Friday, April 03, 2009

How did Nelson Lantigua die?

Yesterday the Defense Dept identified a March 31st death in Iraq: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lance Cpl. Nelson M. Lantigua, 20, of Miami, Fla., died March 31 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10 Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. The incident is currently under investigation." Sharrie Williams (CBS4) reports:

Members of his family in the Hammocks are grieving his death Thursday, saying they last spoke to him over the weekend.
"He didn't deserve this," cried a cousin, Milagros Santos of west Kendall, who said he was hoping to return home the second week of April.
She added that he was a native of the Dominican Republic, where his mother lives, and where his body will eventually be buried.

Robert Samuels and Luisa Yanez (Miami Herald) spoke with the family who state Nelson died from an apparent shooting and was discovered in his bed this week with "less than a week" left in his tour of Iraq. He'd spoken to an uncle, Francisco Santos, on the phone in the last few days and to his grandmother. The reporters quote Santos stating of Nelson's wife Rossana, "She's so upset she can't even speak." Marine Times notes that Nelson was 20-years-old and "An English-language media outlet in the Dominican Republic, saying Lantigua was born near Santiago, reported Wednesday that 'companions' found him facedown in bed around 2:30 a.m., having suffered a single gunshot wound to the head. His aunt, Arelis Torres, told Dominican Today that she didn't have any additional details about Lantigua's death, saying only that he was married shortly before his unit deployed and that he likely will be buried locally."

This comes on the heels of the news that David H. Sharrett II was not shot to death by 'insurgents' in January of 2008. In other shameful news, Rick Rogers' "Marine's self-defense claim disputed" (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports former marine Paul Hackett is resorting to 'no one saw my client shoot the man dead!' which is hardly an example of the 'corp values' Hackett's always espousing nor does it address Ryan Weemer's confession to having shot the Iraqi man dead (two confessions to that in fact, once while applying to a government job and once on tape). Rogers reports:

Since Marine Sgt. Ryan Weemer's murder trial started Tuesday at Camp Pendleton, his attorneys have described his shooting of an unarmed detainee as self-defense during a chaotic battle in Iraq.
Yesterday, the prosecution tried to undercut that assertion by introducing witnesses who said regulations clearly required Marines to bring captives to a designated holding area instead of killing them.
Chief Warrant Officer Paul Pritchard ran prisoner operations during the November 2004 offensive in Fallujah that included Weemer. He testified that the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment kept prisoners in a train station north of the city.

While Hackett plays ignore-the-confessions!, AFP reports "A US Marine charged with killing an unarmed Iraqi was found by fellow troops pointing his pistol at the man and standing over his body" according to Cory Carlisle's testimony. Confessions, discovered over the body holding a gun and 'proud Marine' Paul Hackett wants to resort to weasely tactics? Fine, be an attorney, but don't expect anyone to believe your yammering away about 'pride' and 'honor.'

In other news, Sandra Cole (WOWK13) reports:

Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV sent letters Thursday to Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Robert Gates and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki asking what actions the DoD and VA are taking to assist West Virginia National Guard soldiers who were potentially exposed to toxic levels of Sodium Dichromate in Basra, Iraq.

Tuesday's snapshot covered the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee Bob Casey Jr. chaired.
Wednesday afternoon, Sheri Fink (Pro-Publica) covered the hearing. She's really the only other one (other than the bad article by AP). I say that to explain I do not support Brookings, it is not a left organization. I see it as not just center, but center-right. But the refugee crisis is not being covered and I noted awhile back that we'd have to be less picky in terms of including some we'd otherwise ignore (due to the lack of Iraq coverage). All that is to explain an e-mail to the public account asked that we note this from Roberta Cohen's "Iraq's Displaced: Where to Turn?" (Brookings):

Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are hardly a new phenomenon for Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein’s long and brutal rule, forced displacement was a deliberate state policy. Expulsions were used as a tool to subdue recalcitrant populations and punish political opponents. The main victims were the Kurds -- Iraq's largest minority which staged repeated rebellions -- and the Shi’a majority, many of whose members opposed the regime, including hundreds of thousands of Marsh Arabs. Saddam Hussein also expelled more than 100,000 Kurds as well as members of the smaller Turkmen and Assyrian (Christian) minorities from the oil rich Kirkuk region in an effort to 'Arabize' the area. In all, close to one million people were internally displaced in Iraq when the United States invaded in 2003.[1] Another one to two million Iraqis lived abroad fearing persecution should they return. In fact, Iraq was one of the largest refugee-producing countries in the world prior to the US entry on the scene.[2]

