Friday, October 30, 2009


"One Man's Truth, Another Man's Lies" (Ron Jacobs, CounterPunch):
Truth, it is said, is often stranger than fiction. The converse this adage is another that states that in fiction one often finds the truth. When one is dealing with history, both of these can be true and usually are. This is equally true when it comes to politics and war. And sometimes love. Richard North Patterson's 2007 novel
Exile provides pertinent examples of all of these possibilities. Set in the very recent past, the novel opens with the story of a love affair between an essentially secular US Jewish man and a Palestinian woman during his last semester at Harvard Law School. The affair itself is complicated from the beginning because the woman, Hana Arif, is already betrothed to another Palestinian through an arrangement between the two Palestinians families. While the reader considers the stories of Hana and David Wolfe's interludes of lovemaking, the politics and history of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples make their appearance. Mr. Wolfe has little connection to his people's past while Ms. Arif lives with her people's history as an essential part of her being. Despite David's best attempts to force a transcendence of that history and to convince Hani to stay with him instead of going back to Palestine and marry the spouse already chosen for her, Saeb Khalid, he fails and leaves Cambridge. Meanwhile, the movements of two suicide bombers are related as they make their way to San Francisco thirteen years later.
The rest of the narrative moves ahead thirteen years. Wolfe is a successful defense attorney in San Francisco. He becomes engaged to a Jewish woman whose father was in Auschwitz and whose history defines his torment and his life. In addition, he has staked his emotional survival and his people's survival to the state of Israel. So has his daughter, Carole Short. Wolfe, quintessentially American, still doesn't understand what he obviously considers an unhealthy obsession. Of course, the Short's connection to their history and the suffering of the Jewish people reminds Wolfe of Ms. Arif's similar connection. Indeed, the words the Shorts use to describe their need to define their lives through the fate of Israel can't help but remind Wolfe of Arif's similar need to define hers through the fate of Palestine. As fate would have it, the Prime Minister of Israel is visiting San Francisco and the Shorts, being respected embers of the city's Jewish upper echelons, are hosting a dinner party for the man. This isn't Benjamin Netanyahu or Ariel Sharon, mind you, but a reasonably progressive Israeli politician who is negotiating with Fatah to trade land and prisoners for peace and is also promising some kind of return for those Palestinians still living who were driven from their homes by the Israelis in 1947 and 1948. Of course, these ideas are not popular with certain Israelis and certain Palestinians, so the threat of assassination is omnipresent.

So I am guessing we will not have anything on Iraq soon from Ron Jacobs. (A point we were discussing not all that long ago.)

If you click here, you can read Sami Ramadani weighing in on Iraq (including Sunday's bombings). So clearly some are still covering Iraq, some outside the US publishing in Asia Times are making an opportunity to remember the Iraq War hasn't ended.

Carly Simon's latest album was released Tuesday. It's really wonderful and Carly discussed it on NPR's Talk Of The Nation yesterday. I think Never Been Gone may be my favorite album of the year. (Although, in fairness, I still haven't had time to listen to Jack Johnson's live album.)

That'll have to be it, I'm just too tired tonight (and about to fall asleep).
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):Friday, October 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, no movement on an election law, a new attack on press freedoms in Iraq, nepotisim is an ugly thing, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier died, Oct. 30, of non-combat related injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of the service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website [. . .] The announcements are made on the Website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." And they announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE, Iraq -- A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Division - South died of non-combat related injury October 30. [. . .] The incident is under investigation." The announcements bring the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4355.

On the second hour of today's
The Diane Rehm Show, Iraq was addressed by guest host Frank Senso, NPR's Tom Gjelten, CNN's Elise Labott and McClatchy Newspapers' Jonathan Landay.

Frank Senso: To Iraq now, and in a few minutes, to our phone calls, to bring our audience into this and any other conversation that they may want to have with respect to what's going on in the world. But in Iraq discussions amidst ongoing, violence, intensifying violence in some cases, about trying to fix the national election law because that is what is looming large. Jonathan Landay, what's the landscape look like right now?

Jonathan S. Landay: Well they've tried for a third time to pass an election law in time for the January elections and they've failed again. The issue -- there are a number of issues, but the main issue has to do with the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq and uh a city that sits atop billions of gallons of untapped oil. Uh, the issue has to do with the -- what census is going to be used to register voters there. Now this is a city that the Kurds -- now this is right now a predominately Kurdish city. It was, the Kurds say, a predominately Kurdish city before the reign of Saddam Hussein who ethically [ethnically] cleansed Kurds out of the city and brought in Arabs. The issue is, do you -- since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds have been restoring their majority in that city and, indeed, other ethnic groups claim over uh restoring their majority, bringing in more Kurds than there had been before. The Kurds want voter registration to be based on the most recent census, I think it was in fact, done this year. The Sunni Arabs and other ethnic groups there -- the Turkomen for instance -- want the voter registration based on the 2004 census and they have not been able to come to an agreement on this and this has hung up the passage of this law and what it really -- and what it really comes down to it appears is contol over that massive amount of untapped petroleum.

Frank Senso: And yet this-this-this dispute, this stand off over the election law comes just after this Sunday terrible bombing in Baghdad, the worst in two years killing more than 150, wounding hundreds more, severely damaging three major government buildings now there's been an arrest of some 50 odd security and there was some suggestion that this intensifying violence might drive the politicians to nail down this election law and drive those to some kind of political, if not resolution, progress. Tom?

Tom Gjelten: Well it seems, Frank, that the Iranians, I mean the Iraqis, have become so inured to this kind of violence that just sort of everything proceeds normally and that's true I think in both a good sense and a bad sense. In a good sense, there has been this move towards stability and peace in Iraq and Iraq's been filling more confident about their future and they seem amazingly enough to have taken this bombing in stride in a sense. I mean there have been other bombings --

Frank Sesno: It's almost unimaginable, isn't it?

Tom Gjelten: It's almost unaimaginable. But they have -- this is six years that they've been through this and they seem to be able to cope with these great tragedies. On the other hand, the negative side is that, as you say, you know, you would -- you would hope that this would jolt them into sort of some reality but, again, they become so used to this that they just proceed with the same stalemate.
Frank Sesno: What's behind the uptick in violence, Elise?

Elise Labott: Well, we saw -- first we saw an uptick in violence in August and there were also some massive bombings at the Foreign Ministry, at the Finance Ministry and this seemed to be kind of a way to sew sectarian tensions once again and they thought that maybe this would lead Iraq down the path it was in 2006, 2007 with major sectarian tensions. Now what officials says is they think that these foreign fighters are [or?] the real hard core al Qaeda in Iraq are trying just at anything, they tried at religious targets, now they're just trying at softer targets to kill a lot of people. They think maybe it can effect the election in January. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been running as the security candidate. He's the one that's bringing stability to Iraq, he's the one that got US forces out of the city. The question is now is this going to effect his standing as the security candidate.

Jonathan S. Landay: There may be also something else going on here. The more instability, I think perhaps the insurgen -- whoever is behind these bombings create, in their mind, it delays perhaps the departure of American forces and what do you get from that? Well you get a delay or perhaps problems coming up with additional American forces to send to Afghanistan and there may very well be that thinking going on on the part of those who are responsible for these massive bombings.

On the above. Jonathan S. Landay used the term census. That is incorrect. There has been no census. The issue, which
McClatchy's Sarah Issa and Hannah Allem and which the New York Times' Timothy Williams have outlines, is where the voting rolls for 2009 or the voting rolls for 2004 will be used. There has been no census. "Census" is a concrete term. And, in fact, a census in Kirkuk is mandated -- as is a referendum -- by Iraq's 2005 Constitution. No census has been conducted. This is not a minor issue and it goes to the dispute over Kirkuk. "Census" was the wrong term to use. There is NO census thus far.

That's (A). (B) Tom Gjelten. What the ___ was that? I'm reminded of when Goodtime Gals Linda Robinson and Gwen Ifill decided to discuss Blackwater's September 17, 2007 slaughter (
see the October 8, 2007 snapshot) -- a discussion noteable for its appalling ignorance and gross lack of concern for human life. Gjelten can argue that some of his remarks were intended to be about officials. But he can only argue that about some of his remarks. And what exactly does he want Iraqis to do? They're shell shocked and just because he hasn't reported on the multitude of studies, THE MULTITUDE OF STUDIES, on the effects this illegal war has had on Iraqi children doesn't mean the damage isn't real and doesn't exist. So his happy talk bulls**t was embarrassing. That was really a shameful moment for NPR. The 'good' and the 'bad' of the bombings? How appalling. What made it worse for NPR was that it wasn't a guest from, for example, NBC News. It was an NPR reporter. That's shameful. The good and the bad of bombings? Pay attention, Tommy.

Our children are surrounded by violnce. Most of them are traumatized. I call them the silent victims. Our Iraqi childeren are the silent vctims.

That's Iraqi psychiatrist Dr. Saied al Hashimi speaking to Jennifer Eccleston (CNN) in 2007. From that report:

From January to March of last year, the World Health Organization worked with Iraqi psychiatrists on a series of studies on the mental health of children in the cities of Baghdad, Mosul and Dohuk. (
Watch the effects of war on children )
One of the studies on primary-school-age children in Baghdad found that nearly half of the 600 children surveyed had experienced a major traumatic event since the war began. Just over one in every 10 suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, the study found.
Another of the studies found that older children in Mosul suffered even worse. Thirty percent of the 1,090 children surveyed showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Nearly all of those with PTSD symptoms, 92 percent, had not received any treatment, according to the study.
In fact, the doctors aren't immune to the dangers of the conflict. Fifty percent of Iraq's psychiatrists have fled the country or been killed since the war began, said Dr. Naeema Al-Gasseer, the WHO's representative for Iraq.

