Thursday, May 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Allawi has a pow-wow (where's the US media?), what's going on with the drawdown, old words may haunt, and more.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists -- Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. One of the people speaking on the topic is Iraq War veteran Josh Stieber. Paul Jay (Real News Network) has a multi-part interview with Stieber and we'll note this from the second part of the interview.
Paul Jay: We are talking to Josh Stieber. He was a member of the army company in Baghdad that day that everyone has now seen. This is the video where Apache helicopters attacks a group of Iraqis on the ground. Josh was a member of that company. Not there that day. But now we're talking about how Josh came from joining the army to, a couple of years later, applying for conscientious objector status. Thanks again for joining us, Josh.
Josh Stieber: Sure. Thanks for having me.
Paul Jay: So let's just pick up the story where we left off. So you've more or less finished boot camp, what comes next?
Josh Stieber: A couple of more months training with the company I eventually deployed with.
Paul Jay: And in terms of this arc of how you get from joining to conscientious objector status. What took place before you go to Iraq? Is there another kind of moment there for you?
Josh Stieber: I guess another big moment in training that really started making me ask questions -- and a good excuse not to ask too many -- but what initially disturbed me was our leaders would take us to us into a room one at a time, take the new soldiers, and they would ask us a series of questions leading up to this big question that if somebody were to pull a weapon in a marketplace full of completely unarmed civilians and there was only one person with a weapon, would you return fire towards that person? And not only did you have to say "yes" but in this exercise if you even hesitated in your answer then you got yelled out for not being a good soldier and not being prepared to do what it took to keep your fellow soldiers safe?
Paul Jay: So when they asked you, what did you say? Did you hesitate?
Josh Stieber: I hesistated. And after a second or two, they really ripped into me.
Paul Jay: Saying what?
Josh Stieber: Again, I needed to be prepared to fire whenever I was told and I had to keep it -- always be aware of these threats and any hesitation could potentially mean the lives of the other soldiers.
Paul Jay: So the idea of killing women and children is an actual part of the training that you have to internalize that this is acceptable under the right circumstances?
Josh Stieber: Yeah, it's not specifically said that we're going to go out today and kill women and children but if it should happen in the process of doing what we're supposed to --
Paul Jay: But when you put that with what you told us in the first segment of the interview that one of the marching chants was killing women and spewing bullets on children, it seems to be something they know you're going to get into -- these situations with civilians -- and so part of the training is accepting the killing of civilians as part of your job.
Josh Stieber: Yeah, again, it's all very psychological. And I even take that beyond just military training and say there's aspects of our society -- going back and looking at my history class, when I learned about the atomic bombings or bombings in other wars that either intentionally targeted civilians or there were a lot of civilian casualties in the process. Just that same mindset: "This was unfortunate, we don't intentionally do this most of the time but if it should so happen that it happens as we're accomplishing our greater goals, then so be it.
We'll try to note more from the multi-part interview. The plan was to pair the above with something a friend wanted to noted. Can't note the latter. Radio program. Not in the mood for uninformed hosts. Don't talk about past war coverage by broadcast networks if you don't know what you're talking about. I don't care if says a kernal of truth somewhere in that nonsense. He's uneducated and he doesn't know what he's talking about. During Vietnam, you had reporters who were not embedded. The moron seems to believe that the only way reporters have ever covered a war is by being embedded. I'm not noting his program. We'll instead move over to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: I was just in Iraq last week to visit the troops, in preparation for Memorial Day, to see them and they're so great. There's nothing that's happening there that-that would justify continuation of the policy. In order to bring stability to the region, more security to the American people and restore our reputation, we must redeploy those troops out of Iraq safely, honorably, responsibly and soon. We've lost -- what is it, 4075 -- something like that now. Every one of them precious to us. Tens of thousands wounded, many of them permanently. And I was just at the hospital -- and I'll go to the VA hospital again after I leave here. The loss of repuation in the world. The cost in dollars to our -- taking us into debt, into recession, into a-a -- where the relationship between the war and the economy are becoming more apparent. And if you didn't care about -- well I'm sure you care about all of that -- but if you're just thinking militarily, the undermining of our capability to protect the American people, undermining our military strength is staggering. We don't have one combat ready unit in the United States to go to protect our interests where ever they are threatened or those of our friends. So it has to end. And soon. We just passed another bill. The House keeps passing with deadlines or to accomodate the Senate's sometimes goals We just sent them another one. They sent it back without-without the redeployment language. We'll send something back to them. But it is essential and it will happen. And it will happen, in my view, with a Democratic president and that will begin in a matter of months and that is the optimism that I --
San Francisco Chronicle: Why not put withdrawal dates in this bill to the Senate and stand up to them and just say, "It's got to be this way, we're not going to give in"?
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Well they -- See there is a bipartisan majority for that in the Senate -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- but there aren't sixty votes. So nothing would ever get to the president's desk. And there just isn't a -- That just won't happen.
Not much happened, Nance. Not much at all. The above -- Nancy claiming a withdrawal of all US troops will take place "soon" -- took place in May of 2008, when Nancy sat down with the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board and reporters. " And it will happen, in my view, with a Democratic president . . ." You got that Democratic president, Nancy, so why is it your remarks are now two years old and yet US troops remain in Iraq? Why is that? And did I miss something? Between now and then did the US economy recover and begin thriving? I don't believe it did. But somehow the fact that the economy is even worse than it was during your interview doesn't demand that the Iraq War end if only for economic reasons?
Barack Obama allowed the left to believe he was one of them. Some of his campaign promises certainly fed its hopes: He'd close Guantanamo, pass union "card check," renegotiate Nafta, leave Iraq. Adding to the left's exuberance was the party's filibuster-proof Senate majority.
But Guantanamo is still open, card check is still dead, Nafta is still functioning, and troops remain in Iraq.
Yesterday's snapshot noted Martin Chulov (Guardian) reporting, "The White House is likely to delay the withdrawal of the first large phase of combat troops from Iraq for at least a month after escalating bloodshed and political instability in the country." Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman explained, "The Guardian newspaper reports the White House is likely to delay the withdrawal of the first large phase of combat troops from Iraq for at least a month after escalating bloodshed and political instability in the country. The US commander, General Ray Odierno, had originally expected to give the order within sixty days of the general election held in Iraq on March 7. In a message to Congress yesterday, President Obama said the situation in Iraq continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." David Martin (CBS News) notes the talk of the pace of the drawdown and provides this walk through, "There are currently 94,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, meaning Odierno will have to send 44,000 home over the next three and a half months to meet the deadline. Right now, it is still possible to move that many troops - but just barely. Any further delay in the drawdown will cause him to miss the deadline." Peter Kenyon reports on the drawdown for NPR's Morning Edition here.
Iraqi journalist Sardasht Osman was kidnapped from his college campus and murdered. His corpse was discovered last Thursday. Demonstrations have been held to protest the murder and Mihemed Eli Zalla (Hawler Tribune) reports that protests were staged yesterday as well in Sulaimania with demonstrators chanting, "We all are other Sardashts. We are not afraid of dath. Dr. Kamal Kirkuki, who killed Sardasht!" Kamal Kirkuki is the Speaker of the Krudistan Parliament. Yahya Barzani (AP) adds, "There have been nearly a dozen demonstrations over the past week in Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region calling for his killers to be brought to justice." Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) notes, "Osman, writing anonymously but later revealing his identity, had been critical of the authorities and the patronage and corruption that plague Kurdistan. He pushed the boundaries of freedom in the region by publishing a number of inflammatory articles, insulting senior officials of the ruling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic party (KDP); and crossed the red line of local taboo by writing of his desire to marry President Massoud Barzani's daughter: a no-go area for any sane Kurd." AFP reports protests continued today and quotes Hawlati editor Kamal Rauf stating, "We are continuing to demonstrate to demand an inquiry to discover the murderers."
Monday May 3rd's snapshot noted the Sunday attack on Christian college students just outside Mosul. At that point, there was one death with approximately seventy wounded. The death toll went on to climb to at least 4. Saif Tawfiq (Reuters) reports today, "Wailing with grief and rage, Iraqi Christians this week buried the teenage victim of a bombing and lamented again their vulnerability in the complex stew of Iraq's sectarian warfare and Arab-Kurd disputes. Thousands turned out for the funeral of Sandy Shibib, 19, a first-year biology student at Mosul University, who died on Tuesday from head wounds caused by shrapnel when bombers struck buses carrying Christian students in northern Iraq on May 2." Spero News notes that the Council of the Christian Church Leaders of Iraq issued a statement which includes:
We, the heads of Christian churches gathered at the College of St. Ephraim in Qaraqosh, express our deep pain in facing this tragedy that has affected our children the Christian students at Mosul University, and we express our full solidarity with them. This attack is one painful episode in a series targeting Christians, especially painful since these students were defenseless. They are the hope for the future of Iraq, and as a group they have nothing to do with politics.
These sad events, affecting the everyday lives of peaceful citizens in all components of the Iraqi people, require a serious review and the concerted efforts of all government officials and political parties in order to give priority to the public interest and the security of citizens. Thus we urgently reiterate our call to expedite the formation of a government of national unity that will work to ensure law, security and safety; any delay will have a negative impact reflecting negatively on the lives of citizens and the task of nation-building. We also call upon the concerned authorities in the province of Nineveh, and especially the members of the parliament from the Hadbaa and Nineveh coalitions, to embrace dialogue and consensus for the benefit of their province and its inhabitants.
The statement is signed by Archbishop Avak Assadourian, Head of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Iraq; Archbishop George Qas-Moussa, the Archbishop of Mosul; Archbishop Louis Sake, Archbishop of Kirkuk for the Chaldean Church; Bishop Athanasius Matta Mtoka, Archbishop of Baghdad for the Syrian Catholic Church; Archbishop Mor Gregorios Saliba Shamoun, Archbishop of Mosul for the Syrian Orthodox Church; Bishop Thomas Georgis, representative of the Patriarchate of the Ancient Church of the East; Bishop Isaac Kames, representative of the Patriarchate of the Assyrian Church of the East; and Father Najib Moussa, Dominican representative of the Latin Church in Iraq. Yesterday the US Army's press office quoted that the team leader for the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ninawa (W. Patrick Murphy) stating, "We condemn all violence here. The targeting of minorities and Christians in particular is unacceptable. We are coordinating with Iraq authorities to improve security, so that all citizens here, including Christians and minorities can conduct their lives. These are for the most part young students going to the university trying to improve their lives."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured two Iraqi soldiers, a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing injured a bodyguard for a Turkmen leader, a Mosul sticky bombing injured six people, a Mosul suicide car bombing injured three people (plus the bomber who was killed), a Baghdad roadside bombing injured seven people and a Mahmudiya roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and injured seven people.
Today in the US, Qubad Talabani spoke at the Nixon Center. Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) reports that the KRG spokesperson had harsh words for the White House and its 'laid back' attitude towards Iraq. He is quoted stating, "There has got to be serious thought given to how the United States applies its leverage. They've got to help us get our act together." Iraq held elections March 7th. Parliament has still not been seated and, of course, no prime minister has been selected. Alsumaria TV reports that Ayad Allawi (Iraqiya slate) met with Ammar al-Hakim (Iraqi National Alliance) and "After the meeting Allawi said that any alliance between the blocs shall not be perceived as aimed against other parties. Futhermore, Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and Al Iraqia Senior Official Hassan al-Alawi talked over means to overcome the current crisis." Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that Nouri al-Maliki met "with security ministers and senior field officials" to declare that security plans need to be revised.
Senator Byron Dorgan chairs the Senate Democratic Policy Committee which continues to address the econmy. Yesterday they issued "Whose Side Are They On: Republican Carve-Out For Special Interest Would Hurt Consumers" and we'll note this section of it:
Military families have been a target of unscrupulous lenders. With their first steady paycheck in hand, recently enlisted service members often face their first chance to be lured into easy credit offers. Many experienced military families have also fallen victim to these unfair practices, while struggling with daily expenses such as child care and medical bills in the face of deployments and frequent moves.
In a recent letter to the Treasury Department, Undersecretary of Defense Clifford Stanley outlined the severity of the issue: "personal financial readiness of our troops and families equates to mission readiness." He reported that 72 percent of financial counselors surveyed had counseled service members on auto abuses in the past six months.
Military families deserve a consumer agency that will crack down on abusive auto lending practices. While Republicans would like to preserve the status quo, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act would address:
· Wrong incentives: Like mortgage brokers, auto dealer-lenders are paid more to sell loans with higher rates and fees than borrowers qualify for. This gives dealers a perverse incentive to charge higher rates.
· Bait and switch financing: Sometimes a dealer-lender sends the buyer home with a "purchased" car and calls a few days or weeks later to say that the financing "fell through." The borrower then is trapped into paying a higher interest rate.
· "Packing" loans: Dealers also receive commissions to sell expensive add-ons to the loans, such as extended warranties. Dealer-lenders frequently obscure the cost of add-ons, which can be thousands of dollars, by emphasizing that they only moderately increase the monthly loan payment.
· Discriminatory lending: Among consumers who obtain dealer financing, African Americans are almost twice as likely as whites to pay dealer mark-ups (54.6% of blacks versus 30.6% of whites), and African Americans are 70% more likely than white men to finance at the dealer rather than a bank or a credit union.
From Debra Sweet's "Assassination First? Due Process Never? NO!" (World Can't Wait), we'll note this:
"In the past few weeks, it has become common knowledge that Barack Obama has openly ordered the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, because he is suspected of participating in plots by Al Qaeda.
Al-Awlaki denies these charges. No matter. Without trial or other judicial proceeding, the administration has simply put him on the to-be-killed list."
So begins the text of a paid ad in The New York Review of Books May 27 issue which arrives on newsstands Thursday. The statement, under the headline "Crimes Are Crimes - No Matter Who Does Them" poses the challenges:
What would we have done if President George Bush had publicly ordered the assassination of a citizen? And what should we do now as a fever pitch of media calls for the drones to "take out" Al Awlaki?
ObamaCare doesn't help women. Assaults on reproductive rights do not help women. That's reality and there's not a member of this community who is unaware of that. I have to remphasize that because we're noting this from Ms. magazine:
In the about-to-be-released new Spring issue of Ms., our publisher Ellie Smeal highlights 25 key benefits for women in the new health reform law-some you've heard of, and some you haven't.
Smeal also heralds the far-reaching gender-equity language in the bill. Could this be a Title IX for women's health?
And here's a sneak peek at the rest of the Spring Ms.:
-- Was the murderer of abortion provider Dr. Tiller really a "lone wolf"?
-- What life is like for Haitian women in refugee camps
-- The lawyer who is taking on the U.S. military's disturbing sexual assault problem
-- What can we do about shockingly high global maternal mortality rates?
-- Donna Brazile thanks Nancy Pelosi for health-care reform and mourns Dorothy Height
-- Gloria Steinem remembers long-time friend Wilma Mankiller
Join now to get the next issue of Ms. delivered straight to your mailbox. And you'll be doing your part to support fearless, feminist journalism that you can't get anywhere else.
Ms. hopefully does more than cheerlead a law crafted for and of men. After all, they're still recovering from the embarrassment of putting Barack on their cover and say he was what feminism looks like. But we're noting the above and will note Ms. from time to time. Of course, once upon a time, when they dealt with reality and things that actually mattered, we were able to note them more often. No offense, but we don't need "Bulletins from a funeral home." Translation, when you're focusing more on passings than the present, there's a problem.