Tuesday, February 28, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Sahwa and government officials remain targeted, political stagnation is the new term to describe the Iraqi government, the US Senate hears from Vice Adm William McRaven that US forces should stay in Iraq, CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley explores the subject of which families receive condolence letters and which ones don't when a loved one in the military dies, and more.
This morning Gen James Thurman, Vice Adm Wililam McRaven and Lt Gen John Allen appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding promotions. For example, McRaven is nominated to become Commander of United Nations Command/ Combined Forces Command/United States Forces Korea. The issue of Iraq came up at length twice. The first time was near the start of the hearing when Senator John McCain asked his questions. (As Ranking Member, McCain asked directly after Chair Carl Levin finished his questions.)
Ranking Member John McCain: Adm McRaven, do you believe that the United States should have a residual force in Iraq in order to assist -- with particularly special operations, functions and intelligence?
Vice Adm William McRaven: Sir, I think that it would be mutually beneficial to us and the Iraqis if in fact that was the case. Obviously, remains to be seen whether the Iraqis will want us to stay past the intended drawdown time. But clearly there is still a threat in Iraq. And a small, soft presence there I think would be advisable.
Ranking Member John McCain: And if you look at recent US casulties, the situation -- at least in some respects -- politically as well as militarily has shown some deterioration. Would you agree?
Vice Adm William McRaven: Sir, I would. Statistically that appears to be the case, yes, sir.
The second time the issue arose was when Mark Udell felt the need to embrace, to wallow in counter-insurgency. Save the transcripts of his praise for the War Crimes Tribunal. It's really sad that (a) ethics are so unimportant in the Senate and (b) that with all that's going on in Iraq currently, anyone would think Iraq could be sold as a 'success.'
Senator Mark Udell: Gen Allen, if I could turn to you. I know that you've had some
Let me turn to the success that you had and we had in Anbar in Iraq. You reached out to a population that had been previously pretty hostile and then worked with them to turn their focus to al Qaeda and the elements of terrorism that had really created enormous chaos. In the process, the COIN doctrine was validated. I don't want to imply that the two countries are alike but could you talk about the primary lessons that we learned in Anbar and how we're going to apply those lessons in Afghanistan.
Lt Gen John Allen: Senator, much of what was accomplished in the Anbar Province, needless to say, much of it was accomplished on the shoulders of the sacrficie of many soldiers and marines and sailors and Airmen. We honor that service and their sacrifice. And having accomplished that really remarkable outcome. But what was accomplished in the Anbar Province was really the result of a comprehensive civil-military counter-insurgnecy strategy. It was a strategy that leveraged every aspect of military capacity that could be brought to bear in the battle space -- civil affairs, conventional military capabilities, advisory capacity to build the Iraqi police, the Iraqi security forces. the two divisions of Iraqi infantry that we had, special operators who worked both as advisors and mentors but also euphemistically the term "black soft" the strike forces that would enter the battle space to attack the insurgent network. We pressurized the insurgent network constantly. And while we were pressurizing and shredding the insurgent network and blunting their capabilities with the use of conventional forces, we worked very, very hard to build the capacity of the Iraqi security forces -- both the army -- those two divisions -- and we went from about 4,000 police to almost 30,000 police in the year that we were there in '07 and '08. All of that was complimented with a comprehensive plan with respect to civilian outreach as well. USAID resourced 3 embedded PRTs and resourced our PRT -- our provincial PRT in Ramadi. And I believe that the wise outreach to the sheiks in the tribe. The wise expenditure of tax dollars with respect to both
From your perspective as Commander, Joint Special Operations Command, what are the main "lessons learned" from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn?