A month after CNN filed that report,
NPR's Linda Wertheimer spoke with Dr. Mohammed al-Aboudi about the mental stress Iraqi children were under. Now we can go through various reports and studies. We can enlarge and look at other segments of the country's population. But the above alone demonstrates how offensive Tom's statements are. The population is shell shocked and the illegal war has caused that trauma. The bombings that he thinks have good and bad are the same violence responsible for creating the world's largest refugee crisis. And the UN has already advised that Sunday's bombings will most likely results in Syria and Jordan receiving some additional Iraqi refugees. I'm not seeing any "good and bad" to the bombings. And Tom's statements were inarticulate and offensive. Frank Senso did a fine job this week filling in for Diane but had Diane been present, she probably would have said something. She generally does when gas baggery replaces discussion -- when human beings are removed from the issue, she generally brings them back into the picture even if it means she has to disagree with a guest. (She did that most recently with a guest gas bagging -- and glorifying -- the drone strikes in Pakistan when she made a point to note the civilian deaths the man was dismissing.) Tom's statements were offensive and it's only more so because he works for NPR. He declared that "you would hope that this would jolt them into sort of some reality" -- Tom, we'd hope the reality of the violence in Iraq and the fact that it is an inhabited country would jolt you into some sort of reality but there's no evidence, as yet, that it has.

Let's break that up for a moment to note this:

What are the lessons of Iraq that I carry with me? The cultures are as different as mountains and desert, and for outsiders, there is a familiar struggle to see the place as it truly is, not as we might wish it would be. Back in 2003, the Americans wanted to believe that an age of brotherhood and integration, loosed by American military might, had come to Iraq. Many Iraqis wanted to believe it, too. Thinking too much about the depth of distrust, long latent between sects and ethnicities, would mean acknowledging that a frenzy of violence waited in the wings. They swept into the desert sands the centuries-long struggle of Sunnis and Shiites for dominance in the fertile river basin between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. It was as if officials thought that perhaps by saying they were brothers, they would become them.

That's Alissa J. Rubin from an opinion piece that'll be in Sunday's New York Times.

Back to NPR, (C) Jonathan S. Landay and Elise Labott's speculation -- presented as such with Labott making clear she was referring to what officials were stating. It's a shame that more time wasn't spent on that. No one knows why the bombings are taking place (other than due to the ongoing, illegal war). Could they be to influence the elections? Possibly. Could they be to harm Nouri al-Maliki? Possibly. But it's equally true that the message can be sent throughout Iraq. The
August 9th bombing just outside Mosul, for example, was deadly (at least 35 dead) and it received huge attention within Iraq and outside of it. Why target only Baghdad if the issue is just the elections? It's not as if only residents of Baghdad will be voting. Equally true is that there are other areas that should be easier to attack than the region targeted on Sunday. So why those targets?

We noted the arrests Nouri ordered in yesterday's snapshot.
Heyetnet reports:

Puppet government police forces arrested three people claimed to be wanted in al Hadbaa area of eastern Mosul.
In al Furat area of Baghdad, continous arrest and raid campaigns perpetrated by government army forces led indiscriminate arrests of dozens. Eyewitnesses said that aforementioned forces used sectarian and irritating slogans beating civilians. During the arrest campaigns the area was monitored by American occupation forces.
On the other hand, government police and army forces arrested eight civilians in various areas of Diyala Province.
In Basra, government police forces arrested 20 people in raid and search campaign alleged to be wanted.
In Tuzkharmotu of Saladin Province, government police forces arrested three civilians who were beaten, insulted and irritated.
In Latifiya of southern Baghdad, sectarian government army forces arrested seven civilians in raid and search attacks.

Deng Shasha (Xinhua) reports that Iraq's Sunni vice president (Iraq has two vice presidents -- one Sunni, one Shia) Tariq al-Hashimi has "called on an evaluation of running the security dossier after Sunday's bloody suicide bombings that claimed the lives of 155 Iraqis." Meanwhile Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that today saw many clerics using the sermons to call out "Iraqi authorities" and quotes Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai stating, "With insurgents having repeated the same bombings, with the same style and in the same secure area, we have to review the security plan that has been implemented in Baghdad" while Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani declared, "I demand immediate and urgent checks for the reasons that led to teh bombings." Nouri's government rsponse has been to attack Syria (naturally) and to attack the press (ibid). On the latter, Azzaman reports he has "banned movement by press vehicles with equipment to broadcast live. [. . . ] The order has been issued by the military command of Baghdad operations which specificially denies television broadcasters the right of live coverage."

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


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left four people injured and a Mosul sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer.


Reuters drops back to Thursday and notes that 3 police officers were shot dead and another injured at a Mosul police checkpoint.


Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul while 1 police officer -- who may or may not have been part of the investigation into Sunday's bombings -- was discovered dead (from a shooting) in his Baghdad office.
Violence was kind-of, sort-of an issue yesterday in the US House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The hearing was about IEDs and the money spent on studying them. The Pentagon's James Schear and Lt Gen Thomas Metz as well as the GAO's William Solis were the witnesses, Vic Snyder is the Subcomittee Chair.

Subcommittee Chair Vic Snyder: IEDs remain the number one cause of casulities to coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although IEDs are not a new threat, they have been used with unprecedented frequency in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the decrease in successful attacks in Iraq is encouraging, that success has not been replicated in Afghanistan which has seen an increase in success in fatality attacks with our increase in forces there. Since former CENTCOM commander General [John] Abizaid called for a Manhattan Project like effort 5 years ago to defeat IEDs, Congress has provided nearly $17 billion to DoD's efforts. This effort has grown from a twelve-man army task force to the Jointed IED Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, which currently employs a staff of about 3600 dedicated government, military and contract personnel.

Lt Gen Thomas F. Metz declared, "What's really different in the two theaters is that over time in Iraq, as we were experiencing 1500, 2500 IEDs a month -- and finding and clearing half of them, we were gaining an enormous amount of forensics and biometrics information. We use that in the COIC [Counter-IED Operations Integration Center] to our advantage It is our asymetric advantage."

US House Rep Duncan Hunter noted a lack of mobilization. He referred to
NPR's report on IEDs this week and how, despite all the money being spent, it was human beings noting, for example, "that corpse wasn't there yesterday" and guessing that it appeared to hide an IED. He noted that Marines in Afghanistan report they have only rarely seen predator drones and that instead they rely on "hand held mine sweepers -- a version of which people use on the beach to find coins." He also showed a child's innocence or foolilshness as he lived in a world where only the 'guilty' were killed.

US House Rep Duncan Hunter: This doesn't make me feel comfortable that we are truly doing everything that we can right now. Once-once more, if Secretary Gates said, "No more IEDs to be buried" -- I understand that there are tons in Afghanistan and they can be turned on like that at any point in time. But we could do that. We could stop IEDs from being buried if we mobilize to do it. And -- and if we want to politically about this war too -- it would fall off the map if nobody was dying. Iraq's not in the paper anymore because nobody's dying. One reason is we've knocked off IEDs, huge in 2007 and 2008, with [Gen William] Odum by killing over 3,000 IED placers. Project Odom with IEDS killed more people than every single other person in Iraq put together -- with all the offensive operations, Odom killed more and they were all bad guys -- not one single civilian, they were all inputting IEDs.

"Not one single civilian." Just "bad guys." Because a drone is judge and jury. So if a drone says it's "bad guys" that's all the proof Duncan Hunter needs. (And, to clarify, this is Duncan Hunter the younger, the 32-year-old elected to his father's seat. Still wet behind the ears and with a child's wide-eyes, he needs correcting, not the blanket approval Snyder gave him when Snyder followed Hunter. And someone might have bothered to inform Hunter that, despite his claims that "nobody's dying" in Iraq, Iraq saw at least 155 people die on Sunday alone. "Nobody's dying"? That didn't require a correction? Did he mean no US service members? If so, even that's wrong because there are 8 announced dead in Iraq so far this month -- granted 2 of them were announced today so, at the time of the hearing, only 6 had been announced. And it's a good thing to Duncan Hunter that the news media walked away from Iraq? Really? (Hunter is a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, FYI.) Congress had time for that nonsense yesterday. Not for anything important, but they had time for that.

Iraq Veterans Against the War's Martin Smith looks into the educational benefits scandal and reports (US Socialist Worker) on various people who have suffered and are suffering:

Politicians always clamor that we have to "support our troops" and take care of our veterans first. The White House Web site quotes Obama's proclamation that "we...owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned."
But the VA's latest failure to deliver on educational benefits--coming just a few years after the scandal of VA health care negligence at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.--leaves these lofty assertions sounding like just another example of the politicians' empty rhetoric.
And given Obama's increasingly clear record of impressive speeches followed by little action, some veterans are calling his administration "the audacity of nope."
While the veterans at the VA office in Chicago expressed relief at finally receiving their first check, the bitterness persists. Bureaucratic red tape and mismanagement always holds up money and benefits for veterans, but there always seems to be an abundant supply of cash for bank bailouts, the "cash for clunkers" program to help U.S. automakers, a failed Olympic bid for the city of Chicago, or a bloated Pentagon budget.

How is that related? One damn hearing. That's all the Congress is going to hold on that scandal? Really? One damn hearing. They fawned over VA Secretary Eric Shinseki
October 14th -- even when he admitted that the VA knew before he became the Secretary (and that he found out as soon as he became the Secretary) that they wouldn't be able to implement the benefit checks in a timely manner. They acted like smiling zombies. October 15th, when he was present, they were suddenly concerned for their one and only hearing thus far into the scandal. That's disgusting. That effected so many veterans and it got so little attention from Congress. Most importantly, it's still not 'fixed.' Read Martin Smith's report. But Congress has other things to do and, point of fact, the Senate held no hearings on the issue. Want to explain how that happened?

Staying on the topic of veterans issues and dropping back to the
October 21st snapshot:
Lauren DeFranco (WABC -- link has text and video) reports Christal Wagenhauser gave birth to a two month premature daughter and she and the family want Cpl [Keith] Wagenhouser -- currently stationed in Iraq -- home to see the baby: "If the baby's condition deteriorates, it would take Wagenhauser a week to get home. At that point, it would be too late."Jennifer Logan (CBS) reports that Keith Wagenhauser was finally given time to visit his family and arrived in New York yesterday and explains: "In an incubator adorned with her father's military photo, Madison, born by life-saving caesarean section, weighing just 2-pounds 11-ounces is being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit of Stony Brook University Medical Center. Initially, marine brass explained that emergency leave is granted only in cases of imminent or actual death in their immediate family and that Madison's condition was not sufficiently life threatening enough to grant an exception." So while the military brass did the right thing, what's the hold up with the US Congress when it comes to the latest (known) threat to deport the spouse of a veteran?

Iraq War veteran Jack Barrios would probably love some downtime with his family but the government keeps creating problems as
LA's KABC reports (link has text and video):Subha Ravindhran: [. . .] Frances Barrios considers herself an American. She grew up and went to high school here in Van Nuys but for the past 17 years, she's been living in this country illegally. Now she and her husband, an Iraq War veteran, must deal with the consequences. 26-year-old Army Specialist Jack Barrios can barely talk about the time he served in Iraq. Jack Barrios: I'll skip that. Subha Ravindhran: You don't want to talk about that. Jack Barrios: Yeah. Subha Ravindhran: But what he can speak about is the battle his family is going through now. His wife, 23-year-old Frances, is facing deporation back to Guatemala -- a country she left when she was just six-years-old. Jack Barrios: I'm pretty sad and angry that we will get separated. Subha Ravindhran: Not only will three-year-old Matthew and one-year-old Allanna be separated from their mother, but Jack will also lose his main caretaker. Since he returned from Iraq in 2007, he's been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Frances Barrios: He was an outgoing person, you could say. He used to like being outside with his friends and just, you know, having a good time. When he came back, like I said, he shut down. It wasn't him. Subha Ravindhran: Their attorney Jessica Dominguez says the chances of keeping Frances here are slim. Jessica Dominguez: It's just mind boggling to try to understand that in a situation like this, Mr. Barrios cannot be assured that his family is going to stay together because immigration laws do not protect the sanctity of his family at this point.

The US government wants to deport her. (She's from Guatemala originally, entered the US with her mother when she was just six-years-old.) As offensive as that is -- and it's really offensive -- it's also economically stupid because Jack suffers from PTSD. The US government is going to provide him a caretaker who will do all that Frances currently does? Really?
Teresa Watanabe (Los Angeles Times) reported earlier this week:But as he undergoes counseling and swallows anti-depressants, the soldier is fighting an even bigger battle: to keep his family from collapsing as his wife, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, faces deportation. His wife, 23-year-old Frances, was illegally brought to the United States by her mother at age 6, learned of her status in high school and discovered just last year that removal proceedings have been started. Her possible deportation has left Barrios in panic as he contemplates life without her. The Army reservist says his wife is the family's anchor, caring for their year-old daughter and 3-year-old son and helping him battle his post-traumatic stress."She's my everything," Barrios said as he sat glumly in the family's sparsely furnished but tidy Van Nuys apartment. "Without her, I can't function. It would be like taking away a part of my soul." Hundreds of U.S. soldiers are facing the same trouble as they fight to legalize their spouses' status, a difficult process that has affected their military readiness, according to Margaret Stock, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves and an immigration attorney specializing in military cases.

Turning to the issue of contracting,
Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reports on the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction's latest report which finds that Aecom Government Services which "supplied vehicle parts for the Iraqi army sought reimbursements from the U.S. military far in excess of the costs of the items". Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor -- link has text and audio) reports that the report finds that KBR is not recycling in their catering facilities despite the contract stating they would.

Dropping back to the
October 21st snapshot, "In the US yesterday, a twenty-year-old Iraqi woman was run over along with her 43-year-old friend. James King (Phoenix News) reports that police are looking for the twenty-year-old's father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, whom they supsect of running the two women down and that the alleged motive is that the daughter was 'becoming too westernized.' Katie Fisher (ABC 15 -- link has text and video) reports the 20-year-old woman is Noor Faleh Almaleki and her 43-year-old friend is Amal Edan Khalaf and the friend is also the mother of the twenty-year-old's boyfriend." CNN reports he was arrested yesterday in Atlanta -- after he had gone to Mexico, flown to London where British officials refuse him admittance in England, and returned to the US. CNN states his daughter is still in the hospital and "unresponsive" to treatment thus far. Sarah Netter (ABC News -- link has text and video) reports on the apparent attempted honor killing and notes that Noor's status as "life-threatening condition".

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings for times and for other dates if it doesn't air on your PBS station tonight):Home to a worldwide summit on climate change in early December, Denmark is setting a global example in creating clean power, storing it, and using it responsibly. Their reliance on wind power to produce electricity without contributing to global warming is well known, but now they're looking to drive the point home with electric cars. To do this, they've partnered with social entrepreneur Shai Agassi and his company Better Place.This week, NOW investigates how the Danish government and Better Place are working together to put electric cars into the hands of as many Danish families as possible. The idea is still having trouble getting out of the garage here in America, but Denmark could be an inspiration.Will so much green enthusiasm bring about a "Copenhagen Protocol"?Washington Week also begins airing tonight on many PBS stations and sitting around the table with Gwen this week are Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), John Dickerson (Slate and CBS News), Marilyn Serafini (National Journal) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
H1N1 VaccineScott Pelley reports on the manufacture, distribution and safety of the H1N1 flu vaccine. Watch Video
YakuzaHow does a foreigner jump the line in America for a life-saving liver transplant? It might be because he is a high-ranking member of Japan's mafia, known as the Yakuza, whose criminal influence is worldwide. Lara Logan reports.
The Movie PiratesThey are the bane of Hollywood: criminals who copy films - sometimes before the movies even reach the theater - and distribute them illegally on the Internet, costing Hollywood billions in lost revenue. Lesley Stahl reports.
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

nprthe diane rehm show
jonathan s. landaymcclatchy newspapers
elise labott
kabcsubha ravindhran
the los angeles timesteresa watanabecbs newsjennifer logan
the washington postwalter pincus
neal conan60 minutescbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbe

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pay for Play

"Donors got access to bowling alley, WH movies, Messina" (Glen Thursh, Politico):
Matthew Mosk of the Washington Times sifts the records and finds that President Obama's high-rolling donors got access to a ten-pin alley, the White House movie theater and the Oval.
The Web version of the story includes the above photo of Obama -- wearing 3-D glasses -- watching a movie with family and, presumably, donors.
A White House aide, commenting on the photo, emails: "The 'donors' watching a movie in the theater were John Rogers and Eric Whitaker – among the President’s longtime closest friends from Chicago, whose relationships with him predate his career in public service. Whitaker met the President when they were grad students at Harvard. Rogers played basketball with the First Lady’s brother Craig at Princeton."

So you pay and you get to play. Imagine that. (No, I'm not surprised. For a variety of reasons.)

The issue arose at today's White House briefing.

Q On another subject, The Washington Times is reporting today that the President has awarded big donors to the Democratic National Committee with various access to senior officials here at the White House. One donor got a birthday visit to the Oval Office. Obviously I know other White Houses, Democrats, Republicans, have done things like this. But the President last year promised to clean this up. What went wrong?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Ed, I think understanding what this President has done is institute the very toughest ethics and transparency rules of any administration in history. We're the first administration in history that will soon provide a list of each and every person that visits the White House, something that's never been done before.
The Democratic National Committee does not accept contributions from registered federal lobbyists or political action committees and hasn't done so since President Obama became the party's nominee last year. I think as the statement that we issued said, a contributor -- contributing doesn't guarantee a visit to the White House, nor does it preclude it.
Q It appears that people are getting special access because of these donations. If you've taken --
MR. GIBBS: Hundreds of --
Q -- those other positive steps, why not shut off access?
MR. GIBBS: Hundreds of thousands of people have visited this White House since the President came in, and I think the President has returned to a stance of transparency and ethics that hasn't been matched by any other White House.
Q The RNC is calling for the White House to release the names of donors who have gotten special access to White House advisors and perks like the bowling alley. Will you release those names?
MR. GIBBS: Every name of every person that comes to this White House will be released.
Q In the past, too?
MR. GIBBS: I think there soon will be some look-back list that will be released. But again, Chip, this -- this is something, again, that for the first time in any administration at any point in our history, we've undertaken releasing publicly those names. I would remind -- let me just also -- the Republican National Committee -- there's two political parties, two major political parties in this country. One party doesn't accept contributions from registered federal lobbyists. That same party doesn't accept contributions from political action committees. It's not the committee with which you just asked me the question on.
Q Are you saying the White House will release the names of any donors who come in, and then, say did they meet with particular White House advisors as -- in exchange for those contributions?
MR. GIBBS: Through an agreement that we announced in August, the names of people that come to the White House will be released, and any contributor's name --
Q But will we know what they did --
MR. GIBBS: -- is released as per the forms on the FEC.
Q Will it simply be a name on a list, or will we know that they came here to meet with a senior White House official in exchange for a contribution?
MR. GIBBS: Chip, as we did this briefing in August, I'll remind you that the WAVES records will denote who that person is, when they came, how long they were here, and who they met with -- again, a standard not met by any other previous White House.
Q We will know if they used the White House bowling alley, for example?
MR. GIBBS: There are only a couple of people that I know that have used the residence bowling alley.
Q -- bowling alley also.
MR. GIBBS: I can report to you that Ethan Gibbs, with the bumpers down, bowled a couple of games while eating some chicken fingers.
Q Was there a quid pro quo here?
MR. GIBBS: No, of course not.
Q Well, the DNC documents actually say those who raise $300,000 before the 2010 midterm elections get quarterly meetings with senior members of the Obama administration.
MR. GIBBS: I'll point you to the DNC on that.
Q But they're with White House officials.
MR. GIBBS: Again, I'll point you to the DNC.
Q How can you point us to them when it's White House officials who the meetings are with? Can I have one other? Do you know if any of these donors have had a night in the Lincoln Bedroom -- reminding of an earlier controversy?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of.

