Thursday, March 19, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, CBS Evening News digs deeper on the military sexual assault story, the sixth year anniversary of the illegal war is today, Condi Rice celebrates by making more bogus statements, and much more.
At the New York Times' blog Baghdad Bureau, Rod Nordland reviews the reading lists of his colleagues and notes of Alissa J. Rubin, "Alissa has also been reading The Iliad ever since she returned to Iraq a year and a half ago. It's not that she's a slow reader; I suspect she doesn't really want it to end just yet. After all, Troy's war lasted nine years, and Iraq's is only in year six." They make it so very difficult not to rip them apart, don't they? Attempts at 'pith' that read like a really bad company newsletter, on a theme stolen from a joke about Rachel in a Friends episode. And though reporters are supposed to make observations, Rod just offers minutes. (Here's an observation, Rod, an obvious one: While the women will read books by men and women, the men only read books by men. And people wonder about the institutional sexism at the New York Times?) Where there is an embarrassment for the paper, there is Bill Keller (executive-editor) who leaves comment number six: "Think you could get an Oprah for this and maybe have it included in each small unit field library with a couple Kindles included." Oh, ha, ha. Good to know all that non-work that resulted in losing millions for the paper hasn't stopped Bill Keller's joy of the funin'. In the real world, it's the sixth anniversary of the illegal war today.
What's on Iraqis mind? Ones with computer access have a fondness for a certain e-mail. Abeer Mohammed (Baghdad Bureau Blog) reveals one e-mail that keeps getting forwarded around Iraq (nine times Abeer's received it since the election) is "Obama and Bush are Cousins." It's the photo strip where Bush morphs into Barack and it, as Abeer Mohammed notes, "suggest that the two's polices are the same." Enas Adil wrote in the e-mail, "There is no difference between Bush and Obama. He may use different words in his speeches but the weapons are the same." Strangely, Bill Keller didn't feel the need to comment on that post. No doubt he's trying to figure out how he can relate it to a TV show. Well he's got to do something all day besides singing along with Annie Lennox, "This ship is sinking, this ship is sinking" ("Why" off Annie's Diva).
Finding out what's on Iraqis minds became harder this year as Jeffrey (Iraqi Bloggers Central) pointed out -- fewer Iraqis starting blogs and many Iraqis have ceased blogging. Touta (Fog el Nakhal) reports on traveling from Baghdad to Ramadi: "To transport us from our house, we hired one of thos cars with black windows and large tyres, driven by a tall, quite intimidating guy.It really comfortable and large, and he bellows in laughter as he talks about the rumadi stereotype. I think we had to pass three checkpoints through the whole journey, and I didn't really do anything apart from stay seated as soldier after soldier would peer in suspiciously before exclaiming 'Family!' and letting us pass." Her report includes:
It turns out the whole of Iraq is suffering intolerably from unemployment, and lack of life. No money=no life. Its simple. All work seems to be handed out not to the best qualified, but to members of the same family, and this is the case for all sects and groups of Iraq. Same with the government. If you're lucky enough to have a foreign degree you can expect a job, but even then its sometimes hit and miss, and depends whether you have a head big enough to boast of how great you are.
One of the older guests spends half an hour complaining about the iranians. At first I get up on my high horse and complain of racism, but then he quickly and quietly reminds me of how many friends and family he lost in the war. "Why do you think they hate us too?".
There's a lot more foreign soldiers here. i didnt really expect it, but seeing them, after an absence brings back the whole Iraq situation again. It was fun in Rumadi, my 13 year old cousin actually felt it was necessary to walk me to the shop opposite the road. Then he spent 15 minutes trying to pay for everything. i know its out of niceness, and its the way they have been brought up etc, but I like independence. A bit too much perhaps.
Earlier this month, Sunshine (Days of My Life) shared her struggle to make what should be an easier drive, "I spend most the time these days studying, I stay up till 11 pm and wake up next day at 6:30 to go to school, I am not getting enough time to sleep, and my face looks tired, but I know these days will pass, but the result of my study will not fade away, so… I can sleep later. The situation this week was very bad, many car bombs exploded, we hear shooting the whole time, many were killed or injured, and many roads were closed, I spend more than an hour trying to find an opened road in my way from school to my house, I arrive exhausted, with red face and killing headache after I take a nap for an hour to rest, I have physics or chemistry lectures at home, after that I do my homework while I listen to slow music, and my favorite songs ..(I like Whitney Huston, blue, west life, George Michael, Shania twin, Josh Groban, and too many to mention, I also like country music a lot, and I hear Arabic and some Iraqi music).." S.W. at Mosul 4all writes of last Wednesday (March 11th), being in Mosul Medical college when a bomb went off:
this was the most horrible sound I was ever heard, I never heard something like this before and next the steel fall toward us , the windows broken on the ground, someone lying on the ground, I put my hand over my ear and screamed, dust, and more of glass on the ground .
I looked around me and checked my self then looked to my friends who still shocked , we didn't get hurt but still shocked, the man who was on the ground raise and stood on his feet he didn't get hurt too, no one get hurt in the lab, I looked from the crashed window and I saw damaged cars in the street and something black on the street I couldn't recognize it (i thing it was a body),then I knew that it was car bomb parked in front of the college, we collected our stuffs then hurried to the centre of the college to have close view ,
The daily life provided by the illegal war. An illegal war that has seen over 1.6 million Iraqis killed, that has turned another 4 million-plus Iraqis into refugees (internal and external) and has resulted in the deaths of 4259 US service members. The day the war started (March 20th in Iraq, due to the time difference), Iman Kadhim had given birth in Baghdad and, as she held her son in her arms, she heard the first bombs falling on Baghdad. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "She named him Harb, Arabic for war. His full name, Harb Zaid, translates as Zaid's War. Neighbors joked that the child named War would only bring damar, or destruction. She worried about him, the boy with a difficult name and an uncertain future." He was in a market during a bombing when he was four-years-old, the same year he saw the Mahdi army pull "a man from the trunk of the car and shot him" and his mother notes, "Our life is destruction, on top of destruction." Fadel informs, "Today, War turns 6. He's never had a birthday party."
The Iraq War has created many widows and many orphans. Baghdad is still notorious for the number of street children inhabting it. Oxfam International released [PDF format warning] "In Her Own Words: Iraqi women talka bout their greatest concerns and challenges" earlier this month (see March 9th snapshot). Ashley Smith (Dissident Voice) observes:
The scale of the crisis in Iraqi women's lives is mind-boggling. Oxfam reported that 55 percent of the women they surveyed reported they had been the victims of violence since 2003. Researchers also found that 55 percent of women had been displaced or forced to abandon their homes.
Despite the media celebrations of growing security in Iraq, 40 percent of those surveyed stated that their security situation was worse in 2008 over 2007. Close to 60 percent of women said that security and safety remained their most pressing concern.
As result of displacement and violence, over a third of the respondents had now become the effective head of their households. There are an estimated 740,000 widows in Iraq, and the actual number could be far higher.
The U.S. attempt to dismantle the central government's traditional role as the hub of the economy and principal provider of social services has devastated these women. Seventy-six percent of widows said they did not receive their husband's pensions from the government. While 76 percent said that they relied government food rations, 45 percent reported receiving it intermittently. Thirty-three percent had received no humanitarian assistance since 2003, and a majority stated that their income was lower in 2008 than in 2007 and 2006.
Oxfam reported, "Beyond security, the overwhelming concern women voiced was extreme difficulty accessing basic services such as clean water, electricity and adequate shelter . . . Availability of essentials such as water, sanitation, and health care is far below national averages."
Six years later. And that's the reality. The Kansas City Star explains that Baghdad sidewalks are "fillwed with water, boxes of water and water cooler bottles. Stacked like squared-off hedges, and also colorful, they're constant reminders that even the basics for life are difficult. About a third of all Baghdad water is undrinkable. It brings disease. Last summer it brought cholera, and government officials are warning that it will again this summer. Beyond that, the water leaves many sick with nagging nausea, perhaps nothing more serious, but sick." And Nouri al-Maliki sits on billions.
