Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Blockhead Roberts

That's my July 24, 2005 comic on John Roberts being nominated for the Supreme Court. Laura's wearing a t-shirt that reads, "I am NOT starting to look like my mother-in-law!" and Bully Boy declares, "Roberts, you ain't helping take the heat off Karl." While Laura adds, "I always say nothing like a blockhead. Maybe we could get him photographed with a dog?" That, I believe was in reference to Snoopy since I drew Roberts like Charlie Brown -- that's how the press was portraying him -- but it might have been, check out Laura's remark -- a reference to Bully Boy Bush and Barney, the White House pooch.

It's weird that it's time to highlight that comic this week because this is also the week that Barack nominated someone to the Supreme Court. Before it was announced, I did The World Today Just Nuts "Future of the Court" to comment on one rumored potential nominee and the woman who should have been nominated but didn't even make the list of potentials.

And Kat always notes my comics so let me remind you that she's done two CD reviews, "Kat's Korner: David Saw, Why Didn't You Hear?" and "Kat's Korner: Tori Amos, the friend you fear for". Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, May 28, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Steven D. Green is back in court, Abeer's family does not accept his prepared words, Cindy Sheehan is censored on YouTube, Iraq's LGBT community is still under assault and more.

Iraq Veterans Against the War held their Winter Soldier Investigation in the DC area in March of 2008. That was broadcast at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday with Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz anchoring Pacifica's live coverage. (It was also broadcast at the IVAW site.) That was their first Winter Soldier. They recently had another in Pasadena. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:

Winter Soldier Southwest was a great success. There were more than half a dozen camera crews shooting it for purposes ranging from independent media to anti-war documentaries. The panelists were quite moving and the audience was extremely supportive and full of positive energy. We want to thank everyone that helped put the event together, including all the panelists from
VVAW, VFP, MFSO and Gold Star Families. Most profoundly moving was the testimony of the Gold Star Families panel. Quite a number of panelists testimonies have found their way onto the internet already, below is a short list of a few links to what's out there

Yesterday we noted
Ryan Endicott, today we'll note Sgt Christopher Gallagher. In addition, IVAW notes the testimony of Devon Read, this compilation video and this compilation video. We'll note Devon Read's testimony tomorrow.

Christopher Gallagher: My unit was 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. I joined the Marine Corps right at 9-11out of patriotism and love for my country. I was part of the invasion force and two tours following that. While sitting around in Kuwait in early 2003, we were told to write a final letter to our families and put it on [. . .] sea bags that were to be left behind and then sent to your family if you died in Iraq. This is a picture of the letter I wrote. Many of the troops, including myself, were sent to Iraq with inadequate armor. I drove a Hummer into Iraq. It had only a plastic canvas for protection while I was driving directly behind armored troop carriers. I was not issued ballistic plates for my flak jacket. Whole battalions of officers were issued ballistic plates along with the line companies. But to the government, I was expendable and did not rate to have such life-saving, personal protection. I vividly remember one night after being up for nearly five days straight I was on a closed parameter roving post outside the commanding operation center when artillery rounds started landing. The next day I found out it was friendly fire. And these rounds were landing only a few hundred yards away -- which if you've ever been around 120 millimeter round, land near you, it's pretty insane. It made me realize how close I had come to death and it made me angry that I didn't have ballistic plates.
After my unit had taken Baghdad and helped pull the statue of Saddam Hussein down, there was a short-lived celebration. This brings me to my next issue -- of where an official Defense Department story meets with true reality on the ground. On April 14, 2003, Cpl
Jason Mileo of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines was murdered by a Force Recon Sniper. Cpl Mileo had apparently taken off his helmet and was smoking a cigarette at night with his rifle next to him and was mistaken for an insurgent. I had been providing security at night along with several others of my platoon on that roof. For several nights prior to Force Recon relieving us and I had not noticed anything significant to report in that time. There was nothing out there. I hadn't seen anything. And as soon as Force Recon had taken over, I was hearing shots coming from the roof constantly and it made me wonder what the hell were they shooting at? Then the night of April 14, 2003, my company gunnery sergeant had called from the roof and was raising hell. That's when I found out one of the marines from India Company had been shot by one of the cowboys from Force Recon. On my third tour, I had been on the government issued computer and found the investigation case file for the incident on a military web server. The report went on to say that the platoon commander and the sergeant had been derelict in their duty. They failed to do proper, routine patrol overlay and negated to send in a position report to let the battalion know where they were at. To my knowledge, no one was reprimanded and some were later promoted. The Defense Department stated that he died from hostile friendly fire and that the incident was under investigation. It was a shocking reminder to everybody about the truth and what really goes on down there compared to what the government is telling you at home.
Forced Recon and their tabloid ways proved deadly for my unit once again. April 7, 2005,
Lance Cpl Juan Venegas, who was one of the snipers in my unit, was on a mission in Falluja. He was in a hide when a patrol of Force Recon Marines drove up in their Hummers and then, mistaking him for an insurgent, running him over with their vehicles. The official story released by the Defense Department stated that he was involved in a hostile vehicle accident that was under investigation. I don't know about you, but I've never heard of a hostile vehicle accident before. It's a shame that a young man -- through my research -- he wanted to become a boxer and too many lives have been lost that -- you can't take it away from these guys -- they're young men that want to serve their country and this story is just -- it got to me.
And I'm going to go back to my second tour in Iraq. I was stationed at a dam in Haditha. Things were completely different from my first tour. I had seen the presence of contractors doing military jobs such as cooks, truck drivers and security mercenaries like Blackwater. They were doing these jobs and getting paid five times more than I was. At the dam, marines were providing security for the dam below it as were Azerbaijani soldiers who were poorly trained and equipped. They were very trigger happy and shot at and sometimes killed fisherman who got to close to the damn. During that tour it was the first time I noticed the change in the demeanor that the Iraqis had towards us. During the invasion, the streets of Baghdad were filled with people cheering "Bush good, Saddam bad!" In 2004, the Iraqis called protests in the town of Haditha against the occupation. Typical response for this was to have fighter jets fly over the crowd and scare them away. So much for winning the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people we were supposed to be doing. In January 2005, I was stationed in Falluja about three hundred yards from the bridge where the Blackwater contractors bodies were hung in April 2004. We were relieving a marine infantry unit that had fought during the heavy fighting in the city carrying out Operation Phantom Fury. I was the radio operator for an 81 millimeter mortar platoon and our task was to run a checkpoint outside Falluja making sure that no insurgents return to Falluja. During the transition, I met a few young marines who were reservists from an artillery unit. It was there job to clean up all the dead bodies of the insurgents and the foreign fighters after the operation was finished. They had taken all the enemy to a place we called The Potato Factory where the bodies were stripped and checked for identification by CIA agents.
So after we got the checkpoint up and running, smoothly, the marines from my platoon were given jobs such as issuing identification to everyone re-entering the city by retinal scanning them and giving them a badge they had to show to get back into the city they were forced from. After they were retinal scanned with the biometric system known as BATS [Biometrics Automated Toolset System], they had to pass in front of a BATS scanner scan that was supposed to scan for heat variation to see if someone was carrying a weapon. This piece of equipment that probably cost more than most Americans homes, didn't work too well in the heat. If the government hasn't noticed, Iraq is in a desert and it's hot most of the year. Now if you look at this picture behind me, you can see it's winter time and there are no leaves on the tree of course it's going to work when it's cold out. The Iraqis were herded like cattle through the checkpoint as if they were animals. If any Iraqis voiced their opinion for the way they were being treated, the Iraqi police we had at our checkpoint would handle the situation by harassing and assaulting them.
Looking back on my third tour, it seems Orwellian to me with the CIA involvement and all that Big Brother-esque type of equipment and technology being used to enslave the Iraqis in their own country.
I still love my country and I feel that the most patriotic thing we can do is to let the world know that US imperialism is wrong. And I finish today by saying something that I've heard a million times and I've said myself: You can't bring democracy through the barrel of a gun.

Again, we'll note
Devon Read tomorrow.

"Most of all I am sorry for the deceased, but aside from them, I am the most sorry for the boys whose family are gone. I know what we did left a hole in their lives, and scars on their minds, and that there is no making up for that. I only hope for them that they can somehow, and I don't know how, move forward, and have a good future despite the nightmare in their past that I helped create. They have my apologies and my prayers, as meaningless as they must seem,"
declared Steven D. Green in court today. May 7th, former US soldier Steven D. Green was found guilty on all counts for his role in the Iraq War Crimes from March 12, 2006, when Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi was gang-raped and murdered, her five-year-old sister was murdered and both of her parents were murdered. May 21st, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead kicking in sentence to life in prison. September 4th, Green is scheduled to stand before US District Judge Thomas B. Russell for sentencing. This morning AP reported that Abeer's family would provide testimony to Judge Russell on the damage and destruction to them as a result of the War Crimes and are doing that because they need to return to Iraq. Green's pre-written statement (which he claimed to be the author of) also included, "I am truly sorry for what I did in Iraq and I am sorry for the pain my actions, and the actions of my co-defendants, have caused you and your family. I imagine it is a pain that I cannot fully comprehend or appreciate. I helped to destroy a family and end the lives of four of my fellow human beings, and I wish that I could take it back, but I cannot. And, as inadequate as this apology is, it is all I can give you."

