Saturday, April 25, 2009









We're going to start by looking back. Six years ago, the New York Times [Sunday] Magazine featured Peter Maass' "Good Kills" which demonstrated all that was wrong with war reporting (April 20, 2003, pp. 32 - 37). Predictions? Maass opened with them: "As the war in Iraq is debated and turned into history, the emphasis will be on the role of technology -- precision bombing, cruise missiles, decapitation strikes." Really? Is that what anyone talks about today? And did they really talk about it then? No and no. But that was what the first Gulf War was about and lazy reporters couldn't capture what they were seeing -- apparently the US education system has failed them and they lack the ability to put their observations into words -- so they tried to use a narrative from a previous war.

Six years ago, this story demonstrated how the embeds were a success . . . for the US military. Reporting on his 'buddies' in The Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, Maass smoothed over all the edges even when the edges were dead civilians. Especially when it was dead civilians. Entering Diyala Province (though Maass didn't use -- and probably didn't know -- the term), his 'buddies' were drgiving over a bridge. He calles this attempt to get across the Diyala River (by vehicle, over a bridge) "a signal event in the war" -- which indicates the other problem. The reporters were so jacked up on their own sense of being 'history' that they jerked off in print and the audiences back home were stuck with it. What were minor events were suddenly 'epic' just because a reporter was embedded.

"BATTLE IS CONFUSION." And you know Maass stood by it because it was in all caps. But REPORTING IS CONFUSION when reporters forget their role. As the marines attempt to travel (drive) over the bridge, things get, as Maass puts it, "complicated." We have wasted four pages on his War Porn when finally readers learn (in less than two pages) that civilians were being killed. This 'big battle'? Lt. Bryan McCoy is thrilled that people are dying. He utters a censored word -- the paper renders it "[expetives]" -- describing Iraqis and then self-strokes, "Boys are doing good. Brute force is going to prevail today." He adds, "We'll drill them." And indeed McCoy and the others did. But they were civilians attempting to cross the bridge from the other end. Civilians were attempting to drive across the bridge. Proving what a fool he was Maass -- even after it's known that civilians were killed -- is still writing about these precision shootings. A moving car's engine block is being taken out? Didn't we hear that one after the shooting on the car containing Giuliana Segrena? And those bullets were everywhere. Maass writes, "As the half-dozen vehicles approached, some shots were fired at the ground in front of the cars; others were fired, with great precision, at their tires or their engine blocks. Marine snipers can snipe." Can Maas gush over his 'buddies' any more foolishly and any less journalistically?

After he's done gushing, after approximately two-thirds of another page has been wasted, Maass finally informs, "The vehicles, it only later became clear, were full of Iraqi civilians." Now what reader would feel cheated? You got Maass playing Miss Cleo and offering predictions, you got pages and pages of rah-rah, you got everything but reporting and there's not a great deal in what remains of the article. Despite, for example, speaking to one survivor, Eman Alshamnery, who was shot, whose sister was shot dead along with two other people in one of the cars, he really doesn't have much to say. He speaks to another survivor who is digging graves to bury people and Maass doesn't have much to say. No one knows how many people were killed -- despite Maass and other journalists being present, Maass never feels the need to give a death toll. He estimates at least six cars with people and also one old man walking (with a cane) on the bridge were shot dead. But the number of dead isn't important to him. Nor is it important to give voice to the survivors.

But, naturally, he offers plenty of space for the marines such as Lance Cpl Santiago Venture who explodes when another journalist (unidentified) disputes a marine's assertion of "Better safe than sorry" and another's pant of "I wish I had been here" by noting that "the civilians should not have been shot." Why is that? That really is what a reporter using six oversize pages (the Sunday Magazine is the size of Rolling Stone until the recent 'downsize') in a magazine should be able to answer. Maass does note that maybe warning shots whipping through the air aren't readily heard or recognized by civilian populations. And maybe more so when the firing is coming from people in camo that the civilians can't see. Just idle observations that readers really have to fill in to grasp what's being inferred but not said: You don't grasp that these 'tink' sounds hitting your car are bullets being fired by people you can't see. And the US marines weren't trained to grasp that just because your instructor tells you someone under fire will stop doesn't mean that's what happens in the real world (as has been demonstrated in Iraq over and over).

But why did the journalist say the civilians should not have been shot? The journalist isn't quoted or even mentioned except for that sentence and another where "the journalist walked away". Hmm. Maybe because the Genever Conventions insists that those engaged in combat "distinguish themselves from the civilian population while they are engaged in an attack or in a military operation preparatory to an attack. Recognizing, however, that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities an armed combatant cannot so distinugish himself, he shall retain his status as a combatant, provided that in such situations, he carries his arms openly; (a) during each military engagement, and (b) during such time as he is visble to the adversary while he is engaged in a miliary deployment preceding the launching of an attack in which he is to participate." That's the Geneva Convention. That's what Maass can't tell you about, what he wouldn't tell you about.

It's not just that it's 'bad' and 'sad' that these Iraqis were killed, it's that the way in which they were killed was, as described by Maass, a violation of the Geneva Convention. Maass can't be bothered with things such a the law. Much better to present the whole thing as if it were a traffic jam on some epic scale. No one's at fault, people died. Oh well. That is his 'angle.' It's embarrassing, it's not journalism. While he can't be bothered with explaining or citing the law, he does make time for the excussed. Ventura is quoted at length with a 'defense' that includes: "We've got to be concerned about our safety. We dropped pamphlets over these people weeks and weeks ago and told them to leave the city. You can't blame marines for what happened. It's bull. What are you doing getting in a taxi in the middle of a war zone?"

"Our safety"? Actually, as the invading force, you've got to be concerned with the civilian population and, are in fact, bound by law to protect the civilian population -- protect and not harm. "Dropped pamphlets" and people were supposed to leave their homes? And go where? And go why? Because another country told them to? Can't blame marines? Did the civilians shoot themselves? A taxi in the middle of a war zone? In the middle of Iraq, in the middle of their country, in the middle of their lives, in the middle of their homes. "Their" being the key term as in "theirs" not "ours."

Peter Maass, of course, wrote about knowing Salam Pax -- an Iraqi blogger who worked for the New York Times though Maass' inflated self-opinion turned it into 'works for me'. The same ego that allowed him to think he had the right to disclose various details about Salam Pax without checking with Pax first. Talk about arrogance and a sense of entitlement. If you're missing it, note "working alongside -- no, employing --" Pax and "there were occasions when I stayed in my room and let Salam loose for several hours." Let him loose for several hours? Is he a dog? For all who whine about Devil Wears Prada type of employees, grasp that it's the pompous employers who write the most insulting 'memoirs.' Last month, at his own website (The Fear), Salam Pax noted AP's assertion that Baghdad' was "calm . . . in part because the city is now ethnically divided." To which Pax added, "No s**t! You're not telling me anything new here. This was government and US army policy. Who put up the walls cutting the Sunni districts from the rest of the city?" Pax also takes on the assertion that "Shia militiamen and death squads" are now "off the street":

Is the writer being wilfully naïve? I am sure he knows better. The militias might have disappeared but one of the main reasons why these Shia neighbourhoods are safer than other districts is because Shia political parties were allowed to have their own organised security and militia forces. Like the Kurdish parties no one was allowed to question the right of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq in having it's own militarised arm, the Badr Organisation. And al-Dawa under al-Maliki started their own security brigade, in the guise of a counter terrorism brigade.
The Sunnis on the other hand were left to fend for themselves. And between the Mahdi Militias with their ominous slogan 'Our regular programme will resume after this break' and the other Shia security forces the 'Awakening Groups' were too little and too late. The harm was done.

"Awakening," "Sons of Iraq" and Sahwa all refer to the same group and the Boston Globe editorialized about it yesterday: "One sign of trouble is how Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has been treating the so-called Awakening Movement. . . . The Awakening fighters were promsied that once Al Qaeda was crushed, they would get jobs in the police and other security forces. But the Shi'ite-dominated government appears to be breaking that promise. Not only has it been slow to hire former Sunni insurgents, but it has allowed several Awakening leaders to be arrested on the basis of flimsy allegations. If this sectarian behavior is not stopped, sooner or later it may result in a resumption of calamitous Sunni - Shi'ite violence." independent journalist Dahr Jamail observed this week (at ZNet) that the whole thing was "ripe with broken promises" and:

It is an easily predictable outcome. An occupying power (the US) sets up a 100,000-strong militia composed of former resistance fighters and even some members of al-Qaeda, pays them each $300 per month to not attack occupation forces, and attacks decrease dramatically. Then, stop paying most of them and tell them they will be incorporated into Iraqi government security forces. Proceed to leave them high and dry as the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki begins targeting them - assassinating leaders, detaining fighters and threatening their families. Allow this plan to continue for over six months, unabated.Not surprisingly, the Sahwa are fighting back against US forces and those of the Iraqi government.

Wayne White of the Middle East Institute in Washington told Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor), "if you continue arresting and harassing, and shunning Awakening types -- many of whom were originally derived from the insurgency -- you're really playing wtih fire." Yesterday, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a roadside bombing outside of Baquba which claimed the life of Sahwa leader Mubarak Hammad al Obadi and 3 of his aids while leaving two more aids wounded. Violence is increasing (again) in Iraq. James Hider (Times of London) adds that "Awakenings" "have been repeatedly targeted by militans, and complain they have not received support from the Shi government, which views them with deep distrust." Hider notes an investigation by his paper "revealed that widespread abuse of power and corruption among Iraq's sprawling new security forces are also stoking resentment among the population, stirring people to carry out attacks." Hider also reported on that investigation into Iraq's police and he notes, "In the desperate rush to drag Iraq back from civil war, sweeping powers were granted to its new security forces. Human rights workers, MPs and American officials now believe that they are all too often a law unto themselves: admired when they defeat terrorists but also feared for their widespread abuse of power." Hider also reports on a video of a woman being raped (video shot by a mobile phone) and ex-Falluja Mayor Jassim al-Bidawi identifies the man in the video "as an Iraqi police officer" and says the one filming the rape is as well: "They are thought to have drugged the woman as she visited her husband in a detention centre in Ramadi. Since the rapist's uncle is a senior policeman in the city the attacker is all but untouchable, Mr al-Bidawi says." Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) reported Thursday on a woman, Dalal, who was in a Tikrit prison where she was "raped by prison guards," she informed her brother who visited her "drew a gun and shot his visibly pregnant sister dead." They explain how common assaults on women are and how easily buried. No one is imprisoned for either raping Dalal or for murdering her. No one was fired. Just another example of the ongoing femicide in Iraq.

Staying on the topic of Iraqi women the Janan Collection is Iraqi women's arts and crafts. Megan Feldman (Dallas Observer) reports that the collection/colletive was started by Ty Reed who was a US soldier serving in Iraq when she encountered a young Iraqi widwo named Fatima who, like many other Iraqi women, was now the sole support for her family. Fatima explained that she and approximately 24 other widows "had artistic skills such as basket-making, painting or leather-working. Could Reed help them find a way to earn a living?" So Reed and Teresa Nguyen (Ty Reed's sister) started up the collective and there will be an online auction May 9th. Feldman notes, "The work on tour now includes traditional baskets, ornaments and jewelry made of leather, turquoise beads and gold, as well as paintings like Harvest Moon, a minaret-studded cityscape set against a glowing moon. . . . The proceeds from just one painting, Reed said, will support the painter's family for at least a month."

More widows and widowers and orphans in Iraq today as yesterday's violent bombings with mass fatalities is echoed. This morning Ernesto Londono and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) reported that at least 135 people have been killed in Iraq bombings today and yesterday with today seeing 55 dead and one-hundred-and-twenty-five wounded in a double bombings near a Shia mosque in Baghdad. Timothy Williams and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explain the double bombings were suicide bombers ("within five minutes of each other") outside "the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim and his grandson." The Times link also has audio option where Myers says, "The bombers came up and mingled with the crowd while they were waiting to get into the shrine that you mentioned and blew themselves up nearly simultaneiously as near as we can figure." He also stated, "It seems very clear that the last few attacks have targeted the Shi'ites in Iraq particularly." Corey Flintoff (NPR) adds, "Until the country can reach power-sharing arrangements among its ethnic Kurdish and its Shiite and Sunni Arab communities, Iraq remains vulnerable to attacks by al-Qaida and other militant groups, analysts say." James Hider (Times of London) notes that the death toll hit 60. Aws Qusay, Zahra Hosseinian, Michael Christie and Louise Ireland (Reuters) observe: "The attack was the deadliest single incident in Iraq since 63 people died in a truck bomb blast in Baghdad on June 17 last year, and came amid growing concerns that a recent drop in violence might turn out to have been just a temporary lull." Laith Hammoudi and Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) quote eye witness Hammad Faisel stating, "There were piles of bodies. I saw a man running after the explosions to get away, but he quickly fell. I watched him die."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"The US military announces another death, at least 60 Iraqis killed in Baghdad bombing

"Yesterday's bombing and the press"

"I Hate The War"
"Quick post"
"Diary entry"
"Fudge Brownies in the Kitchen"
"hillary is 44, iraq, etc."
"The bombings"
"Subcommittee hearing"
"Ban Ki-moon's homophobia"
"The Harman trap"

"A New Leaf "
"Jane Harman"
"We need prosecution "
"He doesn't understand the law"

Thursday, April 23, 2009









In Iraq today, multiple bombings, multiple deaths. Al Jazeera noted this morning a Baghdad bombing today which "targeted a police patrol in the Karrada district" with a death toll of 28 and fifty injured. Michael Christie and Jon Boyle (Reuters) added that, along with the 28 killed in Baghdad, a Muqdadiya bombing claimed 32 lives. Reuters state that both bombings were suicide bombings. Jomana Karadsheh and Cal Perry (CNN) explain that the death toll in Muqdadiya rose from 32 to 45 and that twenty-eight is the wounded toll thus far and that the bombing targeted Iranian pilgrims. Timothy Williams (New York Times) notes the toll rose again, to 47, combines the two bombings for a total death toll of 75. Unlike CNN which describes the Baghdad bomber as wearing a "suicide vest," Williams says it was a "suicide belt" and that the bomber was a woman. Corinne Reilly, Sahar Issa and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) also report a female bomber in Baghdad. They and Timothy Williams mention an arrest. CBS News has that as well: "Iraqi officials told CBS News Terrorism consultant Ali al-Ahmed Thursday that [Abu Omar] al-Baghdadi had been arrested. . . . If true, the arrest could deliver a significant blow to an intensified campaign of attacks - the latest which included two separate suicide bombings that killed at least 54 people Thursday." Ernesto Londono and K.I. Ibrahim (Washington Post) provide context, "The assertion, made by Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, the spokesman for Iraq's security forces, was startling because many intelligence officials believe Baghdadi is a mythical figure created to give the Sunni insurgent organization an Iraqi face. Iraqi authorities in the past have made similar claims that turned out to be incorrect." The 'capture' may be true and it may, indeed, have taken place today. Then again, it may be an attempt to distract from the large death toll from the two bombings. Back to the bombings, Aseel Kami (Reuters) quotes Diyala Province Governor Abdulnasir al-Muntasirbillah stating, "I just left the hospital of Baquba. The scenes there are catastrophic. Words can't express it. It is a dirty, cowardly terrorist act." [Muqdadiya is in Diyala Province]. Usama Redha and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) observe, "The two attacks bore echoes of the worst violence from Iraq's civil war and was certain to fuel fears that the security strides of the last year and a half were fading away."

This morning US House Rep John Hall chaired a hearing by the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. It was some hearing. Full of embarrassments from both sides listening in Congress as well as from the witness table. One Congressional member took the hearing for a Mary Kay Convention, another thought it was the time to go crazy and vent all your hatred for US government and, from the witness side, one thought a hearing was a license to lie. Repeating, it was some hearing.

It started off slowly and normally enough with Hall, after noting that New York soldiers stationed in Afghanistan had told him on a recent trip that they want more bandwidth and better showers, making opening remarks. "Today," Hall explained, "we are here to consider legislation, the Compensation Owed for Mental Health Based on Activities in Theater Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act or the COMBAT PTSD Act, H.R. 952. During the 110th Congress and most recently during an oversight hearing held on March 24, 2009, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs revisited Congress' intent in establishing presumptive provisions to provide compensation to combat veterans under Section 1154(b) of title 38." Hall noted that the Veterans Affairs Dept appeared to be interpreting qualifications narrowly and that his bill is about "clarifying and expanding the definition of 'combat with the enemy' found in section 1154(b) to include a theater of combat operations during a period of war or in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities."

The first panel was John Wilson (Disabled American Veterans), Barton F. Dutchman (National Veterans Legal Services Program), Norman Bessel (American Ex-Prisoners of War) and Richard Paul Cohen (National Organization of Veterans' Advocates, Inc.).

