Tuesday, July 14, 2009

US military announces another death, Jay Garner writes the Times

Last night, the US military announced:

BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died the afternoon of July 13 due to a medical condition. The Soldier’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
The names of deceased 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 announcement brings the total number of service members killed in the illegal war since it started to 4323.

Meanwhile on the front page of today's New York Times, Campbell Robertson's "Iraq Suffers as the Euphrates River Dwindles" begins and notes:

The Euphrates is drying up. Strangled by the water policies of Iraq’s neighbors, Turkey and Syria; a two-year drought; and years of misuse by Iraq and its farmers, the river is significantly smaller than it was just a few years ago. Some officials worry that it could soon be half of what it is now.

Why is it drying up? Global warming no doubt impacts as it does everywhere. Robertson doesn't raise that. In addition, neighbors Syria and Turkey grab from the same water supply and have several dams set up. In addition, the infrastructure in Iraq was allowed to decay and was further damaged during the illegal war. In the first year of the illegal war, the paper was writing about the Tigris and the problems with it. Today's problems aren't surprising. And the US bears a larger responsibility for it than the Robertson's article is willing to acknowledge. He's also unwilling to acknowledge how little the US has done. And on what others are planning, we'll just assume he's unaware.

Last month, UNICEF, now back in Baghdad, declared the start of a new water and sanitation project that would service an estimated 100,000 Iraqis and is funded with by the European Community (at an estimated cost of $10 million in US dollars).

As the river dries, Iraqis lose another water supply -- already a huge, huge problem in a country where potable water has become a thing of the past. The lack of potable water and the start of summer means that the cholera outbreaks are just around the corner. Last year, a UN doctor shamefully blamed Iraqi women for the cholera outbreak. Disgracefully blamed Iraqi women -- who already suffer enough and require no additional burdens 'gifted' to them. Cholera outbreaks take place because there is no potable water. Boiling the water is a safety measure; however, it depends upon having the gas or electricity with which to boil water and it depends upon having access to a stove or other device you can boil water on. Fixing Iraq's sewer and water systems would address the issue. Providing potable water would address the issue. Iraq brought in a ton of money in 2008. Where did it go? It's one of the richest countries in the world when you grasp that it has a population of approximately 30 million (a generous estimate considering the number killed during this war and the number of external refugees). Last year's revenues more than doubled the population. So where is that money?

That's a question that will be asked after the US finally withdraws, whenever that is. The item below is from [PDF format warning] the US State Dept's Iraq report for July 1, 2009 (and you can also find news on the UNICEF item in that).

Villages determined to be at high risk for cholera received four solar powered water purification units. The units were provided by the PRT at the request of provincial health authorities as part of an anti-cholera campaign. Villagers will be instructed in unit operations and repairs.

A friend at the State Dept asked that the cholera units be noted last week. I didn't have time and we're noting it today. PRTs are "Provincial Reconstruction Teams." From a March 2008 fact sheet issued by the State Dept:

Established by Secretary Rice on November 11, 2005, the Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Team initiative is a civilian-military inter-agency effort that provides the primary connection between U.S. and coalition partners and provincial and local governments in all of Iraq’s 18 provinces.
The core PRT mission is helping provincial governments with: developing a transparent and sustained capability to govern, promoting increased security and rule of law, promoting political and economic development and providing provincial administration necessary to meet the basic needs of the population.
The PRT focus is on five thematic areas including governance, economics, infrastructure, rule of law and public diplomacy. The teams work to assist provincial and local governments with a range of engagement, training, jobs and small grant programs.
Most of Iraq is served by a total of 31 PRTs including thirteen “embedded” PRTs (EPRTs), formulated as part of President Bush’s New Way Forward strategy. Embedded teams work hand-in-glove with military units at the brigade level.
Four southern provinces are served by smaller civilian teams based in Babil and Dhi Qar. These provincial support teams bring vital engagement and capacity building activity to the provinces of Karbala, Najaf, Muthanna and Maysan.
The combined staff of all teams now numbers approximately 800. They are from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. and coalition military, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Agriculture and contract personnel.
PRT funding comes from a variety of sources, including coalition partners, with the majority coming from the U.S. The principal programs associated with PRTs include PRDC (Provincial Reconstruction and Development Committee) and QRF (Quick Response Fund) programs as well as the following USAID-funded programs: CSP (Community Stabilization Program); the LGP (Local Governance Program); CAP (Community Action Program); Izdihar Economic Growth Program; and INMA Agri-business Program.
The teams are an important tool in achieving our counterinsurgency strategy by bolstering moderates, promoting reconciliation, fostering economic development and building provincial capacity.