The apology or 'apology' did not go over well with Hajia al-Janabi (Abeer's aunt).
Andrew Wolfson (Courier-Journal) reports she denounced Green "as a coward, a criminal and a 'stigma on the United States'," attempted to approach him and was "restrained by a half-dozen court security officers." Wolfson notes that Mahdi al-Janabi then went back to the witness stand to express, "We do not accept your apology at all." WKLY has text and video:

Ann Bowdan: An outburst in federal court after relatives of an Iraqi family killed by a Kentucky-based soldier addressed the suspect for the first time. Steven Green was faced with the death penalty but will receive a life sentence instead. Hailee Lampert was in court today during this morning's and she's live downtown to tell us what happened.

Hailee Lampert: Ann, this was the most emotional, intense court hearing I have ever been to. At one point, the victim's grandmother got so upset she had to be restrained by multiple law enforcement agents who actually began escorting her out of the court room until she literally collapsed on the floor beside the bench where I was sitting. She was literally within arm's reach of me. And she was beside herself. She was that striken with grief.

Hailee Lampert adds that both of Abeer's brothers testified briefly.

Hailee Lampert: And at a certain point, the prosecutor pointed out Steven Green and one of the boys took a moment to look at him. His face remained stoic and cold and he was asked if he had anything to say to the suspect and the boy said "no." Then the man's sister took the stand and said, "I am not honored to look at Steven Green and I don't want to see his face." She said she doesn't understand why Green would would cross all those continents and oceans to come to Iraq and kill her family. She spoke directly to Steven Green, referring to him on multiple occassions as a coward and a criminal without mercy. Then the 14-year-old's grandmother took the stand echoing similar sentiments. Remember for her it was the first time being in the same room as the man convicted of killing her son and his family. Again the prosecutor pointed out Steven Green in the court room and after giving her testimony the elderly woman got up and began approching Green saying she just wanted to get a look at her. But as she began moving closer, law enforcement stepped in and physically held her back until she fell down crying on the ground beside the bench where I was sitting. Now at that point, the judge did allow her to stay in the court once she had calmed down a little but the uncle took the stand as well.

In another report,
Hailee Lampert (WLKY -- text and video) quotes the aunt stating, "The wounds are eating my heart. But he has no conscience.." The uncle is quoted stating, "The face of this innocent girl, that face will be chasing you in that dark cell you will be in until the last day of your life. Abir will follow you in your nightmares. On Judgment Day, you will see what your hand has done to us and to your nation."

Throughout the trial, editorial boards repeatedly ignored the case (
here for an exception). Today a letter appears in the Salt Lake Tribune:

The decision by the jury for U.S. "soldier" Steven Green is absolutely outrageous ("Sentence for rapist-killer brings Iraqi outrage," Tribune , May 23). A life sentence is unimaginably unjust. The conduct of the U.S. military members involved in this case is as horrific as any act committed by any small group of terrorists. It cannot be condoned; it cannot be tolerated. In essence, we are terrorists. These military members should never have been in Iraq in the first place. I am embarrassed to be a U.S. citizen. I feel anguish for a family that was assaulted, raped and systematically assassinated by U.S. servicemen who scarcely deserve to be called human. Green and his cohorts should be executed. But apparently four murders is not enough. Let us not feel any sorrow for Green, but rather for the members of the Janabi family who were unmercifully slaughtered: a 6-year-old girl; her 14-year-old sister, Abeer Qassim Janabi, who was gang raped and shot in the face by Green with an AK-47; and their parents -- all burned in their home near Baghdad.If this is the price of freedom, who wants it? Tony FratesSalt Lake City

Cindy Sheehan reports she was censored by YouTube. She and Clifford Roddy created a short film entitled finaledit and she posted it to her YouTube page only to have YouTube pull the video down because the realities of war must never be seen, even on the allegedly free speech web. Cindy writes, "I am sorry (sarcasm) that our video 'violated' You Tube's terms of service, but the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan not only violate my terms of service, but international law." Cindy Sheehan's currently on a speaking tour and these are some of the upcoming dates:

Phoenix: June 5th
Dallas: June 7th and 8th
Waco: June 9th
Austin: June 10th and 11th
Nashville: June 14-16
St. Petersburg, FL: June 17-18
Philadelphia: June 20-23
NYC: June 24-26
Cape Cod: June 27-29
New Hampshire: June 30 - July 1
San Francisco: July 3 - 5 (Socialist Conference)
Cleveland: July 8-9 (National Assembly to end the Iraq War)
Pittsburgh: July 11-12
Norfolk, VA: July 15-18
Vashon Island, Washington: July 25-26

In today's New York Times, Timothy Williams' "
Bomb Kills G.I. in Baghdad as Attacks Keep Rising" covers multiple topics (including corruption, the pipeline to Turkey, etc.). Williams notes that May -- a month not yet over -- is already the deadliest month for US troops in Iraq since September 2008 when the monthly toll was 25. Aamer Madhani (USA Today) also covers that news and notes, "Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said that he would be willing to stay longer in hot spots, such as Mosul, if asked by the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that he expects all U.S. troops to withdraw as scheduled." They will be staying in Baghdad -- a fact Williams forgets in his report today despite the fact that his colleague Rod Nordland already reported on that for the Times. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the US military base by Basra base was targeted with rockets (British 'combat' troops left yesterday) and a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left four people injured. Reuters has the Mosul roadside bombing targeting a woman serving on the region's provincial council.


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report Talib Chiad ("leading recruiter for the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq") was shot dead in his home in Diwaniyah Province.

Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Kirkuk.

ABC News' Mazin Faiq reports on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community and notes, "The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believes as many as 30 people have been killed during the last three months because they were -- or were perceived to be -- gay." ChicagoPride picks up the story, as does UPI which notes an Iraqi soldier stating, "Two young men were killed Thursday. They were sexual deviants," and that's it. The ongoing targeting has NEVER been a segment on Democracy Now! nor has it been a full hour broadcast. What is going on gets no coverage. Reruns is all they have to offer for the Iraq War. Which is why Goody jumped on the gas bag (and will be on it tomorrow again) over an earlier Iraq War story. Duncan Gardham and Paul Cruickshank (Telegraph of London) cover what has everyone chattering this morning about the torture photos Barack Obama refuses to release:
At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube. Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts. Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Andrew Gray and Ross Colvin (Reuters) report the Pentagon has "attacked the report" and its accuracy and the White House has "strongly denied" the Telegraph of London's report. Racist Robert Gibbs -- whom Barack appointed White House spokesperson in a deliberate slap to all people from and living in India -- played his usual drama queen self, snapping, "Let's just say if I wanted to read a write-up today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper. If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I'm not entirely sure it'd be the first stack of clips I picked up." Gibbs is really begging the Telegraph of London to pick up the story GQ buried to protect their Dream Lover Barack. Gibbs will not benefit from that story surfacing.

Yesterday on
KPFA's Flashpoints, Robert Knight noted that British 'combat' forces left Iraq yesterday (British forces remain in Iraq). Despite the fact that British "combat" troops are out, five hostages remain held. CNN reports that David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, is calling for their release. James Sturcke (Guardian of Manchester) adds:Peter Moore, an IT consultant from Lincoln, and four bodyguards were seized in Baghdad by a group of 40 armed men dressed in police uniforms.Moore's stepmother, Pauline Sweeney, said the relatives had been given hope by the release of a video two months ago in which her stepson looked "a lot, lot healthier".Below is David Miliband's statement in full:"It is two years since five British men were abducted from the Finance Ministry in Iraq. I don't think that any of us can imagine their ordeal nor the anguish that their families and friends have had to suffer during this dreadful time. "We have seen the humanitarian appeals that the families of the men have made. I'd like to support this appeal. Our thoughts are with them all as they continue to endure the pain of being separated from their loved ones. "We are totally committed to working for the safe release of the men. There is a dedicated team from across government, including people on the ground in Baghdad, working tirelessly with the Iraqi authorities and Coalition partners to help bring this about. We are grateful to Prime Minister Maliki and all our allies for their support and continue working with them and with anyone who may be able to help. "The Iraq of today is a different place to that of two years ago. There are signs of progress and reconciliation as the Iraqi people show their commitment to a democratic and peaceful future. Hostage-taking has no part in that future. We call on those holding all hostages to release them immediately and unconditionally and return them safely to their families where they belong."Not everyone is thrilled with Miliband. From Peter Dominiczak and Ben Bailey's "David Miliband accused of 'not giving a damn' over British hostages" (This is London):But Mr Miliband's comments were overshadowed by criticism from the father of one of the hostages, who said the Government had failed his son. The hostages, who have not been officially named, are IT consultant Peter Moore and four security guards. Peter's father Graeme Moore, 59, of Leicester, said: "The Foreign Office and the government don't give a damn." In a separate attack, Iraq's national security adviser added to the pressure on Mr Miliband by saying Britain should do more to secure the release of the five men, who have been seen only in videos released following their capture. In an email to The Times, Mowaffak al-Rubaie said: "The families of the hostages should work on the Western governments to be much more proactive in their approach to this."

