Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, February 15, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, PJ Harvey releases her album on the wars, victims of sexual assault come forward and sue the Pentagon, and more.
 
 
Today PJ Harvey's  Let England Shake is released.  Kat reviewed it here. and Kat weighed in on PJ's online concert here.  Today Mike Conkin (Crawdaddy) calls it "unmistakably an anti-war album" and observes, "One gets the feeling this album, Ms. Harvey's eight, could wind up on an awful lot of year-end lists."  Fiona Shephard (Scotsman) raves, "Let England Shake is a superlative suite of songs about war and imperialism, in which she assumes the role of war poet/songwriter."  Ben Macintyre (The Australian) says the album "is an extraordinary evocation of the nature of modern war, vivid and furious, in which the landscape is churned 'by tanks and feet marching' and troops are torn apart like 'lumps of meat'.  One critic has described Let England Shake as 'the most powerful work yet by any British artist about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan'." Ann Powers (Los Angeles Times) asserts, "Harvey's song structures give rise to the feelings we've been taught are proper about nationhood (pride, vigor), but her arrangements -- the off-kilter instruments and the sometimes almost Mueezin oscillations of her singing -- topple that response, send it somewhere dark and dangerous.  The double in the room on Let England Shake is the whole modern world.  PJ Harvey has given us a righteous scare."  Andrew Burgess (MusicOMH) argues the album will be "lingering in the mind long after its engrossing runtime." Kitty Empire (Observer) contends that "running through Let England Shake is, perhaps, the unspoken hope that this land might be reminded of the horrors of war and, perhaps, shake off some of its torpor."  Jessica Steinhoff (Isthmus) believes, "Though Let England Shake coldly condemns war's destruction of human life, it contains an empathetic warmth that cuts through the vitriol."  Jim Farber (New York Daily News) offers that the album "rages with songs more blood-soaked than a Quentin Tarantino movie and more withering about the wages of war than any disk since the prime works of Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger.  Each cut drips with the cruel indifference of the privileged, the murderous schemes of Western governments and the doomed soldiers and citizens it all falls upon." Mike Williams (NME) declares, "Francis Ford Coppola can lay claim to the war movie.  Ernest Hemingway the war novel.  Polly Jean Harvey, a 41-year-old from Dorset, has claimed the war album.  And like Coppola and Hemingway, she calls it straight: 'Death was everywhere/ In the air and in the sounds coming off the mounds of Bolton's Ridge/ Death's anchorage'."  Scott Plagenhoef (Pitchfork) maintains, "Even considering all of the horror on display, this is her most straightforward and easy to embrace album in a decade.  Along with 'The Words That Maketh Murder', the bouncing title track ['Let England Shake'], the radio rock of 'The Last Living Rose', and 'Written on the Forehead' would all make excellent singles."  Allison Stewart (Washington Post) stakes out similar ground, "These are warmblooded, frequently up-tempo, bluesy alt-rock tracks propelled by curious devices: an onmipresent Autoharp; a sampling of Niney the Observer's reggae obscurity 'Blood and Fire' (on 'Written on the Forehead'). 'The Glorious Land' features bugles calling the charge to war, and it's dark and visceral and goose-bump-raising -- but not menacing, just sad." Baghdad born Arwa Haider (Metro) concludes, "The sound is both earthy and exotic. Harvey's imgaery is heady and brutal, ranging from the battleground to foreign playgrounds ('people throwin' dinars at the belly dancers' in Written On The Forehead), while her melodies are gorgeously disarming.  The production is also exceptionally vital, layers with folky instruments (Harvey on autoharp and zither) and startling samples -- The Words That Maketh Murder features a bugle reveille -- while a reworked snippet of Eddie Cochran's Summertime Blues ('What if I take my problem to the United Nations?') becomes an ominous modern mantra."  At Newsweek (link has text and video), Seamus Murphy explains the video films for the album he's made with PJ.  Audio can be found here as Clash Music discusses PJ's album and the Strokes.
 
 
Emily Mackay (NME, January 29, 2011, with photos by Seamus Murphy and Cat Stevens) recently profiled PJ Harvey. Excerpt: 
 
The realm of geopolitics is unusual for Harvey, one of Britain's best, and most consistently fascinating songwriters; her work has often throbbed with darkness and violence through her 20-year career, but on an individual level, as with the vengeful, twisted or borken scratchings of 'Dry', the haunting histories of 'Is This Desire?', and even in the personal, romantic exuberance of 'Stories From The city, Stories From The Sea'. You might think she'd missed the boat for an anti-Iraq War album, but that's not what 'Let England Shake' is, at least not entirely.  And Polly's a more political creature than you might imagine.
"I've followed it every day, always, of my life," she asserts keenly. "I've always been profoundly affected by what's happening in the world, politically, socially and on all levels.  But I hadn't ever approached that in my songwriting before at any great depth like I have with this record, I knew if I was going to start to try and approach such huge subject matter, I had to have the skill with the language to do that, and I didn't feel that I was still at that stage as a songwriter. And I've been writing now for many, many years, and something in me felt like I could now begin to try and approach this."
 
We started with music because, many days, that's all there is.  Certainly if you're looking for truth, that's all there is.
 
You are an unruly, translucent
A dirty windshield with a shifting view
So many cunning running landscapes
For my dented door to open into

I just wanna tune out all the billboards
Weld myself a mental shield
I just wanna put down all the pressures
And feel how I really feel

Just show me a moment that is mine
Its beauty blinding and unsurpassed
Make me forget every moment that went by
And left me so half-hearted
'Cuz I felt it so half-assed

-- "Half-Assed," written by Ani DiFranco, first appears on her Reprieve album.
 
"Half-Assed" is James Denselow's "Egypt's Shockwaves Hit Iraq" (Guardian to the Huffington Post), Jack Healy (New York Times) article and Ben Lando, Munaf Ammar and Ali Nabhan (Wall St. Journal) article.  All feel the need to be 'creative' and, someone please break the news to them, they don't have that kind of talent.
 
 
Iraq is not Egypt. Protests were taking place before Egypt's unrest that (finally) caught the media attention. To have any idea what's going on in Iraq, you'd have to follow Iraq.  Not check in every three months.  Equally true is pimping a narrative is the easiest way to get into print, always has been.  Skeptical Editor, "What's the story?"  Reporter, "Uh, it's just like what happened in Egypt!"  There's not a great deal of difference between a press bullpen and a pitch meeting in LA except for the beverages.  And, of course, the fact that a film doesn't try to pass itself off as fact.  The narrative of "Egypt's Impact!" may get you onto the page, but it's highly dishonest.
 

The unrest in Iraq is different from what's taken place in Egypt.  And, yes, you can trace the public sentiment if you were paying attention.  March 7, 2010, Iraq held national elections.  What followed was a long, long stalemate that the media likes to pretend ended around the nine month mark.  The stalemate continues, even if US press refuses to acknowledge that fact, and that's one reason for the protests.  Most recently, from the Feburary 3rd snapshot:
 
Ali  Abdel Gentlemen (Al Mada) reports, many Iraqis see not the progress Jeffreys spoke of but "a paralysis of government" and more and more and more are taking to the streets to protest "the deterioration of living conditions" which is why leather and textile workers protested in Baghad and Hilla this week and activist Mohammed Salami is quoted stating, "There is daily frustration over the fact that successive political changes have not brought a new [better] level of service." 
 
There was an uneasy feeling throughout the long political stalemate as the sitting prime minister (Nouri) was revealed to have only his own interests at heart. Even some of his supporters picked up on that but dismissed it as untrue, unfounded. It was a nagging thought that didn't go away, however, and the last four months have reinforced those nagging thoughts. As Nouri lives high on the hog (and his family is the talk of Iraq -- despite not living there), they have no jobs, they have no basic services and the ration card system is a joke. All of these conditions were present in September. The big difference is that the long political stalemate did not show Nouri in a good light and events since have further tarnished the glow.
What the stalemate did was raise a lot of negatives about Nouri and what he's done since November is confirm those negatives.  That is how one gets tarnished and Nouri is tarnished.
 
