Thast one was called "The 'Fashionable' Conoleeza de Vil." And she's wearing her blood fur (the dead in Iraq). This was a theme I returned to in the comic immediately after.
Back then, June 22, 2005, like with Michelle Obama today, everything Condi wore was 'news.' We were told how well dressed and stylish she was and she never was. Just like Michelle isn't. Credit Laura Bush for at least not trying to be a fashion plate. It's really disgusting how a supposedly independent press slobbers over officials and the wives of them. They appear to think they're writing for the society page.
Friday, April 24, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Chris Hill breaks his first Iraq promise, Cliff Cornell's court-martial is set for next week, and more.
We're going to start by looking back. Six years ago, the New York Times [Sunday] Magazine featured Peter Maass' "Good Kills" which demonstrated all that was wrong with war reporting (April 20, 2003, pp. 32 - 37). Predictions? Maass opened with them: "As the war in Iraq is debated and turned into history, the emphasis will be on the role of technology -- precision bombing, cruise missiles, decapitation strikes." Really? Is that what anyone talks about today? And did they really talk about it then? No and no. But that was what the first Gulf War was about and lazy reporters couldn't capture what they were seeing -- apparently the US education system has failed them and they lack the ability to put their observations into words -- so they tried to use a narrative from a previous war.
Six years ago, this story demonstrated how the embeds were a success . . . for the US military. Reporting on his 'buddies' in The Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, Maass smoothed over all the edges even when the edges were dead civilians. Especially when it was dead civilians. Entering Diyala Province (though Maass didn't use -- and probably didn't know -- the term), his 'buddies' were drgiving over a bridge. He calles this attempt to get across the Diyala River (by vehicle, over a bridge) "a signal event in the war" -- which indicates the other problem. The reporters were so jacked up on their own sense of being 'history' that they jerked off in print and the audiences back home were stuck with it. What were minor events were suddenly 'epic' just because a reporter was embedded.
"BATTLE IS CONFUSION." And you know Maass stood by it because it was in all caps. But REPORTING IS CONFUSION when reporters forget their role. As the marines attempt to travel (drive) over the bridge, things get, as Maass puts it, "complicated." We have wasted four pages on his War Porn when finally readers learn (in less than two pages) that civilians were being killed. This 'big battle'? Lt. Bryan McCoy is thrilled that people are dying. He utters a censored word -- the paper renders it "[expetives]" -- describing Iraqis and then self-strokes, "Boys are doing good. Brute force is going to prevail today." He adds, "We'll drill them." And indeed McCoy and the others did. But they were civilians attempting to cross the bridge from the other end. Civilians were attempting to drive across the bridge. Proving what a fool he was Maass -- even after it's known that civilians were killed -- is still writing about these precision shootings. A moving car's engine block is being taken out? Didn't we hear that one after the shooting on the car containing Giuliana Segrena? And those bullets were everywhere. Maass writes, "As the half-dozen vehicles approached, some shots were fired at the ground in front of the cars; others were fired, with great precision, at their tires or their engine blocks. Marine snipers can snipe." Can Maas gush over his 'buddies' any more foolishly and any less journalistically?
After he's done gushing, after approximately two-thirds of another page has been wasted, Maass finally informs, "The vehicles, it only later became clear, were full of Iraqi civilians." Now what reader would feel cheated? You got Maass playing Miss Cleo and offering predictions, you got pages and pages of rah-rah, you got everything but reporting and there's not a great deal in what remains of the article. Despite, for example, speaking to one survivor, Eman Alshamnery, who was shot, whose sister was shot dead along with two other people in one of the cars, he really doesn't have much to say. He speaks to another survivor who is digging graves to bury people and Maass doesn't have much to say. No one knows how many people were killed -- despite Maass and other journalists being present, Maass never feels the need to give a death toll. He estimates at least six cars with people and also one old man walking (with a cane) on the bridge were shot dead. But the number of dead isn't important to him. Nor is it important to give voice to the survivors.
But, naturally, he offers plenty of space for the marines such as Lance Cpl Santiago Venture who explodes when another journalist (unidentified) disputes a marine's assertion of "Better safe than sorry" and another's pant of "I wish I had been here" by noting that "the civilians should not have been shot." Why is that? That really is what a reporter using six oversize pages (the Sunday Magazine is the size of Rolling Stone until the recent 'downsize') in a magazine should be able to answer. Maass does note that maybe warning shots whipping through the air aren't readily heard or recognized by civilian populations. And maybe more so when the firing is coming from people in camo that the civilians can't see. Just idle observations that readers really have to fill in to grasp what's being inferred but not said: You don't grasp that these 'tink' sounds hitting your car are bullets being fired by people you can't see. And the US marines weren't trained to grasp that just because your instructor tells you someone under fire will stop doesn't mean that's what happens in the real world (as has been demonstrated in Iraq over and over).
But why did the journalist say the civilians should not have been shot? The journalist isn't quoted or even mentioned except for that sentence and another where "the journalist walked away". Hmm. Maybe because the Genever Conventions insists that those engaged in combat "distinguish themselves from the civilian population while they are engaged in an attack or in a military operation preparatory to an attack. Recognizing, however, that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities an armed combatant cannot so distinugish himself, he shall retain his status as a combatant, provided that in such situations, he carries his arms openly; (a) during each military engagement, and (b) during such time as he is visble to the adversary while he is engaged in a miliary deployment preceding the launching of an attack in which he is to participate." That's the Geneva Convention. That's what Maass can't tell you about, what he wouldn't tell you about.
It's not just that it's 'bad' and 'sad' that these Iraqis were killed, it's that the way in which they were killed was, as described by Maass, a violation of the Geneva Convention. Maass can't be bothered with things such a the law. Much better to present the whole thing as if it were a traffic jam on some epic scale. No one's at fault, people died. Oh well. That is his 'angle.' It's embarrassing, it's not journalism. While he can't be bothered with explaining or citing the law, he does make time for the excussed. Ventura is quoted at length with a 'defense' that includes: "We've got to be concerned about our safety. We dropped pamphlets over these people weeks and weeks ago and told them to leave the city. You can't blame marines for what happened. It's bull. What are you doing getting in a taxi in the middle of a war zone?"
"Our safety"? Actually, as the invading force, you've got to be concerned with the civilian population and, are in fact, bound by law to protect the civilian population -- protect and not harm. "Dropped pamphlets" and people were supposed to leave their homes? And go where? And go why? Because another country told them to? Can't blame marines? Did the civilians shoot themselves? A taxi in the middle of a war zone? In the middle of Iraq, in the middle of their country, in the middle of their lives, in the middle of their homes. "Their" being the key term as in "theirs" not "ours."
Peter Maass, of course, wrote about knowing Salam Pax -- an Iraqi blogger who worked for the New York Times though Maass' inflated self-opinion turned it into 'works for me'. The same ego that allowed him to think he had the right to disclose various details about Salam Pax without checking with Pax first. Talk about arrogance and a sense of entitlement. If you're missing it, note "working alongside -- no, employing --" Pax and "there were occasions when I stayed in my room and let Salam loose for several hours." Let him loose for several hours? Is he a dog? For all who whine about Devil Wears Prada type of employees, grasp that it's the pompous employers who write the most insulting 'memoirs.' Last month, at his own website (The Fear), Salam Pax noted AP's assertion that Baghdad' was "calm . . . in part because the city is now ethnically divided." To which Pax added, "No s**t! You're not telling me anything new here. This was government and US army policy. Who put up the walls cutting the Sunni districts from the rest of the city?" Pax also takes on the assertion that "Shia militiamen and death squads" are now "off the street":
Is the writer being wilfully naïve? I am sure he knows better. The militias might have disappeared but one of the main reasons why these Shia neighbourhoods are safer than other districts is because Shia political parties were allowed to have their own organised security and militia forces. Like the Kurdish parties no one was allowed to question the right of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq in having it's own militarised arm, the Badr Organisation. And al-Dawa under al-Maliki started their own security brigade, in the guise of a counter terrorism brigade. The Sunnis on the other hand were left to fend for themselves. And between the Mahdi Militias with their ominous slogan 'Our regular programme will resume after this break' and the other Shia security forces the 'Awakening Groups' were too little and too late. The harm was done.
