Tuesday, August 4, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the military announces two deaths, Nouri's new friends with benefits didn't renounce violence (they still say they'll be attacking US troops), Iraq War veterans continue to suffer to get the needed medical care and to re-adjust to daily life, and more.
Today the US military announced: "A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Division - South died of a non-combat related injury August 4. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin." That announcement came from M-NF which is supposed to announce deaths and, later, DoD announces the names of the dead. That's how it's supposed to work. But frequently that's not how it works. Late yesterday, DoD announced: "Staff Sgt. Johnny R. Polk, 39, of Gulfport, Miss., died July 25 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by anti-tank grenade on July 23 in Kirkuk, Iraq." That July 25th death was never reported by M-NF and, again, was only announced late yesterday -- long after the outlets had done their 'end of the month' pieces. This happens over and over and the press falls for it everytime -- like saps, like suckers. The announcements bring to 4330 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. Back to Polk, the Killeen Daily Herald informs that Polk's full name is Johnny Roosevelt Polk and that he enlisted in March 1992, deployed to Iraq at the start of the year and his "awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon and the Overseas Service Ribbon."
We'll move on to today's reported violence in Iraq. Bombings?
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded four people. Reuters notes a Jurf al-Sakhar roadside bombing left two people injured and, dropping back to Monday, a Mosul roadside bombing which left two Iraqi soldiers injured.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi soldier wounded in a Mosul shooting. Reuters drops back to Monday to note 1 "off-duty government employee" shot dead in front of his Mosul home and 1 "brother of Iraq's chief of traffice police" shot dead in Mussayab.
Though the Iraq War hasn't ended and the violence hasn't stopped, it's fallen off the radar -- or further off. Michael Crowley (New Republic) notes the 'downgrading' of the ongoing war:
A recent dispatch from Iraq by The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller articulated something that has been true for several months now: America has moved on from the Iraq War. Much of the 2008 election was organized around that conflict. Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in large measure by deriding the judgment she showed in supporting the 2003 Iraq war resolution. And John McCain's public embrace of George W. Bush's policies may have doomed his campaign from the start. Few things seemed to exhilarate Obama's supporters more than his firm call for "an end" to the Iraq war. And now, just six months into Obama's presidency, and even before Obama's troop-withdrawal plan has begun in earnest, Iraq has been replaced by Afghanistan as the conflict that will probably define his presidency.
Crowley believes US forces are the only thing keeping the 'peace' in Iraq -- we obviously disagree (though they're the only thing keeping Nouri in office) on that and other things but Crowley wrote a serious piece about Iraq and that's so very rare today so we'll link As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Nouri lost that loving feeling. Nouri has teamed up with the Righteous League or the Leage of Righteous, warmly wecloming them into the fold. You have to read to the fifth paragraph of Rod Nordland's report (New York Times) this morning to discover that, contrary to Nouri's claims, the group has not renounced violence. In the fifth paragraph, Nordland slips in "the group has not renounced fighting the Americans" and quotes their spokesperson Salam al-Maliki declaring, "We are only fighting the United States." Then, point of fact, they're fighting the puppet government. Not just because Nouri's propped up by the presence of US service members but also because of the various security agreements between the US and Iraq -- more than just the SOFA. So everybody needs to grasp what happened -- it's apparently beyond the New York Times and Rod Nordland. The US has recognized their installed government as a legitimate one and have entered into various contracts with it. Nouri signed off on those. And now Nouri's welocming into the process the League of Righteous who have not renounced violence against the US and who maintain they will continue violence against the US.
How did Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) describe it last month when Nouri came begging to the US? Oh, yes, Nouri "talked about broadening Iraq's relationship with the U.S. and cooperation in the area of economics, culture and education as well as a conference in October for potential investors in Iraq." Forget the "War on Terror" (though Congress has refused to repeal that legislation), the United States has never been in the position of maintaining diplomatic relations with a foreign country who openly embraces a group that publicly announces it will attack the US. That's not how it works, that's not ever how it has worked.
The group not only maintains that they will continue to attack US forces, they brag about killing Brian S. Freeman, Jabob Fritz, Johanthan B. Chism, Shawn P. Falter and Johnathon M. Millican. Despite that, see the June 9th snapshot, the US military released the two brothers who lead the group in an effort apparently to get the group to release the five British hostages they kidnapped May 29, 2007. They realeased two: Jason Swindlehurst and Jason Creswell. Both men were released dead The British government considers Alec Maclachlan and Alan McMenemy to be dead (the families are still hopeful). The British government hopes Peter Moore is alive. (In part because they need some good news to stem the outcries for the inept performance throughout the kidnappings.) So two ringleaders of a group which publicly claims credit for the kidnappings of 5 British citizens and the deaths of 5 US soldiers are released by the US and the trade off is the group hands over two corpses? No, it doesn't seem fair.
Nor does Nouri making nice. Oliver August (Times of London) offers the British government spin of Nouri raising the issue of Peter Moore with the group. Really? Nouri's bag boy Ali al-Dabbagh tells the New York Times, the British hostages were not discussed ("We cannot negotiate with the kidnappers" -- so why have talks with them) and the Times of New York also states Nouri "said that their status had not been discussed." Nordland can leave out a great deal (and frequently does) but he's never been busted lying intentionally. Today Robert Dreyfuss (The Dreyfuss Report, The Nation) covers some of the issues and wonders, "In other words, Maliki met with a bunch of Shiite terrorists, welcomed them with open arms. Why would he do that?" Because Nouri's a thug. Better question is why the US is trashing every rule of diplomacy they've operated under -- regardless of which party occupied the White House -- and acting as if it's suddenly okay for a foreign power the US funds (one we installed, of course) and one the US provides military backing for to conduct business with a group that has openly and publicly stated they will KILL US service members? That's just not allowed. That's just not done. The normal response to that is for the US to break off all diplomatic ties and recall their ambassador. But there's been no response at all to this and the US continues spending billions on Iraq and Nouri wants more US businesses to come to Iraq. They shouldn't. And if you're a business in Iraq -- and several California-based companies now are in Iraq -- you should be very worried that your stoes might be protested, that you might lose business because what Nouri's doing is unacceptable and apparently Barack's cast himself as President Pushover because this is a very embarrassing moment for the United States as he refuses to make a comment or call it out, let alone follow normal diplomatic guidelines for this situation.
On diplomatic, one thing Michael Crowley gets very right in his post is that Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq, doesn't speak Arabic and has a background in Eatern Europe and Asia." Golly, remember all the jokes about Condi Rice's field of study being the now disengrated USSR?
The memo by US Col Timothy Reese advocating all US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2010 is covered by Rory O'Connor (Media Is A Plural):
Colonel Reese argues instead that all American forces should withdraw by August 2010, pointing out, "If there ever was a window where the seeds of a professional military culture could have been implanted, it is now long past. U.S. combat forces will not be here long enough or with sufficient influence to change it."
So who's right -- the military and political forces that want to prolong our long national nightmare in Iraq as a means of extending American presence and leverage there, or the expert analyst who literally wrote the book on the U.S. Army's history in Iraq?
Colonel Reese - and the now late, but still great Senator Aiken -- had it right. Out Now!
Sidebar, Media Channel is not yet back online but O'Connor's blog is back up and Danny Schechter's News Dissector blog is back up.
Yes, the US needs to leave Iraq and it appears the British may have. Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports, "British troops may not return to southern Iraq to finish their mission in the country, David Miliband has admitted." Now help me out here because I was immune to the Barry O Kool-Aid flavor but what situation is created for the US in Iraq right now? It already felt like Somolia with Nouri's verbal attacks on US service members but now that Nouri's welcoming in groups who are publicly stating (presently stating, this isn't the past) that their mission is to kill US troops, what is the reason to remain in Iraq?
And does anyone give a damn about the US service members?
With only himself present yesterday senate wise, Senator Byron Dorgan noted he was going to call the hearing ("in the interest of time") of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee to order. Dorgan declared the hearing was the 20th oversight hearing the DPC had done into the contracting fraud and waste in Iraq and Afghanistan and, "On June 20th of last year, we held a hearing that revealed how Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), at a site in Iraq, had exposed US troops and its own workers to -- among others -- to sodium dichromate -- a highly toxic, cancer-causing chemical. This exposure took place in the spring and summer of 2003 at a water facility -- water treatment facility -- in Qarmat Ali, Iraq. In my judgment, the Army's response to this incident and to the findings of our hearing has been tragically inadequate. Sodium dichromate is a deadly poison. According to an expert who testified at our hearing last year, a grain of sand worth of chromium dichromate per cubic meter could lead to serious long-term health problems including cancer."
Sodium dichromate was in the news at the end of 2008. From the December 4, 2008 snapshot:
Yesterday, KBR was in the news for imprisoning workers in Iraq and now Scott Bronstein and Abbie Boudreau (CNN) report KBR is being sued by 16 members of Indiana's National Gaurd who served in Iraq and maintain that KBR knew a water treatment plant (which the soliders were assigned to) exposed them to dangerous chemicals such as the carcinogenic sodium dichromate. David Ivanovich (Houston Chronicle) explains, "In their suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Evansville, Ind., the plaintiffs contend KBR knowingly allowed them to be exposed to sodium dichromate, a chemical used as an anti-corrosive but containing the carcinogen hexavalent chromium. The alleged exposure occurred while the guardsmen were providing security for KBR workers at the Qarmat Ali water plant in southern Iraq." Rajini Vaidyanathan (BBC) elaborates, "The soldiers say that they and other civilian contractors there were repeatedly told there was no danger, and that when they reported health problems such as nose-bleeds to their bosses, they were told they were simply 'allergic to the sand'. The court papers claim that these symptoms were the early side-effects of the chemical, and that some who served on the site went on to suffer severe breathing problems and nasal tumours."
December 22nd Armen Keteyian (CBS Evening News with Katie Couric -- text and video) reported on James Gentry's developing lung cancer after serving at Iraq where he guarded KBR's water plant, "Now CBS News has obtained information that indicates KBR knew about the danger months before the soldiers were ever informed. Depositions from KBR employees detailed concerns about the toxin in one part of the plant as early as May of 2003. And KBR minutes, from a later meeting state 'that 60 percent of the people . . . exhibit symptoms of exposure,' including bloody noses and rashes."
Dorgan's noted the witnesses for the hearing: Iraq War veterans Russell Kimberling, Rocky Bixby, Russel Powell and Glenn Bootay and Dr. Herman Gibb. Dorgan explained one person would not be with them, "Sergeant First Class David Moore, a platoon leader and a 20-year veteran of the Indiana National Guard, was exposed to sodium dichromate at Qarmat Ali. He died in 2008 from lung disease after returning from Iraq. He was wheezing, unable to breathe, constantly coughing, yet doctors were mystified by the cause of his disease." Dorgan noted the government's inability to take accountability from time to time such as with Agent Orange or, more recently, the repeated denials about KBR's shoddy electrical work in Iraq which led to the deaths of US service members.
Senator Evan Bayh wondered why the Indianna National Guard wasn't notified promptly since so many of those exposed were serving with the Indianna National Guard? He also declared, "I've got two principle interests in this. First, to ensure that all those of you who were exposed and were potentially exposed get the treatment to which you are entitled You served our country honorably, you deserve the best medical care possible. We shouldn't put the burden of proof on you because there are photographs of piles of this stuff sittting around. There's no doubt at all that people were exposed so you shouldn't be in the position, as Senator Dorgan was saying, today or five years or ten years from now trying to go back and prove that it was service related. So that's my principal concern: To make sure that you're treated well and get the medical care you deserve. And then the second thing, Senator Dorgan, would be to make sure that this kind of thing never happens again."
