Friday, August 6, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, 2 US service members died Monday but no one wanted to 'cramp' Barack's style by announcing it, and more.
Jaimee Lynn Fletcher (Orange County Register) reports 300 soldiers with the California National Guard's 1-140th Aviation (Air Assault) Battalion deploy to Iraq this weekend. "Air Assault" -- doesn't sound like non-combat forces. And they're "also known as Task Force Long Knife." B-b-but, Monday, Barack Obama, President of the United States, stood up in front of cameras and creation in Atlanta, Georgia and insisted that no combat troops would be in Iraq after the end of this month. Are those California National Guard soldiers deploying for a few weeks and then flying back to the US?
And about that 'wowie' speech . . .
Elise Labott: Well he said that the US would maintain a longterm cariment -- commitment to Iraq in terms of the ever growing civilian presence on there but he spoke about bringing the war in Iraq to a responsible end and he's saying that the August 31st deadline for the military to bring their troops down to 50,000 is the closing of a chapter and that the US is going to be transitioning towards a more normal relationship with Iraqis as it does with many other countries. I mean, this is really for the US kind-of signaling the end of so-called occupation . But you -- What you have right now is a five-month deadlock on the government forming up, you have the drawdown of US troops and a lot of the, you know, instability in the country. You've seen a lot more violence. al Qaeda is doing a lot more recruiting to try and fill this void right now that the government isn't meeting because it's very much deadlocked. And the US is concerned that it's going to be leaving the country as there's more instability in the country. And you even saw Tariq Aziz, the Deputy to Saddam Hussein, say, "Don't leave Iraq right now! You're leaving them to the wolves!" So it kind of signals that the US is growing increasingly worried that the government won't be in place before all of these troops come out and America's clout diminishes further.
Susan Page: But you know in a way there was no news in President Obama's speech? He's simply reaffirming what he said before. So why -- why give the speech?
Jonathan S. Landay: Oh, I think there was -- I'm going to be really cynical about this. You're facing -- he's facing these Congressional elections coming up in Novmeber in which his party has got an uphill battle -- basically an uphill battle. And at the same time, he sent an additional at least 52,000 more American troops to a place called Afghanistan. The other thing that I feel when I look at this in a cyncical way is the fact that he's meeting requirements that were actually negotiated with Iraq by the Bush administration. And it seems the deadline for getting American troops -- combat troops out, the deadline for getting all American troops out, the fact is that he seemed to be trying to take credit. He used -- he used the expression all American combat [clears throat]. Excuse me. American combat troops will be out by the end of this month "as promised and on schedule." As if he's the guy who's fulfilling this promises when, indeed, these are required under an agreement that the Bush administration negotiated with the Iraqi government.
That's Susan Page filling in for Diane Rehm on today's The Diane Rehm Show (second hour) where she was joined by Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers), Elise Labott (CNN) and James Kitfield (National Journal). Cynical?
How could anyone be more cynical than the White House was. As Barack Obama was still boning up on his speech, the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War stood at 4413. However, last night Reuters reported 2 US soldiers killed on Monday -- and we only learn now. USF/MNF has nothing posted. When on Monday did they die?. Barack began speaking in Atlanta a little after 11:30 a.m. EST. That would have been 6:30 p.m. in Baghdad. Were they already dead by then?
The White House knew while spinning all day Monday and continuing on Tuesday that two US service members were dead, killed by a bombing (a third wounded). But they didn't want you to know because it would interfere with Barack's messaging. It would hurt Brand Obama.
Thursday, Ari Shapiro (All Things Considered, NPR) reported, "The White House has been on a good news streak this week, accentuating the positive every day in areas ranging from Iraq to the BP oil well to the auto industry." But it's easy to have a 'good news' streak if you control what information gets out and what information doesn't.
Barack Obama grand-standed on the backs of 3 US service members -- two dead, one wounded. That announcement, which USF should have made on Monday, was killed because Barack needed some sweet-ass headlines.
First order of business for the White House, finding a fall guy or gal to blame the decision to bury the news of the 2 deaths Monday. Tony Karon (Time magazine) notes:
Major U.S. combat operations in Iraq were first declared to have ended in March 2003, in President Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" address aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. Seven years and many thousands of casualties later, President Barack Obama made a similar announcement this week. But it remains to be seen whether his note of finality has any more traction than that of his predecessor.