I hate the Butterball turkey that is Robert Gibbs. For those who've forgotten, he was behind the effort to call Indians "P**jabs." He is really just an offensive man. No surprise, Gibbs dances around the question. It really is amazing how much this White House has hidden from the public.

"White House Faces Questions on Big Donor Maintenance Programs" (Jake Tapper, Political Punch, ABC News):
One donor was given a birthday visit to the Oval Office. UBS Americas CEO Robert Wolf, the president’s top New York City “bundler” -- a contributor who raises hundreds of thousands of dollars -- golfed with him at Martha's Vineyard vacation in August. White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina gave briefings on health care reform to top donors in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Other big Democratic donors celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, and the 4th of July at the White House; the White House has not released the names of those who visited for those celebrations at the White House.
“It’s just the same as everybody else,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. The story, she said, is “not suggesting a quid pro quo -- it didn’t say Mr. Obama is offering regulatory help for donors. It says donors are getting meetings with White House insiders to tell them what’s going on. That’s not any different from what happens in Congress, where big donors get briefings with Barney Frank, or Barbara Boxer. Top donors always get access to politicians.”

It is also really amazing how Melanie Sloan is such a joke. The joke that kept Jack Murtha out of leadership (CREW launched an attack on Murtha) now wants to minimize Barack's actions with "It's just the same as everybody else."

CREW is a joke. Supposedly they get outraged over ethic violations but, confronted with one of Obama's, they say 'everybody else does it too.'

Repeating, CREW is a joke.

It will be interesting to see which records the press receives. I will be following that offline very closely because I'm well aware of who is getting in and why. Pay for play, yes. A smart reporter, by the way, would go beyond campaign donations. The ones with big time access currently are the ones who donated big time to the inauguration fund.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, October 28, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, still no election law in Iraq, more on the Iraqi govenrment's desire to go nuclear, Najaf gets a new bank, the KRG gets a new cabinet, and more.

US military announced yesterda: "CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – A Multi-National Corps-Iraq Soldier died today of a non-combat related injury at Camp Victory. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." DoD identifes the fallen as Maj David L. Audo from Saint Joseph, Illinois who was 35-years-old. The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4352.

"How stable is Iraq?" asked
Riz Khan last night on his self-titled Al Jazeera program. "Stable enough for national elections in January?" He was joined by a panel consisting of Iraqi Laith Kubba, the New America Foundation's Steven Clemmons and one-time director of the US Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq J. Scott Carpenter.

Riz Khan: Let me ask a question that came from our Facebook page, and I'll put this to Steven Clemmons here, this came from Ninveh Albazi in California, Steven, here in the US. And Ninveh says, "The longer the US military stays, the more terrorists will come in Iraq to fight. If they leave, more bombings over power will occur. Either way the Iraqi people will suffer." How do you feel about that -- the presence of -- US presence actually being a trigger for these kind of attacks?

Steven Clemmons: Well I think that there are some people in society -- and we've seen it throughout the Middle East -- that react very viscerally and negatively to the sense that they're being occupied by foreign troops. In Afghanistan, it's one of the things that's driving Pashtun resistance beyond the question of, uh, the Taliban. And-and so, I think it would be wrong to-to-to argue that in fact the American troop presence doesn't drive some violent minorities. I think on the whole, Iraqi society has felt as if the United States has done more beneficial things recently and so those feelings are not as widespread. But-but certainly there are people like Robert Pape at the University of Chicago among others that have shown that foreign troop deployments do drive a kind of -- drive suicide bombings, drive some of the more radical responses from societies. So there is some truth to it. I don't think I would agree with the-the decibel level of the questioner's comments though.

Riz Khan: Well, Laith, this came in via Twitter to us, a viewer by the name of Mosharraf Zaidi who says, "Even with stability in Iraq, does Maliki have the sense to ensure a free and fair process? Is it even up to him?"
Laith Kubba: Well, I mean, the good news is there is sufficient, I think, awareness and organization in Iraq to have elections that are, generally speaking, fair and free. I think the last elections had a high turnout -- about 70%. Of course, there were cases of fraud. But by and large, I think it was representative. So that's on the good side. But I think on the negative side, even if you had representatives in Parliament, the system is in a grid-lock because it's a parliamentary system, not a presidential system. It does not produce an effective executive that takes the country and move forward. You have, ultimately, a quote over power and that paralyzes government.

Riz Khan: I'll get to the intracacise of that in a moment because there are some interesting intracacies to the elections in Iraq but, Scott, if I could put this to you from LiveStation chat room, people are online here, Crane in the USA says, "How can fair and transparant elections be ensured when there are repeated bombings?" And let me ask you, do you think the elections will go ahead in January with all the delays and potential problems?

J. Scott Carpenter: I do. I'm a perinally optimist about this, that at the last minute -- however late the last minute is, the Iraqis will find some way to have these elections because they see how important they are to the political future of Iraq, to American withdrawal -- frankly. I do think there will be elections that are credible in Iraq because people don't trust each other and so there will be lots of observation which is what drove the credibility and legitimacy of the provincial elections is that there were so many political party observers watching one another that when the results were broadcast, no one really questioned the legitimacy of the results.

Riz Khan: Steven Clemmons, do you think the west, there are those who think the west is really pushing for the elections as a way of closure to finally dust their hands and finally close the chapter on Iraq.

Steven Clemmons: I don't think it's just to dust their hands and put a punctuation point. I mean I think everyone would like to see that what we did there succeeded in something. But I think that we've seen Iraqi society already get near ripping itself in shreds internally and the reason why elections and civil institution building and these democratic processes which J. and Laith were speaking about are so important is it creates opportunites for cohesive and collaborative governance within Iraq. That if it doesn't proceed and move forward, the place has a high possibility of pulling itself apart. So I think it's much more than us saying we're done with this -- with this experiment although, clearly, I would like us to move on as well and see Iraqi society take responsibility for itself succeed. But on the other hand, I think that this is an important part of showing that the Iraqi government can have some durability and sustainability after we begin to much more greatly downsize our troop presence.

Riz Kahn: We have this came in, I'll put this to you, Laith, this comes in from Facebook as well and it's from Cambodia where a viewer by the name of Heidi Aljani in Pursat says, "We were warned of the United States' prolonged military presence when Obama spoke of Iraq. The new excuse: Iraqi people and their government are to blame for the inability to govern themselves." Now do you believe that the elections are definite and looking at this issue that Iraq has too much of an issue trying to govern itself. What's your view?

Laith Kubba: Well two things. Number one, I think elections will take place, that's not the issue. Yes, there is a problem currently in finding the right formula on how Iraq should govern itself. But I think by and large, it is the right thing to do is to leave Iraqis to work it out for themselves; however, that does not mean walking out. I think it's really too idealistic. I think that will create enough power vacuum and might lead to escalating violence where the US has to send back some troops and intervene again.

Staying with the issue of the elections, this morning
Dow Jones reports that the KRG's represenative Qubad Talabani is stating that, following the January elections, the draft oil law may "finally pass." Sahar Issa and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) report that a bill may be presented "to parliament for a vote within days". Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani "demanded" today that Kirkuk become a part of the Kurdistan Region. Kirkuk is disputed territory due to Saddam Hussein forcing Kurds out of the region during his reign. Both the Baghdad-based government or 'government' and the KRG claim Kirkuk really belongs to them. This is not a new issue. It is so not a new issue that the 2005 Iraqi Constitution addressed the issue and mandated that a referendum be held on the matter. Article 140 has never been followed. The issue has not been resolved. It is repeatedly pushed aside. Sort of like the draft election law. Weeks ago was the deadline for passing the elections law and the deadline was missed. Appearing before the US House Armed Services Committee last week, the Pentagon's Michele Flournoy insisted that time remained:Although the government of Iraq's self-imposed deadline of October 15th for passing the elections law has passed, we judge that the COR [Council Of Representatives] still has another week or two to come to some kind of an agreement on the elections law before it will put the January date -- the early January date -- in jeopardy in terms of the election commission's ability to actually physically execute the, uh, the election. If a new law with open lists is not passed, the fall back solution for them is to return to the 2005 election law which is based on a closed list system. But that could be used for upcoming elections, the COR would simply have to vote on an election date. If that law is not passed in the next two weeks, they will be looking at slipping the date to later in January which would still be compliant with the [Iraqi] Constitution but would be later than originally planned. It is now one week since Flournoy claimed Iraq had two weeks. There is no progress. The same day she was testifying to Congress, " Rod Nordland (New York Times) reported, "The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission and United Nations elections experts have said Iraq needs at least 90 days to adequately prepare for the vote. Iraq's existing election law was declared unconstitutional by its highest court, which said it needs to be replaced or amended." The court ruling would appear to render obsolete Flournoy's claim that the law for the 2005 elections could still be used with just passage of legislation for a new date. In addition, 90 days? There are 3 days left in this month, 30 in November and 31 in December. That's 64.90 days needed. 90 minus 64 (check my math always) is 26 days. That would be January 26th, if legislation passed Parliament today. If. And maybe. The Iraqi Freedom Congress' Amjad Ali weighs in with "Amid violence, Iraq Freedom Congress calls for a sovereign, secular, transitional government" (Flesh & Stone):Over nearly seven years the "political process" did not result in anything but ferocious fighting between the forces and the parties that were part of this process in order to gain as much privilege, influence, power and wealth as possible. This conflict resulted in prolongation of the political chaos, an insecurity in Iraq, exacerbated poverty and destitution, and curtailed social and health services.The elections, one of the mechanisms of imposing the "political process," have never solved the issue of the power struggle because none of the elections held changed the sectarian and ethnic quotas. And that means the elections merely reproduced the same forces that are currently in power. All of the elections have been characterized by farces such as fraud, political assassinations, and the delayed announcement of voting results until agreements among the influential forces had been reached. However, after every election, we witnessed an increase of violence and terrorist activities as part of political arm twisting among these forces. National reconciliation was one of the themes to bring together the political movements that did not participate in power sharing with the forces that supported the war and occupation. The reconciliation was projected by the occupation administration to involve the pan-Arab nationalist forces who were excluded from the formation of a new Iraq to impose security and political stability. However, fears of the parties in power (political Islam, Shiite in particular, and Kurdish nationalists) has undermined national reconciliation.In the midst of the current political situation, neither the occupation nor the successive governments have been able to establish a state in Iraq. The conflict among the parties and the forces has always been a key factor in that lack of progress. Moreover, the conflict over what would be the identity of the state -- whether an Islamist Shiite, a Islamist Sunni, Arab nationalist, or federal moderate Islamist --is another obstacle to the establishment of an Iraqi state. The ongoing violence, which is another form of political conflict, will not end through a political process that was brought by the occupation. And the experience of nearly seven years of conflict between the political forces taught us that the violence would not be terminated. In fact, it would only reproduce more violence and terror. What is happening today, such as restructuring old alliances and forming new ones and the escalation of the conflicts within the one party, is an explanation of how deep the crisis is. As a result we could hear the prime minister and a number of political parties calling for an end to the rule of consensus or democracy through consensus.