Personal note breaking in and then back to politics. At
Ruth's site "Ruth's off in Japan" and "Barack may be post-racial; however, our society is not" have gone up this week. Those posts and others this week are written by Ann (Cedric's wife). Ruth's in Japan on vacation. She'll be gone for at least two more weeks. Next week, the guest blogging will be done on a rotating basis but Ann's grabbing this week. I mean to note that each morning and never have time. Does it belong in the snapshot? Considering how many things I work in for friends and strangers, I think we can take the time to note Ann guesting for Ruth. Back to the politics.

In No Fool Like An Old Fool, Socialist Grace Lee Boggs -- who didn't and doesn't hide in a political closet -- still managed to make a damn fool of herself in 2008 as she glommed on Barack blindly because 'the kids like him'. When you're over 90 years old, life's not supposed to be about what Dick Clark's spinning on American Bandstand and you're supposed to be the one imparting wisdom. Grace now seems to realize she was played for a fool (actually, she played herself for a fool) but can't bring herself to speak reality except to make a few meek moans about war. Say goodnight, Gracie, no one needs your crap. If you don't have your honesty, you've got nothing. Gracie lies, LIES, and says "gays" are now welcome thanks to Barack. Reality, you old fool, Barack's the reason Proposition 8 passed in California. You can be a fool like Roseanne Barr and blame 'gay leaders'. Roseanne, into nutso land again, echoes Sherry Wolf's ludicrous b.s. Reality, it doesn't matter who was part of the reach out opposing Prop 8 when Barack was part of the reach out on the other side. The media darling allowed his voice to be used to argue against marriage equality in robo calls and he REFUSED to call those robo calls out. He refused. When some group associated with John McCain or in McCain's proximity did this or that, Barry O and his Cult wanted an apology, wanted this and that. But Barry O never did a damn thing to call out homophobes using his words to make their argument. That's why the ban on same-sex marriage passed. Don't lie. Don't cover for the ass. And Barry O's silence? It was just like what we saw in the primaries. "John Edwards is being mean to me! He promised not to do this negative campaigning! He must stop or I will cry and wet my pants." So Edwards pulls the ads and mere days later Barack's doing negative ads on Edwards and won't pull them. WILL NOT PULL THEM. That's how it works in Barry O land. And he better own the fact that he was used to rally people to support homophobia. He better own it the same damn way he better own embracing homophobes and putting them onstage at his events in the primaries and in the general. Barack's not just given homophobia a pass, the asshole's embraced it, he's humped homophobia and come up grinning. He's a damn liar. And Roseanne, you are in nutso territory now. You need to get a grip real damn quick. Here's the first clue for you, that little event you have planned next month? You look like a damn fool and a crazy woman. You're going to be onstage with a woman who claims she was a CIA sex slave -- claims Senator Robert Byrd controlled her -- and, here's the kicker for Roseanne -- claims that among the people she was forced to sexually service was Hillary Clinton. Roseanne, that would be who you endorsed in the Democratic Party primary. (Roseanne then ended up supporting Cynthia McKinney's run for president.) You look like a damn fool. And you sound highly uninformed or, yes, STUPID, on your radio show chattering away about how much you trust this woman (whom you haven't met and whose story you obviously didn't check out) and how great the event's going to be. Grace Lee Boggs and Roseanne Barr, two working hard to be big time fools this week. And, at that, they succeed. No links to Grace, no links to Roseanne when she's being crazy. From crazy to sane.
Yesterday, Bob Somerby (Daily Howler) had a strong critique which (unknowingly, I'm sure) was reminiscent of the spirit of the 1970 Women's Strike Day profile of Ben Bradlee by Washington Post's female staff including B.J. Phillips. (That's not an endorsement for the Supreme Court. That's an endoresement of Somerby's strong critique.) [For those unfamiliar with the profile, it was putting Bradlee through the prism the Post put all women through in profiles at that time: did spouse approve of their working, did they have permission, did they have a trim little figure, etc.]

this link takes you to NOW on PBS' debate on gay marriage featuring Maggie Gallagher who believes that allowing gays and lesbians to use the same water fountains as straights is quite enough, thank you and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom who supports equality for all. As noted before, disclosure, I know Gavin, I love Gavin, he's wonderful. (PBS asked for that link, not Gavin. If Gavin had asked, it would have gone in Tuesday's snapshot instead of waiting until I could squeeze it in.)

andrew wolfson
cindy sheehan
tony fratesthe salt lake tribunetimothy williamsthe new york times
rod norlandusa todayaamer madhani
mcclatchy newspapers
abc newsmazin faiq
duncan gardhampaul cruickshanktelegraph of london
pbsnow on pbs

Read on ...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Karl 'n Cuffs

That's the Bully Boy and Karl Rove. July 10, 2005. Karl's being frog marched off in cuffs (as Ambassador Joe Wilson and most of us wanted). And Bully Boy asking, "Karl, why ain't the spin working this time?"

I'd been doing a comic for several weeks by that point. Since the first Sunday in May. And I remember seeing this online later, after it was up, and thinking, "Not bad."

Not good.

But not as bad as I always think they are.

It helps me like them myself when it's about something. And that was about Plamegate. Karl should have been behind bars as should Bully Boy for outing Valerie Plame. If a reporter had done it, people could applaud or hiss. But the government had no right to out an undercover agent.

And this is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, May 21, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, the jury decides Steven D. Green's sentence, the Senate shows some oversight before handing out the people's monies, a large wave of violence sweeps through Iraq and more.

Starting with Steven D. Green who was convicted two
Thursdays ago in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. Then the jury began hearing testimony to weigh when determining his sentencing. Green could receive the death penalty; however, all 12 jurors would have to vote to sentence him to death. If that does not happen, he is facing life in prison. Two Thursdays ago the verdict was decided by the jury and only yesterday were closing statements made and the jury sent to deliberate Green's sentencing. This Thursday they issue a verdict. Evan Bright reports, "JURY UNABLE TO REACH VERDICT IN USA V GREEN. STEVEN DALE GREEN SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON W/O PAROLE." The Courier-Journal's Andrew Wolfson and Andrea Stone team up for Stone's outlet (USA Today) and observe, "Green's sentence closes the case on one of the worst war crimes committed by U.S . forces or contractors in Iraq. The atrocity in Mahmoudiya may not pack the political wallop that the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison did but it ranks with other infamous incidents in Iraq, some military experts say." Brett Barrouquere (AP) notes the life in prison sentence comes following the jury deliberating for "10-and-a-half hours".

The verdict follows another bad 'report' filed by
Gail McGown Mellor, this one at Women's Media Center, where she floats, maybe, just maybe, Abeer wasn't raped! Based on? The fact that Gail's an idiot. The weeping rapists showed up at their military courts and one offered he wasn't sure if he had a boner. By the time they gave testimony in Green's trial both -- to run from their guilt -- were floating the notion that maybe, just maybe, they couldn't get erections. Grow the hell up. Every damn one of you putting that out, grow the hell up. You think Steven D. Green wouldn't know if his co-gang-rapists hadn't cum in Abeer. Do we really need to get graphic. He's third in line in the gang-rape, you think he wouldn't notice? Also don't forget that Abeer, prior to being gang-raped by US soldiers, was a virgin. You think Green wouldn't have noticed if he were first?

This is such stupidity and it is appalling that a feminist website wants to serve that crap up. Women are raped every day in the United States.
Over 92,000 reported rapes in 2006 alone -- reported. We don't need Gail's fantasies. It happens. There's no reason for it to be stripped out of Abeer's story because Gail wants to make her 'respectable.' Stripping the gang-rape out of Abeer's story is not at all different than blaming a woman for being sexually assaulted. It happend, it is a crime and it's part of the story of Abeer. It's not pretty, but life isn't always pretty. And it is an insult to the millions of rape survivors for Gail to prattle on -- in her own ignorance -- about how maybe Abeer's wasn't gang-raped, maybe the soldiers couldn't get erections, maye . . . Women's Media Center isn't supposed to be a lurid pulp magazine. They should be ashamed of themselves. Gail? This is her second novelization of the case. If familiarizing herself with the case is that difficult for her, she should stick to writing fiction -- she's repeatedly attempted to write fiction while allegedly 'reporting.' Abeer was held down by Paul Cortez while James Barker raped her and by Barker while Cortez raped her. Abeer screamed, yelled and fought back. That is part of the testimony and was part of the testimony in these War Crimes long before this month. Gail needs to do the work required which entails looking at the confessions made to the military courts.

