Wednesday, January 19, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, another suicide bombing leads to mass casualties, though Tony Blair's people insist they weren't on a path to war documents released from 2000 and 2001 tend to indicate otherwise, the US Army brass talks suicides, and more.
This morning at the Pentagon, Gen Peter Chiarelli, Maj Gen Ramond Carpenter and Lt Gen Jack Stultz held a press conference on suicides in the Army. Chiarelli noted at the top that the statistics being used "includes soldiers from the Guard and Reserve [. . .] So when I say 'active component,' I also include members of the Army Reserves and the Army National Guard who are mobilized during that year." The take away the military wanted to emphasize was a small dip (Chiarelli called it a "modest decrease") in the number of suicides last year from the last five and not the news that the Guard and Reserve saw a doubling in the number of suicides for non-active duty members in 2010 (from 82 suicided to 122 in 2010). If you don't divide the numbers -- sequester? -- as the military wants you to do, you notice that theme is the number of suicides increased in 2010. That is the bottom line and one that escaped Chiarelli even when he claimed to be providing context, "And I just, you know, to try to put this in context, we're talking about 343 suicides here. But some of the numbers that I've seen in the country last year, the numbers could be as high as 35,000. So we're talking less than 1% of that total number. And it will be interesting when the CDC catches up -- if they ever do catch up -- to then go back and --"
Stop. Chiarelli is counting on people just nodding along. I don't know why he does this sort of thing. He knows he's full of it everytime he does. He is saying that 343 isn't that high because he's heard there might have been as many as 35,000 suicides in the general population in the US. Do the math. He claims 1.1 million is the Army population and, out of that 1.1 million (we're using his figures), 343 committed suicide in 2010. (Not attempted, these people took their own lives.) And he wants you to believe that, golly, gee, that's not such a big number because, in the total population for the US, (his number) it's 35,000 for 2010. Now we have to provide a non-Chiarelli number. The 2010 census found that the US population was 311,919,805. Do you see the problem? Yes, 35,000 is a larger number than 343. It's approximately 10 times greater, in fact. But 311,919,805 is approximately 300 times greater than 1.1 million. His little number exercise did not prove what he thought it did.
Chiarelli stressed a number of factors he credited for the decrease in suicides among active duty soldiers including marriage and family life counselors and he noted the need for substance abuse counselors which he insisted the military had the money for but they were short on them to demands of the market ("It's not a money issue. It's a supply issue.") He said, "It seems like everytime I hire ten, I lose ten and it's not because" they get hired somewhere else as substance abuse counselors it's because they become behavioral life counselors. That is because of the licensing requirements for counselors. A substance abuse counselor -- in most states -- is lower ranked (therefore requiring less hours of education and training) and most of them (for their own education, fulfilment and for money desires) get additional training and education which allows them to move up to higher license or certificate. Some are ideally suited for substance abuse and perfectly content in that field but it's not at all surprising that some people would choose to move up the accreditation ladder.
Noting the number of hours any soldier will be spending with their families, Lt Gen Jack Stultz insisted that "We've got to make the suicide prevention plan a family plan." They would the ones, he pointed out, that would first see "the signs, the high-risk behavior."
Gen Peter Chiarelli: The bottom line is that this is a significant issue and clearly there is much to be done. But I am confident many of our nation's very best and brightest men and women from academia, industry, the medical community, DoD and government as a whole are working tirelessly in this seminal area. I assure you, we remain committed to finding further ways to promote resiliancy, reduce the incidents of high risk behavior, improve the quality of family and soldier support programs and eliminate the stigma associated with seeking and receiving help across our force of 1.1 million and beyond to include our department of the Army's civilian and family members.
If anyone's wondering Carpenter spoke about "high risk" behavior like motorcycle riding. He had an analogy he kept circling but never parked the car by.
Charley Keyes: I was wondering if you can share your own personal reaction and level of frustration as the suicide numbers became clear over the course of the year and also identify any particular installation -- maybe Fort Hood, for instance -- has taken particular steps to combat the suicides.
