Saturday, August 08, 2009

Iraq War continues, Nouri tries to silence opponents

It's never easy to leave for war.
Just ask Spc. Brian Pettigrew of Monmouth, who on Friday tightly embraced his two children, Haley, 5, and Annalisa, 3, as if he never wanted to let them go.
The Monmouth man is no stranger to the military. He did two tours with the U.S. Navy and was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But this was the first time he would be gone with children left at home. His wife, Eileen, stood nearby with her face red from tears. How did he did break it to the children?
"I told them daddy had to go away to do his job," Pettigrew said.
Just ask the families and friends of the 160 reservists with the U.S. Army's 724th Transportation Company who watched their loved ones leave on four buses from the Joint Reserve Training Facility shortly after 10 a.m. Friday.

That's the opening to Andy Kravetz' "Soldiers sent off for duty" (Peoria Journal Star) which is a strong article that only gets more descriptive and deeper as it goes along. It's must-reading just for the reporting but it should also be passed on to all those who wrongly insist the Iraq War has ended. No, it hasn't. And this is the 724th's second deployment to Iraq.

And why is any US service member sent to Iraq? "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has proposed a series of laws that lawmakers, Western officials and nongovernmental organizations say could curb democratic freedoms in Iraq," reports Charles Levinson (Wall St. Journal) on Nouri's latest assault on freedoms. The targets are NGOs and political parties. Hmm. Nouri's targeting other political parties? Nothing to worry about there . . . as long as you think Iraq needs a new Saddam. It's a power grab and an effort to silence his political competition. Levinson explains:

The bills include a proposal to give official legal status and expanded powers to a controversial body called the State Ministry for National Security, creating a "political crimes directorate" to monitor political parties and nongovernmental organizations, among other things, according to a draft of the law reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

You really have to wonder how all the US outlets repeatedly miss Nouri's power-grabs. Well, not all, Charles Levinson's reporting on it today and the Washington Post hasn't been silent about thug Nouri. But that's really about it. Either outlets largely ignore him (the Los Angeles Times) or they work overtime to air brush out his ugly realities (New York Times).

Yesterday a bombing took place at a mosque outside Mosul. Today, Alsumaria puts the toll at 37 dead and 276 injured. They also report that a woman in Najaf's death is a suspected Swine Flu death. And they report, "The United Nations Security Council extended the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) till August 2010. The Security Council adopted unanimously Resolution 1883 which stipulates to extend the UNAMI mandate for another year. UNAMI consists of 750 people in civil and military specialties. Their main mission is to support Iraq’s government in reconstruction and development." For humor, they pretend that Iraqi Shi'ite vice president, Adel Abdul Mehdi , cooperated with the apprehension of some of his guards who took part in a Baghdad robbery last week. (In reality, yesterday he was insisting it was only one and fighting with the Interior Ministry about the statement they planned to release.)

The final, official count for the Kurdistan regional elections which took place. From the KRG:

Electoral Commission announces final results of Kurdistan Region elections

Erbil, Kurdistan -- Iraq ( -- The Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq (IHEC) released the final results of the Kurdistan Region presidential and parliamentary elections yesterday - 7 August 2009. A total of 1,819,652 individuals, about 80 per cent of eligible voters, participated in the election. The results are as follows. Presidential election:
Masoud Barzani, 1266397 votes – 69.6% (winner)
Kamal Mirawdly, 460323 votes – 25.3%
Hallo Ibrahim Ahmed, 63377 votes – 3.5%
Ahmed Muhammad Nabi, 18890 votes – 1%
Husain Garmiyan 10665, votes – 0.6% Parliamentary election:
Kurdistan List, 1076370 votes, 59 parliamentary seats
Change List, 445024 votes, 25 parliamentary seats
Reform and Services List, 240842 votes, 13 parliamentary seats
Islamic Movement, 27147 votes, 2 parliamentary seats
Freedom and Social Justice, 15028 votes, 1 parliamentary seat

Parliamentary Seats reserved for minority groups:
Turkoman Democratic Movement, 18464 votes, 3 parliamentary seats
Turkoman Reform List, 7077 votes, 1 parliamentary seat
Turkoman Erbil List, 3906 votes, 1 parliamentary seat
Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council, 10595 votes, 3 parliamentary seats
Al-Rafidain List, 5690 votes, 2 parliamentary seats
Aram Shahin Dawood Bakoyian, 4198 votes, 1 parliamentary seat

As expected, Barzani was re-elected president. As expected 'Change' didn't do so well and you need to grasp how US outlets pimped (the US-backed and funded) 'Change.' You'd think they'd won more seats than anyone by the fact that they got more press than anyone.