"The definition of what constitutes combat with the enemy is critical to all veterans in a combat theatre of operations," stated John Wilson reading his prepared remarks aloud ( click here), "whether the issue is service connection of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other conditions resulting from combat. The current high standards requried by the Department of Veterans Affairs' internal operating procedures for verifying veterans who 'engaged in combat with the enemy' are impossible for many veterans to satisfy, whether from current or past wars." He noted the various reasons that can prevent someone from being seen (by the VA) as "engaged in combat with the enemy" and offered women serving in Iraq:

The female soldiers who accompany male troops on patrols to conduct house-to-house searches are known as Team Lioness, and have proved to be invaluable. Their presence not only helps calm women and children, but Team Lioness troops are also able to conduct searches of the women, without violating cultural strictures. Against official policy, and at that time without the training given to their male counterparts, and with a firm commitment to serve as needed, these dedicated young women have been drawn onto the frontlines in some of the most violent counterinsurgency battles in Iraq.
Independent Lens, an Emmy award-winning independent film series on PBS, documented their work in a film titled Lioness which profiled five women who saw action in Iraq's Sunni Triangle during 2003 and 2004. As members of the US Army's 1st Engineer Battalion, Shannon Morgan, Rebecca Nava, Kate Pendry Guttormsen, Anastasia Breslow and Ranie Ruthig were sent to Iraq to provide supplies and logistical support to their male colleagues. Not trained for combat duty, the women unexpectedly became involved with fighting in the streets of Ramadi. These women were part of a unit, made up of approsimately 20 women, who went out on combat missions in Iraq. Female soldiers in the Army and Marines continue to perform Lioness work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I would like to highlight the issues faced by Rebecca Nava as she seeks recognition of her combat experience and subsequent benefits for resulting disabilities. Then US Army Specialist Nava was the Supply Clerk for the 1st Engineering Battalion in Iraq. In conversations with her and as seen in the film Lioness, she recounts several incidents. Two of those incidents are noted in my testimony today.
The first is the roll-over accident of a 5-ton truck that was part of a convoy to Baghdad. In this accident, the driver was attempting to catcuh up with the rest of the convoy but in doing so lost control of the vehicle. The five ton truck swerved off the road and rolled over, killing a Sergeant who was sitting next to her, and severely injuring several others. Specialist Nava was caught in the wreckage. She had to pulled through the fractured windshield of the vehicle. While not severly injured in the accident, she did suffer a permanent spinal injury.
Another incident occurred wherein she was temporarily attached to a Marine unit and her job for this mission was to provide Lioness support for any Iraqi women and children the unit contacted. It was a routine mission patrolling the streets of Ramadi. Before she knew it, the situation erupted into chaos as they came under enemy fire. She had no choice but to fight alongside her male counterparts to suppress the enemy. No one cared that she was a female -- nor did they care that she had a Supply MOS -- their lives were all on the line -- she opened fire. The enemy was taken out. During this fire fight she also made use of her combat lifesaver skills and provided medical aid to several injured personnel.
This and other missions resonate with her to this day. When she filed a claim with the VA, she was confronted with disbelief about her combat role in Iraq as part of Team Lioness. Specialist Nava filed a claim for service connection for hearing loss and tinnitus but was told that she did not qualify because of her logistics career field. Since she does not have a Combat Action Badge, she cannot easily prove that the combat missions occurred which impacted her hearing.

Wilson observed that Nava's "lack of recognition for her combat role can be multiplied countless times for other veterans also caught in the fog of war." Later in the hearing, he would return to Nava to point out her struggle and how she had a team following her in Iraq, recording her (for the documentary) and still was denied and that most service members do not have a document of their service (example: "So we have a troop who has a camera following her around in Iraq [. . .] How much more of a problem is this for other veterans who do not have the visibility she has.") She does not Norman Bussel stated, "To refuse PTSD compensation to veterans because their job titles are not synonymous with combat is unconscionable. There's more than the money involved. Even more important is the colossal insult of telling a combat veteran that he didn't fight for his country. That is an unnecessary stressor to stuff into his or her already overlowing load of emotional baggage." (Bussel read his prepared remarks, click here.) Cohen observed in his opening remarks:

You've heard justice delayed is justice denied well justice denied increases frustration among our combat veterans, increases their anxiety, increases their depression, increases their anger, increases their betrayal -- a sense of betrayal from the VA and, by extension, from the whole country.

Cohen's opening remarks are not the same as he prepared statement in the record (click here for his prepared statement). Stichman noted:

Under current law, VA has to expend more time and resources to decide PTSD claims than almost every other type of claim. A major reason that these claims are so labor intensive is that in most cases, VA believes that the law requires it to conduct an extensive search for evidence that may corroborate that the veteran's testimony that he experienced a stressful event during military service. According to the VA, an extensive search for corroborating evidence is necessary even when the medical evidence shows that the veteran currently suffers from PTSD, and mental health professionals attribute the PTSD to stressful events that occurred during military service.

Click here for Stichman's prepared remarks (which he read into the record). We'll focus on two strong exchanges before we get to the goofballs. US House Reps Ann Kirkpatrick and Ciro Rodriguez were on focus and raised real issues. First Kirkpatrick.

Ann Kirkpatrick: I just spent two weeks in my district meeting with veterans and there's so much anger about how they're being treated by the administration and specifically with regard to PTSD. I've met with veterans who said that -- how difficult it was to show the service connection. One veteran in particular was a Vietnam veteran and he told me how painful it was to try to track down his patrol finding out that so many of them had died since their days in the service. I finally was able to locate someone across the country who was able to validate the service connection. The other problem is also the lack of trained mental health care professionals specific to PTSD in some of these communities. And again they said, 'Please take back to your community our request that we have trained mental health counselors in PTSD in the Veterans Administration' and how specific that is to their treatment in those who qualify. My concern, and my question is for you Mr. Wilson, for a veteran who has PTSD or thinks they have it and can't show the service connection, where do they go for treatment? What services are there for them?

John Wilson: It's a good question. While I was in the field, I also had veterans come through with the same issues -- Vietnam in particular, some WWII -- their entire team wiped out. So who did they go to for support for their particular claim? No letters -- as we were talking about here -- and the distinguished gentleman was providing letters still postmarked from someone overseas at the time, excellent evidence typically. Why that claim was denied, I am not sure. It would, I think normally, I hope, it would be granted. It's difficult circumstances as I say and I have encouraged those people to go back and meet with their reunion websites for people who may be part of that unit, who may be able to provide, perhaps, some other story of 'Yes, I saw Johnny there on that -- on that truck going to that combat zone all geared up.' Those kind of things may all be of benefit. But it is nonetheless very difficult and the fog of war? How is it that you're going to appoint a stenographer or a court reporter, a videographer to accompany each person on that combat? You cannot. It's very difficult circumstance. I would contend that the VA does have the means before it in order to grant those benefits by looking at the lay evidence that a veteran submits and looking at the times, places and circumstances of that particular event, they should in fact be able to grant the service connection. But it nonetheless is a problematic condition.

Ann Kirkpatrick: And for those people who can't -- can't show the connection, are there other places they can go for help?

John Wilson: Ma'am, I wish I could find those. None that I'm aware of.

Ann Kirkpatrick: Mr. Chairman, let me just make one other comment. I asked the veterans I was meeting with if they were concerned about people applying for PTSD treatment who may not really qualify and they said "No." No. The risk really is that those who need treatment are not going to seek it out because of the current system and they emphasized over and over again that they were promised medical treatment for life when they enlisted and that that promise has been broken.

Now for Ciro Rodriguez. He'll refer to some past experiences prior to Congress (and prior to being in the Texas legislature). He's speaking of when he was with Bexar County Department of Mental Health and with Intercultural Development Research Association. Also he had a statement put in the record (click here).

Ciro Rodriguez: Let me also just add that the same people that might suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders initially are the same ones that might not even be aware of the fact that they're suffering it. And a lot of times that's not acknowledged until much later after a lot of difficulties. And it's kind of like, you know, example of getting burned out at work and you're not sure why but it was, you know, an example I can give you in terms of my experience working with the mentally ill, staying there until seven, eight o'clock at night, taking the work back home with me and then all of the sudden telling them, 'No, I can't see you, it's after five.' And it's something wrong. And it doesn't dawn on you until very much later in terms of what's happening to you. The same thing applies with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and the system is not equipped to handle or to even reach out to those individuals that are not even aware that they're suffering from that. And be able to be aggressive and be able to reach out and work with some of the invidviduals. Your testimony. One of you mentioned the fact that a lot of them deal with it indirectly by going to prescription drugs and going to alcohol and other illegal drugs -- in terms of coping with it. And somehow we've got to get the system to be more responsive. I know the legislation on HR 952 directly addresses the strereotypes by helping to relax the evidentary standards to deployment on a combat area and we know that when you go -- the first two soldiers that were caught, [. . .] remember that one lady that was a cook and the other was a mechanic. [Rodriguez is referring to Shoshana Johnson and Patrick Miller who were part of US Army 507th Maintenance Company which was ambushed March 23, 2003. They were POWs -- along with James Riley, Edgar Hernandez and Joseph Hudson -- until April 13, 2003. Jessica Lynch was part of this unit; however, she was taken to an Iraqi hospital. Anna Mulrine (US News & World Report) spoke with all three -- Lynch, Johnson and Miller -- for a March 18, 2008 article.] Those were the ones that were captured. And it's hard when you get into those situations, especially what we have in Afghanistan and Iraq, that at any given time, you'll be asked to do other things besides your so-called duites as you're there and some of those might not be translated in terms of -- so that you'll be able to justify in the future. So we need to give them the benefit of the doubt under those circumstances and be able to.

