Monday, June 13, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Monday, June 13, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, rumors of a US Congressional delegation being kicked out of Iraq are unfounded, the delegation is denied access to Camp Ashraf, a man who stepped down as a vice president in Iraq may be angling for prime minister, the military has stopped noting the wounded, and much more.
Friday, a US Congressional delegation was in Iraq.  A number of claims were reported in the media.  The easiest explanation for the conflict between what the Congress members maintain and what was reported is that the spokesperson of the prime minister (Nouri al-Maliki is prime minister) was attempting to whip up public sentiment in Iraq at a time when Nouri's popularity was, at best challenged.  On Sunday, noting the delegation, I summarized a report by stting it was "on the expulsion from Iraq of the US Congressional delegation led by US House Rep Dan Rohrabacher".  I was wrong, it was my error.  The delegation maintains they were not expelled from Iraq.  My apologies for my error.  The three strongest reports from the weekend are worth highlighting.  First to file with facts was Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers)  whose report still stands:

After a "very frank" exchange with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a prominent House Republican announced Friday his subcommittee is investigating whether forces under al-Maliki's command had committed a "crime against humanity" when they killed 35 Iranian dissidents at a camp north of Baghdad on April 8.
Responding to the assertions by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., al-Maliki asked the U.S. Embassy to remove the U.S. delegation from Iraq immediately, government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said on Alhurra television.

Note that Ali Dabbagh is Nouri's official spokesperson and one of four people Nouri has designated to officially speak for the government.  That's not a joke.  We'll drop back to the April 8th snapshot because Arabic media covered it but the US media wasn't interested:
Nouri's attempt at seizing control of the government never ends.  Al Rafidayn reported this week that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh informed the press that from now on all official remarks will come from either a spokesperson for the Ministry of Government, a spokesperson for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nouri or Nouri's spokesperson. Statements by any other government official or spokesperson, al-Dabbagh insisted, had "no value" from Wednesday forward. 
Also this weekend, Tim Craig (Washington Post) reported that the delegation was refused the right to visit Camp Ashraf:


Rohrabacher, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he will now press for a "criminal" probe of whether Iraq has mistreated the dissidents.

"We are investigating to see if criminal behavior caused the death of these noncombatants," Rohrabacher said. "The killing of unarmed people . . . a mass killing . . . is a criminal act and a crime against humanity."



The third strong report was from Chelsea J. Carter and Mohammed Lazim (CNN) who noted they were unable to speak with the delegation for their report:

Embassy spokesman David Ranz issued a statement Saturday saying "congressional visitors do not necessarily express the views of the U.S. administration or even a majority of Congress. The visitors this weekend made that clear in their remarks."
In widely reported statements after a meeting Friday with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the California Republican said he informed the Iraqi leader that his House committee is investigating the killing of Iranian exiles by Iraqi forces.
Here is the statement US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher's office issued (we were sent it this morning):

Istanbul, Turkey, Jun 11 - Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) issued the following statement on his recent meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki while in Baghdad as part of an official Congressional delegation:

"We had a frank and spirited discussion about the Camp Ashraf massacre by Iraqi troops," said Rohrabacher. "There was never any indication the Prime Minister was angered by having this discussion or the during the portion of the conversation about the current economic situation in the U.S., which lead to the suggestion of repayment by the Iraqis.

The meeting was originally scheduled for an hour but continued for an extra 40 minutes.

"No apologies are necessary for suggesting the massacre of unarmed civilians by Iraqi troops is something that needs to be investigated and I plan to do so as Chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee," said Rohrabacher.

"Furthermore, I will not apologize for suggesting once Iraq becomes prosperous, it should consider repaying the United States for the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to liberate them from a tyrannical dictator and helping to establish a democratic government," Rohrabacher continued. "There's nothing wrong with suggesting that the people who have benefited from our benevolence should consider repaying us for what we have given them."

In response to media reports the delegation had been expelled from Iraq, Mr. Rohrabacher said, "There was no change in our scheduling while we were in Iraq. Our itinerary remained exactly the same and we departed as scheduled.

"We were not officially told to leave the country before we left and were never told or warned not to come back."