Cholera outbreaks take place each year. And when WHO's doctor, so very cozy with Nouri, holds a press conference in Baghdad, as she did last fall, blaming Iraqi women for the cholera outbreak and not the failed and failing infrastructure, it leads to whispers that the 'good' doctor is being slipped a little under the table. Nouri's refused to do a damn thing for the people of Iraq. Maybe he feels he's not obligated to them? After all, Iraqis didn't choose him, the US did. (Parliament's first choice for MP in 2006 was shot down by the US.) No potable water, electricty no more than four hours a day, etc. Rod Nordland and Jad Mouawad (New York Times) report today that Hussain al-Shahristani, Minister of Oil, told OPEC yesterday that the puppet government is willing to steal the people's oil and give it to western companies ("to share directly in the profits from oil production") and that Thamir Ghadhban confirmed this wasn't a misstatement. The reporters note Parliament's opposition to efforts to give foreigners the bulk of the profits from Iraq's oil but then they present Nouri Jr. -- Barham Salih -- whining, "It's acknowledged almost universally that the present oil policy and management has been a disaster." Oh, boo hoo. Let's all pretend the puppet government is near starvation and that Iraq's oil doesn't already bring in billions. UPI reports today that the puppet "government has more than $70 billion in hard cash reserves thanks to two years worth of oil sales". Nigeria, by contrast, brings in about $19 billion a year and the CIA estimates it has approximately 146,000,000 people. Iraq? The CIA estimates they have approximately 28,000,000. The whining by the puppet government is a joke. And while Nouri sits on billions, Iraqis suffer. Jenan Hussein (McClatchy's Inside Iraq) explains that Iraqi orphanges get the US equivalent of $1.50 a month to cover each orphan: "Can you imagine, with the explosive budget that reached to 71 billion dollars last year, the share of the orphan is 1.50 $ montly? What a justice, that we live under this national government which promised to end the years of lack! Islam, the official relgion for Iraq state and customs emphasize the importance of caring the orphans and most Iraqi officials reach to authority by using Islamic cover to convince voters. Iraq the country of orphans (there are more than 3 million orphans in Iraq) only 469 orphans of them distrubte on 15 orphanage are living under the care of the state." It's disgusting and it's disgusting that Nouri gets away with this, year after year.
Also disgusting is what has passed for 'coverage' of the sixth anniversary of the illegal war. The New York Times can't even muster the strength for a tiny editorial or a column. A rare exception was Martha Raddatz' report for ABC's World News Tonight (link is video only) yesterday:
Martha Raddatz: The improvements across Iraq are remarkable but US soldiers in the northern city of Mosul know that they are still at war.
Col Gary Volesky: Yesterday we had three VB IEDs. Keep your head in the game.
Martha Raddatz: VB IED. Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devices. The car bomb, rocket attacks and fire fights have made Mosul one of the most dangerous places in Iraq and made the job of Col Gary Volesky and his 5,000 soldiers all the more difficult.
Col Gary Volesky: Is security good here or is it not so good?
Martha Raddatz: It's not that good says the shop keeper. Only 9% of Mosul residents polled say they feel "very safe" in their neighborhood. The national figure is 59% and Col Vuleski thinks he knows why.
Col Gary Volesky: The unemployment is anywhere from 60 to 80% and if the only option you have to feed your family is to go put in an IED or go throw a hand grenade, that's what you're going to do, whether you like it or not.
Martha Raddatz: Volesky has seen this before.
Col Gary Volesky: A lot of it looks really familiar.
Martha Raddatz: So has Capt Shane Aguero.
Martha Raddatz: [Speaking with Volesky and Aguero] The two of you together again?
Col Gary Volesky: Can you believe it?
Martha Raddatz: I first met Aguero and Volesky five years ago, after an ambush in Baghdad's Sadr City
Col Gary Volesky : We're receiving fire from rooftops, second floors and then out of the alley ways.
Cpt Shane Aguero: I realized I was obviously wounded -- calf, foot, thigh. I was bleeding a lot.
Martha Raddatz: Before the night was over, 8 of Volesky's soldiers were dead, sixty wounded. Today Volesky and Aguero are on their third deployment to Iraq. Aguero has been to Afghanistan twice as well.
Martha Raddatz [to Aguero]: Tell me how many significant events you've missed at home? Christmases . . .
Cpt Shane Aguero: (laughing) Well pretty much all of them for the last four years -- almost five.
Martha Raddatz: And five years later, Volesky is saying goodbye to his soldiers again.