[. . .]

Barton Stichman: The point you made about people not recognizing that they have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or being in denial about it I think relates to this legislation. A lot of people don't realize that they have it for a long time and then they get treatment and then they apply for benefits. So it may be years, many years, after they finish their military service. And so in order to win benefits for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a situation where the VA doesn't believe that they served in combat with the enemy at that point and time, they're going to have to go out and get corroborative evidcne which is very difficult. The length of time effects their ability to do that.

Ciro Rodriguez: Mr. Chairman, I know I've gone over my time.

John Hall: Do you have another question?

Ciro Rodriguez: Just a little statement. [To Stichman] What you've indicated is so true and that that's one of the things the system has to be responsive to in terms of meeting those needs. And as a person goes through denial, you go through a process where you even not acknowledge certain things that might have occured that other people there will tell you, 'No, this and this transpired.' Because you might be going through guilt and other things as you go through that, that you might not have responded as appropriately as you should have and those kind of things and sometimes that's not cleared up until you have time to go through those and be able to think about what actually occurred.

Throughout the hearing, the witnesses did not buy into the notion that veterans were faking PTSD to get some of that 'easy' and apparently 'glorious' treatment. Norman Bussel would respond to the John Hall's question (Hall does not believe that claim either) that "the America veteran does not come in for treatment because he feels there is a stigma and he's ashamed of how he feels" so it doesn't make sense that some veteran would insist he or she was suffering from PTSD when they weren't. Bussel stated they were "in a horrendous state" when they came for help. Bussel also spoke of the harm being done currently with the denial of PTSD claims, noting that the veterans "feel like they are being called liars [when] they're combat experience is denied." He explained his WWII records took forever to catch up with him. And that "in Iraq and Afghanistan," "those records are just kept" which would say you were in combat. He spoke of the collatoral damage on families and veterans relationships as a result of a veteran being denied.

Let's turn to the goofballs. And it's bi-partisan. We have one from each side of the aisle.

Suggestion: US House Rep Deborah Halvorson might want to leave out her personal tales ("I found out I wasn't so tough") and attempt to learn the issue she's talking about. For example, there's no excuse in a hearing on PTSD for a member of Congress to believe it is "PTSB." And Mary Kay Cosmetics is not well served by their chirpy alumni Halvorson failing to learn House procedure, "I yield back -- or I reserve the balance of my time for later!" It's April 23, 2009, long past time for the War Hawk Halvorson to get her act together. Harsh? If you think that's harsh, you don't know Little Debbie.

Democratic Debbie was saved from winning Fool for a Day by US House Rep Brian Bilray who came across like someone who'd gone off their meds. Whether it was floating a theory that those working at the VA hated veterans -- apparently from the top of the VA down to the custodians -- or working in multiple attacks on "welfare" and the "welfare system," Bilray was a rage of beauty to behold. Was anyone spared his toxic accusations? You might think so but around the time he was griping about fire fighters with respitory problems and how they 'claimed' it was from their work but they might be smokers, you realize Bilray had a lot more issue to work out than even the full staff of the VA could assist him with if they worked around the clock just on him.

How bad was it? We already noted Subcommittee Chair John Hall does not believe there is this mad craze of veterans faking PTSD for the 'glory' and 'glamor' but Hall had to pursue that on the record because Bilray had insisted this was a reasonable and reasoned hypothesis and one that should be considered at length (and he certainly spoke of it at length). Another example? As the first panel wound down, Hall felt the need to declare, "I do not intend by this legislation nor do those that support it to minimize or cast aspersions on the value or the bravery of those who have fought in direct combat, in intense firefights, who signed up and served as Special Forces, those who have seen combat of the most intense type." Why did he have to clarify what should be obvious? Because he was responding to Bilray. Yes, Bilray even argued that eliminating a few of the hoops veterans are forced to jump through was somehow doing harm to other veterans. Bilray was a piece of work.

So that's a Democrat and a Republican who made fools of themselves but remember we said a witness did as well. Which one? Not any on the first panel. The second panel is where Bradley G. Mayes would show up, the VA's Compensation and Pension Service cruncher. He was so offensive that had Bilray stood up and screamed, "See! That's what I mean about the VA hating vets!" it probably would have been the first time in his life that the world would have found it hard to disagree with Bilray.

Mayes sniffed:

The short title of the legislation we are discussing today indicates that the intent behind it is principally to ease the burden on veterans in proving their service-connection claims based on PTSD, which is a goal that the Department shares. However, we are concerned about the scope of the bill and also believe it would unduly complicate the adjudication process.
In furtherance of our mutual objective of simplifying the adjudication of wartime veterans' PTSD claims, the Department currently has under development an amendment to our regulations to liberalize in certain cases the evidentiary standards for establishing an in-service stressor for purposes of service connecting PTSD. This amendment would relax in some situations the requirement for corroborating evidence that a claimed in-service stressor occurred. We also recently completed a rulemaking that eliminated the requirement for evidence corroborating the occurrence of a claimed in-service stressor if PTSD is diagnosed in service.

His prepared opening statement can be read [PDF format warning] here but note that he did not deliver it exactly as written (the quote above is word-for-word what he said and word-for-word what was prepared ahead of time). Words were not Mayes' friend such as when he spoke of POWs from past war and declared "an individual was incarcera -- er, interned by the enemy."

Subcommittee Chair Hall registered Mayes strong opposition to the proposed legislation and explained that if this were left to the VA alone and they handled it, it would be under rule making. Rules can be changed, Hall noted, with administrations. So "should that be a consideration" as to whether or not the issue should be resolved by law or by rule?

Mayes inisted he'd never seen or even been aware of efforts -- ever -- to roll back rights for veterans. And no one challenged that assertion.

March 19, 2005, CNN was reporting on Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell's response to Bully Boy Bush's weekly address: "He maintained that budget cuts include 'a $350 million reduction in veterans home funding, which wipes out at least 5,000 veterans' nursing home beds." April 10, 2005, Karen Blakeman and Dennis Camire (Honolulu Advertiser) reported, "President Bush's proposed 2006 budget would * Drastically cut financial support for up to 80 percent of the veterans in the nation's 129 state-run homes. * Let the VA reduce the number of nursing-home beds from the 13,391 required by law. * Put a hold on $104 million in grants slated to rehabilitate and build new state veterans homes." Among the many, many other reports on this 2005 move by the then-administration, you can refer to Joel Wendfand (People's Weekly World) and you can drop back to 2004 for Edward Walsh (Washington Post). There are plenty of other examples we could offer. It would do no good; however. Mayes had insisted "I just can't envision that" when Hall had offered that administrations change and they can change rules (but not laws) to weaken veterans' benefits.

Mayes was pompous and an idiot. (When he's especially proud of one of his responses, he tilts his head to the left, to the right and then tosses his head back. No, it's not attractive.) The hearing was on what topic? PTSD. And the hearing was about whether or not people suffering from it are getting the help they need. So when Hall asks you for the number of those diagnosed with PTSD and the number of the backlog for those who have been diagnosed, you really should never respond, "I would have to get that for you." Exactly what topic did Mayes think he was attending the hearing to discuss? And as Hall pointed out, Mayes refers to the backlog himself on page three of his prepared statement. Apparently the statement was prepared but Mayes was not. He also had prepared remarks about "combat operations" in his written statement and Hall wanted to ask Mayes about that topic. Mayes declined to answer and announced he was "going to defer" that issue to his handler Richard Hipolit. Hipolit speaks like William Hickey (with a wheeze) and has all the charm of an ambulance chasing divorce attorney -- and why do you think that is? Maybe the next hearing could be about the qualifications of those appearing before the panel and how they managed to snare government jobs?

Might the legislation proposed save the VA time and money? A basic question. But Hall had to go through the process of pulling teeth and bringing in Vietnam and Agent Orange before he could get even a weak and qualifed "yes" from Mayes. He blathered on about, "I think, for me, the difficulty [. . .] is because the disaease [ . . .] we know Agent Orange was sprayed in the Republic of Vietnam [. . .] but with PTSD, the difficulty in trying to define what parts of the world at different times in our history . . ."