On May 26th, Rep. Rohrabacher announced his intention of conducting a hearing into the April 8th massacre at Camp Ashraf in eastern Iraq where 35 unarmed civilians were killed and scores more injured during an attack by Iraqi soldiers. Mr. Rohrabacher's request for delegation access to the site was denied by the U.S. State Department and the Iraqi government.
They were in Turkey following their pre-planned agenda.  They were not kicked out.  Rohrabacher's statements note that he did raise the issue of repayment with Nouri and that he did raise the issue of Camp Ashraf (a far more serious issue and not a hypothetical one -- though Think Progress flat-out LIED this weekend and has filed another LIE today, some people are shameless and disgrace the Democratic Party with their inability to be truthful).  Key point of the press release?  The delegation announced their intention to visit Camp Ashraf publicly in a House hearing.  The planned visit was known long before Friday (we noted the plan visit here).  But they were denied that visit and not just by Nouri but also "denied by the U.S. State Department."  It's also interesting just how many outlets are still reporting that they were kicked out.  All the usual losers, yes -- Fox News, Think Progress, etc. -- but some you'd expect more from. 
Friday, US House Rep Ted Poe had issued a statement:
"I am deeply disappointed that Members of Congress were denied access to Camp Ashraf by the Iraqi government.  Earlier in the day, we had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Al-Maliki for nearly two hours and heard his candid position on this complex issue. These discussions were important and productive. However, it was also important to be able to hear the position of the residents of Camp Ashraf in order to get a fair assessment from both sides of what really occurred that day. We were not allowed to hear their side of the story. It is unacceptable for the Government of Iraq to continue to silence the Iranian freedom fighters at Camp Ashraf."
Rohrabacher, Poe, Jeff Duncan and Louie Gohmert were the Republican Congress members on the trip, Jim Costa and Russ Carnahan were the Democrats in the delegation.
Let's go back to Think Progress.  Does no one there monitor Ben Armbruster?  He was wrong this weekend, he's wrong now and it's not a Republican vs. Democrat issue -- though this is the only way Think Progress can ever present anything, granted.  John Kerry isn't only a Democrat in the US Senate -- in 2004, he was Democratic Party presidential nominee.   April 14th, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued the following:

Washington, DC – Last Friday, Iraqi Security Forces forcefully entered Camp Ashraf in Eastern Iraq. Members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK are housed at the camp. Earlier today, United Nations officials confirmed that the incursion by Iraqi Security Forces had resulted in scores of dead and injured MEK members. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) issued the following statement:
"United Nations confirmation of the scope of last week's tragedy at Camp Ashraf is deeply disturbing and the Iraqi military action is simply unacceptable. Corrective action is imperative. First, the Iraqis must stop the bleeding and refrain from any further military action against Camp Ashraf. Second, the Iraqi government has announced a full investigation into the massacre and it must be thorough and serious. The investigation must hold accountable the responsible parties and ensure that there will be no sequel to these horrific events. Third, the current situation at the camp is untenable. The United States must redouble efforts with all the relevant parties – including the Iraqi government, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Mujahedin-e Khalq itself – to seek a peaceful and durable solution, and to find permanent homes for the residents of Camp Ashraf."

