Monday, October 1, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a death, nearly 300 Iraqis were reported dead in the month of September (the actual number is higher), a member of Congress wonders 'since we knew that we were having trouble with the contractors that were supposed to be doing the safe wiring, why was the decision made not to inspect the contractors' facilities?,' General Ray Odierno talks about the United States long-term involvement in Iraq, and more.
Late yesterday, the US miltary announced: "FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Corps – Iraq died of a non-combat related injury Sept. 29. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The name of the service member will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is currently under investigation." The name of the fallen soldier is Army Cpl Ross Vogel III. WGAL reports that Mary Wiley told them her son died in Iraq while on his third deployment and that his survivors include two sons and a wife. DoD announced today that the 27-year-old died in Kut and that Ross Vogel was assigned to the 67th Signal Battalion, 35th Signal Brigade, Fort Gordon, Ga." Randy Key (WJBF) add, "Specialist Vogel enlisted in the Army in 2001, and has spent most of his career at Fort Gordon, with the 35th Signal Brigade, first with the Headquarters, 67th Signal Battalion, then the 518th Tactical Installation Networking Company, and a second assignment to the 67th Signal Battalion."
The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in the Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4347. The month of September saw 10 announced deaths. Thus far.
Thus far. If you're scratching your head, you're late to the party. I don't believe all the food's been put away yet in the kitchen, so go in there and help yourself. Those who arrived on time are fully aware that the US military often announces deaths from month X many days after month X has ended. It was a way to keep the death count for the month a little lower while reporters were still polishing their end of the month reflection pieces. Those really don't run these days, few papers even offer their own coverage of Iraq. The US military pulled the stunt most recently at the start of August allowing many outlets to offer "ONLY 7 US TROOPS KILLED IN JULY!" headlines. After the record 'low' was trumpeted, the US military made their announcement of, oh, yeah, we had an eighth death last month. The New York Times always gets punked. They ran with 7 for July and then started applauding August's 'only' 7 (August actually had seven deaths) and acted like they hadn't (wrongly) made a big deal out of the number seven when 'reporting' on July.
The monthly toll for September may rise above 10. That noted, if the number ten sticks, it was the sixth deadliest month of the year for US service members stationed in Iraq. And, for the record, if the number was 1 we still wouldn't run with 'only 1.' There's no 'only' when someone deployed to another country dies while serving. Shame on any who imply otherwise.
Monthly toll on Iraqis killed? All deaths aren't reported. Let's focus on the few that do get reported. September 1st through September 5th saw 29 deaths reported and 167 reported injured ("Tuesday (Sept. 1st) saw 3 people reported dead and five wounded. Wednesday saw 6 reported dead and eleven wounded. Thursday saw 14 reported dead and 129 injured. Friday saw one reported death and ten reported injured. Saturday saw 5 reported deaths and twelve reported wounded."). September 6th through September 12th saw 136 reported dead and 230 reported injured ("On Sunday, there were 24 reported deaths and 7 reported wounded, Monday 26 dead and 44 wounded, Tuesday 27 dead and 42 wounded, Wednesday 13 dead and 38 wounded, Thursday 31 dead and 75 wounded, Friday 4 dead and 7 wounded and Saturday 11 dead and 27 wounded.") September 13th through September 19th saw 61 reported dead and 114 reported injured ("Sunday saw 23 people reported dead and 24 wounded, Monday saw 9 reported dead and 19 reported injured, Tuesday saw 5 reported dead and 11 reported wounded, Wednesday saw 1 person reported dead and 4 reported injured, Thursday saw 10 reported dead and 31 reported injured, Friday saw 7 reported dead and 23 reported wounded and Saturday saw 6 people reported dead and 2 reported injured."). September 20th through September 26th saw 31 reported deaths and 21 people reported wounded ("Last Sunday 1 person was reported killed in Iraq and 6 injured. Monday and Tuesday, we're supposed to believe that no one was killed in Iraq. Reality, the press just had other things to do. Wednesday, the numbers were 7 dead and six injured. Thursday saw two people reported wounded. Friday was 16 dead and 7 wounded. Saturday saw 7 reported deaths. In all, 31 reported deaths and 21 people reported injured.") As September wound down, Sunday saw 5 reported deaths and 17 reported injured, Monday saw 25 reported dead and 44 reported wounded, Tuesday saw 3 reported dead and 5 reported wounded, and Wednesday saw 7 reported dead and 20 reported wounded for a total in the final September week of 40 reported deaths and 86 reported wounded. For the month? 297 reported injured and 618 reported wounded. At least. ICCC does a valuable job reporting on the US service member death toll. They do a lousy job of Iraqis. Their total is 158 deaths. The number is 297 and they actually include more outlets -- at least in their linking -- on violence. The 297 is all McClatchy, Reuters, some US outlets plus China's Xinhua. Our total is 297 and our total is an undercount and we're not going to pretend it's not. But our total is much higher than ICCC. And not only is our tally higher, so is the official tally from the Iraqi government. AFP reports that they list the total number of deaths for the month of September to be 203. Lower than our 297, higher than ICCC. While the Iraqi 'government' tries to get you focused on the Iraqi civilian tally (125 -- they're stressing it could be seen as spitting on Iraqi Security Forces), the Red Cross' Juan-Pedro Schaerer explains to Reuters of the sitaution in Iraq, "There is a lack of respect for human life. Even if security has improved a lot ... you still have dozens of people killed on a daily basis."