JAY: And weren't they also committed to having all troops out, and not just combat, by, what is it, the end of 2011?
PORTER: They are in fact committed not just by a policy, but by the US-Iraq withdrawal agreement, which was signed in November 2008, to getting all US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011. That's now a treaty commitment, or at least a formal international commitment, if not a treaty.
JAY: Of course, unless Maliki, their guy, happens to say, well, you can stay longer.
PORTER: Well, that's right. And of course we know that US military leaders have been saying, since even before that treaty or that agreement was signed in November 2008, they wanted to keep US troops there long, long beyond, way beyond 2011. We know that even after Obama was elected, the month of the signature of this agreement, November 2008, that General Odierno, the commander of US troops in Iraq, told Tom Ricks of the The Washington Post, when he was asked what kind of US military presence do you foresee in 2014-2015 (that's four years after the supposed event of US military presence under the agreement), his answer was: I foresee, and what I would like to see, is 30,000, 35,000 US troops remaining, and that they would still be on combat mission.
Back sometime after the Nobel Laureate was installed on top of the IDH, the mission that killed my son was renamed: "Operation New Dawn." So every single one of our troops and Iraqis that have been killed since Obama's reign have been killed in something that resembles dish-washing detergent and most certainly the selling of it. "Operation New Dawn: New and Improved with more Lemony Freshness -- and, boy, does it cut through grease!" Grease is the only thing that Operation New Dawn cuts through, though -- since many of my fellow USAians want to believe that Obama is the "New and Improved" George Bush.
Now, Obama has taken back a promise to have "Combat Troops" out of Iraq by September 1st of this year and now has pledged to have them out by the end of 2011 -- but of course, he has again redefined the mission and the troops are now on a "support and train" mission instead of a combat mission, so the Bots will believe that there is a new "Mission Accomplished." There will be some troops movement and more empty rhetoric about this as the next presidential season is rapidly coming to assault us with more Madison Avenue Trickery. And people on the so-called left and so-called antiwar movement were upset with John McCain when he said that troops would be in Iraq for "100 years?" Well, that is upsetting to me, also, but troops will be in Iraq for 100 years because WE only come out to fight when a Republican is in office and it is apparent that The Empire can tenaciously hang in there until the next cycle when a Democrat takes the "con" of The Empire and neutralizes the "Left" for another four to eight years.
Since I camped in Crawford, Texas beginning August 6th, 2005 --there has been little to celebrate and virtually no progress in a progressive direction regarding any policy.
Bush's troop "surge" in Iraq that was bought and paid for by Pelosi's Democratic Congress only "worked" because just about everybody that could be killed or displaced in or out of Iraq has been. In 2003, Iraq had a population of roughly 25 million and about 5 million of those have been killed or displaced -- that's 1/5 of the population. Devastating figures -- that would be comparable to 60 million USAians being killed or displaced! Significant and tragic figures that mean very little to most daily consumers of what passes for news here in the U.S.
Casey Sheehan died serving in Iraq. Some Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans (as well as some in the military who have not deployed) are dying at their own hands.
"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory
Propaganda piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me
I can feel things exploding
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of, the beat of black wings"
[. . .]
"They want you they need you
They train you to kill
To be a pin on some map
Some vicarious thrill
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of, the beat of black wings"
-- "The Beat Of Black Wings," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In a Rainstorm
As noted in yesterday's snapshot, the Marines released their suicide data and have classified 28 this year as suicides. Last year they saw 52 suicides and the Army saw 160. Today Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) noted that "another 146 [Army in 2009] died by other violent means, such as murder, drug abuse or reckless driving while drunk; another 1,700 attempted suicide." He and Amy Goodman spoke with Gregg Keesling, the father of SPC Chancellor Keesling who was in Iraq on his second deployment when he saw no other solution but to take his own life on June 19, 2009, and with Joyce and Kevin Lucey, the parents of Iraq War veteran and Marine Jeffrey Lucey who received no help from the VA while repeatedly struggling to find some solution other than taking his own life and finally did that June 22, 2004. Excerpt (and remember DN! is watch, listen or read -- video, audio and text formats):
KEVIN LUCEY: I think when we decided to try to bring him to the hospital, we had been trying to negotiate with him for over a month. We had actually hired a therapist to be able to help us get them into the hospital. On Friday, May 28th, 2004, the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend, Jeff finally went to the hospital. He had no intention of staying. And they did say that he needed to stay. And so, finally, we did an involuntary commitment. It took about six hours to do it. During the three-and-a-half days that he spent there, we thought that he was being assessed, assessed for PTSD and assessed for treatment, but regretfully, they didn't assess him. What they stated was that he had to be detoxed, and they were just trying to detox him. And then he was going to have to stay sober, completely substance-free, for a period of three to six months. And I looked at him, and, in this age of dual diagnosis, I couldn't understand how they could even say that, because I went with the naive belief that the VA were the experts in regards to PTSD. Despite Jeff divulging how he had bought a hose to kill himself, that he had plans, what happened is that they ended up discharging Jeff three-and-a-half days later. Two days after that, Jeff got into a single car accident, totaled our family car. He was unscathed. And he saved the two coffees that he went to get for his mother and for himself. And then, that weekend, we tried to bring him back, because it had gotten much more severe. And the VA, they didn't even bother calling a person who had the authority to enter him involuntarily. And he just came back home. And at that point, I was furious. I lost faith in the VA.
JOYCE LUCEY: And I'd like to say that my dad did go along with Jeffrey on that second time, along with my daughters, and that he begged. He begged the VA to do something to help his grandson. My dad lost his brother in World War II at twenty-two years old, and he was now seeing his grandson going downhill right before his eyes. And nobody was there to help. So, to me, that -- that's heartbreaking. It really is.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And you, obviously, had no doubt from the beginning that the changes in his behavior, in his activities, his destructive activities, were as a result of being in the war, that he was -- he had been fine before he enlisted and went to Iraq?
JOYCE LUCEY: Absolutely, absolutely. His girlfriend said that, a year prior to this, he would never, never have thought about taking his life. I mean, that wasn't Jeffrey. That wasn't Jeffrey at all. And to listen to him when he came back and to sit on the deck -- and I remember sitting there going, "Who is this person? This isn't my son." I didn't understand what he was saying. It just seemed like it was my son's body, but the person was no longer my child. He was totally changed, and he was lost. He was in his own world, of everything going through his head, not really looking at me, just kind of staring out and reliving things, you know, saying things in fragments, so that you never really got the whole story. But you knew whatever he had gone through was horrific to him.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Hot Line is 1-800-273-TALK. Talk is something you can apparently do easier in foreign media. The Hindu minces no words when analyzing 'Barry ends the war':
Thirdly, Washington's talk of reduction covers only combat troops and conceals the fact that the U.S. will maintain a network of gigantic bases in Iraq. The one at Balad, about 100 km north of Baghdad, can house 20,000 personnel; it covers 40 sq km and has an internal bus service and the usual American facilities. Inside, U.S. law applies and staff need not even set foot outside. The Al Asad base, 160 km west of Baghdad, holds 17,000 troops; one of its runways is 4.26 km long. The base is to be connected to the national electricity grid. Other U.S. stations in Iraq include Camp Falcon-al-Sarq at Baghdad, and Camp Victory near Baghdad International Airport,which can take 14,000 troops. The plan is apparently to maintain 70,000 troops and 200,000 contractors, or mercenaries by any other name, in Iraq.
The terms "enduring bases" and "permanent access" do more than evade the Congressional ban on permanent bases in foreign countries. The creation of such huge outposts in Iraq is entirely consistent with the Quadrennial Defense Review and the National Defense Strategy, both of which in effect put U.S. interests above the sovereignty or independence of other states.
In Iraq, a letter's been delivered. Not just any letter. Barbara Slavin (Foreign Policy) reports the letter is to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and is from Barack and it calls on al-Sistanit "to prevail upon Iraq's squabbling politicians to finally form a new government". The timeline on the letter? After Biden's visit at the start of last month -- "shortly after." Which would appear to indicate that nothing came of it. Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) offers, "The letter from Obama to Sistani should simply be seen as the US pulling out all the stops for an Iraqi government. However, should it fail in its objective, which is quite likely, then it could be yet another depressing sign of Washington's diminishing influence in the country." However, Press TV reports, "Sadr City's Friday Prayers Leader Seyyed Muhammad al-Musawi accused the US of trying to portray the Iraqi government and security forces as weak and incapable of providing security for the Iraqis in order to justify the country's occupation." March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 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. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 28 days.
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured, another left fifteen wounded (and may have claimed 2 lives -- according to a "police source"), a third one claimed the life of 1 police officer (five people injured), a fourth left six people injured and one late yesterday left two people wounded.
Iraq remained a committed partner in counterterrorism efforts. As a result of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, Iraqi security forces assumed primary responsibility for the security and stability of Iraq, with support from Multi-National Forces-Iraq. Together, U.S. and Iraqi security forces continued to make progress in combating al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) and affiliated Sunni terrorist organizations, as well as Shiite militia elements engaged in terrorism. A significant reduction in the number of security incidents throughout much of Iraq, beginning in the last half of 2007, continued through 2009, with a steady downward trend in numbers of civilian casualties, enemy attacks, and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.
Still, terrorist organizations and insurgent groups continued their attacks on Iraqi security forces, civilians, and government officials using IEDs, including vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), and suicide bombers. Although a scattering of small scale attacks continued to hamper the country's progress toward broad-based security, terrorist elements focused their efforts on high-profile and deadly attacks in Baghdad, as demonstrated by attacks on August 19, October 25, and December 8. The three sets of attacks targeted Iraqi government buildings with simultaneous, multiple suicide and/or remote-detonated VBIEDs in Baghdad. While AQI claimed responsibility for the violence, some Iraqi government officials publicly blamed Syrian-based individuals with alleged ties to the former Baath Party.
U.S. forces conducted full spectrum operations with the Iraqi forces to defeat the evolving threats employed by AQI. Their efforts to defeat AQI cells, in addition to an increasingly violence-weary Iraqi public, forced AQI elements to consolidate in Ninewa and Diyala provinces. Despite being limited to smaller bases of operation within Iraq, AQI retained networks in and around Baghdad and in eastern Anbar. In Ninewa, U.S. and Iraqi security forces focused efforts against AQI and other Sunni extremists through operations targeting warranted individuals and judicial detentions of senior leaders, and targeted the terrorists' operational support systems. AQI, whose apparent goal in 2009 was to discredit the Iraqi government and erode its security and governance capabilities, targeted primarily the Iraqi security forces, government infrastructure, Sons of Iraq (SOI) groups, and tribal awakening movement members. Despite the improved security environment, AQI, fueled in part by former detainees, still possessed the capacity to launch high-profile attacks against Iraqi civilians and infrastructure.
In addition to reducing the strength of AQI and Sunni extremists, Iraq made progress in containing other terrorist groups with differing motives, such as Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshabandiyah (a Sunni nationalist insurgent group with links to the former Baath Party that advocates the removal of occupation forces from Iraq) and Kata'ib Hizballah (a Shia militant group with ideological ties to the militant wing of Hizballah).
The flow of foreign terrorists from North Africa and other Middle Eastern countries greatly diminished, although they continued to enter Iraq, predominantly through Syria. AQI and its Sunni extremist partners mainly used Iraqi nationals, including some females, as suicide bombers. Terrorist groups receiving weapons and training from Iran continued to endanger the security and stability of Iraq; however, incidents of such violence were lower than in previous years. Many of the groups receiving ideological and logistical support from Iran were based in Shia communities in central and southern Iraq.
Iraq, Turkey, and the United States continued their formal trilateral security dialogue as one element of ongoing cooperative efforts to counter the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Iraqi leaders, including those from the Kurdistan Regional Government, continued to publicly state that the PKK was a terrorist organization and would not be allowed a safe haven in Iraq. The trilateral discussions and other efforts continued through the end of the year, with a ministerial in late December.
The Iraqi government increased its efforts to garner regional and international support against terrorism. The Expanded Neighbors Process continued to provide a forum for Iraq and its neighbors to address Iraq's political and security challenges in a regional context. In October, the Iraqi government sent representatives to Egypt to participate in the sixth Neighbors Process working group on border security, in which the group sought ways to enhance and integrate border security systems in preparation for Iraq's 2010 parliamentary elections. Iraq also became a more active voice at the UN in 2009.
