Saturday, November 14, 2009






This afternoon, Jenan Hussein and Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) report a satire by Warid Badr Salim in al Mada has led over 150 members of Parliament sign on to suing the newspaper. The reporters note, "The chilling atmosphere for the news media was underscored this week when an Iraqi court fined the London-based Guardian newspaper nearly $87,000, finding that it had defamed Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. An article in the paper in April quoted unnamed Iraqi intelligence officials describing what they said was Maliki's increasingly authoritarian rule. [. . .] Free expression is one of the few benefits that Iraqi count from the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Basic services such as electricity and sewage are still in disrepair, and sectarian violence, while much reduced, is still a daily occurence. The backlash against journalists and curbs on book, cartoons and plays, often for religious reasons, raise questions about what kind of society the United States will leave behind when American troops withdraw from Iraq at the end of 2011." The article in question is Ghaith Abdul-Ahad's "Six years after Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki tightens his grip on Iraq" (April 30, 2009). Tuesday the court or 'court' rendered their or 'their' verdict.

As Elaine observed Wednesday, "The above topic should have been the front page of every daily paper this morning. Instead everyone turned their heads, averted their eyes and, in doing so, endorsed the assault on the press. If Nouri al-Maliki saw that the entire world would jeer him over these nonsense law suits, you better believe he'd think twice about doing it again. As it is, he's been allowed to attack the press. Let me add: Yet again." And let me add, because I've been waiting to see if this would be the case, that's All Things Media Big and Small. ALL. Get the picture? Thursday the Guardian editorialized, "But the case against the Guardian in Iraq is notable alarming. Despite repeated hearings over several months, the paper was not asked to present written evidence or provide statements from the editor or the reporter invovled. Compensation was apparently awarded for damage to the Iraqi prime minister, even though he was not a party to the legal action. The Iraqi people were promised freedom after the fall of Saddam. They deserve a free press and fair courts, robust enough to stand up to government."
Exactly. And yet where has the media been on this story?

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I'm crying.
-- "I Am The Walrus" (recorded by the Beatles, written by John Lennon, credited to Lennon & McCartney)

Thursday we noted that the Guardian is out there pretty much all alone. No outlet has stepped forward to stand with them. That's disgraceful. And when Nouri's other cases (both pending ones and ones yet to be filed) against news outlets come forward, some of these same outlets are going to want others to stand up for them and stand with them. Why should anyone bother? When none of them can stand up for the press right now, why should anyone later stand up for the cowards?

Thursday night, it turned out I might have been a bit harsh. That's when Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, took a brave stand and stated:

This rulling has to send a shiver up the spin of anyone who hopes for a genuinely democratic Iraq. What the court calls libel is, in most countries, called journalism. Indeed, if a respected journalist like Ghaith Abdul-Ahad can be punished for reporting on concerns about a trend toward authoritarian government, the verdict would seem to lend credence to those very concerns.

What a brave editorial statement from Bill Keller and thank goodness he was not afraid to put that in print in his paper because . . .

Oh, wait.

That didn't appear in the New York Times.

Bill Keller was quoted in Julian Borger's article for the Guardian that posted Thursday ngiht and appeared in Friday's paper. You know what, Bill, I think Guardian readers have some idea about the case. It's readers of the New York Times that might be helped by hearing your comments. But the New York Times has been so very busy on so many other things. Certainly, they're some panty sniffing they're prepared to splash on the front page any day now and pass it off as journalism, right?

There's not a damn thing wrong with Bill Keller's statements. And I'll applaud them . . . when they appear in the New York Times. Instead, it's as though Nouri attacked Guardian at school and Billy stood by and didn't nothing but later that day Billy ran over to Guardian's house and said, "Oh man, that was so wrong. I'm so mad. Man, I could just kick Nouri's ass." Brave statements become less brave when they're not made where it matters.

What the press tried to ignore, groups we spoke to about Iraq after the Tuesday verdict got. They got it instantly. They got that it was about press freedom. They got that it was about Iraq. They understood that a messages were being sent globally. They grasped that one message was that Nouri could get away with what ever he wanted and that he would be emboldened as a result. They also grasped that a message was sent to the Iraqi people to let them know that they were once again on their own and that the world press would look the other way as they did so often under Saddam. Those pulling a blank on what I'm referring to can jog their memories by reading Eason's now infamous NYT column where he whined for forgiveness for CNN's efforts at covering for Saddam in order to have continued access to Iraq.
This is not a minor issue but outside of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Chris Floyd and one or two others, find anyone commenting on it outside of the Guardian. Imagine what it must be like to be the average Iraqi right now. Following the start of the illegal war, you might have had some internet access and some access to satellite TV and you could see the press get lively (too lively for Paul Bremer who launched an attack on Falluja largely because he didn't like a cartoon -- no, it wasn't of his butt, the newspaper wasn't a broadsheet). And now you've seen the US install exile puppet Nouri al-Maliki. And you've seen him crack down on the internet and satellite channels. You've seen him run Al Jazeera out of the country. Now you're seeing him go after a Western outlet (the Guardian) and trash the work of Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. And you look around to see that world press you hear so much of. That brave, strong, independent, call out the tyranny where ever it is press. And you see silence. From the East to the West, you see silence.

And slowly it sinks in that today's thug is going to get away with the same things the previous one did because your life isn't very important on the world stage. And let's get real damn honest, that's why Iraqis suffered in silence all those years. They suffered in silence because they were less important -- to the world press -- than their leader. They suffered because the press wanted to curry favor with Saddam. And now the same world press is sending the message -- with few exceptions (count McClatchy now as one exception) -- that they will cover for Nouri because freedoms and the people of Iraq are unimportant.
That is the message being sent and you better believe that is the message being received.
Amy Goodman couldn't give us that today or yesterday or the day before. In fact, Goody missed Iraq a lot this week but Ava and I will tackle that at Third on Sunday. Mad Maddy Rothschild likes to pretend he gives a damn about the free press (in 2008, he liked to pretend he was a Democrat, this year he finally outed himself publicly as a Socialist so maybe in 2010 he'll reveal that he really doesn't give a damn about the press?). But for all of his bluster, Mad Maddy didn't have time to defend the Guardian. And then there's The Nation. Did John Nichols losing his daily paper mean that he lost interest in the press? Apparently because he's tossing more sop out about Sarah Palin. But then John Nichols HATES women. Is there any woman he hasn't attacked this decade? This is the man, please remember, who attacked Barbra Streisand, BARBRA STREISAND, for the Iraq War. That was Barbra's fault. Now not in the mind of any sane person, but as you read his attack on Barbra, you knew you weren't dealing with a sane person. (The basic 'logic' of his argument was that Barbra donated her money -- HER money -- as she saw fit to Democratic politicians and not as John Nichols felt she should donate HER money. Therefore, Barbra was responsible for the Iraq War.) At some point, Panhandle Media's going to have to have to start offering group therapy for all these misogynists but in the meantime, we all suffer because they can't address what really matters. Another swipe at Palin or advocating a free press? Nichols goes with another slam at Palin.

