Thursday, February 25, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, February 25, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, an inquiry is told that England's JFIT  participated in torture and abuse, a Congressional committee is told Eli Lilly disguised suicide attempts in anti-depressant clinical trials, the draw down appears to be moving towards "slow down" at present, a political leader announces he wants to end a boycott, 3 Iraqi women are informed they will be hanged before elections take place and more.
Yesterday, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a full committee hearing whose purpose, Chair Bob Filner explained at the start, was "to look at the potential relationship between psychiatric medicines and suicides. Not a lovely topic but one that I think we have to address."  Filner noted that the suicide rate within the military "continues to increase at an alarming rate, far exceeding the comparable suicide rates among the general population."  The committee had four panels.  The first panel was composed of Dr. Peter Breggin (Ithaca, NY) and Andrew Leon (Weill Cornell Medical College), the second of Drs. M. David Rudd (University of Utah) and Annelle Primm (John Hopkins School of Medicine) and retired Commander Donald J. Farber, panel three was composed of the VA's Iraq Katz with other VAs as background singers and panel four was Dr. Bart Billings.
Dr. Breggin detailed Eli Lilly's efforts to disguise suicide as related to anti-depressants.  He first came across paperwork of the German government's equivalent of the US FDA "in the late 80s" where they expressed their concern to Eli Lilly over suicide rates and asked the drug maker to check their clinical trials.
Dr. Peter Breggin: Lilly found, depending on how you count it, a 6 to 12 to 1 ratio of suicide attempts -- not just thinking, attempts -- in the control group compared to placebo. Lilly never made it public. They never gave this report that I found to the Germans, they never made it available to the FDA.  I also found memos inside Lily explaining guilt and shame on the part of some German investigators for Lilly that the company was classifying suicides and suicide attempts reported by doctors to them as "no drug effect." or other harmless kinds of entities; thereby disgusing the suicide attempts and the completed suicides. In one of these memos, the gentleman declared, uhm, 'How am I going to explain this to my family?'   It was a genuine shame.
Dr. Breggin testified about various reactions and various ways of monitoring in clinical trials where a great deal more monitoring will take place than in real life use.  As he was detailing some of these, the chair asked a question.
Chair Bob Filner: Dr. Breggin, I don't want to interrupt but if an active duty soldier is given these medications, they may not even see that warning, right?  I mean --
Dr. Breggin:  Well, my experience, last year I spoke at the oldest military stress conference given -- Bart Billings, whom you know, retired army officer and psychologist, runs that -- and I talked to generals and I talked to mental health professionals and they all agreed that these warnings were hardly ever presented to the soldiers and that the army was, in a sense, acting as if it was unaware. And some of these people gave me estimates, not of the 15% on pyschiatric drugs that we often hear but up to 30% of soldiers in some sections -- marines in particular, was one that was mentioned to me.
Chair Bob Filner: So they're not even  informed of the risks?
Dr. Breggin: No, no. And as we go on further, we'll see that the FDA tells doctors you should -- and the word "should" is in the label -- you should share this information with the patient and the family and make sure they understand it. It's not just you repeat it to them. You sort of, "Hey, this is, I want you to understand, this is  what may happen to you." It's what I do in my clinical practice. I don't say, "By the way, the drug may cause this or that," you know, I just make sure over a period of many sessions that the person understands the risks.
We're not interested in Leon's testimony which was inaccurte in many parts.  He was urged to come to a point by the Chair but couldn't or wouldn't, he and Breggin were asked questions by House Rep Ciro D. Rodriguez and Leon jumped all over Breggin for answering and implied that the question was only for him when Rep Rodriguez was not only asking them both, Rodriguez has made clear he was asking them both the same question by using "you both" in his question.
At one point, Leon insulted Breggin in what may end up the rudest moment in Congress for the year. "You don't know what you're talking about," Leon snapped at Breggin.  Rodriguez redirected with another question. He also snapped at Rodriguez.  Not concerned about tone here but including his rudeness to convey just how unprofessional Andrew C. Leon was. And to be clear, he attempted to give 'expert' testimony on psychiatry when he is not a psychiatrist.  Myself, I prefer psychologists to psychiatrists (for historical reasons including the ingrained sexism to be found in psychiatry).  So I don't say that as a sneer or to suggest the Leon, being a psychologist, is not a real doctor.  But he is not a psychologist either.  Translation, he's not a doctor. But he is not qualified to speak of what psychiatry does or does not do.  (Breggin, for any wondering is a psychiatrist.)  He was so offensive in his remarks that Chair Filner felt compelled to note,  "Just your last sentence, Dr. Leon, I don't think anybody was ever suggesting not to treat people. I mean, you're setting up a false straw man there."
