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Category: Military

Iraq war 10th anniversary: A dark mark for news media

PHOTOS: War in Iraq — a look back 10 years later

RobinToday is the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, one of the most shameful moments in American political and media history.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the day the United States took its eye off the ball, allowing the architect of the 9/11 attacks to live in relative peace and obscurity for eight more years.

It is the 10th anniversary of the moment an administration misled (or lied, as many believe) its way into a war that would cost nearly 4,500 American and countless Iraqi lives, abetted by a media that, with few exceptions, was cowed into submission by the intensely jingoistic atmosphere that prevailed in the months after Osama bin Laden attacked us.

PHOTOS: War in Iraq — a look back 10 years later

The rationale for war, that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, turned out to be a fiction with biblical consequences.

How should we even think about that today?

I worry less about intelligence failures than I do about media failures. And what I am mulling over today is how our government has used its immense bully pulpit to steamroll the watchdogs.

Ten years ago, to question the legitimacy of the war was to risk being denounced as a coward or a traitor. It was a confusing and emotional time for Americans. I remember assigning  a story about how older baby boomers, who had cut their political teeth protesting the Vietnam War and mistrusting the government, suddenly felt a bloom of patriotism, and were moved to display American flags.

But there was a darker side to all that country love.

And that was the credulous way the media establishment allowed the Bush administration to gin up the case for Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

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On anniversary of Iraq war, legislators petition for Medal of Honor for Marine

Sgt. Rafael Peralta's mother, Rosa, and sister, Karen, at his grave at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

On the 10th anniversary of the start of U.S.-led operations in Iraq, a bipartisan group of legislators in Washington submitted a resolution calling for the Medal of Honor to be awarded to Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta of San Diego, killed in Iraq in 2004.

The effort is led by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida).

Hunter said that Peralta "is a hero, not just to the men who witnessed him do the unthinkable but also to the Marine Corps and all others who value the courage and sacrifice of America's military."

Becerra said Peralta's story "is the epitome of what makes America great, generation after generation."

Peralta, 25, a Mexican immigrant who enlisted on the day he received his “green card,” was killed during a house-clearing mission in Fallouja.

Just days before his death, Peralta wrote a letter to his brother, telling him, “I’m proud to be a Marine, a U.S. Marine, and to defend and protect the freedom and Constitution of America. You should be proud of being an American citizen.”

The letter arrived the day the family in San Diego was notified of Peralta’s death. His brother later enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Marines who were with Peralta have said that while he lay mortally wounded, he reached out and smothered an enemy grenade, saving the lives of several Marines. The Marine Corps recommended Peralta for the Medal of Honor, as did the secretary of the Navy.

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Iraq War anniversary: Remembering our fallen

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This week marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq.

In the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, 729 California servicemen and servicewomen have been killed.

One of the first to die was Jose Garibay from Costa Mesa. In a letter to his girlfriend before he was killed March 23, 2003, he wrote: "We are freedom's answer to fear. We do not bargain with terror. We stalk it, corner it, take aim and kill it."

The Times in 2003 took an in-depth look into his life as part of a series on "Green Card Solders," miltary men who were not citizens of the United States:

The snapshot came straight from the deck of the Navy ship Ponce as it sailed toward Iraq.

He was wearing his Marine fatigues, shiny black boots and the baddest pair of sunglasses. With a pistol in his right hand, he had never looked so menacing.

Toshia Hooven, his girlfriend back home, wondered if it was all a charade.

Only two weeks earlier, on a car ride near Camp Lejeune, Jose Garibay had talked a mile a minute about dying. He had told Hooven he was having nightmares again about the fighting to come in Iraq. He had promised he'd keep his head down but told her that, if a bullet found him, he wanted his casket open.

She knew that all his life -- in a tiny village in Mexico, in his home in Costa Mesa and in the Marine camp in North Carolina where he was known as Gummi Bear -- he had taken on different personas as a way to get by.

Over the years, he had hidden his Mexican heritage, separating himself from his family to find his way in America. Like a chameleon, he had melted into the landscape of the other side.

Now, on the eve of battle, 22-year-old Jose had steeled himself with a new identity. "We are freedom's answer to fear," he wrote to Hooven. "We do not bargain with terror. We stalk it, corner it, take aim and kill it."

It was a voice she did not recognize.