The topic wasn't discussed on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today, but guest host Susan Page and panelists Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) and David E. Sanger (New York Times) did discuss other Iraq issues.

Susan Page: Roy Gutman, I know that you were reporting from Iraq last month. This week we hear that Iraq's Parliament finally has approved a law for its election in January. There had been a kind of stalemate before that.

Roy Gutman: Well there had been and it was a very damaging stalemate. If they hadn't approved the law by this point then you begin to have to predict the country going downhill rather quickly. Uhm, had they approved it a month ago, you could have said Iraq is almost heading towards a normalcy despite all of the violence. This kind of muddled middle that took a long time to decide actually is nevertheless huge progress. This election, uh, is in a way is going to create a new Parliament. There will be what they call open lists -- every parliamentarian or every person running for a seat uh will be named before the elections so it's possible for people to find out who they are and rather they have dual citizenship. You know I heard while I was there that as many as 70% of the Iraqi -- of the current Iraqi Parliament has dual citizenship. Many of them Iranian-Iraqi dual citizenship. So that-that part will end and it looks like -- they have an independent election commission, they run elections that I think, in comparison with Afghanistan, certainly in comparison with Iran, are going to look good, very clean. It's possible that this election could make a real big difference.

Susan Page: Karen, this week we found out that top executives at Blackwater, the private military company, okayed bribes for Iraqi officials. Why were they going to bribe them?

Karen DeYoung: This was in connection to the late 2007 attacks in Baghdad for which I believe five Blackwater employees who were working for the State Department have been charged. 17 Iraqis were killed. At a time when it was not clear which way the Iraq government was going to go in terms of prosecuting them, preventing them from leaving the country. This was reportedly Blackwater's attempt to influence those decisions and also the decision whether Blackwater whose-whose income is derived from -- has been derived from -- huge contracts in Iraq would be continued to allow -- be allowed to work there.

Susan Page: Alright. Yes, Roy?

Roy Gutman: One of the -- one of the most incredible things about the American war in Iraq is that we relied on outside contractors to the extent that we did. I heard the figure while I was there of -- from American military -- that there was as many as 170,000 contractors, maybe even more than that, to 140,000 troops. I think that -- obviously it drove up the cost -- but it was the idea of outsourcing the war obviously to people like Blackwater to do all the functions that would normally be carried out by the military. It's a hell of a way to run a war. It's -- maybe it's the modern way of war but I think that the Bush administration in a way into thinking that it was only 140,000, only 160,000, in fact the numbers were far, far higher.

Karen DeYoung: I-I think that's true and the bulk of the contractors certainly work for the Defense Department. [Clears throat.] Excuse me. The bulk of the controversy has been over-over personal security contractors working for the State Department and that's what -- that's what Blackwater was doing. This is a problem as policy becomes a sort of civil-military hybrid where we're trying to do reconstruction in a war zone, we're trying to boost the civilian components of our efforts in places like-like Iraq and in Afghanistan. And now the question is always: Who is going to protect these people? Is this the proper role for the military, is this something that we want soldiers to do? The State Department doesn't want soldiers to do it and so you're going to have this problem increasingly going on.

Susan Page: Do private military contractors continue to play as big a role during the Obama administration as they did during the Bush administration, David?

David E. Sanger: Well certainly as the war has moved to Afghanistan and as our attention is focused to Afghanistan -- we still have more troops in Iraq today than we have in Afghanistan -- something you could lose sight of --
Karen DeYoung: Twice as many.

David E. Sanger: -- picking up -- picking up the newspaper. Yeah. That may not be true six months from now but it certainly is true now. Uh, I don't believe that there are as many contractors at work in the Afghan theater. But it's a very different kind of situation. The exception to this, again, is the personal security forces including around the embassies.

Roy Gutman: But you know when you enter the American Embassy in Baghdad, you get first questioned by Peruvians who are contractors. I-I think the traditional role of the marines as being the guard for embassies is actually a good one. And I think the idea of contracting that out, however necessary it was during the war because there simply weren't enough troops of any force to do it -- is a real question. I don't see -- and the State Department didn't master having these private contractors. They-they lost control of them again and again and again. There not able to manage them, frankly. And, uh, the whole embassy. You go to this embassy, it's an immense thing really. It was built kind of for a pro-counsel's role. And you have to ask: 'Why did we do this in the middle of the war?'

Susan Page: Roy, Roy, I don't understand. So this security at the US Embassy in Baghdad is Peruvian?

Roy Gutman: The first line.

Karen DeYoung: The outer parameter.

Roy Gutman: The outer parameter.

Susan Page: And who's employing the Peruvians to provide the security?

Roy Gutman: Uh, I don't know. Maybe it's Triple Canopy. I forget the name of the contractor.

Susan Page: But it's a contractor working for the US government?

Roy Gutman: Oh yeah.
Susan Page: Huh. Alright. That surprises me.

Roy Gutman: In fact, going into -- into what is now the International Zone, the former Green Zone, you get queried by Ugandans, Uruguayans, Peruvians are there. It's-it's like a small United Nations. Most of them being ill paid. And go to any of the bases, the American bases, the first lines and the second lines of-of checkpoints are all run by non-Americans.

Afghanistan is not our focus ("Iraq snapshot") but since it was mentioned above, we'll note that the Democratic Policy Committee (Democratic members of the Senate and Senator Byron Dorgan chairs the committee) has released a new report on Afghanistan "Our Best Chance for Success in Afghanistan: Getting the Strategy Right First."

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Thursday, November 12, 2009






Each Sunday, Cindy Sheehan does her weekly radio show Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox. This week's guests were Debbie DeNello and Adam Kokesh. We'll note the following section of the broadcast.

Adam Kokesh: I think for the soldiers on the ground who see what Obama is doing, you know, they see troops are being taken out only to be replaced with a greater number of contractors and then for those troops to be put into a surge in Afghanistan and nothing to really change about the kind of abuse? You know, I think that's still a huge, major factor: lack of confidence in the mission. I mean, nobody really believes, no matter what Obama says, that these are wars of necessity --

Cindy Sheehan: Right.

Adam Kokesh: -- or that Afghanistan is the good war. In fact, Obama actually by coming out and saying that Afghanistan is not a war of choice, implying that Iraq is, you know what does that say to the over 100,000 troops that we had in Iraq at that time? 'Hey, you guys don't really have to be there but you're going to keep going out and being shot at and getting killed anyways'? And then to the contractors? I mean the same factor goes with them but at least they're doing it as private citizens with a little more free will -- the impact is not as much. For a soldier who's being told "You're going to go back to this war zone that doesn't have to exist." You can imagine the effect on that. Especially for the
fifth, sixth seventh deployment.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, Adam, you know that I have been, since my son [Casey Sheehan] was killed, actively just calling for troops out now. But when Obama, of course, says that Afghanistan is a war of necessity, he called Iraq "a dumb war" and, like you said, people are still dying in this "dumb war" --

Adam Kokesh: Yeah.

Cindy Sheehan: -- that he has proclaimed "dumb." Well you know, all wars are dumb. Let's tie this, what happened to you in Iraq, what you know, you have the exper -- experiential opinions on this. But tie it in with your Congressional campaign. What is your platform? What will you do in Congress?

Adam Kokesh: Well I'm a Constitutionalist. I'm a non-interventionalist. I'm still a proud member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and I support the mission of Iraq Veterans Against the War. I'm also a proud member of Veterans for Peace and I think that the mission of the organization Veterans for Peace is even more applicable now when we see the kind of hypocrisy of the Democrats. It's almost worse than what we had when the neocons were in charge. The neocons were easy to hate, they were brazen and upfront about it and had this swaggering machismo whereas what we see under Obama now is this really disgusting deceitfulness that has some people with really intense mixed feelings. But one of the things that we're counting on here is that by November 2010 when my election is held and I'm going to be running against -- well I am running against an incumbent Democrat who has said that he is calling for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, an immediate request for an exit strategy and yet votes to -- votes for all the funding for Iraq and Afghanistan and all of that and has toed the Democratic Party line and I think people are really going to be fed up with that. And, you know, it's definitely not the Republican Party that has all the answers but there are people within the Republican Party like myself that are trying to make it the party of Big Tent smaller government again and ensure that that includes a very strong committment to this policy of non-interventionism. Not isolationism, but non-interventionism which means free trade and commerce and friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none. And unfortunately in the world we live in, having a strong national defense is appropriate at this time. But there's a reason it's in the Constitution that Congress has the power to declare war and when they declare war they're supposed to do it with a specific enemy and a declaration and there's an objective. And then they give the military the mission and then they get out of the way. And this is the way it's supposed to be when it's legitimate self-defense. You go to war, you win, you come home. And when we have these open-ended committments, when we have these world policing opportunities where they are run by Congress, they are run by a political machine, and not by a military with a specific objective, you get this kind of open-ended nation building process that puts so much money into the military industrical complex, concentrates so much more power in the hands of the federal government -- into the executive especially. And that hasn't changed under Obama. You know, we want to see a return to the Constitution because of those principles behind it and make sure we don't engage in these wars because when you engage in war when there's not a declaration you know that the premise is faulty, you know that it is not honorable, you know that it is not righteous in the case of self-defense. And we know that neither Iraq or Afghanistan, in terms of what we're doing there today, qualify for any sort of just war theory. And getting back to that and making sure that that message has -- has an oppotunity to be heard in the 2010 elections is a really important part of this campaign for me. It's not easy, you know? It's really not easy. Talking to the progressive base is a lot easier than talking to the conservative base but it's a really important challenge to make sure that they live up to those values and understand why the Constitution was written the way it was.

Cindy Sheehan: Well, Adam, sometimes I think talking to progressives is harder because of what you said. They want to put all their hope eggs into the basket of Obama and the Democrats and clearly, clearly, they're not the peace party. The Democrats and Republicans, institutional parties, are all the same. They're the War Party and we have to put a big chunk of what's happening now on the shoulders of a Congress in 2001 that gave George -- that abrogated their Constitutional duty and gave George Bush the authority to do what is happening right now.
Adam Kokesh: Well the grass -- well the thing that I've learned is the grassroots of both the Republican and the Democratic parties are totally different from the national leadership --

Cindy Sheehan: Absolutely.

Adam Kokesh: -- and it just so happens that when the Democratic Party's in charge, they're better able to sway their base into being pro-war and supporting big government and supporting interventionism, supporting theft and violence as we see our-our, you know, just so essential to what our federal government is doing these days. But really the base of the Republican Party -- and even here in New Mexico there's a distinct difference between the leadership of the Republican Party and the base -- the grassroots activists and the rank and file members. They're totally receptive to this message. They understand that it's not economically feasible to send so much manpower and material into this nation-building -- these nation-building exercises and not have it hurt people here at home. And when they're forced to consider it like that, you know they realize that what we're doing there isn't worth it. And being able to get them to take that step at this point, it's really satisfying to bring this message to people who haven't heard it because when the Republican Party was in charge for the last eight years, they were getting that propaganda. Now that the War Propaganda is coming from the Democratic machine, they're much more ready to question it --

Cindy Sheehan: Yep.

Adam Kokesh: -- and start speaking out against it.

Cindy Sheehan: Well, Adam, unfortunately we're running out of time. Tell my listeners how they can get ahold of you.

Adam Kokesh: Oh great! This is my opportunity for the shameless plug! Thank you so much.

Cindy Sheehan: Yep, yep.

Adam Kokesh: Kokesh for Congress is the website, K-O-K-E-S-H F-O-R, check us out there. You can e-mail me at You can follow me on Twitter at Adam Kokesh. And our phone number here at campaign headquarters is (505) 470-1917.

Cindy Sheehan: And I encourage my listeners to -- I know they all know about your anti-war work but I encourage them to go to your website and don't have a knee-jerk reaction just because you have a "R" after your name, right?

Adam Kokesh: Exactly. Well you know there's a lot of issues that cross party lines and it's been great to know that there are people like you who are also seeing that the Federal Reserve is such an integral issue economically which makes all these wars possible and all the other crimes of our government --

Cindy Sheehan: Yep

Adam Kokesh: -- and our corporations happen because of the Federal Reserve.

Staying with those who make war Big Business, yesterday's snapshot, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen (New York Times) interviewed four former Blackwater execs who stated that, in December 2007, approximately one-million dollars was used to bribe officials in Iraq in order to get them to look the other way in the face of Blackwater's continued assaults. Iraq's Minister of the Interior Jawad al-Bolani spoke to CNN (link has video as well as text) and stated that his ministry had launched an investigation into the assertion that Iraqi officials took bribes.

Jawad al-Bolani (via translator): Blackwater has no new positions to operate in Iraq. Blackwater has a problem and a lawsuit. Some of its employees committed a crime against innocent Iraqi civilians in Nussor Square and this case is an ongoing trial in American courts. Blackwater is a company that caused a major national tragedy. The Nussor incidient was a very difficult one and no Iraqi can ever forget it. But the Iraqi government was committed and acted responsibly for the sake of the Iraqi people and the reputation of Iraq.

James Risen (apparently due to the Times' fear of a Nouri-related lawsuit) rushes to print this morning to proclaim, "The Times article reported that former Blackwater executives who learned of the plans said they did not know whether the money was, in fact, delivered to Iraqi officials." Daniel Barlow (Times Argus) reports US House Rep Peter Welch formally called yesterday for an investigation into the allegations of bribery on Blackwater's part writing the Chair of the House Oversight Committee, "Early reports indicate that Blackwater may have violated the Foreign Corrupts Practices Act and potentially interfered with a grand jury inquiry by issuing these bribes. The United States government simply cannot turn a blind eye to such actions." Oliver August (Times of London) quotes a "relative of a Blackwater shooting victim," Aquil Akram stating, "Everything about them is bad. The victims's families were paid at most a few thousand dollars in compensation but the company is giving a million dollars to some government officials."
Meanwhile Iran's Press TV reports that Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has passed on 'details' to the UN Secretary-General's assistant Oscar Fernandez-Taranco on the August 19th and October 25th bombings: "We provided him with all the information which was not published in the media. We have not accused any country, but evidence asserts that former Baathists and al-Qaeda were involved in the attacks." Which would mean that they infilatrated the Iraqi police and the Iraqi military and, to steal from Annie Hall, "the FBI, and the CIA, and J. Edgar Hoover and oil companies and the Pentagon and the men's room attendant at the White House." The trucks loaded with bombs went through multiple checkpoints.

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Sure. Well first it was an act of Congress that put this all into place, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. And it will take an act of Congress to repeal it. You know, when I was a Democrat -- and I've only been in Congress, as you know Susan, for two and a half years -- you know I used to have a hard time and I used to criticize President Bush when we would pass laws and he would have these executive signing statements that basically would say, "I know Congress passed such and such, but we're going to ignore that part of it." That's not having the proper respect for co-equal government.








Today is Veterans Day in the United States. Yesterday the US Senate held a hearing on homeless veterans. The hearing was held by the Housing, Transportation and Community Development Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Senator Robert Menendez chaired the subcommittee hearing which heard from the VA on the first panel and from the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Steve Berg, Coalition for Homeless Veterans' Melanie Lilliston, GI Go Fund's Jack Fanous, Iraq War veteran Lila Guy and Vietnam veteran William Wise. We'll note the personal remarks on homelessness from the hearing.

Lila Guy: As you've already said, I spent a year in Iraq, from 2005 to 2006 and during that time I was in Kirkuk, Iraq. But I had four children at home and a husband. But when I came back home, about a month after we got home, they informed us that we would be redeploying in less than a year, you know, after we had come back and my husband was not happy. He was not in the military but he decided that, you know, it was just not something that he wanted to do and so he just left. And so at the time I had three children. Me and the children were at Fort Campbell and we were doing field training and things like that. I didn't have anybody to watch the kids for me or whatever while I went to the field for thirty days. And I had to ask my mom to come and stay with me for -- so I could do two weeks of training. And after all of that, I just could not, I couldn't do it anymore. It was I was having issues just trying to readjust to being back home and taking care of kids and all of that kind of stuff. So I ended up getting out of the military on a hardship discharge. So when I got out, I had nothing because it was such an abrupt discharge. I didn't have anything, no where to go. And I drove home. All I had was my car and my kids So I drove home to my parents' house and I stayed there for awhile. And I ended up having another baby and my father said, "You know, you can't, we don't have enough room so you going to have to find something." But at that time I had still not found a job. I had four kids now in one room in a two bedroom house with my parents. And so I sent an e-mail to Congressman [Joe] Sestak and he asked and I informed him of my situation. I was in school, I was a full time student but I just didn't have the money. I had no place to go and I asked him could he help me and they sent me to the VA and they just started a pilot program for the HUD-VASH [Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing] -- I mean not a pilot, but it had just started and I was like one of nine of the people to be the first on the program. And it took about a year before I actually got into a house and during that time it was -- it was really stressful because I'm watching as you know all of the people who are in charge -- it was only person. They finally brought in another person and by the time he came, they had about 150 applicants and they were supposed to be having meetings with us coming to our house and all of that kind of stuff but they couldn't do it because they didn't have enough people so -- But anyway I got a house through the HUD VASH program. It's a four bedroom house and it's a beautiful -- it's a nice house just to transition but I thank the HUD VASH program for being there for me when I needed them because I really didn't have any other -- any other choice or whatever. With the HUD VASH program, I really believe in it because I'm -- my situation could have been a lot worse and I see a lot of people that are when we go to the meetings a lot of other people that are in the HUD VASH program that are literally, you know, living on the street and who have mental illness. As I was listening to his [Jack Fanous] statement and it was true to me because I see so many -- not just veterans but soldiers as soon as they come back with so many mental issues and like he said the transition is hard. And they teach you to go and train and fight and do all those things but they don't teach you how to live a normal life when you come back. You know, they don't teach you how to take care of your kids or pay all your bills or whatever. A lot of that stuff is all clumped into together. But once you're out in the real world those things are not there for you. There's nobody to say, "Well this is what you need to do, this is next step" or whatever. A lot of those people are lost. There are a lot of veteran programs but most veterans don't know what things -- what options are out there for them. So it just so happened that I was able to reach out to somebody that could help me but a lot of those people don't know, they don't have those resources. So I just thank, I thank the HUD-VASH program for -- for all that they done for me because it's given me an opportunity to move on with my life. I'm still a full time student and I'm doing the vocational rehabilitation program. And so all of those programs are all different but every time you have to reach out to somebody, you're reaching out here, you're reaching out there, it's frustrating. And a lot of those people don't have the patience to deal with those kind of things so if there was some way that those things could be pushed together -- not necessarily pushed together but given them the opportunity to be able to say, "Well these are the options that you have. These are the things that are out there for you." It would help a lot of these soldiers out a lot because they don't have anybody as their liaison to say, "Look you can do this, that and the other." So I just thank you for allowing me to be here. Thank you.

[. . .]

William Wise: I'm pretty much here to endorse the long term residential programs like the one I'm in in Winslow. Having been in short term programs, in and out of psych wards and programs and then thrown back out in the private sector the long term residential program has provided me with the time to really address -- asses and address the issues of a veteran and to use our military skill, our military training experience and training and turn that into a skill set to learn how to transition out. It's a very good program. And I think the time -- the time that you're there is so important. Short term is not going to work, the 120 day program, at least not for me. Had I know about the VA program earlier, it had probably been like 4th down and 99 before I even tried to call the 1-800 number, you know what I'm saying. I come from a generation where it's nothing but a scratch, I can handle it. And so it was a long time coming before I got to the point where I sought someone to get a new play to run and I still probably would have run my own play. I don't know what else to say about that except I really, really enjoyed that program. It saved my life. I've created a balance where I can see something instead of trying to assimilate, I can take my own self and go on and that's all I have, thank you.

Chair Robert Menendez: Mr. Wise what program were you talking about.

William Wise: Veterans Haven. Veterans Haven in Winslow. It's a two-year vocational and residential -- I mean vocational and transitional arrangement. You know, two years and after completion, with a certain income, you can go to get housing assistance as long as you stay in the state of New Jersey. I leave in March and that's where I plan to stay, in Jersey.