A number of visitors e-mailed this week asking what should happen to oil-rich Kirkuk? If you're asking my opinion, here it is: The census and the referendum need to be held as promised in the 2005 Constitution and as agreed to by Nouri al-Maliki when he signed off on the 2007 White House benchmarks. Other than that? The vote will determine what happens. Kirkuk may decide to go with Baghdad or may decide to go with the Kurdistan region or there might be another choice on the ballot but that's their vote and they need to decide. My only opinion is that what was agreed to needs to be followed and that the KRG is not being unreasonable expecting the country's Constitution to be followed.

It's apparently too early for reports on violence in Iraq (Reuters has a report, McClatchy not yet) so we'll note that tomorrow. Iraq's Foreign Ministry notes the following:

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari received today 6th. Aug. 2009 Mr. Hassan Kazimi Qummi Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran and discussed bilateral issues between the two countries.
During the meeting both sides discussed political situations and stressed to speed up the work of the technical committees to stabilize land and river borders between the two countries, as well as consular relations were discussed. Foreign Minister mentioned the subject of the Iranian border Authorities arrested three American citizens in Mrivan and requested for information and data about the circumstances of their arrest.

In the US, Iraq War veteran Adolfo Hernandez has entered a not guilty plea. Elizabeth Pfeffer (San Mateo County Times) reports, "Adolfo Hernandez, originally from Carrizo Springs, Texas, was brought back from his second tour of Iraq in June to face five felony charges, including three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct on a child under 14, one count of communicating with a minor for the purposes of a lewd act and one count of sending harmful matter on the Internet with lewd intent, according to the District Attorney's Office." Michelle Durand (San Mateo Daily Journal) explains that the 13-year-old girl's mother discovered a nude photo of Hernandez that had been sent to her daughter and confronted him via text messages while he was in Iraq and that he's also accused of fondling the child.

Yesterday's snapshot included the following:

Tuesday's snapshot reported on the Democratic Senate Policy Committee's hearing on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tuesday night, Kat covered it at her site and noted how the whole thing struck her as for-show. The hearing was chaired by US Senator Byron Dorgan and, in the hearing, 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. In an update to the electrical work story, Braden Reddall and Eric Beech (Reuters) report, "The U.S. Army has found that the death of Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted while showering at a Baghdad base in January 2008, was accidental, the Defense Department said on Friday." The reporters note the May hearing of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. That's a May 20th hearing. From that day's snapshot:

"Today's hearing is a result of this committee's continuing investigation into the deaths of some US soldiers by the death of electrocution in Iraq," explained Senator Byron Dorgan who chaired this morning's Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing "Rewarding Failure: Contractor Bonuses for Faulty Work in Iraq."

Senator Byron Dorgan: That investigation has led us to internal Pentagon documents showing that in 2007 and 2008, contractor KBR received bonuses of $83.4 million for work that, according to the Pentagon's own investigation, led to the electrocution deaths of US troops. Let me repeat that: The Pentagon gave bonuses of $83.4 million to KBR for work that resulted in the electrocution deaths of American soldiers.

Dorgan spoke of Ryan Maseth, a Green Beret and Army Ranger with the rank of Staff Sgt who died in Baghdad January 2, 2008 from taking a shower in KBR's 'safe' facilities. Dorgan noted that in the July hearing, "we obtained testimony that KBR had known of this very electrocuting hazard since at least February 10, 2007, 11 months before Ryan Maseth's death. In fact, the prior occupant of Staff Sgt Maseth's room was shocked in the same room four to five times between June and October 2007, in the very same shower were Ryan was killed. According to his sworn affidavit, each time this soldier was shocked, he submitted a work order to KBR." In fact, $34.4 million of KBR's $83.4 million in bonus pay was paid after Ryan Maseth was killed by their shoddy, cheap work and the military's investigation, as Dorgan noted, now lists the death as due to negligent homicide.

That's took place in May along with much more. The Reuters' report today reduces the May hearing to basically two sentences and the excerpt above provides more context than the Reuters report which also failes to note that KBR has been found responsible for other electrical deaths in Iraq this year.