Gen Peter Chiarelli: What you learn when you do this over time -- it's been two years now -- is that every year there's going to be one post that has more than any other post, that's just the nature of the business and that's how we keep track. And Fort Hood was our highest post this year. And do you immediately go back and say, "Well wait a second now, we had the events of November 5, 2009 is there any link to that and what occurred?" And I can tell you of the 21 suicides we had at Fort Hood last year, we only know of one individual who was remotely uhm associated with that horrific event and that was an individual that was being seen in the emergency room for something totally different at the time that people were being brought into the emergency room. So we were watching Fort Hood very, very carefully and as the numbers started to go up at Fort Hood we were, in every single case, trying to see if there was any connection between those two events and -- or the event of the individual suicide and what happened November 2009. And there clearly wasn't.
November 2009? What's he talking about? The Fort Hood shooting. Charley Keyes brought up Fort Hood because it's had the highest number of suicides in 2010. He didn't bring up the 2009 shooting. Chiarelli did and somebody needs to tell him: Name and claim.
If you're going to talk about therapy and tools and blah, blah, blah, you damn well better be able to name and claim because while talking about the need to be upfront and address anguish and a crisis, if you yourself can't even say "the Fort Hood shooting," you've got problems and you're conveying problems to others. Charley Keyes has a write up at CNN here. He does not note the question he asked or Chiarelli's curious response.
Yesterday a suicide bombing in Tikrit resulted in at least 60 deaths with over one hundred-and-fifty more left injured. AP reports today that the death toll has risen to 65. Since The NewsHour (PBS) couldn't get the death toll accurate yesterday, possibly they will tonight? Today's big bombing in the Iraq War is in Baquba. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a suicide bombing involving a vehicle attack on Baquba's Force Protection Services resulted in at least 13 deaths with seventy people left injured while, "south of Baquba," a suicide bomber possibly targeting Sadiq al-Husseini ("deputy head of Diyala's provincial council") injured al-Husseini and fourteen other people and claimed the lives of 2 people (in addition to the life of the suicide bomber). Independent Television News notes, "An Iraqi police training centre has been attacked by a suicide bomber driving an ambulance killing 12 people and wounding more than 50." Aseel Kami, Ahmed Rasheed, Suadad al-Salhy and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) quoted an unidentified police officer stating, "I can see hands and legs of dead policemen sticking out from under the rubble." Ali al-Tuwaijiri (AFP) reports that the hospital notes 14 deaths and 120 injured and quotes Sumaya Sabr, "I was on my way to the market close to the building when I saw the ambulance arrive at the entrance. The guards tried to speak to the driver, and when they got close to the ambulance, it blew up. I can't remember anything else -- I woke up in the hospital." BBC News reports, "Two attackers were thought to have been involved. One stepped out of the ambulance and opened fire on guards at the entrance of the city's special security police centre before the vehicle was driven into the compound and detonated, reports said." Ned Parker and Salar Jaffe (Los Angeles Times) add that "the bomber had sped his car inside the headquarters compound of the Facilities Protection Service, a special force responsible for guarding public buildings and smaller state offices. The blast flattened the building in Baqubah, Diyala's capital."
John Leland (New York Times) notes, "The three-month gap since the last major attack, a siege on a Baghdad church that left nearly 60 people dead, demonstrates the progress made by Iraq security forces as American troops prepare to withdraw at the end of this year, said Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, deputy commanding general for operations of American forces in Iraq." No, it doesn't. And it's really sad if that's the best thinking the US military can offer.
First, it's not a three month gap -- don't they teach the brass how to count -- and second it's completely predicatable and you only have to look 2009's major attacks to see that pattern. How stupid is the brass or are they just lying for public consumption? And if they still can't figure it out, they can start by examining the pattern of the late summer through fall 2009 attacks. If you don't remember -- and apparently the US military doesn't . . .