Lisa Chen (ABC News) reports that a third of the homeless population currently is made up of veterans: "Assistant Secretary of Housing Mercedes Marquez says that since February, HUD has funded over 136 programs that specifically target programs, and a partner program between HUD and the VA started in FY08, called the HUD-VASH [Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program] is funded at $75 million annually and serves over 20,000 homeless vets, including many who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan." Susan Campbell (Hartford Courant) also covers the issue noting the estimated 131,000 homeless veterans around the country with approximately 5,000 in Connecticut alone and that the strain those assisting veterans already is expected to increase as more veterans are created by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings" -- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.

As is too often the case, turnout for the hearing yesterday was sparse; however, I'm referring to senators. The visitor section was actually fairly well packed. We'll note the following exchanges from the second panel.

Chair Robert Menendez: Mr. Berg, you said about the VA needs to take leadership at a local level. Can you expound on -- what exactly do you mean by that, 'they need to take leadership at the local level'?

Steve Berg: I think that there's two things -- two things I mean by that. One is within a community, in every community in this country, there's people working on the issue of homelessness. There's HUD funded programs, there's HHS programs, there's VA programs. A lot of the times those programs don't necessarily work together around veterans, around the simple things if you're really going to be serious about reducing and ending veterans homelessness in the community, you have to find the veterans who are homeless, find the veterans who are about to be homeless, make sure that somebody is doing that and then find the housing resources that are going to be available and the other kinds of resources that are going to be available, going to be needed for those veterans. So it's a matter of reaching out to different people in the community, to leaders in the community, to federally funded programs, to private programs, bringing them together around this task of in this community we're going to identify veterans who are homeless and we're going to get them into housing until and chip away at the number until we reduce the number to zero.

[. . .]

Chair Robert Menendez: Mr. Fanous, you talked about fragmentation, so if you had a magic wand and could make what you think is the best coordinated effort to take place, what would it be?

Jack Fanous: Well, honestly, Senator, I believe that the most important thing would be to have all the stakeholders who are providing care for veterans, they should be localized and put into one location. When a veteran has to travel from the VA in one part of the state and has to go to the Social Security administration in another part of the state and then he has to go to Social Security -- to Salvation Army or the GI Go Fund and he has to drive all over the state, many times they don't have enough money to put gas in their car. It just gets that simple that the facilities all have to be together in one centralized location which is something that we are hoping to work on the city of Newark which is to create a mall of services, just a one-stop, a legitimate one-stop mall of services where one office would be Social Security administration and one office would be the VA and one office would be various non-profits that can support veterans. If a veteran can just walk into one spot which is kind of what the VA's War Related Illness Injury Center has at the VA where they try to handle all medical issues at one point. If you can try to handle all issues completely -- veterans issues -- from the Department of Labor, every single one of those departments, is the best chance you're going to have to help the veterans. Otherwise, it's going to stay fragmented because if a veteran goes to the VA and he talks to one person, he might not know that he has to go to the Social Security administration, he might not be getting the right information. Which is what happens every day, I see it every single day in my office.

And do you ever see a female veteran? It's really appalling for an organization to send a speaker who repeatedly refers to veterans as "he." Even more so when you grasp that Fanous is the executive director. In the real world, Susan Kaplan (WOMENSENEWS) reports, "Despite growing numbers of homeless female veterans, Jackie K's House is one of only two transitional housing programs for female veterans in the country, says Jack Downing, director of Soldier On, the nonprofit group that founded Jackie K's House in 2005. Meanwhile, the number of women enlisted in the U.S. military and reserves today continue to grow." And it is really appalling how little Congress does to show that they care about the issue. They can show they care about it by inviting people who can speak to the issue. They rarely bother and it is insulting (and a female veteran stopped me after the hearing yesterday to ask that I include that it was insulting in the snapshot -- sorry to her that it's a day after the hearing) when not only are the voices of those working on female veterans issues shut out of the conversation, but the men who are invited repeatedly use language that portray "veterans" as a term only for men. Vietnam Veterans of America's Marsha Four is one of the few women who has been invited by Congress this year to testify on a panel about veterans issues -- that's veterans issues in general. There are people, such as US House Rep John Hall, who have chaired female veterans hearings and they deserve praise for that; however, why is that every time the hearing is on veterans in general, women veterans are either treated as an after thought or just ignored?

Appearing before the House Veterans Committee on June 3rd, Four explained, "There certainly is a question of course on the actual number of homeless veterans -- it's been fluctuating dramatically in the last few years. When it was reported at 250,000 level, two percent were considered females. This was roughly about 5,000. Today, even if we use the very low number VA is supplying us with -- 131,000 -- the number, the percentage, of women in that population has risen up to four to five percent, and in some areas, it's larger. So that even a conservative method of determining this has left the number as high as [6,550]. And the VA actually is reporting that they are seeing that this is as high as eleven percent for the new homeless women veterans. This is a very vulnerable population, high incidents of past sexual trauma, rape and domestic violence. They have been used, abused and raped. They trust no one. Some of these women have sold themselves for money, been sold for sex as children, they have given away their own children. And they are encased in this total humiliation and guilt the rest of their lives." The number of homeless veterans is expected to rise as more and more deployed begin returning home. That's for men and women. And equally true is that the number of women veterans who are homeless is expected to rise. When women veterans go homeless, more often that also means that children go homeless. That is less often the case for male veterans (less often -- it still does happen but less so).

For the record, it's not just a matter of putting a woman in a chair. It needs to be a woman qualified to speak on the issues and with few exceptions, Congress repeatedly invites women who know nothing about other female veterans and have nothing to offer. For example, if you're a parent, if you're a single parent and the primary parent for your children, if you're qualified to speak on women's issues you wouldn't waste time saying that it's just like when you're a man. Especially if you were a woman with children who was homeless. You're helping no one with your constant refrain of "What he said" or idiotic statements about leaving the military and "now I'm a female again." Really? The army issued you something in the place of a vagina? They removed it? I can be rude. I can be really rude. I'm biting my tongue.

But let's high road it and say that, yes, sometimes a member of Congress does ask the right questions (for instance, Senator Menendez did yesterday) but there is no one present who can answer the questions and that still falls back on the Congress. That's the reality. And let's put the blame where it also goes: with ourselves. If you're a woman and you're actually invited to testify before Congress, grasp that you are taking part in a very rare moment. Women are rarely invited to testify before Congress, even at this late date. So if you're invited, try having some self-respect. Even if you have to fake it.

Tonight on PBS' The NewsHour, Betty Ann Bowser reports on Iraq War veteran Jeremiah Workman and PTSD (and online currently, there's a NewsHour webextra of Staff Sgt Workman talking about his PTSD). (Yesterday there was a report on Iraqi refugees -- link has text, video and audio options -- which we'll try to highlight later in the week.)