"Awakening," "Sons of Iraq" and Sahwa all refer to the same group and the Boston Globe editorialized about it yesterday: "One sign of trouble is how Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has been treating the so-called Awakening Movement. . . . The Awakening fighters were promsied that once Al Qaeda was crushed, they would get jobs in the police and other security forces. But the Shi'ite-dominated government appears to be breaking that promise. Not only has it been slow to hire former Sunni insurgents, but it has allowed several Awakening leaders to be arrested on the basis of flimsy allegations. If this sectarian behavior is not stopped, sooner or later it may result in a resumption of calamitous Sunni - Shi'ite violence." independent journalist Dahr Jamailobserved this week (at ZNet) that the whole thing was "ripe with broken promises" and:
It is an easily predictable outcome. An occupying power (the US) sets up a 100,000-strong militia composed of former resistance fighters and even some members of al-Qaeda, pays them each $300 per month to not attack occupation forces, and attacks decrease dramatically. Then, stop paying most of them and tell them they will be incorporated into Iraqi government security forces. Proceed to leave them high and dry as the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki begins targeting them - assassinating leaders, detaining fighters and threatening their families. Allow this plan to continue for over six months, unabated.Not surprisingly, the Sahwa are fighting back against US forces and those of the Iraqi government.
Wayne White of the Middle East Institute in Washington told Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor), "if you continue arresting and harassing, and shunning Awakening types -- many of whom were originally derived from the insurgency -- you're really playing wtih fire." Yesterday, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a roadside bombing outside of Baquba which claimed the life of Sahwa leader Mubarak Hammad al Obadi and 3 of his aids while leaving two more aids wounded. Violence is increasing (again) in Iraq. James Hider (Times of London) adds that "Awakenings" "have been repeatedly targeted by militans, and complain they have not received support from the Shi government, which views them with deep distrust." Hider notes an investigation by his paper "revealed that widespread abuse of power and corruption among Iraq's sprawling new security forces are also stoking resentment among the population, stirring people to carry out attacks." Hider also reported on that investigation into Iraq's police and he notes, "In the desperate rush to drag Iraq back from civil war, sweeping powers were granted to its new security forces. Human rights workers, MPs and American officials now believe that they are all too often a law unto themselves: admired when they defeat terrorists but also feared for their widespread abuse of power." Hider also reports on a video of a woman being raped (video shot by a mobile phone) and ex-Falluja Mayor Jassim al-Bidawi identifies the man in the video "as an Iraqi police officer" and says the one filming the rape is as well: "They are thought to have drugged the woman as she visited her husband in a detention centre in Ramadi. Since the rapist's uncle is a senior policeman in the city the attacker is all but untouchable, Mr al-Bidawi says." Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) reported Thursday on a woman, Dalal, who was in a Tikrit prison where she was "raped by prison guards," she informed her brother who visited her "drew a gun and shot his visibly pregnant sister dead." They explain how common assaults on women are and how easily buried. No one is imprisoned for either raping Dalal or for murdering her. No one was fired. Just another example of the ongoing femicide in Iraq.
Staying on the topic of Iraqi women the Janan Collection is Iraqi women's arts and crafts. Megan Feldman (Dallas Observer) reports that the collection/colletive was started by Ty Reed who was a US soldier serving in Iraq when she encountered a young Iraqi widwo named Fatima who, like many other Iraqi women, was now the sole support for her family. Fatima explained that she and approximately 24 other widows "had artistic skills such as basket-making, painting or leather-working. Could Reed help them find a way to earn a living?" So Reed and Teresa Nguyen (Ty Reed's sister) started up the collective and there will be an online auction May 9th. Feldman notes, "The work on tour now includes traditional baskets, ornaments and jewelry made of leather, turquoise beads and gold, as well as paintings like Harvest Moon, a minaret-studded cityscape set against a glowing moon. . . . The proceeds from just one painting, Reed said, will support the painter's family for at least a month."
More widows and widowers and orphans in Iraq today as yesterday's violent bombings with mass fatalities is echoed. This morning Ernesto Londono and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) reported that at least 135 people have been killed in Iraq bombings today and yesterday with today seeing 55 dead and one-hundred-and-twenty-five wounded in a double bombings near a Shia mosque in Baghdad. Timothy Williams and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explain the double bombings were suicide bombers ("within five minutes of each other") outside "the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim and his grandson." The Times link also has audio option where Myers says, "The bombers came up and mingled with the crowd while they were waiting to get into the shrine that you mentioned and blew themselves up nearly simultaneiously as near as we can figure." He also stated, "It seems very clear that the last few attacks have targeted the Shi'ites in Iraq particularly." Corey Flintoff (NPR) adds, "Until the country can reach power-sharing arrangements among its ethnic Kurdish and its Shiite and Sunni Arab communities, Iraq remains vulnerable to attacks by al-Qaida and other militant groups, analysts say." James Hider (Times of London) notes that the death toll hit 60. Aws Qusay, Zahra Hosseinian, Michael Christie and Louise Ireland (Reuters) observe: "The attack was the deadliest single incident in Iraq since 63 people died in a truck bomb blast in Baghdad on June 17 last year, and came amid growing concerns that a recent drop in violence might turn out to have been just a temporary lull." Laith Hammoudi and Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) quote eye witness Hammad Faisel stating, "There were piles of bodies. I saw a man running after the explosions to get away, but he quickly fell. I watched him die."
There was other violence in Iraq today and we'll note that but the bombings and Iraq were a good portion of the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show today so let's note this from Diane and her guests Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), Daniel Dombey (Finanical Times of London) and Yochi Dreazen (Wall St. Journal).
Diane Rehm: Daniel Dombey, let's talk about this latest violence in Iraq. Another explosion this morning, a suicide bomber killing perhaps as many as 125.
Daniel Dombey: These are obviously awful events with terrible human costs. I think, however, the key thing to bear in mind is this is a crucial year and any easy assumption that meant -- that went from the progress of last year in terms of safety and security to believing that this coming year would mean that Iraq would just go on getting better was always going to be a perilous one. There are lots of longterm political problems in Iraq. Maybe those have been papered over. Maybe we focus too much on the military side. And this is becoming ever more clear. It's a very important year in Iraq. There are an awful lot of tensions in the country.
Diane Rehm: What does this mean or what could this mean for US plans to reduce the military in Iraq, Karen?
Karen DeYoung: The statements that have been made as various withdrawals have been announced have been very careful to say 'We know it's not going to be totally peaceful in Iraq when we leave. We believe we have set up political and economic structures that are lasting and it's up to them to deal with it.' I think that you -- it's interesting that these attacks in -- over the past two days in Baghdad and Diyala are believed to have been Sunni groups against Shi'ites in at least two cases at mosques where people were worshiping [and] don't involve US troops. I think that we're concerned about the north where we believe al Qaeda still is around Mosul and we're concerned about Kirkuk which is the kind of oil center in the north which is being contested by the Kurds and the Arabs. Uh, it's been intimated that we might be asked to stay a bit in those cities but I think these kind of bombings -- Iraqi on Iraqi in Baghdad and father south -- I think are not going to hold up the plan to depart.
Diane Rehm: Yochi Dreazen, would you agree?
Yochi Dreazen: I think it depends on which part of the plan one is scrapping. US troops have already made clear that they're going to stay in bases that they consider to be 'joint bases.' So if there is -- pretty much all US bases now have Iraqis on them. The interpretation that US commanders have is that they're allowed to stay on those bases beyond summer of 2010. They can stay on those bases pretty much until all troops leave. So I think that the US footprint in major cities will shrink further but it's not going to be as if we disappear. I mean, we will still have a fairly large footprint in Baghdad, we'll still have one in Mosul. Falluja, which we've pulled out of entirely, has had a spate of bombings lately so now US troops at Ramadi and Taqaddum -- the two bases closest to Falluja -- have begun inching closer back to that city as well. I think the broader point is that if they're had been a broader political consensus that the US hoped would emerge from stability consensus wise and that consensus is very fragile in part because the decisions about Kirkuk, about Arab-Kurdish delineation of powers and oil money were never made. They've been kicked down the road, down the road, down the road. Now we're leaving so the vacuum is re-emerging and those questions still have to be answered.
Daniel Dombey: Yes, I would absolutely agree with that. I mean there are some very fundamental problems in Kirkuk where you have this Kurdish-Arab tension and, actually, US forces have increased in Kirkuk in recent months. You also have this basic critique that Obama always made of the Bush policy which was it didn't concentrate enough on the politics and, in fact, we don't really see a political initiative so far in terms of the US to try and push deals in Iraq. But you haven't had a US ambassador there so there is a US ambassador who is headed out this week. But it's an enormous struggle to reach any kind of an accord in Iraq. It's a very important year though as we've seen Maliki really try to consolidate his power and lots of tensions emerging as well.
Diane Rehm: But you know what's interesting? What's happened is that Iraq has completely knocked Afghanistan off the front pages. Now we see concentration on the suicide bombings in Iraq but also what's happening in Pakistan. We were planning to send more troops to Afghanistan, removing them from Iraq. Now how is all of this going to be effected, Karen?
