Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Deaths, arrests, public statements

WTKR reports on the reactions of two parents of soldiers deployed in Iraq to the news of Monday's deaths (5 US soldiers killed in Baghdad):

Hearing about the recent rocket attacks in Baghdad shook up their family and many others who thought the situation in Iraq was getting better.
One of the soldiers from the brigade affected originally from Hampton Roads posted this on WTKR's Facebook page.
"My unit just lost another 5 soldiers, and over 15 soldiers are wounded. This is all from one incident. We have 3 months until we come home and we have lost 8 soldiers so far."
Hearing her story reinforces for the Abe's that their boys are still headed into a warzone.

Were "over 15" injured in the attack? I have no idea. DoD still hasn't released the names of the five who died. There were reports that at least five more were injured in the attack. The Pentagon and the White House have been very lucky that reporters aren't really interested in Iraq. Otherwise, it would be pointed out that on Monday an attack took place and on Wednesday there is still no information. Ignoring DoD, the Union-Leader turns up some information, discovering the name of one of the fallen:

On Tuesday, the Air Force listed PFC. Michael B. Cook Jr. as one of several soldiers whose bodies was to arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Michael B. Cook lived in Salem and was stationed in Iraq, according to the March obituary of his grandfather, Benjamin Cook. His wife, Samantha, is in Ft. Riley, Kansas; they have two children, Hailee and Michael B. Cook III.

Turning to Iraq where Al Rafidayn is reporting that 34 people were arrested yesterday in Baghdad on charges of terrorism ("including 22 girls and a child"). The charges include trading in human organs and drugs. Al Sabaah adds that Iraqi officials are stating that the 'terrorist gang' is comprised of "the most dangerous terrorists in Iraq" -- apparently including the 18-year-old women who were hired to watch over the young children. New Sabah reports that Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi, has been in Jordan attempting to negotiate the release of 15 Iraqis imprisoned in Jordan. Al Sabaah focuses on charges that Nouri al-Maliki, thug and puppet of the occupation, is attempting to disrupt the state enterprises.

In other news, Al Sabaah speaks to undisclosed sources supposedly in the know about the ongoing negotiations between the US government and Iraq about extending the US military presence beyond 2011. It addresses some remarks White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made. He made those on Monday, I was present for that. Carney's remarks are either distorted by one of Al Sabaah's sources in New York or Al Sabaah misunderstood what they were being told. Carney did not say that the White House had listened to a request. (After that sentence, it moves into Carney stating that the US would abide by the SOFA.) Carney was being pressed by one reporter (I don't know who, I was in the back and the reporter didn't identify himself nor did Jay call him by name) about whether or not there was a request and Carney indicated there hadn't been. In fact, let's go to the White House transcript which is correct except with regards to stammers and "uh"s:

Q On Iraq. What’s the status of discussions with Iraq on possibly keeping U.S. forces there beyond the end of the year?

MR. CARNEY: I have nothing new for you on that. First of all, I’d like to say that we obviously are aware of the fact that we lost U.S. servicemen today, and we express condolences to their families once notifications have been made. And it’s a stark reminder that those who serve in Iraq do so in a way that continues to place them at risk, despite the enormous progress that has been made there.

And then on your question, I have nothing new to announce. The process, as you know, is simply that we are abiding by the status of forces agreement that will have us withdrawing the remainder of our troops by the end of this year. I and others have said that we will entertain requests by the Iraqi government if -- that we will entertain, in terms of discuss, possible requests for some sort of new status of forces agreement that would be obviously quite different from the one we have now.

But as of now, we fully intend to fulfill our obligation under that SOFA and withdraw all our remaining forces. As you know, since the President has come into office, we’ve withdrawn 100,000 U.S. troops from Iraq, and, again, according to the SOFA, we will draw down to zero by the end of the year.

Q Admiral Mullen said in April that without an agreement within weeks, soon, we would have to start making irreversible decisions, he said. Presumably that means start bringing some troops home.

MR. CARNEY: Well, we have been bringing troops home consistently, and I think, obviously, there are 52 weeks in a year. And we are moving along according to the existing agreements we have, but obviously we have different means of discussing with the Iraqi government whatever ideas they may have about any other kind of agreement we might reach. But for now, we will keep the commitments that we’ve made.

Q And there have been no talks on a new SOFA since the -- since Admiral Mullen --

MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean -- I have nothing to announce on that. I have no specific negotiations that are underway. Obviously we are in consultation with the Iraqi government on a regular basis through our ambassador, through our military commander there, and through others, but no talks in that sense.

Again, Al Sabaah's source is clearly telling the newspaper about an OPEN press briefing. There was nothing secretive about Carney's remarks (they weren't reported in this country but US outlets don't really care about Iraq). Carney never said that a request was made.

They then cite an issued statement by the US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey. I haven't seen that statement but, as it reads in the paper, it is consistent with remarks by Jeffrey and the State Dept. Meaning if the SOFA is not extended or replaced with something similar, Plan B for the administration (which would start October 1st -- that's not in the article but did get touched on in Monday's Commission on Wartime Contracting hearing) would be to shove a number of US soldiers under the umbrella of the State Dept and keep them in Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement.

The following community sites -- plus Watching America and -- have updated last night and this morning:

And lastly US Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, receives an honor today:

(Washington, D.C.) -- Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 8th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) will receive the 2011 "Outstanding Legislator Award" from the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). The AUSA is honoring Senator Murray with this award for her work on veterans' employment issues and her continuing support for service members and their families.

WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

WHAT: Association of the United States Army Outstanding Legislator Award reception

WHEN: Tomorrow -- Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Presentation at 12:00 PM ET

WHERE: Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room G11


Evan Miller

Specialty Media Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray


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