Thursday, April 22, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, April 22, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri offers more pleasing claims in public, the WikiLeaks tape showed what happened but what happened after (key detail left out of the narrative), World Can't Wait holds a conference on the assault video, Congress discusses PTSD and TBI, and more.
Monday April5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists. In real time, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported, "The two Reuters staff members, both of them Iraqis, were killed when troops on an American helicopter shot into the area where the two had just gotten out of their car, said witnesses who spoke to an Agence France-Press photographer who arrived at the scene shortly after their bodies were taken away. The Reuters employees were Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, a photographer, and Saeed Chmagh, 40, a driver." Rubin quoted AFP's Ahmad Sahib stating, "They had arrived, got out of the car and started taking pictures, and people gathered. It looked like the American helicopters were firing against any gathering in the area, because when I got out of my car and started taking pictures, people gathered an American helicopter fired a few rounds, but they hit the houses nearby and we ran for cover."  That detail really didn't make it into the story recently, did it?  We could have Diane Rehm smear the two journalists on her show (as she did when she read a piece of crap e-mail asserting the two were embedded with terrorists and got whatever they deserved and then declared that would be "the last word" on the issue).  We could have a host of gas baggery.
But who bothered to tell you that after the event, it happened again.  The footage captures what took place in real time. The footage ends before the second wave starts.  The footage captures the realization that there were children present.  And none of that prevented a second round being fired from US helicopters?
Last night, World Can't Wait held a conference on the WikiLeaks video with Debra Sweet moderating and Dahr Jamail, Elaine Brower and Matthis Chiroux participating. All but Dahr were in New York City.  The conference was streamed live online last night.  Dahr is an independent journalist.  He reported in Iraq as a non-embed.  He could have just as easily been killed/targeted as the two Reuters reporters. Elaine Brower is a peace activist and the mother of a service member who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has long been active in the peace movement and has not allowed the changing of the White House to silence her speaking out against the continued wars.  Matthis Chiroux served in Afghanistan.  He is an Iraq War resister.  Like Elaine, he is a very strong member of the peace movement and the two of them were arrested, along with Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan and at least five others, for using their Constitutional rights of free speech to protest the continued wars while they were in DC last month.  Early on, Dahr spoke about how Iraqis are still caught in the conflict and how that hasn't ended.  The Iraq War continues.  That's based on hearing about every third or fourth word.  For me, his feed was garbled.  Debra did review some of his points. And all excerpts should be considered "really rush transcript" and not just "rush transcript" because I wasn't aware that my notes (which weren't that in depth, most of what follows is from memory -- keep that in mind) is what I would rely on today. I thought the video was going up at World Can't Wait but that hasn't happened yet.
Debra Sweet: I don't know if everybody caught Dahr's reference to General David Petreaus. He is the general that is now in charge of the Central Command which is all of Europe and Asia basically. Like three years ago, when the incident we're talking about happened, he was in charge of Iraq and where is he right now? [Debra then noted their action to protest Petreaus.] I just wonder if people heard what Dhar said? That in Iraq so far, 1.5 have been killed.  And I think he said 4.8 million Iraqis are displaced from their homes. And this is a war that is supposed to be ending. So Dahr, could you give us just sixty seconds of what to say to people who say "But wait a minute, Obama has ended the war in Iraq, it's over, the troops are coming home?"
Still garbeled, he twice mentioned the National Security Strategy.  The feed cleared up shortly after and he was asked about the WikiLeaks video of the assault.  
Dahr Jamail: That is a very disgusting vile situation and that is exactly what psychiatrist Robert J. Lipton has said early on in the occupation that when you send soldiers into an unwinnable occupation and who have been, for the most part, very effectively brain washed by the propaganda and by ideology and they thoroughly dehumanize the Iraqi people, this is what is called an atrocity producing situation and that is exactly what this video shows us -- that we can see with our own eyes. And I think why it has caused such a stir is for finally, one of the few times that the American public can see with their own eyes an atrocity producing situation being carried out right in front of their eyes.  There's no denying it. There's no denying watching them kill unarmed civilians and there's no denying the callous disregard with which they carried it out.
Matthis Chiroux: Well it's, it's really interesting actually.  All of us sitting at this table right now -- me, Elaine and Debra, and even folks in this room who've been doing demonstrations or have done demonstrations at the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia where they actually allow young people they are trying to recruit into the military to pilot helicopter simulators and it -- even through these simulations -- it is clear that the US kills civilians and that when children simulate killing civilians in this video game, the military recruiters explain it to them as not simulated murder but as a rules of engagement violation. So simplyl including this in the simulation points that -- I wonder how they would react to having this simulated so that young people could-could see what it's really like to experience a so-called rules of engagement.
Dahr Jamal: That's another really good point, Mathis, because, again, it's all part of the dehumanizing where you don't even talk about the Iraqis as human beings.  You know, they're "targets," they're "suspected insurgents,"  etc. etc.  And you don't talk -- you talk about things like the rules of engagement. You kind of really steralize the whole situation by using this type of terminology. And, of course, they're not going to show this video to the kids. Of course, they're going to let them play things that are  kind of like video gamesque situations to really basically start getting them thinking along these lines, which I would have to think that folks who fly drones -- who sit in Nevada or California and pilot drones -- and the people who fly the helicopter in the video, that they were probably raised playing similar types of video games and again getting the brain washing backed up by the media where these are not human beings, these are prssible insurgents, they're terrorists, they're al Qaeda, etc etc. And it makes it possible to where these people can basically become simply trained murderers and go out and do just that. And, you, Matthis, from the military know all too well that which I discovered through interviewing dozens and dozens of veterans I've interviewed for news stories and my latest book and that is that they come into the military and they're basically trained to be murderers, you don't ask questions, you just follow orders, you don't think about "the other" as a human being, you think about them as an enemy. This is drilled into you in basic training and then reinforced throughout your entire contact with the military. And so that, again, is what puts soldiers in this position in Iraq and Afghanistan -- where when you put this kind of trained soldier out into the field, have them afraid, have them completely brain washed so basically everyone they're looking at is a potential threat, then this is only going to go one direction and that's the direction that we see in this video.
Elaine Brower: This is Elaine Brower, Dahr.  How are you?
Dahr Jamail: Hi, Elaine, thanks, good.
Elaine Brower: Thanks for doing this this evening but I have a question for you regarding how you feel about these soldiers and marines that perform these types of operations and are so callous about it.  Should we feel disgust? Should we feel that they should be held accountable personally for this? Or do we look to the government for training them that way? The military? Isn't it up to the individual person to, uh, seek their own humanity and reality especially when they've been on several tours of combat deployment? Don't they realize after awhile that they are killing innocent people? Or is this just they become robots?
Dahr Jamail: Well, Elaine, I-I agree with you and that's why earlier I said that, for example, that the soldiers do carry out atrocities and do commit war crimes absolutely have to be held to account, they absolutely have to be brought to justice. You know, the whole thing, again, in the Nurember Trials, when Hilter's henchmen were put on the stand and then tried to use the excuse of "I was just following orders," that doesn't apply for exactly what you said and that is that you, as a human being, are morally responsible for the actions you take. And, for example, another thing is that the US was ever a member of the International Criminal Court and we started to see some justice and some people actually going to trial, I think one thing a lot of international lawyers would focus on and a lot of domestic lawyers is that the oath that soldiers swear, for example, is to support and defend the Constitution by following lawful orders. There it is right there. You can only follow lawful orders. So whenever your commander, whoever he is, tells you as a soldier, you know,  "Go fly this helicopter and just shoot whatever," even if they're just suspected or whatever, that is not a lawful order by the Geneva Convention. [. . .] They are both legally and morally bound to use their heads and make correct decisions even if that means not following an order. Okay?
Laurie Arbiter: Dahr, this is Laurie Arbiter.  I have two questions. One is if you could speak about the corporate interests in Iraq -- US corporate interests -- that are in Iraq right now and have been and the gains that they may have made over these years during the occupation. Because I have a theory that it was an investment of both blood and US money but there was also a return to a certain sector of this country. So I just wondered if you could speak about that. And the second thing is speak to us about the-the civilian population here in the US who are witnessing crimes against humanity, who have enough evidence to not be able to say that we didn't know and have not mounted a resistance commiserate with those crimes. And if you could speak to what you think -- do you think that that's going to happen or how should that be organized?
Elaine had to repeat the question for Dahr who had trouble hearing that.  Dahr declared those the primary questions and noted that it was "the right thing to do" (protesting) and that people just have to keep working "to basically wake people up and go, 'Look, this is where your tax money is going, this is what your government is doing'."  He was also asked about Iran and he talked about how there was no proof that Iran had nuclear weapons but there was proof that Israel did and Israel is not the object of war talk from the White House.
Debra Sweet noted, "We need a national movement, we can't do this city by city. All across this nation, we have to take responsibility. And I want to do two things before Matthis or Elaine speaks. World Can't Wait is not an organization that has money or any big backers. We're just us and we decided we have to do this, we have to stop these illegitimate wars, the torture and the whole direction this society is going in."  World Can't Wait is publishing an advertisement in The New York Review of Books entitled "Crimes Are Crimes No Matter Who Does Them."
Matthis and Elaine were supposed to speak after but my feed dropped out last night.  And I was hoping World Can't Wait would have the video up today but they don't.  That may be due to being very busy -- the conference last night was followed by a demonstration -- or possibly due to the feed dropping out with Dahr at the start. And repeating, a large portion of the above transcript is from memory, I wasn't taking in depth notes.  So consider it "rush, rush" and more of a guidepost than an actual transcript.
The assassination of Sheikh Ghazi Jabouri, a prominent Sunni Imam in the Al- Adhamiya district of Baghdad, has raised fears of renewed sectarian violence in the wake of the Mar. 7 elections.               
Tensions have been reported in the area following the assassination Wednesday last week. At least two gunmen killed Sheikh Jabouri, 42, as he walked home after completing morning prayers at the Rahman Mosque.                   
His brother Sarmad Faisal Jabouri, like many Iraqis in Adhamiya district, blames the government. "We hold the government fully responsibility for the killing of my brother, because they are supposed to be in control of security at the entrances and exits to the area," Jabouri said.                
The attack came on a morning when a high-ranking officer in Iraq's anti- terrorism police was killed by a bomb planted in his car. The attack also killed two nearby policemen.
The violence comes amidst a wave of increasing attacks across the capital, and amidst political instability in the wake of last month's elections, that have yet to yield a clear winner.             
And if you doubt the reality of the above, look to the editorial boards of the papers that sold the Iraq War to begin with and note how they're either downplaying the violence or keeping their mouths completely shut.  (And, point of fact, always worry more about a journalist when s/he's not talking then when they are.)
 An Iraqi security force under Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's direct command held hundreds of detainees from northern Iraq in an undisclosed prison in Baghdad, torturing dozens of them, until the country's human rights minister and the United States intervened late last month, Iraqi and American officials said. Mr. Maliki ordered the prison closed and said he had been unaware it existed, according to the officials. His move brought the release of 71 detainees and the transfer of others to established prisons, but more than 200 remain in the place, on the grounds of the Old Muthanna military airfield, in northern Baghdad. All of the detainees were apparently Sunni Muslims.              
American diplomats visited the prison on Wednesday, the officials said, and pressed Mr. Maliki's government to investigate the circumstances of its creation and the treatment of detainees there, originally 431 in all.              
This follows up on Ned Parker's "Secret prison for Sunnis revealed in Baghdad" (Monday's Los Angeles Times print, posted at the paper's website late Sunday). Steven Lee Myers quotes the ridiculous Wijdan Mikhail Salim in his article who not only offers Nouri praise for closing the prison he oversaw but huffs, "He's doing the best he can." Really?  That's his best?
