Tuesday, July 10, 2007

War resisters and the bad press coverage

Amanda Crowell feared losing custody of her toddler son in a divorce.
Ricky Clousing didn’t want to return to Iraq.
Kyle Snyder despised what he called government and military lies.
They each went AWOL from the Army. After a month they became, officially, deserters.
In doing so, they joined the ranks of the more than 10,000 Army soldiers who have deserted since the Iraq war began in 2003.
In the 12-month period ending last September, some 3,300 soldiers, or nearly seven out of every 1,000 active-duty soldiers, deserted. That number was slightly higher than the average over the previous nine years.
Desertion primarily results from three factors, the Army says: dissatisfaction with military life, family problems and homesickness.
But desertions also appear to increase during wartime, the Army acknowledges. Army personnel make up the largest portion of the U.S. forces serving in Iraq.

The above is from Lynn Franey's "Courage is seldom a factor among soldiers who desert" (The Kansas City Star). This is large topic and it's beyond the column frankly. Who's fault is that?

I don't know. It's not like the stories needing to be told are being told. Is Franey at fault? Is it yet another example of how our media has failed us -- especially independent media which has too often allowed the Associated Press to cover war resisters while travele hopping around the globe for topics?

Who knows? Who knows how the fault should be distributed. It's certainly true that what does get reported is quickly ignored. For instance, please note that Nancy Mullane broke the news on March 19, 2007 that the US army was undercounting the number of self-checkouts for the 2006 period. On NPR, Mullane reported, "Instead of 3100 deserters [for 2006], the real number may be closer to 5,000. That's according to analysts within the Army's personnel division at the Pentagon and at the Fort Knox desertion information center. Both reached that 5,000 figure by adding on soldiers who deserted and then were discharged from the Army throughout the year." Because of Mullane's reporting, the US military bumped up their official figure 200. Apparently it's too much to expect anyone to remember the actual report. Apparently it's too much to expect the 5,000 figure to be mentioned.

There's a lot that doesn't get mentioned, doesn't get covered. Franey notes Ricky Clousing and Kyle Snyder. Franey's lost in both cases. On Snyder, Franey notes that Synder wasn't spoken for the article but his attorney was. I'm not going to be real polite there. Franey DID NOT speak to Kyle Snyder's attorney. Jim Fennerty is NOT Snyder's attorney. Jeffry House is Snyder's attorney.

Jim Fennerty may have told "The Kyle Snyder" story as Franey recounts it (he may not have) but Fennerty is not the go-to-guy on that story or for war resisters. There is huge, HUGE anger at Fennerty for the lousy job he did with Snyder's case.

Jim Fennerty is really bad about telling the press a hearts & candy version of a client's story. That already pissed many in the war resisters movement off. Fennerty's 'success' story is Darrell Anderson. Anderson not being court-martialed had nothing to do with Fennerty. It had to do with the fact that Anderson had a Purple Heart and would bring publicity because he wouldn't be silent.

If Fennerty told Franey the story recounted, the whispers about Fennerty need to stop and the SHOUTING needs to begin.

He has no business telling Snyder's story to begin with -- not when so many feel he screwed Snyder over. How so? He didn't even have the right location for where Snyder was supposed to turn himself in. Now he can -- and did -- offer multiple excuses for that but it goes to there is NO excuse for it.

Now explain to everyone how, with problems already arising, Kyle Snyder got left alone? Explain how Snyder was left without an attorney and informed that the deal -- the deal Fennerty told him was worked out -- wasn't happening?

No one's calling (in whispers) Fennerty a liar or a sell out or someone tricking war resisters. They are questioning his competency and they damn well should.

After Kyle Snyder got burned (AGAIN), where the hell was Fennerty?

Who helped Snyder? Who was there for him? (Synder, obviously, helped himself. But in addition to that.) Gerry Condon.

Now Franey may be reporting the Kyle Snyder story the way it's reported because that's how Fennerty recounted it. Fennerty is, at best, a bad joke currently. And what reads like the usual crap from the mouth of Fennerty ("These are just boys, they are young, they're not political, they're just wounded . . .").

Franey's unaware of it but Snyder was against the illegal war BECAUSE of what he saw in Iraq.

Go see Breaking Ranks today, talk to Condon about what went down (see previous entry for details, 7:00 pm at Centro del Pueblo tonight). Snyder's talked about this at length and it goes beyond the pleasing story that Fennerty tried to peddle to the press in real time back in October of 2006. It includes a March 2005 shoting incident and it is not limited to that. Fennerty is an ineffective spokesperson and would do well to stop giving comments to the press about clients or former clients.