Whenever the elections take place, they'll be the first national elections since 2005. In January 2009, provincial elections were held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces. In July the Kurdistan Region's three provinces held their elections.
Today KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih's cabinet was sworn in: "Dr Salih was appointed Prime Minister by the Kurdistani List coalition, which won the Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections in July with 58 percent of the vote, and voter turnout of nearly 80 percent. Mr Azad Barwari, a senior member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, was appointed Deputy Prime Minister." AFP reports the swearing in was "clouded by several MPs walking out after a refusal of separate votes for each minister." Vahal (Mideast Youth) offers this:

In a ceremony attended by the president of the region, Mr. Massoud Barzani, the outgoing PM, Mr. Nichervan Barzani as well as the Iraqi first lady, Mrs. Hero Ibrahim Ahmad, the sixth cabinet was sworn in at the Parliament.
The new cabinet will have only one woman, Asos Najib Abdullah who will be the minister of labor and social affairs.
Here is some poetic justice, the man who sentenced Saddam Hussein to death by hanging, judge Ra'ouf Rashid will now be the minister of Justice in Barham Salih's cabinet.

Sunday's bombings resulted in many deaths which means many burials.
Saad Fakhrildeen (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The cars streamed into Najaf over the last two days as families buried loved ones killed in Sunday's double bombing in Baghdad. By Tuesday afternoon, what was thought to be the last of the dead were brought to the Valley of Peace cemetery, the most sacred burial ground for Iraq's Shiite majority. Undertaker Mehdi Assadi had listened to mourners' screams as at least 80 of the estimated 155 killed in Sunday's Baghdad bombings were buried in the Valley of Peace." Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports approximately 60 children are still missing following Sunday's Baghdad bombings with some believing they may be buried/trapped under the rubble and the Iraqi military rejecting the assertion with the following statement: "There is no truth in reports that there are bodies under the rubble of the Ministry of Justice in Baghdad. All the martyrs and injrued have been taken to hospitals." The military is awfully sure of themselves. Suprising when you consider Monday's report by Miguel Martinez on ABC's World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson where Martinez showed some of the destruction and noted, "This is the hole created by the explosion. It goes down about twenty-five feet. The blast was so powerful they burst a water main, flooding this section of Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who faces re-election in January has campaigned on his ability to make Iraq safer. His opponents say this bombings proves the military is infiltrated." If you saw the broadcast, you know no one could see to the bottom of the crater -- the very wide crater -- because it was filled with water. On Sunday's bombings, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy poses a number of questions at Inside Iraq, beginning with: "Is it completely correct to keep accusing only the neighboring countries all the time? If we assume they are involved, who implement their plans in Iraq?"

Yesterday's snapshot noted Martin Chulov (the Guardian) report on Iraq attempting to "become a nuclear player [. . .] The Iraqi government has approached the French nuclear industry about rebuilding at least one of the reactors that was bombed at the start of the first Gulf War. The government has also contacted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and United Nations to seek ways around resolutions that ban Iraq's re-entry into the nuclear field." Today he does an audio report at the Guardian on the issue.

Martin Chulov: I think Iraqi politicians are looking around and they're seeing that they're out of options as far as delivering services to their -- to their constituents. It's got no electricity capacity, or very little. It has very little water capacity. And not much for science and technology so they figure now that a new reactor may help them serve their energy needs and all sorts of other scientific and health needs that might lead them forward.

Jon Dennis: Iraq hasn't had a very happy history with its nuclear technology.

Martin Chulov: It certainly hasn't. Three decades of Saddam during which he attempted to make good and maintain a nuclear program ended in catastrophe. All three nuclear reactors were bombed and destroyed. And he was invaded twice, partly on the basis that he had these reactors. So it's been a long and fraught and ultimately fruitless history with nuclear energy in Iraq but now, six years after Saddam was ousted, the Iraqis are looking to have another go at it.

Jon Dennis: But how could Iraq ensure that any new nuclear facility would be secure?

Martin Chulov: And this is indeed the problem and this is going to be a giant step -- a giant obstacle in getting any sort of approval. Iraq is a signatory to a number of non-proliferation treaties that were -- that were imposed after the invasion and which a number of yellow cake vials did, in fact, go missing. There are some contaminets out here in the Iraqi community that have not been recovered in six years since. Iraq has shown a very limited capacity to ensure its essential sites including four of its ministries which have been destroyed over the past three months by suicide bombers who have been able to drive straight up to the gates.

The report is a segment of
Guardian Daily, the newspaper's daily audio broadcast. Today Oliver August (Times of London) observes:Iraq's new masters insist they have no intention of trying to develop nuclear bombs. "We are co-operating with the IAEA and expanding and defining areas of research where we can implement nuclear technology for peaceful means," the Science and Technology Minister, Raid Fahmi, told the Guardian. That is unlikely to reassure Iraq's neighbours, however, given the chaotic conditions that reign in the country. The insurgency is by no means subdued, with a group linked to Iraqi al-Qaeda claiming responsibility for the latest bombings, which killed more than 155 people on Sunday. The Sunni extremist group said on a website that its "martyrs . . . targeted the dens of infidelity".

New Zealand Herald adds, "Iraq has also begun lobbying the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations to overturn resolutions which ban Iraq using atomic energy." At Iran's Press TV, a commentator named Jaled Ali Ayoub shares this opinion, "wake up, stupids they destroyed all irak with their amunitions and know they are going to reconstract irak with the companies, owned by them and paid by all the irakis population. You cannt by more ignorents, because when the morality of the iraks gain the power of irak, i sware that they will destroy it again. look to another horizon the green go and the english, they only represents death to all arabs and muslim. 10 of billions of US$ was stolen from your country."

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


Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded six people, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the lives of 3 women and left four men injured and a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 4 lives and left six people injured. Reuters notes a Tikrit roadside bombing "blew up an oil tanker" claiming 2 lives in the process ("the driver and his assistant"). Lin Zhi (Xinhua) reports a Diyala Province bombing which left three people injured (one female, two males) and a Diyala Proinvce "makeshift bomb" wounded a father and son.


Reuters notes that Iraqi and US forces "killed a suspsected al Qaeda member" in Mosul yesterday.

Mu Xueuqan (Xinhua) reports Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, stated today that the UN will send someone to the country "for preliminary consulations related to Iraq's security and sovereignty." Khaled Farhan (Reuters) reports Najaf has a new bank, "In one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest cities, a bank has opened a branch only for women, hoping to tap a potentially large market and meet pent-up demand from Muslim women for financial services that meet their needs."

The Iraq War drags on and, if you doubt that, you're not paying attention. In the US,
Pamela E. Walck (Savannah Morning News) reports Fort Stewart is sending 400 soldiers from the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry to Iraq for a year. Jessica Fitzgerald's husband (Spc Kevin Fitzgerald) is among those deploying and she tells Walck, "This is his second deployment. It's not any easier this time." Spc Carla Robinson tells Walck, "I'm really feeling pretty positive right now. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can come home." And Sgt Brandon Bodily states, "This is my first deployment. I'm just hoping I come back safely." P. Norman Moody (Floriday Today) reports, "Florida National Guard soldiers from Cocoa began intense training this week for deployment in January to Iraq and Kuwait. The Guard's 53rd Infantry Brigade kicked off the training for 2,500 troops in what's expected to be the largest single-unit deployment of the Florida National Guard since World War II." Meanwhile Sify News reports that India qill not be sending troops to Iraq or Afghanistan according to Defense Minister A.K. Anthony. That declaration came on the same day that UPI reports, "U.S. and Indian forces wrapped up their largest joint military exercise to date, practicing a set of maneuvers simulating environments in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Turning to the US.
Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports the US military believes they've stumbled onto a category of people with an advanced level of detection when it comes to roadside bombs: "Military researchers have found that two groups of personnel are particularly good at spotting anomalies: those with hunting backgrounds, who traipsed through the woods as youths looking to bag a deer or turkey; and those who grew up in tough urban neighborhoods, where it is often important to know what gang controls which block." You have to wonder why the military can spend money studying that but they can never seem to study rape within the ranks? That issue was a topic yesterday on Democracy Now! (link has text, video and audio) as Amy Goodman and Sharif Abdel Kouddous spoke with a director of a new documentary.

AMY GOODMAN: Rape in the Ranks: The Enemy Within is a documentary that focuses on the cases of three female service members victimized by rape and other forms of sexual assault. One of the victims, Tina Priest, she was found dead in Iraq in March 2006, just weeks after she had accused a male soldier of raping her. Her family was told she took her own life, but they don't believe that. They think she may have been killed because she came forward with the rape accusation. In this scene from the film, Tina Priest's mother, Joy Priest, visits her daughter's gravesite.

PASCALE BOURGAUX: How did she die?

JOY PRIEST: She died in Iraq from what the Army says was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to her chest. That's what the Army says. I don't -- I don't know how she died. I want to find out how she died.

PASCALE BOURGAUX: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED: Don't know what to think.

JOY PRIEST: There are so many different opinions. I don't -- I don't see her killing herself. But if she did, I can understand why --


JOY PRIEST: -- she did. Yes, because of the trauma that she had been through with the rape and the way that people treated her afterwards. And so, I can see how she would be depressed enough to do that. But it's not like her.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Rape in the Ranks: The Enemy Within. For more, we're joined by the film's director, Pascale Bourgaux, a French journalist and filmmaker. The film had its premiere last night here in New York at the Independent Film Festival.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about Tina and the other three women you profile.

PASCALE BOURGAUX: So, Tina, the -- you've seen in the excerpt, it's -- I mean, the family is still looking for the truth, because they're convinced that she didn't commit suicide, that she was killed. But the case is dead. They asked answer -- they ask answer to the Army, but they never -- you know, they never answer those questions they raised. And then, the three other cases. There is Suzanne. She was raped by her command. She deserted. She refused to go back to Iraq to escape from her commander. And then she was in jail.

Finally, Grammy, Academy Award and Golden Globe winning singer-songwriter
Carly Simon appeared on NBC's Today Show this morning and performed "You Belong To Me." The Carly classic (which Carly co-wrote with the Doobie Brothers' Michael McDonald) is part of a new album released this week, Never Been Gone. Carly offers two songs she hadn't previously recorded for commercial release as well as ten of her best-loved classics that she's reimagined to find diferent levels in and meanings to including "You're So Vain," "Anticipation," "Let The River Run," "The Right Thing To Do," "Boys In The Trees" and "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be." Thursday she's on Tavis Smiley (PBS) and also on NPR's Talk Of The Nation. Click here to watch Carly on Monday's Good Morning America (ABC).

martin chulov
the guardianjon dennis
al jazeera
the new york timesrod nordland
iraqi freedom congressamjad ali
mcclatchy newspapershannah allam
sahar issa
the los angeles timessaad fakhrildeen
abc newsworld news tonight with charlie gibsonmiguel marquez
the times of londonoliver august
jenan hussein
savannah morning newspamela e. walckflorida todayp. norman moody
tony perry
amy goodmandemocracy now
carly simon

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thomas E. Ricks, buy a bra

Thomas E. Ricks is a blowhard who honestly just needs to sit down for awhile and not speak.

Today on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Ricks felt he was also a comedian yet I seriously doubt, outside the locker room showers and the bedrooms, he's ever made anyone laugh.

"Matthew Hoh: new poster boy for critics of Afghanistan war" (Mark Sappenfield, Christian Science Monitor):
Matthew Hoh, perhaps unintentionally and unavoidably, has instantly made himself the poster boy for Vice President Joe Biden, liberal Democrats, and every American who looks at a troop surge in Afghanistan with deep skepticism.
Mr. Hoh, a respected retired marine captain, resigned his post as a Foreign Service officer in Afghanistan last week,
The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The reason: "I fail to see the value or the worth in continued US casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year-old civil war," he said in his resignation letter.

Thomas E. Ricks called the man a nobody and told jokes about how the man didn't have a key to the washroom. He said he was a copy boy and nothing more and accused the Washington Post of attempting to create a story where there was none -- in other words, he accused Karen DeYoung -- a respected reporter -- of taking a small nothing and blowing it up.

That's really outrageous. I am aware that Thomas Ricks' journalism career is over and that the Washington Post and he are no longer together. But that was beyond a low blow.

He managed to insult both DeYoung and Matthew Hoh.

I am also really disgusted with people bringing him on and speaking to him about counter-insurgency as if he were objective.

He is not objective.

He belongs to the 'institute' that promotes counter-insurgency. (Counter-insurgency is war on a native people.)

Thomas E. Ricks needs to spend his time in the immediate future shopping in the young girls department for a bra to stash those man boobs into. He is a disgustingly vile man and I think we've all suffered enough from his bad attempts at humor.

In addition to what I've tackled above, C.I. calls him to the carpet for repeating the big lie of this decade.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, October 27, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq wants to go nuclear, Thomas E. Ricks repeats the lies that sold the illegal war (connecting Iraq to you know what), if your loved one takes his or her own life while serving in a war zone the President of the United States sends you no letter expressing sorrow, and more.

Frank Sesno was the guest host on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today and the first hour was devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan. Sesno spoke with McClatchy Newspapers Nancy A. Youssef, Wall St. Journal's Peter Spiegel and Crazy Ass Thomas E. Ricks.

Frank Sesno: Tom Ricks, let's start with these incredible bombings in Iraq and the shockwave they've sent through the military and the political systems there. What signal were they intended -- intending to send?

Thomas E. Ricks: I think they were intended to send the signal that [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki does not have the control over Iraq that he asserts and that's really his sole campaign plank -- is look "You may not like me, you may not like how we're running the government but at least you're feeling safer" and I think was designed to undermine that. I was struck -- I read this morning that one of the trucks used to do the bombings was stolen in Falluja which indicates it probably came out of Anbar Province.

Frank Sesno: Which means?

Thomas E. Ricks: Which means a Sunni extrimist probably working with al Qaeda. Simeloutaneous large blast is one of the al Qaeda signatures that they like to do. We all remember that from 9-11.

Did Thomas E. Ricks just make a total idiot of himself? Yes, he did. He attempted to conflate al Qaeda in Mesopotomia with the al Qaeda group thought to be responsible for 9-11. The two are not related. Thomas E. Ricks is worse than George W. Bush because Ricks actually had a semi-functioning brain that wasn't destroyed via drink and cocaine. But that didn't stop him from conflating two separate things. al Qaeda in Mespotamia is a homegrown (Iraqi) group. It did not exist prior to the 2003 invasion. It is a response to the 2003 invasion. And Thomas E. Ricks needs to learn to choose his words a little more carefully. With each day, he drifts further and further from journalism.

What a moron. That anyone -- let alone a journalist -- would attempt to conflate 9-11 and Iraq at this late date is offensive. That a journalist would do so -- knowing full well that this conflation helped sell the illegal war -- helped sell it because the news media refused to call it out -- the same ones that will fact check a Saturday Night Live skit -- is just beyond belief. But notice that on the program, they just moved along past Crazy Ass Thomas Ricks -- not unlike they ignored that LIE when it was sold by the Bush administration. There WAS NO and IS NO connection between Iraq and 9-11 -- no matter what Thomas E. Ricks jibber-jabbers.

Frank Sesno: Which means, Nancy Youseff that Iraq is what? No where near as stable as the previous lull had indicated?

Nancy A. Youssef: Well it indicates that sectarian violence is still continuing despite the US military assertion that it's not as aggressive as it would be. These were Sunni attackers hitting Shia government buildings. It's an effort to sort of revitalize the sectarian fighting and I think it raises questions about ultimately what Iraqis and what Americans consider acceptable levels of violence in Iraq. Can these sort of occassional bombings -- you'll remember that the last one was in August -- will the Iraqis accept it? Will the Americans accept it as a condition for their leaving? That-that attacks will continue to go on? There are fewer attacks but they're becoming more and more spectacular.

Frank Sesno: And, Peter, at a critical critical moment.

Peter Spiegel: It is a critical moment because you have elections coming up in January. And just to not be overly pessimistic here 'cause, as Nancy mentioned, there was a very similar attack in August, we did not see the country descend into another round of sectarian violence. That's the good news. The other good news, as Tom pointed out, they seemed to be very political oriented. There are elections coming up. You know Maliki is vying for position with other Shia parties, with other Sunni parties. Is this just a domestic political issue being expressed through violence? If that's the case, there's an argument that as long as there's some sort of Sunni outlet through the political system, this may eventually go away. Now the problem is there appears to be no Sunni outlet for legitimate political expression right now because most of the parties are still dominated by Shi'ites and a lot of the government institutions are dominated by Shias -- they're using them to suppress Sunnis in the country. So as long as that continues, as long as there's no legitimate way for Sunnis to express their political outrage this stuff could continue.

Frank Sesno: Do you expect this stuff to continue?

Thomas E. Ricks: I do actually. The last line in the last book I've written on Iraq, The Gamble, is a quote from [former US] Ambassador [to Iraq] Ryan Crocker. He said to me twice in the course of 2008, "The events for which the Iraq War will be remembered have not yet occurred." There's a significant chance that the war will go on for another five to ten years. I think we're going to have American troops there for many, many years. They'll call them "trainers" and "advisors" but this war is far from over.

Frank Sesno: But Tom as they leave, as we have pulled out of the cities and as we withdraw to concentrated areas around the country, what vulnerability then does this latest string of events suggest for the innocent public in Iraq trying desparately to put their lives back together again because it suggest the vulnarability is extreme.