Turning to political news, Iraq has elections scheduled for January 2010. However, with no law passed yet, "scheduled" may not be the correct term. They 'hope,' hope to hold elections in January. Friday Alsumaria reported that Nouri has revealed he's creating his own coalition and "will announce" it in the next week. The coalition will be Dawlat al-Qanun (State of Law) and will be a mixed coalition as Nouri attempts to paint himself more secularist due to the January 2009 elections in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces indicating that fundamentalists were not popular with the people. It is now next week. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reveals his coalition is made up over 40 parties (many of them minor) with Sunni tribal leaders in the mix. Al Jazeera quotes the self-aggrandizing al-Maliki declaring today, "The formation of this alliance makrs a historic turning point in the process of rebuilding the modern Iraqi state." Aamer Madhani (USA Today) speaks to Iraqi MP Safoua al-Suhail who has joined his coalition and she says, "I think it says something that this list can include (Shiite) Islamists, Sunnis and a secular liberal democrat like me." Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) notes Nouri's slate "failed to draw the Sunni support that many had expected it would. He lost the backing of Mahmoud al-Mashhadari, the vitriolic former parliament speaker, and more importantly, Ahmed Abu Risha, whose borther led the U.S.-baked counterinsurgency in western Iraq. Nor did he win ovre more established Sunni or securlar blocs or parties that could have delivered him broader support in Sunni provinces". Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) observe Nouri has "put himself in competition with fellow Shiite Muslims of his onetime political ally, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council." SIIC is, of course, focusing on non-sectarian issues such as the corruption of those in currently in charge. Suadad al-Salhy, Muhanad Mohammed, Khalid al-Ansary, Mohammed Abbas, Missy Ryan and Myra MacDonald (Reuters) note that "in facing off against ISCI, Maliki will battle a well-funded and well-organised party. His group also lacks several Iraqi political heavy-hitters who have not yet joined a coalition and whose support could be crucial." Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "Iraqis who are more familiar with Maliki the longtime Islamist are wary of his reincarnation as a populist." al Dulaimy quotes political analyst Haider al Musaiw stating, "Maliki has changed. The change is a result of the failure of the Islamist parties, and (he's) bending to the people's increasing demands for the return of secular rule." Nouri created his own slate after SIIC refused to guarantee him that, if their slate won, they would make him Prime Minister again.
Yesterday, the top US commander, Gen Ray Odierno, testified to the US House Armed Services Committee. Ranking Member Howard McKeon asked for a walk through of the Iraqi political process since their elections are different.
General Ray Odierno: I'll wal -- Congressman, I'll walk you through in general terms. First, the el - by the [Iraqi] Constitution, the election is supposed to occur no later than the 31st of January. Right now, it's scheduled for the 16th of January. Again, pending the passing of the election law. Once the election is completed, they take 45 days to certify the results of the election. And so what happens is we'll have hundreds of international observers -- maybe thousands, there's going to be quite a few international observers -- as well as the Iraqi High Electoral Commission will certify the results, they will take all complaints and then they will deem the elections to be credible, legitimate or not. That takes forty-five days. Once that happens, you then have thirty days to begin the formation of seating the Council of Representatives. You then have another thirty days to then select the leadership, the presidency, and then you have another time period to select the prime minister and then the Speaker [of Parliament]. So within that time period, we expect that it will take from January to June or so, maybe July, to seat the new government. In 2005, following the elections, the government -- the elections were in December and the government was seated in May of 2005 [C.I. note, he means May of 2006]. This is the Parliamentary system of government and it just takes time for them to do this. So it's -- there is timelines on it, they will follow those timelines strictly, but it will take time to seat that government.