Snyder's story is long and complicated. And it was never told in The Nation. It really wasn't told by US media period. You can start with the foster care, you can move on to a recruiter who buddied up and was 'there for you' with repeated and consistent recruiting efforts passed off as friendship. You could deal with the lies Snyder was told. He was told he'd be rebuilding (Fennerty got that right). He was told a lot. What did he get? A pregnant girlfriend miscarried because she couldn't get healthcare even though he was told she'd be covered. He wasn't given time off for that. He wasn't given leave when one of the few adult figures from his childhood, his grandfather, was ill and died. He wasn't given leave to attend the funeral either.

I'm told I'm "fierce" on Snyder. If that's true, it's because his entire life has been a tale of where a society should have stepped up and they didn't. His entire story is one person making it through one betrayal after another beginning in childhood and all institutions repeatedly failing. A professional attorney shouldn't add to the list of failures by getting the story wrong -- whether that's to be 'helpful' or not.

There's no indication of whom Franey spoke to about Ricky Clousing. If it was Clousing, the reporter missed a lot of details:

He had slipped out of the barracks at Fort Bragg, N.C. in the middle of the night in 2005. He left without permission because he didn't want to return to fighting in Iraq.
He left a note saying where he was going and went home to Washington state.
A year later he tried turning himself in near Seattle to make an anti-war statement. The Army gave him a bus ticket and told him to return to Fort Bragg. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of being absent without leave and received a bad-conduct discharge and a three-month prison sentence.

You'll need to use the link to the story if you're missing the point of how Clousing is glossed over. He left a note? What did the note say?

It's amazing that Clousing has publicly recounted his "pop, pop, pop, pop" (gunfire) experience where he saw a young Iraqi male shot dead. He began speaking out in Iraq. From "Broadcast Exclusive . . . AWOL Army Sgt. On the Run for a Year Speaks Out for the First Time" (Democracy Now!, August 11, 2006):

JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you talk to us about some of your specific experiences while you were there? My understanding is you actually witnessed some killings of innocent civilians that really affected you deeply?
SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: Yes, I was assigned to a tactical infantry unit, which meant basically that I was out on patrols with infantry units. The particular incident you're referring to, I was in Mosul on a convoy en route, and we stopped to assist another convoy that had been struck by an IED. And during that time, I was ordered to pull rear security on the convoy, where I proceeded to go behind the rear Humvee and guard the road, basically to ensure that nobody turned down and posed a threat to U.S. forces assisting soldiers in their personal crisis, what was going on with the IED.
As I was doing that, I had seen a vehicle turn down our road going approximately 15 miles an hour. I saw directly in the window. It was a young boy, or a young man, I should say, and as soon as he saw U.S. troops, he was terrified, took his hands off the wheel. It was evident that he was scared that U.S. troops were there, weapons drawn. He didn't know what was going on. He was making an effort to brake the vehicle and to turn around immediately, when a soldier in the turret of the Humvee behind me proceeded to open up fire and fired four to five rounds inside of the vehicle.
I went over to the vehicle with a medic and broke the window out and dragged the civilian into the road, which is common to provide first aid upon injured civilians, and even insurgents, but I look downed at him as the medic was performing first aid. And the situation, obviously, was really -- I was in shock. I didn't know what was going on. It was really fast. But as I looked down in the eyes of the boy, I could tell that he was just scared. He was frightened. And I don't speak Arabic, and obviously there was no words exchanged, but I could look into his eyes and see that he was confused and hurt and didn't know what was going on. You know, I could sense that from the soul he was crying out, you know, "Why is this happening to me? What's going on? What did I do? I was turning my car around."
I spoke with the leaders afterwards and told them that basically they needed to instruct their soldiers to assess and analyze a situation properly, as the proper procedures were neglected. The escalation of force by waving of the arms and firing a warning shot and then proceeding to try to disengage the vehicle by shooting the tires, and then actually if the vehicle doesn't stop and it poses a threat still, you're authorized to engage into the vehicle and engage the civilian. All of those procedures were ignored, and it was directly -- basically the civilian was fired on immediately.
And I thought that this Iraqi died innocently, and I was really disturbed by it, really shook my foundation of why I thought we were there. And I had skepticism before, but that particular incident, along with some other ones, really just made me second guess what we were doing there and what really is happening.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you raise it with your superiors?
SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: I did raise it to the superiors that were in charge of the convoy. I did.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did they say?
SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: I brought it up to them. And it was hard for me to do that, because I was never deployed before, because I wasn't an infantry soldier. I was a military intelligence soldier attached to these infantry guys. But when I did, I spoke what I felt I needed to say and bring up issues that needed to be questioned and concern. And when I did, I was really shot down by the superiors, basically that I didn't know how convoy operations worked, and I had never been deployed before and I didn't understand that this happens and that that's just something that’s a reality of war, and that I apparently didn't know what I was talking about.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And how prevalent, in your experience, were these kinds of incidents of innocent civilians being needlessly killed?
SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: I, myself, only witnessed this particular incident where an innocent civilian was killed, although because I was an interrogator, my security clearance granted me access to the S-2 room, which is the intelligence briefing room. It's where they have all the intelligence updates. There is a board called the daily intelligence summary, and that holds information on how many times in our area of operation that soldiers have received small arms fire, how many IEDs have gone off and also the number of local nationals or noncombatant Iraqi civilians that are killed. And as I said, I only saw this personally one time, but the number of innocent Iraqis killed on the bleeder board, or on the intelligence board, definitely climbed the whole time I was in Iraq. The number never -- it gradually increased day by day that we were there in the sector.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s called the "bleeder board"?
SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: It’s an intelligence summary board, basically of all the updates in the area of operation that we conduct in, all of the significant events.

