Capt. Konata Ato Crumbly in Kosovo.

( his dreams of climbing skies and racing through clouds since the age of eight, the family of United States Army Captain Konata Ato Crumbly said they always knew he would be a pilot. Captain Crumbly is in Iraq, along with 9,000 of his fellow soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division, who learned last week, via U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, that their tenure in war-torn Iraq has been extended indefinitely.

The 3rd Infantry Division has been in Iraq since the U.S. invasion began seven months ago. Captain Crumbly has been there since January. Married and a father of twin two-year-old daughters, he was originally scheduled to come home in June, the month of their birth and a month after President George Bush declared the combat phase of the war ended.

However, nearly 100 U.S. soldier deaths later (since the May 1, announcement of Mr. Bush), war in Iraq has intensified. News of more deaths, organized guerilla warfare and, now, reports of soldiers committing suicide serve as evidence of increasing mental and emotional distress amongst U.S. troops and their families.

This latest set of deployment orders marks the third change for Mr. Crumbly, compounding anxieties for his family, who remain prayerful that the flight dreams of an eight-year-old do not tragically end as a dream deferred.


“All of us, in the beginning, first looking at the (television and newspaper) pictures, it was really, really hard,” recalled older brother Ooyiman Muhammad, 33, a helper to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan at Muhammad Mosque No. 15, in Atlanta, Ga. “We had to get to a point where we had to stop watching the news. My mother would just read the headlines of papers,” but even that became increasingly difficult for the ailing 59-year-old mother of two, “because he is a helicopter pilot and you just can’t keep watching reports of Black Hawk helicopters going down,” he acknowledged.

A previous news report of a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter crashing in Iraq sent their mother to the hospital, Mr. Muhammad shared.

U.S. soldiers remove the burned-out shell of a U.S. army vehicle from the scene where one U.S. soldier and an Iraqi translator were killed and three other people wounded in an explosive attack in the Al-Sulaykh area in northern Baghdad, July 21. The attack takes to 38 the number of U.S. troops killed in action since an end to major combat operations in Iraq was declared on May 1, and to 152 the number killed in combat during the entire Iraq campaign. Photo: AFP

Some members of the 3rd Infantry have become more vocal about the continued deployment of troops. Some have publicly called for the resignation of Mr. Rumsfeld, and U.S. polls are being conducted concerning views of impeachment of Mr. Bush.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, who took over from the helm from recently retired Tommy Franks, said that American troops must silence their criticism.

“None of us that wear this uniform are free to say anything disparaging about the secretary of defense or the president of the United States,” he said to reporters at the Pentagon. “We’re not free to do that,” he said.

The dousing of the smoking gun

Addressing a joint session of the United States Congress July 17, Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair declared “history will forgive” those nations that supported the U.S.-waged war against Iraq because the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government was more important than any burden of proof.

The speech came on the heels of Pres. Bush’s defense of information he obtained from British intelligence last September and subsequently used during his State of the Union address this past January.

“If we are wrong, then we will have destroyed a threat that was, at its least, responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering,’’ the embattled Prime Minister said in his speech delivered to U.S. lawmakers in Washington, D.C. “I am confident history will forgive,” he continued.

“The media has chosen to focus on 16 words of one speech spoken in January. We have chosen to focus on the more than 16 lies that have been told over several months that have been the pretext for this ill-conceived invasion and occupation of Iraq,” said Black Voices for Peace Executive Director Damu Smith, from his Washington, D.C. office. “It is based on these lies that our young men and women in uniform are in Iraq. They need to be back here at home. Not trying to rebuild a country that we have invaded and that does not want them. We, too, at home are concerned about their plight and are working hard to get them back as soon as possible,” he added.

Death of the whistleblower?

The body of David Kelly, a British defense ministry expert, suspected of being the source of media claims that Mr. Blair’s government “sexed-up” or hyped its September report on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the alleged Niger uranium connection, was found dead in England’s Oxfordshire woods July 18, adding an even darker twist of intrigue over the affair.

Police identified the body the day after Mr. Kelly was reported missing by his wife, who reportedly explained to the police and reporters that her husband was stressed, and “very, very angry” over the raging controversy concerning his suspicion of being the whistleblower.

Called before Parliament for an inquiry, Mr. Kelly, a former UN weapons inspector between 1991 and 1998, denied being the source.

“There are very many questions that will need to be asked over the coming days,” said Conservative Party leader Ian Duncan Smith. Mr. Kelly’s death, a sensational development in a series of scandals regarding British culpability in the alleged disinformation campaign, critics maintain, further erodes the credibility of Mr. Blair’s Labour Party.

Two-thirds of the British public said the Blair administration misled them in presenting the case for war, according to a poll released this week by ICM Research, an independent polling company. In another survey conducted by the Populus group this month, 54 percent of respondents said they did not trust Mr. Blair, especially after coalition forces apparently have not found evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Reports of suicide

The death toll of American soldiers has officially surpassed the total reported in the 1991 Gulf War. According to Editor and Publisher (E&P) magazine, the rampant under-reporting by mainstream media of soldier deaths does a tremendous disservice to the aggrieved. The actual numbers, they said, are three times higher than what has been reported.

“This includes a staggering number of non-combat deaths. Even if killed in a non-hostile action, these soldiers are no less dead, their families no less aggrieved. And it’s safe to say that nearly all of these people would still be alive if they were still back in the States,” the story read.

According to E&P, as of Final Call press time, 85 U.S. soldiers have died since May 2, an average of one per day, with a near average of seven injuries per day. Nearly as many U.S. military personnel have died in vehicle accidents (17) as from gunshot wounds (19), the report states. Ten have died after grenade attacks and seven from accidental explosions. Another seven have been killed in helicopter crashes, while six others died by what is described as “non-hostile” gunshots. Three others have drowned.

Pentagon officials, said E&P, also disclosed that there have been about five deaths among troops assigned to the Iraq mission that might have been suicides.

Calls placed at Final Call press time to Pentagon officials were not returned.

Niger silent

Calls repeatedly placed to the Niger Embassy in Washington, D.C., requesting an interview with Ambassador Joseph Diatta or a representative, were unsuccessful. Niger’s silence concerning the U.S. and UK allegations against them has been deafening and has puzzled many in the Black community.

“Since February, 2002, the Republic of Niger has been in the news. But, as of today, despite the swirling winds of controversy surrounding President Bush’s State of the Union address, no official of the Republic of Niger has said anything,” said Chika Onyeani, publisher and editor-in-chief of the African Sun Times newspaper.

“Most Africans are wondering what is going on with Niger? Why haven’t they said anything, either to deny, confirm or amplify on the uranium issue? At least, what Niger could do to shed more light on the matter is explain who controls the mining of uranium, who processes it and who controls its export,” he told The Final Call.

“These are questions only the Niger government is in a position to answer. Their continued silence is incomprehensible,” he concluded.