You had the "Bloody Wednesday" -- Baghdad bombings (two) August 19, 2009 that claimed at least 100 lives (over 600 people wounded -- Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) sums up, "At the site of the deadliest Baghdad bombing in 18 months, Iraqi faith that their security forces could protect them lay shattered in the wreckage."). This was followed (next massive bombing) by "Bloody Sunday" -- the two Baghdad suicide bombings of October 25, 2009 which claimed at least 155 lives (over 700 injured -- Eleanor Hall (Australia's ABC's The World Today -- link has text and audio) explained, "Twin suicide bombers targeted the Iraqi Ministry of Justice all but destroying the government department's headquarters, which are just outside the high-security 'green zone' in the centre of Baghdad."). That was followed by "Bloody Tuesday" -- the December 8, 2009 multiple bombings in Baghdad which claimed at least 120 lives (over 400 injured -- Natalia Antelava (BBC News -- link has text and video) emphasizes, "All five explosions targeted symbols of this state. Not only ministries but also a university and Baghdad's Institute of Fine Arts."). Three months apart, insists Lt Gen Robert W. Cone today, "demonstrates the progess made"? No, demonstrates 2011 is not all that different from 2010. There is no progress and I'm so sorry, Lt Gen Robert W. Cone, my home edition of Let's All Play Stupid* didn't arrive in the mail yet so you'll have to play that board game all by yourself. [*Trademark and patent pending.] Or, as Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) puts it, "But what is clear is that despire official claims of major progress, the insurgnecy remains able to launch major attacks against security forces."
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) also reports, "south of Baquba," a suicide bomber possibly targeting Sadiq al-Husseini ("deputy head of Diyala's provincial council") injured al-Husseini and fourteen other people and claimed the lives of 3 people (in addition to the life of the suicide bomber -- and the three were Shi'ite pilgrims). Ali al-Tuwaijri (AFP) notes this attack took place in Ghalbiyah and "Mr al Husseini was visiting with worshippers as they gathered ahead of commemorations for Arbaeen, which marks 40 days since the anniversary of the death of the revered seventh century Shiite Imam Hussein." Liz Sly (Washington Post) explains, "It was not immediately clear whether the bomber was targeting the official or the pilgrims, who are frequently attacked by Sunni extremists. Attacks on pilgrims are expected to escalate in the coming days as people set out to participate in commemorations for the Shiite religious holiday of Arbaeen next week."
Reuters notes 1 person was shot dead outside his Mosul home, police shot dead 2 Mosul bombing suspects.
Coming to Iraq? WRAL reports that an estimated 750 Fort Bragg soldiers are headed to Iraq for "a yearlong deployment." Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick is quoted stating, "The Iraqis will be the ones to determine whether we vacate or not. It's not going to be us." In addition, WMAZ reports that the Macon-based 352nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion is sending 120 reserve members to Iraq.
While the US continues sending troops to Iraq, Sweden continues forcibly deporting Iraqis. DPA reports, "Swedish police Wednesday briefly detained 25 activists who attempted to block the entrance to an asylum centre to prevent a pending repatriation of some 20 Iraqi refugees. About 50 activists took part in the protest, police said. The Iraqi asylum seekers were taken to Stockholm's Arlanda Airport." Iraq is not safe and the United Nations has repeatedly called out forced deportations. Yesterday in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming stated:
UNHCR is very concerned by reports that Sweden plans to send around 25 Iraqis back to Baghdad tomorrow, Wednesday 19th January. We understand that a number of those scheduled for return belong to religious and ethnic groups targeted by violence in Iraq. They, and others slated for return, appear to have profiles that would warrant protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention or the European Union's Qualification Directive. We are troubled that our advice, including on the situation of minorities in Iraq, is not sufficiently taken into account by Sweden when reviewing negative decisions that were made in 2008 and 2009. We believe that the recent deterioration in the situation of minorities in Iraq has not been adequately taken into account. UNHCR has frequently appealed to states to ensure that asylum applicants originating from Iraq's central governorates of Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa and Salah-al-Din, as well as from Kirkuk province, benefit from international protection in the form of refugee status under the 1951 Convention or another form of protection depending on the circumstances of the case. We understand that many of those being returned on Wednesday come from these areas. Our position reflects the volatile security situation and the still high level of prevailing violence, security incidents, and human rights violations taking place in these parts of Iraq. UNHCR considers that serious – including indiscriminate – threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from violence or events seriously disturbing public order are valid reasons for international protection. UNHCR offices in Syria, Jordan and Turkey have recently registered a number of Iraqi refugees who left Iraq after they have been forcibly returned by European countries. One Christian man fled again after he narrowly escaped an attack on a church in Baghdad in October 2010, shortly after being sent back by Sweden. We are pleased that Sweden has now agreed to re-admit him.