In November,  a deal was brokered and there was resignation on the part of many when backdoor deals allowed Nouri to become prime minister-designate and then prime minister. You've already had Sahwa battling with Nouri (for jobs and payment) for some time. You've got a country which appears -- based upon voting -- to want to unite to some degree. That's what was beyond Iraqiya's win. Even Nouri had to try to run as something other than a secularist in 2010.  A secularist just wasn't enough (line between church and state).  The people were sick of the zealots that had been elected previously. They were sick of the bickering, they were appalled by the ethnic cleansing on the streets of Iraq in 2006 and 2007. Secularist?  That wasn't enough.  You had to offer unity with other Iraqis.  That's what Iraqiya offered and why they won the most votes.  Nouri attempted to ape their strategy but undercut himself (and lost some votes) because while pretending to want a united Iraq with all Iraqis, he was attempting to ban this Sunni candidate or that one, or imprison this Sunni candidate or that one.
 
But the March 2010 elections had one big takeaway and that was it.  The bulk of the Iraqi people (who voted) wanted an Iraq that included all.  Which was why the US-backing Nouri's installation was so horrible.  The message was clear and the message was ignored and US government officials damn well better remember that before pontificating about 'democracy' in Iraq.


Some of Nouri's Iraqi supporters -- and this was clear in Arab media -- during the long drawn out process began to have second thoughts as they saw his resistance to change and his refusal to put Iraq's interests ahead of his own. This was a thread -- a sub-thread, granted -- developing in Iraq.

To become prime minister, he needed the US nudging the Kurds to back Nouri on his falsification -- the lie that he'd formed a Cabinet which allowed him to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister. This received harsh criticism outside English-language media. You need to put all these negatives together. They're just out they're floating.

And then events start hardening feelings. The waves of bombings that have been going on in Iraq for weeks now -- which today's writers appear unaware of -- go to the lack of security. Which goes back to those earlier feelings and to the fact that Nouri did not form a complete Cabinet. Nouri never named a Minister of Interior, a Minister of National Security or a Minister of Defense. He grabbed all three of those positions himself. These are Iraq's security positions. And Iraq is suffering a wave of bombings, one after the other. The most obvious answer to those bombings? "If we had a Minister of Defense, we'd be secure!" Not only is the post not being filled a reflection on Nouri, his 'temporary' possession of it only adds to that and leads to more blame directed at him. 
 
Grasp for a moment how poorly Nouri comes off.  He's prime minister now.  Has been since December 21st. That's two months ago.  He's prime minister.  And he can't name a Minister of the Interior?  And he can't name a Minister of Defense?  And he can't name a Minister of National Security?  These aren't minor posts.  Especially with the violence Iraq's seen in the last weeks.  So he appears ineffectual and, when the bombs go off, he appears ineffectual and completely to blame.


The writers want to credit Egypt. It's not Egypt.

It's all that and, most improtantly, it's Ned Parker. It's Human Rights Watch. It's Amnesty International.

All three (in the order listed) have been covering Nouri's secret prisons run by his forces. And Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) did so as January wound down.  Then Human Rights Watch and then, last week, Amnesty.  This wasn't one day.  And throughout it all, Nouri and his spokespersons have provided denials.  Over and over.  On and to Iraqi media.  This is not a minor issue in Iraq although that's just a blip to a disinterested west. Iraqis remember secret prisons before the war, remember them throughout Nouri's reign and Nouri's claim in 2010 that they were no more. Many of the demonstrations -- especially the ones featuring attorneys in three cities (Baghdad, Basra and Mosul) but also the spot where the demonstrations kicked off and where demonstrators were attacked by police (Diwaniya)  -- have included demands for families to see the prisoners and for attorneys to see them and for speedy trials. 
 
Kevin Charles Redmon (The Atlantic) points out today that it's the abuses of Nouri that are responsible for the unrest and points to Human Rights Watch and the Los Angeles Times (Ned Parker is the reporter on the secret prison stories).  He speaks to Human Rights Watch's Samer Muscati who declares, "And if you look at what the Prime Minister said to the Associated Press, calling our report lies, he mentioned that everyone there is either a terrorist or Baathist.  There's this sense that it's okay, because these guys aren't even worthy of their rights to begin with."  Iraqis do not have a democracy -- they don't even have their own government, they're still occupied -- but they know what they don't want and that's a return to (or continuation of) brutality from the goverment.  Their country has been torn apart for eight years and counting and they don't have basic services, and they don't have jobs and now Nouri thinks they're going to look the other way as he mirrors Saddam Hussein's secret prisons?  Not a chance.  And it is the exasperation and the frustration that is showing up on the streets of Iraq.
 
