Wednesday, September 08, 2010

2 US soldiers killed yesterday in Iraq, a US patrol attacked

Yesterday, two US soldiers were shot dead in northern Iraq with nine more injured. Leila Fadel and Marwan Anie (Washington Post) report, "Details were murky Tuesday afternoon while the U.S. military investigated the incident. U.S. troops had escorted their commander to an afternoon meeting at an Iraqi army base in Tuz Khurmatu, 55 miles south of Kirkuk. During the meeting, a man in an Iraqi army uniform opened fire, the U.S. military said, adding that the assailant was shot dead at the scene. It was unclear Tuesday whether the young shooter, whom Iraqi security officials identified as Soran Rahman Taleh Wali, a Kurdish member of one of the Iraqi army's special forces units, had planned the attack or acted spontaneously." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) adds, "Niazi Uklo, a member of the provincial council in Salahuddin, said in a telephone interview that the soldier, a Kurd, opened fire after a dispute broke out during the meeting on the base." Arwa Damon and CNN report:

In a second attack in Salaheddin province, a U.S. soldier and a number of Iraqis were wounded when a convoy in central Tikrit was hit by grenades early Tuesday afternoon, a U.S. military spokesman said. Soldiers who were in the vehicle that was attacked killed the grenade thrower, he said.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry official and police in Tikrit said that the man threw two grenades at the convoy, damaging a vehicle, and that U.S. forces then opened fire "randomly," killing a civilian and wounding four others.

The two deaths bring the number of Americans killed while serving in Iraq to 4423. 4423? That's DoD's number. ICCC has done a s**t poor job and has repeatedly announced deaths in the last six weeks only to then disappear them. I'm sick of their ever changing count. The count should only one of two things: Stay the same or increase. Last I checked, no one was coming back from the dead so there's no excuse for them to repeatedly count backwards. I've had it with their nonsense. When their site went down about 18 months ago, they 'redesigned' but really just gave a bare bones offering which no longer allowed you to click on the monthly death totals and read the names. So there's no way to check them anymore. None at all. They can't be verified and they're count keeps going BACKWARDS. They shouldn't be taken seriously any longer. As Ava and I noted in "TV: Nothing Learned" on Sunday, last week ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams were using the figure 4427 and getting that figure from a speech US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave that day. If we were just trying to go with a higher number (as someone stated in an e-mail the last time we brought up ICCC's miserable counting and so-called accounting), we'd be tacking two on to Gates' figure and running with 4429. We'll instead go with the number DoD issues and we'll from henceforth refer to them as "US service members" but since we are chaning the count we're using now, we'll note that these are US military and US Pentagon personnel as classified by the DoD.

I would really prefer not to go with government figures but ICCC is no longer verifiable. They lost in interest in Iraq and focused all their attention on Afghanistan. Which is why when USF even issues a press release on deaths, it may be 24 hours or more before that death makes it into ICCC's count. It's gotten old. There's also something very sad -- and very Iraqi Body Count -- about the fact that ICCC's count is smaller than the government's. If AP displayed their count regularly, we'd go with that count. But they don't display it regularly.

DoD issues their count regularly -- in PDF form, click here -- and we'll go with that. ICCC does more and more damage each year. We've called out their nonsense figures on Iraqis killed and wounded -- and demonstrated how wrong their count was -- already. They go by Reuters and Reuters only. Reuters is a great news agency. It's not the only news agency. Often McClatchy or Xinhua or AFP will have reports of an attack (or CNN, see the attack they covered above) and that may never make it into ICCC's so-called 'count.' But they tally up Reuters and then news outlets start using ICCC's 'count' and making claims about violence decreasing. ICCC truly has become the new Iraqi Body Count (infamous for undercounting -- and very touchy on that issue as anyone who's ever noted their undercounting can tell you). The fact that you can no longer click on any month -- specifically the current month -- and see a list of the dead to verify their count is more than reason enough to dump ICCC. And we have.

A woman, initials HC, e-mails to complain about comments in yesterday's snapshot (also in this Tuesday morning entry) and insist that what "that church" is doing is "wrong." That church is a church in Florida. I don't know the name of it, I don't need to know the name of it. I have enough in my head already without adding details or trivia. HC states that I should have "called them out." This is the church that US Gen David Petraeus has felt he could hector. They plan to burn the Koran. I noted I was against book burning in all cases. That's where I stand on the issue and if that's not clear enough for you, I wonder about your mental health.

That's not sarcasm. I'm seriously worried. Apparently, in the last ten years, you've grown so used to having your hate filled daily and your ego stroked that you've forgotten what the United States is supposed to be built upon. No, "tribal wars" isn't in the Constitution. Free speech, however, is.

Book burning, which I have never taken part in and never would, is political speech and it is protected in the Constitution. Flag burning (for political reasons) is political speech and it is protected in the Constitution. (Since that issue is now out there, the only flag I have ever burned was burned because that was how you destroy tattered flags. It was not burned for political reasons. I'm referring to US flags. I've never burned another country's flag.)

Political speech is our most important speech. It's far more important than, for example, Tweets on the latest round of American Idol. Most poli sci undergrads who take courses in the issue are presented with the exercise where the KKK is planning a march and has permit for it but it will go through a predominately Jewish or predominately African-American neighborhood. The class then argues various viewpoints and is expected to be able to, at the end of the long discussion, discern what the actual law is and why. Apparently that exercise is no longer done or we don't have many poli sci majors these days.