We won't note all the opening statements. Those two were worth noting. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid showed up. For what reason? To show that any senator serving on the committee was more qualified than he is to be Senate leader? It was an embarrassing reading of a statement, one in which he never managed to note the Iraq War veterans present as witnesses or to even look at them. But he appeared more concerned with his stop-and-start 'innovative' style of reading from a piece of paper -- or, as he might put it, in . . . novativestyleof . . . readingfromapieceofpap . . . er.
Batallion medic Rusell Powell spoke of being assigned to the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant and the orange power everywhere, with ripped open bags leaving the sodium dicrhomate exposed to the wind, "These bags were spread throughout the facility, both inside and outside the buildings. The bags were often placed at the doorways of the buildings so we had to walk through piles of the orange powder when we entered and exited the buildings. The soldiers at Qarmat Ali would even use the bags as protection during storms, we'd use them as security measures as sand bags, we'd eat there, we'd sit there and eat lunch." Despite the powder being everywhere, the US Army and KBR never provided any warnings or even "voiced any concerns." In 2004, he left Iraq and his rashes, nose bleeds, stomach problems and lesions continued. Finally, in 2009, the West Virginia National Guard notified him via letter that he was "exposed to sodium dichromate while serving at Qarmat Ali."
"My symptoms haven't changed since my service in Iraq," Powell told the committee. "I go almost weekly to doctors appointments for various medical conditions and I have to miss work and ask for additional sick time. I'm testifying today because it is disheartening to know I may not be able to see my sons graduate from high school , college, get married or hold my grandchildred because of this completely avoidable exposure."
And that really does capture what's been stolen and what the reckless endangerment has left those at the water treatment facility plant with: The knowledge that even events in the immediate future, their children's graduation, may be things they are not present for as a result of the actions and decisions made by KBR and, at the very least, the inaction of the US military command. Rocky Bixby noted his difficulty in carrying on conversations because he has to cough repeatedly. He explained that, "Each morning we received regular briefings from KBR about our security work. The only hazards identified at the Qarmat Ali facility were related to developments in the war. No one from KBR or the Army ever told us about hazardous materials at the Qarmat Ali facility."
Bixby explained x-rays have discovered a node on his chest. Approximately every fourth or fifth continuous sentence of speaking at the hearing would require Bixby having to clear his throat or experiencing a coughing spasm where he coughed repeatedly. As he pointed out, had they been warned, none of this would have happened. Had they been warned, they would have taken protections including using the suits provided because of the fear/threat that Saddam Hussein would use chemical weapons on US forces. In the end, Saddam had no chemical weapons and the real chemical threat came from KBR.
"At no time during our deployment," declared Russel Kimberling, "were we told to wear face masks or chemical gear." By the two month mark, he'd developed a hole inside his nose, the navel cavity, and he noted that all the people he knows who have served at Qarmat Ali has symptoms. He is now judged to have "a pre-existing condiction" and has difficulting obtaining life insurance as a result. As the father of a four-year-old son, this is not a minor worry for Kimberling. In addition, he explained, "I am hesitant to have another child because I could be passing on genetic defects to him or her. If I do develop cancer, I am concerned about the financial situation of my loved ones who would be left behind."
Dorgan followed up with a question about the insurance issue.
Senator Byron Dorgan: Mr. Kimberling, you said that you were turned down for life insurance. Did they tell you why that you were denied?
Russell Kimberling: I just got a letter, after after I found this out five years later. I had let my life insurance from the deployment kind of lapse and i figured uhOh I better go back in. And they didn't tell me it was directly related to my exposure they just said due to my -- I had to sign a waiver for my VA which, you know, I think it has my shoulder, hearing and a back problem. I wouldn't be denied life insurance for that. They said I was a high risk. And I don't know what -- they didn't give me a reason.
"After I returned from Iraq, I was never contacted by the army about the potential exposure at Qarmat Ali," explained Glen Booty. "I was unaware that I had been exposed to a toxic chemical but my health problems continued to get worse. I began vomiting up to twenty times a day and I couldn't keep any solid food down. My headaches continued. The point of origin of my illness was while I was in Iraq." Even now knowing about the exposure and receiving some treatments, Booty continues to suffer from: "constant headaches, constant chest pain with skipped heart beats, shortness of breath due to the lower edge of my lungs being collapsed, extreme fatigue, periodic skin rashes, inability to sweat, periodic vomiting without nausea, loss of feeling on my left side and torso, high blood sugar, episodes of kidney stones, episodes of blacking out and short term memory loss."
We'll note this exhange from the hearing.
Senator Evan Bayh: Captain Kimberling, you testified that you escorted a group of, was it KBR employees, who had the white suits on, the environmental suits on, to the site. Did I understand your testimony correctly?
Russell Kimberling: Civilian attired. I couldn't say whether they were, you know, Corps of Engineers or KBR.
Senator Evan Bayh: Ah but they had --
Russell Kimberling: Civilian attire on.
Senator Evan Bayh: Oh, civilian attire. I thought you said they had enviornmental suits.
Russell Kimberling: Well they had it, when they got in the vehicles, civilian attire, when they got out of the vehicles, at the site, they had white PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], the gear.
Senator Evan Bayh: So when you were -- why do you suppose they put that on? Before they got out of the vehicles?
Russell Kimberling: They knew something we didn't.
Senator Evan Bayh: Well that's my point. And so they drove up in civilian attire but before they got out to set foot on the ground, they put on the environmental suits obviously indicating they were worried about something?
Russell Kimberling: Yes.
Senator Evan Bayh: But you and your men and women hadn't been informed of anything at that point, correct?
Russell Kimberling: Correct.
Senator Evan Bayh: At what point after that, if at all, were you informed?
Russell Kimberling: It was within a couple of weeks that, uh, Lt Col [James] Gentry, once he -- once we figured out what it was, we were informed and we didn't go back to the site.
Senator Evan Bayh: So there were at least a couple of weeks there when presumably they didn't find out that dayso there was a period of some time, at least a couple of weeks, probably longer ,that people were aware there was some pretty hazardous stuff there -- so much that they protect themselves -- but you and your men hadn't been notified?
Russell Kimberling: Yes, sir.
The civilian visit was in August 2003. Kimberling had been stationed at the water treatment facility since April 2003. Elsewhere in the hearing, he noted that Lt Col James Gentry "is currently battling terminal lung cancer, most likely caused by his exposure to sodium dichromate, and has entered hospice care."