The "bleeder board". Who noted that in real time or since? I'm not doing links. I'm late enough this morning as it is and having to edit myself with regards to certain topics (yes, I've edited myself) makes us even more behind this morning. But Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, Ron Jacobs, Anthony Arnove, Elizabeth de la Vega, and a few others (a very small number) have covered war resisters. The bulk of our independent media has not. On radio, our news readers have too often relied on passing off condensed AP as their own work and accepting -- independent media -- the mainstream narrative in their broadcasting of supposed news headlines for independent media.

Today's (MSM) article tells you Clousing left a note. It doesn't tell you what it said. (The article doesn't even tell you that Clousing was military intel.)

What did the note say? Among other things it quoted MLK:

Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" But conscience asks the question, "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.

That's kind of important. A lot of important details are being left out and going uncovered. But have no fear, Bob Herbert's slobbering over The Nation's upcoming issue. (Which may be more amazing for what didn't make the story he's slobbering over than what did.) Well, at least he's not again carrying water for Juan Williams, right? There is a point. Herbert's carrying water for The Nation -- same magazine that attacked Sarah Chayes and Ann Jones in a sexist book review -- on the same day the Times runs Chayes' "NATO Didn't Lose Afghanistan." We don't touch on Afghanistan here. Our focus is Iraq. Chayes was attacked (by a centrist! and a pig) and we'll offer a link to her piece today. We are not linking to NYT's columns. Chayes is an exception. (I haven't even read it. I may or may not agree. I do not doubt that she is informed, regardless.)

Moving quickly, Sudarsan Raghavan's "Iraqi Politicians Warn Against Pullout" (Washington Post) was noted by Martha and two other members. From the article:

Politicians from Iraq's major parties and ethnic groups said Monday that Iraq's government could collapse, plunging the nation into full-blown civil war and sparking regional conflict, if the United States were to begin withdrawing troops too quickly.
The warnings were issued as Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also asserted that Turkey has massed 140,000 troops along its border with Iraq to stage a possible cross-border assault against Kurdish separatists.
If true, the Turkish buildup would raise fears of another front opening up in a country already facing myriad conflicts. But State Department officials in Washington were skeptical about the assertion.

So follow that. The theme coming out of the White House is that Zebari must be believed about what MIGHT happen; however, he is not to be believed about what he says IS happening. We dealt with the nonsense of the Mights last entry.

I actually intended to touch on "BE HONEST" in depth here. Instead, I got a call about Franey's article and that's what we went with. I intended to note that Tony Snow and CBS' Harry think only men in the US military get sent to Iraq. I intended to give Joe Biden at least credit for knowing otherwise and saying so. We'll note it that way. (That is not an endorsement of Biden for president. That isn't even an endorsement of his Iraq plan. I disagree with it. Strongly. We may return to the topic of Biden on Thursday -- "And the war drags on" -- but there have been non-stop computer problems this morning despite the fact that I'm on the fourth different so far this morning and the problem continues to trail me.) In the words of Kat, it is what it is.

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