Thursday, June 9, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, DoD finally names the 5 US soldiers killed in Iraq on Monday, Leon Panetta appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Panetta states "a request like that," US military staying in Iraq past 2011, "you know, is something that I think will be forthcoming at some point," weapons inspector David Kelly's 2003 death remains in the news in England, and more.
Monday, in the worst attack on US service members in the last two years, 5 soldiers were killed in Baghdad. Doug Ireland (Eagle Tribune) speaks to Michael Cook's high school computer teacher, Curtis Killion, who states, "He would always volunteer. He was the kind of kid that all the younger ones were comfortable with." We noted more details about Michael Cook in yesterday's snapshot. The five who died were finally identified by the Defense Dept this afternoon:
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of five soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn. They died June 6 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with indirect fire. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
Spc. Emilio J. Campo Jr., 20, of Madelia, Minn.;
Spc. Michael B. Cook Jr., 27, of Middletown, Ohio;
Spc. Christopher B. Fishbeck, 24, of Victoville, Calif.;
Spc. Robert P. Hartwick, 20, of Rockbridge, Ohio; and
Pfc. Michael C. Olivieri, 26, Chicago, Ill.
For more information, the media may contact the 1st Infantry Division public affairs office at 785-240-6359 or 785-307-0641.
Prior to the announcement, the press was already reporting on Emilio Camp Jr. because his survivors had spoken to the press. Pat Pheifer (Star Tribune) reports:
Allan Beyer, the high school principal, said Campo, a 2009 graduate, "was a credit to his school and the community" and called him "a very outstanding young man."
Campo played basketball, his main sport, but also soccer, track and football. Whenever he returned to his hometown of 2,400 people about 100 miles southwest of Minneapolis, he'd stop at school to say hello to the staff. Five of his classmates stopped by Tuesday to share their grief and their memories, Beyer said.
Campo's death was the first war loss for Madelia since Vietnam, Beyer said.
Dustin VanHale, a classmate and good friend, said Campo "was always best friends with everybody." He was a motivator, telling basketball teammates after a 25-point loss, "don't worry, we'll get 'em next time."
KARE (link has text and video) observes, "His picture seems to be on every page of his high school yearbook. Campo played varsity football, basketball, ran track, was a member of the Business Professionals of America, and sang in the choir." Mark Steil (MPR -- link has text and audio) speaks with several people who remember Emilio Campo including his cousin Martha Magally Garcia who talks about how he'd always call home when something bad happened in Iraq so that his family would know he was okay and not worry, "It was something that he always said when called. Don't worry family, I'm still alive. Joking and teasing with us on the phone. We couldn't believe, we can't believe, that he's gone now." AP notes that "when he died he also had a steady girlfriend, Samantha Crowley, who was prom queen when Campo was prom king in 2009." Meanwhile Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) notes Robert "Hartwick graduated from Logan High school in 2009" and speaks to the school principal Jim Robinson who states, "He was a pretty tough kid.
The Daily Press notes Christopher Fishbeck (and runs a photo of the dignified transfer of his remains to Dover -- photo by Jose Luis Magana with AP) and a website created for him. Among the features at the website is this moving photo slide show of Christopher Fishbeck with his friends, family, pets and serving in the military. Chicago's WLS has a photo of Michael C. Olivieri.
In addition to the 5 who died Monday, another US service member was reported dead in southern Iraq yesterday for a total of six this week.