Karen DeYoung: I think the, you know, this year, they've already settled on which troops are going to Afghanistan and the request from the commanders there is for another 10,000 next year which has not been authorized. I don't think that's going to seriously impinge on plans to withdrawal from Iraq. Right now those are the only requests. The 21,000 that were authorized, actually 21,000, for this year and a request that the president has not signed off on for an additional 10,000 next year. Right now there are not additional requests to send more troops to Afghanistan and, in fact, the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, has said many times, as have others, there's a limit to the number of troops you can send to Afghanistan.
Diane Rehm: Have Americans, with the exception of military families, stopped caring about Iraq, Yochi?
Yochi Dreazen: I think even in the military there's been a massive shift of military manpower and military mental power. Within the military the question now is how do you try to win Afghanistan and stabilize Pakistan. It's less Iraq. I think there was a bit of false complacency that came in when violence fell and Obama won and made clear his plan to leave. To the degree that anybody was still following Iraq, and I think many people had tuned it out, at least a year earlier if not longer, there's a belief that we won, that the war was over. Violence was down, we were going to leave. Things were not great but there was a somewhat functioning government and now we could do something else. And when that happened, I remember getting an e-mail from someone in Baghdad saying that we in the US could decide to leave and we could say we're done with our part of the fighting come 2010 or 2011 but there's another side and that side might want to keep fighting. And I think what you're seeing now is that there is another side, it does want to keep fighting and we're going to decide do we keep fighting to?
[. . .]
Yochi Dreazen: I think that the intent of those carrying out the attacks is precisely that issue. You're trying to stir up renewed Shia on Sunni violence and reprisals. To be honest, I don't think it's going to work -- in part because Shia political power is stronger and more stable across the Arab portions of Iraq then it's been at any point since 2003. Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army which had been the main form for Shia reprisals is largely receded into the background. A lot of its members no longer affiliate themselves with him or his movement. I think the intent is clearly that if a Sunni group carries out an attack big enough or horrific enough, some Shia group will carry out a revenge attack. So the hope would be -- obviously, I use 'hope' not in the way we would use it -- the hope would be that if you kill 500 Shia at prayer one day, something bad will happen, Shia on Sunni. To be honest, I think that was what happened in '05, '06, '07. I think to a degree early '08. I think that has largely played out.
Diane Rehm: So do you all believe that what's happening in Iraq now is not going to effect US plans to draw down troops moving forward? Karen?
Karen DeYoung: Uh, not right now, I don't think it will.
Diane Rehm: Not right now.
Karen DeYoung: I think that what was said previously, that what we think of as a complete withdrawal eventually is not going to be a complete withdrawal as soon as we -- as we think it will.
Diane Rehm: And what happens to those large bases that the United States has built in Iraq?Karen DeYoung: They're supposed to be turned over to Iraq eventually --
Daniel Dombey: You've got. Oh, I'm sorry.
Karen DeYoung: No, go ahead.
Daniel Dombey: You've got to remember a three-stage process. By June of this year, the US is supposed to be out of major cities although with the conditions that Yochi mentioned before. By August 2010, it's supposed to cease combat operations which is an Obama phrase that probably doesn't mean anything very much. And by the end of 2011, it's supposed to be out completely. Now that's actually according to a deal negotiated with the Bush administration. Whether that's going to happen -- that's a long way off One criticism of Bush and a criticism of Obama is that you really need to get the politics right. The real priority, however, for the US, is for Iraq not to provoke a regional conflict.
Diane Rehm: Mmm-hmm.
Daniel Dombey: That's why something like Kirkuk, which is something that involves the Kurds, the Arabs and Turkey -- which does not want Kirkuk to fall under Kurdish control, is so sensitive. They do not want Iraq to be a source of instability in the region. I think that they're prepared for Iraq to be a less than wonderful place for Iraqis to live in.
Yochi Dreazen: If I -- if I was a betting man, which I would never publicly admit to being, I would put considerable money that there is absolutely no chance that we would be out of those big bases by the end of 2011. The bases are so beyond-belief enormous. I mean, the Victory compound out by Baghdad airport is roughly 50 square miles, it's huge. You have thousands and thousands of tons of equipment, tens of thousands of vehicles. So the idea that somehow in the next two years all of these bases will be dismantled is non-existant. Beyond the fact that US officials have made clear all along that, should the Iraqis request it, maybe we'd stay beyond 2011. And you can envision a 100 scenarios --
Diane Rehm: Of course
Yochi Dreazen: -- in which the Iraqi government says we need you.
Steven Lee Myers of NYT (audio link again): "The fact is that not many American troops have yet withdrawn so the numbers are still high." That's an important point and also one made in a Congressional hearing this week that Jim, Dona, Ava and I have already decided is part of an editorial for Third Sunday. There are parts you probably agree with above and parts you don't. Some you may strongly disagree with. What's interesting is how November 2007 is actually the crucial period if you want to talk US draw down. That was avoided. We may cover it at Third or here next week.
But right now, some of the other violence. Hussein Kahim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which killed police Maj Raad meki and left three people in his car injured and a Jalwlaa car bombing which claimed 2 lives and left twenty-six people injured. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and injured another, a Sinjar sticky bombing claimed the life of "the son of a local sheikh" and, dropping back to Friday, a police major was shot dead in Kirkuk.
Today the US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division - North Soldier died in a non-combat related incident in Salah ad Din province April 24. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings to 4277 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. This is the third death of a US service member announced this week and the 14th for the month thus far -- already putting April's death toll ahead of March's.
Tuesday Chris Hill was confirmed as US Ambassador to Iraq. AP reports Hill arrived in Baghdad today. And they seem on the point of gushing that it's only "three days after" his Senate confirmation. What the hell have they been drinking? Reality, the unqualified Hill has already broken his first promise. As John Kerry noted in the Senate Foreign Committee's hearing on Hill March 25th, Hill stated he would leave for Iraq "within a day of his Senate confirmation." Does it matter? Yeah it does. You say you'll do something, you better do it. This is another example of Hill telling the Congress one thing and then doing another. And it makes John Kerry look like an idiot because, in his opening remarks at that hearing, Kerry argued against any attempts to delay Hill's confirmation stating that it "would do a serious disservice to our efforts" in Iraq if senators attempted "holding up a vote on Ambassador Hill's nomination." Kerry said, "This is not a time for delay." He added, "The committee will move to quickly discharge Ambassador Hill, who has committed to depart for Iraq within a day of his Senate confirmation." Committed. And he already broke it. It's not a minor issue and one more sign that Hill's a little 'too casual' when it comes to job responsibilities.
Winding down on Iraq, Mattis Chiroux faced a military board this week (see Tuesday and Wednesday's snapshots). The board has a recommendation. Yesterday, Matthis wrote a very intense and moving account of his life thus far. We've noted the process here and a few people have e-mailed to dispute where it stands now. In Tuesday's snapshot, I'm going by three officers I spoke to on the phone and one JAG attorney I spoke with in addition to a woman Jess spoke with and she typed up the process and e-mailed it. Here is that e-mail:
SGT Chiroux's duty status will not change today because his case is notcomplete. HRC-St. Louis will compile the board record and complete alegal review prior to forwarding the case through the Commander, HRC-STLto the Commanding General, Human Resources Command. Before he left today, SGT Chiroux was informed of the Board's findingsand recommendations. Due to Privacy Act constraints, I am not able todiscuss this with you. SGT Chiroux remains a member of the Individual Ready Reserve until theCommanding General takes final action. This is expected to occur inseveral weeks' time. Thank you, v/r, Maria Quon LTC, U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer U.S. Army Human Resources Command-St. Louis 1 Reserve Way St. Louis, MO 63132-5200 (314) 592-0726 [. . .] Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE Based on the conversations and the e-mail, the board made a recommendation or even a decision but it goes on up the chain of command. No one is attempting to insult Matthis in any way. Nor to, as two e-mails suggest, take something away from his victory. But I'm not Scott Horton. Translation, I can't know the truth and say something else. I can't say "Bush is going to be indicted!" when I don't know that's true. The e-mail published above is censored only to take out Quon's e-mail -- which is her business one but I'm not comfortable having that in there. I didn't speak to anyone in public affairs. Jess spoke to her and she e-mailed him. What she's stating in that e-mail is what I was told by three officers familiar with the procedure and by one JAG attorney who knows the drill. We met the three-source rule with two extra. At Courage to Resist, a piece by Matthis Chiroux states he was awarded a recommendation by the board. I don't know where people are seeing something other than that but I've explained why we have worded it the way we have and, again, it's also the way Chiroux himself does. Also at Courage to Resist:
Cliff Cornell was denied sanctuary in Canada; will face general courts martial Tuesday, April 28 at Ft. Stewart, Georgia [ Donate to Cliff's legal defense here ]56 people have given $2,270 as of April 22. Goal: $3,000 By Friends of Cliff Cornell. Updated April 22, 2009 The U.S. Army has charged Specialist Clifford Cornell, with desertion. Cornell, 28, surrendered himself to authorities at Fort Stewart, Georgia on February 17, after being denied refugee status in Canada. The Arkansas native left Fort Stewart four years ago, when his artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. According to family and friends, Cornell did not want to kill civilians, and said that Army trainers told him he must shoot any Iraqi who came near his vehicle.