In Constitutional Law, the professor thought it would be funny to assign me to a moot court case where I had to defend religious rights. I did so, and successfuly argued the case, on the basis of political speech.

HC thinks I need to give "further thought" to where I stand on the issue. No, HC, I don't. Where I stand is where I always stand which is in support of free speech.

That Florida church has the right to do whatever the congregation wants in terms of political speech. Political speech doesn't have to be pretty, it doesn't have to be popular, it doesn't have to be agreeable. It is the most important speech as evidenced by the protection granted it by the Constitution.

If that's too confusing for you, then the education system has clearly failed you or else, again, you're so used to surfing online to find someone telling you, "You are right! And the other side is evil! EVIL!"

HC wants me to know that "no one at The Nation" is defending the church's right to political speech. Is that supposed to be surprising? The Nation takes brave stands when? All it serves up these days, all it's done since 2007, is tribal hate. It's worthless and that's why so many readers have flown the coop.

As for the allegation that I've "defended" the church's right to political speech, I actually haven't. If you want a defense, I can surely give one at great length. What I've done is note the law.

HC wants to make an argument based on religion. We don't do that here. I've never tried to make an argument on religious grounds for myself. (War resister Agustin Aguayo resisted for religious reasons and had a religious awakening after he joined the military. In order to properly present his side, we did a walk through on that and how that happens and how awakenings are in keeping with religious teachings. That was his story and needed to be told. But I have never, ever argued any belief on my own on religious grounds. Nor would I ever do so.)

She also states that what the Florida church is doing is "not nice." Political speech doesn't have to be "nice." That's the issue: Political speech. The issue is not religion, do not try to conflate other issues or beliefs onto this. Does the church have a legal right to burn any book they want? In the United States, the church and any other body or individual can burn any book they want. That is the law.

I find it appalling that the US military has butted into a matter that they have no business in. It is not the US military's right or role to tell civilians what they can or cannot do in the exercise of democracy. Gen David Petraeus crossed a line and, had he not done so, I wouldn't even be weighing in because I only heard of the story due to Petraeus forgetting that the US is not a junta and that the US has civilian control over the military -- not military control over civilians. If Petraeus had a complaint, he should have made it through his chain of command which could take it to the civilian leadership who would determine whether or not a statement would be made. The fact that Petraeus has weighed in to stop political speech is offensive. The fact that so many want to turn a blind eye to his actions is appalling. Little by little, we destroy our democracy when we allow statements like Petraeus' to go unchecked.

If you're unable to leave your tribal side and grasp how outrageous Petraeus' actions were, then the country's in a lot worse shape than I thought.

Hillary Clinton has since weighed in on the church issue. She can do that. She's a civilian. Her remarks from yesterday:

We sit down together for this meal on a day when the news is carrying reports that a pastor down in Gainesville, Florida plans to burn the Holy Qu'ran on September 11th. I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths, from evangelical Christians to Jewish rabbis, as well as secular U.S. leaders and opinion-makers. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. Many of you know that in 1790, George Washington wrote to a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, that this country will give "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."

She finds it disrespectful and disgraceful. We could have done out without George Washington's ridiculous statement. (Ridiculous? His assertion that the US will not tolerate bigotry was made at a time not only when Native Americans were being stripped of their rights and land but slavery was in existence. He's got no soapbox to stand on.) But she finds it disrespectful and disgraceful. You may or may not agree. (Or you may agree and may think that burning the Beatles albums -- as took place across the US following an infamous remark by John Lennon -- or destroying the Dixie Chicks CDs in 2003 was disgraceful and disrespectful.) But she's spoken clearly and she didn't resort to fear. (Nor did she wrongly call the action "illegal." She is an attorney.)

Political speech took a severe blow following 9-11 as the likes of Ari warned people better watch what they say. We don't need to go there ever again. In the US, we are citizens of a democracy and political speech is Constitutionally protected. We do not need alarmist Nervous Nellie types -- like David Petraeus -- telling us that violence will happen if political speech takes place. We do not need the fear police or to be blackmailed into silence.

Hillary Clinton got across her offense without resorting to fear. If you're offended or if you're not, you can make an argument for or against the church's plans without resorting to scare tactics. And whether you think the church's decision is right, wrong, appropriate, inappropriate, whatever, it is political speech and it is Constitutionally protected.

HC (the e-mailer, not Hillary) also wanted to insist the George Clooney had a great weekend and was "a star." I think she's confused Third Estate with The Common Ills. But since I'm responding to her, Clooney's bad film is not a 'hit.' During a lousy weekend for films it came in number one. It made less than two million more in its Labor Day opening than All About Steve made in its Labor Day opening in 2009. All About Steve was not a hit. (I actually liked the Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper film. I was in the minority.) The poor box office and bad word of mouth indicate we've seen another Clooney bomb. Industry talk is that he's got one more good try in him and then he better head back to TV. (I disagree with that talk, I think he should have been stripped of leading roles long ago. Any actress would have been. He's consistently demonstrated he can not carry a film. Leaving aside the Ocean's ensemble,he hasn't had a film cross the hundred million mark since when? Perfect Storm? Any actress with that record would be doing direct to video releases by now.) I didn't make a projection or prediction here on that film -- which I won't even promote by naming -- but Ava and I did make a prediction on Eat Pray Love which is sliding out of the top ten and doing so before it made back its filming and advertising budget. It'll recoup on video rentals and sales but it is a bomb as a theatrical release.

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