I'll leave our focus on the first panel or we'll get lost in this hearng.  Yesterday's snapshot covered a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Iraq chaired by Russ Carnahan. Kat covered it last night in "Subcommittee on Oversight hears about Iraq," Wally filled in for Rebecca and covered it in "Congress advances technology today via Carnahan" and Ava filled in for Trina and covered it in "The 'powerless' Stuart Bowen."  Kat will be emphasizing some aspect of the Veterans Affairs Committee hearing at her site tonight.  And Rebecca's just invited Wally to blog at her site tonight on the hearing so he's grabbing a rare moment that took place -- one that should take place in every hearing. 
Well over a million Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war.  One is Baha Mosua whose 'crime' was going to work.  The 26-year-old was arrested in a dragnet at the hotel -- arrested by British forces and he went on to die in their custody. As Adrian Shaw (Daily Mirror) reminds, Baha died of 93 injuries -- all while in British custody -- in September 2003.  The ongoing inquiry into Baha Mosua's death is taking place in England. Today is day 66, we last noted it in the November 16th snapshot when Donald Payne testified that he and others repeatedly kicked and hit -- for over 48 hours -- a hooded and restrained Baha and Payne pinned some of his previous lying down to "self-preservation."
Today the inquiry heard from a retired British military colonel (retired in April 2006) who is identified as witness "S009." Gerald Elias began the questioning by noting a statement S009 signed August 17, 2009 and reviewing some basics from it such as S009 was "commission in 1981," immediately "attached to the Queen's Dragoon Guards," "served in Northern Ireland and in Bosnia . . . Kosovo," etc.  Among 2009's duties in Iraq were building and running a Theatre of war Internment Facility (TIF).
He was asked about the "shock of capture."
S009: My understanding of "shock of capture" is that feeling of dislocation, of -- I think it is a spiritual thing more than anything else. You have just been captured by the enemy, you feel profoundly uncomfortable, you feel dislocated from your normal systems and hierarchies and processes and, as a result, my understanding is that produces a vulnerability in you. I mean a bit like me sitting here today, I wish you to like me to remove some of my stress. I would put it in those terms.
Gerald Elias: Were you given any training prior to your deployment to Iraq in relation to the maintenance of the shock of capture, for example?
S009: No. My understanding of the maintenance of shock of capture is really all about speed. You know, there is a window when the human psyche wishes to be loved and wanted and cosseted and, after a while, most people get used to new circumstances reasonably quickly. So the point of maintenance of shock of capture is to get the person that you have detained to the person who is going to question them as fast as possible -- no more than that.
Gerald Elias: So speed of delivery. But you didn't understand that there were any other techniques that might be used to maintain the shock of capture? 
S009: No, and indeed if you are referring to things like sleep deprivation and all that, I would say that those would be inappropriate.
S009 testified that interrogations took place at the camp he was in charge of  (April 2003) but he was prevented from observing them when they were carried out by Joint Forward Intelligence Teams (JFIT). JFIT is a mixture of military and civilians and is considered part of military intelligence.
Gerald Elias: Mr S009, may I move on, please, to your concerns about what was going on in the JFIT. First of all, in general terms, can you tell us briefly what it was that you saw or experienced which concerned you?
S009: Yes. I witnessed a number of prisoners of war, kneeling in the sun with what I believed to be plastic hoods over their heads and with their hands handcuffed behind their backs, in two rows, facing each other.
Gerald Elias: You considered that treatment to be wrong?
S009: Yes.
Gerald Elias: Unlawful?
S009: Yes.
Gerald Elias: Just before going into the detail of that and what you did about it and the conversations you may have had about it, was that the extent -- the full extent -- of what you saw that concerned you in the JFIT?
S009: Yes, pretty much. I mean I felt that the organisation was not running well, so I had concerns about the general efficiency of that unit and its effectiveness as well.
Staying with violence, Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) notes that Muslim Woman Org has announced that three Iraqi women -- Wassan Talib, Zainab Fadhil and Liqa Muhammad -- are now scheduled to be hanged on March 3rd.  On the latest installment of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) Shatha al-Obosi -- deputy chair of the Iraqi Parliament's Human Rights Committee --  declared to host Jasim al-Azzawi, "We want to delay the execution orders after the elections because I receive many claims from people that they take their speech, their -- and they sign them under the torture. So many of them are innocent. We are afraid if there is a few number of them are innocent so we must protect all of them and make another investigation with them to guarantee if they are innocent or not."  Apparently, the three women won't be protected. In some of today's reported violence . . .
 Reuters notes,  dropping back to Wednesday, a Mosul grenade attack which injured two people.  An Iraqi corresondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports that "1.5 ton of TNT" was seized before it could enter Falluja today and that Falluja police also detonated a car bomb and a roadside bomb.  The police are claiming the seized bomb material was to be used March 7th (during the elections).

Shootings and other?
 Reuters notes 2 people killed in a Mosul "car workshop," 1 woman killed in a Mosul home invasion (killed apparently by blows to the head), 1 man killed in a Mosul drive-by.
Alsumaria TV reports a young woman's corpse was discovered in a Khales orchard.
Iraqis are gearing up for another election -- March 5th to March 7th.  Yesterday's snapshot included:

Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) explains today, "So you thought that Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami's Accountability and Justice (De-Ba'athification) Committee had done all they could to wreck Iraq's elections and advance their political agendas? Not even. Yesterday, in what al-Hayat calls a surprise move, Lami announced that the AJC had named 376 military, police and intelligence officers for de-Ba'athification. The list includes a number of important people in senior positions."

Xinhua (link has text and audio) reports
the newly banned "included 58 officers from the Defense Ministry, 10 of whom held senior posts, including Aboud Qanber, former commander of the Baghdad operations. [. . .]  The list also featured 125 officers from the national intelligence agency, including 10 high-ranking officers who were in charge of political assassinations and tracking down the opposition".  This week's banning comes as Nouri al-Maliki announces he's bringing some people back into the government.  Marc Santora (New York Times) reports that Nouri's mouth piece announced 20,000 officers who served in Iraq's army during the Saddam Hussein era will be brought back into the military.  The National Dialogue front's spokesperson Mayson al-Damalogi states, "This is purely a means of trying to gain more votes" on the part of al-Maliki.  In other election news, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that Saleh al-Mutlaq and Ayad Allawi held a press conference today in which al-Mutlaq retracted his announced boycott. al-Mutlaq is not running. He remains banned and he is part of the National Dialogue Front. Rebecca Santana and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) express the belief that this "effectively lifts the lingering threat that minority Sunnis would boycott the vote".  No, it doesn't.  That's a belief but it's not based in any reality.  It's a hope, maybe.  It's not factual.  A leader of a political party can call a boycott or not.  It's the people who boycott though.  al-Mutlaq can call a boycott and no one may go along with it.  The people decide if there's a boycott or not.  An individual doesn't make the decision -- not even with a call for a boycott or a call not to boycott.   You can say al-Mutlaq withdrew his call for a boycott and be factual.  You can even say this may erase the threat of a boycott.  You cannot, however, be factual and also declare that the threat of a boycott is now gone.  You can't do that unless you're a pyschic and I was under the impression that the "P" in "AP" stood for "Press," not "Psychics."  Middle East Online explains of the announcement that the the bloc "urged its followers to turn out in numbers."  The urging is needed because people will decide what they want to do and what they don't want to do.  If that weren't the case, the bloc would have only announced, "We're back in."  Charles Levinson (Wall St. Journal) gets it correct: "The announcement by National Dialogue Front leader Saleh al-Mutlaq could ease fears voiced by U.S. officials that a Sunni boycott would sap the vote of legitimacy and possibly lead to violence after the poll, as happened after the previous national elections in December 2005."
Watch Ahrar Party Leader Ayad Jamal Aldin on al-Baghdadiya tonight
On the back of polls showing a surge in support, Ahrar Leader Ayad Jamal Aldin will take to the airwaves tonight to make the case for radical, popular change in Iraq.                       
He will use a prime time interview on Baghdadiya at 10:00pm AST to take questions on Ahrar's comprehensive plans on delivering water, jobs, electricity and security under the next Iraqi parliament.
Speaking from Baghdad tonight, Jamal Aldin said, "The people want change - real change. The corrupters and outside agents can use all the tricks they like, we are strong enough to prevail. One group has the power in Iraq right now, and that is the Iraqi people."
Watch the interview here.
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media Bureau   
Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:            
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.
On the elections and the targeting,  Rhonda Shafei (Columbia Spectator) offers:

America cannot afford the fallout that is bound to result from the injustices being committed by the Iraqi government.  
The most notable injustice is the disqualification of 511 candidates by the Iraqi Accountability and Justice Commission, a subset of the Iraqi Elections Committee. The board is run by two dubious politicians, Ahmad Chalabi and Ali al-Lami, both prominent Shiites who have been accused by top U.S. commander Raymond Odierno of having intimate ties with Iran. But their suspect backgrounds don't end there: Al-Lami was arrested in 2008 for alleged ties to a Baghdad bombing that killed four Americans and six Iraqis, and Chalabi is the man accused of providing the Bush administration with faulty information on Iraq's weapons program.
It's no surprise, then, that the commission would bar the 500-odd candidates, the vast majority of whom are Sunni politicians with former ties to the Baath party of Saddam Hussein. Both Chalabi and al-Lami acted as key figures on the 2003-2004 Supreme National De-Baathification Commission created by Paul Bremer. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the current justice commision is a continuation of the McCarthyite de-Baathification procedure -- McCarthyite for its arbitrary firing of 30,000 ex-Baath politicians, thousands of intelligence officials, and all military officers above the rank of colonel. There exists no constitutional basis for the disqualification of candidates by the election board. If the elections are to move forward with a substantial number of Sunnis missing from the ballots, how could results possibly be representative of Iraqi society?

Monday Gen Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, declared at a DC press briefing that the rate of draw down could be slowed. Patrick Martin (WSWS) words it this way, "In an apparent effort to prepare US and Iraqi public opinion for a change in policy, the top US commander in Baghdad announced Monday that he had briefed the Pentagon on plans to keep combat troops in Iraq after an upcoming August 31 deadline for their withdrawal."  Martin goes on to note "Stratfor [Global Intelligence] noted that Odierno's appearance at the Pentagon was carefully choreographed by the Obama administration. Odierno 'came to Washington publicize the plan: He did not do this without direction, authorization and coordination with the White House'."  David Riedel (CBS News) reported that former journalist (current counter-insurgency cheerleader) Thomas E. Ricks announced today -- in a scoop worthy of Hedda Hopper which is apparently Ricks' new online role -- that the possibility of slowing down a draw down was in fact an official request submitted to the administration by Odierno.  Dahr Jamail (via CounterCurrents) notes that the US government appears to be using the election unrest as an excuse to prolong the war and he provides this background on the players who now concern the US government:

The US government and corporate media prefer to focus on Iran's "meddling" in Iraq; yet, the key players responsible for most of the political discord in Iraq are US-installed and -backed men who have always had clear links to Tehran.  

Maliki is a case in point.   

Maliki was an Iraqi in exile in Tehran from 1982-1990, and then remained in Syria before returning to Iraq after the US invasion of 2003. Maliki worked as a political officer for the Dawa Party while in Syria, developing close ties with Hezbollah and Iran. 

The Dawa party backed the Iranian Revolution, as well as backing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the Iran-Iraq War. The group continues to receive financial support from Tehran. Maliki is the secretary general of the Dawa Party.  

In April 2006, then US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her UK counterpart, Jack Straw, flew to Baghdad in order to replace then Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari with Nouri al-Maliki. There was no democratic process involved in the decision. 

