Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More on US Sgt Russell and SOFA only applies to Baghdad

CBS Evening News with Katie Couric filed a much better report last night than Monday's on the Sgt John M. Russell shooting five other service members in Iraq. The video's below and for those who can't stream or who need closed caption when streaming, the transcript is below.

Bob Orr: His commander feared Sgt John Russell was on the edge. They took away his weapon and ordered him into counseling in a combat stress clinic in Baghdad. He went there yesterday, officials say, and opened fire killing five service men.

22-year-old John Michael Russell: He's got medals. And he was doing good for -- for the country.

Bob Orr: Today at their home in Sherman, Texas, Russell's twenty-one year-old son struggled to understand how his dad on his third tour of duty in Iraq now faces five counts of murder

22-year-old John Michael Russell: For him to do something like that, he couldn't have been in his right state of mind. They had to -- they had to put him to a breaking point and just -- he just had to have lost it. Just lost all train of thought to do anything like that.

Bob Orr: [Sgt] Russell's father said he may have snapped fearing his military career could be ended by a stress diagnosis

Wilburn Russell: His life was over as far as he was concerned. He was going to lose everything. And I guess it was too much.

Bob Orr: Military investigators don't know what triggered the shootings but say Russell was agitated when asked to leave the clinic after arguing with a counselor. A short time later, Russell returned to the stress center with a weapon he apparently stole from his armed escort. The rampage played out quickly.

Gen David Perkins: The suspect was apprehended outside the clinic shortly after shots were heard.

Bob Orr: The incident is the deadliest involving soldier-on-soldier violence in the six year Iraq War. In response the army has now launched an investigation to determine whether it needs more people and facilities in war zones to deal with combat stress and soldiers on the brink.

Patrick Campbell (Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America): These are the canaries in the mine. If we don't start addressing these issues, people are going to get more and more injured and it's going to be harder to treat them.

Bob Orr: For Sgt Russell who had planned to be home by July, it's too late.

Wilburn Russell: His father's heartbroken, his mother's crying in their hiding. We're -- we're sorry for the families involved too. Cause they're going through heart ache.

Bob Orr: His family says they knew of no warning sings. Russell in fact recently e-mailed his son on his birthday and just Sunday e-mailed his mother for Mother's Day.

In today's New York Times, James Dao and Lizette Alvarez off "Soldier in Iraq Shooting Had Been Ordered to REceive Psychological Counseling" which is about the interview Wilburn Russell gave to KXII in Sherman, Texas. We'll note the last two paragraphs of the report:

Lt. Col. Edward Brusher, the deputy director of behavioral health proponecy for the surgeon general, said in March that there was one provider for 640 service members in Iraq.
"There are currently enough behavioral health providers," Colonel Brusher said.

As Elaine noted last night:

The military is saying that speculation does no good but this is the same military that has closed the stress center. 1 US soldier just shot 5 others dead. If there were ever a time when a stress center was most needed, it would be right now. Had a shooting taken place at a support hospital or triage center, they would not have shut down.
They wouldn't have had the option. The feeling would have been, "This is emergency work." But note the difference when it comes to the brain, to mental issues, to stress.
They closed down the combat stress center yesterday. When it was most needed.

Why isn't anyone covering that aspect? Especially when the Times is including a claim that 'there are currently enough behavioral health providers'?

Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) identified *the five* killed yesterday:

Navy Cmdr. Charles K. Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C., and an Army officer with the 55th Medical Company, an Indianapolis reserve unit that staffs the Camp Liberty clinic, were among those slain. The three others were enlisted soldiers, Perkins said. They included Pfc. Michael Edward Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md. Other names will be released as relatives are notified.

[Note: *Identifies two of the five, not five, I need to learn to count. My apologies.]

In Iraq, tensions continue simmer. Jane Arraf's "Spike in suicide attacks: Is Al Qaeda in Iraq coming back?" (Christian Science Monitor)covers the violence around Iraq:

US and Iraqi officials facing an increase in high-profile suicide bombs do not believe it signals a reversal of a trend of declining attacks. But they say political maneuvering by an Iraqi leadership preparing for national elections is likely to sway decisions that are key to bolstering security.
In a series of interviews, senior US and Iraqi officials and US intelligence officers say they expect gains made against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) to continue to limit the group's ability to destabilize stronger Iraqi security forces and a more confident government.
But the outlook for progress in some of the country's most volatile cities is less certain. Iraqi security officials in Mosul and Diyala Province have consistently said that they need the assistance of US troops past a June 30 deadline for American forces to leave Iraqi cities. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki's recent statements that he will not ask US forces to stay in those cities, while domestically popular ahead of elections next year, has sent military planners scrambling.

More specifically, Natalia Antelava (BBC) reports on rising tensions in the Baghdad suburb of Adhamiya:

The US military would agree. Security began to improve when across Iraq, tens of thousands of men - many of them former insurgents - joined the so-called Sahwa, or Awakening, Councils .
They were paid by the Americans to keep the peace in their neighbourhoods.
But with the Americans preparing to leave, Iraq's Shia-led government has recently taken charge of the Sahwa groups - and their members say that was when their problems started.
"The government hates us," Khaled says. "They treat us badly. Our salaries have not been paid on time."
"When the Americans were here, things worked well. But now the government is arresting our leaders. I could be arrested any day," Khaled says.
Iraqi officials insist the recent arrests target only some individuals, and say the government will keep its promise of incorporating Sahwa members into the state security system, or giving them jobs elsewhere.

In "Violence Rises in Iraq's Tense North" (New York Times), ***Campbell Robertson *** focuses on oil-rich Kirkuk:

But conflict has threatened to boil over all across the north, particularly in Nineveh Province, where a Sunni Arab political bloc has recently come to power and frozen the once dominant Kurds out of political positions.
On Friday, Atheel al-Nujaifi, the newly installed Arab governor of Nineveh, was prevented by Kurdish security forces from attending a hot-air balloon festival in Bashiqa, a town in Nineveh that the Kurds claim as theirs.
The pesh merga, as the Kurdish forces are called, have been stationed in towns around Nineveh ever since the Americans brought them in to pacify the north in 2003, a presence that enrages Nineveh’s Arab population and its new government.
On Tuesday, more than a thousand people, most of them from Arab tribes in Nineveh, gathered in front of the provincial government building in Mosul and in downtown Bashiqa demanding that Kurdish forces leave the province.

[Note: **** Corrected. Originally and wrongly credited the article excerpted above to Timothy Williams when it was actually Campbell Robertson. That was my error and I apologize. Thank you to Mia, Charlie and a visitor to the public e-mail account for catching my mistake.]

And in emerging tensions, a report that only Alsumaria currently has, the Status Of Forces Agreement doesn't apply to all of Iraq. That's the claim being offered by a US Major: "56th Combat brigade Chief in the US military Major Marc Ferrero clarified that his forces stationed in Taji are not included in the decision of US Forces withdrawal from Iraq cities since this region is out of Baghdad Province. He ruled out as well the possibility of violence spike in the regions under his command where security and stability reign."

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