The regional press in the US has done a strong job of covering the deaths (as has the Associated Press). The national outlets? Not so good. ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, for example, didn't even note the 5 deaths on Monday. Even more appalling, PBS' The NewsHour reduced the deaths to a brief headline (3 sentences) but made time for a segment on a non-sex 'sex scandal' -- a full segment. And the US service member killed in Iraq yesterday? The NewsHour didn't even note yesterday's death in their headlines last night. Apparently, it wasn't news and 5 US soldiers have to die in Iraq for them to make (a small amount of) time on the program for the news. The Nation and The Progressive have had no time for the deaths though both grand standed on the Iraq War for years and years . . . before a Democrat was voted into the White House. You might say Matthew Rothschild "has now proven himself to be both a fool and a hypocrite" -- you might even say that Matthew Rothschild should stop calling others hypocrites (Rand Paul is whom Rothschild aimed the insult at) and take a look in the mirror. International press has done a better job of noting the 5 US deaths on Monday. For example, today Arab News offers an editorial which opens by referencing Monday's violence:
Five US soldiers have been killed in Iraq. This is the single most serious loss the US has suffered in Iraq in more than two years. The killing of Americans in a rocket attack on the outskirts of Baghdad coincides with two interesting opinion polls in the US. Although President Barack Obama formally ended Iraq combat operations last year, there are still 45,000 US troops and thousands of other Americans in the country who serve as "advisers." A Washington Post-ABC poll suggests that support for the war in Afghanistan had actually risen in the past month understandably buoyed by the sensational killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden. Forty-three percent of Americans now think the war is worth fighting, compared with 31 percent in March. This is still a minority against those who are opposed to the Afghan war.
A different poll by the Pew Research Center shows that a whopping majority of Americans blames the country's current economic woes and debt on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sixty percent of Americans agree that the two wars contributed a great deal to the size of the national debt.
Meanwhile this morning the Senate Armed Services Committee heard from the head of the CIA, Leoan Panetta, who has now been nominated to become the Secretary of Defense. Before the hearing started, several members of CodePink were present asking, "Mr. Panetta, will you pledge to bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq" and carrying signs which read "DIPLOMACY NOT WAR!!" and "NO MORE WAR!" The Committee has posted [PDF format warning] "Advance Policy Questions for the Honorable Leon Panetta Nominee to be Secretary of Defense" which is a series of written questions Panetta has responded to -- 79 pages of a Q & A. As disclosed before, I know Leon Panetta. I like him but, for example, pages 13 through 14 is bulls**t. He is asked about dwell time. He is asked specifically about what he will do to see that they are all meeting the prescribed dwell time. He notes that the Army and the Reserve Component are not meeting it and states, "If confirmed, I will continue to work toward the goal of a 1:5 dwell time ratio for the Reserve Component" and, for Army, "If confirmed, I will continue to monitor this issue closely." That's what you would do?
No, that is your JOB DUTY. So he's answered (in question 18) nothing more than, "I will do the duties my job demands."
What do you believe are the major lessons learned from the Iraq invasion and the ongoing effort to stabilize the country?
[Panetta:] One of the most important lessons is the U.S. government must train and plan for post-combat operations. Conflict can occur along a spectrum. Our military must be prepared for combat, but also may have a role in shaping the political, cultural and economic factors that can fuel conflict. The U.S. military must plan and train with civilian counterparts, be prepared to operate effectively in all phases of conflict, and develop better awareness of political, cultural, and economic factors to ensure that our actions will meet our objectives.
What is your understanding and assessment, if any, of the Department's adaptations or changes in policy, programs, force structure, or operational concepts based upon these lessons learned?
[Panetta:] I understand that lessons learned from Iraq and other recent engagements have led to deep and wide-ranging changes in doctrine, organization, training, and policy. For example, the counterinsurgency doctrine has been completely revised, culminating in the publication of Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. The development of Advise and Assist Brigades and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance units are examples of force structures.
So, for any who didn't know already, he's a counter-insurgency supporter. Counter-insurgeny is war on a native people -- in this country, it was used against the Native Americans, it was most infamously used in Vietnam to the outrage of millions and millions of people around the world. Such are the times that today few bother to object the unethical and illegal nature of counter-insurgency and one-time journalists rush to disgrace their profession and their own names to become cheerleaders for a policy they damn well should know is criminal.