Stupid is apparently contagious for those reporters flitting through Kentucky. Which is how James Dao's wretched "
Civilian Jury Considers Death Penalty for Ex-G.I." appears in today's New York Times. The paper rendered Abeer invisible. Intentionally. When finally forced to file something on the case, they went with a front page propaganda piece by
Carolyn Marshall and Robert Worth which presenting the defense's case before the defense could present it at the Article 32 hearing in August of 2006. Abeer's name never appeared in that. She is "14-year-old girl" or "14-year-old Iraqi girl" when she's mentioned. She has no name because giving her a name humanizes her and the paper certainly wasn't interested in that. They were more than happy to defend the War Criminals and did so repeatedly backing off only when, one after the other, received a prison sentence. In late June and early July of 2006, most oulets (Washington Post, CNN) were covering the story and mentioning Abeer by name. Not the New York Times. Abeer's name finally appears in print May 9th of this year when the paper ran Campbell Robertson and Atheer Kakan contribute "
Ex-G.I. Guilty of Rape and Killings in Iraq." Nearly three years after the War Crimes were known. Even then, the paper wouldn't open with her name. It wasn't until the 13th paragraph that they finally mentioned her name. Today James Dao does mention her name. Once. Paragraph 14. It's disgusting. But the paper -- which has never printed a photo of Abeer or either of her surviving younger brothers (USA Today did back in 2006) -- prints a photo of Steven D. Green.

Yesterday the jury heard closing arguments.
Deb Feyerick (CNN) explains:

But prosecutors seeking the death penalty told the jury Wednesday it was time to end the blame game.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Skaret said that the soldiers in Green's unit who died honorably "would be rolling over in their graves" if they knew their deaths were being used to explain why Green went on the murder rampage.
Skarat said that before the killings, Green and his four co-conspirators were talking about "sex" and "screwing Iraqi chicks" rather than avenging their colleagues' deaths.

Today the
US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- Three Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldiers died when an improvised explosive device detonated near their patrol in Baghdad at approximately 10:40 a.m. May 21. The Soldier's names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings to 4299 the number of US service members killed in the illegal war -- one away from the 4300 mark. Usama Redha and Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) report that the soldiers were "on foot patrol" when the bomb exploded also killing 12 Iraqis. Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report it was a suicide bomber and that thirty people were wounded (they also state twelve Iraqis were killed). Meanwhile in Kirkuk, CNN reports: "Also Thursday, a bomber struck outside an army headquarters in southern Kirkuk, a city about 150 miles north of Baghdad, police said. The explosion killed eight Awakening Council members who were lining up to receive their monthly salaries. Four other council members were wounded in the attack." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) adds, "The bomber ran into the group today as they queued to collect their salaries and detonated a belt laden with explosives, according to the Web site of President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party."

In other violence . . .


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad roadside bombing injured five people, a Baghdad bomb "in a plastic bag and planeted in a waste paper basket in Mamoun Police Station" resulted in the deaths of 2 police officer and left twenty people injured, a Kikurk bombing apparently tarketing the Chief of Police (Brig Burhan Tayib) resulted in one security officer being injured, a Baquba bombing left two people (on the bomb squad) wounded and a Mosul grenade attack left three people injured.


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 2 brothers shot in Mosul (wounded, not killed) and 1 mother and 1 daughter shot dead in Mosul (both women were seamstresses).

Today the
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following statement: "The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Staffan de Mistura strongly condemned the bombings in Baghdad and Kikruk on Wednesday, 20 May and Thursday 21 May, Mr. de Mistura described these attacks which resulted in the death and injury of dozens of innocent Iraqi citizens, as 'reprehensible crimes that have indiscrimately targeted ordinary Iraqis'. Mr. de Mistura extends the United Nations' sincere condolences to the bereaved families, and his wishes for a full and speedy recovery for the wounded." Xinhua quotes the Turkish Foreign Ministry's statement: "We observe with great regret and concern that there has been a recent upsurge in the acts of terrorism in Iraq. . . . We condemn these latest abhorren terrorist attacks in the strongest terms and we call on all the parties in Iraq to put an end to violence and contribute to peace and security in the country."

The statements come because Iraq is swept up in another wave of violence so sweeping that even the press has to acknowledge it.
Jack Dolan and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) explain, "The bombing started a wave of violence that spread across the country over 18 hours, killing at least 63 people. They included three U.S. service members, who were attacked by a suicide bomber while they were on foot patrol in Doura, a Sunni Muslim neighborhood in southern Baghdad, Iraqi police said. Twelve Iraqis died in that attack, police said." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua), "The latest bloodshed arouses fears of a return of al-Qaida-style bomb attacks aimed at sparking sectarian strife that threatened to bring the country to the edge of civil war two years ago."

Chris Hedges: If you're an Iraqi or Afghani it makes no difference at this point whether George Bush is president or Barack Obama is president. The imperial projects in Iraq and Afghanistan continue. As you mentioned the unraveling in Iraq is beginning. The attempt to essentially silence Sunni insurgents by buying them off is fraying at the edges. We tried the same tactic in Afghanistan with tribal groups and once the money and the weapons stop or once the Taliban began to assert itself in the areas they were operating in they went right back into the arms of the Taliban. So the situation is increasinly precarious in Iraq and deteriorating at a very alarming rate in Afghanistan.

Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, authors of
Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians, were guests on Tuesday's KPFA Flashpoints (show is archived at Flashpoints and at KPFA).

Laila Al-Arian: Last week there was a very revealing incident in Iraq where a soldier basically stepped into a mental health counseling center and killed some of his comrades. And I think it was very reavealing because I think it kind of touches on some of the work we did which is the psychologically destructive impact of war, especially an unnecessary war like the war in Iraq. The soldier was on his third tour in Iraq and he had seen a lot. And we hear so many stories like this. Some of the 50 veterans we interviewed in our book talked about having thoughts of suicide. And it all really stems from seeing injustice before their eyes either participating in it or witnessing it and as Chris could tell you having covered so many wars, this is something that is not unique to the Iraq War and to the Occupation. This happens in every war when you see a civilian population suffer disproportionately.

Friday, Hedges and Al-Arian will be speaking at MLK Auditorium (MLK Middle School) in Berkeley and ticket prices are twelve to fifteen dollars. The event starts at seven p.m.

Laila Al-Arian: We hear estimates of more than a million Iraqis killed, how did this happen? So we were told convoys -- the way that the military travels in Iraq, twenty to thirty vehicles, told don't stop if you see an Iraqi child step in front of you, they were able to just run over medians, drive on the other side of the road, the wrong side. The raids that took place night after night you'd be hard pressed to find an Iraqi family that didn't expereince the terror of that. Having people with alien looking uniforms barge into your home speaking a different language that you don't understand. Checkpoints that would pop up randomly across the country at a moment's notice and being told basically that there was no accountability -- that if you shoot an Iraqi who drives through your checkpoint you won't face any trial, any court-martial, nothing like that. And we were told time and time again that there were cover ups of these incidents. And, again, you see the same thing happening in Afghnaistan and finally hearts and minds which is the racist attitude in the military that help justify these actions. Calling Arabs H**jis which is a racial slur that's used to basically dehumanize them.

Chris Hedges: Yeah, we focused on those particular activites where you had daily intersections between occupation troops and Iraqi civilians. Iraq is so fraught now with violence and, because there's no stability, foreign journalists can't stay in one place more than fifteen or twenty minutes -- those that are there. And we really wanted to find a way to tell the stories of Iraqi civilians. And the way that we did it was to find very courageous service members who were willing to go on the record and speak about civilian atrocities that they had either witnessed or in some cases participated in. And we characterized the -- as Laila said -- the functioning of convoys for instance which are just freight trains of death in Iraq barreling down highways fifty -- sixty miles an hour. As Laila said, they are told not to stop even if whole families go in front of the convoys -- smashing into Iraqi vehicles, jumping over merdians and, of course, when an IED goes off laying down what they call suppressing fire which is essentially unleashing with very high caliber weapons [. . .] which are like machine guns, 50 caliber and very rarely stopping to inspect the human carnage that they have left behind. This is what the occupation is day in and day out for Iraqis and that is very rarely glimpsed much less examined by the American media -- partly because of their inability to get out and partly because it it runs against the counter-narrative. It runs against that idea of "Our Boys! Our heroes!" and I think that even people who oppose the war have not been able to excape from.

Repeating, Friday, Hedges and Al-Arian will be speaking at MLK Auditorium (MLK Middle School) in Berkeley and ticket prices are twelve to fifteen dollars. The event starts at seven p.m.

"The previous Chief of Staff of the Air Force said that something like an additional $20 billion per year beyond the Fiscal Year 2009 budget request would be required to maintain and modernize the Air Force,"
declared US Senator Carl Levin this morning as he chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to review the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2010 and the Future Years Defense Program. Two witnesses appeared before the committee, the Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley and US Gen Norton A. Schwartz.