Seth Robson (Stars and Stripes) reports on PRTs today. Mike Tharp and Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) report on attempts to determine the target of a roadside bombing Sunday, "U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the incident is under investigation, stressed Monday that they didn't know whether the bomb was intended to target American Ambassador Christopher Hill. Investigators' arrival on the scene has been delayed by severe sandstorms, one official said." They also quote a PRT head in Dhi Qar Province who asks, "How can you tell foreign investors to come here, when for the first time the ambassador comes and sits down to listen to people and their ideas and you (attempt to) blow him up? These elements are few, but it is now up to Iraqi forces to go get them." The fact that a government investigation is taking place into the bombing makes it all the more shocking that yesterday's State Dept briefing did not even acknowledge the bombing (not Ian Kelly, not the reporters in attendance). Also today, Jeremy Schwartz (Cox Newspaper) reports on the difficulties many returning Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans are having in finding a job:

About 100 soldiers sit rigidly in their chairs, contemplating life after the military. They are fresh off tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they survived roadside bombs and dodged sniper fire.
Their reward? In a matter of weeks or months, they will enter the most brutal job market in a generation.
They're students now, sitting in a three-day employment preparation class, one of the ways Fort Hood tries to help soldiers transition to the civilian world. Outside the huge fort, new veterans face several barriers to landing a job.
Many, especially those who joined the military out of high school, are writing résumés and going to job interviews for the first time. Others struggle to translate their military duties into civilian qualifications. All could face discrimination from employers who worry they might be riddled with mental disorders and too risky to hire, veterans advocates say.

Reuters notes the latest in the continued attacks on Iraqi police includes 2 shot dead in Baghdad and they drop back to yesterday to note that 3 civilians were shot dead in Mosul yesterday. Meanwhile DPA reports a protest in Falluja today of over 200 people rallying "to demand the interior ministry release the city's former police chief, Colonel Faisal Ismail, and his deputy, Eissa al-Sari, witnesses told the German Press Agency dpa."

Dropping back to Sam Dagher's article Friday (click here for critique). A letter on A20 (national edition) of today's New York Times addresses the article:

To the Editor:
Re "Defiant Kurds Claim Oil, Gas and Territory" (front page, July 10):
The Iraqi Constitution, specifically Article 140, requires a vote by referendum to resolve Iraq's disputed territories. To cast this as a "threat" is unfair. The Iraqi Kurds are simply trying to carry out the constitutionally mandated referendum.
Furthermore, the Iraqi Kurds are not defying Baghdad in formulating a regional constitution; they are embracing their right to create such a document, which is allowed in the Iraqi Constitution.
The Kurds, who represent the most stable and progressive element of Iraq, have made it clear that they desire to be a part of a united Iraqi nation.
To allow for a responsible and phased withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, which is the stated policy of the Obama administration, several issues must first be resolved, the most important of which is that of the disputed territories. Only then will a stable and united Iraq be able to thrive.
Jay Garner
Erbil, Iraq, July 10, 2009

The writer, a retired lieutenant general in the Army, was director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq in 2003.

Considering Dagher's article last week and Timothy Williams' infamous 'To Nouri With Love' last month, it's really amazing that Xinhua covered the following Saturday night but it's not made it into the New York Times:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday renewed his call to change his country's constitution to give more power to the central government and then to go ahead with building a modern state.
"We need to review and change the constitution so that we can build a modern state," Maliki said during a meeting with tribal leaders in Baghdad.
"The constitution is not perfect. It played a role during a difficult period of Iraqi history, but it absolutely needs changes, which must be carried out constitutionally instead of by scaring or intimidating others," Maliki said.

Lastly British community members are noting the news on the late Dr. David Kelly who died six years ago following a witch hunt. The BBC reported that the Iraq War dossier had been "sexed up" -- which it was -- and Tony Blair & company launched a witch hunt. During the witch hunt, it emerged that Kelly was one of the BBC sources. Shortly after, Kelly was discovered dead. His death is now back in the news. The Press & Journal notes:

The witch-hunt and vilification of Dr Kelly is well documented. Conspiracy theories that he did not commit suicide but was murdered persist, but his death was examined only by the Hutton inquiry and not an inquest.
The doctors' evidence appears strong enough to merit a fresh and more detailed examination, which only an inquest can provide.

From Daniel Martin's "Dr Kelly did not commit suicide, insists 13 doctors" (Daily Mail):

A group of doctors has demanded an inquest into the death of government scientist David Kelly -- saying the verdict of suicide should be overturned.
It comes as a documentary to be screened later this week claims Dr Kelly may have been killed because he knew about secret germ warfare plans.
His body was found six years ago this week in woods near his Oxfordshire home, only days after it emerged he was the source of a BBC story which claimed evidence against Iraq had been 'sexed up' to justify invasion.

Immediately after his death, in the New York Times, a little noted write up by Judith Miller ran in which she revealed herself to be in daily or near daily contact with Kelly and she also appeared to be surprised/doubtful over the suicide.

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