While maintaining that he supports a drawdown of all US troops by the end of the year, he writes, "Iraqi leaders and U.S. officials have acknowledged that there will be gaps in Iraqi Security Forces' capabilities after 2011, especially in external defense. I believe the United States should consider a request from the Government of Iraq to remain in Iraq for a limited period of time to provide limited assistance to fill these gaps." He gets credit for grasping the Kirkuk issue. That may seem an obvious issue but it wasn't that long ago that Chris Hill (the thankfully former US Ambassador to Iraq) and didn't have a clue -- even after extensive tutoring -- about the issue of Kirkuk. ("A land dispute" was as deep as he could go.) On Iraq today, he writes, "Iraq still faces dangerous and determined enemies, but these enemies do not have the support of the Iraqi people. Although occasional high-profile attacks still occur, the underlying security situation in Iraq remains stable and these attacks have not sparked a return to widespread insurgency or civil war." Those are the key sections on Iraq in the 79 pages. (Anyone wondering about contractors should know he takes a pass on the issue of whether they are being over-utilized insisting he is not currently in the position to be able to make that call.)
In testimony, he showed a subserviance that was disgusting. Asked by John McCain whether or not the Congress had the right to cut off funds (as they did during Vietnam), Panetta gave an indirect response praising the president and "his" powers. Congress has control of the purse and Panetta, a former member of Congress, knows that. It was embarrassing to see that and alarming because maybe he meant it. (It wasn't said in order to cinch the post -- he's a former member of Congress, he knows that's an automatic in before you even factor in that he sailed through the nomination process in 2009.) In the final half-hour of the nearly four hour hearing (I'm counting Panetta's break that he took which was longer than five minutes), Senator Jim Webb would raise the issue and note that Panetta served in Congress. Panetta would dance around the question and use language that portrayed Congressional power as weak and presidential power as higher and more powerful -- has Leon forgotten about the three branches of the federal goverment and the concept of separation of powers?
Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain is the Ranking Member. We'll note this from Chair Levin's opening remarks:
The next Secretary of Defense will face a complex, extraordinary set of demands on our Armed Forces. Foremost among them, the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Between these two conflicts, we continue to have approximately 150,000 troops deployed, the US military is also providing support to NATO operations in Libya. In addition, even after the extraordinary raid that killed Osama bin Laden, terrorist threats against our homeland continue to eminate from Pakistan, Yemen, Somolia and elsewhere. The risk of a terrorist organization getting their hands on detonating an improvised nuclear device or other weapon of mass destruction remains one of the gravest possible threats to the United States. To counter this threat, the Defense Dept is working with the Departments of State, Energy, Homeland Security and other US government agencies to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, fiscile materials and dangerous technologies. A number of key national security decisions will have to be made in the coming weeks and months. Even as the drawdown of US forces in Iraq is on track recent signs of instability may lead Iraq's political leadership to ask for some kind of continuing US military presence beyond the December 31st withdrawal deadline agreed to by President Bush and Prime Minister al-Maliki in the 2008 security agreement between our countries.
We'll also note this exchange on Iraq.
Ranking Member John McCain: On the subject of Iraq, if the Afghan [he meant Iraqi] government and all its elements agree that there should be a residual US military presence in Iraq, particularly in three areas, air,defense, intelligence capabilities and security in the areas around Kirkuk and that part of Iraq where there has been significant tensions, would you agree that that would be a wise thing for us to do?
CIA Director Leon Panetta: I-I believe that if, uh, Prime Minister Maliki, the Iraqi government uh requests that we uh that we maintain a presence there that that ought to be seriously considered by the president
Ranking Member John McCain: Do you think it would be in our interests to do that given the situation --
CIA Director Leon Panetta: Senator, I have to tell you, there are a thousand al Qaeda that are still in Iraq. We saw the attack that was made just the other day. It too continues to be a fragile situation. And I believe that uh we-we should take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that we protect whatever progress we've made there.