What an idiot. Agent Orange has been used around the world. It is a problem (a huge one) for Vietnam veterans because they served in Vietnam. PTSD is a problem for veterans because of the experiences while they served. This is not complicated. Mayes wants to make it complicated. But if Agent Orange were used in Iraq, it would be an issue for today's veterans. It has nothing to do with Vietnam, it has to do with the battlefield. Repeating, Agent Orange was used all over the world. It is a hazard during Vietnam because US troops were in Vietnam. That's where they were exposed to it. PTSD is related to where you were exposed to the theatre of war and/or combat. It is not as difficult as Mayes (intentionally) tries to make it out to be.

Hall attempted to nail Mayes down repeatedly but he was like Liquid Metal, always sliding away -- largely by refusing to be consistent in his remarks.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009








Yesterday Matthis Chiroux faced a military body. Today he shares:

I stood before the Army. I looked a board of officers in the eyes, and I told them I thought they were sending people off to participate in war crimes. And what did they say? Get out of here, Sergeant, and keep your damn G.I. Bill!!!
Indeed, folks! The Army awarded me a recommendation for a general discharge under honorable conditions from the Individual Ready Reserve for my refusal to deploy to Iraq last summer. This landmark decision means not only am I a free man, I'm free to continue school this fall with the "new" G.I. Bill that I earned while on active duty.
Though this discharge is identical to the one I refused in exchange for having this hearing, I can now rest easy knowing I never submitted, I never backed down and the Army has heard my story.
And not just my story, but the stories of those brave veterans at Winter Soldier and those who've participated in IVAW's Warrior Writers' program. Full texts of both books were submitted to the Army this morning, and I can only imagine the fun they're having transcribing them into the record.

So that was the board finding and congratulations to Matthis Chiroux. As noted yesterday, there is no change in his duty status yet. What happens next is the board's record is complied and a legal review takes place. Following that it's forwarded up the chain to, finally, the Commanding General of Human Resources Command. The Commanding General will issue a determination and that should take place before the end of next month.

And staying with war resistance, Friday WLUK (Fox 11 -- link has text and video) provided the latest news on Kristoffer Walker:

Monica Landeros: Well, Laura [Smith], a spokesperson with the U.S. Army tells me Kristoffer Walker has been demoted several ranks from Specialist to Private, but that's just part of his punishment. The Army also said Walker will be fined in the form of docked pay. For two months he will get half of his usual paycheck. In addition, he will also be fined for a -- confined to an Army base for 45 days. That means he can't leave the base and might even have additional duties during that time. Though Army officials do not know when that confinement will actually start. That's because right now, Walker is on medical leave from Iraq though officials won't give details on his medical condition. Once he is healthy, Army officials said he will begin the base confinement. Now we were unable to speak to Kristoffer Walker today though his mother tells us her son was aware of the severity of his absence and that he was ready for any consequences handed down.

That was in Monday's snapshot but the "n" was left out of Monica Landeros' name. My apologies.

Today the US Senate was where Marine General James F. Amos blurted out fears of 'emasculation'. Before that high drama came took place, the US Senate's Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support had to be called to order and chair Evan Bayh did that noting, "The purpose of today's hearing is to address the growing strain placed upon our Army and Marine Corps. We will receive testimony on the current readiness of ground forces with respect to deployed, deploying and non-deployed units. We will also discuss the Army and the Marine Corps' abilitiy to provide forces to meet combat commanders' requirements and to respond to unforseen contingincies. We're particularly interested in your assessment of the risks resulting from the continued committment of combat forces to Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally the subcommittee would be interested to know your views on the current and projected readiness reporting systems used by the Department of Defense. Over the last several years, we have observed total force readiness decline as a result of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe."

The witnesses appearing before the Subcommittee were the Army's General Peter W. Chiarelli and the Marines' General Amos. A surprise witness was Ranking Republican subcommittee member Richard Burr's tie which was a ghastly pink thing with silver and blue stripes that appeared to have just surfaced on his closet floor that morning after having gone underground at some point in 1975. The tie formed no words but somehow spoke volumes and may, in fact, have warded off Democrats which would explain why so few were present. On the Republican side, four serve on the committee and three showed up: Senators Burr, James Inhofe and John Thune took part in the hearing. Six Democrats are assigned to the committee. Bayh was present. We'll note a portion of Senator Roland Burris' opening remarks since he also showed up for the hearing.

Roland Burris: . . . I just want to thank our military personnel for all that they do for us, I will have a few questions. But my favorite saying -- and I want the military personnel to hear this statement: We are able to do what we do in America because of what you do across the world for our protection. Just keep that in mind. And we appreciate your committment, your effort and your dedication to making us the strongest country in the world. And every time I see one of you, whether you're a private or a four-star general, I saulte each and every one of you.

Democratic Senator Mark Udall joined the subcomittee near the end of the hearing (last third). Dropping back to the start, Gen Chiarelli paraphrased and summarized his [PDF format warning] prepared statement and key point was that the army will respond on the budget when its released by the White House. Gen Amos read his [PDF format warning] prepared statement which used phrases such as "the Long War".

Evan Bayh (to Gen Chiarelli): You mentioned that we're consuming our readiness as fast as fast as we're rebuilding it, I think that's what you said what must be done to change that? So that we're no longer just kind of treading water, what needs to be done to actually improve our readiness so that we're not in this constant state of tearing it up while building it without really making long term progress?

Peter Chiarelli: Well two things I'd point out, senator, would be first of all we need to complete the grow the army plan and as you know that goes to the 45 brigade mark. We are doing that.

Evan Bayh: That would be the top of your priority list?

Peter Chiarelli: That would -- that is very, very important that we grow those 45 brigades because this is a question of supply and demand. I can't control the demand. And the demand right now shows that I have 26 combat brigades that are currently deployed. I have a total of 18 active component brigades and 8 reserve component brigades. And when I have that many brigades deployed, I have what's called friction. Best explained by kind of a Navy analogy that -- when you have a --

Evan Bayh: This is a first. The army referencing the Navy.
Peter Chiarelli: This is a first. But I have a rough time explaining friction if I don't call on my other services to help me out. When you have an air craft carrier that's sitting in the middle of the Persian Gulf and you want to go ahead and relieve it an air craft carrier casts off from some place in the United States and at that particular point and time you've got two air craft carriers doing the job of one. And the same thing happens with Army brigades. When I have 26 deployed, I've got normally six that are also doing another job so that total number goes up to 32.

Chiarelli explained this effects dwell time/reset time with soldiers spending 12 months deployed "and 1.3 years back at home." He also raised the issue of the 'surge,' "The surge for the United States Amry is not over. We on't get our last combat brigade off of a 15 month deployment until June of this year and I won't get my last combat service support or combat support unit back off a 15 month deployment until September."

He declared the Army had met their recruitment goals, in fact, "we even went a little bit over." Sunday Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reported that the US Army was now able to be "more selective" as a result of the (bad) economy in recruiting which has allowed them to cease "accepting felons and recent drug abusers into its ranks". Tyson added, "The Army annually granted hundreds of waivers for felons in recent years, reaching a high of 511 in 2007. Now, that category of waiver, for 'adult major misconduct,' is closed" according to Brig Gen Joseph Anderson.

You can't have a Congressional hearing these days without someone saying "Robbing Peter to pay Paul" and today that phrase was said by Bayh. This took place in his exchange with Gen Amos. Bayh noted that when people hear that the non-deployed forces aren't ready, they wonder "just how not ready are the non-deployed forces?"
"Sir, I think it would take probably several months I think it would take Global Sourcing for the Marine Corps [removing Marines from Western Pacific assignments]." The Congress has doled out $12 billion thus far for reset costs and Amos stated that the estimate of the total reset costs was $20 billion.

Senator Burr wanted to know about contractors and Amos referenced Honeywell in Iraq and how 100 of their "workers do the triage, they do the preliminary mainteance" on equpiment and vehicles and determine whether or not something can be salvaged. Senator Burris also wanted to know about contractors, the ones employed in the US to inspect the equipment, "determining that it's functional." Gen Amos replied that they not only ensure that and that "if you pick your nicest car that you have confidence in when you buy it, that's how" reliable the equipment that passes inspection and is sent out to the field is.

Senator Bayh made the point in the last third of the hearing, to General Chiarelli that, "I think the American people have a right to know that if something else comes along, we're going to have a hard time meeting the national security threat to the country, we'll do our best but it puts you folks in a very difficult position." Bayh brought Gen Amos into this topic and Amos agreed.

James Amos: I think it would be very challenging. Difficult, challenging, for me mean they mean the same thing. I don't think there's any question about it. You know this is not -- uh -uh

Evan Bayh: It's not an abstract. This is not an abstract problem we're dealing with here.

