Friday, July 10, 2009

Release of prisoners

Yesterday, the US released five Iranian diplomats that they had imprisoned for over two years. At the US State Dept, Ian Kelly was at a loss for words other than to repeat "concerns" over the release. Nouri al-Maliki greeted the five diplomats warmly and allowed them to call their families. The five then moved on to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. In today's New York Times, Steven Lee Myers' "American Military Releases 5 Iranians Detained in Iraq" covers the release and notes, "Mr. Maliki, who has both cultivated ties with Iran and criticized its interference in Iraqi affairs, clearly sought to exploit the situation diplomatically." The more telling observation in the article, however, is this: "It was not clear why Mr. Maliki's government chose now to ask for the release of the men, who had been held for two and a half years; it could have done so any time since January under the security agreement terms. Even senior Iraqi officials seemed to know little about the release."

But Myers writes in a vacuum and, if that's not clear, notice how Damien McElroy's "Barack Obama threatened by Iraq prisoner release" (Telegraph of London) immediately provides the context that the New York Times refuses to:

Iran's foreign ministry had called for their release as recently as a week ago and had the support of Baghdad in pressing its claims. My colleague, Toby Harden exclusively revealed last week that US senators were up in arms against President Barack Obama after the release of a prominent militia leader to launch a process that could free British hostages.
With about 10,000 mostly Sunni Muslim prisoners left in American-run detention facilities in Iraq, the pitfalls are not limited to the examples above but also the global fight against extremist al-Qaeda linked terrorists. If people released start turning up on the Afghanistan battlefield there will be anger but if there is a link to a plot in America or Europe there will be uproar.

The release he's referring to, the previous one, was the release of two brothers who were said to be the ringleaders of an attack on a US base in Iraq (the attackers entered with the help of Iraqi police and posed as Iraqi security forces) that resulted in the death of 5 US service members. It's the release that no one really wants to talk about in the US press (the Christian Science Monitor has been the exception there). The brothers were released in a deal that was supposed to allow their organization to release 5 British hostages they'd held for over two years. Two of the five were released. Or rather their corpses were. From Toby Harnden's "US accused of negotiating with Iraqi terrorists over murdered hostages" (Telegraph of London):

Senior Republicans have expressed concern about the release of Laith al-Khazali, a member of the Shia group Asaib al-Haq, as part of a reported deal to gain the release of five British hostages held since 2007.
It appears that any deal went badly wrong as the bodies of Jason Creswell, from Portlethen near Aberdeen, and Jason Swindlehurst, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, were handed over to the British Embassy in Baghdad last month, two weeks after he was freed.
The accusations have been made in a letter to President Barack Obama from Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona and Republicans on Capitol Hill have said they could soon push for public hearings on the issue.

Warren P. Strobel and Mike Tharp's "U.S. military didn't want to release Iranians held in Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers) notes:

Kelly acknowledged misgivings about the release, and its impact on U.S. military personnel in Iraq. "That is a big concern of ours, is the safety of American forces. And we . . . have of course made our concerns known to the Iraqi government," he said.
Kelly and other U.S. officials said the release did not involve a quid pro quo with Iran and was not a part of the Obama administration's attempts to engage that country's leaders.
Rather than re-arrest the five, the Iraqi government granted them a meeting with Maliki and then reportedly turned them over to Iran's embassy in Baghdad,

Yesterday, UNESCO released [PDF format warning] "FINAL REPORT on Damage Assessment in Babylon" about the damages to the historical archaeological site as a result of the US' decision to construct a base on the site, Camp Alpha, which was running from April 21, 2003 through December 22, 2004. Alix Kroeger files a video report for BBC that can be seen here. On a related topic, art, we're not highlighting Leo Paz' report. We're not interested in promoting the self-promoting woman who helped install Barack through deciet and trickery. If he'd left her out of the report (and there was no reason to include her other than to allow her to yammer on -- not about the exhibit but about herself), we might highlight it. But I'm not interested in that liar.
Equally true is that the State Dept issued a report last week that noted the number of Iraqi refugees admitted in the last fiscal year so if you're going to cite the numbers, you've got the official ones right that and don't have to say "approximately" anything according to an NGO.

On the topic of numbers, the Dept of Defense issued the following yesterday:

The Army released suicide data for the month of June today. Among active-duty soldiers there were no confirmed suicides and nine potential suicides. In May, the Army reported one confirmed suicide and 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since that time, seven have been confirmed and nine remain under investigation.
There have been 88 reported active-duty suicides in the Army during calendar year 2009. Of these, 54 have been confirmed, and 34 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 67 confirmed suicides among active-duty soldiers.
During June 2009, among reserve component soldiers not on active duty, there were no confirmed suicides and two potential suicides; to date, among that same group, there have been 16 confirmed suicides and 23 potential suicides currently under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 29 confirmed suicides among reserve soldiers not on active duty.
"Every soldier suicide is different and tragic in its own way," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "Our current research and prevention efforts are identifying common denominators that lead soldiers to take their own life. It's often a combination of many factors that overwhelm an individual.
"Although suicide can impact anyone, we're finding that male soldiers, in combat-arms occupational specialties, between ages 18 and 27 are more vulnerable," McGuire said. "That's why we're looking at existing programs and other institutional safety nets to see what works, and what needs to be changed to enhance the support network of trained leaders and behavioral healthcare providers who can identify and treat risk factors before young soldiers get to the point where they feel there’s no way out."
The Army will complete the second phase of a three-phased service-wide suicide stand-down and chain teach program, July 15, 2009. Phases one and two included an interactive training program, that features a video, and a small unit leader training effort which began on February 15, 2009. The third phase of the Army program will include sustained annual suicide prevention training for all soldiers, emphasizing common causes of suicidal behavior and the critical role Army leaders, friends, co-workers and families play in maintaining behavioral health.
The Army's Suicide Prevention Task Force will continue implementation of the Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention to further enhance suicide prevention and behavioral health programs that directly affect our Army community and save soldiers’ lives.
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance should contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 800-342-9647, their Web site address is Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.
The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at
The Army’s most current suicide prevention information is located at .

Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports Robin Long was released from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station's brig yesterday "after serving 12 months of a 15-month sentence." Long is a war resister who self-checked out and went to Canada where he attempted to be granted asylum. Not only did that not happen, he was imprisoned and whisked across the border back to the US in violation of his rights and those of his child -- his child is a Canadian citizen.

The following community sites updated yesterday:

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends