Thursday, September 27, 2007

Other Items

The Defense Department announced Wednesday that it's sent a team of investigators to Iraq to look into how the U.S. military monitors private security contractors in the wake of a Sept. 16 incident in which security guards working for the State Department killed at least 11 Iraqi civilians.
Pentagon officials also said they've sent a memo to commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan reminding them that they can court-martial private security guards working under military contracts who violate U.S. military law.
The twin actions come as U.S. and Iraqi authorities try to determine how to punish private security contractors who shoot civilians unnecessarily or take other actions that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other senior military officials worry are undermining U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.

The above is from Nancy A. Youssef's "Pentagon probes security contractors in Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers) and DoD's sudden interest in court-martials comes, of course, as the threat that the US contractors might face the Iraqi legal system lingers -- the same one Michael Gordon (New York Times) and the White House has praised . . . until it looks like Americans might face the same 'justice.'

The mercenaries (if not the State Department) are the topic of John M. Broder and James Risen's "Shootings by Blackwater Exceed Other Firms in Iraq:"

The American security contractor Blackwater USA has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms providing similar services to the State Department, according to Bush administration officials and industry officials.
Blackwater is now the focus of investigations in both Baghdad and Washington over a Sept. 16 shooting in which at least 11 Iraqis were killed. Beyond that episode, the company has been involved in cases in which its personnel fired weapons while guarding State Department officials in Iraq at least twice as often per convoy mission as security guards working for other American security firms, the officials said.

If you'll note your daily paper, whatever it is, you'll probably notice that suddenly it's time to cover violence in Iraq again. You might think it was because of the targeting of officials. You'd be wrong. You might notice that the pattern has been this time of year the violence usally increases (you could notice that because the illegal war has gone on so long, it can be looked at 'historically'). But the reality is probably more to do with yesterday's press conference where Army Maj Gen Kevin Bargner gave the a-okay by delcaring that violence is up. Were that greenlight not at least part of the reason, maybe some of the same reports (many that mention Bargner) would also note that Rear Adm Mark Fox gave a press conference Monday claiming that violence was down ("on the downtrend"). Remember, it's rarely news unless the press gets the greenlight to cover it.

In the Senate yesterday, Robert Byrd -- former member of the KKK -- threw out activists with CODEPINK who booed Peter Pace's homophobic remarks insisting he had 'taken' all he could take and insisting, re: prejudice, "I said I stop it before you were ever born." Really? Before I was born -- before most of us were born, Byrd was clothing himself in White sheets and meeting with the Grand Dragon. Rebecca writes about Pace in "craven dems and disgusting peter pace." Julian Barnes reports on it, kind of sort of at the Los Angeles Times. (For late comers to the party, we set no plate for Byrd and never have.)

PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio explores PTSD this week (Friday in most markets):

For many Iraq and Gulf War veterans, the transition from battlefield to home front is difficult. Bouts of fierce anger, depression and anxiety that previous generations of soldiers described as "shell shock" or "combat/battle fatigue" now earn a clinical diagnosis: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But the relatively new medical label doesn't guarantee soldiers will get the care they need. On Friday, September 28 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW looks at how America's newest crop of returning soldiers is coping with the emotional scars of war, and some
new and innovative treatments for them.
In the show, we spent time with Iraq War veteran Michael Zacchea, a Marine Lt. Colonel who trained Iraqi troops and led them in the battle of Fallujah. Haunted by the violence he saw there, Zacchea and other soldiers diagnosed with PTSD now face what could be a lifelong struggle to leave the horrors of war behind and reclaim their once-peaceful lives.
NOW Online will reveal facts and figures about vets and PTSD, and offer resources for coping.

Aaron Mackey's "Huachuca GI sent to Arpaio's Tent City: More offenders may go to outdoor jail in Phoenix" (Arizona Daily Star) whose main take away may be that Tent City "consists of Korean War-era tents set up in a lot near downtown Phoenix." How proud they should be.

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now with david branccaciopbs