Tuesday, January 27, 2009

4 US soldiers killed in Iraq apparently isn't news

"I heard a strange sound in the sky, then heard two huge explosions," Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) quotes Mohammed Abdullah explaining of yesterday's helicopter crashes that resulted in the deaths of 4 US soldiers. If the article seems sleight (and it is), the Los Angeles Times manages to reduce the deaths even further in Monte Morin's article which makes it three paragraphs in a twelve paragraph story. The New York Times offers a little more depth -- and some actual twists and turns -- in Sam Dagher's "Helicopter Crash in Iraq Kills 4 Americans, in Biggest Toll Among G.I.'s Since September."

Before we get to what Dagher offers, let's note the article runs on A14 of the national edition, let's note the front page. You've got Eric Schmitt offering up a bunch of whispers (and bad ones at that) which really belong inside the paper -- if there. The Medicare story probably qualifies as front page news, the layoffs is front page news. The rest? "Geography Is Dividing Democrats Over Energy"? No. It's a prominent story on the first page of the national section. "Smoking Ban Hits Home. Truly." is a feature article or column (yes, once upon a time columnists were actually required to report -- see Jimmy Breslin's work -- and not just attempt to sit in front of the TV and then offer bad pop cultural references the next day in print).

4 soldiers died in Iraq. It's not front page news?

It's in yesterday's snapshot, yes, but it was also in one of yesterday's morning's entries. Point? There was no deadline issue. And Dagher's article buried inside the paper was quoted in yesterday's snapshot. He completed it in more than enough time for it to have run on the front page.

And it should have run on the front page.

When reports come out about ABC or whomever pulling their Iraqi staff, we get a lot of cluckers who ignore Iraq otherwise. And ignore the fact that the news on Iraq, when reported, is rarely reported as news.

I am very sorry for the elderly woman in Belmont, California who wishes she could smoke in her apartment but a local ordinance means she can't. But that's really not front page news. The only time that's front page news is from some sort of anti-government newsletter dashed off by survivalists. It's a column. It's a feature article. If it goes beyond Belmont, it may become news. But as is, the only reason to pretend it's a front page story is if you're attempting to inflame some sort of "Government is out to get us!" sentiment.

You know a lot of beggars made money off the Iraq War. They made movies, they wrote books, they billed themselves as giving a damn about the illegal war and wanting to end it. I'm talking about the beggars, not Real Media. Let's see what story will they run off to next. One alleged "I'm covering the war!" beggar lost interest by 2005, bored us all with the economy and now is trying to rush out his cut & paste on Barack and 'the meaning of it all.' Yeah, what the world needs now, one more cut and paste job.

But you'll notice that people like that are the first to hiss about ABC deciding to outsource Iraq coverage to the BBC. I find that decision appalling. But we're covering Iraq every day here. It takes a lot of gall for those who attempted to profit from the illegal war -- with books, videos, lecture fees* -- to turn around and hiss at ABC while they spend every day gas bagging on some thing other than the illegal war. (*I have been speaking out against the illegal war since Feb. 2003 -- I charge no fee nor do I ask for travel expense or lodging. It's also true that I don't have to worry about money. But in case some drive-by is planning to bring that up in an e-mail today.)

Long before the networks moved out of Iraq, the beggars of Panhandle Media found other topics to gas bag over.

To the children of our resisting Iraqi nation, we bring you the joyous news of downing two helicopters belonging to the American enemy with the Sadeed rockets.

Dagher quotes the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order stating that in leaflets they've strewn in the area. He notes they are claiming that they have video and will post it shortly:

The group, named after a Muslim Sufi order, is linked to Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was one of Saddam Hussein's top aides, and members of his family, according to American military intelligence officers. Mr. Douri, who is ailing but whose whereabouts remain a mystery, is an ardent follower and patron of the Naqshbandi order in Iraq.

Dagher did some actual reporting. The group may or may not have video, may or may not have brought down the helicopters. But that's what they're attempting to convince Iraqis of and Dagher has the story. Too bad the paper wants to bury it deep inside the paper. But, hey, if it ran on the front page, they might have to lose the lousy photo of the 'scandal' which shows Barbara Walters . . . on a TV set.

Iraq War veteran Tyler E. Boudreau (author of Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine) offers "Troubled Minds and Purple Hearts" (New York Times) where he attempts to wade into a charged subject:

When I was in Iraq, the most common wound behind the many Purple Hearts we awarded was the "perforated eardrum," an eardrum punctured by the concussion of a nearby explosion. In the vast majority of cases, no blood was ever shed. Seldom did these marines ever miss a day of full duty. And yet they were all awarded the coveted medal.
Admittedly, I was dubious about the "recognition" of these and other lesser wounds; I felt that in a way they subverted the obvious intent of the Purple Heart -- honoring soldiers who have been seriously hurt. But where to draw the line? Perhaps it should be awarded only to those who required admittance into a combat support hospital. "The Purple Heart deserves at least one night out of action," I argued at the time. But my own commander stood fast by the rules, affirming: "A combat wound is a combat wound, no matter how small. So they get the medal."
A year later, back at Camp Lejeune, N.C., I was making calls to the families of wounded marines -- a difficult duty even when the wounds were minor. But I noticed during that time that I never once made a call to a family about a marine's psychological wounds. I never got a casualty report for post-traumatic stress, despite the rising number of veteran suicides. Never once.
Why, I asked myself, if a combat wound is a combat wound no matter how small, shouldn’t those people suffering from the "invisible wounds" of post-traumatic stress also receive the Purple Heart? Difficulty of diagnosis is one of the central justifications the Pentagon has given, citing the concern that fakers will tarnish the medal's image. Spilt blood cannot be faked.
But this seems an unconvincing argument not to honor those who actually do suffer from post-traumatic stress. For example, the possibility of fakers has not prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from awarding disability payments to service members who have received a diagnosis. Why should the military itself be different?

For the record, my opinion remains that PTSD qualifies for a Purple Heart. That's also the opinion of this community. Yesterday's snapshot noted the class of Iraqi police women who graduated from the academy. Jenan Hussein covers the topic today in "1st full class of policewomen joins Iraq's fledgling force" (McClatchy Newspapers) and notes:

The Ministry of Interior has been widely criticized for relegating women to desk jobs and taking their weapons for their male counterparts.
However, Abdul Razzaq and the other female graduates will take to Iraq's streets, said Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, the spokesman for the ministry. Some will work in counterterrorism, and others will help staff the many checkpoints on Baghdad's streets. Since militants began sending in female suicide bombers, female officers are needed to search women and staff checkpoints.

Friday, US Senator Daniel Akaka released the following:

Akaka calls for corrections before President Obama’s budget is proposed
January 23, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today in response to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is under-projecting the increase in funding and staff it will need to provide veterans with adequate long-term care in the coming years:
"GAO has found yet another example of VA providing incomplete and inaccurate estimates of veterans' needs. This investigation is timely, with the Obama Administration now developing a budget for veterans' health care and other services. I hope that Secretary Shinseki will direct his Department to make the necessary corrections in time for VA to give an accurate assessment of its long-term care needs, and that he will make it a priority to improve the Department's overall budget and planning process.
"Members of Congress, the President, and Secretary Shinseki have called for veterans' health care to be funded one-year in advance of the regular budget process. For this to work, projections of veterans' health care needs must be accurate," said Akaka.
Last year, Chairman Akaka introduced S. 3527, the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act of 2008, to provide advance funding for VA, and require the Comptroller General to conduct a study on the adequacy and accuracy of VA health care projections. Currently, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is funded one-year at a time, and is too often the victim of delays and short-term budgets.

This morning, the US Senate Armed Services Committeee hears testimony from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates regarding the 'defense' emphasis for the new administration and this afternoon, the US House Armed Service Committee hears testimony from him. Ken Fireman and Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg News) report that Gates is supposed to jaw about "hard choices" as he argues for more money.

Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, was in Athens, where he met with Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis (see photo below from Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and prepared for a day of talks on Tuesday to include meeting with the country's Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis as well as Dimitris Sioufas, the President of the country's Parliament.


Last Thursday the KRG issued the following:

Governors from Kurdistan Region speak in UK parliament

London, UK (KRG.org) – The Governors of the three Kurdistan Region provinces on Monday spoke to MPs, Lords, journalists and the public in the British parliament.

The provincial leaders from Erbil, Suliemaniah and Duhok thanked the UK parliament and government for their support and said that while many challenges remain, the three governorates have made significant strides since the liberation of Iraq in 2003.

Their visit to the UK is part of an initiative set up by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani to build capacity in the regional government and empower local government leaders. The governors will be working with the National School of Government in the UK to devise a KRG-funded training programme for provincial and local civil servants.

Mr Nawzad Hadi, the Governor of Erbil, said, "We have made some improvements in providing services and strengthening civil society, but we still face problems. We hope to benefit more actively from the UK's experience of running local and regional authorities."

Mr Hadi, Mr Dana Ahmed Majeed the Governor of Suleimaniah, Mr Tamar Ramadan the Governor of Dohuk, and Dr Ali Sindi, Prime Minister Barzani’s Special Adviser, answered questions on the likely impact of the provincial and general elections in Iraq, the provinces' efforts to improve job opportunities, the private sector, women's rights, rural areas and many basic services.

Ms Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG's High Representative to the UK, said, “The British parliamentarians’ invitation to the governors enabled them to share their views on developments in Kurdistan and further deepen understanding of the reality on the ground in Iraq.”

Ms Meg Munn MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Kurdistan Region, hosted the meeting with Mr Dave Anderson MP. Baroness Ramsey, Lord Ahmed, trade union leaders, journalists and the public attended the meeting. The Governors also met Ms Ann Clwyd MP, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Envoy to Iraq on Human Rights.

Read more about the Governors' meetings with NSG and the Foreign Office.

ADDED: The following community sites updated last night:

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

the new york times

anthony shadid
the washington post
the los angeles times
monte morin