We'll note a DoD press release in a second but I see something else we can note to address e-mails from visitors. ". . . which also failes to note . . ." "Failes" is a typo. The snapshots are dictated, I'm talking a mile and minute and people are typing as fast as they can. Friends type up the snapshots out of the goodness of their own heart (and the funnier ones are typed up by a friend whose roots are in stand up and he pushes me to be funnier and will also 'improve' at least one, no more than two sentences each snapshot). I don't care about typos. I have them in the morning weekday entries which I usually type myself. (Sometimes those are dictated as well.) Typos happen. I see them all the time in the New York Times these days, they're to be found in AP reports coming off the wire.

In a perfect world, there would be no typos. If a typo leads to confusion, I will note it in another snapshot. Otherwise, it's just a typo, get over it. I basically rely on four friends now to take dictation and at the start, there were more two dropped out because they beat themselves up over typos. It's not worth it. And it's not something I'm going to go in and change. A) I don't have the time. And B) it's not really realistic to pretend the typos weren't there. They were there. They're part of this site. It's not the end of the world.

So those visitors who think they're helping me by e-mailing to alert me to a typo, if it's something like "failes," anyone should be able to tell what the word was and you're wasting people's time with your e-mail. Not mine because I don't read the bulk of the e-mails that come in to the public account. But you're wasting your time.

Now for the DoD release:

Army Completes Staff Sgt. Maseth Death Investigation (Revision)

The Army announced today that the investigation into the tragic death of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth has been completed. The extensive, eleven-month investigation conducted by the Army Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there is insufficient evidence to establish criminal culpability of any person or entity in the death of Staff Sgt. Maseth.

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Medical Examiner previously found the cause of Maseth’s death to be electrocution and the manner accidental. The completed Criminal Investigation Command death investigation concurs with those findings.

“This has been a complex investigation involving numerous people, circumstances and contractual agreements,” said Brig. Gen. Rodney Johnson, commanding general, U. S. Army Criminal Investigations Command. “It was a lengthy, thorough, and detailed investigation. Reviewing the many documents and issues did take an extraordinary amount of time, but we wanted to do everything we could to get it right. We owe that to Staff Sgt. Maseth and his loved ones.”

The investigation revealed that there were numerous entities and individuals, both contractors and government employees, who breached their respective duties of care. However, none of those breaches, in and of themselves, were the proximate cause of his death. The investigation was closed with a finding that there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove any criminal negligence in the soldier’s death.

“As with all of our criminal investigations, if new, credible information becomes available, we stand ready to reopen the investigation to pursue the truth, wherever it may lead,” Johnson said.

There have been 18 reported deaths due to electrocution in Iraq since March 2003, including 16 service members and two contractors. Fourteen of these cases occurred in the field away from military facilities or in work situations that included performing maintenance on electrical systems.

After a series of electrical accidents and incidents, Multi-National Force - Iraq created Task Force Safety Actions for Fire and Electricity in August 2008 to assess and analyze fire and electrical safety issues in Iraq and then direct actions to remedy those hazards.

As of July 25, 2009, the task force had inspected more than 67,000 of the approximately 90,000 pieces of equipment and facilities in Iraq, many of which were substandard structures dating from the Saddam Hussein era. The task force is ahead of schedule to complete the inspections by November. The inspections have led to the correction of nearly 14,000 deficiencies found thus far as the facilities are brought into compliance with the United States National Electric Code. Most deficiencies have been related to electrical grounding and bonding that enables the proper functioning of circuit breakers.

Since Staff Sgt. Maseth’s death in 2008, there has not been another confirmed electrocution death of a soldier in Iraq.

For more information, contact Army Public Affairs, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, , or (703) 697-2564.

For questions regarding the criminal investigation contact Criminal Investigation Command Public Affairs, Chris Grey, , or (703) 806-0372.

For questions about Task Force SAFE, contact the MNF-I Press Desk at .

CNN adds, "A report released last month from the Pentagon's inspector general found that Maseth's death stemmed from failures both by the U.S. military and by military contractor KBR.
The company did not properly ground and inspect electrical equipment, the inspector general's report found, while Maseth's commanders failed to ensure that renovations to the building where he was based had been properly done. The Army did not set electrical standards for jobs or contractors." And on "CNN adds," e-mails come in asking about that. If a reporter is credited by CNN, it gets noted here with the reporter. There are New York Times pieces that are credited to "THE NEW YORK TIMES" by the paper, that is the byline, no individual reporter. If I'm doing that here, it's because that's the way it was credited. The only time I'm not following credit is with AP because I'm on the phone with friends at AP and they're usually telling me who wrote the story so you may click on the link provided and go to an AP story and think, "Chelsea Carter?" or "Kim Gamel?" or whomever because there's no reported listed and it's credited to AP. But if I'm giving credit to an AP reporter, it's because the person giving me the heads up to the story is also telling me the reporter. And we don't link to AP proper (an issue with friends at AP) because those stories vanish quickly on the AP site. We're more likely to link to Washington Post for AP because they're accessible to more people and, thus far, stay up longer. So when a friend at AP passes on a story that gets linked to, that's why a reporter or reporters is/are credited even if the link takes you to a story with no individual byline.