Col Gary Volesky [Speaking at a memorial service]: She's no longer with us. Mission complete,
Martha Raddatz: 22-year-old Private 1st Class Jessica Y. Sarandrea was struck by a rocket on March 3rd.
Col Gary Volesky: It doesn't matter how many memorial services you go to, there as bad as the first one I ever sat in.
Martha Raddatz: But the death of Volesky's battalion commander Garnet [R.] Derby last month was as bad as it gets.
Col Gary Volesky: He was the first real personal friend I'd lost in combat, his family's right across the street from me. I mean, uh, you know, his son and Alex play on the same soccer team.
Martha Raddatz: At such moments, Gary Volesky tries to remember what's been achieved here.
Col Gary Volesky: What is relevant to me is tomorrow I'll have one less day than I did today to make a difference.
Martha Raddatz: Volesky and his soldiers are determined for all the hardship to build on that progress. Martha Raddatz, ABC News, Mosul.
Rania Abouzeid (Time magazine) also reports on Mosul and ponders, ". . . Why? What is it about Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province, that has sustained an insurgency that has largely (with the exception of northeastern Diyala province) died out in most of the country? Why has this city of some 2 million people become the site of al-Qaeda's last stand in Iraq?"
While the New York Times plays like they're unaware it's the sixth anniversary, wowOwow notes the anniversary and Condi Rice's appearnace on Charlie Rose last night where she tried out a new comedy routine telling Rose, "No one was arguign that Saddam Hussein somehow had something to do with 9/11." "No one?" Rose asked. "I was certainly not," Condi lied. "The president was certainly not." They falsely and repeatedly linked 9-11 to Iraq. Condi Rice lied her way through the last eight years and seems determined to lie her way through whatever years she has left. In late 2003, the BBC compiled some examples of how the White House linked Iraq and 9-11 repeatedly. Condi, for example, declared Saddam was a risk in "a region from which the 9/11 threats emerged." Here's BBC on Bully Boy Bush linking:
"Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror."
President Bush in his State of the Union address, January 2002. The speech was primarily concerned with how the US was coping in the aftermath of 11 September.
"We also must never forget the most vivid events of recent history. On 11 September, 2001, America felt its vulnerability - even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America."
President Bush speaking in Cincinnati, Ohio, in October, 2002, in which he laid out the threat he believed Iraq posed.
"Before 11 September 2001, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents and lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons, and other plans - this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take just one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."
President Bush in his State of the Union address, January 2003. He made these comments in the context of the links he perceived between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
"The terrorists have lost a sponsor in Iraq. And no terrorist networks will ever gain weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein's regime."
President Bush in his speech to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, September, 2003.
The administration repeatedly lied. And the effects are still felt in Iraq to this day.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad stikcy bombing last night which claimed the life of "a candidate of the Islamic party in the last provincial elections". Trend News explains he was Faisal Abdallah al-Samrai ("among the top leaders of the Iraqi Islamic Party" and that the IIP released a statement stating, "The hands of evil and disloyalty have reached, with aggression and injustice, one of the most prominent men of the Iraqi Islamic Party."
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Mayor Khalil Abdul Rahman (Dobridan village) was assassinated and that the US military shot dead 10 people in an armed clash in Diyala Province.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul. Reuters notes 3 corpses were discovered in Basra.
World Can't Wait offers a list of cities holding demonstrations today. Saturday, those wanting to call out the illegal war can join with groups such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- all are taking part in a real action. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:
IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st
As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)
To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.
For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.
Yesterday, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates promised stop-loss (the backdoor draft) would end. It was the never-ending promise that has been made repeatedly. Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) points out that "Gates will leave the Pentagon 13 months from now . . . . And it is also when we will see whether the new plan to end stop-loss on troops will end." Ricks is the author of the new best seller The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006 - 2008. Tony Capaccio (The Seattle Times) reviews the book today and hails "Ricks' look forward that gives this book its tremendous value. 'It appears that today we may be only halfway through' the war, Ricks says". Nancy A. Youssef and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) report on the way the Iraq War is seen in Iraq and quote Abbas al Dulaimy stating, "The situation in Iraq will improve only if the Americans and the Iraqi politicans withdraw from Iraq. The situation will soon be worse because the politicians will look out only for their interests like those who demand to divide Iraq . . . it will be chaos." Long Island has seen 31 of their citizens die in the Iraq War thus far. Martin C. Evans (Newsday) sounds out residents for their feelings and thoughts on the Iraq War:
Lonnie Moore, the Central Islip father of the first Long Islander to be killed in Iraq, remembers driving home along the Sagtikos State Parkway at 100 mph to receive news he couldn't believe awaited him. Military personnel there informed him that his son, Cpl. Raheen Heighter, had been killed on July 24, 2003.