In England on Friday, former prime minister, forever poodle and eternal War Hawk Tony Blair is set to reappear before the Iraq Inquiry to offer additional testimony after his testimony last year just didn't appear to add up. Stop the War UK is organizing protests against War Criminal Tony Blair.
Reasons to protest when Tony Blair is recalled to give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry on 21 January:
SCR 1284 is United Nations Security Council Resolution 1284. Of the five permanent Security Council members, only the US and England voted for it. (France, Russia and China chose not to vote. Had any one of them voted against it, it would not have passed.) This turns weapons monitoring duties over to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. Previously, United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) had done the monitoring. (In March of 1999, Barton Gellman reported for the Washington Post that "United States intelligence services infiltrated agents and espionage equipment" in UNSCOM.) The October 20, 2000 letter from Alan Goulty notes that international support for SCR 1284 is weakening but calls it "the best means of pursuing our policy objectives" and insists "It would get us off the hook of responsibility for the humanitarian situation. It provides Iraq -- and us -- with an exit route out of sanctions. But its shelf life is limited. If there is no progress by next summer, SCR 1284 is likely to lose credibility, lending to growing pressure for a change of approach." The British government -- as evidenced by the letter -- assumed that whomever emerged as the Oval Office occupant in 2001 (Al Gore or George W. Bush), it wouldn't make a difference and the US would maintain a hard position against Iraq:
Most commentators (inside and outside the Administration) point out that either a Gore or a Bush Administration could be expected to be 'tougher' on Iraq. Bush's team includes noted hawks, and Gore (with [Leon] Fureth, his National Security Adviser) has consistently been at the harder end of the spectrum within the Clinton Administration. But neither has come up with specific policy directions. Bush attacks Clinton/Gore for failing to get rid of Saddam for eight years, but under the rhetoric, he goes no further than Clinton's stated red lines for military action, and he has avoided endorsing the "rollback" (regime change) philosophy of some of his advisers. Gore has made a big show of backing the Iraqi Opposition, but has also stressed continued containment, along the lines pursued by the current Administration.
Regardless of who wins, the letter cautions, "We cannot wait until the new Administration beds down to tackle them on Iraq policy. We need to get in early, before they make too many public policy statements from which it would be difficult to draw back, and be prepared to press them hard." Why? International support is waning, "sanction busting" is increasing.
February 15, 2001, McKane wrote John Sawers and noted, among other things, that sanctions were in danger of losing support because "there is an increasing sense that economic sanctions are unfair to the Iraqi people, ineffective as a means of pressuring the regime, and indeed counter-productive because Saddam and his cronies benefit disproportionately from the smuggling which undermines the sanctions." Now from today's hearing.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: In February 2001 on the eve of the first meeting between the Prime Minister and the newly elected President Bush you were asked to produce a note by officials to highlight the key issues.
Tom McKane: Yes.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: That were going to be settled in the course of the review of Iraq policy in order to basically inform the Prime Minister for the meeting. That note has been published today. Can you tell us who contributed to.
Tom McKane: It was the same group of people who had been engaged in the discussions on the Foreign Office's draft paper the previous autumn. So it would have been pulled together and coordinated in the Secretariat, but it would have included contributions from the Foreign Office and from the Ministry of Defence principally, but others would have seen the draft, other departments around Whitehall.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: Were suggestions being put forward by Number 10?