That's this Tuesday. Turning to public television NOW on PBS examines rape in "Justice Delayed:"A terrible statistic: one in six women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. But an even more shocking reality: A backlog in processing rape kits--crucial evidence in arresting violent predators -- is delaying and sometimes denying justice for tens of thousands of American women. NOW travels to Los Angeles County to investigate why it has the largest known rape kit backlog in the country--over 12,000 kits are sitting untested in police storage facilities. An internal audit found that more than 50 of these cases have exceeded the 10-year statute of limitations on rape. "The evidence that we're talking about represents human lives," Los Angeles Controller Laura Chick tells NOW. "Those are lives stacked up on the shelves waiting for justice." NOW talks with courageous rape survivors and law enforcement experts for insight and answers in this disturbing but important report. Are these women being victimized twice?
NOW on PBS begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings) as does PBS' Washington Week which finds Gwen sitting around the table with Dan Balz (Washington Post), Joan Biskupic (USA Today), Jeanne Cummings (Rona Barrett's DC) and Mark Mazetti (New York Times). Also on PBS (and starts airing tonight on many PBS stations, check local listings), Bonnie Erbe sits down with Kim Gandy, Amanda Carpenter and Avis Jones-DeWeever to discuss this week's news on To The Contrary. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers: Vice President BidenIn this profile of Joe Biden, Lesley Stahl spends three days with the vice president and also interviews his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and his boss, President Barack Obama. Watch Video Powered By CoalCoal is America's most abundant and cheap fossil fuel, but burning it happens to be the biggest contributor to global warming. Scott Pelley reports. Watch Video The OrphanageIvory is selling for nearly $1,000 a tusk, causing more elephants to be slaughtered and more orphaned babies in need of special care provided by an elephant orphanage in Kenya. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video
Though the Times of London had broken the story on the Downing Street Memos and was covering it at length in one report after another, the Times of New York refused to cover the memos and continued their long practice of covering up the illegal nature of the Iraq War.
Thursday, April 16, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq tries to firm up a deal with Total oil, the LGBT community remains targeted, New York Times runs state propaganda passed off as 'reporting,' Deborah Haynes exposes state propaganda (demonstrating what actual reporting is), and much more.
Today a bombing attack on a US and Iraqi military base in Al Anbar Province took place and the results are in disputes. BBC maintains that there were no deaths but twenty-six people were wounded. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) explains Iraqi Maj Gen Mrdhi Mishhen Al Mahalawi and others are insisting that no one died. Aseel Kami (Reuters) states 16 are dead with at least fifty injured, that a suicide bomber in Iraqi military garb took his own life and the lives of others by detonating "at the base's cafeteria". At the New York Times website, Steven Lee Myers reports the confusion, offers reports of "at least 15 Iraqi soldiers" dead and identifies the location as Tamouz Air Base while noting that all journalists have been banned from the base and from the hospital where the wounded and/or dead were taken. As stated several times already this month, Nouri al-Maliki has no respect for the press, has no interest in a free press and the idea that 'democracy' will ever come to Iraq while US puppet Nouri sits in the catbird seat is laughable. AP spoke to two Iraqi officers and allowed them to remain nameless, one confirmed deaths but would not give a number, the other told AP 16 Iraqi soldiers had died. Iran's Press TV also states 16 killed and says fifty were wounded.
For Iraqi females, and children, events involving air attacks and mortar fire were the most dangerous. In air attacks causing civilian deaths, 46% of victims of known gender were female, and 39% of victims of known age were children. Mortar attacks claimed similarly high proportions of victims in these two demographic groups (44% and 42%). By comparison, 11% of victims across all weapons types were Iraqi females, and 9% were children. The authors argue that their findings showing that air attacks (whether involving bombs or missiles) and mortars killed relatively high proportions of females and children is further evidence that these weapons should not be directed at civilian areas by parties to conflict because of their indiscriminate nature. As co-author Professor John Sloboda of Royal Holloway, University of London, who is also a co-founder of IBC, notes, "Our weapon-specific findings have implications for a wide range of conflicts, because the patterns found in this study are likely to be replicated for these weapons whenever they are used."
Alsumaria notes the report finds that for all Iraqis, "abudctions of people who are later executed" results in the bulk of deaths. "Relatives of the dead, most of them women and some quietly wiping away tears, sit in a room trying to spot the missing among the photos of men and boys, many mutilated or severely decayed, cycled on a bank of screens," reports Mohammed Abbas (Reuters) on the unclaimed and unidentied corpses that continue, year after year, at Baghdad's central morgue.
Meanwhile Martin Chulov (Guardian of Manchester) plays 'ignore the violence there, look over here!' Chulov is all giddy about a reconstructed shrine in Samarra which will allegedly soon re-open. It's more garbage from a piece of trash outlet and if you're wondering where little Chulov got his 'idea,' Dallas Morning News religious reporter Bruce Tomaso noted Monday an article in the Smithosian (by Joshua Hammer with photos by Max Becherer) which explores the rebuilding of the shrine. Chulov buries the lede which is that Sunnis and Shi'ites were working on the rebuilding together -- the only point of interest to the story that took beyond the Smithsonian for most people. Chulov 'forgets' to mention the brief by Tomaso or the article in the Smithsonian and wants you to believe he's reporting on something he witnessed (he's reporting from Baghdad, he didn't go to Samarra) -- that actually is funny. But the Guardian's nothing but a laugh these days anyway as it attempts to battle Google and whine about profits -- for those not in the know, the Guardian is set up in the non-profit mode. In reality, it's nothing but a party organ (and therefore apologist) for the neo-liberal New Labour Party. Any article not pushing/pimping/excusing neo-liberal policies exists in the hope that it will attract readers it might otherwise miss and hopefully bring them over to neo-liberalism during their stop-over. Joshua Hammer opens his article with:
I'm standing on a street corner in the center of Samarra--a strife-scarred Sunni city of 120,000 people on the Tigris River in Iraq--surrounded by a squad of American troops. The crackle of two-way radios and boots crunching shards of glass are the only sounds in this deserted neighborhood, once the center of public life, now a rubble-filled wasteland. I pass the ruins of police headquarters, blown up by an Al Qaeda in Iraq suicide truck bomber in May 2007, and enter a corridor lined by eight-foot-high slabs of concrete--"Texas barriers" or "T-walls," in U.S. military parlance. A heavily guarded checkpoint controls access to the most sensitive edifice in the country: the Askariya Shrine, or Mosque of the Golden Dome, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam.
Here, in February 2006, Al Qaeda militants blew up the delicate gold-tile dome atop the thousand-year-old Shiite shrine, igniting a spasm of sectarian killing that brought the country to the edge of civil war. For the past year and a half, a committee led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been working with United Nations consultants to clear debris from the site and to begin rebuilding the Golden Dome--a $16 million project that aims to restore the shrine sufficiently to receive Shiite pilgrims by this summer.
I've been trying for three days to get close to the shrine, stymied by an order from al-Maliki's office barring journalists from the site--an indication of how sensitive the bombing remains in this country. U.S. military officers in Samarra have pulled strings on my behalf with the mayor, Iraqi police officials and the Ministry of Planning in Baghdad. This time, after I reach the checkpoint, a friendly commander of the Askariya Brigade, a predominantly Shiite police force dispatched from Baghdad last year to guard the site, makes a call to his superiors in the Iraqi capital, then escorts me through.
Joshua Hammer wrote a very good article, we don't, however, buy into the belief that it was the moment that changed everything. The bombing provided photos and the press ran with those. The bombing was only one of a long series of incidents that cemented the sectarian conflict.