Noting past cost "overruns" on other programs, Ranking Member Senator John McCain stated he was interested in hearing of the status of the Joint Strike Fighter program and whether it might mirror the cost overruns of the F22. And he put the rest of his prepared opening statement into the record. Credit to Donley for not attempting to pass off a goody list as 'We're helping our people!' Apparently that sort of nonsense is left to the Secretary of the US Army. (
Click here.) Donley didn't insult anyone by attempting to pass off the Air Force's goody list as 'empowering' those who have enlisted. PDF format warning, click here for a rough outline of his and Schwartz' opening statements. He listed the twelve core functions for the Air Force.

1) Nuclear Deterrence Operations
2) Air Superiority
3) Space Superiority
4) Cyberspace Superiority
5) Global Precision Attack
6) Rapid Global Mobility
7) Special Operations
8) Global Integrated ISR
9) Command and Control
10) Personal Recovery
11) Building Partnerships
12) Agile Combat Support

Donely declared that the Fiscal Year 2010 budget request "reflects a commitment to our Core Functions". The song and dance Donley didn't want to do? Schwartz was eager to strap on his tap shoes.

Gen Norton A. Schwartz: In
recent testimony, Adm Mullens stated, "We are what we buy." Following his lead, we intend to maintain stewardship of America's resources, for our war fighters in the field and the tax payers at home by recapturing aquistion excellence in fielding the right capabilities for our nation on time and within budget.

Buy? The Air Force was asking for money. We'll note this exchange.

Senator Carl Levin: Last year, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General [Michael] Mosely testified that the Air Force would require something like $20 billion per year additionally beyond the budget request to maintain and modernize the Air Force. Secretary Donley, General Schwartz, have you made your comparable assessment of modernization needs for sustaining the Air Force? How much additional -- if any -- do you believe will be required? Secretary?

Michael B. Donley: Uh, Mr. Chairman, we have uh reviewed with Secretary Gates, Adm [Mike] Mullen the overall requirements for the Air Force. Uh. You have an unfunded requirements list from General Shwartz that reflects his military judgment on those capabilities above and beyond those proposed in the FY'10 buget which we would prioritize for additional consideration. The Air Force --

Senator Carl Levin: Are they prioritized?

Michael B. Donley: Yes, they are.

Senator Carl Levin: And that was the total of 1.7?

Michael B. Donley: 1.9.

Senator Carl Levin: 1.9.

Michael B. Donley: Yes, roughly.

Senator Carl Levin: And you join in that request?

Michael B. Donley: Yes, we discussed that fully. The request went to General Schwartz so it is answered by General Schwartz discussed across the Air Force leadership.

Senator Carl Levin: And, General Schwartz, I take it that is your personal judgment.

Gen Norton A. Schwartz: It is, it is, sir, and the twenty items are in priority order.

Senator Carl Levin: Relative to the Joint Cargo Aircraft Reduction Proposal by the administration is it your intention that those air craft be assigned exclusively to the air guard or the air force reserve units?

Gen Norton A. Schwartz: Mr. Chariman, I say that's not yet clear. We - we have the direction from the department to make the transition of the program from the army to the Air Force. That is not an instantaneous undertaking. It will take us into -- well into 2010 in order to accomplish that. We, the army and General McKinnley from the National Guard Bureau and our people are meeting to get together with how one would execute a program of at least 38 air craft which is reflected in the budget proposal and how we would operate the fleet and what the basing footprint would look like and so on. We have to make a recommendation to the Deputy Secretary not later than the 30 of this month.

Senator Carl Levin: Do you support the reduction in the Joint Cargo Reserve Aircraft? 78 to 38?

Gen Norton A. Schwartz: Sir, we will have an opportunity through the quadrennial defense review to confirm that 39 is the right noumber. My view is the correct number is at least 38.

Senator Carl Levin: Have you made a personal assestment as to what the right number is?

Gen Norton A. Schwartz: Mr. Chairman, we have a number of studies including the analysis of alternatives which the army did in the 2005 - 2006 time frame. A more recent study's accomplished by RAND as late as 2009 that suggests that the 78 air craft package which was split between the Army and the Air Force originaly at 24 and 54 respectively. It is a valid -- a valid need. And obviously what occurred through the budget process committment on the part of the department to recommend the Army C23 Shurpas [. . .]

As Schwartz and Donley went on (and on), Levin broke into the non-answers answering to state, "We're going to need to have your further thoughts on that if you want your thoughts to be considered we're obviously going to need those before we take up this authorization bill in mark up." That's a basic point and it took the witnesses by surprise. They apparently thought they could josh their way through the hearing which, in fairness to the two witnesses, the army had already recently done. Credit to Carl Levin for immediately raising these issues. The above exchange was from the first round of questioning. No the Air Force wasn't at all prepared to answer. Yes, it did show that the Congress was taking the spending of the tax payers' money seriously. And Levin's exchange also showed the committee it was time to get serious. The looks during this exchange were priceless and can be best be described as surprise replaced with enjoyment. Levin set the tone and brought an energy into the hearing right away with that first exchange.

John McCain followed and immediately asked for "an update on the Joint Strike Fighter -- whether it's on time and what if any cost overruns are associated with it?" McCain got a song and dance about it being national and international and across the branches and . . . McCain interrupted to ask "what's the cost" and how it was going? Donley threw together a bunch of words that really said nothing (as his last sentence indicated).

Senator John McCain: Maybe you can submit in writing a response as to where we are as to the original cost estimates and the original schedule?

Michael B. Donley: Be happy to do that.

Senator John McCain: Appreciate it. But I still don't get from your answer a feel has there been cost overruns that have been signficant already?

Michael B. Donley: I'd have to go back and look at the baseline program, sir, and -- to sort of give you a sense as to where things have come since the program started.

Senator John McCain: I'd certainly hope you'd keep track of that every single day.

Exactly. The Air Force should have been prepared with the answer for the hearing and they should be following it every day. This was where the Air Force made the case for the monies they say they need -- or it was supposed to be. And the Air Force should have come prepared. A basic question from Senator Ben Nelson about whether something was being carried over to Fiscal Year 2011 led to Schwartz yet again being unable to provide an answer.

Yesterday the Senate Democratic Committee held a hearing about KBR's war profiteering and, specifically, how their shoddy electrical work put US service members at risk of death. Kimberly Hefling (AP) offers a BAD 'report' on the hearing, specifically this section:William P. Utt, the chairman of Houston-based KBR Inc. told The Associated Press in an interview that the company was not expected to meet the U.S. electrical code in a wartime environment. He said the company was striving to meet the British electrical code, which was more in line with the Iraqi electrical system.Were you at the hearing, Hefling? (I didn't see her.) If she was, why did she print KBR's assertion and not the testimony offered at the hearing which contradicts it? From yesterday's snapshot:Jim Childs went over his various and many qualifications and explained he went to work for Stanley Baker Hill in Iraq and was there for fifteen months. He explained that KBR built "roughly 90,000 buildings" in Iraq and that none of them were up to code which led KBR to insist they were using the British electrical code BS7671 but holding it to that code only results in more errors for KBR. "During my theater-wide inspections," Child explained, "I concluded that roughly 90 percent of the new construction buildings worked on by KBR were not properly wired. This means that over 70,000 buildings in Iraq were not up to code." KBR's shoddy work is not limited to Iraq, Childs explained, "While doing inspections in Afghanistan, I found the exact same code violations." Eric Peters than spoke.PDF format warning, from Childs' opening statement:KBR is responsible for about 4,000 to 6,000 hardstand buildings that existed before the war. The other roughly 90,000 buildings that KBR is responsible for under LOGCAP were built after the War in Iraq started and most were built by KBR and/or its subcontractors and the military. Many of these buildings are containerized living units, shower units, and latrines for soldiers to use on a daily basis. KBR did not do this work to any electrical code. KBR now claims to have used the British code BS7671 as its code, not the NEC. If you were to use the BS7671 standards, there would be even more KBR code violations. Army inspectors interviewed KBR workers at the time of inspections. Almost all stated they were working to meet the NEC. They did not even know the British code and had never received any training related to the British code. This is just the tip of the iceberg.Is that too hard for Hefling to understand? And is it too much for AP to send reporters into hearings or just to expect that they will pay attention? AP has a real problem when it comes to reporting on Congressional hearings and apparently that includes reporting on the Senate Democratic Committee.KBR chose not to appear at the hearing. As Senator Byron Dorgan noted during the hearing, he was sure they'd offer a denial after the hearing. It sure was 'nice' of Hefling to not only get a statement from them but to refuse to report how their claim had already been rejected by a Master Electrician in the hearing. Some might call it reporting -- they apparently have very few standards. Kat reported on the hearing last night:

Second big point from me, why did we keep hearing that people were threatened with being fired if they told the truth? If people are being threatened by KBR with firing seems to me the Congress needs to do more than nod their heads and refer to it. If there were people who could have prevented some of the electrical shocks that killed at least 18 soldiers and they were silent because they were threatened, it seems to me Congress needs to be on that issue as well. My suggestion? There are protections in place for government whistle blowers. KBR was working on government funds. There should be whistle blower protection for anyone working for the government and for anyone whistle blowing on a project that uses government funds in full or in part.