That was from yesterday's hearing. We'll drop back to it for an exchange that took place at the end of the hearing.
US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: I wanted to talk to you about a conversation I had with General [David] Petraeus earlier this year when I was talking about the electrocution deaths of some of our soldiers. And I was told there was Operation Task Force Safe and that they were going to be doing the investigation. And I believe that the investigation was supposed to end right about now. But again comes some horrible news about a former American military man who came as a contractor to Iraq, Mr. [Adam] Hermanson, he was recently electrocuted. So I had a couple of questions for you, General --
Gen Ray Odierno: Sure.
US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: First of all, was his facility inspected or were you only inspecting the facilities that soldiers occupied?
Gen Ray Odierno: Yeah -- it was not inspected. Uh, what happens is -- as a contractor -- it's the responsibility of the contractor to ensure they have adequate facilities so we were not inspecting those facilities. However, since that incident, we have sent Task Force Safe over to first outline to all the contractors what's expected of them in terms of proper safety requirements and-and we've also offered them any assistance that they might need, with Task Force Safe, to go look at all of their facilities to ensure that they're in line with what we believe to be safe -- safe structures.
US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: Okay, since we knew that we were having trouble with the contractors that were supposed to be doing the safe wiring, why was the decision made not to inspect the contractors' facilities?'
General Ray Odierno: Yeah, I'm not sure we made a conscious decision not to inspect them. I think what we focused on was, uh, the Department of Defense personnel uh and uh I think as we continue to expand this, um, we will look -- but there are some contractual issues that we have to work through so we asked the lawyers to take a look at this to see what we can and can't do because of the fact that they are contractors. So we are working our way through this now. This obviously highlighted a problem that we all didn't understand at the time and so we continue to work it. And what I'm telling you is we're working this problem now but we have to go through some legal reviews and other things. We have offered some initial assistance just to make sure we don't have any repeated offenses in that specific contractor but there are many other contractors that have facilities that in some cases aren't even under Department of Defense and I don't even remember but I think this one wasn't under Department of Defense either. I think it was under a Department of State contract as well so that throws in a whole nother issue about how we do this. But we're working through this because we want to get rid of the bureaucracy so we save the lives of the people who are going there to work. And that's important to us.
US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: Well these men and women serve this country as well. And I really don't understand it because I know that many of them had access to the medical care that the military was providing so clearly there was some crossing over there if they felt comfortable not even reimubrsing, as you recall, I'm sure. So I just can't understand what happened there. Were there any other services provided for the people in those buildings?
General Ray Odierno: I'll have to -- I'll have to get back with you.
US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: Okay. If you could do that, I would appreciate that.
General Ray Odierno: I will.
US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: I have one last question. Can you comment on why the Department of Defense has declined to investigate the apparent electrocution of the American Department of Defense contractor?
Gen Ray Odierno: Again, I have to -- I have to go ahead and take a look at that and see exactly what happened, okay? I'll get you an answer back on that.
US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: I would appreciate that, General, because I feel very certain that when that family sent their loved one over to serve this country, they expected that we would do what we could to protect all of them --
Gen Ray Odierno: Sure
US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter: -- whether they were in uniform or whether they were serving as civilians.
For background on Adam Hermason, we'll drop back to the September 9th snapshot: "Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports that State Dept contractor (Triple Canopy) Adam Hermanson is dead at the age of 25 from 'showering in Baghdad'. Janine Hermanson states her husband died September 1st and that she was told it was from electrocution." Jermey Scahill (writing at The Nation) reported:
Hermanson's family suspects that Adam may have died as a result of faulty electrical wiring. And they have good reason to think that--at least sixteen US soldiers and two contractors have died from electrocution. The Pentagon's largest contractor in Iraq, KBR (a former Halliburton subsidiary), has for months been at the center of a Congressional investigation into the electrocution deaths because the company has the massive LOGCAP contract and is responsible for almost all of the electrical wiring in US-run facilities in Iraq. The eighteen soldiers and contractors died as a result of KBR's "shoddy work," according to Senator Frank Lautenberg.
Janine Hermanson: I just don't understand. It's not like he was killed by a bullet or killed by a roadside bomb. He was taking a shower.
Scott Schaffer: A wife asking questions about the death of her husband in Iraq.
Marisa Burke: His accident that had nothing to do with combat and why this widow now wants the government to investigate. It's our top story on Newswatch 16 at 6:00. Good evening everyone, I'm Marisa Burke.