James Amos: It's not, sir. I think it's a very worthwhile question and in the case of the Marine Corps if something happened in Iran or Korea -- North Korea -- we would end up freezing the forces in place. You'd freeze the ones you had in Iraq and Afghanistan, hold them in there, and as we said earlier on in the testimony, you would bring together -- you would build a fighting force that you could deploy but you'd have to train it, you'd have to figure out how you're going to get the equipment. We would, in the case of the Marine Corps, would emasculate all of our strategic reserves which are in our Maritime Preposition Squardons whatever's left up in the caves of Norway. We would pull all of that together and uh and deploy that force but we'd have to train it, we'd have to figure out what we'd need to do in that environment that we're not training people for right now because we're predominately a counter-insurgency, a regular warfare focus Marine Corps right now. So all those other skills -- combined armed fire manuever forcefible entry -- those things -- we'd have to figure out, we'd have to figure out, "Okay, what do we need to do for this new -- this new contingency? Is it possible?" The answer is "yes." [General Chiarelli begins nodding his head in agreement.] Your military, both your Army and your Marine Corps and Navy and Air Force would come together and we'd make it happen just like we did prior to the onset of Korea. We did exactly the same thing. But it would be painful.

Even Bayh: As I recall in the beginning stages of Korea, it also meant that our performance suffered because we were just trying to make the best of a bad situation. And we shouldn't consciously put ourselves in that spot is that --

James Amos: Sir, that is absolutely correct. In the case, just instructive for me as I think about this, we went -- after the president and the Secretary of War -- after WWII and the great successes of WWII, emasculated the Marine Corps, even went public and said we don't even we're not even sure we need a Marine Corps anymore and for certain we'll never do an amphibious operation and yet in 1949 we took a Fifth Marine regiment from the West Coast which was down to about 15 to 20% of what it should have been cobbled together Marines from the East Coast, all across, brought 'em all together to Fifth Marine, blew that balloon up, trained 'em and then ships together and made the largest amphibious operation and certainly the most difficult one we've ever done shortly after so, sir, I think your concerns are very valid.

Evan Bayh: When a Marine uses a term like emasculate the situation must be fairly dire.

James Amos: I just -- well I just think it certainly was then.

But he didn't just use it when speaking of Korea back in 1949. He was speaking of today as well. Which doesn't make him correct. He may just suffer from castration fears. He also seems to forget that if the US used the military only when attacked, the costs would be much less. (And many would argue that a standing military isn't even used -- however, without one, what would US presidents have to play with?)

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"Clive Jones""The national embarrassment""He'll say anything"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

He'll say anything







In Iraq, Deborah Haynes (Inside Iraq, Times of London) reports on cell phones. Not in the usual useless manner in which so many male reporters have bored us with 'gadget' 'reports' that were like so many foul breathed, car stereo salesmen, but in a way that's honestly abou Iraqis and not a product. Haynes explains that while the civil war was raging in 2007, "when it was too dangerous to step out on a date with someone you fancy, people used the mobile phone as their only form of contact." She notes that dialing random numbers grew popular with males and females: "There are even cases of marriages blossoming from these blind-date style phone encounters." And there was also stalking including of Deborah Haynes who has been cell phone stalked for approximately two years now by one 21-year-old Iraqi male who does not take hints -- nice ones or harsh ones.

And that may be reflective of the culture the US created by installing the fundamentalist fanatics they selected to staff the puppet government. Amnesty International noted yesterday, "Women are faced with systematic discrimination and violence and are targeted specifically because of their gender. They are being attacked in the street by men with different political agendas, but who all want to impose veiling, gender segregation and discrimination. Islamist armed groups have said they were responsible for carrying out violent attacks on women, and have sought to justify them, for failing to abide by their interpretation of how women should behave. In addition, as in many other countries, women also suffer violence at the hands of their fathers, brothers and other relatives, particularly if they try to choose how to lead their lives." The human rights organization notes that abuse is enshrined in the currentl law due to the fact that any man killing his wife can claim it was an 'honor' killing and be sentended to only six months in prison. In addition: "It also effectively allows husbands to use violence against their wives. The 'exercise of a legal right' to exemption from criminal liability is permitted for: 'Disciplining a wife by her husband, the disciplining by parents and teachers of children under their authority within certain limits prescribed by Islamic law (Shari'a), by law or by custom'." And grasp that this legislation was written and passed with US guidance. Grasp how damn little the US government cared about Iraqi women.

Case in point, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. Abeer is the 14-year-old girl who was gang-raped by US soldiers March 12, 2006 while her parents and five-year-old sister were murdered (by US soldiers) in the next room. As the gang-rape wound down, Abeer was shot dead -- allegedly by Steven D. Green, All the other US soldiers have either been convicted or entered guilty pleas. They all fingered Steven D. Green as their ringleader, as part of the gang-rape, as the man who did all the killing and as the man who thought up and planned the conspiracy -- which included attempting to make it appear 'insurgents' had attacked Abeer and her family.

When the truth finally emerged that it wasn't 'insurgents' and that it appeared US soliders might be involved, the US military swung into action . . . to insist that Abeer was 24-years-old. As if gang-rape and murder would be less appalling if the rape victim was 24-years-old? In July of 2006, Time magazine noted:

Family members describe Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi as tall for her age, skinny, but not eye-catchingly beautiful. As one of her uncles put it, "She was an ordinary girl." So perhaps it was sheer proximity that made the 15-year-old so tantalizing. Her house was less than 1,000 ft. from a U.S. military checkpoint just outside the Iraqi town of Mahmudiyah, and soldiers manning the gate started stopping by just to look at her. Her mother, who grew concerned enough to make plans for Abeer to move in with a cousin, told relatives that whenever she caught the Americans ogling her daughter, they would give her the thumbs-up sign, point to the girl and say, "Very good, very good."
Abeer's brother Mohammed, 13, told TIME he once watched his sister, frozen in fear, as a U.S. soldier ran his index finger down her cheek. Mohammed has since learned that soldier's name: Steven Green. Last week Green, 21, a former Army private first class who was honorably discharged because of a "personality disorder" a month before the criminal allegations came to light, pleaded not guilty to charges of raping Abeer and killing her along with her parents and 7-year-old sister. Five other soldiers have been charged, four of them for conspiring with Green and one for dereliction of duty for not reporting the crimes. The grisly March 12 slayings--in which Abeer's skull was smashed and her legs and torso set on fire--sparked the military's fifth investigation into U.S. personnel accused of murdering Iraqi civilians. But unlike the massacre in Haditha, where Marines are suspected of shooting up to 24 innocent people in November following the death of a beloved comrade, the butchering of Abeer's family does not appear to be the result of vengeance or confusion. Instead, all signs point to premeditated depravity.

Steven D. Green is the last to be tried and he will be tried in a federal court in Kentucky. He had already been discharged before the realities began emerging about the attack on Abeer and her family. That still doesn't explain the long delay. From the Monday, July 3, 2006 snapshot: "Green, is 21 and was with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. Friday [June30th] , in Asheville, North Carolina, he was arrested and charged with both the four deaths as well as the rape. According to the US government press release, if convicted on the charge of murder, 'the maximum statutory penalty . . . is death' while, if convicted on the charge of rape, 'the maxmium statutory penalty for the rape is life in prison'." They did attempt to begin last year; however, it was stopped due to a quilting fair. Currently the trial is set to start at nine a.m. April 27th. As Ruth noted Friday, Brette Barrouquere (AP) reported jury selection was completed last week and the witnesses for the prosectuion may include "nearly half-dozen members of the al-Janabi family". Barrouquere also noted that the court had prepared this year for "the 25th annual American Quilter's Society show in Paducah, an event that draws thousands and fills hotel rooms that were needed for trial lawyers and witnesses." Today Green's defense received a set back. His attorneys had repeatedly made embarrassing statements to the press that it was impossible for people in Kentucky to know what it was like in war and that the jury wouldn't know warfare and blah, blah, blah embarrassing bulls**t that demonstrates just what feather-weights Green's attorneys are. It was embarrassing and shameful. And they couldn't stop shooting their mouths off to the press about this 'defense.' Which led the prosecution to file a motion which the judge responded to today with an Order:

THIS CAUSE is before the Court on the United States' Motion in Limine.
The Court having considered the Motion, and the Court being otherwise sufficiently advised, IT IS ORDERED that:
The defendant is prohibited from eleciting, offering, or commenting on the following evidence during the guilt phase of trial:
1. Evidence or argument that the United States could have, or should have, prosecuted the defendant under the Uniform Code of Military Justice;
2. Evidence or argument concerning the resonableness, wisdom, fairness, or consequences of prosecuting the defendant under Federal criminal law instead of under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
3. Evidence concerning the defendant's desire and willingness to be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and his efforts to reenlist in the Army for that purpose;
4. Evidence concering differences or similarities between Federal criminal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including with respect to available charges, criminal penalities, sentencing, and eligibility of parole; and
5. Evidence or argument that only individuals who are in the military or who have military experience, and not civilians, can or should evaluate the defendant's conduct.