Today the President of the United States, Barack Obama, gave attempted another pretty words speech, this one to note why he wasn't releasing torture photos but was bringing military tribunals back. Though he didn't look directly into the camera and proclaim "I am George W. Bush Jr.!" he might as well have.
The Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner observes, "The president wrapped himself in the Constitution and then proceeded to violate it by announcing he would send people before irredeemably flawed military commissions and seek to create a preventive detention scheme that only serves to move Guantanamo to a new location and give it a new name." Along with being a Constitutional Law expert, Ratner is also a co-host of WBAI's Law and Disorder. (Along with Heidi Boghosian, Michael Smith and Dalia Hashad.) The ACLU's Suzanne Ito quotes the organization's Senior Legislative Counsel for the Washington Legislative Office:

Chris Anders: Interestingly, President Obama gave his speech while standing within a few feet of the Constitution. He and Congress should keep that cherished document in mind when considering today's proposals. You can't square upholding the Constitution with pushing for a new military commission scheme that would allow people to be convicted based on coerced evidence and asking Congress to pass the nation's first-ever law permitting the federal government to declare someone dangerous and imprison the person indefinitely without any criminal charges. Congress should reject that proposal.

evan brightsteven d. green
brett barrouquere
andrea stone
andrew wolfsondave alsupcnnthe new york timescampbell robertsonatheer kakanjames daogail mcgowan mellor
the los angeles timesliz slyusama redha
mcclatchy newspapersjack dolansahar issa
caroline alexanderbloomberg news
kimberly hefling
flashpointswbailaw and disordermichael ratnerthe center for constitutional rightsguantanamo
michael smithdalia hashadheidi boghosian

Read on ...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Downing Street Memo

I don't do series of panels. It's too much of a problem. I've done it three times that I'm aware of. This was the first time.

In the one above, a woman asks, "Downing Street Memo? What's that? Oh look!" and a smiley face is in the sky instructing.

The smiley face speaks, "Things are going great. Smile America."

The woman says, "I feel so much better" and the man agrees "Me too." Then she wonders, "What were we talking about?"

Finally Bully Boy Bush shows up and explains, "WHen you see this signal, it's time for Operation Happy Talk." Those all ran July 4, 2005.

And here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, May 14, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Steven D. Green's War Crimes sentencing continues, new details emerge in John Russell's shooting of five fellow service members in Iraq, the US Armed Services Committee forgets Iraq today and Dems let Republicans set the game for next week, Dennis Kucinich calls out the War Hawks, and more.

Steven D. Green was convicted last
Thursday in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and today was day four. Evan Bright reports that the defense called Green's friend Tammi Dehay, Green's Cousin Suzi Woolsey and a social worker, Jan Vogelsang. Bright states the latter offered "an extreme walk through of Steven Green's family". Brett Barrouquere (AP) notes today's "witnesses were called by defense attorneys trying to persuade jurors that Green, 24, of Midland, Texas, should be sentened to life in prison rather than face a death sentence." Of yesterday's hearing, Bright reported:

The defense brought Jim Isclaw to the stand. At entry, Isclaw winked at Green when their eyes met. Isclaw, a native of Alvarado, TX, is an assistant football coach, golf coach, and teacher at Alvarado High School, and has been there for 23 years. To be quite frank, he's a good ol' country boy, and he's got the persona of one as well. In his face, you can see the hours/days/years spent in the hot(understatement) Texan sun, calling plays and yelling at players. The attorney got straight to the point by beginning with "Do you remember Steven Green?" Isclaw immediately fired back with "I'll never ferget 'im...there's some kids you just don't forget." He spoke of meeting Steven in the summer of his freshman year for the football team's two-a-day workouts during the summer. He spoke of Green living with his uncle, David. He highlighted on his memory of green: his far and few between class/school absences, "he had very good fact I did some research and he only had four absences that entire year," and about his personality as he remembered it, "he was a very likable guy, very enjoyable, he was easy to spot and when you did see him you could count on him to put a smile on your face." He told of Green being a typical "knucklehead" and getting into small trouble. Defendant Green couldn't help but to laugh. He spoke of Green's unfaltering attendance at the varsity games, "he never missed a game." He told of Green's undying sense of humor, "he was a funny guy, he'd do this one leg chicken dance at all the pep rallies." This humor/dance would become a recurring theme throughout the rest of the days' testimony. He gave the courtroom a laugh when he spoke of Green's "lack of" athletic ability in playing wide receiver. The jury and audience was shown a picture from the yearbook of Green on the football field, "looking for an opening" against Arlington Heights, to which Isclaw commented, "If he had the ball against Arlington Heights... We were either way ahead or way behind," bringing a few chuckles. Wolff began a difficult line of questioning in the witnesses by asking Isclaw "If Green were to be executed, what impact would that have on you?" Isclaw visibly thought about his answer, and you could almost see his stomach churning as he responded, "It'd….it would break my heart...(pausing)...he's one of my own. 185 days of school to get to know him, I know that don't seem like much but he was always one that I liked and remembered…I'd be saddened...(pause)...I believe it'd crush me." No cross from the prosecution. The next witness was Chase Bentley, a 24 year old from Lovett, Texas. He just completed his Masters Degree in Civil Engineering last week, and is already engaged with a wedding on December 14th, he told the court. He spoke of meeting Green during his junior year of high school, when Green was only a freshman(Green only attended Alvarado for his freshman year). As a requirement, football players must run track in the spring, which was where Green and Bentley met. When asked what his impression of Green was, he quickly spoke of having "only great memories. He was just one of the fellas" He spoke of Green being "the class clown….this guy was funny." When asked about his track running ability, Bentley grinned profusely for a few seconds before eluding to his opinion that "well…he was fun to watch, let's just put it that way." Once again, his testimony ended with what his thoughts would be if Green were to be executed, "I couldn't imagine…(long, thoughtful pause)…he lost his father and….I can't imagine that with a set predetermined date and…" His testimony ended there, again with no cross examination.

"Even as our focus shifts to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the stability situation in Iraq remains a source of concern and significant effort," declared Senator Carl Levin today . . . after spending five minutes in his opening statement discussing Afghanistan and Pakistan. Levin was making opening remarks as the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee which heard testimony this morning from US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Adm Mike Mullen. It was all a bunch of posing and preening from the witnesses and from Congressional members. Senator Jim Webb may have scored most embarrassing as he rushed to sing the praises of Iran-Contra War Criminal Caspar Weinberger ("Cap Weinberger," he called him). [Weinberger was indicted by the grand jury, George H.W. Bush pardoned him. It's a sad day in Congress when Iran-Contra War Criminals earn praise . . . from Democrats.] Democrats rushed to grovel and preen before Gates and Mullen and to play I-love-the-military-more. The Republicans laid down markers that they intend to develop in a future hearing (possibly next week) which will bring an officer to Congress to testify about his opposition to Gates' budget recommendations. Iraq rarely came up in the hearing. Republicans focused on the budget -- chiefly what wasn't in it -- while Democrats obsessed over Pakistan to the point that they appeared eager to go to officially go to war with the country. We'll drop back to opening remarks since it was one of the few times Iraq came up.

Senator Carl Levin: This June, pursuant to the US-Iraq SOFA, Status Of Forces Agreement, US combat forces are supposed to be withdrawn from Iraqi urban areas, turning over the security of cities and major towns to Iraqi security forces. The agreement also sets a December 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq. President Obama has called for an end to US combat missions in Iraq by August of 2010. I hope that the draw down of forces in Iraq can be maintained while preserving our hard fought gains and while continuing to build Iraqi capacity to provide for their own security. The failure of Iraqi leaders to complete the political steps that they promised to take long ago puts at risk the reaching of those goals.

And with that approximately one minute and ten second bit, Levin was done with Iraq. Aaaaaawwwwww. Did the illegal war drag on longer than Congress cared to pay attention? How very lucky for our members of Congress that they serve in DC and not Iraq. Can you imagine how bored they be and how much their non-stop yawns would be as they patrolled Iraq? Poor, poor Congressional members.

Senator John McCain is the Ranking Member on the Committee. He used his opening statements to focus on "runaway costs." In the general, you understand. The abstract. He mentioned Afghanistan and Pakistan repeatedly and Iraq only once. You might have thought otherwise especially since McCain has an annoying habit of whistling his "s"es and Iraq has none. Considering his remarks in the presidential debates about Iraq it was amazing to watch him reduce the Iraq War to a subordinate clause of single sentence. The hearing itself lasted over three hours and that was due in part to Levin breaking from the topic to address civilian nominees since the committee had a quorum. After those were approved, it was time for the prepared opening statements from Gates [PDF format warning,
here] and Mullen [PDF format warning, here].

