Sunday, June 22, 2008

And the war drags on . . .

Pvt. David Dietrich had a history of cognitive problems. He struggled in boot camp at Fort Knox, Ky., striking at least one of his superiors as unfit for the military. Dietrich was so slow at processing new things, some fellow soldiers called him Forrest Gump. His squad leader, Pfc. Matthew Berg, says Dietrich couldn't hit targets on the rifle range and had trouble retaining information. "He was very strong physically, but mentally he wasn't really all there," Berg says. Recruited as a cavalry scout, one of the toughest specialties in the Army, Dietrich seemed to lack the essential skills for the job: concentration, decisiveness and the ability to move around without being noticed. He was sent for psychological evaluations at least twice, yet somehow Dietrich advanced--from Fort Knox to Germany and on to Iraq in November 2006. Eight weeks later, at 21, Dietrich was killed by a sniper while conducting reconnaissance from an abandoned building in Ramadi.
What was a guy like Dietrich doing in the military? At a time when an overstretched Army is sending into combat thousands of soldiers who once would have been considered mentally or physically unfit for duty, his story illuminates the complexities and human cost of the war--and shows how hard it is to find the line between tragic circumstances and military misconduct.

The above is the opening to Dan Ephron's "'He Should Never Have Gone to Iraq': More borderline troops are being sent to the front, sometimes with tragic results" (Newsweek). The above is actually multiple stories: the lowering of standards, the lack of concern for those sent over, the lack of medical care and attention, and a great deal more. The lack of concern is echoed in the final highlight offered by Pru, it's a bookend to the above.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war hit the 4,099 mark. And tonight? 4102. Just Foreign Policy's counter estimates that 1,225,898 Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war up from 1,222,013.

Turning to some of this weekend's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a woman detonated a bomb in Diyala Province killing herself and 16 other people, a Mosul car bombing wounded four police officers, a Kirkuk roadside bombing claimed 3 lives and left two more people wounded and a second Kirkuk roadside bombing claimed 4 lives. Reuters notes a bag bombing in a Hilla market today that left two people injured. Saturday McClatchy's Mohammed Al Dulaimy reported a Baghdad car bombing that wounded three people, another Baghdad car bombing that wounded two people, a Baghdad police car bombing that wounded two police officers and a Kirkuk car bombing that wounded two people.


Reuters notes 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul and another wounded today.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses were discovered in Baghdad today. Saturday McClatchy's Mohammed Al Dulaimy reported 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 2 corpses ("brothers, Ali and Mohamed Zaid") discovered in Baquba who were members of the "Awakening" Council and had been kidnapped.

On the female Baquba bomber today, if you'll remember the US is paying "Awakening" council members. $300 a month . . . if you're male. They're paying women less and they say they need women to search other women. But they're saying that these women who receive the same training and are required to do the same duties are worth 20% less pay. Doug Smith (Los Angeles Times) notes of the bombing, "A woman pretending to seek assistance from police detonated a suicide belt under her traditional robe today, killing 15 people in the busy civic center of Baqubah, police said." We don't approve of the US policy of paying off thugs (which US Ambassador Ryan Crocker repeatedly bragged to Congress in April prevented the thugs from attacking the US military), but if you're paying male "Awakening" Council members a figure for a set list of duties and the women are doing the same, you pay them the same. The US has no business making things worse for women in Iraq -- they've done that more than enough since the start of the illegal war.

In other US caused problems in Iraq (yes, there are a ton including the continuation of the illegal war), the US military allowed squatters to take over government buildings. The feeling was (reported in the press in real time, 2003) that Iraq would be not have "state" properties and would become a 'free' market wet dream so it didn't matter. Reuters reports that squatters are being evicted and they emphasize it's from residential homes; however, squatters in Baghdad are being told to leave whether it's residential or commercial buildings. This is a very messy situation and Joe Biden proposed a way to address it in a Senate hearing back in April. Apparently no one was listening.

In today's New York Times, Thom Shanker reports on the growing split between the air force and the army and, how in Iraq, that's led the army to start their own airforce (with small air craft and what that means really isn't clear). Shanker notes:

Civilian casualties are always a risk in air raids, particularly those attacking bomb-placing teams that operate in cities and villages. Army officials declined to say whether they believed the casualties from the new Army raids included innocent civilians, but they sought to pre-empt some criticism by screening an aerial surveillance video that they said showed the precise nature of the raids.