Marwan Ibrahim (AFP) reports at least 800 Iraqis have protested today in Falljua and 200 in Kirkuk with calls for jobs and "better basic services" leading the demands which also includ "civil freedoms' and corruption. Ibrahim notes, "Angry Iraqis staged violent demonstrations last summer in several southern cities over power rationing as temperatures reached 54 degrees Celsius (130 Fahrenheit)." DPA adds that signs also carried the message "No to arbitrary arrests."  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that, along with Falluja, there was a protest in "the Shiite district of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad. Police also reported smaller protests elsewhere in Baghdad and in several provinces." And especially important is this section of the report:
 
Some demonstrators shouted, "Down with al-Maliki," referring to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.  Others carried banners saying, "No for dividing Iraq, yes for its unity" and "No for sectarianism, yes for unity, down with al-Maliki's governments."  Still others said, "No restriction on freedom of expression, no for random detentions and raids, no for corrupted (politicians) and thieves," and "We demand better basic services -- electricity, oil and improving the food rations."
 
Again, the big message from the March 2010 elections was that Iraqis who voted wanted to see their country united as one.  And, as we noted Saturday, the refusal to listen to a native people explain why they are doing something, the desire to instead impose your own narrative on them is xenophobia.  Iraqis are just as smart as Americans or any other people in the world.  If they're saying, "I'm doing this because ____," try listening.  It may not fit your preconceived notions but the reason for that is that they are describing what they feel, not what you feel.
 
Fadhel al-Bardrani (Reuters) listened and heard something new today in Falluja, "Iraqis have long protested against poor basic services and food shortages, but Tuesday they made direct references to the turmoil that has shaken other parts of the region."  So that is now being said by at least one protester. (It's apparently -- based on one report -- popular with college students who've started protesting this week.  By contrast, the workers, the attorneys, the parents of the imprisoned have repeatedly stated to Arab media that their own actions have nothing to do with Egypt.) And did the press help 'shape' the story?  Most likely.  Especially true when al-Bardrani reports someone attempted to set themselves on fire but was stopped by other protesters and al-Bardrani adds that the person was "mimicking protesters in Tunisia and Egypt" -- Sunday in Mosul a man set himself on fire according to all press reports except for the Christian Science Monitor which was dismissive to the point of making itself suspect.  This followed earlier (never backed up reports) from a week prior that an Iraqi demonstrator had already set himself on fire. 
 
The continued protests in Iraq have led Nouri to speechify. Al Rafidayn reports he is
calling for the protesters to be heard. That's nothing. It was two Fridays ago when clerics called for respect for the protesters. As usual, Nouri half-assed follows while others lead. Al Mada reports that Nouri met with Ayad Allawi last night and that Nouri characterizes the meeting as positive. Allawi also met with KRG President Masoud Barzani and supposedly committees are going to be formed to . . . well, do something. Supposedly to keep the promises made to end the political stalemate.  Possibly as a result of the protests, Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "the Iraqi government took what was a shockly rational measure, announcing that they are shelving a contract to buy a collection of US-made warplanes meant to build an Iraqi Air Force, and are instead buying food."
Sunday was supposed to be the vote on Iraq's vice presidents. It didn't take place.
Al Mada reports that the Kurdish bloc in Parliament is claiming that vote will take place next week. These are the vice presidents of the new government. The new government that was voted on March 7, 2010. Do you get what protesters are calling for Parliament's wages to be cut?
 
Reuters notes a Mosul hand grenade attack left four people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people, a second Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 person and left four others injured, a Mosul roadside bombing injured one person, 1 man was shot dead in front of his Kirkuk home and another was stabbed to death inside his Kirkuk store.
 
Al Rafidayn reports on so-called 'honor' killings such as the 49-year-old father 'forced' to kill his 'unpure' daughter -- the sixteen-year-old daughter he raped. And he raped her for a long period of time. The mother tried to stop it but that didn't stop a thing. Then it was time for 'religion' and 'holy' and the 'religious' man 'had to' kill his daughter because of 'her actions.' Rape is common in Iraq, it's common in the US.  It's common in the US military.
 
 
Meredith Vieira: It is a disturbing statistic.  Women serving in the military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. Well now a group of women is suing the Pentagon's leadership alleging they turned a blind eye to their reports of assault and sexual harassment while on active duty.  NBC's Michael Isikoff has the exclusive details.  Michael, good morning.
 
Michael Isikoff: Good morning, Meredith.  The number of sexual assaults in the US military is alarming.  And a lawsuit being filed today pins the blame on the Defense Dept's top leadership. 25-year-old Rebekah Havrilla was a sergeant in the US Army in 2007 serving as the only female member of a bomb squad in eastern Afghanistan.  She says she was constantly harassed and groped by her team leader.
 
Rebekah Havrilla: He made a habit of telling me exactly what he wanted to do to me, of trying to pull me into bed with him of grabbing my waist and trying to kiss my neck, of grabbing my rear end as I'd walk by.
 
Michael Isikoff: Even though she faced enemy fire from the Taliban, Havrillo says her most harrowing experience was what happened on her last day in Afghanistan when a fellow sergeant trapped her inside his room.
 
Rebekah Havrilla: He pretty much said, 'You're not levaing until I get what I want.' And pushed me down on the bed and used his body weight at that point to hold me down and proceeded to rape me.
 
Michael Isikoff: Havrilla said her assailant took photographs of her while he raped her and the pictures were later posted on a porn site, Hotmilitarygirls.com
 
Rebekah Havrilla: You want to talk about feeling complete and utterly exposed.
 
Michael Isikoff: In today's lawsuit, more than a dozen current and former members of the US military accuse the Pantagon of ignoring sexual abuse complaints within the ranks.  Who are they suing?  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his predessor Donald Rumsfeld, saying both failed to take aggressive measures to protect women and crack down on the military's sexist culture. Since 2004, the Pentagon set up the Sexual Assault Prevention And Response Office to deal with the issue. In 2009, there were more than 3,200 sexual assaults in the military.  But the Pentagon itself says most go undreported and their own figures suggest that fewer than 1/4 ever get prosecutred.  The Pentagon wouldn't comment on the lawsuit but Kaye Whitley, the Director of its sexual assault office, says this is a tough issue. "The research tells us that it takes eight to ten years to change a culture," Next month her office will launc a new victims hotline
 
Kaye Whitley (Congressional Farbricator and Obstructor): If there are any victims out there, who are not getting the care and the help they neeed. That's what I'm here for. And they need to give me the details so that I can help them.
 
Michael Isikoff: Sarah Albertson was a Marine Corporal at Camp Pendleton in 2006.  After a night of partying in the baracks, she says a superior officer climbed into the bed where she was sleeping and forced himself on her.
 
Sarah Albertson: I just kind of paniced and froze, I didn't say anything.
 
Michael Isikoff: She admits she was drinking heavily that night but after reporting the incident, she was still forced to work in the same office as her assailant.
 
Sarah Albertson: I was told I just needed to suck it up until the end of the investigation and to continue treating him with the respect his rank deserves.
 
Michael Isikoff: But who told you to suck it up?
 
Sarah Albertson:  All of them.  That was just the general attitude.  The specific words were "Marines dont cry'
 
Michael Isikoff: She went into depression and gained 30 pounds requring her to undergo a weighs The officer in charge?  The man she says had raped her.
 
Sarah Albertson: I had to report to him about my body.  Every day.

Michael Isikoff: Albertson says she only escaped her assailant when she was deployed to Falluja in Iraq in 2008.
 
Sarah Albertson: I actually felt much safer there then I did back at our command.
 
Michael Isikoff: You felt safer in Iraq than you did back at your command in the United States?   
 
Sarah Albertson: Definitely.
 