The fifth one applies to the defense testing the argument that no one could 'judge' Green who hadn't been in war. Possibly the prosecution should have let the defense present that embarrassing argument and then mused whether or not, by that logic, the jury should be composed of 12 rapists? Is a rapist the only one qualified to judge a rapist?

The prosecution just cleaned away the defense strategy and either the defense was launching the biggest fake out and are master geniuses or they are now scrambling for a new game plan.

Let's stay with legal but move to the US, Matthis Chiroux faced a military body today. Matthis was honorably discharged and placed in IRR and then, many months later, informed he was being pulled back into the military and sent to Iraq. He announced May 15, 2008 that he would not deploy to Iraq. Sunday, June 15, 2008 (Father's Day), he explained his reasons in a speech which included the following:

I stand here today as a Winter Soldier. To serve our nation, its military and its people in this dark time of confusion and corruption.I stand here to make it known that my duty as a soldier is first to the higher ideals and guiding principles of this country which our leaders have failed to uphold.I stand here today in defense of the US Constitution which has known no greater enemy, foreign or domestic, than those highest in this land who are sworn to be governed by its word.I stand here today in defense of those who have been stripped of their voices in this occupation for the warriors of this nation have been silenced to the people who need to start listening.We are here to honor the memory of our fathers who more than two centuries ago brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, as Abraham Lincoln once noted.We are here to honor the struggle of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers before them to build this nation and bring it together -- through slavery and poverty, to sexism and racism, through materialism and imperialism. They built this nation and struggled to keep it alive as we've blundered and learned and blundered again. We owe it to our fathers to stand for this nation now when a dark cloud has descended upon it in the form of an administration who is stealing the lives of us all to wage an illegal war -- conceived in lies and birthed [born] of manipulation.As a soldier I was told it was not my place to question the orders of those appointed above me. I had that lie trained into me from my first day of basic training to my last day of active duty. But I have learned the truth, the truth that the occupation of Iraq is inherently illegal and that it is my duty as a soldier to refuse illegal orders to reactivate and deploy in support of it. I have learned that in these times of crisis one must look deep into their own values to know the path that they must walk. I have learned that feeling and thinking and speaking and acting and keeping with courage and honesty in preservation of a righteous cause is blessed and may give a person strength to utter truths that may calm the vicious and the vengeful alike.I believe that this nation and this military may come to know the same truth: That the rule of law has been forsaken and we must return to it or be doomed to continue disaster. I believe in the goodness of the American people and I believe that justice is not dead because we as a people believe that it is our responsibility to resist the injustices done by our government in our names. We know this truth to be self-evident that our nation can unite to oppose an illegal occupation which is killing and scarring and shattering the lives of our youth and the Iraqi people.On this Fathers Day, know, America, that your children need you. We need you to care for us and to care for our country which we will inherit when you are finished with her. We need you to end this occupation of Iraq which has destroyed a country and scattered its people to the wind like ashes in the tempest -- a tempest that has engulfed the nation of Iraq and scrubbed any sign of peace and prosperity from the surface of a civilization older than even history itself.Fathers, we need you to care for your children and the children of Iraq for they know not why you fight and carry no fault in the conflict.Fathers, your sons and daughters need you now to embrace peace for though we were attacked, we have dealt in retaliation that same suffering one-thousand times over to a people who never wronged us. The nation will know little healing until first we stem off the flow of blood and human life for justice and healing will never be done by a blade or a bullet or a bomb or a torture cell.By continuing to participate in the unjust occupation of Iraq, we, as service members, are contributing to that flow of human life and we cannot now -- nor could we ever -- call the Iraqi people an enemy in the fight against the use of terror. But terror is all we now know. We are terrified of the prospect that we have been lied to. We are terrified by the idea that we have killed for nothing. We are terrified to break the silence. We are terrified to do what we know is right.But never again will I allow terror to silence me. Nor will I allow it to govern my actions. I refuse terror as a tactic for uniting a people around an unjust cause. I refuse to allow terror to motivate me to do violence on my fellow man especially those who never wronged me in the first place. I refuse to be terrified to stand in defense of my Constitution. And I refuse to be terrified of doing so in great adversity.As a resister to the Iraq Occupation, I refuse to be terrified by what may come for I know those who stand against me are in terror of the truth. But I will speak my truth, and I will stand by it firmly and forever will my soul know peace. Thank you.

Phillip O'Connor (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) explained this morning, "An administrative separation board at the Army Human Resources Command could grant Chiroux a general discharge or an other-than-honorable discharge, either of which could harm his ability to receive benefits available to honorable discharged veterans." The hearing took place today and there is no change in Matthis duty status at present. What happens next is the board's record is complied and a legal review takes place. Following that it's forwarded up the chain to, finally, the Commanding General of Human Resources Command. The Commanding General will issue a determination and that should take place before the end of next month.

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Monday, April 20, 2009








US war resister Andre Shepherd is seeking asylum in Germany. We last noted him in the February 6th snapshot (when Andy Eckardt (NBC News) offered a strong report on Andre ). Friday night, BBC World Service offered a report on him (link has text and audio):

Andre Shepherd: First of all the war on terror, I believe, was based on a fraud. We aren't going after Osama bin Laden. The evidence is leaning towards that we are only there to strategically position ourselves around the national resources that are there. The [German] asylum laws are set up that they should not deport a person that refuses to take part in an illegal conflict. The UN Charter, Article 51, specifically states that armed conflict is necessary only as a means of last resort and if there is a real threat. It's been proven that Saddam Hussein's regime was no threat to the United States -- that would mean that America is in violation of the UN Charter.

Damien McGuinness: You signed up as a soldier and signed to say that you would obey the orders given by your superior in military command. Surely there's a responsibility there to carry out the duties which military command asks you to do.

Andre Shepherd: That is true but there's also a section in the same oath that says I have to defend the Constitution of the United States and when the United States willingly violates their own Constitution to pursue these wars, I am acting in accordance with the oath by refusing to take part in these wars because I refuse to watch the Constitution get destroyed just for the needs of a few people. There was a conversation I had with an Iraqi that was completely irate as to what was going on in Iraq. A lot of things that I wasn't even aware of, rendition program, the detentions of different places, Abu Ghraib, things like this. And I was completely dumbfounded as to what was going on out there because this was totally against everything that I believed in in the military. So that's when I started doing research and that's how I got to this position today.

Damien McGuinness: Andre Shepherd has come here, to Freiburg, to take part in a podium discussion of Iraq veterans who have deserted the army because they oppose the war. Now Germany has no troops stationed in Iraq and the majority of Germans are against the US-led invasion so he's found a lot of support here for his cause. Some worry that granting him asylum could create tensions between Germany and the US and encourage some of the other sixty-thousand [US] soldiers stationed here to desert and apply for refugee status. According to Rudi Friedrich who runs a support group for deserters [Connection e.V] only a minority of soldiers generally opt to stay abroad.

Rudi Friedrich: In practice, most deserters decide to go back to the US and that's where their families are and they feel at home and they know the language. But that means they either have to be punished or become conscientious objectors against war in general. The decision to stay in another country and never return home is something which many refugees have to do it's not necessarily the case that all deserters would take this step.

Damien McGuinness: German immigration officials heard the case at the end of February and are currently examining Shepherd's eligibility for asylum. He says the consequences of being sent back to the US would be severe.

Andre Shepherd: If I went back to America, I would definitely be court-martialed on the charges of desertion during a time of war. That is one of the most serious charges you can get in the military. Upon conviction, I would get a few months to several years in prison and I would get a dishonorable discharge. On top of that, there's a debate whether or not I would get a felony conviction which is the highest criminal category in the United States. Having a tag like that would bar you from having a decent life -- you wouldn't be able to vote, you wouldn't be able to hold a high office, it's difficult to get credit, you can't do a lot of things, you would pretty much be harassed and you would have to live with the stigma of being an enemy of the state. Especially in the age of Homeland Security, that's not something you'd really want.

Damien McGuinness: A decision could come through any day now. In the meantime, Shepherd is allowed to stay here in Germany but he admits the move wasn't an easy one.

Andre Shepherd: Well desertion is not an easy thing because your home country will always think that you're a traitor. It doesn't matter what the reason is, whether it's justified or not. Not saying everyone, because there's a lot of support in the United States for what I've done. In terms of family life? My family is supporting me but they wish I'd took a different step because the potential of me not returning there cause a lot of emotional stress and I have to apologize to my parents for that. As far as my colleagues? That one is difficult because a lot of the people in the military understand the situation; however, they also deal with unit loyalty where you have to be there if not for yourself but for the other guys in your unit. So a lot of the guys feel let down and hurt by what I've done; however, if they understand why I did it, then I can accept that. It's the same thing with me accepting them knowing what's going on but still going back to Iraq anyway. Because you don't know what they're facing -- if they have a family to take care of, if they desert, they just lost their meal ticket for their family. That doesn't help them. So there are a lot of complicated things that I deal with on a daily basis.