"Time has washed away some of the pain," said Moore, as he sat in his home cradling a flag that once had been draped on his son's coffin. "But when I think back on it now, I think it was a waste of lives."
Heighter, 22, a graduate of Brentwood High School, had joined the Army with hopes of earning money for schooling to become a stockbroker. He perished when his convoy was ambushed north of Al Hawd, Iraq.
War spending has drained money from schools and other infrastructure that once helped make America a robust society, Moore said.
"If we were actually accomplishing something, well and good, but what have we accomplished there?" Moore asked. "The money spent over there should be spent here," said Moore, who owns a paving company. "We've really lost focus as a nation on what we're supposed to be doing. Look at our economy. I had 12 guys come to my yard looking for work today. They have nowhere to go."
Today Feminist Wire Daily notes:
The Department of Defense released a report this week that shows an 8 percent increase of sexual assault involving service members from fiscal year 2007. Sixty-three percent of the 2,908 reported sexual assaults were rape or aggravated assault. The report (see PDF), also showed that 8 percent more cases were referred to trial from 2007.
The Department of Defense estimates that only about 20 percent of cases are reported. Dr. Kaye Whitley, director of the Pentagon Sexual Assault and Prevention Office, told the BBC that "Given the fear and stigma associated with the crime, sexual assault remains one of our nation's most under-reported crimes in both the military and civilian community." She also indicated that the rise in reporting could be because "The department has been aggressively pursuing efforts to increase reporting and convince more victims to seek care and support services."
The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric followed on up their sexual assaults in the military reporting Tuesday with another report last night. "It's a potent environment, with female soldiers working - and living - under hostile conditions with their male counterparts," Katie Couric explained at the start of the report (here for text and video). She quickly moved to "Robert" who did three tours in Iraq and spoke of how sexual assaults in Iraq were swept under the rug: ""The last thing a commander wants, other than a death in his unit, is sexual harassment, or an assault case, because that makes his unit's command look bad." Wendy joined the military at seventeen and was sexually assaulted while serving as a combat medic.
Wendy: He started pushing himself on me. And I wasn't having it. So I started punching him and I actually kicked him in the groin.
Katie Couric: Afraid to go to her Command, she took extra precautions -- locking her room with a deadbolt, traveling in pairs. But just weeks later, she found herself fending off the sexual advances of a doctor she worked with in the operating room. Again, she didn't report it.
Wendy: He was a doctor, he was a surgeon. And who were they going to believe?
Katie Couric: Wendy's experience is not unusual. Since 2002, the Miles Foundation, a private non-profit that tracks sexual assault within the armed forces, has received nearly 1,200 confidential reports of sexual assaults in the Central Command Area of Responsibility, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan. Incidents have increased as much as 30 percent a year. Part of the problem for the increase, critics say, is the quality of today's recruit.
Katie Couric [to Michael Dominguez, principal under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness]: The military is increasingly issuing something called "moral waivers," so they can enlist military personnel with felony convictions for crimes like rape and sexual assault.
Michael Dominguez: No, we don't enlist convicted rapists in the armed forces of the United States. If there's a consensus 'that kid needs a second chance, I think he's got it in him to be a solider,' uhm, then they'll let him into the armed forces.
Katie Couric: In fact, CBS News has learned that both the Army and Marine Corps did issue moral waivers to enlistees with felony convictions for rape and sexual assault. Something not acknowledged in this follow-up letter from Secretary Dominguez.
[. . .]
Katie Couric: We have documents showing that a private convicted of rape, who had a bad conduct discharge suspended so he could deploy to Iraq. How could the U.S. military allow a convicted criminal to go back into a situation where he could easily rape again?
Michael Dominguez: I uh I don't I'm not familiar with this particular case.
Katie Couric: Have you ever heard of this happening though?
Michael Dominguez: I-I have not.
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