Meanwhile, David Martin (CBS Evening News with Katie Couric -- link has text and video) reports on Iraq War veteran Casey Owens who lost his legs while serving in Iraq who has had to fight the VA for needed treatment and who TBI is repeatedly swept aside and ignored. "I've gone to the VA and complained," he explains, "about certain symptoms but it's usually just shrugged off as sinus headaches or migraines or stress." Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports on the strain deployments are causing military families such as Lynn and Capt Mark Flitton with Mark having a very difficult time readjusting to life with his family after being deployed three times in the last ten years. He tells Zoroya, "I haven't come home yet. I'm still in the war mode, and I don't know that I'm going to come back out of it until I know I don't have any more war rotations to go back on." Drop back to Friday's snapshot and pair Flitton's statements with Mary who called into NPR's The Diane Rehm Show to share her story:
Hi there. As a matter of fact, that's exactly what I was calling about. My husband is currently on his fourth tour in Iraq which is his fifth deployment in six years. As a matter of fact, he's physically lived at home six months since 2001. There's -- there's two reasons I think why the high suicide rate You have these up tempo deployments. When someone comes back from being deployed in Iraq you have what's called a honeymoon period and it might be a month or several months where everyone's happy to see you and every thing's going fine and then the cracks start to show a little bit the stress that every body's been under -- whether it's the normal stress or maybe PTSD. But by the time that starts to rear it's head, they're back for another deployment again and so those issues don't get addressed. And I live in fear for when my husband is home permanently and I know for certain that we're going to have to address that. My husband told me once a story when they were in Iraq, in a combat mission. There was a young gentlemen, maybe 19, scared to death to go out -- understandably. And he was out maybe thirty minutes and they got hit by an IED. He was absolutely terrified and the next day he had to go back out on another mission. And he did not want to go and he had to. And I asked my husband what do you do in those circumstances? And my husband said "Charley Mike" which is an acronym for CM and it means continue mission. That is the most important thing is you continue the mission and you don't stop until it's complete and then you look back and maybe try to figure out what's wrong with these poor people. The -- I don't care what any senior officials say -- the mental health is abysmal in the military. It's frowned upon, there's not enough services. Also I think because the rest -- only the military is at war and the rest of the country is not, there's not -- there's a big disconnect there and I think that adds to the situation. My husband is proud to do his service. He's happy to be there so many other fathers don't have to be. But he would like at least some acknowledgment and recognition. When you turn on the TV and very little is talked about.
Moving to the press, pundits, gas bags. And if they don't like being called out, they should try talking about the Iraq War than, for example Naomi Klein, repeatedly using women to get some cheap laughs. Like Klein, two journalists working for the Washington Post thought it was fine and dandy to go to town, CJR's Greg Marx calls it out here, Kirsten Powers (New York Post) goes further in calling all out all this sexist garbage:
If [Dana] Milbank made a "satirical" race-based joke about Obama, he'd be fired. But that's not going to happen here.
After all, calling Hillary Clinton the b-word is practically mainstream behavior. During the '08 campaign, a (female) questioner at a McCain event asked "How can we beat the bitch?" McCain laughed. Conservative commentator Alex Castellanos defended this on CNN saying that Clinton deserves to be called a "bitch."
For what? Running for president? How dare she!
The only thing worse would be running for vice president. Just ask Sarah Palin.
I'm no fan of the former governor of Alaska, but as a life-long feminist I can't ignore the endless stream of sexism directed at her.
Friday on MSNBC, guest host Donny Deutsch asked, "If Palin wasn't hot, would we be talking about her?" His two female guests -- one Republican and one Democrat -- were united in their disagreement with this assertion.
But Deutsch was adamant: "The only reason we are so fascinated, the American public has never seen a woman that looks like this in power. That's where the fascination starts."
Where was this insightful analysis when the vapid JFK-wannabe John Edwards and his silky hair ended up as the Dems choice for VP in 2004? Or was everyone too dazzled by his completely undistinguished one term as a senator?
Lastly, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adam Kokesh is running for the US Congress out of New Mexico's third district and he announced last month he was going to be on the Republican ticket (link has video and text). An e-mail came in asking if we'd dumped Adam because he was on the Republican ticket? No. We'll continue to note him and Congress would be lucky to have Adam as member on any party ticket. There's just not time for everything -- the hearing covered today couldn't go into yesterday's snapshot because there wasn't room and I didn't feel like boiling it down to one paragraph which was all the room that was left -- so something's get held with the hopes that they'll be noted at a later date. This week, Iraqi refugees should be a topic, hopefully tomorrow. But I'm holding things on that. There's never enough room for everything on Iraq. Things like a political run are more likely to get held. But there's no walk away from Adam because he's running on the Republican ticket. We're not a Libertarian site but we never ignored Adam because he's a Libertarian. We'll continue to note him and probably more so this month because Congress is about to go on recess.