Don't take no tidal wave
Don't take no mass grave
Don't take no smokin' gun
To show how the west was won
But when the curtain falls, I pray for peace
Try to remember peace
In the crowded streets
In the big hotels
In the mosques and the doors of the old museum
I take a holly vow
To never kill again
Try to remember peace
-- "Living With War" written by Neil Young, from his album of the same name

Veterans Day was covered on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today. The first hour featured VA Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth, Washington Post's David Finkel (The Good Soldiers) and Peter van Agtmael (Second Tour Hope I Don't Die). For the second hour, Page is joined by Stars and Stripes Leo Shane, Jericho Project's Tori Lyon, Survivor Corps' Scott Quilty, Yellow Ribbon America's Brad White and Sun Valley Adaptive Sports' Tom Iselin. The Diane Rehm Show archives its broadcasts and you can stream at no charge. Susan Page was today's guest host (Diane's on an NPR cruise with listener supporters).

Susan Page: And you know, I know there are a lot challenges in meeting the needs of veterans. I wonder if the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, are there challenges for the VA different in some way for these wars than for previous ones?

Tammy Duckworth: Well, yes, there are some key differences. Number one, they are being redeployed multiple times whereas in previous wars they were generally only deployed for their one year as was the case in Vietnam for example. Now there were many Vietnam vets who volunteered for additional deployments but it's actually a matter of course for Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to have two, three and even four deployments under their belts. We also have for the first time a large percentage of female veterans who are facing combat and we're finding some really interesting results out of that. For example, 50% -- I'm sorry, 45% of all of our female veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have actually come to the VA to get medical care.

Susan Page: Interesting. And I know that it was almost precisely five years ago today that the helicopter you were in, serving in Iraq, was shot down. You lost your legs in that accident. I wonder thinking about that very personal experience, when it came to the programs that were available, what mattered to you the most? What made the biggest difference for you?

Tammy Duckworth: Well the biggest difference for me was being cared for at a facility where there were other veterans and then also just the amount of amazing rehabiliative care that I received at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] and at VA. And the transition from Walter Reed, which is DoD [Defense Dept] to VA had to be as smoothly as possible because I was still in recovery and it's so critical for our warriors when they're in that -- their early stages of recovery -- of reintegration and recovery -- to get full support.

Susan Page: And what didn't work so well, did you think, in your own experience?

Tammy Duckworth: Well what didn't work so well -- this is one of the first things I brought up to [VA] Secretary [Eric] Shinseki when he interviewed me -- was the fact that we did not have a seamless transition of our military records from DoD to VA. When I left Walter Reed with my full medical records and I went to my VA hospital for the first time, I had to strip down to prove that I was an amputee. Even though he could see that I was an amputee and he had the medical records from the surgeon who amputated my legs. And we're immediately fixing that. Back in May of this year, [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates and Secretary Shinseki agreed to a program where we're going to develop virtual, lifetime, electronic records. So that from the day you raise your hand to enlist in the army to the day that you're laid to rest in one of our national shrines, your records follow you. And this will be a momnumental change in how VA and DoD hand off and care for our veterans.

Susan Page: One of the things that I think has alarmed many Americans is the-the suicide rate among returning veterans which seems very high and I wonder why do you think that is so?

Tammy Duckworth: I'm sorry. Could you say that again? You cut off for just a minute. I'm calling from a cell phone.

Susan Page: Why do you -- you know we've been, we've read a lot about the rate of suicides among returning veterans and it seems such a -- such a tragedy. Why do you think there is this high suicide rate?

Tammy Duckworth: Well there's a couple of things going on and this goes back to what I said earlier about our veterans going on multiple deployments -- two, three, four rotations -- whereas in previous wars they did not go for as long. You also have veterans coming home and surviving far more greivous injuries such as myself who would never have survived [in earlier wars]. And also I think that we're just more vigilant now. In previous wars, a lot of veterans suffered for a very long time without a diagnosis and without people realizing they were suffering and I think we're just doing a better job of diagnosing people. In fact, in 2008, VA diagnosed over 442,000 patients with PTSD. This is something that certainly wasn't done after Vietnam when we called it "combat fatigue" and after WWII and Korea when we called it "shell shock." So I think we're more vigilant, we're finding more of them but also that they're facing multiple, repeated exposure to combat condition.

Susan Page: And do you think that the VA does a good job now screening for PTSD or do you still think there's a ways to go?

Tammy Duckworth: I think that we still have improvements to make It's not just VA, it has to be a VA - DoD partnership. I think we're better than we were five years ago when I first went over to Iraq.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009







Today in a huge blow to freedom of the press and a boost to thug Nouri al-Maliki, a Baghdad court declared the thug a winner. Martin Chulov and Julian Borger (Guardian) report: "An Iraqi court has ordered the Guardian to pay Nouri al-Maliki damages of 100m dinar (£52,000) after supporting a complaint by the Iraqi prime minister's intelligence service that he had been defamed by a Guardian story in April describing him as increasingly autocratic. The ruling ignored testimony by three expert witnesses from the Iraqi journalists' union summoned by the court, who all said that the article was neither defamatory nor insulting and argued that no damages were warranted." Charles Tripp (Guardian) observes Nouri got a cash award despite the fact that he wasn't an injured party and goes on to sketch the rise of Thug Nouri:

Throughout 2008 he used the Iraqi armed forces to reconquer the provinces of Iraq, projecting himself as the leader whose only thought was the unity of the country. This was the image he wanted to convey in the January 2009 provincial elections. So to make sure he got a good press, he promised that thousands of journalists would be awarded grants of land for a nominal price, or for free. He was reviving a form of land patronage long used by his predecessors to cement officers, officials and now journalists to their retinue.
Some welcomed it and others were appalled. But for those who persisted in investigating awkward questions, the government had no hesitation in using the courts. More journalists found themselves fighting charges of libel or of endangering national security -- a charge levelled at foreign news media, particularly from the Arab world.
There is a pattern here, in which the wires of the "shadow state" are again being assembled, leading to the hands of one man: intelligence services run from the prime minister's office, staffed mainly by "awlad al-Hindiyya" ["the lads from Hindiyya", Maliki's home region]; dismissals, promotions and transfers in the ministries of interior and defence that insert his loyalists at the expense of others; the introduction of censorship of imported books and control of the internet; the recent closure of Mustansiriya University and its reopening under the watchful eye of the Baghdad operations command, controlled by his office.

Nouri has a long history of attacking the press. In the summer of 2006, he had a 'plan' for security -- a four-plank 'plan' -- but the press reduced it to three in much of their coverage, bypassing the third plank which dealt with journalims (aaah, Thuggy's first effort at attacking freedom of the press). It has been non-stop attacks ever since with Nouri most recently -- in an attempt to stop live transmissions -- has demanded outlets get a government license. (This is done to keep them from reporting on bombings. Within a few hours, Iraqi forces usually prevent the press from having access -- often prevent via violence -- and the licenses are an attempt to prevent any broadcasting before the forces can secure the area.) Martin Chulov (Guardian) notes the Journalists Freedom Organisation sees this as "part of a wider crackdown against media outlets designed to discourage scrutiny of public officials" (they are correct) and quotes JFO's Jabar Dharad stating, "Legal cases have flooded from all sides into publishers and media outlets throughout Iraq. This is a very effective tactic to silence dissent. A key reason for the diminishing status of private media here is that parliament hasn't passed a law to protect journalists in Iraq. They are deliberately delaying doing so." The truth telling article that so enraged Nouri is Ghaith Abdul-Ahad's "Six years after Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki tightens his grip on Iraq" (April 30, 2009).