Two and a half months after the elections, the 14 provinces that voted have only now begun forming provincial councils, the equivalent of state legislatures in the United States. Five provinces, including Babil, Najaf and Basra, still have no functioning governments, despite a deadline that passed last week, as party leaders squabble over the selection of governors, council chairmen and their deputies. Elections that were supposed to strengthen Iraq's democracy, unite its ethnic and sectarian factions, and begin to improve sorely needed basic services -- water, electricity, roads -- have instead exposed the fault lines that still threaten the country's stability.
In an update, Alsumaria reports a president and a vice president for Najaf's provincial council has been elected today. Myers refers to the economic 'problems' of Iraq -- other countries have economic problems, the puppet government in Baghdad is rolling in the cash. Provincial governments should not be effected by the decrease in price per barrel of oil unless there has been major theft within a province. The reason for that is none of them spent all their previous yearly budgets. They stockpiled that money. So were their budgets slashed, they'd still have the excess from previous years which they didn't spend. If they don't have that money, it's because someone or somones stole it. We'll return to the issue of the money 'troubles' shortly.
This morning the Daily Coverup (aka New York Times), found Alissa J. Rubin joining with Rod Nordland for more please-love-us-and-don't-kick-us-out-of-the-country efforts. This follows yesterday's garbage (Rubin's "Iraq Tries to Prove Autonomy, and Makes Inroads") made it into print for anyone who didn't grasp what was what yesterday. Today's article never goes deeper than the headline ("U.S. Military Expresses Concern About Perception of an Iraqi Crackdown on Sunnis"). It's not an article, it's a damn press release and your first clue is the fact that the headline expresses a point of view which Rubin and Nordland carry through in their article. Reporters do not do that. If one person has a point of view and they present that point of view in their article, they also present other points of view. So X is saying there is no problem. A reporter then goes to Z, goes to Y, etc. to find out whether or not the claim is true. Various points of view are presented -- especially when a claim cannot be independently verified.Rubin and Nordland don't do that. They're not interested in evaluating the claim, they're only interested in making sure they were good little stenographers who dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" in what the US military told them to write down. It's shameful and it's embarrassing. The New York Times is never supposed to be part of the US military's counter-insurgency operations but that's what they do this morning and it's shameful and it needs to be called out. There is no excuse for it at all.For the record, the press didn't create the tensions between Sahwa and Nouri. Those tensions were always present and you can go back to 2007 reports and find that. In terms of the Baghdad armed conflict which took place last month, BBC and Reuters were the only ones filing early reports (when the conflict had just started) and those were innocuous reports nothing like what would come out by the end of the day about US forces joining with Iraqi forces to battle Sahwa in the Fadhil section of Baghdad. The press didn't create that armed struggle, didn't encourage it and, honestly, was caught by surprise when those tensions flared up so dramatically. Yesterday Rubin served up propaganda that rivaled the garbage Eason Jordan attoned for in a Times' column (he admitted CNN regularly covered up stories of abuse in Iraq to curry favor with Saddam Hussein). Today, Rubin and Nordland enlist in the US military in order to pull a fast one on the public in the US and in Iraq. Today they set journalism aside because they've been told they need to serve a 'higher purpose.' Any journalist who has so little pride in their field that they'd do this sort of stenography needs to take a good hard look at themselves and whether they belong in journalism.What Rubin and Nordland have written is an embarrassment and it's an embarrassment for their paper which indicates just how awful their article is. Check "Rudith Miller" for how the paper works. It always cowtows to what the US government wants. But even Judith, even Judith Miller, knew you just bury the contrary opinions when presenting government assertions as fact. Rubin and Nordland present US government assertions as fact but they're worse than Judith Miller. Take a moment to grasp that. While Miller would wait until paragraph 13 to briefly note a voice that called into question a government claim, Rubin and Nordland just eliminate those voices, they refuse to cover them, they refuse to include them. The US military is doing cartwheels this morning because they dictated an article to the Times and the Times ran it without any efforts to verify it and without any efforts to include any other opinions. This is propaganda pure and simple and, no, that is not how an allegedly free press works. And for those who wish to play as dumb as Rubin and Nordland, among the people real reporters could have interviewed to round out and evaluate a claim were: Iraqi police officers, Sahwa, academics who follow the situation (especially academics in Baghdad and Dubai) and NGOs. By refusing to do so, by printing 18 paragraphs that's nothing but an attempt at perception management on the part of the US military, the reporters disgrace themselves and their profession.
And we return to the money issue by noting one of the most laughable US military assertions that made it into print this morning, that Sahwa's not being paid due to money shortages. Nouri's got money problems because of falling oil prices, the US military insists and Rubin and Nordland spit back at American readers without question. From yesterday's snapshot, "AFP reports reality, 'Iraq has signed a contract with British engineering and construction company Foster Wheeler to build the country's largest-ever oil refinery, an Iraqi official said on Wednesday'." The cost of the plant? $128,000,000. That deal was announced yesterday. And Rubin and Nordland want to repeat (without question) US military tales of Nouri having to count and watch his pennies. Remember Nouri always says "only boys who save their pennies make my rainy day." Alsumaria reports Iraq's Shi'ite vice president Adel Abdul Mehdi met with French president Nicolas Sarkozy today and delcared that oil conglomerate Total was very likely to win a contract in Iraq -- that would mean, pay attention, more money forked over to Iraq. Meanwhile Simon Webb and Amena Bakr (Reuters) interview Iraqi MP Jabir Khalifa who states that the Parliament is seeking to revoke the contract Royal Dutch Shell made with the country's Oil Ministry because it is "unconstitutional and detrimental to Iraq's economic interests".
While the US military maintains 138,000 soldiers in Iraq, and there are over 200,000 private contractors enabling the occupation, and the president intends on keeping at least 50,000 US troops in Iraq indefinitely, Obama managed to keep a straight face whilst pressuring the Iraqi government to "take responsibility for their country" and adding that the United States has "no claim on Iraqi territory and resources." All of this nice talk from President Obama, which he articulated just hours after a spate of bombings across Baghdad killed 15 Iraqis and wounded 27, was complimented by his and Bush's Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who claimed that al-Qaeda in Iraq appeared to be making a "last gasp" attempt to foment sectarian violence in Baghdad. Those who have been following the news about the US occupation of Iraq closely over the last six years know all too well how many "last gasps" and "turning the corners" there have been - of which there are too many to count. This one is no different, and the fallacy of the statement was punctuated on April 10 in Mosul, when a suicide car bomb attack killed five US soldiers, along with two Iraqi troops. Taking another page out of the Bush playbook for the occupation of Iraq, while speaking at Baghdad's airport, Obama also said the next 18 months are "going to be a critical period." Again, there have been more "critical periods" in Iraq throughout the occupation than I care to remember. Two days after Obama's visit to Baghdad's airport, Gen. Ray Odierno told The Times that US combat troops may remain in Iraq's cities beyond the June 30 deadline mandated by the Status of Forces Agreement. Of course, throughout all of this rhetoric, the glaring omission is any discussion about the massive "enduring" US military bases in Iraq and the US "embassy" that is the size of the Vatican City. Meanwhile, the bloodletting and destruction of Iraq continues.
Surprisingly, Dahr Jamail isn't the only one taking on propaganda. Peter Baker (New York Times) observes, "For all the perception of a major course correction, Mr. Obama so far appears to be presiding over a foreign policy that may seem more different than it really is. As Mr. Obama heads to Mexico on Thursday for his second foreign trip of the month, he is bringing with him many of the same American interests as his predecessor, even if they are wrapped in a different package." On Iraq, Baker explains, "Mr. Obama's decision to withdraw from Iraq is not as sharp a change as it once seemed during the presidential campaign. Mr. Obama deferred to military commanders in agreeing to leave the vast bulk of American forces in place until next year, when a phased pullout would begin, leaving 50,000 troops in place after August 2010." The third term of George W. Bush is more than underway as is obvious by this headline at CBS News "CIA Off The Hook For Past Waterboarding"-- no punishment for those crimes against humanity. Barack prefers to instead just walk on by, don't stop, just walk on by. How very Bully Boy Bush of him. The policies of the previous administration also continue when it comes to the silence on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community as Doug Irelandreports at GayCityNews noting State Dept staffer Felming (who spent a year in Iraq under Bully Boy Bush) dismissing concerns for LGBT Iraqis recently. Ireland reports:
Hili told this reporter, "There is an intensive media campaign against homosexuals in Iraq at this time which we believe is inspired by the Ministry of the Interior, both in the daily newspapers and on nearly all the television stations. Their reports brand all gays as 'perverts' and try to portray us as terrorists who are undermining the moral fiber of Iraqi youth." Hili said the current homo-hating media campaign appears to have been sparked as an unfortunate reaction to an April 4 Reuters dispatch that reported: "Two gay men were killed in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, a local official said, and police said they had found the bodies of four more after clerics urged a crackdown on a perceived spread of homosexuality... The police source said the bodies of four gay men were unearthed in Sadr City on March 25, each bearing a sign reading 'pervert' in Arabic on their chests."