Staying with resistance, Matthis Chiroux faces a military body tomorrow.
This is "Resistance to an Abhorrent Occupation: Press Release of Matthis Chiroux" (World Can't Wait):(ST. LOUIS, MO) The U.S. Army will hear the case of Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, an Individual Ready Reservist who last summer publicly refused activation and deployment orders to Iraq, on April 21 at 1 Reserve Way in Overland, St. Louis, MO, at 9 a.m. Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, refused to participate in what he described as "an illegal and immoral occupation" May 15th, 2008, in Washington D.C., after nine other veterans testified to Members of the U.S. Congress about atrocities they experienced during deployments to Iraq. Chiroux also vowed to remain public in the U.S. to defend himself from any charges brought against him by the military. (see for a record of that speech and others by Chiroux) "My resistance as a noncommissioned officer to this abhorrent occupation is just as legitimate now as it was last year," said Chiroux, adding, "Soldiers have a duty to adhere to the international laws of war described as supreme in Art. 6 Para. 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which we swear to abide by before the orders of any superior, including our former or current president." Following Chiroux's refusal to deploy, the military did not contact him until after he and 10 other IVAW members marched on the final presidential debate Oct. 15, 2008, in Hempstead, N.Y. demanding to question then Senators Obama and McCain regarding their war policies and plans to care for returning veterans. After the veterans were brutalized and arrested by police, (one suffered a fractured skull and is currently suing the police for damages) the Army charged Chiroux with "misconduct" for refusing to deploy, announcing their intentions to discharge him from the reserves as a result. "I go now to St. Louis to honor my promises and convictions," said Chiroux. "Obama or No-Bama, the military must cease prosecuting Soldiers of conscience, and we will demonstrate to them why." Following the hearing, Chiroux and other IVAW members will testify about their military experiences which led them all to resist in different capacities the U.S.'s Overseas Contingency Operation (formerly the Global War on Terror). For more information, see and

On this topic, Iraq Veterans Against the War notes:

On Tuesday April 21st an Army administrative discharge board will hear the case of Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, an Individual Ready Reservist (IRR) who last summer publicly refused activation orders in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The board will convene at 9am at the Army Human Resources Command, 1 Reserve Way in Overland, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. IVAW members and supporters will rally outside the hearing starting at 8:30am.
Although Chiroux is voluntary attending this hearing, all other IRR members who have refused activation have not had any disciplinary actions taken against them by the military other then receiving a General or Other Than Honorable discharge from the IRR. This discharge has no effect on benefits like the GI Bill that IRR members earned through their service while on active duty. Service members who have questions about the IRR can click here or contact the GI Rights Hotline at 877-447-4487.

We noted that Friday and Matthis faces the board tomorrow in St. Louis. A third resister was in the news over the weekend, Kristoffer Walker. The 28-year-old Wisconsin native made the news in February when, while home on leave, he announced he would not return to Iraq to fight what he termed and illegal and immoral war (see the Feb. 23rd snapshot for more on that and the March 16th snapshot). With no support and facing threats from the military face-to-face, in the mail, over the phone, in e-mails and in the media, Kristoffer agreed to return to Iraq. He has refused to recant his judgment of the illegal war. Friday WLUK (Fox 11 -- link has text and video) provided the latest news on Kristoffer Walker:

Moica Landeros: Well, Laura [Smith], a spokesperson with the U.S. Army tells me Kristoffer Walker has been demoted several ranks from Specialist to Private, but that's just part of his punishment. The Army also said Walker will be fined in the form of docked pay. For two months he will get half of his usual paycheck. In addition, he will also be fined for a -- confined to an Army base for 45 days. That means he can't leave the base and might even have additional duties during that time. Though Army officials do not know when that confinement will actually start. That's because right now, Walker is on medical leave from Iraq though officials won't give details on his medical condition. Once he is healthy, Army officials said he will begin the base confinement. Now we were unable to speak to Kristoffer Walker today though his mother tells us her son was aware of the severity of his absence and that he was ready for any consequences handed down.

Tony Walter (Green Bay Press Gazette) addeds that Sierra Walker states the doctors are pushing for Kristoffer to be released on a medical discharge and, of the medical condition, it was "bad enough that he was sent out of Iraq in the first place. He was dealing with doctors who said he needed to be out."

Iraq's Parliament has been without a Speaker for months and, what do you know, they finally got around to electing one Sunday. December 23rd, the Speaker was ousted. By Parliament. Mahmoud Mashadani had been the speaker. The Iraqi Parliament remains without a speaker all this time later. Alsumaria reported Saturday on the possibility that Sunday's Parliamentary session will resolve the issue. There were six candidates Mostapha Al Laithi, Taha Al Luhaibi and Mohammed Tamim (all with the National Dialogue Front) and Iyad Al Samirrai, Hajem Al Husni and Adnan Al Bajaji (Accordance Front). The Accordance Front favors Iyad Al Samirrai (back in March, they sued to ensure that he could be a candidate). Alsumaria explained the process for voting rounds: "During the first stage, candidates compete among each others. The candidate to win should rally 138 votes out of 275 lawmakers plus one. The statement added if these votes were not reached, a second round will be carried out with the participation of candidates who got most votes in the first round. Yet, if during the second stage, candidates fail to rally 138 votes, a third round is carried out during which the candidate who obtains the majority of votes wins." 138 votes were needed. BBC reported the winner had 153 of the 232 votes cast -- 17 more than required. The winner? Who do you think? Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reported Sunday that the winner was Iyad Al Samirrai. Sly glossed over the ouster. Mashadani was ousted. Even the US State Dept admits that. See their report released last week [PDF format warning] "Iraq Status Report." It doesn't get much clearer than, "The COR has yet to reach a consensus on appointing a new Speaker since Mahmoud Mashadani was ousted on December 23, 2008." His political party had to sue to prove he was eligible to run. Why? Liz Sly mentions the rumors that the Parliament has been planning a no-confidence vote in al-Maliki for months. (Ahmed Chalabi has spoken publicly of that and noted that such a vote, if taken, would be procedural and Constitutional and not, as al-Maliki has insisted, a "coup.") Timothy Williams (New York Times) also glosses over reality of the ouster -- surprising for the Times until you grasp they've long loathed Mashadani and started a smear campaign (portraying him as weak, fallen, unable to leave his father's home back in the summer of 2006 when, in fact, the man was using the Parliamentary break to do business in Jordan). Williams does note some of what puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki was doing:

Even as Parliament was voting, Mr. Maliki appeared before hundreds of uniformed commanders at the Interior Ministry and warned that factions within Iraq threatened national unity. As he has in recent days, he suggested that opponents -- whom he did not identify -- were seeking to undermine his government. "Today we face a new war of subversion, sedition and suspicion," he said. "We have to warn ourselves, myself and all you, of the sedition that was defeated in the battle and is being provoked in a certain problem here and another problem there."

Some. al-Maliki had another 'accomplishment' yesterday and it was so swift that some in the press are now attempting to create new dates for it. Let's start with what happened. Sunday McClatchy Newspapers' Hussein Kadhim and Sahar Issa reported three people were wounded in a shooting assault on Baghdad jewelry shops. Reuters updated that to 7 people shot dead in Baghdad in an attack "using silencers at a gold shop". Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reported that the murders of the 7 "gangland style" has already led al-Maliki to create his own "gangland style" police unit. No word was provided on whether the creation came so easy (less than 24 hours!) because so many "gangland style" -- possibly even the robbers-murders -- already work for al-Maliki. In some reports today -- they know who they are -- there is a move to back the robberies to Saturday. Why? Well it's amazing that on the same day the "gangland style" robberies take place, al-Maliki's able to respond with a "gangland style" police unit -- amazing and unbelievable. From fairy tales back to reality, one would think al-Maliki would be doing cartwheels over al-Samirrai's election. After all, they're both cowards who fled Iraq because they loathed their government. They didn't want to fight to change it but were happy to Little Bunny Fu Fu it back to Iraq just as soon as the US toppled Saddam. Liz Sly notes al-Samarrai "spent nearly a decade in exile in Britian" and Timothy Williams explains he "fled Iraq in the 1980s during Saddam Hussein's rule". For all the talk of Iraq 'learning' 'democracy,' they sure seem unable to find 'democratic' leaders among their own. Or maybe it's the US that's so fond of installing the exiles?

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