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The Battle for Fallujah and the Start of ISIS

Contributed by Alex Shrugged

Chris Kyle, the American Sniper, has been pulled from his SEALs unit to help out a new Polish anti-terrorist unit, the GROM. (GROM is an acronym that spells out "thunder" in Polish). They need a guide in Iraq that knows the needs of a special forces unit. Their mission is to find insurgents in Iraq. Yes, insurgents exist despite the best efforts to win their "hearts and minds". (Maybe midnight basketball would work!) The Fedayeen are Saddam Hussein supporters. The Shi'a radicals are trying to start a civil war, and the Sunni radicals in Fallujah are trying to do the same thing (along with Chechen rebels, believe it or not). Several Blackwater contractors have been burned to death, dragged through the streets and hung from a bridge in Fallujah. Another contractor has been decapitated by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (AH-boo moo-SOB awl zar-COW-we). His organization is called Monotheism and Jihad, but soon it is known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq. In a few years this organization will be called ISIS. Zarqawi's goals are somewhat different from Al-Qaeda. He hates Shi'a Muslims with a passion whereas Al-Qaeda is more easy-going. (Did I just say that?) He comes from a town in Jordon largely populated by Chechen refugees which may explain why there are so many Chechens in Fallujah now. US forces tried to take control of the city, but it became politically incorrect, so they let the new Iraqi government handle it. That was a mistake. Now it's time for round 2. A lot of people are going to die. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK. I'm not going through a blow-by-blow description of the battle of Fallujah. I recommend Patrick O'Donnell's book, "We Were One". O'Donnell follows the Marines house-to-house clearing Fallujah. It is not a book for kids. I also recommend Chris Kyle's book, "American Sniper". His account is less shocking. Regarding the actual creation of ISIS, it was a reaction to the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, but after 9-11 what would you have us do? Showing weakness is provocative too. Going further back in time, Al-Qaeda was a reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The USA funneled weapons to the Afghan mujahideen. While I think that was illegal, they were willing to defend their land (unlike the recent Syrian refugees). I was willing to put something more powerful in their hands than a Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle from World War 1. Some say that we should have never involved ourselves in the Middle East, but when was that decision made? That would be the Thomas Jefferson Administration. This is not going away any time soon. [9]

NATO expands to Russia's borders

Contributed by Southpaw Ben

On March 29, NATO made it's largest expansion ever, when it admitted Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. This expansion has caused relations with Russia to worsen, as they felt that the US had promised not to expand NATO following the fall of the USSR.[10][11]

My Take by Southpaw Ben
Russia has always been a paranoid country, so any move that could be viewed as threatening Russian soverenty is almost always viewed as such. Various sources agree that the US had never promised not to expand NATO, it had simply given them assurance about it. To me, this sounds like the exact same thing, but apparently to policy experts, there's a world of difference between them. Leave it to politics to make 2 words that mean the same thing mean different things, or, as Jack said last week, make 2 words with entirely different meanings mean the exact same thing.

