Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The ongoing war

The Des Moines Register reports that mass will be held Thursday morning (ten a.m.) for Spc Christopher W. Opat at the Notre Dame Catholic Church in Creso with Elma's Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery for the burial. Christopher Opat died while serving in Iraq and survivors include Mary Katherine Opat and Leslie Opat Sr. (parents), two sisters and three brothers. Last week, Governor Chet Culver's office issued the following:

DES MOINES -- Governor Chet Culver issued the following statement upon learning of the loss of U.S. Army Specialist Christopher W. Opat, 29. Spc. Opat, of Lime Springs, Iowa, died June 15 in Baquah, Iraq of injuries suffered in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, out of Joint Base Lewis, McChord, Wash.
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of another brave young person serving our country overseas,” Governor Culver said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Christopher’s family and loved ones. Spc. Opat was courageous in his service, and I join all Iowans in mourning his loss."
Per Governor Culver's Executive Order Number One, the Governor will order flags lowered to half staff on the date of Spc. Opat's funeral. Funeral arrangements are currently pending.

David Phillips (Spring Valley Tribune) reports
that a "procession will begin" this morning "at the Rochester International Airport and go to Cresco, where the funeral of Opat will be held Thursday."

In Iraq, Lt Col Jeff Hollamon is providing English lessons at Tikrit University. USA Today interviews him for their "Kindness" feature:

Kindness: What inspired you to take on the risk of teaching in what is still a dangerous place for Americans?

Hollamon: I was a social studies and U.S. history teacher and social studies chairperson at Webster County High School in Dixon, Kentucky, for over 15 years when 9/11 happened. I felt that my country needed me, and as a reserve officer, I knew what I had to do. I applied and was accepted on active duty and have been on it ever since. And since I have a love of teaching, I felt that the TOEFL program would be an opportunity to give something positive back to the people of Iraq. We all hear about the bombings and casualties in the media, but the other side of the story is all the positives changes that have happened in Iraq since 2003. The TOEFL program is one of them.

Kindness: Have there been any threats to your security?

Hollamon: The campus at Tikrit University has only been open to U.S. Forces just in the last year. Being that Tikrit is the hometown of Saddam Hussein, we are not the most popular folks in town: "We will never be elected as the homecoming kings and queens at the local prom." But the Iraqis have come to appreciate what we do for them on a daily basis. Unfortunately, soldiers, local forces, and contractors are still dying on the streets and highways of Iraq every day. The security on the campus is relatively secure, because they want the program and services that we provide. But we travel with a Personal Security Detail (PSD) to and from the university, and the PSD is outside the classroom just in case!

Meanwhile the Telegraph of London reports on the tag sale in Iraq coinciding with the US drawdown:

Among the items hitting the streets are air-conditioners and refrigerators from 500 bases the US operated at the height of its presence in 2007, when some 170,000 soldiers were based in the country. The size of the US force in Iraq meant many of the bases were like cities, with PX shops as big as Wal-Marts, and Burger King and Krispy Kreme stores.
Now the products used by US forces are being sold at auction and some have found their way onto the black market.

And that sort of tag sale is one ripe for corruption. On the issue of corruption, Aamer Madhani (USA Today via ABC News) reports, "In Iraq, investigators have opened 67 fraud cases this year, compared with 69 for all of 2009, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). In Afghanistan, it's 42 cases this year vs. four last year.
Stuart Bowen, who heads SIGIR, says more tipsters are coming forward. 'Some of these people have come back to the States, so they're out of the threat zone,' he says. 'Perhaps what they saw is gnawing at their conscience'."

Drawdown (not withdrawal) doesn't mean the violence ends. From Timothy Williams' "In Iraqi Danger Zone, Violence Resists a Timetable" (New York Times):

Staff Col. Ismail Khalif Jasim, the top intelligence officer in Nineveh Province, was scrutinizing faces last week as he walked through what the police say is the most dangerous neighborhood in Iraq’s most violent city. The place is so risky that some of his colleagues apologetically offered reasons why they would be unable to accompany him there.
One major admitted he was simply too scared. He was forced, though, along with more than 200 other soldiers and police officers, to go to the neighborhood, Amil. Iraqi security forces claim to control it. But in reality Amil is in the throes of another spate of killings, as the American military works to root out Islamist militants from the area before it reduces the number of its troops in Iraq to 50,000 from about 90,000 by the end of August.

The following community sites -- and Antiwar.com and NYT's At War blog -- updated last night and this morning:

And we'll close with this from Robert Fisk's "Fighting Talk: The New Propaganda" (Independent via Information Clearing House):

Ah yes, a "spike"! A "spike" is a word first used in this context, according to my files, by a brigadier general in the Baghdad Green Zone in 2004. Yet now we use that phrase, we extemporise on it, we relay it on the air as our phrase, our journalistic invention. We are using, quite literally, an expression created for us by the Pentagon. A spike, of course, goes sharply up then sharply downwards. A "spike in violence" therefore avoids the ominous use of the words "increase in violence" -- for an increase, of course, might not go down again afterwards.
Now again, when US generals refer to a sudden increase in their forces for an assault on Fallujah or central Baghdad or Kandahar -- a mass movement of soldiers brought into Muslim countries by the tens of thousands -- they call this a "surge". And a surge, like a tsunami, or any other natural phenomena, can be devastating in its effects. What these "surges" really are -- to use the real words of serious journalism -- are reinforcements. And reinforcements are sent to conflicts when armies are losing those wars. But our television and newspaper boys and girls are still talking about "surges" without any attribution at all. The Pentagon wins again.
Meanwhile the "peace process" collapsed. Therefore our leaders -- or "key players" as we like to call them -- tried to make it work again. The process had to be put "back on track". It was a train, you see. The carriages had come off the line. The Clinton administration first used this phrase, then the Israelis, then the BBC. But there was a problem when the "peace process" had repeatedly been put "back on track" -- but still came off the line. So we produced a "road map" -- run by a Quartet and led by our old Friend of God, Tony Blair, who -- in an obscenity of history -- we now refer to as a "peace envoy". But the "road map" isn't working. And now, I notice, the old "peace process" is back in our newspapers and on our television screens. And earlier this month, on CNN, one of those boring old fogies whom the TV boys and girls call "experts" told us again that the "peace process" was being put "back on track" because of the opening of "indirect talks" between Israelis and Palestinians. This isn't just about cliches -- this is preposterous journalism. There is no battle between the media and power; through language, we, the media, have become them.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends