Friday, July 9, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, NPR dishes on Bradley Manning while trashing journalism, the Constitution and just about everything else, tensions rise between Turkey and the KRG, and more.
Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), we learned that truth doesn't matter and that the American justice doesn't matter.
Doubt it? Enjoy this thrilling -- if fact-free -- exchange:
Diane Rehm: And, Nancy, we have an US soldier charged with leaking Iraq War video. Tell us about that.
Nancy A. Youssef: It's a really an interesting case. It's a 22-year-old uhm soldier named Bradley Manning who was a hacker -- a proclaimed hacker -- who claimed to have thousands and thousands of documents that he obtained. And he -- one of the things that he is charged with is getting his hands on was a video of airstrike that happend in Baghdad in 2007 In Baghagdad it killed a Reuters journalist and his Iraqi aid. And it really caused a firestorm among journalists and the Pentagon writ large about how they needed to handle these situations, at what point do you make the decision on whether to fire on someone? When you look at the video, it's clear to the naked eye that it's a camera man but in the fog of war at the height of violence it wasn't so clear. And what I found interesting was some of the comments that he made --
And we'll stop Nancy's lying right there. It's lying. It's not an error. Not when so much is at stake and when Nancy's so damn sure of what she knows when, point of fact, SHE DOESN'T KNOW A DAMN THING.
Nancy, someone could be sent away for 50 years. You damn well need to know what you're talking about. And you didn't. No, you didn't. You acted and sounded like a fool in public.
In the United States, people are guilty until proven innocent. That's an important bedrock to democracy and I'm really surprised that no one ever taught Nancy that. That's (A). (B), Bradley Manning hasn't self-claimed A DAMN THING.
He has not issued one statement. He has not spoken to the press. Nancy, you were an idiot. And this has consequences. You need to learn to do your job. And speaking of which, both men -- Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen -- were journalists. You damn well couldn't have done your 2006 Haditha reporting without Iraqis because you weren't free to travel. So how dare you downgrade the journalists? Haditha's only one example where were it not for people like Namir and Saeed, you wouldn't have had a story to file because you were not able to be where the action was happening. Both men are dead, both worked for Reuters, both died trying to get the story. They are journalists. Do not besmirch the memories of those two or of journalism itself.
And, Diane, as host, it was incumbent upon you to note that Nancy was dealing in gossip and not in fact. That was your job. That's why you are the host. Not only did you not do that, you joined in saying Bradley had 'said' when he's NOT SAID A DAMN THING. Unverified transcripts of alleged online chats are suspect. I'm so sick of this garbage. I'm so sick of alleged journalists who don't know the first damn thing about what they yack about. You do too much damage. We need Jon Stewart to go on The Diane Rehm Show's roundtable and say, "For the love of God, for the sake democracy, please, I beg you, stop." There's no excuse for that garbage.
Bradley Manning is a US soldier and that's about all anyone got right. He is not a "proclaimed" anything. He has not spoken to the press, he has not issued his statements via his lawyer. He has not said anything. Diane and Nancy's idiotic claims were not only insulting, they were offensive to the system of democracy we have in the United States. There is no excuse for it and the show needs to issue an apology. They won't. They never will. That's a given. But that's what they should do.
Adrian Lamo is a hacker. He's a hacker and he's a convicted felon. He has stated a number of things to the press. These are not confirmed by anyone in government. He has released alleged transcripts to his personal court stenographer at Wired. He has made charges. He has spread rumors. We can deal with how vile those rumors were when Bradley Manning does speak. But for now we've been smart enough not to traffic in gossip from a convicted felon. It's a shame others can't say the same. (Leila Fadel is one who can make that claim. She's stuck to the verifiable facts when reporting on this story.)
Besides serving up gossip as fact, the program offered nothing. For instance, it was Robert Kreuger this week (DC Political Buzz Examiner) who put Manning's arrest in with the wider context of US President Barack Obama's attack on whistleblowers and alleged whistelblowers and the First Amendment: "There is no doubt that Obama apologists and war hawks will spin this for Obama, claiming that the president must do what he can in the name of national security. However, if those who report undisputable proof of war crimes go to prison while those who commit them go unscathed, then both Washington and government are not really much different from those inhumane regimes that we love to hate." We can't get that on The Diane Rehm Show -- we can waste time with the near yearly To Kill A Mockingbird is a year older broadcasts, but we can explore the real events that are happening right now, in real time, that are shaping our lives and our futures.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Those are knowns, those are facts. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported Tuesday that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." On Assange, Jerome Taylor (Independent of London) reports today that he was to make his "first public appearance" since learning the US government was trying to track him down (he was set to speak at City University in London).
Meanwhile Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports, "At least five Iraqis were killed and at least 18 others were wounded in a suicide bombing at an Iraqi army checkpoint in western Baghdad Friday morning, the Interior Ministry said." Andrew England (Financial Times of London) adds, "The government has blamed the attacks on extremists determined to stir sectarian tensions. Iraq has been plagued by political uncertainty since the inconclusive general election on March 7." The government. And, of course, AP: "The attacks on pilgrims and security forces of the past days bear the hallmark of Sunni insurgents in Iraq." AP repeats it and they do it unsourced. Nowhere in the article does this claim get sourced back to the Iraqi government. Link TV reports of the week's attacks on pilgrims, "More than 68 people were killed and nearly 150 others were wounded in a series of attacks on Shiite pilgrims marking the death of Imam Musa Kadhim in Baghdad. The attacks come despite the strict security measures taken by the Iraqi authorities. The security forces rushed to the scene of the blast and imposed a curfew in and around the area. The attack took place near the Aema Bridge where nearly 1,000 Shiite pilgrims were killed in 2005 in a stampede that was sparked by a rumor of a bomb in the area. Abed-Latif Omar reports." James Denselow (Guardian) explores the continued violence and quotes Lubna Naji ("Iraqi trainee nurse") stating, "Our methods of adapting to it have changed over time due to what I call 'emotional numbness' … Before, I used to cry bitterly and get really angry and frustrated, but now after seven years I just pretend that it never happened, maybe because we're actually too tired and sick of it all – you know, of all the continuing mess and madness, or maybe because if you react as a normal human being every time it happens you'll lose your will to go on with your day-to-day life, so you just pretend that it never happened. Is that normal? No of course it's not, but we have no other choice."
Saturday, Sunday and Monday, US Vice President Joe Biden was in Iraq (see Tuesday's snapshot). There was an offensive statement: "I think Americans will recognize that there aren't body counts . . . that they got 95,000 people home." At least 4412 Americans are not coming back and those who do make it back may suffer wounds of a multitude of degrees. And this was done -- and many Americans recognize this -- for a war based on lies. So I think Americans will recognize that. Joe was also selling 'success' -- another wave of Operation Happy Talk and we've grown as accustomed to it from the current administration as we were encountering it from the previous one. Iraqis didn't bite even though many in the US press were (yet again) eager to swallow. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers shares various reactions to Biden's visit at Inside Iraq.
(Ms) Enas Rami, architect, mother of three, grandmother of two, "It is dis-gusting. All these people who call themselves (Iraqi) politicians -- Do they really need a visit from Biden in order to reach an agreement? What is his role? Did he advise them?? Threaten them?? -- Or did he need to whip them into order?? Let them (the Americans) deal, now, with the monster they have created".
[. . .]
(Ms) Sanaa Saeed, government employee, mother of (now) three, "Who?? Oh, yes. I don't know why he came. And I don't care. They said that we will be able to choose rulers who will take care of us -- and instead, the rulers are taking care only of themselves, as usual. So why should I care? What has changed in my life? I will tell you what has changed: I now live in an ugly city filled with fear. I have less electricity -- less water -- less brothers and cousins and one less son. This is what this man (Biden) and his country have brought me".
Those are two of the six voices -- we highlighted Iraqi women because (a) if women don't highlight women, they usually don't get highlighted and (b) Iraqi women have too often been stripped from the official story of the illegal war. The voices are in stark contrast to remarks Joe made throughout his visit. He told Mike Allen (Politico), "The government that is the interim government now -- a little like our interregnum period between November and January -- is actually functioning in terms of security. I am hopeful -- I am confident -- that in the relatively near term, they're going to be able to work out an agreement on ... the new government."
Not only has this week's violence rejected that wave of Operation Happy Talk but "interim government"? There's no interim government. Ayad Allawi asked that one be set up. None was. What Iraq's done is continue the government in place before the elections. But before we get to elections, let's review the day's violence.
And now for the elections. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and two days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. If Iraq's the 'success' so many want the world to believe, then surely it will take less time this go round, right?
Today AFP reports that Allawi stated, "We hope to form the government in August. The negotiations between the political groups entered their last phase and we wish to close this filel as soon as possible." Noting that the political stalemate "is no fault of Iraqi citizens," the Financial Times of London calls on the political leaders to work together, states Iraqiya can't be tossed aside and that the country "needs urgently the government of national unity and common purpose its people deserve." Huda Al Husseini (Asharq Alawsat Newspapers) interviews the KRG President Massoud Barzani:
Q) You were among the most prominent figures that contributed to the emergence of the new Iraq. How do you view the new Iraq today?
A) The new Iraq means that the Iraqi people should decide their future in the ballot boxes. Power should be rotated and should have democratic, federal, and pluralistic components.
Q) Are the factors for achieving this vision available or are they lacking?
A) The first step was drafting the constitution that recognized this identity and the new Iraq. The rest is the implementation of the constitution.
Q) What about the formation of the government and the current differences among the Iraqi lists? Do you consider this to be an obstacle to building the future of Iraq? What is the way to emerge from this impasse?
A) Unfortunately, I feel embarrassed when I am asked this question. Four months have passed since the elections were held but the government has not been formed. So if we do not resolve this problem, the situation will be embarrassing for Iraq and the Iraqi people. We hope that the Iraqi government would be formed as soon as possible and we will exert major efforts to emerge from this crisis.
Let's stay with the Kurdistan region where the PKK has camps in the mountains. Iraq's northern neighbor Turkey considers the PKK a terrorist group. The PKK has fought for independence and a Kurdish homeland for some time. Turkey has been bombing northern Iraq for some time. And it's been steady bombing for some time now. Last month, the Turkish government took it a step further by twice sending Turkish ground forces into Iraq. The conflict is one of those issues that the US government used to say wasn't a problem and they'd help with. Help has translated into the US military providing intelligence on the PKK and its locations to the Turkish government who then send airplanes to bomb northern Iraq.
It's not a new problem and it's one of those which should have been anticipated before the Iraq War ever started. The PKK are involved in a historical struggle for independence. Turkey wants to hold onto its land and worries about the national character and unity. What passed for 'peace talks' are long over. From the June 3rd snapshot, "Shamal Arqawi (Reuters) reports that the cease fire the PKK had with Turkey is now off according to 'PKK spokesman Ahmed Danees [. . .] in Kurdistan.' Not unexpected? Over the weekend PKK leader (one of them) Abdullah Ocalan, in prison in Turkey since 1999, stated he was no longer engaging in any dialoge with the government of Turkey. That announcement laid the groundwork for the PKK in the KRG's announcement today." And while the attacks on pilgrims has garnered most of the press attention this week, it's far from the only area of attention in Iraq. Today's Zaman reports, "Turkey's foreign minister said on Friday that Turkey would take any necessary measures to eliminate threat of terrorism stemming from north of Iraq." Any necessary measures. The rhetoric gets even more heated. Yesterday the Southeast Europe Times reported the the Turkish Minister of the Interior, Besir Atalay, declared that, "The time for words is over. It is time for action now." Amir Taheri (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) recounts, "Over the past three weeks Turkish air force has carried out a series of bombing raids against alleged Kurdish rebel positions while gunfights have continued between he ground forces f the two sides. According to news agencies at least 100 fighters, including 30 Turkish soldiers, have been killed, many more than the casualties reported from the Afghan war for the same period."
In the US, Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) report, "President Obama's pick to lead military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and the Middle East is an experienced ground combat commander, but also earned a stern rebuke in 2005 for controversial comments about combat operations." Mike Mount (CNN) adds of Gen James Mattis, "His blunt talk has gotten him in trouble: In 2005 he said, 'It's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them,' referring to people in Afghanistan."
Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post)reports on the VA's change for PTSD claims. The change will replace paperwork with medical screenings to determine PTSD. O'Keefe notes that, under the system being replaced, women had a difficult time having their PTSD recognized. From the article:
Women often face more skepticism about PTSD claims during visits to male-dominated VA medical centers, said retired Army Sgt. Carolyn Schapper.
"If you happen to go once and the first person you speak to questions the authenticity of your story, you're less likely to go back," she said. "That's true for men and women, but women are more likely to be questioned than men."
April 23, 2009, US House Rep John Hall chaired the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs hearing. John Wilson (Disabled American Veterans) explained the struggle women in the military have as a result of the notion that they aren't 'in combat.' From his opening statement:
The female soldiers who accompany male troops on patrols to conduct house-to-house searches are known as Team Lioness, and have proved to be invaluable. Their presence not only helps calm women and children, but Team Lioness troops are also able to conduct searches of the women, without violating cultural strictures. Against official policy, and at that time without the training given to their male counterparts, and with a firm commitment to serve as needed, these dedicated young women have been drawn onto the frontlines in some of the most violent counterinsurgency battles in Iraq.
Independent Lens, an Emmy award-winning independent film series on PBS, documented their work in a film titled Lioness which profiled five women who saw action in Iraq's Sunni Triangle during 2003 and 2004. As members of the US Army's 1st Engineer Battalion, Shannon Morgan, Rebecca Nava, Kate Pendry Guttormsen, Anastasia Breslow and Ranie Ruthig were sent to Iraq to provide supplies and logistical support to their male colleagues. Not trained for combat duty, the women unexpectedly became involved with fighting in the streets of Ramadi. These women were part of a unit, made up of approsimately 20 women, who went out on combat missions in Iraq. Female soldiers in the Army and Marines continue to perform Lioness work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I would like to highlight the issues faced by Rebecca Nava as she seeks recognition of her combat experience and subsequent benefits for resulting disabilities. Then US Army Specialist Nava was the Supply Clerk for the 1st Engineering Battalion in Iraq. In conversations with her and as seen in the film Lioness, she recounts several incidents. Two of those incidents are noted in my testimony today.
The first is the roll-over accident of a 5-ton truck that was part of a convoy to Baghdad. In this accident, the driver was attempting to catcuh up with the rest of the convoy but in doing so lost control of the vehicle. The five ton truck swerved off the road and rolled over, killing a Sergeant who was sitting next to her, and severely injuring several others. Specialist Nava was caught in the wreckage. She had to pulled through the fractured windshield of the vehicle. While not severly injured in the accident, she did suffer a permanent spinal injury.
Another incident occurred wherein she was temporarily attached to a Marine unit and her job for this mission was to provide Lioness support for any Iraqi women and children the unit contacted. It was a routine mission patrolling the streets of Ramadi. Before she knew it, the situation erupted into chaos as they came under enemy fire. She had no choice but to fight alongside her male counterparts to suppress the enemy. No one cared that she was a female -- nor did they care that she had a Supply MOS -- their lives were all on the line -- she opened fire. The enemy was taken out. During this fire fight she also made use of her combat lifesaver skills and provided medical aid to several injured personnel.
This and other missions resonate with her to this day. When she filed a claim with the VA, she was confronted with disbelief about her combat role in Iraq as part of Team Lioness. Specialist Nava filed a claim for service connection for hearing loss and tinnitus but was told that she did not qualify because of her logistics career field. Since she does not have a Combat Action Badge, she cannot easily prove that the combat missions occurred which impacted her hearing.
When you can't prove the service connection -- under the system set to be phased out on Monday -- you've got a disability or condition that the VA isn't going to rate you for. In the hearing last year, US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick discussed the struggle veterans were forced into as they attempted to prove service connection:
Ann Kirkpatrick: I just spent two weeks in my district meeting with veterans and there's so much anger about how they're being treated by the administration and specifically with regard to PTSD. I've met with veterans who said that -- how difficult it was to show the service connection. One veteran in particular was a Vietnam veteran and he told me how painful it was to try to track down his patrol finding out that so many of them had died since their days in the service. I finally was able to locate someone across the country who was able to validate the service connection. The other problem is also the lack of trained mental health care professionals specific to PTSD in some of these communities. And again they said, 'Please take back to your community our request that we have trained mental health counselors in PTSD in the Veterans Administration' and how specific that is to their treatment in those who qualify. My concern, and my question is for you Mr. Wilson, for a veteran who has PTSD or thinks they have it and can't show the service connection, where do they go for treatment? What services are there for them?
John Wilson: It's a good question. While I was in the field, I also had veterans come through with the same issues -- Vietnam in particular, some WWII -- their entire team wiped out. So who did they go to for support for their particular claim? No letters -- as we were talking about here -- and the distinguished gentleman was providing letters still postmarked from someone overseas at the time, excellent evidence typically. Why that claim was denied, I am not sure. It would, I think normally, I hope, it would be granted. It's difficult circumstances as I say and I have encouraged those people to go back and meet with their reunion websites for people who may be part of that unit, who may be able to provide, perhaps, some other story of 'Yes, I saw Johnny there on that -- on that truck going to that combat zone all geared up.' Those kind of things may all be of benefit. But it is nonetheless very difficult and the fog of war? How is it that you're going to appoint a stenographer or a court reporter, a videographer to accompany each person on that combat? You cannot. It's very difficult circumstance. I would contend that the VA does have the means before it in order to grant those benefits by looking at the lay evidence that a veteran submits and looking at the times, places and circumstances of that particular event, they should in fact be able to grant the service connection. But it nonetheless is a problematic condition.
Ann Kirkpatrick: And for those people who can't -- can't show the connection, are there other places they can go for help?
John Wilson: Ma'am, I wish I could find those. None that I'm aware of.
Ann Kirkpatrick: Mr. Chairman, let me just make one other comment. I asked the veterans I was meeting with if they were concerned about people applying for PTSD treatment who may not really qualify and they said "No." No. The risk really is that those who need treatment are not going to seek it out because of the current system and they emphasized over and over again that they were promised medical treatment for life when they enlisted and that that promise has been broken.
Service Women's Action Network's Anuradha K. Bhagwati notes:
Part of this ignorance results from male bias, but the rest is due to the Combat Exclusion Rule that precludes women from direct ground combat — even though commanders are knowingly violating this policy overseas. It's a policy that needs to be revised immediately, in part because it's too easy for a claims officer from Veterans Affairs to assume a woman is presenting a fraudulent claim for a combat-related wound or injury.
She also points to serious flaws in the changes and does so as part of variety of views the New York Times offers on this topic.
Bhagwait has regularly appeared before Congress to address the discrimination in veterans care. July 16th, she testified at a hearing chaired by US House Rep John Hall and we'll note this exchange:
Chair John Hall: Thank you. And Ms. Bhagwati, is the lack of legal representation more determental to women when their claims are the result of a crime?
Anuradha Bhagwati: I'm sorry, sir, the lack of legal work?
Chair John Hall: Legal represenation.
Anuradha Bhagwati: Absolutely, sir. I'm finding that, without the assistance of an attorney, many of those legal claims would be left behind. It takes a lot of courage, stamina, finacial assistance for a veteran -- either male or female -- to pursue an appeal or reconsideration of a claim. A lot of pride and a lot of issues wrapped around a veteran's identity go into the claim process and when a claim is rejected by the VA -- even when the claim is deemed to be sort of sufficient to get an awarding of compensation -- when that denial happens, it can be life shattering. And many veterans, both male and female, just fall off the map.
Chair John Hall: I understand more all the time as we have these hearings about the issues surrounding reproting problems with MST, but what about domestic violence that takes place while the wife is on active duty? How are those instances of PTSD or other disabilities resulting from those injuries adjucated by the VA?
Anuradha Bhagwati: Sir, that remains to be seen. I think a lot of data as both the congressman and Ms. Halfaker pointed out has not been collected on domestic violence in particular. Right now, I can tell you anecdotally, we're working on a case in the marine corps with a -- an NCO who's going through through a commissioning program whose partner spent five days in jail for attempting to kill her and that partner who spent five days in jail is now at Officer Candidate School. So that shock factor -- it's almost unbelieveable that that can happen but there are ways around the system. And DoD needs to explore that.
Kat also covered that hearing and noted, "Anuradha Bhagwati explained that some of these facilities require two months of intensive therapy and while that's astounding therapy that's being provided, it's also true that some working women can't take two months off and it's also true that some female veterans have children and are the only one who can take care of them. They can't afford to leave their kids for two months and head off for treatment." To The Point (airs on many NPR stations) Monday will explore the changes in the VA.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, John Dickerson (CBS, Slate), John Harwood (New York Times, CNBC), Christi Parsons (Tribune Washington Bureau), Pierre Thomas (ABC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Taking the candor challenge." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tara Setmayer, Amy Siskind and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's online bonus is a discussion of whether someone convicted of domestic violence should be allowed to own a gun. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast (Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings) features a report on veterans' courts. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Lost Children of Haiti
60 Minutes, Sunday, July 11, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
the southeast europe times
asharq alawsalt newspaper