If you're question's answered in this entry, thank Martha & Shirley who went through and came up with a list of the ten most repeated questions and comments this week by visitors e-mailing the public site. I won't get to all ten. We can do another on CNN, a woman e-mailed to say that Anderson Cooper should be noted here more because he's the sexiest man on TV. That would be an opinion and not fact. I've known Anderson for years and I've never found him sexy. I wouldn't rank him as the sexiest on CNN. The sexiest man on CNN is an Australian who, possibly because he's an actual reporter and not a talking head, gets overlooked a great deal. And, of course, my judgment of Michael Ware being the sexiest man on CNN? It's opinion as well.

Independent journalist John Pilger has won the Sydney Peace Prize. They note:

John Pilger wins 2009 Sydney Peace Prize
The world renowned journalist, author and film-maker John Pilger has been awarded the 2009 Sydney Peace Prize. The jury's citation reads:
"For work as an author, film-maker and journalist as well as for courage as a foreign and war correspondent in enabling the voices of the powerless to be heard. For commitment to peace with justice by exposing and holding governments to account for human rights abuses and for fearless challenges to censorship in any form.''
Sydney Peace Foundation Director Professor Stuart Rees comments, "The jury was impressed by John's courage as well as by his skills and creativity. His commitment to uncovering human rights abuses shines through his numerous books, films and articles. His work inspires all those who value peace with justice."
Speaking from London about news of this award, John Pilger responded: "Coming from my homeland and the city where I was born and grew up, this is an honour I shall cherish, with the hope that it encourages young Australian journalists, writers and film-makers to break the silences that perpetuate injustice both faraway and close to home."
Examples of his work include an account of the British and American governments' secret 'mass kidnappings' of a
whole population of the Chagos Islands in the Indian ocean to make way for an American military base. His 1979 film Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia depicted the horrors of the Pol Pot regime and the plight of the Khmer people. In 1994, Death of a Nation, shot under cover in East Timor, galvanized world wide support for the East Timorese people. His re-making of the film Palestine is Still the Issue reminds the world of a continuing occupation and cruel injustice.
Other distinguished recipients of Australia’s only international prize for peace have included previous Nobel recipients Professor Muhammad Yunus and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Indian author and human rights campaigner Arundhati Roy and, last year, the Aboriginal leader and 'father of reconciliation' Patrick Dodson.
On Wednesday 4th November John Pilger will receive the 2009 Sydney Peace Prize at a gala ceremony in the Maclaurin Hall at the University of Sydney. On Thursday November 5th he will give the City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture in the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House. On the morning of Friday November 6th, he will be the guest of 1500 high school students at a peace festival hosted by Cabramatta High School.
For further information contact the Sydney Peace Foundation:

Dr. Hannah Middleton 9351 4468 or 0418 668 098
Professor Stuart Rees on 9351 4763 or 0434930134

And "Book tickets through the Sydney Opera House box office on (02) 9250 7777 or online at" From his "Books That Counter Our 'Training' To Make War" (Information Clearing House):

These are extraordinary times. Flag-wrapped coffins of 18-year-old soldiers killed in a failed, illegal and vengeful invasion are paraded along a Wiltshire high street. Victory in Afghanistan is at hand, says the satirical Gordon Brown. On the BBC’s Newsnight, the heroic Afghan MP Malalai Joya, tries, in her limited English, to tell the British public that her people are being blown to bits in their name: 140 villagers, mostly children, in her own Farah Province. No parade for them. No names and faces for them. The suppression of the suffering of Britain’s and America's colonial victims is an article of media faith, a tradition so ingrained that it requires no instructions.
The difference today is that a majority of the British people are not fooled. The cheerleading newsreaders can say "Britain's resolve is being put to the test" as if the Luftwaffe is back on the horizon, but their own polls (BBC/ITN) show that popular disgust with the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq is strongest in the very communities where adolescents are recruited to fight them. The problem with the British public, says a retired army major on Channel 4 News, is that they need "to be trained and educated". Indeed they do, wrote Bertolt Brecht in The Solution, explaining that the people . . .
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

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