Spirit and Opportunity Land on Mars

Contributed by Alex Shrugged

With so many past failures on Mars missions, and budget cuts on the way, NASA wanted to make sure that this next mission was a winner. They had already sent a smaller rover, Pathfinder, on a very limited mission. Instead of using rockets to land the spacecraft they used airbags and bounced their way to a landing on Mars. Now NASA wants a larger mission with a bigger rover, but the extra weight means larger, tougher airbags for the bounce. The airbags might even burst. After a lot of worrying, they decide to send two rovers on separate flights, Spirit and Opportunity. In this way at least one of them will make it... probably. NASA hits the jackpot. On January 4th, Spirit lands on Mars in what appears to be a dry lake bed. It's 90 sol mission (that is, 90 Mars days) is to determine whether water once flowed across Mars. (It did.) A few weeks later Opportunity comes bouncing across Mars. By pure luck, it lands inside an impact crater. It has a similar 90 sol mission. Even though these missions have a set time for completion, they usually last much longer. In this case a LOT longer. Spirit will continue for the next 7 Earth years. Some time in the middle of that the rover will get caught in soft sand. It will continue it's mission but remain immobile. Opportunity's mission will continue for at least 13 more years. As of this writing it is still going. It is a rolling testament to good engineering. [12] [13] [14] [15] [16]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
It you have a chance, watch the movie, "The Martian". It is based on the self-published book by Andy Weir. Although the opening scene is total BS (Bad Science) the rest of it is an amazing story of improvisation in the midst of disaster. The book is even better, although I'm afraid there is a lot more cursing in it. Forgivable under the circumstances. I listened to an interview with the author. He went through a number of rewrites because he kept killing off his character due to bad choices made early on that led to a dead end in more ways than one. The author had to figure out a different path, and in doing so he found out how to survive on Mars... for a little while anyway. The point is that he didn't survive the first time through even though he had a fairly good plan ahead of time. Once he went through his plan in detail, step-by-step, he found the subtle flaws and bad assumptions he made early on. It's a good lesson. The other lesson is that if you have a good idea for a book, don't wait too long for a publisher to realize it. Write. Collaborate. Self-publish. It can work. [17] [18]

Notable Deaths

  • Ronald Reagan (age 93, pneumonia): President of the United States. Headstone inscription: "I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and that there is purpose and worth to each and every life." [19]
  • Yasser Arafat (age 75, massive stroke, but rumors abound): President of the Palestinian National Authority. [20] [19]
  • Theo van Gogh (age 47, assassination): Film-maker and anti-Islamist columnist especially after 9-11. (He made a film entitled "Submission" revealing Islamic violence against women.--alexshrugged) [19]
  • Rodney Dangerfield (age 82, complications after surgery): Comedian. Headstone inscription: "There goes the neighborhood." [19]

This Year in Film

  • Shrek 2: The largest grossing animated film to date, but Shrek 3 will beat it. [21]
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban! [21]
  • The Passion of the Christ: The final 12 hours of the life of Jesus. (A powerful film.--alexshrugged) [21]
  • And...: The Incredibles, National Treasure, and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. [21]

This Year in TV

  • Janet Jackson has a wardrobe malfunction during the Superbowl halftime show: Aside from Jackson's partial nudity, Justin Timberlake sang "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song." (The FCC fined CBS $550,000, but the fine was overturned on appeal.) [22]
  • Dan Rather steps down from CBS News: His "fake news story" regarding President Bush's Vietnam service gets Dan the boot. (The so-called National Guard documents were so obviously forged, it brought into question Rather's professional objectivity... and gullibility.--alexshrugged) [22] [23] [24]
  • The Apprentice (You're Fired!): Donald Trump assigns business tasks to contestants for the ultimate job interview as his new apprentice. [22]
  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: Rebuilding the homes of people in need. [22]

This Year in Music

FYI, at this point in my life I am mostly listening to talk radio, so if you see something here, that makes no sense... well... fix it.--alexshrugged

  • My Boo: Usher and Alicia Keys. (According to the Urban Dictionary, a "Boo" is a boyfriend or girlfriend.) [25] [26]
  • Sunrise: Nora Jones. "Sunrise, sunrise / Looks like mornin' in your eyes" [25]

This Year in Video Games

FYI, at this point in my life I am well past video games, so if you see something that makes no sense... well... fix it.--alexshrugged

  • Half-Life 2: Last year the source code was stolen, so release was delayed until now. [27]
  • Halo 2: The sequel to "Halo: Combat Evolved" which is also selling well this year. [27]
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: The highest selling game for the PlayStation 2 to date. [27]

In Other News

  • SpaceShipOne reaches space: It is a privately-funded space plane, so it wins the X-Prize. [28] [23]
  • One of the largest tsunami's ever observed, kills over 200,000: It hits Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. [29] [23][30]
  • Suicide bombers blow up a train station in Madrid, killing 191: Basque separatists are blamed. (I think it was Islamic terrorists.--alexshrugged) [31][32] [23] [33]
  • Mount St. Helens is building a dome again: It blew its top 24 years earlier. [23][34]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 2004, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. O'Donnell, Patrick K.. We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulder with the Marines Who Took Fallujah. Da Capo Press. ISBN 9780306814693. 
  2. Transcript - The Insurgency - FRONTLINE - PBS (2005). Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “MICHAEL WARE: Around this time was when I really started to witness tangible changes within the insurgency in terms of the Ba'athists for the first time beginning to surrender certain power to the Islamists, particularly the imported foreign Islamists. And a lot of it had to do with money. By the beginning of 2004, Ba'athist cells I knew were out there doing shakedowns and extortions and whatever else to fund their ops. That was one of the things that gave the Islamists room to step into the breach, throwing around a lot of money. Zarqawi and his organizations have never been short of cash, always flush with cash.”
  3. "BBC NEWS - Middle East - Group seizes Japanese man in Iraq", 27 October 2004. Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “The al-Qaeda in Iraq group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi released a video broadcast on an Arabic TV station which shows the hostage and three masked men. Addressing Japan's premier, the hostage says his captors want to behead him. Responding to the 48-hour deadline issued by the group on Tuesday, Tokyo has refused to meet the demand.” 
  4. JW GROM - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “JW GROM is Poland's elite counter-terrorism unit. GROM, which stands for Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego (English: Group (for) Operational Maneuvering Response), which also means 'thunder', is one of the five special operation forces units of the Polish Armed Forces.”
  5. "BBC NEWS - Middle East - Al-Qaeda group claims Salim death", 19 May 2004. Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “A group linked to al-Qaeda suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has said it carried out the attack which killed Iraqi Governing Council head Ezzedine Salim. The Monotheism and Jihad Group, of which Zarqawi is said to be the leader, made the claim in a statement posted on an Islamist website.” 
  6. War between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement, The. PDF. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (June 2014). Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “Both Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who founded Jamaat al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad ( JTWJ) in 1999 (see Table 1 for the history of ISIS names), and al-Qaeda head Usama bin Laden came of age during the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, but their respective organizations have distinct genetic mate- rial, attributable in part to their different backgrounds, leadership styles, and aims. This is the case even though the two groups formed a marriage of conve- nience beginning in 2004.”
  7. CNN.com - U.S. military: Al-Zarqawi was alive after bombing (9 June 2006). Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “Al Qaeda in Iraq was blamed for brazen terrorist attacks, including a 2003 suicide bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed the U.N. envoy to Iraq and 21 others, and the November bombing of three hotels in Amman, Jordan, in which 60 people died. Al-Zarqawi is believed to have been involved in the abductions and beheadings of several Western hostages. In addition, the United States believes al-Zarqawi had appealed to al Qaeda for help in starting a civil war in Iraq and encouraged sectarian violence.”
  8. Kyle, Chris. American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. William Morrow. ISBN 9780062238863. “While Marines from the First Marine Division made up the backbone of the attack force, all of the other services added key pieces. SEAL snipers were integrated with small Marine assault groups, providing overwatch and performing traditional sniper missions. The Marines spent several weeks getting ready for the assault, launching a variety of operations to throw the insurgents off-balance. The bad guys knew something was coming; they just didn't know where and when. The eastern side of the city was heavily fortified, and the enemy probably thought that's where the attack would be launched. Instead, the attack would come from the northwest and roll down into the heart of the city. That's where I was headed.” 