Amnesty International has called out the targeting -- publicly called out the targeting which puts them way ahead of the United Nations, the US White House and the US State Department. We'll note this section of Ireland's report:
Dalia Hashad of Amnesty International told Gay City News, "Amnesty has been unable to get from the Iraqi government any confirmation that the men are in custody or that they are facing execution, but from what we have heard from individuals in Iraq, they were sentenced to die for belonging to a 'banned group.' We are protesting to the Iraqi government and are continuing to try to investigate, but it is very difficult to get any information about such prisoners in Iraq."
Dalia Hashad is an attorney and, along with Michael Ratner, Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith, she co-hosts WBAI's Law and Disorder. Rex Wockner (PrideSource) adds that there is a lack of clarity over whether or not Iraq re-instated (in 2003) a law making same-sex relations illegal. He quotes Iraqi LGBT's Ali Hili explaining, "That's what they have been told by a judge in a brief court hearing. I don't think this is in the Iraqi constitution as a death penalty (crime). The court is ... kangaroo-style. It was brief and people weren't able to present legal representation or defend themselves in that kind of court. Our information is that these five members have been convicted to death for running activities of a forbidden organization on Iraqi soil."
In the most shocking refusal to report propaganda, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) takes a train ride in Baghdad and quickly grasps that it is proganada and -- pay attention Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland -- reports examples of that. An alleged commuter train, supposedly to transport workers, "leaves at 8am -- rather late in the morning for Baghdad's only commuter service" and that's far from the only puzzling moment. She asks a 'commuter' where he is going and he gets the destination wrong. And then there is this:
The picture-perfect scene looks too good to be true. There is also the mystery of why commuters are so eagerly commuting in reverse, from the centre of the city to the outskirts. Further fuelling our suspicion, a local television crew is conveniently on hand to film the hustle and bustle. A press officer at the station tells us upon arrival that the train has been laid on especially for the media. He then changes his story, after seeing our crestfallen expressions, to explain it is a later service that sometimes follows the earlier train at 6.30am.
This is really an amazing report and praise for Deborah Haynes for reporting it.
Meanwhile Alsumaria reports, "Iraq Army units supported by US air forces launched a wide scale operation in southern Kirkuk after a suicide bombing killed 10 policemen and wounded around 20 others. Second Brigade Commander Abdul Amir Al Zaidi affirmed that two senior officials of Ansar Al Sunna were killed and two others were wounded in the operation after Iraq Army received intelligence about their involvement in yesterday's bombing." They report it and only they report it, why is that? A major operation, an assault, and where is the press coverage from US outlets?
Yesteday's snapshot noted the conviction of US Master Sgt John E. Hatley in Germany. In today's New York Times, Paul von Zielbauer quotes James D. Culp ("former Army trial defense lawyer"), "When the first sergeant of a company snaps, taking a sergeant first class and a senior medic with him, it's a sign that they've just had too much." AP reminds, "Military cases go through an automatic appeal process, and his sentence also could be reduced in a clemency proceeding."
Of the above, C.I. noted, "Isaiah's done two The World Today Just Nuts this morning. This one has the Bully Boy breaking it down. He informs us, "Remember kids, good Americans don't talk about the Downing Street memo." " That's June 12, 2005. What does his tie say? "World's worst reader."
Downing Street Memos, for those who have forgotten, were a big news in the press . . . in England. The Times of London broke the news -- the US press and the Guardian of England played dumb.
Thursday, April 9, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, if you play dumb it's easy to praise Barack's VA budget, a US soldier is wounded in a bombing, Baghdad sees a huge protest calling for the US to leave, a member of the US Congress asks questions about the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community, and more.
Reilly's transition to civilian life was hard. He didn't have a job and was strapped for cash, so he began delivering pizza in order to keep the bills paid. His wife was a 911 dispatcher. Money was always a problem for them. His wife urged him to stay home at night, but he wanted to celebrate making it out alive. He drank excessively to cope with his memories. After nights out, he would drive home inebriated. He still wasn't afraid of death. But this time, he realized it wouldn't only be his life on the line. [. . . .] His wife complained and he became more frustrated. He had a low-paying job, no prospects for the future and a crumbling marriage. He separated from his wife in the summer of 2007. Two months later, they got a divorce. At 26, Reilly is now a Penn State student, war veteran, divorcee and future engineer.
When Barack Obama's speech on veterans was scheduled last week (he gave it today), it seemed like Thursday snapshot would especially require a focus on veterans. There was, however, the hope that some in the press would have done the heavy lifting by then. Apparently not. Last Friday, Maria Hinojosa (NOW on PBS) was mindlessly chattering away in her usual excessive praise of Barack, "His fiscal 2010 budget -- set to be approved this month -- would increase the VA's budget by $15 billion. That's the largest increase ever requested by a president." Wow, Maria. If we can all be mindless Obots (and hasn't the press proved that it is possible for many to be just that), we can be happy . . . and stupid. Maria proves that. She also proves this lesson: Always hide the context to strip news from the factoid you want to pimp.
Barry gave his big speech today and, as a friend at the White House said, "He didn't say 'guys' this time." Well good for Barry. It's a real shame that when addressing a (mixed) crowd in Iraq, he used the terms "guys." What he did offer today was his usual bloated sense of bragging to the point that every speech is now an informercial for Barack. Following the 2010 elections, look for the White House to bring in new blood for the speeches. Until then, get used things like this: "I'm also pleased that the budget resolutions adopted by both houses of Congress preserve priorities that I outlined in my budget -- priorities that will go a long way towards building that 21st-century VA that we're looking for. The 2010 budget includes the largest single-year increase in VA funding in three decades. And all told, we will increase funding by $25 billion over the next five years." Cute, wasn't it? Three references to himself in the first sentence alone.
When not self-stroking, Barry was pushing "streamlined transition of health records." This isn't his idea. It predates him and he did no work on this in Congress, he's not on the committee. (The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have worked on this and held hearing on this.) But what Barry's done is advocate for money for it. How much money will go for that? That is the fourth measure of the seven items the administration was promoting at the end of February ["(4) investing in better technology"]. So how much of the $15 billion will go to that? Do we want to tell the veterans how much is allocated to the VA under "discretionary budget" and where that money will go?
And at any damn point does the press plan to address reality? The 2010 fiscal year increase is approximately 10%. 47.6 billion dollars was the 2009 fiscal year budget. For eight years, Bully Boy Bush underfunded the Veterans Affairs -- despite the fact that two wars would be fought thereby increasing the number of veterans. A ten percent increase is a joke. This 'hallelujah' nonsense doesn't even grasp that Barack's insulting budget is less of an increase for the VA than what John Kerry was promising in his 2004 presidential run.
Barack promised open government and bills would be posted online and this would be and that would be and blah, blah, blah. Didn't happen and most look the other way. But it can't happen. If it does, it'll make life hard for Barack cheerleaders like Maria Hinojosa who allegedly wanted to illuminate the plight of veterans last Friday on PBS but instead pretended cheerleading and distorting actually passed for reporting NOW on PBS should either drop their we-care-about-veterans segments are learn to be a damn advocate. The VA has been underfunded for eight years. During that time, two wars have been fought. Barack has decided to continue those words and is offering a pittance of a ten percent increase in the budget for the VA (with a huge amount of money going to "discretionary" spending -- which won't be explained or justified any more than the CERP funds in Iraq are). It's shameful and it's disgusting.