Meanwhile Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports Nouri's flunky Ali al-Alak states they want to force the MEK, Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf, out of the country, "A standoff has been in place since the deaths in July, through both Iraqis and members of Camp Ashraf worry about a new round of violence if a solution is not found soon. Among other complaints, members of the camp say that the Iraqi Army intermittently blocks fuled and food from reaching them and prevents them from cmoing and going. Iraq has prohibted news organizations and most humanitarian groups from entering Camp Ashraf since the July raid, but the government allowed a reporter and photographer inside the camp last week to interview its members and their relatives." And yet another political rival of Thug Nouri has been arrested. Caesar Ahmed and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report Sahwa leader Mustafa Kamal Shibeeb was arrested "in connection with the deaths of five known members of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq who were killed in 2007 in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood, where Shibeeb commanded paramilitary fighters better known as the Awakening."

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Today the US military announced: "Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq – Two U.S. Army pilots were killed when a helicopter experienced a hard landing in Salah ad Din Province, Nov.8. The names of the deceased are 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 [. . .]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." And they announced: "AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – A Marine attached to Multi National Force – West died as the result of a non-combat related incident here Nov. 8. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. [. . .] The incident is under investigation." The announcements bring the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4362.
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which left one person wounded, a Mosul explosion ("thermal charge") which left ten people injured, and a Falluja roadside bombing which wounded four people.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Mosul today and Hadi Laiybi ("Sadrist leader") was shot dead "on his doorstep" in Mosul last night.
Back in July, Robert Fisk (Independent of London) wrote, "I first heard about Baha Mousa from his family. He was working as a hotel receptionist in Basra when British troops surrounded the building and arrested seven men. They were taken to a British barracks, hooded and beaten. Two days later, as his weeping father recalled for me, Mousa was dead. His family was given $3,000 in compensation and rejected a further $5,000. What they wanted was justice. His father had been appointed a police officer by the British authorities themselves. He was wearing two pistols on his hips. He was 'our man', and we killed his son." There is an ongoing inquiry into Baha's death taking place in England. We last noted it in the October 6th snapshot.
The Right Honorable Sir William Gage brought today's proceedings to order, Today we are going to start the second half of the evidence in Module 2, which as I think I said before we broke off two weeks ago, we very much hoped would be complete by the time we come to our break at Christmas, the last day of which I think is 18 December. Just one other matter I want to mention. Today we have two witnesses giving evidence, the second of which is Mr. Reader. He will give evidence by videolink from Manchsester as I think you now all know." It seemed rather business as usual; however, later testimony made it a dramatic day for the inquiry. That was especially true of the second witness, Garry Reader. But not just him.
Gerald Elias: Mr Aspinall, I am not going to dwell on this at any stage, although I will come back to it very briefly, but it is right to say, isn't it, that in the months and years that followed the events that this Inquiry is concerned with, you were not at all times as helpful as you might have been.
Gareth Aspinall: Can you please elaborate more on that?
Gerald Elias: Well from time to time you told lies, didn't you, in the past, when
asked questions about these events?
Gareth Aspinall: No, I have told no lies whatsoever. If there's anything that have been missed out on my statements it's purely because I have not been able to remember.
Gerald Elias: Is that true?
Gareth Aspinall: Yes, that's true.
Uh, actually it wasn't. As Aspinall would admit later, he gave false statements early on. He was worried, he said, what might happen to them. Punishment for Baha's deaht? No, future promotions, that sort of thing. "At that point," he declared, "I wasn't worried and I don't think any of the other lads was worried about being blamed. We had nothing to be worried about on that bit. What we was worried about was our own positions, as I have just said, and our futures within the army of telling the truth on what happened. [. . .] We talked about it. We was worried. We was worried what would happen if we told the truth. As I've said, that's why we stalled." He would cite Cpl Donald Payne -- being intimidated by him -- as one reason they did not supply the facts at the start of the investigation into Baha's death. Dropping back to the September 19, 2006 snapshot:
From the Bully Boy to another war war criminal -- in England, Corporal Donald Payne pleaded guilty "to inhumanely treating civilians detained in Iraq between Sept 13 and Sept 16 2003 in Basra, Iraq" (Telegraph of London). The Guardian notes that Payne ("one of seven British troops who went on trial today facing charges linked to the death of an Iraqi civilian") was pleading guilty to chrages that "relate to the death of Baha Musa, 26, an Iraqi civilian in Basra". Jeremey Lovell (Reuters) reports that Musa is said to have had "93 injuries on his body, including a broken nose and ribs" and that "another detainee was so badly beaten that he nearly died of kidney failure."
The first witness, Gareth Aspinall, described seeing Payne abusing the prisoners.
Gareth Aspinall: When I walked in there [interrogation], I remember seeing a number of detainees stood up and receiving punches off Mr Payne to the lower back area.
Gerald Elias: The number of detainees, were they hooded?
Gareth Aspinall: I can't remember.
Gerald Elias: Were they plasticuffed?
Gareth Aspinall: I can't 100 per cent say for certain, but I believe they would have been. But I can't remember if they was.
Gerald Elias: If you said, as you did in your statement of 10 October, that they were hooded, that would have been the position, would it?
Gareth Aspinall: Sorry, what? What do you mean?
Gerald Elias: If you said it on 10 October in your statement --
Gareth Aspinall: Yes.
Gerald Elias: -- that when you went into the TDF all the detainees were hooded, that would have been true?
Gareth Aspinall: Yes, if that's what I said in my statement at the time.
This continues with more descriptions of the beating.
Gerald Elias: Did there appear to be any reason for Mr Payne to be doing this?
Gareth Aspinall: No. He just seemed very angry.
Gerald Elias: He seemed angry? What gave you the impression he was angry?

Gareth Aspinall: I don't know. His posture, his -- you can tell when someone looks angry.
Gerald Elias: Was he shouting?

Gareth Aspinall: I think he was, yes.
Gerald Elias: And the punches that he was throwing, describe those to us?
Gareth Aspinall: There was -- they looked like full-on punches where he was bringing his arm back and, basically like a boxer, hitting them in the lower back area.
Gerald Elias: Full-on punches.
Gareth Aspinall: Well, they were quite -- they looked quite hard. I wouldn't like to have received one, put it that way.
He said the victims being beaten "yelled out in pain. Held their side." And he and the others didn't object. He offered an explanation of why.
Gareth Aspinall: Maybe because we felt, you know, what do we do here? What do we do in this situation? You know, was we to turn around, run out of the room and go straight to the ops room and report it to the commanding officer?
Gerald Elias: Well, why not?
Gareth Aspinall: Because we didn't know whether this is what happened in war. We was very young.
He testified that abuse was not limited to Sunday and continued on Monday when they were put in stress position and the punches continued.
Gerald Elias: On this Monday, you did see, didn't you, what I think came to be known as the choir, or the chorus?
Gareth Aspinall: Yes, I did.