Michael Isikoff: The lawsuit doesn't identify any of the accused assailants but both Hav and Albertson say the men they accused denied having nonconsensual sex essentially making their accusations a matter of he-said/she-said.  But a spokesperson for Defense Secretary Gates says the Secretary has been pressing the armed forces to address the issue.  "This is now a command priority," the spokesman says, "but we still clearly have more work to do.  Meredith?"
 
Meredith Vieira: And that's for sure.  Michael Isikoff, thank you very much.
 
Gates is pressing the military to address the issue?  Seriously?  Because in March 2009,
CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, (here for text, here for video), Katie Couric reported on sexual assault and the principal Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Michael Dominguez told her, "Yes, we absolutely have to get better.  Secretary Gates himself is driving this initiative this year to improve our ability to investigate, to prosecutre and convict." In 2009, he was driving it.  To where?  In 2011, he's pressing it.  At what point does he actually do something?
 
If you want to find one of the key problems facing service members who have been sexually assaulted, it's Kaye Whitley.  The woman's an idiot.  She also refused to testify to Congress in July 2008. In the April 1, 2009 snapshot, we noted the PSA Kaye was responsible for and so proud of:  Key moment of that PSA, "When some guy went way too far with my friend, I got her out of there."  See Kaye believes it's oaky to go far and even too far but "way too far," that's when Kaye is bothered.  (It's apparently the same split between rape and rape-rape that some idiots believe exists.)  In the first month of 2009, a witness appeared before Congress and basically ripped herself apart in public to provide testimony about her own sexual assault.  That was Laura Watterson and if you missed her powerful and moving testimony, you can refer to Jan. 28th's "Iraq snapshot," Kat's "When I tried to smoke a banana," Jan. 29th's "Iraq snapshot," Ruth's "Laura Watterson's testimony and its meaning" and Kat's "Laura Watterson's testimony."  From the March 18, 2009 snapshot:
 
 
It's past time Kaye Whitley got a real job and stopped living off tax payers.  Whitley pulled that crap most recently on January 28th where she pretended to be 'concerned' about Laura Waterson.  Whitley was pimping for the military (and pimping's the only word) to push for more use of the trial programmed "restricted reports."  What this does is allow a rape to go unreported.  It counts . . .  as a statistic.  The women (and male victims as well) are 'counseled' by the military about this option and how it can 'help' them.  And throughout their 'counseling' with the military's untrained (a seminar is not training, nor is reading a notebook) 'clinical staff' they will be counseled on whether they're prepared to step forward now or not.  It's a crime.  Crimes need to be reported.  For the victim and especially for the attacker.  A rapist may walk -- many do.  But if I'm at Fort Lewis and I prosecute my rapist, even if he walks, that follows him because he's not just going to rape once.  So the next victim who steps forward has a little easier way to go.  As US House Rep Niki Tsongas pointed out to the dithering Whitley, with 1,896 Restricted Reports, "It means a significant number of people who committed these assaults are not accountable."  They are not.  Whitley wasn't concerned about the victim or about future victims.  She declared that if you didn't have that restricted option (where no crime is reported and prosecuted) you would be left with something that "just tears a unit apart."  Guess what, Dumb Ass Whitley, maybe it needs to.  Maybe it f**king needs to.  Maybe if enough units are "torn apart" by these sexual assaults, the military will get serious about preventing them.  But that won't happen as long as apologists like Kaye Whitley are allowed to continue in their jobs.  The woman needs to be removed from her job immediately.  And civilian clinicians need to be brought in because we are talking about crimes and the military's history is one of hiding sexual assaults.  Civilians who do not answer to the military chain of command need to be brought in as counselors.  As Niki Tsongas also explained to Whitley "we do have new women coming into the military who have no real understanding of the threat that might exist" and "we have many young people coming into the services who we want to protect."  "Restricted Rape" assists no one except the US military command which is already well versed in how to cover up sexual assault crimes.
 
 
Susan Burke of Burke PLLC is the attorney for the victims and the victims do include two men (it's not all women, as NBC reported).  Burke PLLC issued the following release:
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, Feb. 15, a group of U.S. military veterans who allege that they were raped or sexually assaulted during their international and domestic military service will discuss their forthcoming federal-court litigation, which will be filed early that morning, at the National Press Club at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. Scheduled to speak at the news conference in the NPC Murrow Room are: • Several of the veteran plaintiffs in the lawsuit. • Keith Rohman, president, Public Interest Investigations, Inc. (PII), Los Angeles, Calif. • Eleanor Smeal, president, Feminist Majority Foundation, Washington, D.C. • Anuradha Bhagwati, executive director, Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), New York, N.Y. • A representative of the veterans' legal team. Contact: Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC, 281.703.6000, info@powersmediaworks.com.
 