  9. Crile, George Jr.. Charlie Wilson's War. Grove Press. ISBN 9780802141248. “At the time, it was viewed as a noble cause, and when the last Soviet soldier walked out of Afghanistan on February 15, 1989, the leaders of the CIA celebrated what they hailed as the Agency's greatest victory. The cable from the CIA station in Islamabad that day read simply: “We won.” But the billions spent arming and training the primitive tribesmen of Afghanistan turned out to have an unintended consequence. In a secret war, the funders take no credit--and no doubt that's why the mujahideen and their Muslim admirers around the world never viewed U.S. support as a decisive factor in their victory. As they saw it, that honor went to Allah, the only superpower they acknowledge. But for the few who know the extent of the CIA's involvement, it's impossible to ignore the central role that America played in this great modern jihad, one that continues to this day.” 
  10. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2014/11/06/did-nato-promise-not-to-enlarge-gorbachev-says-no/
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004
  12. Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Home. mars.nasa.gov (OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SITE) (2017). Retrieved on 15 May 2017.
  13. Spirit (rover) - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “Spirit, also known as MER-A (Mars Exploration Rover – A) or MER-2, is a robotic rover on Mars, active from 2004 to 2010.”
  14. Missions - Mars Exploration Rover - Spirit. jpl.nasa.gov (OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SITE) (2017). Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “One of two rovers launched in 2003 to explore Mars and search for signs of past life, Spirit far outlasted her planned 90-day mission. Among her myriad discoveries, Spirit found evidence that Mars was once much wetter than it is today and helped scientists better understand the Martian wind. In May 2009, the rover became embedded in soft soil at a site called 'Troy' with only five working wheels to aid in the rescue effort. After months of testing and carefully planned maneuvers, NASA ended efforts to free the rover and eventually ended the mission on May 25, 2011.”
  15. Opportunity (rover) - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “Opportunity, also known as MER-B (Mars Exploration Rover – B) or MER-1, is a robotic rover active on Mars since 2004.”
  16. Missions - Mars Exploration Rover - Opportunity. jpl.nasa.gov (OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SITE) (2017). Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “Opportunity was the second of the two rovers launched in 2003 to land on Mars and begin traversing the Red Planet in search of signs of past life. The rover is still actively exploring the Martian terrain, having far outlasted her planned 90-day mission. Since landing on Mars in 2004, Opportunity has made a number of discoveries about the Red Planet including dramatic evidence that long ago at least one area of Mars stayed wet for an extended period and that conditions could have been suitable for sustaining microbial life.”
  17. Triangulation 163 Andy Weir. twit.tv (2017). Retrieved on 15 May 2017. “Andy Weir is the author of 'The Martian,' a science fiction novel that follows astronaut Mark Watney as he becomes stranded alone on Mars.”
  18. Weir, Andy. Martian, The. Crown. ISBN 9780804139021. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 2004 Deaths - Wikipedia (2004).
  20. Alex Shrugged notes: No translation of the headstone inscription was found as of this writing.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 2004 in film - Wikipedia (2004). Retrieved on 27 January 2017.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 2004 in television - Wikipedia (2004).
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 2004 - Wikipedia ". “In the "Rathergate" affair, the first Internet posts appear, pointing out that documents claimed by CBS News to be typewritten memos from the early 1970s appear instead to have been produced using modern word processing systems.”
  24. Killian documents controversy - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 14 May 2017.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 2004 in music - Wikipedia (2004). Retrieved on 30 January 2017.
  26. Urban Dictionary: boo. Retrieved on 14 May 2017. “Boyfriend or girlfriend”
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 2004 in video gaming - Wikipedia (2004).
  28. Long, Tony (2004-06-21). SpaceShipOne Reaches Space.
  29. "Indian Ocean tsunami anniversary: Memorial events held", 2014-12-26. (en-GB) 
  30. 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami
  31. elmundo.es. Documento: Auto del 11-M.
  32. ZoomNews (in spanish). The 192nd victim (Laura Vega) died in 2014, after a decade in coma in a hospital of Madrid. She was the last hospitalized injured person.
  33. 2004 Madrid train bombings - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 14 May 2017.
  34. 2004 volcanic activity of Mount St. Helens

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