And for eight years the press let Bully Boy Bush get away with underfunding so maybe it's not really a damn surprise that they'll now encourage Barack to do the same thing. There's a legislative proposal by US House Rep Walter Jones that someone should build on. HR 743 is the Executive Accountability Act of 2009 which Jones introduced January 28th, US House Rep Neil Abercrombie signed on as co-sponsor and reads: "To prohibit the President or any other executive branch official from knowingly and willfully misleading the Congress or the people of the United States, for the purpose of gaining support for the use of the Armed Forces of the United States." That is needed. But notice how no one's rushing to push for its passage. What's also needed is that before X number of service members are deployed to a combat zone, it needs to be established the potential VA costs. And since Barack's committed to continuing Bully Boy's wars, a ten percent increase is an even bigger joke. He will ensure the creation of a more than ten percent increase in the need for VA care in fiscal year 2010. While the VA is supposed to be thrilled with the $15 billion increase to its tiny budget, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made his Pentagon budget proposal this week: $534 billion. That's $21 billion more than for fiscal year 2009. The always bloated Pentagon budget increased by $21 billion only further establishes what a pittance the $15 billion Barack tossed out was. Patrick Martin (WSWS) observes that "Gates unveiled the biggest military budget in world history, in anticipation of an endless series of Iraq and Afghanistan-style wars by American imperialism. Both the military budget itself and the official who drafted it -- Gates held the same position in the last two years of the Bush administration and is the first Pentagon chief to be retained by a new president -- underscore the fundamental continuity between Obama and Bush. For all its pretensions of 'change' and all the popular illusions attached to Obama's supposed 'anti-war' stance, the new administration is as committed to the ruthless pursuit of the interests of American imperialism as its discredited predecessor." Jeremy Scahill (at CounterPunch) covers the bloated budget and the myths of 'cuts' while noting that US House Reps Lynn Woolsey and Jim McGovern are among those expressing distress over the proposed budget of the Pentagon. The two budgets need to be placed side-by-side, they need to be talked about in connection with one another. You can not grossly overfund the war machine and refuse to fund the care of veterans. This might be a good time to note Cindy Sheehan has a new book out, Myth America: The 10 Greatest Myths of the Robber Class and the Case for Revolution. She will be hitting the road with her internet radio show to discuss the book and the stops include:
April 18 to 22nd, New Mexico (Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos) April 23rd Eureak Springs, Arkansas May 3rd Chicago
There are other dates, some confirmed, some tentative currently. Refer to her website for more information. And the VA budget and the Pentagon budget are not separate issues. The budget of the Pentagon does effect the numbers the VA has to serve. Staying with the costs of war, Deidra Walsh (CNN) reports, "The Obama administration will ask Congress for another $83.4 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of September, Democratic congressional sources said Thursday."
Dennis Bernstein: We continue our series talking with high profile resisters of the US war in Iraq, the occupation there and the expanding war in Afghanistan. And yesterday Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Iraq. He congratulated the troops and all Americans on a job well done there, quite a different visit and flavor from his last anti-war visit and people are concerned about the expanding war in Afghanistan, Pakistan. Now joining us is Kathy Kelly. Kathy Kelly is co-founder for Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She is making her way, I guess you're in Nevada now, right?
Kathy Kelly: That's right, Dennis, I joined a group of people who are intent on bringing attention to the Predator and Reaper drones -- the unmanned aireal vehicles that are headquarted inside of Creech Airforce Base and I think that there is now some increasing awareness of how it is that the United States is conducting escalated warfare in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. There's increasing reliance on what might be called a sort of remote control assassination squad or extrajudicial execution. The drones don't have pilots inside the airplane the pilot is inside Creech Airforce Base or Langley Airforce Base if the pilots are working for the CIA. So we've been vigiling since April 1st outside the base. We hold signs that say "Ground the drones lest you reap the whirlwind" and "Ending war: our collective responsibility" along with "Keep the troops home" and it's amazing the cordial response that we've had from people in the air force or others going inside the base. We've been given waves, peace signs, smiles, indications to keep going. And yet they are themselves becoming very instrumental in the changing face of the United States military.
Dennis Bernstein: Well Bush War Secretary, now Obama War Secretary, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates loves these drones. This is his vision for 21st century war along with a forward fighting force that is reinforced by depleted urainmium the drones, this is the way he wants to move. Talk a little bit about Gates and now the Obama pro-war policy. I mean, after all when Obama says "Job well done" in Iraq, I think he's talking about an illegal war and occupation that destroyed a country and led to the deaths of about a million people.
Kathy Kelly: Well I think there is a certain blindside that both Mr. Gates and President Obama are not seeing. They seem not to be aware of the tremendous antagonism toward the United States that's been occassioned by a long history of United States regarding life in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan as being expendable, cheap if you will. Right now there are one million people in Pakistan who have fled their homes because they're afraid that they might be struck by a drone Predator or drone Reaper and, you know, I think if we could just imagine what would it be like if we looked up into the skies and heard a sound that was like a snow mobile or a leaf blower and realized that that vehicle up in the sky could carry two Hellfire Missiles and two 500-pound bombs. We'd be terrified. We wouldn't want to conduct our lives always afraid that maybe they're going to decide to launch one of those bombs at us. And so similarly people who have fled their homes because they're so afraid are going to feel increasing antagonism in a country that is already very angry with US policies. And I suppose the US miltiary might say "Well it's better than carpet bombing this is more precision bombing than what we're accustomed to and we don't have to worry about losing a single soldier." But I think, again, we have to be aware of the context of a region of the world where the United States has regarded people's lives as expendable. There's a horrendous loss of life in Iraq amongst many people who meant us no harm. And also in the United States occupation of Afghnaistan where people have been forced to become refugees as well.
Dennis Bernstein: Now Kathy I spoke with Adam Kokesh who I'm sure you know very well. An Iraq War veteran and on the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War. And we were speaking and I asked him how he felt or when he felt these War Crimes committed by the Bush administration become the War Crimes of the Barack Obama administration?
Kathy Kelly: Hmm. Well I think that Barack Obama is the world's chief exporter of weapons. I mean that goes with the job. And I think that you can't look at attacks on civilian populations using conventional military force and not discuss War Crimes. And so the United States is certainly in the position of being easily accused of having committed war crimes and also in having given so much weaponry to Israel. And Israel has, I think, in the Operation Cast Blood assault and in those twenty-two days certainly committed War Crimes. And then when you think about the fact that we create and export more weapons than the next -- well we're six times greater in our weapon production and use than any following country. We've placed our economy on a war footing throughout a time when we could very well have been repaing a peace dividend. And this is the world that President Obama inherets but in the appointments that he made in the -- which are center-rightest appointments by and large -- and his indications -- since the time he was campainging, that there would be an uptick in military spending in an Obama administration the clue for all of us who want to abandon the military -- and I mean that, abandon the military -- our work is the same as it was under [Occupant] Bush.
Obama made a short propaganda speech to the assembled U.S. troops and stated, "It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. They need to take responsibility for their country." Obama told the troops, "You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement." I wonder if Obama sensed the irony of declaring a country "democractic" in making this announcement at just one of the many U.S. bases used to occupy it. But in a deeper sense, the invasion and continuing military occupation of Iraq concentrate exactly what the U.S. delivers when it claims to bring democracy to any country. The so-called democratic government there was installed after a massive U.S. invasion that has resulted in the deaths of a million Iraqis. Millions more are external or internal refugees. Hundreds of thousands of medical personnel and other educated Iraqis have fled the country. The U.S. still occupies the country with more than 100,000 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of U.S. contractors. The U.S. is currently training tens of thousands of Iraqi puppet troops to help the U.S. to control the country, even after the so-called withdrawal of "combat troops."
While Barack wanted to talk 'democracy' to the Iraqis from one of Saddam's former palaces which the US military occupies, today saw something far more democratic: A protest. Corinne Reilly and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report the sixth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad was marked by "tens of thousands of Iraqs" calling for the departure of US troops. BBC News reports "tens of thousands" have taken to the streets in Baghdad to protest, carrying flags and chanting "No, no America. Yes, yes Iraq" to mark the sixth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. The protestors are said to be followers of Muqtada al-Sadr and "the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says the cleric is still showing that he has some political clout. His political followers did quite well in January's provincial elections and he is again showing that he has the ability to call tens of thousands of people out into the streets, our correspondent says." BBC offers a photo essay here. Assel Kami and Richard Balmforth (Reuters) add the chants also included, "Down, down USA." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) quotes protestor Nahab Nehme who states, "This is not democracy. When America came, they didn't do anything for Iraq -- they moved Saddam out, but he was their servant, and the people who are in power now are their servants, too." Wail al-Haforth (Times of London) quotes protestor Abu Alla stating, "I say to Mr Obama, we are Iraqis and we can solve our problems among ourselves. The occupying forces must leave Iraq immediatly." Xinhua quotes demonstrator Abdul Zahra Ali stating, "Demonstrations are part of our rights to peacefully express our rejection to occupation. We will continue protesting the occupation from time to time until the remove of the occupation." Al Jazeera went to the Strategic Studies Centre in Qatar to ask Abdel Wahab Al-Qassab his opinion: "The US has said verbally that it will end the occupation but we do not know what the real ambition of the invaders is. They could yet say there is no stability in the country and extend their presence there. The US has already said that 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq for what they say is training Iraqi troops. But I think that every Iraqi wants US troops out of the country because what has occurred is the shattering of the Iraqi society." Of the speakers, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN -- link has text and video) reports, "Hazem al-Araji, a senior aide to the radical Shiite cleric [al-Sadr], called on the Iraqi government to release all Sadrist detainees inside U.S. and Iraqi prisons." Irish Times quotes the message from al-Sadr that was read at the rally, "God, unite us, return our riches, free the prisoners from the prisons, return sovereignty to our country . . . make our country free from the occupier, and prevent the occupier from stealing our oil. God, make us liberators of our land." Irish Times also quotes protestor Khalid al-Ibadi stating, "Iraq has experience of occupation . . . No country has emerged from it through politics and transparency. It will only end through the sword." Though most reports focus on the Shi'ites in attendance, McClatchy's Reilly and Issa note that Sunnis were present at the rally including Sahwa/"Awakening"/"Sons of Iraq" leader Hameed al Hayis:
In a speech Thursday, Hayis demanded that the government release Shiite Sadrist prisoners and that high-ranking government security officials resign. The recent spike in violence proves that they're unqualified, he said. His attendance Thursday suggests that his party may be looking to strike an alliance with Sadrists, a possibility that Hayis didn't rule out in an interview after the demonstration. "Our Sadrist brothers have a clear vision. We appreciate that they don't compromise on that," he said. "They don't want an occupation on their land." Any alliance shouldn't come as a surprise, Hayis added: "This is only an unusual idea to people with short memories, because we must remember there was a time when we were all Iraqis. The divisions only came when the Americans came."