The US invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, far from resolving the problem however, made it worse. It catapulted the country into a near civil war between Shi'a, who had largely been excluded by Saddam Hussein's regime, and Sunnis who until then had dominated the government. Intense and bloody sectarian violence, combined with coalition military action, fighting among Shi'a militias and between the government and the Mahdi army as well as generalized violence and criminality caused massive uprooting. In 2007, some 60,000 Iraqis were reported to be fleeing their homes each month. New displacement diminished sharply in 2008 as overall security improved in Iraq. But together with those who had been displaced earlier, some fifteen to twenty percent of the Iraqi population -- or 4.7 million people out of a total of 27 million -- remained displaced. Of this total, 2.7 million (10 percent of Iraq’s population) are inside the country while some 2 million are abroad, mostly in neighboring countries.[3]

Today's displaced Iraqis are not viewed as sympathetically around the world as those persecuted and uprooted by Saddam Hussein.[4] One reason is that they are seen as a problem largely of America’s making and one that America should therefore 'fix.' The US' failure to establish security in the country after its invasion or prepare effectively for the country's reconstruction is considered a major reason for the chaos and violence that caused the mass displacement. Many donor governments as a result have been reluctant to fully share the burden of Iraq's displaced, believing the United States should foot most of the bill together with the government of Iraq, which over the past year has been able to accumulate considerable oil wealth. Nor have they been overly forthcoming in resettling Iraqi refugees or in offering funds to the governments of Jordan and Syria which house most of the refugees.[5]

That's from the introduction to Cohen's article. Meanwhile Assyrian International News Agency reports, "The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees has called a protest on 16-17 April in Geneva about the plight of Iraqi refugees. It says: The situation of the Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Europe is a tragedy. Many thousands of Iraqi refugees have resorted to begging, prostitution, selling their internal organs to avoid destitution."

Meanwhile, New York Times' Sahar S. Gabriel writes in "Arriving In America - The Other Side Of This War" (New York Times' Baghdad Bureau) about her own refugee journey:

After spending 21 hours waiting in airports and 13 hours in flying I arrived at the windy city of Detroit, Michigan.
It is raining, always a good sign to me. My sister and I put on our gloves and jackets as we get off the plane. While I follow the baggage claim sign, I keep repeating to myself: "Don't panic, but you've made it." I am now on the other side of this war. The less violent side.

And for anyone wondering, the print edition of today's New York Times contained nothing filed in Iraq. Turning to programming notes and starting with PBS. Check local listings for the first three programs but they begin airing tonight on most PBS stations across the country. First up, NOW on PBS:

"Coming Home?" & "Paradise Lost, Revisited"
Has the Army been denying care to its neediest soldiers?
Thousands of U.S. troops are getting discharged out of the army. Many suffer from post traumatic stress disorders and brain injuries, and haven't been getting the care they need. The Army's been claiming these discharged soldiers had pre-existing mental illnesses. But health advocates say these are wrongful discharges, a way for the army to get rid of "problem" soldiers quickly, without giving them the treatment to which they're entitled.
NOW covered this issue last summer, and this week we revisit the army's controversial position and follow up with affected soldiers we met.
As a result of the media attention from our report and others, the Department of Defense revised its criteria for diagnosing pre-existing conditions and, now, fewer soldiers are receiving the diagnosis, making more of them eligible for care.
This is an update to the NOW investigation: Fighting the Army

Also This Week: Paradise Lost, Revisited
A president's desperate attempt to save his country, as the ground literally disappears under his feet.
This week we update how the distant Pacific nation of Kiribati is dealing with the reality that both their land and culture could disappear from the Earth due to global warming. Kiribati President Anote Tong is now considering purchasing land abroad to save his people.
He says his pleas for international support have largely fallen on deaf ears. Experts predict millions of people will become climate change refugees in the years to come.
This is an update to the show Paradise Lost

On Washington Week, Gwen sits around the table with David Wessel (Wall St. Journal), Martha Raddatz (ABC News), Pete Williams (NBC News) and John Harwood (New York Times and CNBC). Topics include the economy, Russia, China and Iran, GM and the case of former US senator Ted Stevens. And lastly on PBS, To The Contrary finds Bonnie Erbe addressing the week's topics with: "U.S. News & World Report's Dr. Bernadine Healy; The Global Summit of Women President Irene Natividad; The National Council of Negro Women's Dr. Avis Jones-Weever; and Conservative Commentator Tara Setmayer." All three PBS programs will offer their programs in podcasts. In addition, streaming will be up tonight for NOW with the others adding the streaming option on Monday. Washington Week and To The Contrary will post transcripts early next week, ideally by Monday afternoon. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Closing The Clinic
The economic crisis is affecting society's most vulnerable as a county hospital is forced by budget cuts to close an outpatient cancer clinic. Scott Pelley reports.
Torture In Iran
In his first U.S. television interview, Ahmad Batebi tells CNN's Anderson Cooper how he was tortured during his eight years in an Iranian prison and how he was finally able to escape.
Dolly Parton, the oh-so-country music superstar with the city-slicker sense of show business talks to Morley Safer about her childhood, her career and the Broadway production of her film, "9 to 5." | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, April 5, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