Both operations have provided us with many lessons learned which we have incorporated into our current operations. Some of these lessons include: the need for a unified U.S. government approach, active and integrated interagency coordination, the necessity for culturally attuned forces and the need to maximize combined operations. U.S. military and government efforts need to be synergized to provide a focused effort while reducing the likelihood of duplication and opposed efforts. Inter-agnecy integration is essential in our fight against violent extremism. Some of our greatest accomplishments would not have come to fruition without this coordinated effort. Our forces are now more culturally sensitive than ever before, greater language skills and incorporating female military personnel into our post operations activities have allowed out forces greater access and integration with the Iraqi and Afghan civilian populace. Lastly, we have maximized out combined operation efforts by working with and through the host nation forces. Every operation is coordinated with the Government of Iraq and Afghanistan and the Iraqi and Afghan Partnering Units. These combined operations are not only doing a tremendous job in accomplishing the mission but, also help enable and empower the Iraqi and Afghan special operations forces for future success.
What's McRaven saying?
Nothing really. He's using buzz words . . . from twenty years ago. He's demonstrating he can string together words . . . if not answer a question. The question was about Iraq and page 16 clearly indicates "IRAQ" And asked about "lessons learned'' in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn (September 1, 2010, the Iraq War is renamed "Operation New Dawn" -- you're soaking in it -- by the White House), McRaven attempts to run to Afghanistan ("Both operations . . .") immediately indicating that he has little to offer on the topic of Iraq.
Staying with the topic of US forces remaining in Iraq (under the umbrella of the Defense Dept), Al Jazeera reports today: "US troops are scheduled to withdraw completely from Iraq by year's end, though few observers expect they will fully meet that goal. Iraq, after all, has no viable air force; struggles to control its borders; and lacks sophisticated military intelligence and surveillance technology. So the Pentagon has long planned to leave a 'residual force', perhaps 10,000 to 12,000 troops, to perform those functions and to continue training Iraqi troops." Meanwhile using an unnamed source (presumably someone in Parliament or in the Cabinet), Al Mada reports that talks are ongoing between political blocs and US government representatives over US forces remaining in Iraq beyond 2011. The source states that there are the talks various blocs know of and that thee are also "secret talks" but insists that any deal reached will have to be approved by Parliament. Alsumaria TV reports, "A senior official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by President Jalal Talabani stressed on Sunday the necessity for US Forces to stay in Iraq beyond the end of 2011. Iraq is still an inconsistent State, he said noting that the majority of political parties approve the extension of US troops term in Iraq." In another article, Al Mada speaks with political scientist Hussein al-Shammari who worries that conflicts between Al Iraqiya (led by Ayad Allawi) and State of Law (led by Nouri al-Maliki) may lead to a bloody physical conflict. If you look at all the fears, the continued stalemate or the Iraqi military's lack of readiness, you really don't see the 'success' that Bush, Barack and various others have painted the war to be. Meanwhile (more success?) Aswat al-Iraq notes that Jalal Talabani (president of Iraq) and Iraqiya's Saleh Mutlaq met today to discuss "political stagnation" and how to overcome it. Al Jazeera provides a brief backstory on the conflict between Iraqiya and State Of Law:
Maliki and Allawi agreed to set up a national strategy council as part of the power-sharing deal they reached in December. The council was meant to be a check on Maliki, who as prime minister enjoys wide authority over the Iraqi security forces.
But the agreement left key details unresolved, namely, the exact powers and responsibilities of the council.
Iraqiya signed the deal anyway; al-Maliki now claims that the council is unconstitutional; and without a concrete agreement, Iraqiya has found itself politically sidelined.
"Iraqiya keeps asking for the implementation of 'balance' in the ministries of state, as well as the creation of a strategy policy council," Reidar Visser, a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said.
"But if the details weren't hammered out at the time, Iraqiya's leverage is now greatly diminished."