Yesterday saw the Kadhemiyah neighborhood of Baghdad bombed for the second day in a row. While the US has blamed al Qaeda and Nouri al-Maliki's blamed Baathists, Iran's Press TV reports this speculation:An Iraqi lawmaker alleges that 'the occupiers' are behind the recent bomb blasts in Iraq basing his claims on the fact that the US has access to Iraq's security and intelligence files. Maha al-Dori, a member of Sadr fraction in the Iraqi parliament said that "the occupiers are causing disarray in Iraq with aim of at taking control over the country's affairs." Al-Dori, who was speaking to al-Alam on Wednesday, also noted that Sadr's anti-occupation movement has called on Iraqis to hold a demonstration, calling for the occupiers' - a term referring to American forces -- immediate withdrawal from Iraq. He added that the demonstration would also urge the release of the innocent detainees, while protesting at calls for the return of the Baath party.
It's not known who was behind the bombing but it's interesting what the US press makes time to serve up. What makes the speculation they keep tossing out any more valid than the speculation above? Nothing. Repeating, no one knows who was behind the bombing.
It is known that US House Rep Jared Polis just finished a visit to Iraq. It is known that Michael Riley (Denver Post) is covering it even if others aren't. While in Iraq, Riley raised concerns to the Iraqi government and the US State Dept employees in Iraq about "the case of a man allegedly sentenced to death in a criminal court for membership in a gay-rights group." Riley notes how 'sensitive' the issues are for Iraq and the US government -- since the US government installed the current government in Iraq. Riley references Timothy Williams and Tareq Maher's "Iraq's Newly Open Gays Face Scorn and Murder" and notes how relatives are being "blamed" for the murders but "Polis said the most disturbing aspect of the persecution is that the government itself may be involved. The Boulder Democrat said that while State Department officials in Washington initially dismissed the claims of Iraqi Interior Ministry involvement, the charge d'affaires in Baghdad has requested more documentation and the chance to speak with witnesses and victims."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which left eight people injured, a Baquba sticky bombing which claimed 1 life, another Bauqba bombing which claimed the life of 1 construction worker and left one more injured, a Balad Ruz bicycle bombing which wounded six people and a Salahuddin Province grenade attack on a US convoy: "One American soldier was wounded with one vehicle damaged."
In legal news, Rick Rogers (San Diego Union-Tribune) covers yesterday's closing arguments in the court-martial of the marine who twice confessed to murder on tape. And the BBC reports he was aquitted. What a proud moment for him and his hack of an attorney who demonstrate that the marine corp belief is lie and get your buddy to refuse to testify and somehow pretend that qualifies as "honor." Belittle the dead and mock the fact that no one even knows their names. That's the Hacket way, apparently. What a proud, proud moment. May he can cry in public again about those mean Democrats who promised him he'd have an easy run for Congress and then went back on their words which forced him out of the race because he's not running for office unless a political party's going to clear the field for him. In someone's cracked mind that too translates as "democracy" and as "honor." From crackpot justice to the real thing, famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, author most recently of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, is interviewed by Michael Collins in "Murder Trumps Torture Says Bugliosi" (Dissident Voice) and we'll note this section:Vincent Bugliosi: There was a cover story in, I think it was Harper's Magazine about two months ago, about prosecuting Bush. Obviously, I bought the magazine, and I opened it up to the prosecution. What was it all about? Torture. The New York Times had a pro and con in the op-ed section about two months ago, pro prosecution to Bush, anti prosecution to Bush. So I looked at what the prosecution was about -- torture. I'm offended by this. Who's fighting to bring about justice for the perhaps one million innocent Iraqi men, women, and children and babies in their graves? Actually, I shouldn't say I'm going to bring about justice for them, or try to, because I was unable to establish jurisdiction to go after Bush for the deaths of the Iraqi citizens. I did establish jurisdiction to go after him for the deaths of the 4,200 American soldiers. In any event, it would be a symbolic effort to bring about justice for the million people in their graves. Let's say that number's high. In my book I say over 100,000. Certainly there's over 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, children and babies who died as a result of Bush's war. Some numbers put it in excess of one million, and we know there's 4,200 American soldiers. Who's fighting to bring about justice for those in their graves, decomposing in their cold graves right now as I'm talking to you, Michael? Who's doing that out there? MC: Right. VB: No one seems to be interested in that. It's all torture, torture, torture, torture, so apparently torturing 24 or 200 Iraqi citizens or Iraqi insurgents or what have you is more important than bringing about justice, let's say, for 4,200 American soldiers who died in Bush's war. So you can see where I am offended about that. I'm not saying that Bush should not be prosecuted for torture. Let's talk about why it's even more offensive to me than I've already told you. I've given you the main reason why I'm offended by it, that that's all they talk about, as opposed to saying let's go after him for taking this nation to war under false pretenses, and then let's also add a count to the indictment for torture. Do you follow? Bugliosi is correct and among the reasons for the disconnect is that a lot of the torture 'prosecutors' have never prosecuted a thing, live in a sheltered world where they give lip service to "international law" but really can't visualize an American being forced to face the same sort of justice anyone else would have to. Torture becomes the "easy" path, the "low hanging fruit" they think they can grab or at least point to.
Last night Cedric's "Barack caught bowing and scraping" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BARACK WORSHIPS SAUDI KING!" dealt with Barack Obama's decision to violate etiquette and proceudre and bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. A US president does not bow to any royalty. It's considered offensive for anyone occupying that office -- that elected office -- to bow to royalty. You shake the hand, that's it. William Warren (Liberty Features Syndicate) has a comic on the issue -- click here -- and it's probably right-wing and I really don't care. It's a comic. And it's on an issue that the press really is working overtime to avoid.
Michael de Yoanna and Mark Benjamin in Salon have just published the first of a three-part series on pressure from the military to not diagnose soldiers with PTSD. They obtained a secret recording of a Denver neuropsychologist confessing to his patient, a sergeant wounded in Iraq, that he is under tremendous pressure to not assign PTSD diagnoses. [Thanks to Salon, you can listen to a portion of this recording here.] "OK," McNinch told Sgt. X. "I will tell you something confidentially that I would have to deny if it were ever public. Not only myself, but all the clinicians up here are being pressured to not diagnose PTSD and diagnose anxiety disorder NOS [instead]." McNinch told him that Army medical boards were "kick[ing] back" his diagnoses of PTSD, saying soldiers had not seen enough trauma to have "serious PTSD issues.""Unfortunately," McNinch told Sgt. X, "yours has not been the only case ... I and other [doctors] are under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD. It's not fair. I think it's a horrible way to treat soldiers, but unfortunately, you know, now the V.A. is jumping on board, saying, 'Well, these people don't have PTSD,' and stuff like that." [. . .] This article provides new confirmation of previous reports, several of which are by Mark Benjamin, that the military is seeking to reduce the number of PTSD diagnoses assigned to soldiers. In some cases they have been accused of assigning personality disorder diagnoses, presumed to have existed prior to enlistment, to soldiers more likely suffering from the traumatic effects of war. A personality diagnoses makes the soldier ineligible for veterans benefits, thus avoiding the government assuming the potential high costs of treatment.