It is a massacre.  Ben Amrbruster couldn't mention Camp Ashraf Saturday and he again refuses to today.  I have no use for this garbage and the world shouldn't.  This idea that "Democratic Party interests will be advanced each day and we'll be like Sherman on his March to the Sea and we'll win! We'll win!"  They're absurd.  They're nothing but a pimp-whore factory, grinding out talking points and I ignore them and their kindred until they're distracting from life and death situations.  Camp Ashraf is a serious issue, what's been promised to the residents (by the US who disarmed them) is serious and the failure to keep that promise is serious.  The US government is accused of violating the Geneva Conventions (I believe they've been violated) by many British MPs -- of both Labour and the Conservative Party.  The same group of MPs have linked the two most prominent attacks and visits by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and speculated that Gates gave the okay for each assault.
These are serious charges.  Serious issues surround Camp Ashraf and Think Progress should be ashamed of themselves that they still can't mention.  But, damn, they wouldn't even be talking about Iraq -- check their archives -- if didn't think they could use it to blungeon Republicans with. These are life and death matters, it's not a game. We would say more on this but Ben Armbruster's written his last post sneering at a Republcian over this issue.  (Or if he's sane he has. Hold on, we'll get there.) 
For those late to the party -- we're not rewarding that crap with links -- Ben has been all over Rohrabacher's suggestion that Iraq should pay money to the US.
Should they?  The government is not the Iraqi people.  The government is a bunch of exiles who fled the country and then repeatedly lobbied -- for over a decade -- the US and England to invade Iraq.  When the US took Baghdad, suddenly the exiles rushed to return.  Yeah, the exiles should be paying.  American, British and Australian forces were used as mercenaries, as cleaners, to take out a standing government for the benefit of a bunch of cowardly exiles who had the 'guts' to flee but not the guts to 'fight.'  They got what they wanted, they took over the country -- because the US installed them.  Nouri has siphoned off millions and millions of dollars from the Iraqi people.  If this is the end-game in Iraq, if this is what the product of the war is, damn right Nouri and the other cowardly exiles should pay.  That's not Rohrabacher's argument.  Rohrabacher is arguing that Iraq has money and should be able to use those billions to pay.  This is the position that the Bush administration put forward when arguing for the illegal war.  'Iraq's oil will pay for the war!'  is the promise Paul Wolfowitz and others made. It played very well in 2002 and 2003 among voters, it played very well when Donald Trump used it as he explored whether or not to seek the GOP nomination for president.  Eli Yokley (Politc MO) quotes the Congress member on repayment:
"Back in our revolution, our democratic movement was financed by France. . . . Congress at least partially paid them back. There is certainly precedent for that sort of thing happening. [. . .] I was disappointed because on the front end of the build up to the war in Iraq, there were some pretty [large] assurances that as the oil industry was rebuilt, there were going to be billions paid back to the US for what we are doing to rebuild that country, but of course those fell flat. [. . .] It is my hope there will be an opportunity for the Iraqi government to repay or continue to do business with the United States in ways to help us out economically."
So I guess we'll have day three of Ben Armbruster proving just how worthless a grown man can be. Oh, wait! He won't.  He'll never mention that because Dana Rohrabacher didn't make those statements; Democrat Russ Carnahan did. Jason Rosenbaum (Oakville Patch) quotes Carnahan stating of the trip, "We got some very candid assessments of the ongoing problems with goernance in Iraq. While they have made some progress, they still have some major things to work out like the hydrocarbonlaw in terms of sharing revenues." No offense, but that observation's been made for over six years now by US officials visiting Iraq."  As we noted on this topic when Trump was raising it, I don't support making the Iraqi people pay.  That's my opinion and I'm fully aware it may be not be the majority opinion.  Let's stay with money.  Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) reports that "U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash" and that "federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error."  
"Prior to invading Iraq, looking for weapons of mass destruction, this administration looked the other way at illegal shipments of Iraqi oil to Jordan, Syria and Turkey, which earned at least $8.5 billion for Saddam Hussein's regime. Now the administration cannot account for an additional $9 billion from Iraqi oil proceeds which was supposed to go to help the Iraqi people. This is not the biggest theft in the last ten years.  Let's drop back to February 9, 2005 for this floor statement from US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:

"While Congress busies itself about how $2 billion was illegally diverted to Saddam from the U.N.'s Oil-For-Food Program, it would also be instructive to find out why it was apparently administration policy to let Saddam Hussein earn four times that amount through illegal oil shipments.
"Before Congress gives another $80 billion for the war in Iraq, the American people would find it instructive for Congress to ask what happened with the unaccounted-for $9 billion which also came from Iraq oil proceeds.
"Madam Speaker, before the war, Iraq was about oil. As the war continues, it is about billions in unaccounted-for oil revenues which the U.S. had custody of, responsibility for; and now nobody knows nothing."
Warnings were ignored throughout the still continuing Iraq War. Still continuing Iraq War?  Sheldon Richman (CounterPunch) notes:
Last year President Obama triumphantly announced to the American people that the war there was over as he withdrew all but about 47,000 troops. (As though that is an insignificant force.) MSNBC's Obama cheerleading section was on the scene to record the historic event. Wikipedia gives opening and closing dates for the war: March 20, 2003 – August 31, 2010. So it must be over, right?
Tell it to the families of the five soldiers. They were killed in a rocket attack from Shiite-controlled east Baghdad. That sounds like combat. That sounds like war. The American people are not being leveled with.
Under the Status of Forces Agreement between the Bush administration and the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the U.S. military is to leave Iraq by the end of the year. Iraq's Iran-backed government and the most powerful figure outside the government, Muqtada al Sadr, have said they want U.S. forces out. But despite President Obama's reassurances, American military leaders aren't so certain it's time to leave. As the Christian Science Monitor reported, "[T]he attack
[. . .]
Blah, blah, blah. I'm reminded of a scene in Goldie Hawn's Private Benjamin (written by Nancy Meyers and Harvey Miller), when they're marching around in circles and Judy's going on about what she wants to do when Mary Kay Place's character interrupts to say, "Would you please just shut up, Benjamin.  God! Never in in all my born days have I met such a whiny candy ass as you!" And how does this apply to the above?  First, the number is six, not five.  Six soldiers died last week. We'll be coming back to that issue in a moment.  Now for the efforts to extend the US military presence.  Does Sheldon think it's happening -- and being reported -- without Barack's knowledge?  Now this is what Samantha Power wanted and she is Barack's brain.  But even if you're not aware of that, you should be aware -- because it took place in public -- that Joe Biden has spoken about the need to extend the SOFA, that last week at the White House Jay Carney was talking about it in a press briefing, that Leon Panetta said not only is he open to it but he think Iraq will ask for it to be extended -- said that as his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense.  If that was in opposition to what Barack wanted, he would have pulled the nomination.  The State Dept has spoken publicly about this.  But let's pin on the military brass and pretend like little girl Barack's being forced against her will?  Portraying him that weak and pathetic is the way to give him a break?  Hmm.  Interesting. 
It's Barack's policy.  It's always been his policy.  You need to wake up to reality, stop trying to rescue him and allow him the agency of his own actions.  Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker are on much stronger ground at The Progressive:
Don't count on the United States to withdraw its 47,000 troops from Iraq by the end of this year, as President Obama has promised.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, along with other Obama administration officials, has exerted tremendous pressure on the Iraqi government to "ask" the United States to keep troops in Iraq. Neither Iraqis nor Americans signed up for this kind of a deal: the permanent occupation of Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is trying to satisfy this American goal of remaining in Iraq while simultaneously attempting to placate his domestic allies who want our forces to leave entirely.
They are mistaken about the number of Sadr protesters (I didn't quote that) but we'll ignore that becuase they got so much more right and hope this is a sign that The Progressive plans to return to its anti-war roots.  6 US soldiers died in Iraq last week.  Five on Monday.  Of those 5 deaths, Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) notes that the Shi'ite militia group Promise Day Brigade appears to have claimed credit for the attack although "CNN cannot independently verify the legitimacy of the claim." One on Wednesday.  We need to drop back several months to establish a point.  Bear with me.  January 15th, USF issued the following statement:
BAGHDAD - Two U.S. service members were killed and one service member was wounded Saturday while conducting operations in northern Iraq.
The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.  The name and
condition of the wounded service member is not releasable.
The names of deceased service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at  The announcements are made on the website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin.
The incident is currently under investigation.

That's not any different from the many USF and MNF press releases we've noted here in the last 7 years.  Now let's go to Wednesday's death and that announcement:
BAGHDAD - A U.S. service member was killed Wednesday while conducting operations in southern Iraq.
The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.
The names of deceased service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website
The announcements are published on the website no earlier than 24 hours following notification of the service member's primary next of kin.
The incident is currently under investigation.