Tom McKane: there was a sense in Number 10 I think that the official machine was running too much along well-worn tracks and that it needed a bit of a jolt, that, you know, there was -- that the way the options had been reviewed in the first draft of the paper looked too much like a regurgitation of what we'd been doing up until then. So the paper was sharpened up at the request of Number 10, although my memory is that they were not the only people who thought the first draft was deficient, and it was quite frequent in that job to find quite a lot of comopetitive drafting going on, departments offering their version of the paper that you were trying to produce. That was a perfectly normal part of the way we did our business, but the end result, which I suppose is then encapsulated in the 7th March note, still is focusing on a policy of containment, not a policy of regime change.
And he keeps insisting that throughout his testimony. However, they knew sanctions were "increasingly" unpopular as was the UN Security Council resolution and they knew the No-Fly Zones patrols were also unpopular (one plan was to suggest to the US that British military fly them only) so for all of his talk about regime change not being a policy, you see that they are walling themselves off -- intentionally or not -- from maintaining what they had and, as for what replaces, it, they really only see war. That's most obvious in the sections of the February 20, 2010 letter which are edited out but indicate that, for example, to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait would require war and, specifically, the military of a neighbouring country (the country is whited out).
New developments also emerged (in the press, not from the Inquiry) on the private correspondence of Bush and Blair. From yesterday's snapshot:
Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) notes today that the letters are quoted in recent books by Alastair Campbell (his published diary) and Jonathan Powell and she notes: "Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, criticised the ban. He said: 'It is a bit thick that Mr Blair and Mr Bush have been able to draw on these documents for their own memoirs and to be entirely selective in the use to which they have put them'." Rosa Prince goes on to demonstrate just how much Bush and Blair have quoted from the (private) letters in their books.
Scott Horton: And it really is just amazing how you can have Barack Obama who we all know for a fact with no exceptions -- every single one of us knows -- that this guy kills people every day. And then he can go and give this speech and cry all of these crocidile tears about "Oh my G**! An employee of the State was on the receiving end of some violence one day." And according to all the polls and TV and the newspapers and whatever this has really done good for him and given him a bump in the polls and he needs to exploit this tragedy the way Bill Clinton did the Oklahoma City bombing, a Democratic strategist told the Politico. And apparently it's working. In fact -- I'll say one more thing before I turn it back over to you, John -- I only heard a small bit of Obama's speech in Arizona. And the small bit I heard, all I heard from him was blah, blah, blah, whatever. But what was interesting to me was the audience. They were whooping and cheering and whistling and celebrating and clapping and acting like it was a campaign appearance. "Oh my G**! There he is in real life!" Like he's a TV star or whatever. And here he is trying to eulogize the dead and exploit this tragedy and they're sitting there like literally whistling and yelling "WOO!" and things at him.
John V. Walsh: Well actually, I would also say that in the antiwar sentiment that we see on the left and the right, I have been impressed that there is much -- if I read the Antiwar.com or the Future Freedom Foundation or Lew Rockwell, there's much more concern about the loss of human life in war than I see very often on the left, I'm sad to say. Because very often the left is talking about the cost of the war and how we could have more if only we weren't killing people over there. But that's true. We're a pretty wealthy country to begin with, that's true. But it certainly is not as important -- important though it may be -- as the loss of innocent life, the loss of life in general. Probably a million in Iraq alone. Certainly hundreds of thousands, there's no question about it. And people displaced by the millions -- four million in Iraq. Who knows what is going on? So there has to be some morality and concern for life attached to this. And it's kind of outside the discourse of the mainstream media. And it really almost has to be if we're going to continuing waging war because too much attention on that is going to distrub the average person. And so it's almost that we've fallen into a culture of -of irreverance for human life. It almost follows from having an empire. And that's very sad, it's of our own doing. Actually, in the Boston area, there's a syndicated NPR program called On Point and it's a talk show and you know, they have been, the host Tom Ashbrook, has been over -- all over this [Tuscon] story and the concern about guns and the Congresswoman's life. Yes, all of that is terrible. But it took him, I think, until something like 2006 before he ever had on his program anybody who was against the war.
Scott Horton: Huh.