At the press conference this morning, Service Women's Action Network's Anuradha Bhagwati declared:
 
Today I stand in solidarity with the courages women and men who have served in our nation's Armed Forces.  The inspirational plaintiffs you see before you are a small handful of the tens of thousands of troops and veterans who have been sexually brutalized and physically and psychologically tortured by their fellow service members while defending our nation.  Rape, sexual assualt and sexual harassment are a plague upon the United States military.  A pervasive climate of sexual violence and intimidation threatens our national security by undermining operational readiness, draining morale, harming retention, and destroying lives.  As a Marine commander, I witnessed my own senior officers violate sexual harassment and sexual assault policies, shirk their responsibilities to their own troops and lie to families by ignoring reports of abuse, transfer sexual predators out of their units instead of prosecuting them, promote sexual predators during ongoing investigations and accuse highly decorated enlisted service members of lying about their abuse simply because they were women.  Any attempt to hold these officers accountable was met with threats and retaliation.  I saw some of the nation's finest service members leave the military after their abuse and betrayal while their perpetrators and the officers who willingly protected them to this day remain n uniform.  Today as the head of an organization devoted to eliminating sexual violence from our military, I see that little -- if anything -- has changed.  The government has studied this issue for decades, over multiple administrations and yet assaulst on our troops continue year after year with no end in sight.  We have reached a crisis point with this issue.  In Fiscal Year 2009, 3,230 service members reported rape or sexual assault throughout the military.  The Department of Defense itself acknowledges that 80% of sexual assault survivors do not report the crime.  If we do the math, in 2009, approximately 16,150 service members were sexually assaulted.
 
SWAN's started a petition online calling on the government to stop 'studying' and start protecting members of the military from rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.  Eleanor Smeal declared that the law suit was necessary because all other avenues taken on this issue over years and years have repeatedly led to nowhere. Feminist Wire reports:
 
Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, Anuradha Bhagwati, Executive Director of Service Women's Action Network and a former Captain in the Marines, and Keith Rohman, President of Public Interest Investigators, spoke in support of the survivors and were joined by three of the plaintiffs in the case.

Smeal explained that 95 percent of rapes and assaults are committed by serial rapists and repeat offenders and that the military system of inadequately dealing with these crimes leads only to more crime. It must be changed so that perpetrators are punished, not promoted. Smeal asserted, "There are no winners here. This lawsuit is necessary because all else has failed and it is necessary to change this pattern. We will prevail because there is no question that this injures the victims, their families, the military, and all of us. It will take time but we will and must prevail."

January 28, 2009, US House Rep Loretta Sanchez addressed the issue of how nothing changes, year after year.
 
US House Rep Loretta Sanchez:  Thank you, Madame Chair and thank you to all the panel for being here.  I have just one question because in the 12 years that I have been on this committee and in the Congress, we've had this problem and I believe it is a major problem.   When we are a volunteer force in particular and when we are looking at 50% of Americans being women and the fact that we need to draw the talents from that pool just as we do from the men.  And I believe women should be in the military.  And that this problem is continuing to happen and has for so many years . . . drives me crazy.  We were able to pass, as you know, a new UCMJ section that dealt with this and I hear back from the prosecutors that they love using this new law, that they are more effectively using it to get the prosecutions that they need.  But you know I've always said that there are three things that we need to do.  One, change the culture.  Two, change the law so that we do prosecute and we can prosecute.  And three, work well with those who, the victims who have had this happen and make sure that they don't lose their lives.  So let's go back to the first one: Change the culture. Because this shouldn't be happening at all.   I've zero tolerance for this.  And it seems to me that no matter what we try, no matter how many rules we put on and how many administrative issues and everything, it all comes down to how the top is handling this.  How the commander handles this, where ever it is, whether it's Iraq or the Air Force Academy or whether it's a base in Camp Pendleton in California or where ever it might be, that it's really about how the chain of command deals with this.  And they don't seem to deal with this very well.  And so my question is to Ms. Watterson who so bravely came forward today and I thank you for that because I, believe it or not, I personally know how difficult it is.  Uhm.  It's been my contention that the only way we're going to make the command understand how important this issue is is that it's actually a section on every promotion that they receive.  That in order for them to be promoted, they have to deal with, "What did you do about this?  How much of this has happened under you?  How come you were ineffective about this?"  And that they don't get promoted if they don't take this seriously.  Now that runs counter to so many people who say "Oh, we're just care about making fighting machines."  Ms. Watterson, do you think that if these people in command that you go to thought that if they didn't handle this correctly or didn't make an attempt to handle it, if they thought they would lose their ability to be promoted, that they might have taken this more seriously for you?
 
