Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sixth anniversary of the war in broadcast TV

Yesterday on ABC's World News Tonight, America saw actual reporting from Iraq. In other words, Terry Moran and Charlie Gibson's side-by-side at the anchor desk chats where Terry played Bob Hope and rapped out a bad version of "Thanks For The Memories" got ditched. Instead, we had Martha Raddatz actually in Iraq, reporting from Iraq (link is video only).

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 [2004]: 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.

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.

NBC Nightly News was all tuckered out from working Tuesday and had to coast on Wednesday. Tonight on PBS, The NewsHour looks back on Iraq. Ray Suarez speaks with three guests and if you don't spot a peace proponent (let alone activist) in the mix, thank the likes of Phyllis Bennis with her "we" columns -- which did not go over well at PBS and she may find herself invited on programs far less. Again, as we noted at the time, Phyllis, if you're an analyst be an analyst. Brookings doesn't try to be an analyst and also be the voice of activism or a movement. You cheapened IPS when you did that and hurt your own chances of getting booked as well as the chances of others with IPS. (And, yes, IPS was showing up regularly on The Newshour until Phyllis' little stunt.) The guests are Feisal Istrabadi, Steven Biddle and Trudy Rubin. Rubin's a journalist. Biddle with the Council of/for/with Foreign Relations. Istrabadi is a law professor who was formerly (2004 to 2007) Iraq's UN Ambassador. The NewsHour is currently taking questions for their guests and the roundtable airs on this evening's program.

Remember 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: or

We'll note this from Ashley Smith's "Hidden Wounds of the Occupation of Iraq" (Dissident Voice):

The study released from Oxfam is even more devastating. A survey of 1,700 women from five of Iraq’s 18 provinces, it portrays the impact of the occupation on women since 2003. "Now that the overall security situation, although still very fragile, begins to stabilize," Oxfam stated, "countless mothers, wives, widows and daughters of Iraq remain caught in the grip of a silent emergency."

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."

A word on what gets a transcription and what doesn't. This is a diverse community and if you're not a member it may be confusing to you. We have hard of hearing, hearing impaired and deaf (all the three self-identifiers) members in this community. We also have members who may fit those categories or may not but have older computers (Windows 98 operating system, for example), dial up connections, etc. For that reason, when a transcript is not provided or a text report in some manner, we do go over key points (Raddatz' report was nothing but key points) when we refer to them because it's not just saying "Use the link or not." Some people do not have the option -- even if they use the link -- of enjoying these streams (which never have closed captioning). Two drive-bys whined that Katie Couric's report got less attention than NBC Nightly News' report yesterday. Couric's report was available in text and video (here for text, here for video) -- smart decision on CBS part. So it was available to all. NBC Nightly News only offered a streaming video. That doesn't serve all community members. (Hilda's Mix is run by Hilda, who self-identifies deaf, and it is the community newsletter geared towards community members with disabilities and challenges. It is published each Tuesday morning.)

The coverage -- in print and over the airwaves -- may be less but the violence (like the war) has not stopped. Reuters notes 3 corpses discovered in Basra, 1 in Mosul and that the mayor of Mosul village was shot dead.

The following community sites updated last night:

The e-mail address for this site is