The one and only Dolly Parton, Sunday on 60 Minutes. And on internet radio, Cindy Sheehan's The Soapbox features Sara Rich (sexual assault activist, peace activist and mother of Suzanne Swift) and retired Army Col and retired State Dept diplomat Ann Wright addressing many topics including sexual assault in the military.

On public radio? First a note, if I'm noting NPR's coming attractions it's because a friend at NPR has asked for it and it's one of three friends most of the time. This one is requested by a very good friend or I wouldn't be noting this because I loathe the woman about to be noted and, like many including the Lizard Queen, think the woman on NPR today is a liar who has some culpability in the death and/or cover up of the death of Jim Morrison. So if you'd like to listen to a possible killer or accomplice who managed to skate free or just a woman who's claimed far more credit than she ever earned:

Live Friday: Marianne Faithfull, The Felice Brothers In Concert

Listen Online At Noon ET

Marianne Faithfull 300
courtesy of the artist

Marianne Faithfull.

The Felice Brothers 200
courtesy of the artist

The Felice Brothers.

WXPN, April 2, 2009 - Throughout Marianne Faithfull's 40-year career, change has been the only constant. She's collaborated with an impressively diverse and famous assortment of artists — Beck, Rufus Wainwright, Keith Richards, Tom Waits and countless others — and trafficked in genres ranging from folk to jazz to rock to an early form of rap. Return to this space at noon ET Friday to hear Faithfull perform live in concert from WXPN and World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, with opening act The Felice Brothers.

Faithfull's music speaks of glamour, introspection and pain — all of which have been powerful forces in her own life. After a long battle with drug abuse and two years spent living on the streets, the singer-songwriter returned to recording sporadically. Official comebacks took place roughly once every decade, as listeners took notice of the ragged, tortured talent shining through her work. Allen Ginsberg called her "Professor of Poetics, Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets."

Faithfull's latest album, Easy Come, Easy Go, is a collection of surprising and moving covers. Her gravelly, moody voice tackles a Morrissey cover, gently colors a Duke Ellington piece and even takes on Dolly Parton. The result mixes old and new classics with a timeless but contemporary air.

The members of The Felice Brothers, a gritty Americana quintet from the Catskills, include three brothers and a former dice player; the group got its start playing in New York City subway stations. Over the past three years, the band has toured with the likes of Levon Helm and Bright Eyes.

Often compared to influences such as Bob Dylan and The Band, the fiddling rock band is about to release a fine new album titled Yonder Is the Clock. With a title drawn from the work of Mark Twain, the album tells tales of love, death, betrayal and even baseball.

For more on the Felice Brothers, visit their website. I will gladly note that John Mellencamp was on Fresh Air and you can stream it online now.

The Kurdistan Regional Government announces:

EU Parliament holds Seminar on Genocide against Kurds of Iraq

Brussels, Belgium ( – Mr. Olle Schmidt, Swedish Member of the European Parliament, sponsored a one-day seminar to discuss and raise awareness of the genocide committed against the Kurds of Iraq. Mr. Schmidt opened the seminar with a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims.

Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Fredrik Malm, a member of Sweden’s Parliament, moderated the seminar. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister for Extra-regional Affairs Dr. Mohammed Ihsan, KRG representative in Brussels Mr. Burhan Jaf, and several academic experts also participated.

Dr. Ihsan, who has rich field experience on the issue, said, "What we saw was an attempt at complete destruction -- destruction of a people and of a culture. I hope history will not repeat itself in Iraq, and I hope that the European Union and the international community will work to prevent genocide in Iraq and to prevent genocide in every part of the world."

He continued, "I think that more must be done for the victims and the relatives of the victims, from the European Union and from the KRG. International recognition of the genocide by the EU is important for us, and I hope this will be the next step."

The Kurdish Gulan Association of Sweden partnered with MEP Mr. Schmidt in the organization of the event. The film All My Mothers was screened in the final hour. The KRG plans to hold a high-level conference in Brussels later on this year, and has expressed interest in the passage of a European Parliament resolution recognizing the crimes of the previous regime as an act of genocide.

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