Laura Watterson: Yeah, that sounds like an excellent idea. That way they're held accountable. 
 
 
Renata Maniaci (NOW) reports on today's press conference:
 
Seeing these women, hearing their thoughtful responses, and later reading their stories in the lawsuit, was extremely powerful. I became so enraged and upset while reading their case details that I had to take a break. That these survivors, two of them men, willingly joined the military to serve their country, only to be sexually assaulted by their colleagues, then repeatedly ordered by their chain of command (in many cases, the same men who assaulted them) to say and do nothing, is inexcusable.
One reporter asked the three women survivors on the panel if they thought of themselves as heroes. They all unequivocally replied that they did not see themselves or what they were doing as heroic, but rather, that their attorneys, and the people and organizations supporting them were the real heroes. I disagree. These people have been through living hell, wrought with threats, demotions and other-than-honorable discharges for trying to seek justice in a system that failed to protect them. Their continued actions are heroic.
 
 
From heroic to awful.  Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi is a liar.  There's no excuse for his lies.  There's also no excuse to claim his lies started the illegal war.  If al-Janabi ("Curveball") hadn't lied, they would have found another liar to hide behind.  So when Martin Chulov and Helen Pidd (Guardian) claim he "convinced the White House," they're not just reaching, they're whoring.  al-Janabi is a liar.  He tries to justify his lies.  He also whines about how he was locked away for 90 or so days after he'd told his lies.  So?  You lie and work with people who want you to lie don't be surprised that they lie and end up locking you away or lie and end up not helping your family emmigrate.  Honor among thieves expected at this late date?  Seriously?  Helen Pidd and Martin Chulov seem less interested in getting to the truth and more interested (especially in this article) in telling you Collie Powell got snookered.  No.  Back when Collie was being interviewed by Barbara Walters and claiming it was a "blot" on his record, Ava and I rejected the notion that Collie just didn't know better:
 
Walters says, unable to look at him while she does -- oh the drama!, "However, you gave the world false, groundless reasons for going to war. You've said, and I quote, 'I will forever be known as the one who made the case for war.' Do you think this blot on your record will stay with you for the rest of your life?"

Powell: Well it's a, it's a, of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United Nations, uh, United States, to the world. And it will always be uh, part of my, uh, my record.

Walters: How painful is it?

Powell: (shrugs) It was -- it *was* painful. (shifts, shrugs) It's painful now.


Has a less convincing scene ever been performed?


Possibly. Such as when Powell informs Walters that the fault lies with the intelligence community -- with those who knew but didn't come forward. Unfortunately for Powell, FAIR's advisory steered everyone to a Los Angeles Times' article from July 15, 2004:

["] Days before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was to present the case for war with Iraq to the United Nations, State Department analysts found dozens of factual problems in drafts of his speech, according to new documents contained in the Senate report on intelligence failures released last week.
Two memos included with the Senate report listed objections that State Department experts lodged as they reviewed successive drafts of the Powell speech. Although many of the claims considered inflated or unsupported were removed through painstaking debate by Powell and intelligence officials, the speech he ultimately presented contained material that was in dispute among State Department experts.["]


 
A liar's learned to brag in public.  We've learned his name, little else.  We already knew it was a lie, we knew that before the Iraq War started.  Colin Powell knew that that before he gave his speech.