Gates noted he was in Afghanistan last week. And that he had damn little to say, "As I told a group of soldiers on Thursday, they have done their job. Now it is time for us in Washington to do ours." Does Gates ever not repeat that statement? He's been repeating it since 2006. It was also popular with then-Senator Hillary Clinton when she was running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008, with then-Senator Barack Obama when he was running for the presidency in the summer and fall of 2008, and for then-and-still Senator John Kerry throughout his 2004 campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and his run in the 2004 general election. By no means is that a full listing of all those who have repeated that over and over for the last five years. But at some point, when the next person tells US service members that, one hopes at least one shoots back, "When is Washington ever going to get around to doing their job?" Because, as these never ending statements indicate, DC seems to be the hold up, the bottle neck, at least according to the constant repetition of that stale statement. It's also kind of stupid to repeat that statment and then, in an exchange with Senator Susan Collins, get all catty about a marine at Camp Leatherneck who asked when his equipment was going to arrive and then snort that the commander told Gates that the equipment was there they just hadn't given it to the soldier.

Like Gates, Mullen read from a prepared statement. It was not, however, the prepared statement he turned in. It's always amusing to watch someone read word-for-word, in a bored manner, such phrases as "Let me tell you why". Mullen invented a phrase or hangs out in very strange circles. "We are what we buy," he declared ("It has been said that we are what we buy"). If so, he must do a great deal of his shopping in horse stalls because the committee stank of it as he called the budget a people's budget and asserted it put people first and these people were service members. Really? The increase of $700 million in funding for missile 'defense' systems? $17.6 billion for equipment replacment in Iraq and Afghanistan? $15.2 billion for "force protection" for equpiment such as MRAP All Terrain Vehicles?$7.5 billion to Afghans composing their country's National Security Forces? $700 million to Pakistan (for counter-insurgency)? An additional $200 million for Aegis ships? $550 million for "global partnership efforts"? We could go on and on but let's stop pretending that this is about putting US service members first. And if Mullen has a problem with any of the figures listed, he can take it up with Robert Gates who used those and more in his testimony today. For the record, while Mullin called it "the people's budget," Gates called it a "reform budget." Gates would also note that "a third of this budget is the people cost." A third. Not exactly "a people's budget."

Senator Joe Lieberman doesn't believe that the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget request is adequate and feels that some baseline issues (especially personnel) were being underestimated/underaccounted. He gave Gates the opportunity to clarify that. Gates took a pass. Remember that if a supplemental request comes along after the passage of the FY2010 request. Lieberman wasn't being hostile (Lieberman loves to fork over money to the defense industries). He was concerned that the money wasn't enough and that the request needed to be upped. Senator Jeff Session noted he "was concerned" about the budget which he thought was too small and especially with two ongoing wars. Gates rejected that notion (and went into a long drawn out response about research including airborne lasers and how, to use it on Iran, it would have to be circling within Iran's borders which he didn't see happening so research needs to continue and blah, blah, blah). So twice Gates was given the opportunity to ask for an increase, twice he declined. Senator Jim Inhofe did get out of Gates that he will receive a list of "unfundeds" from staff tomorrow and will forward that to the Congress on Monday. Senator Saxby Chambliss brought up the issue as well. He noted that in private conversations, General Norton Scwartz (Air Force Chief of Staff) has disagreed with the budget and that the general has told him he will testify to that which Senator Chambliss expects to happen shortly (next week). (
Schwartz was interviewed by Lara Logan in a report that aired Sunday on CBS 60 Minutes, link has text and video.) For those who caught Cindy Sheehan's most recent Soapbox, this is the concern some Republicans -- including one she spoke to in Arkansas -- have regarding the defense budget and that it is not meeting security needs. Cindy Sheehan took last Sunday off because her son was hospitalized and in a grave condition. He has recovered and she will have Russell Baker on her show this Sunday to discuss his new book Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, The Powerful Forces that Put It in the White House and What Their Influence Means for America. Bonnie Faulkner (KPFA's Guns and Butter) interviewed Baker Wednesday and you can click here for the audio at Information Clearing House. Senator John Thune pursued this issue as well and his website has posted audio, video and a transcript of the exchange. We'll note this exchange and encourage those interested in the full exchange to use the link:

Senator Thune: We've had a lot of combatant commanders in front of this committee who've testified to the need for this capability. And also, to the concern about the aging fleet and the fact that half of our bombers are pre-Cuban Missile Crisis era bombers and being able to persist and penetrate some of the more sophisticated air defense systems that we're expecting to encounter in the future. So it seems like a very relevant, very real-time question. But I guess my final question is this, what I hear you saying is you are still analyzing and looking at this. What OMB's budget said is terminated. So is this delayed, is this terminated, what is this? Secretary Gates: The program that was on the books is terminated. The idea of a Next Generation Bomber, as far as I'm concerned, is a very open question. And the recommendation will come out of the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Nuclear Posture Review. And I certainly don't want to leave the impression that the Russians are going to help us decide whether or not we have a Next Generation Bomber. What I was trying to say is if it looks like we're headed for a lower number of deployed nuclear weapons then we will have to make a recommendation to the president and to you as to how we allocate those weapons among missiles, submarines and aircraft.

While the Republicans laid down the marker and Gates grew testy (his "fine" to Thune was sharper than one expects from the flat affect Gates), Dems seemed unaware what was taking place with one exception: Evan Bayh. Bayh attempted to take on the Republican argument that the Defense Dept proposed budget was puny or weak. Attempted. He was throwing Gates life preservers but Gates appeared determined to drown.

Senator Evan Bayh: Is it still true, Mr. Secretary, that the amount that we're spending next year [on defense] will in the aggregate will be more than all our likely adversaries combined? It used to be that way. The reason I ask the question is, if it's true, what we're really facing is not a question of the amount of resources but how we most effectively allocate them to meet the challenges that we face. Is it still true that we appropriate more for national security and defense than all our likely adversaries combined?

Secretary: Robert Gates: Yes, but I -- Let me just add two things to that. First of all, more than -- more than any other country we have global interests and we have allies around the world who -- who depend on us for their -- for their security. So I mean, that's one of the reasons why we spend as much as we do.

Senator Evan Bayh: To be sure. I was just trying to put it in perspective. I don't think we've been -- We're allocating what we need to to protect the country and take care of some of these other interests. And it was by way again of saying we need to allocate the resources effectively to meet the threats and deal with some of the legacy and reform issues. I think you've done that.

Secretary Robert Gates: Senator let me interject just to provide some perspective Last summer as the economy was detoriating I I told Admiral Mullin that no matter who was elected I thought we'd be lucky if we got the FY09 number plus inflation.

Senator Evan Bayh: And we have real growth.

Secretary Robert Gates: And we've got two percent real growth.

Lieberman asked Gates about dwell time not being the ideal yet and Gates responded
"That's absolutely right we hope that toward the end of next year and more likely into next that the dwell time will begin to increase." Collins asked if screening was being done for PTSD and TBI upon returning stateside? Mullen stated PTSD screening is occuring at least 90 to 120 days after they return. TBI he was less precise on. PTSD, dwell time and other issues are especially in the news since Monday's shooting in Iraq when John Russell shot five of his fellow service members at a Baghdad stress control clinic.
Kimberly Dozier (CBS News) reports that Russell did not feel "that the doctors at the clinic" believe him about combat stress and that "each day, the counselors 'sent him back to his base'" according to a soldier in Russell's unit. Yesterday's snapshot included the following:

Luis Martinez, Martha Raddatz and Kate Barrett (ABC News) speak with Yates' stepfather, Richard Van Blarga Jr., who states, he thinks Yates mentioned Russell in a call on Sunday: "On the conversation with my wife on Mother's Day, he said that he had met a sergeant, that he was, in his words, he was a very nice guy, he could deal with him, but he had some major issues. He was out there on the branch hoping for somebody to help him." Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News) reports Christian Bueno-Galdos, Matthew Houseal and Jacob Barton are the other three who were shot dead on Monday. She also notes the phone call Yates made to his mother on Sunday and quotes Shawna Machlinski (his mother) stating, "I do have some sympathy and I do know that I can forgive him [Russell]."

Click here for the ABC News report. UPI reports the five were flown into Dover Air Force yesterday. In headlines today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) played a clip of Yates' mother Shawna Machlinski stating, "As much as I have a lot of anger towards him, I also have some sympathy, because I know he must have been going through a lot as well. That doesn't excuse the fact that he murdered my son. But I believe that if he would have gotten the help that he was there to get maybe sooner or gotten more help, and other people recognized the signs, because there are signs, and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure those signs out." At OneWorld, Aaron Glantz adds that "long-time observers of the U.S. military say the shooting shows all the signs of a soldier pushed to the brink of insanity by repeated and consistent exposure to war. The 44-year-old Russell had spent many years of his life at war when he allegedly opened fire and killed five of his fellow soldiers. Russell was drawing to the end of his third tour in Iraq and had also served deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo."