An interesting exchange but do reporters give a damn about US troops staying beyond 2011? Let's look at Reuters reporter Missy Ryan's real time reaction on her Twitter feed to the hearing -- and apparently that's the only exchange that stood out to her:
Missy Ryan appears to have gotten lost in that 1,000 figure. I have no idea why. It's not as though the US government has an al Qaeda membership list and daily uses it to conduct a roll call. It's a guess. It may be accurate, it may not be. More than likely, it's not. Why is Missy Ryan -- and the rest of the press -- obsessed with that number. In the exchange above, was 1,000 really the key moment? I don't think so but it's the sort of minor trivia that the press can run with and obsess over. It's trivia which is so much easier for small minds to cover as opposed to ideas. And if people don't like that -- Missy Ryan's hardly the only reporter running with "1,000!" as news from the hearing -- maybe they might try rising to a higher level? 6 is a number that Missy and Reuters didn't obsess over but 6 is the number of US soldiers who have died in Iraq this week. And whether or not the troops leave Iraq at the end of the year will determine whether or not that number increases after 2011. And considering the very poor job Reuters did reporting on the Status Of Forces Agreement in real time, I think it could be argued that they need to do remedial reporting on this issue. (They are far from alone on that.) But by all means, obsess over 1,000 -- a guess and an inflated one at that. If 6 US soldiers die in Iraq in the first six months of 2012, I'm sure that we'll all be so thrilled that the obsession from today's hearing was over 1,000 -- I'm sure we'll all feel that was time well spent by the circus freaks passing themselves off as the press.
Back to the hearing for a brief excerpt.
Senator Lindsey Graham: When it comes to Iraq, if the Iraqis ask us to provide some troops in 2012, Secretary Gates says he thinks that would be smart. Do you think that would be smart to say yes.
CIA Director Leon Panetta: Yes.
This is an issue, maybe not to Missy Ryan, but to Iraqis and Americans, this is an issue. Aswat al-Iraq reports that MP Maha al-Douri is on a campaign to collect a million signatures to a petition calling on the US to leave Iraq. Three days ago, Fatih Abdulsalam (Azzaman) wrote about how "Arabs are divided over the spate of popular revolutions rocking their regimes. But it is clear that many of them will prefer to be crushed under the armored vehicles of their regimes than being 'liberated' by the U.S. [. . .] U.S. 'liberation' of Iraq has brought horrendous results and led to ruinous consequences. Its outcome has been corrupt local administrations (governments) immersed in filthy sectarianism." You could argue that, around the world, the issue of whether or not the US military stays in Iraq beyond 2011 matters to a large number of people -- even if those people aren't in the US press corps. Of course, not all US reporters missed the point. This is from the strong report by Lolita C. Baldor and Donna Cassata (AP):
"I think it's clear to me that Iraq is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of presence to remain there," Panetta said, adding that it was contingent on what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki requests. "I have every confidence that a request like that is something that I think will be forthcoming at some point."
We'll note the exchange the above quote came in.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen: I know earlier you were asked about Iraq and whether we would continue to stay in Iraq if asked. And, like others, I have been concerned about increasing violence in Iraq, about the recent casualties. We just lost someone from New Hampshire in the attack over the weekend. And so I wonder if you can talk to what we need to do in order to keep our focus on the efforts in Iraq and, um, assuming that we are not asked to stay, how we will deal with drawing down the remaining troops that are there.
CIA Director Leon Panetta: Well we are at the present time on track to withdrawing our forces at the end of 2011 but I think that, uh, it's clear to me that Iraq is -- is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of presence to remain there. And-and-and it really is dependent on uh the prime minister and on the government of Iraq to present to us, uh, what, uh, you know what is it that they need and over what period of time in order to make sure that the gains we've made in Iraq are sustained. I-I have every confidence that, uh, that, uh, you know, that a request like that, you know, is something that I think will be forthcoming at some point.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen: My time has expired. I would like to explore that more later.
Senator Shaheen was referring to Michael B. Cook. We'll again note the statement her office issued:
(Washington, D.C.) -- U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen released the following statement in response to reports of the death of Pfc. Michael Cook, formerly of Salem, N.H.:
"My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Pfc. Michael Cook. Like many brave sons and daughters of New Hampshire, he sought to serve his country and protect his fellow Americans, and he did so with honor and courage.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Michael's family at this difficult time."
