Thursday, March 18, 2010

7 years

Yesterday, the Defense Dept announced, "Spc. Steven J. Bishop, 29, of Christiansburg, Va., died March 13 in Tikrit, Iraq, while supporting combat operations. He was assigned to the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, 352nd Civil Affairs Command, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C." Angela Hatcher (WSLS) notes his survivors include "his parents in Floyd," Virginia. Jorge Valencia (Roanoke Times) adds, "Bishop grew up in Floyd County and was a starting tackle on the county's high school football team until he graduated in 1999, coach Winfred Beale said. As a student and after graduating, he frequented restaurants such as D.J.'s Drive In and listened to WSLC-FM, Star Country, said friend and high school classmate Ben Hall. He served as a volunteer firefighter with the Floyd County Fire Department sometime between 2001 and 2005, and lived with his parents until 2007, Hall said. In September that year, he bought a one-story, four-bedroom house off of South Franklin Street in Christiansburg, according to town records." Richard Jordan died Tuesday while serving in Iraq and he also had played high school football. Bob Susnjara (Daily Herald) reports, "In addition to football, Jordan was a member of Antioch High's acclaimed Tom-Tom student newspaper staff for two years, Schoenfelder said. Jordan went from Antioch High to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and most recently lived in the Detroit area."

Meanwhile Whitny Doyle (Alibi) speaks with a military nurse who worked with wounded service members in Europe and then worked with wounded Iraqis in Iraq. Among other things, she explains:

One thing I learned about serving in a war is that everyone has a breaking point. My breaking point came a little later than some of the others [in my mission], and it took the form of depression. My self-esteem plummeted. Maybe that's just the nature of war.
I didn't do a good job setting boundries. I was so concerned with convincing them that Americans are good people, I exhausted my reservoir.
But now Army nurses and doctors deploy for six months instead of a year, and I hear that's really helped people cope with the experience. Because by the time I finally made it home after a year, I felt totally isolated and worthless. Normal people on the street had no idea what I’d been through, so I felt alone. I struggled with depression and sought counseling.
The counseling has really helped me because I now realize that, like a lot of nurses, I will give of myself until nothing is left. And with the work demands and backdrop of war, I think that limiting someone's exposure to six months will help minimize the strain.
A few of the people I worked with attempted suicide. A medical service officer I lived with made the national news when she took a psyche nurse hostage with her gun and eventually shot herself in the stomach. And I think my mission had a 75 percent divorce rate. But, in my experience of a woman who never left base, the time factor played a crucial role. The first few months of deployment are exciting, but continued exposure is draining. Unfortunately, the new six-month timeframe only applies to nurses and doctors, not to everyone else.

From yesterday's snapshot, we'll note the following:

Turning to England and legal news. Robert Thomson died serving in Iraq at the age of 22 on January 31, 2004 in what England's Ministry of Defence termed "a tragic accident." A court of law begs to differ. BBC News reports that a British military inquiry "blamed Mr Thomson" for the "tragic accident" (he was buried alive when the trench he was in collapsed) but the Court of Session overruled that and awarded Margaret Valentine forty-two thousand pounds (US equivalent: approximately $64,398). His mother is quoted stating, "It has taken six years and it was never about the money. Money would never bring him back, supposing they gave me forty-million pounds. My laddie died a horrific death. He struggled to get out [of the trench] but couldn't. It was about getting here, a judge ruling that there was negligence. It was totally unsafe work and there was no regard for his safety. I always knew he never entered the trench of his own volition."

Hazel Mollison and Brian Horne (The Scotsman) report, "Ms Valentine's solicitor, Patrick McGuire, described the accident as 'one of the worst examples of a complete disregard for health and safety I have seen in my career'. He said: 'If this had happened in the UK, we would be talking about a criminal prosecution'."

The seventh year mark for the Iraq War approaches. Dennis Myers (Reno News & Review) speaks with various citizens about the $711,343,548,694 price tag of the illegal war and where they think the money should have been spent. We'll note this press release from the Institute for Public Accuracy, "After Seven Years: Iraq War 'Forgotten':"

Born in New York to an American Jewish mother (daughter of Holocaust survivors) and an Iraqi Muslim father, Wasfi has a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She spent three months in Iraq with her family in 2006. She has been speaking against the occupation since 2004. She is currently working on a book on her experiences. Webpage:

Jamail's most recent piece is "The New 'Forgotten' War," which states: "While U.S. forces have begun to slowly pull back in Iraq, approximately 96,000 American troops and 114,000 private contractors still remain in the country -- along with an embassy the size of Vatican City. Upwards of 400 Iraqi civilians still die in a typical month (Iraq Body Count, 12/31/09), and fallout from the occupation that is now responsible, by some estimates, for 1 million Iraqi deaths (Extra!, 1/2/08) continues to severely impact Iraqis in ways that go uncovered by the U.S. press. ...

"Corporate media coverage of the ongoing Iraqi refugee crisis -- the U.N. estimates that more than 4.5 million Iraqis in all have been displaced from their homes (, 1/09) -- continues to be scant. The stories that do appear tend to be local stories about Iraqi refugees in the newspaper's home city (e.g., Chicago Tribune, 10/25/09). ...

Jamail is the author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq and The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. He recently wrote the pieces "U.S. Using Iraqi Political Discord to Justify Continuance of Occupation" and "Women Miss Saddam."
Webpage: MidEast Dispatches
For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

"The New 'Forgotten' War" (Extra! via Dahr's site) is Dahr's latest article on Iraq:

From early on in the occupation of Iraq, one of the most pressing concerns for Iraqis-besides ending the occupation and a desperate need for security-has been basic infrastructure. The average home in Iraq today, over six and a half years into the occupation, operates on less than six hours of electricity per day (AP, 9/7/09). “A water shortage described as the most critical since the earliest days of Iraq’s civilization is threatening to leave up to 2 million people in the south of the country without electricity and almost as many without drinking water,” the Guardian (8/26/09) reported; waterborne diseases and dysentery are rampant. The ongoing lack of power and clean drinking water has even led Iraqis to take to the streets in Baghdad (AP, 10/11/09), chanting, “No water, no electricity in the country of oil and the two rivers.”

Devastation wrought by the occupation, coupled with rampant corruption among the Western contractors awarded the contracts to rebuild Iraq’s demolished infrastructure, are to blame (International Herald Tribune, 7/6/09). Ali Ghalib Baban, Iraq’s minister of planning, said late last year (International Herald Tribune, 11/21/09) that the billions of dollars the U.S. has spent on so-called reconstruction contracts in Iraq has had no discernible impact. “Maybe they spent it,” he said, “but Iraq doesn’t feel it.”

Last January, the Los Angeles Times ran a story (1/26/09) that highlighted the lack of electricity: “As elections near, people say it’s hard to have faith in leaders when they don’t even have electricity,” was the subhead. But most other large U.S. papers have avoided the topic-unless it is brought up in such a way as to blame Iraqis for the problem, as the New York Times (11/21/09) did with its piece, “U.S. Fears Iraqis Will Not Keep Up Rebuilt Projects.”

Further complicating matters, a drought that is now over four years old plagues most of Iraq. In the country’s north, lack of water has forced more than 100,000 people to abandon their homes since 2005, with 36,000 more on the verge of leaving (AP, 10/13/09).

Corporate media coverage of the ongoing Iraqi refugee crisis-the U.N. estimates that more than 4.5 million Iraqis in all have been displaced from their homes (, 1/09)-continues to be scant. The stories that do appear tend to be local stories about Iraqi refugees in the newspaper’s home city (e.g., Chicago Tribune, 10/25/09).


Individuals, organizations and groups are gearing up for the demonstrations Saturday. DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco have scheduled demonstrations. Those are three national actions, there will be actions in many communities. Michelle Rindels (The Union) reports on the action in Nevada City on Saturday:

This year's event starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 20, with a rally in the parking lot at the intersection of Nevada and Broad streets and will feature music and speakers. Local musicians include The Shreds, Cool Hand Uke, Luke Wilson and Maggie McKaig, and Anytime Band.
Marchers will continue up the sidewalks of Broad Street and end with a reception at the Peace Center, 216-B Main St., next to the South Yuba River Citizens League building.
"It's not just for people to come out and express feelings about the war. It's about protesting the state of our economy," [Lorraine] Reich said. "We encourage everyone that has concerns about the economy to come out and demonstrate their democracy."

The following community sites updated (and I'll leave Antiwar in the mix, but they aren't a community site in case anyone's confused):

Also Mike's "Tired Zeese and NBC's Chuck" was not noted by me yesterday morning. I grab those by copy and paste and am not studying too closely. I didn't realize Mike's wasn't in the grouping or that it was several links above where I stopped. My apologies.

Finally, TV note. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
There are places in the world where the success of a soap opera is measured not just in TV ratings, but in human lives. On March 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW travels to Kenya, where ambitious producers and actors hope one such TV show, "The Team", can help foster peace amongst the country's 42 official tribes.

During presidential elections two years ago, tribalism-influenced protests in Kenya left almost 1,500 dead and nearly 300,000 displaced. Tensions continue today over issues including extreme poverty and widespread corruption.

In "The Team", soccer players from different tribes work together to overcome historic rivalries and form a common bond. The hope is that commonalities portrayed in fiction can inspire harmony in the real world. Early reaction to the show's inaugural season is promising.

"I was very surprised to see how Kenyans want change, how they want to live in peace and the way the responded to us," Milly Mugadi, one of the show's stars, noted during a local screening. "There were people from different tribes talking about peace and how to reconcile with each other... they opened up their hearts."

John Marks, whose organization Common Ground produces versions of "The Team" in 12 different countries, is cautiously hopeful. "You don't watch one of our television shows and drop your submachine gun," explains Marks, who says he was inspired by the influence of "All in the Family" on American culture. "But you can change the environment so it becomes more and more difficult to be in violent conflict."

Can this soap opera for social change really make a difference in stopping violence? Next on NOW.

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