Tuesday, June 30, 2009

US military announces 4 more deaths

Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- Four Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldiers died June 29 as the result of combat related injuries. The Soldiers’ names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at http://www.defenselink.mil/ . The announcements are made on the Website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member’s primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD. The incident is currently under investigation."

It all seemed so easy for the 'press' last week. They were prepping (and being fed) their "Lowest month since the start of the war for US military deaths in Iraq." Flacks had already begun issuing statements for those end-of-the-month pieces which would be published July 1st and trumpet the 'pull-out'. They'd open something like:

As the US military honored the SOFA and returned soveriegnty to Iraq, the death toll for US forces reached an all time low -- the lowest since the start of the war. Asked of the death toll, Col Gen Maj military spokesperson (because you need a lot of bars on your shoulders to be a glorified press flack) declared, "The lowered death toll is an indication that we have turned a corner and that the Iraqi people are embracing the lower profile for US forces."

It wasn't all going to be pretty, mind you. They still had to deal with the increased violence targeting Iraqis. They'd put out data before the half-way point of the month insisting that violence -- in June! -- was down. Chris Hill jetted over to the States and bungled it in his presentation. Appearing on CNN and Fox, Sunday, Gen Ray Odierno finessed it so well most watching probably didn't grasp what exactly he was saying and just heard 'violence down.' But violence wasn't down and you can't claim 'If you leave out the last two weeks of the month, June wasn't a violenct month' and be taken seriously.

But they had their low death toll for US forces to pimp. And they were pretty sure they could maintain it. The need for the low death toll was what prompted the orders for the night time moves. Like thieves in the night, the US military was supposed to move their equipment, rushing back and forth while other people hopefully slept. Not since the British were run off the base in 2006 had a more embarrassing order taken place.

But despite all the brass planning, didn't work out quite the way they planned. It never does. You'd think they'd have learned that by now.

The announcement today took the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War to 4321, with 15 for the month. So far. So far because the month's not over. So far because M-NF has a tendency to hold back a death or two until after the start of the next month.

Some of the more dense and foolish among the press are being targeted with a campaign pimping "second lowest death toll of the year thus far." You'll see shortly who are the ones who'll swallow (and spit back) anything.

Today the Christian Science Monitor offers the editorial "Iraq's next milestone: the Kurdish question" -- excerpt:

Tension between Mr. Maliki – an Arab – and the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in the north has escalated significantly in the last year. It touches issues of fundamental importance -- national unity, oil wealth, and the balance of power between the central government and the regions. Left unaddressed -- or worse, provoked -- the Kurd-Arab divide could split the Iraqi state.
A wide swath of disputed territory lies at the heart of the problem. Last August, only direct negotiation between Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and Maliki was able to head off a military showdown between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the Kurdish-administered town of Khanaqin.
Nothing is more central to the territorial tug of war than the province of Kirkuk, which lies next to an oil field that contains 20 percent of the country's proven oil reserves. The Kurds consider Kirkuk historically theirs, but it is now populated by a mix of Kurds, Turkmens, Christians, and Arabs -- the latter group was sent by Saddam Hussein to flood the area. The 2005 Iraqi Constitution calls for Kirkuk's status to be set by referendum, but the vote keeps being delayed.

Turning to the 'pull-out,' in this morning's New York Times, Marc Santora offers "In Baghdad, A U.S. Exit Where Anger Still Lingers." It's a bunch of happy talk about decreased violence and blah and blah. And blah. BBC News offers:

BBC defence and security correspondent Rob Watson says that while the pullback is significant, the actual withdrawal of US combat troops in 2010 will pose a greater challenge.
The success of that depends on Iraq's political leaders and their ability to tackle the country's many outstanding problems and tensions, he says.
Some 131,000 US troops remain in Iraq, including 12 combat brigades, and the total is not expected to drop below 128,000 until after the Iraqi national election in January.

We'll add more to the 'pull-out' in the snapshot today (which may run later than usual) but that's all I can stomach this morning. As an antidote, we'll close with this from Chris Hedges' "The Truth Alone Will Not Set You Free" (Information Clearing House):

All periods of profound change occur in a crisis. It was a crisis that brought us the New Deal, now largely dismantled by the corporate state. It was also a crisis that gave the world Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosevic. We can go in either direction. Events move at the speed of light when societies and cultural assumptions break down. There are powerful forces, which have no commitment to the open society, ready to seize the moment to snuff out the last vestiges of democratic egalitarianism. Our bankrupt liberalism, which naively believes that Barack Obama is the antidote to our permanent war economy and Wall Street fraud, will either rise from its coma or be rolled over by an organized corporate elite and their right-wing lap dogs. The corporate domination of the airwaves, of most print publications and an increasing number of Internet sites means we will have to search, and search quickly, for alternative forms of communication to thwart the rise of totalitarian capitalism.
Stuart Ewen, whose books "Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture" and "PR: A Social History of Spin" chronicle how corporate propaganda deformed American culture and pushed populism to the margins of American society, argues that we have a fleeting chance to save the country. I fervently hope he is right. He attacks the ideology of "objectivity and balance" that has corrupted news, saying that it falsely evokes the scales of justice. He describes the curriculum at most journalism schools as "poison."
"'Balance and objectivity' creates an idea where both sides are balanced," he said when I spoke to him by phone. "In certain ways it mirrors the two-party system, the notion that if you are going to have a Democrat speak you need to have a Republican speak. It offers the phantom of objectivity. It creates the notion that the universe of discourse is limited to two positions. Issues become black or white. They are not seen as complex with a multitude of factors."

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