Gerald Elias: Tell us what it was.

Gareth Aspinall: It's where the detainees were made to stand up, and Mr Payne, he would go about each individual detainee and he would poke them --

Gerald Elias: You are just dropping your voice a little bit.
Gareth Aspinall: Sorry. He would -- all the detainees would be stood up and he would move about the room poking them, just basically with his finger, and they would -- each and every one of them would scream out in pain. And he'd take turns in doing it to different ones, and he thought -- he developed this and he thought it was funny. The first time I saw it, I'll openly admit I did chuckle, but then as the day progressed and it started to wear me down and I really felt for the detainees. I felt it was a bit out of order that -- it was difficult to watch.
Gerald Elias: You say that Mr Payne would poke with a finger?
Gareth Aspinall: Yes.
Gerald Elias: Which part of the body?
Gareth Aspinall: Round the lower back area.

Gerald Elias: The same area to which he had been punching?
Gareth Aspinall: Yes. Yes.
Gerald Elias: What response would that produce from the detainee?
Gareth Aspinall: They'd scream in pain.
Monday night, he testified, he heard screaming and assumed Payne was doing his usual abuse. Suddenly a stretcher was called for an he saw Baha carried out on it. Payne quickly came outside and instructed, "If anyone asks, he banged his head." The second witness, Garry Reader, also spoke of 'instructions' given. Payne and Rogers told him that "s**t rolls downhill" and that if the truth got it, those under Payne and Rogers would be held responsible.
Gerald Elias: Now, the events of Monday evening, and what we know to be the incident that involved the detainee Baha Mousa, what was the first thing that you knew of something happening in relation to Baha Mousa?
Garry Reader: I entered the TDF via the right room door and seen Mr Baha Mousa standing there with his plasticuffs -- with his sandbag removed. I immediately shouted out, Private Cooper reacted --
Gerald Elias: Private Cooper was already in the room, was he?
Garry Reader: I think he was, yes.
Gerald Elias: Mm-hmm.
Garry Reader: I can't be 100 per cent certain, but immediately following was
Corporal Payne. He come from the left doorway. They both grabbed hold of Mr Baha. There was a struggle and they were trying to get him into the central room where I seen both Private Cooper and Private -- Corporal Payne use physical force to get Mr Baha Mousa into the room. Outside of vision, I heard screaming, Baha Mousa, shouting of Corporal Payne and Private Cooper to words of, "Get on the f**king floor, get down, get down". At this point I went outside. I think I spoke to Private Graham --
Gerald Elias: Pausing there for a moment. Before you go outside, one or two aspects of what you described. After you saw Baha Mousa, you say, without plasticuffs and with a hood off his head, you --
Garry Reader: I don't think -- I can't remember if his plasticuffs were on or not, but I know his sandbag was removed from his head.

Gerald Elias: I understand, all right. You shouted, Cooper goes to -- to him, is that right, first?
Garry Reader: Yes.
Gerald Elias: Where did Mr Payne come from?
Garry Reader: Come from the left door.
Gerald Elias: Along the passageway?
Garry Reader: Yes.
Gerald Elias: The two of them, you said, I think, forceflly then put Baha Mousa into the middle room?
Garry Reader: That's correct.
Gerald Elias: What do you mean by "forcefully"?
Garry Reader: Dragging him, kicking him and punchin ghim.
Gerald Elias: Which was doing what?
Garry Reader: Both were kicking, punching and dragging.
Gerald Elias: Were you able to see where the kicks or the punches from both landed?
Garry Reader: Various regions of his body, his legs, arms, generally all round his body, really. They weren't specific areas that they were aiming for.
Gerald Elias: He was taken out of your sight, as I understand it, into the middle room?
Garry Reader: That's correct.

Gerald Elias: Had you seen him in the middle room earlier in the day?

Garry Reader: Not that I can recall, no.
Gerald Elias: Once he had gone out of your sight, you heard the shouting that you talked about?
Garry Reader: Yes.
Gerald Elias: Then I gather you went outside.
Garry Reader: Yes.
Gerald Elias: Why did you go outside at that point.

Garry Reader: Didn't want to be there.
Gerald Elias: Because?
Garry Reader: It was wrong.

Gerald Elias: What did you think was wrong?
Garry Reader: The way they was treated.
Gerald Elias: I'm sorry? The way . . .?
Garry Reader: He was treated.
Approximately ten minutes later, he went back inside the building.
Gerald Elias: What happened when you went back in?
Garry Reader: (inaudible) talked to Baha Mousa. I shouted at him, got no response.
Gerald Elias: So you went into the middle room, did you?
Garry Reader: Yes.
Gerald Elias: Where was Baha Mousa when you went into the middle room, in what position?
Garry Reader: Slumped up against the wall with his head down. Sandbag was on his head and his plasticuffs behind his -- his hands were plasticuffed behind his back.
Gerald Elias: Forgive me, it is a little difficult to hear you. Did you say you shouted at him or to him?
Garry Reader: To him.
Gerald Elias: Why did you go in and shout to him?
Garry Reader: To make sure he was all right.
Gerald Elias: Why did you think he might not be all right?
Garry Reader: He had just had a good kicking.
Gerald Elias: You say you got no response?
Garry Reader: No.
Gerald Elias: So what did you do then.
Garry Reader: I noticed he wasn't moving. Took his sandbag off his head and his eyes were rolled back into the back of his head. Immediately lay him down, shouted someone to get me a knife because I couldn't lie him down properly because his hands were behind his back, and started first aid, CPR.
Gerald Elias: Did someone get you a knife?
Garry Reader: Yes, someone got me a knife to cut his plasticuffs.
Gerald Elias: And you cut them, did you?
Garry Reader: Yes.
Gerald Elias: Did you then put him down on the ground?
Garry Reader: Yes.
Gerald Elias: On his back, on his side, or what?
Garry Reader: On his back.
Gerald Elias: What did you do then?
Garry Reader: Immediately started CPR.
Gerald Elias: Were you able to resuscitate him?
Garry Reader: No.
Gerald Elias: I think we know that a medic or medics did come, did they?
Garry Reader: Evenutally a medic come. He took over the repetitions and I took
over -- I just continued with the breaths for a while until the stretcher came.
Gerald Elias: Then he was taken away on a stretcher, was he?
Garry Reader: Yes.
Gerald Elias: But in the time that you were working with Baha Mousa, you got no sign, did you, of resuscitation or life?
Garry Reader: No.
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