That's Matthew J. England's death noted above.   Now did you notice the difference between the two statements?  The second one made no mention of one thing, implying that there were none. What is that?  Wounded.  Injured.  Go to that January statement and you see X killed X wounded.  That is how the announcments have always read. Unless no one was wounded.
Was no wounded?
The press that noted the death on Wednesday or Thursday last week didn't report any wounded.  Now when the five died last Monday, there were reports of regional and international press.  The number wounded, in the Arabic press, was said to be 5 or 6; however, a soldier with that brigade posted to Facebook that actually 15 US soldiers were wounded in Monday's attack.  USF's announcement last Monday made no mention of anyone being wounded. 
So clearly no one's wounded and I've just wasted all of our time on hypotheticals -- Uh, except for one thing.  Ryan E. Little (The Ledger) reported Saturday on Spc Charles Lemon.  Who?  An Iraq War veteran who was arriving back in the US early after surviving a bombing ("improvised explosive device in An Najaf") last Wednesday. Lemon has "lost both legs and suffered other injuries including burns to his body" according to his sister Kimberly Lemon. The article notes: "[Charles' cousin Brianna] Towns is holding an event called 'Clicks for Charlie,' in which she is offering 45-minute photography sessions for $30 in downtown Winter Haven on June 18." It's amazing that a war the press fought so hard for is now swept under the rug, it's appalling that they refuse to do their jobs, they refuse to ask the tough questions. Why isn't the US military being honest about what's going on?  Charles Lemon was wounded in the same Najaf explosion that took Matthew England's life.  It would appear the administration has given orders for the military to keep a lid on as much as possible.  So if you have to report deaths for example, report them but don't let on that there was anyone injured.
This is transparency?  This is Change You Can Believe In?  This is shameful and disgusting.  The US government has a long history of lying about the number killed and wounded -- but in the past, those lies have been about the 'other side'.  Now the US government is sweeping the injured -- the seriously injured -- two legs lost -- under the rug.  Hiding it.  The same way Bush tried to hide the coffins.
Go through any press release from USF or MNF (USF replaced MNF) and you'll see, the practice every year of the Iraq War has been for a statement to be issued noting deaths and any wounded in the same incident.  Barack Obama is more secretive than George W. Bush. 

Secret or not, deaths continue in Iraq.  Al Jazeera reports a Basra suicide bombing today where the driver was apparently attempting to get closer to a police compound but he detonated the bomb when guards stopped him. Mohammed Tawfeeq and Muhaiman Najm (CNN) add, "The bomber detonated a car loaded with explosives at an emergency police station in the al-Ashar neighborhood in central Basra, said Police Chief Faisal Al-Abadi." Nabil al-Jurani (AP) notes, "The attack occurred during the morning rush hour. Basra is 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad." Aswat al-Iraq counts 5 dead and twenty-nine wounded.  Reuters adds that a Baghdad bombing left two people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing left one person injured, 2 beheaded corpses were discovered in Baaj, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul, a Balad home invasion targeted an Imam who was left injured, a Mussayab sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Baquba attack left two police officers dead (they were shot dead) and, dropping back to Sunday, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured "a Baghdad senior municipal official".

Dar Addustour reports the Sadrists are stating if the SOFA is extended (allowing US soldiers to remain on Iraqi soil beyond 2012 -- and under DoD, not State Dept), the Sadrists leave the National Alliance. Does the National Alliance's other blocs walk as well? If not, this isn't very different from the Sadrist walking out in Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister. The most important bloc in the National Alliance? The Supreme Islamic Council. Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that Sadrists are prepared to team with Surpeme Islamic Council to back Adel Abdul Mahdi as the head of government. Hmmm? I wish someone had noticed this possibility happening awhile back . . . Say when he resigned as vice president and the press ran with all that fluff, if only someone could have noted . . . Oh wait . . .
The big news out of Iraq today is the resignation of Adel Abdul Mehdi as one of Iraq's three vice presidents. Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times via Sacramento Bee) report: [he's resiging, the paper says, because he wants to see government "slim down"] 
Adel Abdul Mehdi was the Shi'ite vice president in Nouri's first term as prime minister. Though his term had expired, President Jalal Talabani asked him to hang on until after new vice presidents could be voted in. He said he would and told the press that, after that, he was done, he did not want a second term. Despite that assertion, he took a second term. Not only that but, earlier this month, Aswat al-Iraq reported, "The President of the Republic, Jalal Talabani, has issued a Presidential Decree, naming Adel Abdul-Mahdi, as 1st Vice-President." That declaration took some by surprise and they saw it as an effort to give Abdul-Mehdi more power. He certainly didn't object to it publicly. Nor did he object to the size of the Cabinet. Nouri inflated the size in an attempt to create positions for all the people he'd promised posts if they'd support him in his bid to continue as prime minister.
Granted, Nouri still hasn't named a Minister of Defense, a Minister of National Security or a Minister of the Interior; however, the increase in the size of his Cabinet (deputy ministers and all) was well known before January.
If indeed that's Adel Abdul-Mahdi's objection, it's a new objection or one he's not given much weight to until now.
Alsumaria TV paints a different picture of Abdul-Mahdi's displeasure which includes, "The source stated that one of the major reasons for Abdul Mehdi's resignation is the fact that Vice Presidents' issue was included in the present political crisis and due to people's denunciation and religious authority's dissatisfaction over Parliament's vote on three Vice Presidents." Aswat al-Iraq offers Supreme Islamic Council's Jumaa al-Atwany offering the following: [. . .]
Wildest rumor out of Iraq on this topic right now? Abdul-Mahdi, anticipating a vote of no-confidence for Nouri in the next weeks (over the corruption and services issues), is positioning himself to vie for the post of prime minister. Though it's unlikely, it is true that Abdul-Mahdi hoped to be prime minister in 2006 and again in 2010. (And he has many supporters.)
The story did not make sense.  Now Abdul-Mahdi may not be seeking the role of prime minister.  But that is what I was told over the phone May 30th and that is what is now being reported in the Arabic press.  Abdul-Mahdi's resignation never made sense for the stated reasons.  He was well aware that there would likely be three vice presidents -- that was known going back to at least November (when Jalal Talabani was publicy advocating for a female Turkman as the third vice president).