Scott Schaffer: And I'm Scott Schaffer. It is a Newswatch 16 exclusive. A woman in Northumberland County is mourning her husband's death earlier this month in Iraq. He was electrocuted and she says it's not the first time it's happened to contractors working overseas. Newswatch's Jim Hamill, live tonight in our central Pennsylvania newsroom with a story you'll see only on 16. Jim?
Jim Hamill: Scott, Adam Hermanson was doing what many of us do every day when he died: Taking a shower. But Hermanson was far from home working as a security contractor in Baghdad's Green Zone. Now his wife and her family want to know who is responsible for his untimely death.
Janine Hermanson: I'm going to keep fighting for him. He fought for me and now it's my turn to fight for him.
Jim Hamill: These days Janine Hermanson lives with her parents near Muncy. Her late husband's belongings sit [covered from the elements] on the back proch. Earlier this month Adam Hermanson died while working as a security examiner in Iraq. The military medical examiner told Janine it appears Adam was electrocuted in the shower.
Janine Hermanson: It's been a month now and they still don't know who had the contract or contracts on his facility.
Jim Hamill: Janine says the couple planned to buy a home in the Muncy area when Adam finished working for the firm Triple Canopy. Now she spends hours every day trying to find out what went wrong? Her father says Adam did not deserve to die like this.
John Sivak: Our poor daughter. No husband. 25-years-old. This is insanity.
Jim Hamill: Janine showed us pictures of Adam. Both served in the Air Force, it's where they met. Following his death, Janine tells us she isn't getting straight answers from company officials or military officials or not only that. But Janine has learned Adam's case would make the 19th electrocution death in Iraq since 2003. That includes service members and contractors. Senator Bob Casey told us in a phone interview he's been working on this issue since early 2008 and is filing an amendment that would require inspections on any contract work paid for by tax payers.
Senator Bob Casey: It's disturbing and troubling to me that we have to file an amendment like this. This should already be part of what the army does anyway.
Jim Hamill: As for Janine, she doesn't plan on giving up on her quest for answers.
Janine Hermanson: I'm going to make sure that I find out who's responsible and make this stop. I'm tired of people not talking to me. You know, I have every right to know what happened to my husband.
Jim Hamill: Now Senator Casey says that amendment could take months to pass. The State Dept is investigating. And Triple Canopy, the company Adam Hermanson was working for, says it cannot comment until an investigation is complete. Jim Hamill, Newswatch 16, live in the central Pennsylvania newsroom.
Yesterday, Brett R. Crossley (Daily Item) noted Adam Hermanson had deployed to Iraq three times while serving in the Air Force as well as one tour in Uzbekistan. His obituary notes his motto was: "Live on day at a time, but to the fullest."
We covered Wednesday's hearing in yesterday's snapshot and Kat covered it last night. There are a few other exchanges I'd like to highlight and hopefully we can note at least one more tomorrow. Gen Ray Odierno spoke today at a Pentagon briefing and declared, "I'm not sure we will ever see anyone declare victory in Iraq because, first off, I'm not sure we'll know for ten years or five years." He declared that he expected the number of US troops in Iraq not to dip below 120,000 before the end of 2009. In reply to a question from Luiz Martinez (ABC News), Odierno confirmed what the press appeared to miss yesterday, the October draw-down "was one that was planned." This was not a new draw-down. Responding to the Voice of America's Al Pessin, Odierno replied, "I think the help I'm describing is that within the context of the strategic framework agreement, that it covers many different areas, from education, technological, security. And so it has to [be] about providing long-term assistance for developing systems. For example, from the military side. Also developing economic capacity, developing educational capacity, medical capacity -- all of those things. And I think, as we do that, that helps to build their institutions. So that's what I see happening beyond 2011." Beyond 2011, pay attention, Odierno just listed things the US will be doing for Iraq including on "the military side." The earlier quote, "I'm not sure we will ever see anyone declare victory in Iraq because, first off, I'm not sure we'll know for ten years or five years"? Odierno said after it, "And that's why I tell that the engagement after 2011 is as simportant as our continued engagements prior to 2011. Again, I don't mean military engagement necessarily." He's referring back to that list of engagments of which military is one. "I mean," he continued, "engagement across the spectrum of our government, in order to help them continue to build into a stable institution."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded six people (three were police officers), a rocket attack near Baghdad International Airport and a Mosul roadside bombing. Reuters notes a Falluja car bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured.
Shootings and arrests?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports police shot 1 suspect in Mosul. Reuters states the man was suspected of kidnapping and he was shot dead in a "sting." If accurate, that would mean the person who could have led them to the hostage is now dead. Iraqi Justice, will be right back. Reuters notes that, in Baghad, Khalid Masur Ismail was arrested "alleged financer of the Shi'ite militia group Kata'bi Hezbollah".