In the wake of  Nouri al-Maliki's claims that two big al Qaeda leaders were killed on Sunday, he continued to be chatty.  Tuesday, we noted, "BBC News notes that today Nouri claimed they'd killed Ahmed al-Obedi. That's generally the thing that trips up Nouri when he's making false claims -- they're bought and he just keeps upping the claims.  Time will tell if that was the case again this time."  So that was Tuesday, Nouri was claiming a third scalp on his belt.  Today Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that Nouri and company are claiming they are holding Manaf Abdul Raheem al-Rawi and have been dong so since March 11th who is the al Qaeda leader in Baghdad.  So many leaders in Iraq?  Were it true, you'd picture them in an intra-mural squabble every other week. They also claim he was responsible for some bombings last year. Londono observes, "The operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq have come at an opportune time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is fighting to keep his job after March 7's disputed parliamentary elections."  See, this is the sort of thing that trips Nouri up. He lies a little and gets away with it, then he lies a little bigger, then he continues and continues and continues.  So from "We have killed two terrorist on my safety watch!" on Sunday, we've gotten another alleged high profile terrorist killed on Tuesday and today the news that they arrested another high profile terrorist. It's wonderful spin.  And some people really believed Tom Cruise was saving all those lives too, right?  That was laughable and Tom was then steered by Pat Kingsley.  Nouri's on his own and just gets more and more creative.  Marcia addressed Nouri's alleged streak of good luck last night in "He's got good karma? Him?"
Hassan Hafidh (Dow Jones) reports that Iraq managed to bring in $4.351 billion last month as it exported approximately "1.841 million barrels of oil a day" which may not see the same this month. Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) report a bombing on the pipeline carrying oil to Turkey: "Plumes of black smoke could be seen. The last time an explosion struck the pipeline in the north was two months ago, when it took four days to repair and resume pumping." Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) reports that the police and North Oil Company both state it was a bombing attack. In addition, Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured "the head of security for the power grid in western Iraq" and a passenger and a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people.
Now we're going to do what we should have done in yesterday's snapshot (but no room), drop back to Tuesday to note an evening hearing of the Military Personnel Subcommittee (of the US House Armed Services Committee) which addressed PTSD and TBI.  Chair Susan Davis explained at the top of the hearing that some members of the military were being separated from the military (discharged) due to behavious related to PTSD or TBI and and, noting US House Rep Walter Jones' work on this issue, she declared, "I agree with the gentleman that it is unacceptable that the military departments were separating service members because of misconduct that was caused by a PTSD or TBI injury that occured during his or her combat tour. Now that we know so much more about the extent of those injuries in the force, we owe every returning service member the assurance that we will not punish them for an injury that resulted from combat service. The unfortunate truth is that we have very likely already separated a number of service members where the commanders did not consider that the member was experiencing the consequences of PTSD or TBI."   Appearing before the Subcommittee were Dr. Charles Rice of the Defense Dept and Bill Carr also of DoD.  We'll excerpt the following exchanges.
Chair Susan Davis: We're going to want to talk about the needs, the capacity of the health community within the services and the general population as well and being able to meet these requirements as well as having the numbers, really, to review a number of these cases. But I wanted to focus initially on the commanders in the field.  And talk about how we're educating them and the role that they're actually playing in trying to assess the severity or the possibility that someone could be suffering with PTSD or TBI. One of the things we know is how difficult it is to diagnose and certainly in a subjective fashion to be able to get that information and yet the commander plays a pretty significant role. What are we doing and what's the status of that? How do you think we are doing in trying to move that area forward?
Bill Carr: The first is for the commanders to say "We use the term PTSD. What does it mean? How do you spot it, what does it mean in concrete terms?" If you can express it in a way that they comprehend than the likelihood of their uniting that circumstance with medical help is that much greater. The Army, the Marine Corps have active programs and training where they instruct the field in the terms. For example, up PTSD --
Chair Susan Davis: Excuse me, could you pull your mike just a little bit closer.