Yesterday there was also coverage of a Senate hearing. To note that, we'll quote Ann from this morning:
They covered the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" reported on Senator Patty Murray's Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 bringing in some other details from other hearings this month. At Rebecca's site, Wally offered "Army pays $1 billion annually in unemployment" which focused on the costs issues of Murray's bill. At Trina's site, Ava covered the sexual assaults that are taking place at the VA in "Sexual assaults at the VA (Ava)." And Kat explored a bill Senator Richard Burr's is pushing in "Senator Burr" and how it's been something he's fought for repeatedly and she also covered the fact that the government officials continue to break the rules on prepared testimony before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. To which I say, "So much for Barack's transparency pledge."
In Iraq today, violence continued. Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life, a Tuk Khurmato roadside bombing injured one police officer, 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk, a Baghdad bombing injured one person (bomb was outside a store selling alcohol), 1 judge was shot dead in Baghdad, Jalal Jassim Mohammed ("head of a company belonging to the Ministry of Industry") was shot dead in Taji, 1 police commissioner was shot dead in Baghdad, 1 corpse (male) was discovered in Baghdad and a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that the day's violence claimed "three government officials" and "The assassinations have led some government officials to take some precautionary measures like changing the type or color of their cars or changing their routes home, three government officials told CNN. They spoke on condition of anonymity for security."
Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) observes that violence has increased in the last 100 Days. 100 Days? Nouri al-Maliki's attempt to derail the protests that were taking place in Iraq. He and Moqtada al-Sadr worked over to derail the protests. Moqtada even insisted people shouldn't protest. The 100 Days ended June 7th. Mohammad Akef Jamal explains:
The political crisis in Iraq is coming to a head as the 100-day government ultimatum ends today. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki had sought the time to undertake reforms.
Al Maliki had not been expected to meet his goals because he does not have the capabilities to fix the situation in Iraq in such a short time. Moreover, his pledge could have worsened the situation. And this is exactly what happened, as no one has seen any kind of improvement on the ground. In fact, things have deteriorated further in the country.
The prime minister had a major role in the deterioration of the political situation in Iraq, a country that is on the verge of collapsing as a result of the Arbil agreement not being implemented.
This agreement included nine chapters, and was concluded last November between Al Maliki and Eyad Allawi, Chairman of the Al Iraqiya list. It was sponsored by the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani. It put an end to the government formation crisis that had lasted nine months.
The agreement included the establishment of the Supreme Policies Council, to be chaired by Allawi, and the formation of a real, national unity government. Both did not happen, resulting in protests by Al Iraqiya, which had received the most number of votes in the elections.
Nouri elected to trash the Erbil Agreements once he got what he wanted. Marina Ottaway and Danial Anas Kaysi (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) examined the current political tensions in a new paper and noted of the Erbil Agreement:
The Erbil agreement was a compromise among the parties that had won seats in the Council of Representatives in the March 2010 elections. Allawi's Iraqiya coalition had won 91 seats in the election and Maliki's State of Law coalition won 89 seats. Neither could form a government without entering into a coalition with other parties, and political reality dictated that any coalition needed to include representatives of the Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish parties to be viable. This meant that Maliki and Allawi had to compete for the allegiance of the same parties, and compete they did, in a nine-month-long round robin in which every party tried at one point or another to form an alliance with every other party.
When it became clear that neither side could prevail, all parties accepted the compromise mediated by Barzani. Maliki would be the prime minister, but, in exchange, the speaker of the parliament would come from the ranks of Iraqiya, and thus would be a Sunni, while Allawi would head a new National Council on Strategic Policies (NCSP). The Kurds would continue to control the presidency -- and, of course, to run the Kurdistan region autonomously. Ministries would be shared among political parties proportionate to the number of seats each controlled. Several issues, however, were left unresolved, including the number of vice-presidents and the nature of the NCSP.