In the US, Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) notes that 24-year-old Lawrence Hutchins is now at Fort Leavenworth where he "is serving an 11-year sentence for conspiracy and unpremediated murder for the April 2006 killin in Hamandiya" of an innocent Iraqi civilian in order to 'send a message' to Iraqis attacking the US. And what do the Iraqis think of the US system of 'justice'? Leila Fadel speaks to them for "Hadith victims' kin outraged as Marines go free" (McClatchy Newspapers, and link has text and video):

Khadija Hassan still shrouds her body in black, nearly three years after the deaths of her four sons. They were killed on Nov. 19, 2005, along with 20 other people in the deadliest documented case of U.S. troops killing civilians since the Vietnam War.
Eight Marines were charged in the case, but in the intervening years, criminal charges have been dismissed against six. A seventh Marine was acquitted. The residents of Haditha, after being told they could depend on U.S. justice, feel betrayed.
"We put our hopes in the law and in the courts and one after another they are found innocent," said Yousef Aid Ahmed, the lone surviving brother in the family. "This is an organized crime."
No one disputes that Marines killed 24 men, women and children in this town in four separate shootings that morning. Relatives said the attack was a massacre of innocent civilians that followed a roadside bomb that killed one Marine and injured two. Marines say they came under fire following the bomb.

New content at Third (and note that it's the fiction/summer-read edition):

Truest statement of the week
A note to our readers
Editorial: What's your acceptance level?
TV: Breaking what?
New York Times, Early Edition
The non-whistle blower
Bee-bees and cockle bugs

Isaiah's latest comic goes up after this entry.

And Pru notes Simon Assaf's "Depleted uranium: the silent killer stalks streets of Fallujah" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The US military is attempting to cover up a great crime taking place in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
Every week an average of five children are born there with major congenital malformations, including heart defects, cleft lip or palate, Down's syndrome, limb defects and eye deformities. One child was born with two heads.
Meanwhile cemetery workers in the city speak of burying half a dozen stillborn babies every day -- many of them with severe deformities.
These are the victims of a silent killer unleashed on Fallujah during savage bombardments in 2004 when the city in the Anbar province rose in rebellion against the occupation.
Medical officials in Fallujah are reluctant to speak out, and the US military and its Iraqi allies have blocked attempts to open an investigation.
But all the evidence points to the use of depleted uranium weapons. These are made out of the waste product from enriched uranium, and are favoured by the military because shells can punch through steel armour and reinforced concrete.
As it hits its target, it vaporises creating a toxic, radioactive cloud of uranium oxides. These particles are blown into the air and can be carried hundreds of miles by winds.
They contaminate wounds and can be inhaled or ingested. In the longer term these particles seep into the soil and contaminate water supplies -- turning areas into toxic wastelands.
The US has admitted to dropping around 1,200 tonnes of depleted uranium on Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
It has refused to confirm that it used these weapons during its assault on Fallujah. But one US soldier who took part in the fighting described the final days of the battle to GI Special, the anti-war bulletin for US troops:
"Occasionally, on the outskirts of the isolated impact area, you could hear tanks firing machine guns and blazing their cannons. It was amazing that anything could survive this deadly onslaught. Suddenly a transmission came over the radio approving the request for 'bunker busters'.
"Apparently, there were a handful of insurgent compounds that were impenetrable by artillery. I was told that the incredibly massive explosions were a direct result of these 'final solution' type missiles."
Bunker busters -- bombs capable of penetrating 20 feet of concrete -- have depleted uranium tips.
Evidence of the use of depleted uranium weapons is hard to come by.
But one Iraqi witness told independent journalist Dahr Jamail that following the 2004 battle in Fallujah US troops began to remove the top soil from certain sites, while leaving others untouched. Others told him that soldiers hosed down certain streets.
Both US and British governments deny that depleted uranium causes any long term health risk. These denials have been rubbished by every serious scientific survey into its impact.
According to a report by the United Nations, "ingestion could occur in large sections of the population if their drinking water or food became contaminated with depleted uranium.
"In addition, the ingestion of soil by children is also considered a potentially important pathway."
A 2005 report by epidemiologists, who study patterns of disease, concluded that "the evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to depleted uranium".
These weapons were first used extensively in the 1990-1 Gulf War -- leaving a deadly legacy for Iraqis and coalition troops. Depleted uranium dust is widely blamed for "Gulf War Syndrome", the severe illness affecting thousands of veterans that is also blamed for birth defects in their offspring.
Now cases of depleted uranium-related illnesses are being reported among a new generation of US troops.
In Fallujah doctors are struggling to deal with the consequences of these weapons. The parents of one deformed infant said, "It's the flagrant aggression they launched against us. God knows what they dropped on us in Fallujah."
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dan ephron

leila fadel
the los angeles times
doug smith
tony perry

thom shanker

simon assaf

dan ephron