Bill Carr: I'm sorry. For example, with PTSD, my point before this was that commanders have guides that allow them to take a situation that presents and make some more informed and rational judgment as to whether or not the symptoms they're seeing represent PTSD and, for example, some of the instruction presents to them that if-if the person reports a disturbing memories and disturbing dreams reliving so forth, those are things we would all say, "Yes, I recognize that now as PTSD."  But unless we actively say it to the chain of command, then they'll hear it and they won't understand the emotional significance of what they've just heard. So the education programs of the Army and Marine Coprs in making sure commanders know that --
Chair Susan Davis: Could you just be more specific in helping us understand?  I think in the testimony there was some notion of how much time is spent but what does that look like in terms of that training?
Bill Carr: It would take the form of about one hour training. And I'm going to have to -- I'm sorry -- I will have to confer back to you -- exactly how it would play out at a unit at, let's say, Fort Bragg, what specifically did they experience? And I would be glad to provide that back.  There are a number of resources on the web that are available to those who go look for them and they're easily found but I think the question from the Chair is "What do we present so that it's deliberately placed before the chain of command?"  So that these terms that I've described. And I'm sorry I can't provide that now but I'll come back to it.
Chair Susan Davis: Dr. Rice?  Did you want --
Dr. Charles Rice: Uh. Yes, ma'am. Madame Chair, I think it's important to emphasize that the emphasis on this comes from the very top. General  [Peter] Chiarelli, the Vice Chief of Staff os the US Army, General [James] Amos, the Assisting Commandant of the Marine Corps have talked about this over and over with their commanders. [Clears throat.]  Excuse me. Once a month, for example, General Chiarelli has a conference with all of his commanders where a suicide has occured and the general officer at that particular post or station is there to report on what were the specific cirucmstances that led up to the suicide. Obviously, we don't want to be tumbling to this problem after a suicide has been completed.  But I think it does bring to bear the fact that the emphasis from the Vice Chief and from the Assisting Commandant is continuous. It's important. They are very emphatic about making sure that it gets desseminated won the chain of command.  I think the other -- in addition to the point that Mr. Carr made -- the other place that it's real important is the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer level because those are the people who are really in day to day contact with the troops and education in this area has been encorporated into sergeants' major course, for example.  All of the Senior NCO leaders are taught about how to recognize various aspects. The details -- contents of those courses is something that, like Mr. Carr, I woud have to get back to you.
Chair Susan Davis: Okay, thank you very much. Because I think we all know how long it takes the medical professionals to be able to describe and understand and I think there's a great deal for our commanders to be doing and certainly the officers and it's difficult to even find some of the time for that. But I think that while we had a great deal of emphasis early in the last few years and we've had to focus a great deal on suicides in the unit, I think we want to be sure that we're spending enough time doing that because, in many ways, they really are the critical actor, I think, in this.  
Dr. Charles Rice: Yes, ma'am, I think that's exactly right. I think that the most important thing that the commander, the Senior NCO does is to convey to a member of his unit: It's okay to go ask for help.  It takes a strong person to do that.  
Chair Susan Davis: Thank you. Mr. Wilson?
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: Thank you again, for both of you being here. And Mr. Carr how has DoD reached out to former military members who are administratively discharged, separated to inform them of the opportunity to request a review of their separation through the discharge review board?  To date, how many members have requested such a review?
Bill Carr: The outreach was through media -- principally to ensure that it reached cities and towns -- and, uh, to date, the number's relatively low 129 Army have applied for -- to the Discharge Review Board.  
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And --

Bill Carr: So it was a media effort.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: A media effort. And also, I'm sure if a person is discharged, you'll send periodic -- I've seen them -- periodic newsletters to the discharged personnel and it would have been in that publication too, wouldn't it?
Bill Carr: I'm almost sure it was in those -- it was in those publications as well.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And inadvertently, one of my sons [Alan] -- who served a year in Iraq -- I kept, kept getting his mail and it was really very enlightening and very encouraging to me, how helpful the information that was provided and, of course, I would get it to him right away.
Bill Carr: Yes, sir.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And then they've got him at a correct address.
Bill Carr: Yes, sir.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: What is your plan for providing additional mental health assets required for the pre-separation exams and the discharge review boards? How many additional personnel do you anticipate needing? Additionally, I'm very grateful, I work with a volunteer organization called Hidden Wounds of Columbia, South Carolina which is serving as a back up for discharged personnel, they are actively promoting mental health assistance. And so it's DoD, VA and then volunteer organizations. But how many more personnel do we need?
Bill Carr: For the discharge review board function, as long as the criteria are kept broad for example, we don't stipulate a grade on whether they're active or reserve and are not overly restricted in the academic disciplines, my understanding is that the manning requirements will be met for the DRBs, that that wouldn't impose any constraint on the flow of applications.  
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And it's encouraging for me, I went to a pancake breakfast to raise money for Hidden Wounds and the VA had a table set up there with personnel from the VA hospital and it was a -- I could see that it was a really positive interaction between the volunteer organizations and DoD personnel and VA personnel.
US House Rep Dave Loebsack noted that he shared Wilson's concern that members of the Reserves and their families -- "especially those living in rural areas" -- and he wanted to know about the Tele-health program, how service members were made aware of it and how those whom the Tele-health determined needed face-to-face treatment were getting it? 
Dr. Rice stated that the Tele-health was created with rural members in mind.  The media was used to get the word out.  Self-referral is available if someone requires more than is available through Tele-health or the website.  But how clear is that to someone?  Probably not that clear. This was a weak section and the answers weren't impressive nor were they reassuring.  Loebsack stated (warned?) he would be staying on this issue and thinks it will be "a huge issue" especially for the National Guard in Iowa.  He wanted to know about Guard members diagnosed with PTSD after separation?  Dr. Rice stated they would be referred to VA.  Carr stated that, if it were him, for the Reserve, that "I'm probably going to proceed with my physician on my own medical program".  Or, they could go onto the VA and Carr trusted (so very trusting or so cleverly spinning?) that he would trust that the VA would "in short order . . . administratively determine it to be a consequence of combat" -- apparently Carr has paid little attention to either the news or the subcommittee hearings of the House Veterans Committee that US House Rep John Hall has chaired?

An army sergeant who had received 22 honors including a Combat Action Badge prior to being wounded in Iraq by a mortar shell was told he was faking his medical symptoms and subjected to abusive treatment until he agreed to a "personality disorder"(PD) discharge.                         
After a doctor with the First Cavalry division wrote he was out for "secondary gain," Chuck Luther was imprisoned in a six- by eight-foot isolation chamber, ridiculed by the guards, denied regular meals and showers and kept awake by perpetual lights and blasting heavy metal music---abuses similar to the punishments inflicted on terrorist suspects by the CIA.                   
"They told me I wasn't a real soldier, that I was a piece of crap. All I wanted was to be treated for my injuries," 12-year veteran Luther told reporter Joshua Kors of "The Nation" magazine (April 26th). "Now suddenly I'm not a soldier. I'm a prisoner, by my own people. I felt like a caged animal in that room. That's when I started to lose it." The article is called "Disposable Soldiers: How the Pentagon is Cheating Wounded Vets."                 
Luther had been seven months into his deployment at Camp Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad, when a mortal shell exploded at the base of his guard tower that knocked him down, slamming his head into the concrete. "I remember laying there in a daze, looking around, trying to figure out where I was at," he said. Luther suffered permanent hearing loss in his right ear, tinnitus, agonizing headaches behind his right eye, severe nosebleeds, and shoulder pain.  
Yesterday's snapshot addressed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, Wally covered it in "Scott Brown," Ava in "Burris asks, Wilson sometimes answers" and Kat in "Marco Reininger testifes to Congress."