Thomas E. Ricks: Recently, the former mayor of Tal Afar, a city up in the northwest, wrote a very interesting essay in which he said all the conditions for civil war in Iraq are still there. This is why I think the civil war failed. It succeeded tactically, it improved security.

Frank Sesno: For the moment.

Thomas E. Ricks: Yes, but it's purpose was to lead to a political breakthrough and that didn't happen. That's not my saying what the purpose was, that's what the president said the purpose was.

Frarnk Sesno: Nancy, I see you nodding your head.

Nancy A. Youssef: Yeah, you know, what's interesting is that when you ask them at the Pentagon, "Look there have been two massive attacks in the last few months and what are you going to do?" And there's sort of a shrugging of the shoulders. The Status Of Forces Agreement calls for us to leave and the Pentagon's focused on Afghanistan now and yet if you go right below the surface you can feel from soldiers who have served, who wear braclets of fallen comrades, the frustration that potentially the United States is leaving as sloppily as it entered, that you've got 120,000 troops still based in Iraq and yet nothing is being done to-to-to stop this. The-the line --

Frarnk Sesno: Nothing is being done to stop this?

Nancy A. Youssef: No, because the line at the Pentagon is "We're asking for Maliki to ask us for help" or we're waiting for something like the Samarra mosque bombing. But if it gets to that level, it's already too late. I mean the Samarra mosque bombing didn't happen in a vacuum. That was a building of sectarian violence that manifested itself in a very violent way.

Peter Spiegel: One other issue, there are still 120,000 troops in Iraq which everyone seems to forget, which is about the levels they were pre-surge, which is still a very big level. But what is happening in sort of the granularity of that is a lot of assets that are needed to track down these bombing networks -- the UAVs, the unmanned drones, the intelligence assets -- all that is being sucked away to Afghanistan. And having spent time with General [Ray] Odierno, who is the commander there, a year ago, his-his real -- the thing he's most proud of is the ability to track down these networks through human intelligence through systems like unmanned drones and dismantle them. Well if you move all those assets to Afghanistan, are you still able to dismantle all those bombing networks that are still clearly sort of roving freely in Baghdad and be able to do these kind of things?

Frarnk Sesno: These bombs went off near three government buildings -- three important government buildings. How much of a set back does this present to the fledgling, struggling Iraqi government itself?

Nancy A. Youssef: I don't think we know yet. I mean, you saw the government try to respond by passing an election law which they've been debating for several months now as a way to sort of speak up. I think you're seeing Maliki -- it hurts Maliki the most, as Tom mentioned, because his political platform, his election platform is "I bring security to you." You saw rival political parties trying to exploit that.

Nancy A. Youssef was referring to a proposal put together by the Political Council for National Security and then passed on to Parliament.
That was a proposal made (with much fanfare) yesterday. Like just about everything else on the governance front in Iraq, it fell apart. John Leland (New York Times) reports there was no consensus today and that they are at a stalemate, "another blockage in negotiations that have dragged on for weeks, threatening national elections scheduled for January 16th." 'Scheduled'? I believe the appropriate term is intended. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) adds that the issue of Kirkuk was the falling out point for the "proposal submitted by a high-ranking council that included Maliki and President Jalal Talabani." Repeating, no election law. Still.

Staying on
Sunday's bombings, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported this morning that credit for the bombings is allegedly being claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and he noted that "rescue workers continued to pull bodies out of the rubble Monday". Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation via CBS News website) observes:

The perpetrators of the huge bomb attacks are unknown. Not unexpectedly, every Iraqi faction is blaming its enemies. Maliki is blaming Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Baathists, but at the very least the attacks have severely hurt Maliki's main cliam to leadership, namely, that he's kept Iraq safe. Many Sunnis are blaming Iran, charging that Iran's intelligence service is orchestrating the Baghdad attacks in order to force Maliki to abandon his independent electoral stance and sign on to the Shiite bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance. And, indirectly speaking for the Shiite bloc, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran has blamed "foreign agents" for the attacks:
"The bloody actions being committed in some Islamic countries, including Iraq, Pakistan and in some parts of the country (Iran), are aimed at creating division between the Shiites and Sunnis.... Those who carry out these terrorist actions are directly or indirectly foreign agents." Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but such claims have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Sunday's bombings resulted in some TV coverage for Iraq yesterday.
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, click here for the video of that segment

Ann Curry: We turn now to Iraq, still reeling from massive explosions that wrecked three buildings in Baghdad on Sunday. The dead now number more than 150. Hundreds more are injured. And the attacks raise the question: can the Iraqi government keep the lid on? The latest tonight from NBC's Tom Aspell. Tom Aspell: Grief and shock today at some of the funerals for bombings in Baghdad. Iraqi police and hospitals now say that up to thirty children from a day care center at the Justice Ministry are among the dead. The second blast was captured on a cell phone. The blast destroyed two government buildings outside the Green Zone in central Baghdad. Iraqi officials said at least 150 people were killed, at least 500 people were wounded. A security spokesman said two buses were used to carry the explosives -- 2,000 pounds in one and 1500 pounds in the other. It was the worst attack in Baghdad for two years. This morning Iraqis were blaming the government for lax security issues. There are checkpoints every one-hundred yards How did these vehicles come here" asked this man. Iraqi troops were patrolling Baghdad streets this morning. The government is warning there could be more attacks before elections in three months time. Tom Aspell, NBC News, London.

Also covering the bombings was PBS' NewsHour (link has text, audio and video options) and this an excerpt:JANE ARRAF [Christian Science Monitor]: It has. The death toll looks like it's going past about 150, Ray, and hundreds more wounded. And more than that, a lot of questions being raised as to how this actually could have happened just two months after the horrific bombing of the Finance and Foreign Ministries. Now, yesterday, at the site, there were absolute scenes of devastation, people sobbing, carrying away wounded relatives, trying to find their relatives, and pretty much chaos for the first little while. The streets were flooded. Rescue workers were trying to wade through bystanders. It really was one of the most horrific scenes that many of us have seen in quite a long time. We had kind of thought this was over with. And now it seems to have started again. And that is definitely the feeling that you feel on the streets, that things could very much get worse again.RAY SUAREZ: You mentioned that August attack. At the time, weren't measures put in place to make this kind of operation less likely in Baghdad?JANE ARRAF: Absolutely. That August attack, which killed at least 100 people with an eerily similar attack, a truck packed with explosives in two different places, and a suicide attack, at that, was actually a wakeup call. And it was said to have been a systemic failure -- failure of security. Now, the Iraqi government responded by firing some senior Iraqi security officials. It said it put new measures in place. I spoke with a senior American official today who said, indeed, they had put measures in place. But it has not prevented these two bombings, which, again, were eerily similar. These were trucks traveling streets where no trucks are supposed to be in daytime. They apparently went through checkpoints, where they should have been checked, but weren't. And they managed to explode in one of the busiest times of the day, in one of the most packed places in Baghdad, killing government workers, as well as passersby, including children.

ABC World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson covered the bombings.Charlie Gibson: In Iraq meanwhile the funerals began today in the wake of the stunning twin bombings that tore through the heart of Baghdad yesterday. The death toll is now 155 with the grim discovery that 24 children at a day care center were among those killed. The attacks raised questions about Iraq's security. Miguel Marquez was at the scene of the blasts.Miguel Marquez: The devastation is almost unimaginable, buildings shredded as far as the eye can see, glass, blood splattered clothing and burned rubber. When the bombs went off they shattered the relative calm here. Six months ago this street was off limits to traffic but with security improving the barriers were lifted. An investigation is now underway into how two vehicles carrying 1500 pounds of explosives each including military grade C4, got through multiple military checkpoints before reaching their targets. Despite all the security agencies the government here is helpless he says, they only cause traffic jams. Today Iraqis begin the wrenching task of burying their loved ones. Comfort was in short supply. They blame their government for failing to stop the violence. This is the hole created by the explosion. It goes down about twenty-five feet. The blast was so powerful they burst a water main, flooding this section of Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who faces re-election in January has campaigned on his ability to make Iraq safer. His opponents say this bombings proves the military is infiltratedIraqi National Security Advisor Mouwaffak Rubaie: What we need to concentrate on is enabling our intelligence agencies. This is an intelligence led war now. Miguel Marquez: The bombings are especially shocking because security here has improved by leaps and bounds in the last two years. Construction is everywhere and night life has made a roaring comeback. [An Iraqi woman speaks.] "We have one quiet week and then the next week things get worse," she says. "The security situation is still the same." The US military says it is assisting in the investigation but there are no plans to increase US patrols here nor slow the rate of pulling US forces out of Iraq. Miguel Marquez, ABC News, Baghdad.

Not everyone provided significant time for the news. CBS Evening News (Harry Smith sitting in for Katie Couric) reduced it to a five-sentence headline. Remember that when you've heard a story and are trying to select an evening newscast in order to find out what happened. It was just a headline to CBS Evening News.
Oliver August (Times of London) quotes a government employee stating, "Sadness is overwhelming today in the office. It's as if we are sitting at a funeral in the office because many of our colleagues and people we know were killed." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) quotes an employee injured in the bombings, Shauki Abdul Jabar, stating, "There is no security, no hope." And he reports on three men searching through the rubble for some sign of Youssef Musen Nouri, their four-year-old nephew whom they now assume is dead. It wasn't just a passing headline to any of those people.

The heartbeat went out of our house
The rhythm went out of our romance
But in life that happens and you just have to remember to breathe . . .
-- "Coming Around Again," written by
Carly Simon from her new recording on Never Been Gone.

Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "Baghdad governor on Tuesday said that his council voted to demand resignation of Iraqi minister of interior and chief of Baghdad operations command over Sunday's bloody blasts that enraged Iraqis and shaped a setback to the Iraqi government which struggle to restore normalcy in the country nearly three months ahead of the country's national elections." Sammy Ketz (Mail & Guardian) adds that Baghdad Governor Salah Abdul Razzaq said of the bombings (after viewing video footage of it), "It's a human failure . . . It can only be negligence or collusion."

And while these bombings are fresh on everyone's mind, someone might want to ask who in the world thinks nuclear power is needed in Iraq? What if a nuclear reactor were in Iraq and had been targeted on Sunday. It's something people better start considering.
Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports:

Iraq has started lobbying for approval to again become a nuclear player, almost 19 years after British and American war planes destroyed Saddam Hussein's last two reactors, the Guardian has learned.
The Iraqi government has approached the French nuclear industry about rebuilding at least one of the reactors that was bombed at the start of the first Gulf war. The government has also contacted the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and United Nations to seek ways around resolutions that ban Iraq's re-entry into the nuclear field.
Iraq says it envisages that a reactor would be used initially for research purposes. "We are co-operating with the IAEA and expanding and defining areas of research where we can implement nuclear technology for peaceful means," the science and technology minister, Raid Fahmi, told the Guardian.

From future violence to some of today's reported violence,
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 shop owner was shot dead in Mosul and 1 "young man" was shot dead in Mosul.

Turning to the US,
today on Democracy Now! (link has text, audio and video options), Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Amy Goodman spoke with Chancellor Keesling's parents Jannett and Gregg Keesling. Their son, Chancellor, was serving in Iraq, on his second deployment, when he apparently took his own life earlier this year.

JANNETT KEESLING: I spoke to Chancellor the night before he died for about four minutes. And as always, he wore a really tough exterior, because even after conversations with some of the soldiers after he died, no one saw that he was in any type of distress or trouble. I know they say he was sleeping. He was happy that morning. He was singing.
But what he did tell me that night is that he was going to have a very long, difficult day. His conversation was quite brief. Normally he would say that he loves me, and he would say goodbye. But this time he simply hung up. I had the feeling that something was definitely bothering him more than the norm. And the next thing we knew, they were at our door saying that he had --

GREGG KEESLING: He had passed.

JANNETT KEESLING: -- passed away.

AMY GOODMAN: Where was he?

JANNETT KEESLING: But nobody saw.

GREGG KEESLING: He was at Camp Stryker in Baghdad. And he --

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they explain to you? What happened?

GREGG KEESLING: That he had gone to a latrine and locked himself in the latrine and took his own life, with his M4.

[. . .]

GREGG KEESLING: Well, I just -- we do not believe our son would have taken his life if he had been here at home. This would not have happened. This is directly related to his military service. Our casualty officer -- the military has been very, very, very good to us in helping us. And our casualty officer, though, said the same thing, that "We do not believe your son would have taken his life if he was back home." And, you know, every other benefit that the military provides to families has been afforded to us. We were flown to Dover to greet the body, in a very emotional experience. And we had a military burial and the twenty-one-gun salute. And Jannett was presented the American flag, which is a very moving ceremony. But the issue of presidential condolences -- in fact, we were shocked. I began -- President Obama has set up the suicide task force, and I began to talk with Brigadier General Colleen McGuire and members of staff there, and they were very helpful and wonderful. And during those conversations, I mentioned, "By the way, you know, when do you think the letter comes from the President?" And she goes, "I don't know. I'll check it out." And we talked again a few times. And every time at the end of the conversation, you know, "How are you guys doing?" and all that. And I said, "By the way, when are we going to get the letter from the President?" And on our third conversation, one of the staff members said to me, "Oh, my god, Mr. Keesling, I've just discovered there's a longstanding policy that prevents the President from acknowledging the death of a soldier who takes his life in the war theater by his own hand." And I nearly dropped to my knees. I was shocked. And I just said to her that I think this is a policy that should change. Our loss is no different. He was on his second tour. The investigative report shows that he was a good soldier. One of my favorite comments in the report is that his unit commander said, or unit leader says, "I wish I had fifteen Keeslings." He was a good soldier. He helped other soldiers. In fact, there's a soldier back stateside today who was at risk of suicide that Chancy intervened to help. And we got his uniform back, and when my sister was packing away the uniform, she found in the pocket and pulled out the suicide information card. He had it in his pocket of his uniform. And he helped other soldiers, but he was unable to help himself. And so, our grief is deep. And, you know, the letter won't stop -- we'll still be hollow inside for the rest of our lives, but the acknowledgement from the President that our son gave his life in service to the causes of the United States is important to us, and I think it should be important to the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of suicide victims in this war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well. It's my understanding that the suicide rate in the military has, for the first time, surpassed the civilian suicide rate. The mental health issues are quite severe. And so, we're just simply appealing to the President to change the policy, to offer condolences to the families, like ours, that are struggling and suffering with the unique form of suffering a military suicide leaves in its wake. And it's been especially hard for us.

The suicide rate has repeatedly increased and the stories of it are usually 'this happened, then that happened' in a sort of timeline manner that rarely connects the death to the loss those who survive feel. The parents expressed their loss today and on
July 31st, on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, guest host Susan Paige spoke with a caller who wanted to address this topic.

Susan Paige: Let's go to Pamela. She's calling us from New Jersey. Pamela, thanks so much for calling.

Pamela: Yes. Good morning, how are you? Thank you for taking my call. I am responding to a comment I heard earlier and it really just like shot me in my heart. And the comment was that the suicide rates [in the US military] are skyrocketing and how this has to be addressed. And I literally like I said stopped dead in my tracks. I . . . lost my brother in service due to suicide. He was home on a leave and, uh, about to be, pardon me, to go back and to serve and, uh, was, uh -- the difficulty in getting the mental health services I believe that he needed -- I mean he was married with two children -- was most, most difficult and delayed and a long wait and this and that. And then the unfathomable happened and, uh, when I, uh, at times decided to share how he died rather than just say he died in the war and I would say he died by suicide the remark I would hear unfortunately was, "Oh my goodness, he didn't die a hero then." And-and I continually hear this and I guess I want to make a statement that how someone dies, um, should not be -- that -- that is not a definition of how they lived their lives. And here was a good man who gave and did so much for the community and yet because of how he died -- which you know is a mental illness health related, etc. etc. -- he is now being defined as -- not -- as a zero. And not being defined. And I think you know this-this suicide issue is getting way out of control and for every person that dies by suicide there are at least six to ten people that are horribly effected as well to the point where their mental health also, uh, you know, begins to fall apart and the whole mental health, how to get help, starts all over again. And I should say that the support groups for those that lose a loved one by suicide are now separated from regular grief groups and while attending one and sharing how my loved one died, people were going around the room, people said to me, "Oh my God, why is she here?" I've been asked to leave meetings because -- grief support meetings -- because of how my brother died and I don't think that's fair or correct or right and, um, so the issue goes far beyond the pain of losing a loved one and is extremely complicated. And, um, I wanted to share all that. And if ever anybody hears of someone that dies of a suicide please just say "I'm sorry for your loss" and ask about the person. And don't say anything cruel or unkind because, again, how one lives their entire life for 38 years should not be defined by a, you know, a irrational moment that effects -- that became a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Changing topics,
Senator Carl Levin's office released the following statement yesterday:WASHINGTON -- Calling the plight of religious minorities in Iraq "a tragic consequence" of the war there, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., today introduced a Senate resolution calling on the U.S. government, Iraqi government and United Nations Mission in Iraq to take steps to alleviate the dangers facing these minority groups. Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., joined Levin in sponsoring the sense of the Senate resolution. "While violence has declined in Iraq overall, religious minorities continue to be the targets of violence and intimidation," Levin said. "Members of many minority groups who have fled other parts of the country have settled in the north, only to find themselves living in some of the most unstable and violent regions of Iraq. We strongly urge the Iraqi government, the United Nations and the U.S. government to address this crisis without delay." Of approximately 1.4 million Christians of various denominations living in Iraq in 2003, only 500,000 to 700,000 remain. Another minority group, the Sabean Mandeans, has seen its population decline by more than 90 percent. Iraq's Jewish community, once one of the largest in the Arab world, has almost ceased to exist.According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, members of religious minorities "have experienced targeted intimidation and violence, including killings, beatings, abductions, and rapes, forced conversions, forced marriages, forced displacement from their homes and businesses, and violent attacks on their houses of worship and religious leaders." The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees reported that in 2008, there were an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced persons living in Iraq. Of that 2.8 million, nearly two out of three reported fleeing their home because of a direct threat to their lives, and, of that number, almost nine out of ten said they were targeted because of their ethnic or religious identity. The resolution introduced by the senators addresses the tragedy in several ways. It states the sense of the Senate that the fate of Iraqi religious minorities is a matter of grave concern and calls on the U.S. government and the United Nations to urge Iraq's government to increase security at places of worship, particularly where members of religious minorities are known to face risks. The resolution calls for the integration of regional and religious minorities into the Iraqi security forces, and for those minority members to be stationed within their own communities. The resolution calls on the Iraqi government to ensure that minority citizens can participate in upcoming elections, and to enforce its constitution, which guarantees "the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights" of minorities. Finally, it urges a series of steps to ensure that development aid and other forms of support flow to minority communities in Iraq.

And lastly
Carly Simon's latest album is released, Never Been Gone. The twelve track album is Carly dipping into her songwriting canon and providing two new songs and ten re-imaginings of earlier favorites including "You're So Vain," "Let The River Run" (her Grammy, Academy Award and Golden Globe winning song as Diane Sawyer pointed out yesterday on ABC's Good Morning America), "Anticipation," "You Belong To Me," "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" and "The Right Thing To Do." Tomorrow Carly's on NBC's The Today Show, Thursday's she's on Tavis Smiley (PBS) and also on NPR's Talk Of The Nation.

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