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered with gun "shots to the head".
In legal news, Avery Fellow (Courthouse News Service) reports US District Judge Ricardo Urbina has ruled US citizen Shawqi Ahmad Omar can be turned over to the Iraqi custody. Emma Schwartz (US News & World Reports) reported last year, "Born to Jordanian parents in Kuwait, Omar was once a member of the Minnesota National Guard. In 2004, however, he was captured during a military raid on his Baghdad home, where the government alleges he was harboring an Iraqi insurgent and four Jordanian fighters. The military alleges Omar ran a kidnapping ring targeting foreigners and that he was close to the late insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi. Indeed, Omar was even charged in a Jordanian indictment along with Zarqawi in an alleged chemical plot. Omar says he is innocent and came to Iraq to look for reconstruction work. The United States says it wants Omar to face justice in the Iraqi system, but a federal appeals court held that he could not immediately be transferred to the Iraqis without further review."
At Make Them Accountable, Caro asks if everyone remembers when Barack Obama 'had to' be the nominee "because he'd bring transparency to the political process in Washington?" She then goes on to highlight Brent Budowsky (The Hill) wondering if there's a "secret deal" between Barack and the insurance companies. Meanwhile David Finkel's The Good Soldiers came out earlier this month. Daniel Okrent examines the release in "'The Good Soldiers' - Book review" (Fortune):
Let me be direct. "The Good Soldiers" by David Finkel (Sarah Crichton Books/FSG) is the most honest, most painful, and most brilliantly rendered account of modern war I've ever read. I got no exercise at all the day I gulped down its 284 riveting pages.
Early in 2007, Finkel, a Washington Post reporter, embedded himself with the Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of the Fourth Infantry Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division -- colloquially, the 2-16. Its 800 men and women were among the troops who were meant to stabilize Iraq. They were a wave in the surge.
Meanwhile Christine Dempsey (Hartford Courant) reports on Iraq Veterans Against the War's Jeff Bartos who was among the approximately 200 demonstrators who were arrested at the G20 summit. Yesterday Bartos had the charges dropped in an agreement that will find him doing community service. He tells Dempsey, "I'm pretty satisfied with it. A, it lets me do something that I do anyway, which is nonprofit work. B, it clears my name of any charges. And C, I don't have to go back to Pittsburgh."
With Aimee Allison, David Solnit authored the seminal Army Of None -- a must read and, sadly, one of the few books of this era you can say that about. (It's a wonderful book.) David Solnit notes an action taking place later this month:
Here are five things you can do to make the October 24th Global Climate Action Day rock the Bay.
It's shaping up to be amazing-- bikes, surfers, localized BART actions and a spoken word/poets/writers read out. But we really need your help and the world really needs the US climate justice movement to turn the "street heat" way up!
1) Email your groups, networks and friends. See email below-- add a personal/organizational note.
2) Get out postcards and put up posters. We have lots of cool postcards and posters by the end of the week. Get postcards at the Global Exchange office or at any Mob. for Climate Justice West/Oct 24th Meet or call David 510 967-7377.
3) Attend a mobilizing meeting. The schedule of open planning meetings is below and we need YOU!
4) Plan to participate. Can you take on doing Public Education/Action at your BART Station/transit hub? Sign up to be one of 350 bikers or surfers (BYOB)? Can you volunteer on the day of to take on one of many needed tasks--come to a meeting or send an email to
5) Form a climate action affinity group with 5-25 of your friends, neighbors, folks from you organization or union, etc to participate in Oct 24 together, and plan to participate in the Nov 30 Global Day of Nonviolent Climate Justice Civil Disobedience and Protest. Sign up online at:
BAY AREA OCT 24 MEET SCHEDULE
Thursday, October 1 6pm outreach, 7pm general
Global Exchange 2017 Mission St. at 16th(16th St BART), 2nd Floor, SF
Tuesday October 6 6:30-8:30
2211 Mission St Apt C., San Francisco
near SE corner of Mission and 18th, towards 19th (16th St BART)
Wednesday October 14 6:30
Global Exchange 2017 Mission St. at 16th(16th St BART), 2nd Floor, SF
Wednesday October 21 6:30
Global Exchange 2017 Mission St. at 16th(16th St BART), 2nd Floor, SF
Tuesday October 27 Debrief/November 30/Next Steps
Global Exchange 2017 Mission St. at 16th(16th St BART), 2nd Floor, SF