The Iraqi government pressed senior Iranian leaders to end support for lethal aid to Iraqi militias, and the Iraqi army carried out operations against extremists trained and equipped by Iran in Basra, Baghdad, and other areas. Although attacks by militants have sharply decreased, concerns remain that Iranian-supported Shia groups may be stockpiling weapons to influence the elections or the subsequent government formation. Shia militant groups' ties to Iran remained a diplomatic and security challenge and a threat to Iraq's long-term stability. National unity efforts to involve Iraqi Shia groups with Iranian ties, such as Asaib ahl al Haq (League of Righteousness) in the political process, decreased Shia-linked violence.
The Iraqi government faced internal and external pressure to relocate the Mujahadeen-e Khalq (MEK) organization, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, from the group's current location in eastern Iraq. The Iraqi government committed to act with respect for human rights in any efforts to relocate the group, and UN and international observers monitored the situation.
The Iraqi government attributed security gains to Iraqi security force capability and proficiency, as well as to increasing popular support for Iraqi government actions against AQI and other extremist groups. SOI and other groups provided U.S. and Iraqi forces with valuable information that helped disrupt terrorist operations and exposed large weapons caches. The SOI began integration into Iraqi security forces in 2008, and many more transitioned to non-security ministries throughout 2009. Sunni tribal awakening movements continued alliances with U.S. forces against AQI and extremist groups. AQI targeting of Christian and other minority churches, schools, and institutions indicated that AQI pursued strategies that required the least resources and yielded the highest payoff in the media and minds of Iraq's citizens. Despite this, ethno-sectarian violence continued to decline.
On June 30, U.S. combat troops pulled out of cities, villages, and localities, in accordance with the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, and after that conducted all kinetic operations in partnership with Iraqi security forces. The focus of U.S. operations moved from urban to rural areas where international support will remain critical for the Iraqi government to build its capacity to fight terrorist organizations. All U.S. military operations are conducted with the agreement of and in partnership with Iraqi authorities.
Iraq's intelligence services continued to improve in both competency and confidence but will require ongoing support and legislative authority before they will be able to adequately identify and respond to internal and external terrorist threats.
Meanwhile an Iraq War veteran remains imprisoned in Iraq. Danny Fitzsimons served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as Iraq. He returned to Iraq last fall as a British contractor, or mercenary, accused of being the shooter in a Sunday, August 9th Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. From yesterday's snapshot:
PA quotes Danny stating, "I'm making a direct plea to Mr Cameron asking him, telling him that it's a disgrace that I'm here. I served nine years for Queen and Country and I served another five years serving big British business in Iraq, you know. So, in a way that's five years serving the country as well. [. . .] I should be in hospital in Britian, in a mental hospital getting the treatment that I need. You know, I shouldn't be in a dungeon in Baghdad. Worst case scenario is guilty and death by hanging. I don't want to die. I don't want to end it here." Chris Jones, Peter Devine and Sunday Mirror reporters (Manchester Evening News) quotes Danny's step-mother Liz Fitzsimons stating, "Eric is on anti-depressants because of the terrible conditions Danny is behind held in, and it has all been a very, very stressful situation with no end in sight. Danny feels like he has been abandoned by the military. Some of the people who have been held in Iraqi prisons, and whom we have spokenw ith, have said they would rather face the death penalty than serve a life sentence in those conditions. Mentally, it must be a very, very tough for Danny because he is not being allowed outside, not getting adequate food and water and he is sharing a cell with 17 others who don't speak English, and we are very concerned. He is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder."
Responding to a new televised appeal to David Cameron made by Danny Fitzsimons, the British security contractor detained in Iraq and awaiting trial for murder, Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said: "It's obviously right that private military and security contractors are made fully responsible for any alleged wrongdoing when they're working in places like Iraq, but we're very concerned about this case. "Iraq has an appalling record of unfair capital trials and there's a definite danger of Danny Fitzsimons being sentenced to death after a shoddy judicial process. "David Cameron should certainly seek assurances from the Iraqi authorities that Mr Fitzsimons will receive a fair trial and that the death penalty will be ruled out from the beginning." Iraq is one of the biggest users of the death penalty in the world. Last year Iraq executed at least 120 people, the third highest of any country in the world. Approximately 1,000 prisoners are currently on death row, many reportedly close to execution.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Joan Biskupic (USA Today), Gloria Borger (CNN) and Eamon Javers (CNBC) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "What's to Celebrate, Mr. President?" This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with a number of female panelist on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. 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 discussion on WikiLeaks, the Gulf Disaster, prison reform and more. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
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