On the fifth day of the war, he was in Nasiriyah and encountered a group of Iraqis pretending to be something they weren't. Caught by surprise in an ambush by enemy soldiers making gestures of surrender, Jose died with six other Marines.

The Orange County Register recently caught up with Garibay's mother on the 10th anniversary of his death "That war was unnecessary," she said.

You can read the stories of California' War Dead on The Times' page dedicated to them. Here is some data gleened from the pages:

Deaths by hometown
Deaths by high school

--Shelby Grad

Photo: Candles and flowers frame a picture of Jose Angel Garibay, 21, inside the living room of his mother's Costa Mesa home in 2003. Credit: Marc Martin / Los Angeles Times

Sex-bondage cultists to stand trial in death of Marine's wife

Brittany Killgore, in whose death a man and two women have been ordered to stand trial.A former Marine and two female friends -- all three practitioners of sadomasochism -- were ordered Monday to stand trial for murder in the death of the 22-year-old wife of a Marine who was deployed in Afghanistan.

At the end of a weeklong preliminary hearing in Vista, San Diego County Superior Court Judge K. Michael Kirkman ruled there is sufficient evidence to have the three face trial on charges of murder, kidnapping, torture, attempted sexual battery and conspiracy in the strangling death of Brittany Killgore.

Former Staff Sgt. Louis Perez, 46, Dorothy Marie Maraglino, 37, and Jessica Lopez, 25, have all pleaded not guilty. The three lived in a home in Fallbrook near the apartment where Killgore lived.

Killgore's nude body was found in a ravine in southern Riverside County days after she was reported missing April 13. Killgore had filed for divorce from her husband, who was deployed to Afghanistan when she disappeared after allegedly going on an outing with Perez.

Perez had boasted that he planned to hold a sadomasochism session that weekend, according to evidence submitted during the preliminary hearing.

Perez, Maraglino and Lopez were involved in "bondage, torture and master-servant-slave" behavior, according to evidence submitted by prosecutors. Maraglino calls herself a dominatrix, and Perez particularly likes to spank women, according to search warrants.

Killgore had agreed to go on a dinner cruise with Perez the night of April 13 in exchange for his help in moving her belongings out of her Fallbrook apartment.

"After getting into Perez's vehicle and leaving with him, nobody has seen or heard from Killgore," according to an investigator for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Within 13 minutes of getting into Perez's truck, Killgore reportedly texted a friend, "Help." Moments later the friend texted back, "Brittany are u okay I am freaking out here."

According to an investigator's statements in a search warrant, there is no evidence to suggest that Killgore knew of Perez's sexual habits that included bondage, whipping, spanking and cutting. She was an "unwilling participant," according to the warrants.

Prosecutors assert that Perez took Killgore to his Fallbrook home and then texted Lopez and Maraglino to join him. In the house, investigators found "sex apparatuses, toys, and a sex dungeon," according to a search warrant.

Among the items found were ropes, whips, a Taser, a nightstick and spiked gloves. Perez and the victim's husband, Cpl. Cory Killgore, were both assigned to Camp Pendleton. Perez was on active duty when arrested; he is no longer in the Marine Corps.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Brittany Killgore's body was found in a ravine in southern Riverside County days after she was reported missing April 13. Credit: San Diego County Sheriff's Department

 

Camp Pendleton Marine killed in Afghanistan is awarded Silver Star

Cindy Easterling, mother of Sgt. Wade Wilson, clutches the Silver Star citation. Credit: Sgt. Jacob HarrerThe mother of a Marine killed in Afghanistan was presented Thursday with his Silver Star for combat bravery, awarded posthumously.

Cindy Easterling received the medal on behalf of her son, Sgt. Wade Wilson, who was killed in a firefight May 11, 2012 in the Musa Qa'leh district of Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold.

When Marines were attacked by an insurgent wielding an AK-47, Wilson "immediately drew his M9 pistol and, leaving the safety of his armored vehicle, fearlessly closed with the insurgent," according to the Silver Star citation signed by Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos.

Wounded several times, Wilson continued to advance on the insurgent, forcing him to flee toward other Marines, who "subsequently engaged and killed him before he could inflict additional casualties." Wilson died from his wounds.

Wilson, 22, from Centerville, Texas, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. He was on his third combat deployment.

"He was one of the greatest Marines I've ever worked with," Capt. John Black said during the award ceremony at Camp Pendleton.

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--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Cindy Easterling, mother of Sgt. Wade Wilson, clutches the Silver Star citation. Credit: Sgt. Jacob Harrer

Sailor with Special Warfare unit dies from Afghanistan injuries

Chief Petty Officer Christian Pike. Credit: U.S. NavyA Navy sailor deployed with a Coronado-based SEAL team has died of injuries suffered during operations in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense announced Thursday.

Chief Petty Officer Christian Pike, 31, of Peoria, Ariz., died Wednesday at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, from injuries sustained two days earlier in Maiwand district in the western portion of Kandahar province.

Pike, a cryptologic technician, deployed with a Naval Special Warfare unit based in Coronado. He enlisted in December of 2001.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Chief Petty Officer Christian Pike. Credit: U.S. Navy

Marine from Chico dies while training at Twentynine Palms

A U.S. Marine from Chico in Northern California has died during training at the base at Twentynine Palms, the Marine Corps announced Wednesday.

Private 1st Class Casey Holmes, 21, died Monday during training at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center.

Holmes was assigned to the Hawaii-based 3rd Battalion 3rd Regiment. His death was under investigation, the Marine Corps said.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Ex-Marines face death penalty in murder-rape case

Tyrone Miller, Left, and Kevin Cox are charged in the murder of Jan Pietrzak and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the trial of three former Marines charged with murdering another Marine and his wife in 2008 in Riverside County.

Sgt. Jan Pietrzak, 24, and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak, 26, were bound and gagged before they were shot in the head, prosecutors said. Jenkins-Pietrzak was raped while her husband was forced to watch, and a fire was set to destroy evidence, according to court documents.

The Riverside County district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty against Kevin Cox, 25; Tyrone Miller, 25; and Emrys John, 22.

A fourth former Marine, Kesaun Sykes, 25, also faces the death penalty but will be tried separately, the district attorney's office said. All four have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said the attackers stormed the couple's home in the French Valley neighborhood in southern Riverside County as part of a robbery scheme. 

Pietrzak, an Iraq war veteran, was stationed at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego. His wife was a counselor with a Riverside County infant care program. They had been married for two months.

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— Robert J. Lopez

twitter.com/LAJourno

Photo: Tyrone Miller and Kevin Cox. Credit: Riverside County Sheriff's Department

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

Marijuana
Authorities have confirmed that a large amount of marijuana with an estimated value of at least $1 million was discovered Thursday near a boat that had crashed on a beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base.

According to a statement from Vandenberg officials, the marijuana was found near an overturned boat north of Wall Beach and was removed by Homeland Security investigators, who assumed control of the investigation about 5:40 p.m.  

Authorities were developing a plan to remove the boat, fuel and outboard motor, the statement said.

It was not immediately clear if anyone had been injured or arrested in the incident.

Before the arrival of Homeland Security investigators, Vandenberg officials said they were continuing to  "search for potential suspects.” Base personnel were told to avoid the area and contact base security right away if they see suspicious people or activity, officials said.

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Photo: A marijuana plant is grown in the closet of a Southern California home. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Three plead guilty to stealing medical gear at Camp Pendleton

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Three former civilian contractors at Camp Pendleton pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $3 million worth of medical equipment meant to be shipped to Marine combat units, including those in Afghanistan.

The three were employed as supply clerks at the 1st Medical Logistics Company, which is responsible for storing and shipping medical equipment. They "had access to sophisticated, expensive medical equipment" stored in base warehouses, according to federal prosecutors.

Included in the list of stolen items, according to the indictment, were ultrasound machines, defibrillators, ventilators, a laryngoscopy, and kits for dealing with broken bones -- the kinds of equipment used to treat injured or wounded troops.

The equipment, including an autoclave for sterilizing medical instruments, was meant to be shipped to "combat commands throughout the world." Instead the three loaded the equipment in their cars "often meeting with customers during nighttime rendezvous in secluded parking lots," according to court documents.

Henry Bonilla, 25, of Pomona; Richard Navarro, 39, of Fallbrook; and Michael Tuisse, 34, of Oceanside, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to steal government property. Each faces a possible five years in prison and $250,000 fine when sentenced May 24 by U.S. District Judge Cathy Bencivengo.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Marines in Afghanistan. Credit: Heidi Vogt / Associated Press

 

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About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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