The government of national unity was certainly not a marriage based on love or even convenience. It was a marriage of despair -- there was no other acceptable solution. It thus took a month to form the government -- the maximum time permissible under the constitution before the president would have to declare that Maliki had failed. Even when the government was announced, it was not complete. Many ministers were only nominated in an "acting" capacity, though it had already been decided which party would control which ministry. Most notably, none of the security ministries -- defense, interior, or national security -- had a permanent head yet, and Maliki was the acting minister in all three cases. He remained in control of the three ministries at the time of this writing five months later.
MEMRI Blog states, "After meeting in Erbil with Masoud Barazani, president of Kurdistan Regional Government, and the regional Prime Minister Barham Saleh, the head of al-Iraqiya, Ayad Allawi, declared that an early election is preferable to a majority government which Iraqi President Nouri al-Malaki might prefer over the current government of national partnership, given his long-standing disagreement with Allawi." Aswat al-Iraq reports that Iraqiya's Mohammed al-Daamy declared today, "Al-Iraqiya Coalition is able to form a government of political majority, through its partnership with the Kurdistan Coalition and the Supreme Islamic Council, in order to save the Iraqi situation, that has reached its minimum stage; but we are not for such a solution at the present time. We want a common solution, shared by all political blocs, in order to save the Iraqi situation, and we may resort to the formation of a majority government in the forthcoming phase, because the current experience has proved that the national partnership did not succeed in saving the situation, causing further deterioration in public services and security." And yesterday the paper noted that MP Abdul Mehdi al-Khafaji (National Alliance) declared Nouri cannot fire any minister currently because the National Alliance "is the only bloc capable of forming a majority government." We'll note this report by Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) tomorrow. (There's nothing wrong with the report, I just don't have the time to include it and what needs to be included with it so we'll wait for that tomorrow.)
Meanwhile Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) reports that "the country's armed forces remain dysfunctional, with power dangerously decentralized and wielded by regional fiefdoms controlled by Iraq's top politician. Local commanders have a direct line to Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, circumventing heads of the military. The armed forces remain focused almost entirely on internal security; no one knows how the Iraqi military would come together to fight a foreign enemy, or even who would be in charge."
Turning to England where the big news is the late Dr. David Kelly. Kelly told the BBC about the way the intel for the Iraq War was being cooked. The BBC reported that intel was being "sexed up," Tony Blair hit the roof and began a war on the BBC. Dr. David Kelly admitted he was the source for the BBC story and, shortly afterward, Kelly turned up dead. If this 2003 major news event is new to you (and it may be, that was 8 years ago), the Telegraph of London offers a timeline of key events. His death, ruled to be a suicide, has been surrounded with rumors. Nick Collins (Telegraph of London) provides a walk through of the contradictory evidence (some say Kelly was despondent before his death, others found him upbeat, etc.) and ends with, "As well as the notion that spy agencies may have orchestrated Dr Kelly's death to prevent the publication of secret and possibly incriminating information, some conspiracy theorists point to the fact that a number of other microbiology experts including five Russians working on a weapons project had died in the past decade, some in circumstances deemed to be suspicious." Today Emma Alberici (Australia's ABC) reports, "Calls for an inquest into the death of the UK government's chief scientist, Doctor David Kelly, have been rejected by attorney-general Dominic Grieve, who says there is no evidence he was murdered." News 24 adds, "Attorney General Dominic Grieve, the government's chief legal adviser, ruled out asking the High Court to order an inquest into the scientist's death." The Telegraph notes that "a group of campaigning doctors, led by Dr Stephen Frost, accused the Government of being 'complicit in a determined and concerted cover-up', saying they would now seek a judicial review of Mr Grieve's decision." Paddy McGuffin (Morning Star) adds that the group of doctors are calling the decision an embarrasment and have stated: "No coroner in the land would have reached a suicide verdict on the evidence which Lord Hutton heard."