Today Gates wanted to whine about needing longer dwell time. Then why isn't it being provided?
Feb. 28th, the US House Armed Services Committee (discussing FY2009 Defense budget) raised this issue:

US House Rep Patrick Murphy was also concerned about readiness. He wanted to know specifically that, regardless of any upcoming announcements, would the length of tours be reduced.
On Tuesday of this week, Casey and Geren appeared before the Senate's Armed Service Committee also offering testimony on the 2009 Fiscal Year. From that hearing, the only thing that the media picked up on was that tours in Iraq and Afghanistan would (maybe) drop from fifteen months to twelve months. (Some outlets picked up on the stop-loss issue, stop-loss will continue but they 'hope' to drop the numbers from 8,000 to 7,000 -- ignored was Senator Jim Webb's questioning of Casey which produced Casey's claim that the UCMJ had been applied to Defense Department contractors serving in Iraq.) Murphy wanted to know specifically with the Afghanistan War still going on, an incomplete serach for Osama bin laden, with "the majority of our military in Iraq," what happens "if we're still bogged down refereeing a civil war in Iraq?" And when Petraeus appears before Congress, Murphy wanted to know, "What happens" in terms of the reduction of tours of duty "if he comes back to us and says we need a 'pause' not a 'drawdown.' Casey maintained that regardless of a "a brief pause, as you say, that will not impact our ability to come off of 15 months . . . the most important thing for us to do is to come off 15 months."

Murphy noted that "we're begging for about 7,000 troops for Afghanistan from our allies" and wondered if Congress needed to "mandate that if you deploy for 15 months, you're home for 15 months, if you deploy for 12 months, you're home for 12 months"? Casey wasn't keen on that idea and claimed it would interfere with the military's ability to do their job. Which makes the 'promise' Casey and Geren made earlier this week seem even more hollow (even more hollow than Casey claimed, in today's hearings, his experiences in the seventies were).

Murphy was right, it needs to be mandated by Congress. Otherwise it won't happen.
April 1, 2008, US House Rep Shelley Berkley was pointing out to Walter Reed Amry Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge that he'd just stated 12 months was not enough dwell time (he hemmed and hawed but agreed he'd just said it) and she pointed out that some US service members didn't even get that. Let's stop pretending these are new problems or new issues. These are the same issues the military command has said they were addressing. They have not. It's time for the US Congress to do so.

Meanwhile in Iraq,
Alsumaria reports Nouri al-Maliki is again speaking publicly of conspiracies against him. The puppet of the occupation declared "he fears the return of" Ba'athis "conspiracies and dictatorship while he stressed that the Constitution bans reconciliation with Baathists as a party." While he frets over imaginary plots by 'Ba'athists,' Nouri announced he wasn't at all alarmed by the increase in bombings.Alsumaria explains Nouri's not the only one floating conspiracy theories. Ahmad Al Jalabi ("head of Iraqi National Congress Party") has declared Iraq's intelligence community has been "infiltrated by Al Qaeda and defunct Baath Party" and how does he know that breaking news? He just now read it. In George Tenet's book. At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA was published in April. Of 2007. Fresh intel for Iraq? Alsumaria notes the book "points out that Iraqi intelligence chief Mohammed Al Shahwan is an employee of US Intelligence since 1991." That would mean that the intel community was infiltrated by the US. If the names seems familiar, it's Ahmad Chalabi. Ahmad Al Jalabi is another name he's known by. And of course, Chalibi was a CIA asset for many, many years.In other insanity, April 23rd, al-Maliki's government announced they'd captured Abu Omar Baghdadi. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times' Babylon and Beyond) reports they continue to claim that they've captured al-Baghdadi, "There is already widespread skepticism whether the man in custody is really Baghdadi -- which is itself a nom-de-guerre indicating only that the man is from Baghdad." Sly notes the US still has not been allowed to examine the alleged al-Baghdadi.

As noted throughout the week, kidnappings never went away and now appear to be on the rise in Iraq.
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the corpse of a six-year-old boy was found in a plastic bag in Baghdad and he "had been kidnapped three days ago". Reuters notes "a Christian male teacher" was kidnapped in Rashad. Today Paul Schemm (AP) reports on the exodus of Christians from Iraq and notes the US State Dept estimated there were 1.2 million Christians in 2003 and that the number has fallen to as low as 550,000 with other estimates even lower. Philippe Leclerc, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees acting rep in Damascus states Iraqi Christians who are external refugees are not planning on returning, "They simply do not feel safe enough. They cannot suffiicently count on state security or any other force to protect them." The reasons include the ongoing violence, the past threats and the fact that they are shut out of previous employment opportunities by the Shi'ite controlled government. Bobby Ghosh (TIME magazine) notes "the surge of violence" and how only 1% of Iraqi external refugees have returned while only 18% of Iraq's internal refugees have returned to their homes and yet the UN has recommended that Iraqi refugees no more "get automatic refugee status abroad" -- 'automatic,' the UN was being comical. Ghosh notes:

Although the U.N. agency has warned that its new guidelines don't mean Iraq has turned a corner, aid workers fear that's exactly how they will be taken by officials in Damascus and Amman -- with dire consequences for the refugees. "I'm wary that this will be interpreted by asylum countries that it's O.K. to return Iraqis forcibly," says Bob Carey, vice president for resettlement and migration policy at the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Joe Sterling (CNN) reports on refugees coming to the US and notes that the US admitted 60,000 refugees in FY 2008 but only 13,823 were from Iraq (Burma resulted in the largest number of refugees). Sterling also interviewed Internaional Rescuee Committee's George Rupp:

Sterling: Any bigotry encountered in job searches?

Rupp: Certainly some of the refugees feel there is bigotry encountered and it is very difficult to confirm whether that is or isn't the case. But several reported they have been told by several prospective employers, that, "You are from Iraq, you are rich, there's no reason we have to worry about finding a position for you."

Sterling: Employers actually thought they were rich?

Rupp: Because of the oil resources that these few employers were aware that Iraq has. There's no question that refugees of all ethnicities often feel they have a special burden, a special hurdle to get over. But what is remarkable is how many of them feel the U.S. is welcoming, and is open, and does not discriminate against them. It's not surprising there are at least some instances in which people feel they were discriminated against and no doubt they were, but that is not a dominant pattern I don't think.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Kirkuk roadside bombing wounded two police officers and a Mosul roadside bombing wounded four people.


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the Sunni Endowment Office's Haider Hassoun was shot (wounded, not killed) in Baghdad while another employee of the Endowment was wounded in second attack, a Baquba home invasion in which a woman and her sons were killed (both sons were Sahwa) and 2 people were shot dead in Kirkuk "late Wednesday". Reuters notes 1 Sahwa member shot dead and three more injured in Kirkuk.

While the Senate Armed Services Committee debated the FY10 defense/war budget, the House passed Barack Obama's war supplemental request today.
Jeremy Pelofsky (Reuters) reports that the $96.7 billion request (over $17 billion more than Barack requested) passed out of the House while the Senate continues working on their version. US House Rep Dennis Kucinich released the following statement:

America went to war against Iraq based on a lie. We were told back in 2002 that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The previous administration even pursued torture to try to extract false confessions in order to justify the war. It is time to tell the truth. The truth is we should not have prosecuted a war against the Iraqi people. The truth is the Democratic Senate could have stopped the Iraq war in 202. The truth is we Democrats were given control of Congress in 2006 to end the war. The truth is this bill continues a disastrous war, which has cost the lives of thousands of soldiers. The truth is the occupation has fueld the insurgency. The truth is the Iraq war will cost the American and Iraqi people trillions of dollars and as many as a million innocent Iraqis have lost their lives as a result of this war.
Don't tell the American people that you are ending the war by continuing to fund the war. Don't tell the American people that the war will end when their plans leave 50,000 troops in Iraq. Don't tell the American people that the way out of Afghanistan is to escalate our presence.
Get out of Iraq. Get out of Afghanistan. Come home America.

Yesterday Barack broke another promise, he won't release the torture photos. At CNN, Col Janis Karpinski weighs in:

About-face! President Obama's reversal of his administration's decision to release more photographs of prisoner abuse is disappointing and infuriating.
It is sad and tragic. The reversal will absolutely stir up more controversy than release of the photographs, causing an outpouring of rampant speculation -- What is the government hiding? Who are the people in the photographs? How awful can these new photos be? And worse.
The president is going to Egypt, and discussions surrounding the photographs are inevitable. He is far better off armed with the ability to have open discussions on all topics instead of apologizing for holding back information. Withholding evidence is counterproductive and does not sound like "truth," and it surely does not sound like "change."
The truth is always helpful. If we put all the photographs on the table, clearing the air, then, and only then, we can get on with the discussion of how to make sure this never happens again. The truth will set us free -- free to find the roots of the problem, allowing us to do what we did best -- making the world a better place to live.

evan brightsteven d. green
brett barrouquere
cindy sheehan
kpfabonnie faulknerguns and butter
joe sterling
aaron glantz
the los angeles timesliz sly
abc newsluis martinezmartha raddatz kate barrett
kimberly dozier
60 minutescbs news

Read on ...
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.