredient for HMX — being driven away from the facility.

Members of the 258th Rear Area Operations Center came across the looting at Al Qaqaa during patrols through the area. The 258th unit, which comprised 27 soldiers, enlisted help in securing the site from troops of the 317th Support, the soldiers said.

The troops visited Al Qaqaa over a week in late April but received no orders to maintain a presence at the facility, according to the soldiers. They also said they had received no response to a request for help in guarding the facility.

“We couldn’t have been given the assignment to defend a facility unless we were given the troops to do it, and we weren’t,” said one National Guard officer.

A senior U.S. military intelligence official, who corroborated some aspects of the four soldiers’ accounts, said there was no order for any unit to secure Al Qaqaa. “No way,” the officer said, adding that doing so would have diverted combat resources from the push toward Baghdad.

“It’s all about combat power,” the officer said, “and we were short combat power.

And speaking of failing to stop looters from looting important stuff:

U.S.-led forces in Iraq failed to safeguard official documents belonging to Saddam Hussein’s regime and protect mass graves of victims, a human rights watchdog charged Thursday, saying that could affect the trials of the former Iraqi dictator and his colleagues.

Coalition forces failed to stop people stealing thousands of official documents in the months after the March 2003 invasion, Human Rights Watch says in a report, “Iraq: The State of the Evidence.”

The U.S.-led troops also failed to stop people from damaging some of the more than 250 mass graves in their search for the remains of relatives, the report said.

“Coalition forces subsequently failed to put in place the professional expertise and assistance necessary to ensure proper classification and exhumation procedures,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch.

“As a result, it is very likely that key evidentiary materials have been lost or tainted,” she said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.