Al Rafidayn notes that the disputes between Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi are spreading throughout the Parliament. Al Sabaah notes that there are efforts to "contain" the differences between State of Law and Iraqiya. Dar Addustour notes that the differences between the two political slates are increasing but feels that it's not "the end of the day" if differences continue. The paper maintains that all members of State of Law do not vote with Nouri and all members of Iraqiya do not vote with Allawi.
There has been so much Iraq War related news in the last seven days that a lot of things were put on hold and some forgotten completely.  I promised myself we would include an excerpt of Elaine Brower's "Change You CAN Believe In!" (World Can't Wait) and hoped that would take place Friday.  There wasn't time or space so we're doing it today.  I hope you'll use the link and read it in full (and then pass her column around to friends).  She's sharing about what she and her son -- an Iraq War and Afghanistan War veteran -- went through and it may resonate with other veterans families:

Last year, after his return home, he lost his job, and had severe blackouts and nightmares, he began on his road to the awakening and recovery.   I witnessed it myself on a daily basis.  The ups and downs, the rage, fear, helplessness, and anger that what he had dreamed of, being part of the U.S. Marines, was what destroyed him, physically and emotionally.   He ranted at the government for lying to him.   He became cloistered, depressed and at 28 could not maintain a relationship.   All those problems most people only read about, or don't even understand, were staring me in the face.   I traveled to VA visits with him; called him several times a day; and, begged him to go get help before he ended his life.  

I'm not sure how I was able to survive through years of this type of torment, but I kept telling myself that other mothers had lost their children, so I was one of the lucky ones.   So James and I traveled down this road together, mostly at odds, but locking arms against the darkness.   Until several weeks ago.  

There was this change that came over him, and from what I could see it started when he read Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States."   He started to read Wikileaks, and books written by veterans that had similar experiences as he had.   Every day he would learn something new about how his government betrayed him, and his fellow marines, and all the troops serving in the military.   He would call me and like a child who discovered ice cream for the first time, explain this newly uncovered secret as it were, and acted amazed all over again.

I kept telling myself that I was dreaming, or, he would re-up or give up.   I couldn't bring myself to actually be overjoyed that my son had joined me in my fight against the wars.   Until he stood up in front of a group of high school students in New York City where we live and declared "Don't join the military.   For me, it was a mistake.   I'm 30 years old, go to physical therapy twice a week, can't get out of bed in the morning without pain, and am unemployed.   I wouldn't wish that on anyone."  James decided to join the "We Are Not Your Soldiers" tour, a project of World Can't Wait, bringing Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans into High Schools around the Country.


We were at a hearing in DC today that I'll try to grab in tomorrow's snapshot (and we may also cover a hearing from tomorrow in tomorrow's snapshot). There's not enough room to include the hearing today.