John V. Walsh: He had experts that were for it in various ways. But not until well after there was a majority against the war did you ever one voice. And you rarelyl hear it anymore.
Scott Horton: Welcome back to the show. This is Antiwar Radio. We're talking with John V. Walsh of CounterPunch and Antiwar.com about the permanent crisis and, I guess, the partisanship that is at the root of why we can't seem to get anything about it done. I mean, you think back, John, to the antiwar, anti-Bush rhetoric of the last decade and it wasn't just, "Well geez, we don't like this guy because he pretends to be a hick even though he's from Connecticut and we want power, not him." The criticism was that he's tapping our phones, he's murdering people, he tells lies all day, he's spending way too much money and breaking the dollar and real criticism. Yet when Barack Obama does all of these exact same things -- including killing kids like, I don't know, right this minute -- "Oh, no, we still love him. We woop and cheer and whistle." Just like the idiots who loved George Bush.
John V. Walsh: Yes. Well, you know, actually that brings me to another thing I wanted to mention while I was here. And that is one of the guarantees to make sure that this does not become a partisan issue -- that backing Obama or backing Bush or whatever -- doesn't take precedence over opposing war is to have -- as Antiwar.com has been pushing for for a long time -- is to have a right-left coalition against war. And I just wanted to mention, I don't know if you've had this on yet or not, but you know that a year ago there was the conference in Washington, DC. There were about 40 of us, people who write and talk and do some organizing with respect to war -- to oppose war. And we came from left and right and there is now a book out called Come Home America and it's a book of essays from the people who participated from the left and from the right. I have a piece in there. Justin Raimondo has a piece in there. Ralph Nader has a piece in there. The editor of The Nation who was not as enthusiastic as the people on the right about this project but nevertheless she came. And the editor of the
John V. Walsh: I'm not, I don't recall. [C.I. note, Beito's piece is on the American Anti-Imperalist League and it is in the book.]
John V. Walsh: I need to get a copy of that book soon.
John V. Walsh: It is available. And if people want to get it you can find it -- well, you can find it on Amazon. But I would recommend you buy it from another source.
Scott Horton: Right. Agreed.
John V. Walsh: But if you write the -- it's a little tricky to get the title. It's Come Home America all one word or if you write it in three words it's Come Home America.US. And there are the rationales and the ideas of people who want to do this and I think it's right-on. There are people who blame Bush -- and I would say that's -- antiwar people who blame Bush and cannot bring themselves to utter a word against Obama. Or if they do, it is so gentle and so muted and so in the vein of "Well he really means well, he just can't do anything about it." Which is baloney. He has the power to stop the conflict at once. Just like Dwight Eisenhower had the power to stop the Korean War and was elected to do that and did it.
Scott Horton: Right.
John V. Walsh: So you can't say -- which, by the way, was the first undeclared [by Congress] war -- you can't say it is impossible. It is quite possible and, as a matter of fact, that was the reason that a lot of people -- not myself because I never believed it -- went out and worked for Obama because they thought they would get peace.
MFSO has partnered with Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and other ally organizations for a weekend of actions, training, and lobbying in Washington DC to mark the 8th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Join us and make your voice heard!
A brief overview of the schedule....
Saturday, March 19th - actions to mark the anniversary of the Iraq War, TBD
Sunday, March 20th - MFSO meet-up and issue-area trainings
Monday, March 21st - lobbying, media, and organizing trainings
Tuesday, March 22nd - opportunity for lobby visits, and we will be delivering 20,000 postcards to members of Congress with the message "Bring our troops & tax dollars home!"
Some logistical info (more details coming soon)...
Housing - we are working to find homestays and affordable housing for as many Military Families and Gold Star Families as possible. Please indicate below if you need housing, can offer housing in DC, or already have a place to stay.
Travel - Please indicate below if you need financial assistance to get to DC. We will have limited scholarships available for Military Families and Gold Star Families.
Trainings - the trainings are being organized by FCNL for a small fee of $20 (this price includes lunch and refreshments on Sunday and Monday)
Using the link will allow you to find more information and also to sign up if you'd like to.