Another US-backed Iraqi ex-patriot with ties to Iran is Ahmed Chalabi.       

Recently the US Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, along with General Odierno, referred to Chalabi as Tehran's leading agent in Iraq. Chalabi, who leads Iraq's Justice and Accountability Committee that has been banning certain candidates from the upcoming vote, was said to be "clearly influenced by Iran" last week by General Odierno.   

Chalabi played a major role in providing the Bush administration with information it wanted in order to justify invading Iraq. He is responsible for having Mutlaq, along with hundreds of other candidates, eliminated from the election on the mostly fraudulent grounds that they are or were loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.           

Along with Sunni leaders, his targets also include secular nationalists, and the two most important candidates who have been banned are leading members of cross-sectarian alliances, which raises fears that Iraq could be drifting toward a Shiite autocracy.

Tunring to the US . . .
Now it all begins
Or continues to
Spiral down
Spiral down
Look upon the self
Look upon the other
We need a better understanding
Or we'll spiral down
Spiral down 
Continue to spiral down
I'm no where near my peace
As you spiral down
Now it all begins
Or continues to
Spiral down
Spiral down

Look upon the self
Look upon the other
We need a better understanding
Or we'll spiral down

Spiral down
Continue to spiral down
I'm no where near my peace
As you spiral down
-- "Spiral Down" written by Michael Timmins, recorded by the Cowboy Junkies on their album at the end of paths taken
Peace takes action and A.N.S.W.E.R. and other organizations are sponsoring March 20th marches in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The march is to demand the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Students for a Democratic Society are another organization that will be participating and they note:
While the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is growing ever larger, the occupation of Iraq is still raging, nearing its seventh anniversary. With over 4,300 US soldiers and over 1.3 million Iraqi civilians estimated dead, something has to be done to stop this senseless slaughter.            
This year Students for a Democratic Society will hold a national week of action March 15th to 20th where students will organize protests and direct actions at campuses across the country in opposition to the ongoing, brutal occupations.           
The need for a vibrant anti-war movement has rarely been felt more than this very moment, while the United States drops trillions of dollars into unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, during the worst economic crisis in 80 years. Students are struggling to pay for school while tuition skyrockets, and states lose billions of dollars to two continuing occupations.
On Saturday, March 20th, SDS will participate in a massive National March & Rally in D.C. hosted by A.N.S.W.E.R. to finish the week of action with tens of thousands of people in the street!                 
We're calling on students and youth from across the country to join us the week of March 15-20th in demanding: Fund Education, Not Occupation!         
For more information visit:
Radio, radio, as Elvis Costello once sang. Lila Giggles? Elaine covered her in "Lila Giggles and her worthless Connect the Dots." Chris Hedges is a guest on this week's Law & Disorder and Mike covered that in "'Health' 'care' 'reform' and Law & Disorder." Cindy Sheehan Soapbox is the radio program Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan does and her guest this week is John Pilger. They discuss many topics including Brand Obama and his war machine. In addition, Pilger offers that there was more than one gunman at the RFK assassination. Next week, Cindy interviews FBI whistle blower Colleen Rowley, FYI. (Hugo Chavez is her guest March 14th.) Remember that Ann is covering NPR's Fresh Air and her posts this week so far are "Miss Terry (Gross) 'forgets,' "Realities about Barack's Big Pharma Give Away" and "Fresh what?".  Lastly, TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
In 1995 and 1996, 66 gray wolves were relocated from Canada to
Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho to help recover a wolf
population that had been exterminated in the northern Rockies. The
wolf relocation
is considered one of the most successful wildlife
recovery projects ever attempted under the Endangered Species Act; today 
there are more than 1,600 wolves in the region. But a debate has erupted
between conservationists and ranchers over the question: how many wolves
are too many?

Last year, the Obama Administration entered the fray by removing
for some of these wolves, paving the way for controversial
state-regulated wolf hunts. The move has wolf advocates fuming, with
more than a dozen conservation groups suing the Interior Department to
restore federal protections. On February 26 at 8:30 pm (check local
listings), NOW reports on this war over wolves and implications for the