AP notes "hundreds of thousands" are making the pilgrimage to the Kadhim shrine for Imam Moussa al-Kadhim and that some estimates put the number of visitors to the mosque at three million recently.Al Rafidayn adds that young children and all the way through the elderly are walking north of Baghdad on this annivesary of the Imam's death. He was persecuted, imprisoned and then poisoned, dying in 799 AD. The article notes that he was praying in the mosque when he was arrested (795 AD). The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Our Correspondent in Baghdad: Da'wa Party members taking advantage of the Anniversary of the death of the Imam Moussa Al Khadhim by carrying Maliki's pictures during the marches!" NTD television (link has text and video) quotes Kitab Shran stating, "The pilgrimage process is going well and the processions too, thank God. Police and army are at the service of the people and the pilgrims and the service is very good and beyond our expectations. The service is good and everything we need is available and if one has an emergency he will find assistance. Thank God, the pilgrimage is going smoothly and all the streets are open." Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh shares these observations of the pilgrimage via her Twitter feed:
Leo: (singing Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville") Nibble on sponge cake, watching the sun bake . . .
Jane Arraf: That's Leo. Now during the day he teaches music but at night you can find him in what has become my favorite restaurant. And Leo plays music, the most amazing music with that fantastic accent you just heard. And we have to remember this is a country where Iraqis are pretty much divided over American soldiers, American culture. He says that one thing that pretty much all of them agree on are American movies and music. They love it.
Leo: Two part of Iraqi people. One of them called them liberators, the other called them invadors. But most Iraqi people, as I saw in front of my eyes, like American culture.
Leo: (singing the Bee Gee's "To Love Somebody") You don't know what it's like, you don't know what it's like, to love somebody
Jane Arraf: I have to say that while Jimmy Buffett is a particular favorite of his, his real love is the Bee Gees. "Tragey," "Staying Alive" particularly suited to life in Iraq of course and this one.
Leo: (singing) You don't know what it's like, you don't know, you don't know what it's like, To love somebody . . .
Jane Arraf: It really is hard to describe how awful it was for Iraqis during the civil war when a lot of people basically just stayed home for those entire two, three years. And when the was on what they did when they were trapped in their homes was watch TV and like thousands of Iraqis, Leo is a huge fan of Dr. Phil. But his real love, his dream is to be on with Oprah.
Leo: If I sit in with Oprah, I want to tell Oprah one thing is people are people
Jane Arraf: Leo says one day he'd like to visit the United States again particularly, because of the songs, San Francisco and Boston. In the meantime though he sings about it
Leo: (singing the Bee Gees "Massachusetts") I'm going back to Massachusetts, something's telling me . . .
Staying on the cultural topic, Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad was a cultural point for many years and remains so even now despite the bombings and other violence. (The area is known for its bookstores and even at the height of the ethnic cleansing, when the yearly book festivals take place, Iraqis turn out.) In San Francisco, poet Beau Beausoleil started to the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project to foster a sense of community with Iraq's lively and culturally rich Al-Muntanabbi Street. Sarah Browning (Foreign Policy In Focus) reports:
Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here grew as printers and poets responded to the call to build solidarity with the people of Iraq and, at the same time, remind Americans of the great toll the war is taking on Iraqi society. "I have come to feel that wherever someone sits down to read, or where someone takes up their pen and paper to write, it istherethat al-Mutanabbi Street starts," says Beausoleil. The broadsides now number 130, one for each person killed or maimed in the attack. An anthology will be published in 2012 by PM Press.
The broadsides may present just a few words, such as "Books Not Bombs" by Nina Ardery of Carillion Press of Indianapolis, Indiana, in which the word BOMBS is slowly transformed into the word BOOKS. Or they may incorporate full poems by contemporary and historic poets writing in English or Arabic, poets such as Iraqis Buland al-Haydari and Saadi Yousef, Palestinian Americans Naomi Shihab Nye and Deema Shehabi, and Iranian Americans Persis Karim and Sholeh Wolpé. They are stark and bloody and beautiful, a great diversity of visual styles, and they can all beviewed on-line.
Beausoleil explains: "Some broadsides are kind of subtle. Some are really anti-war. Some address the idea of censorship and the idea of attacking a street that sold books, a place where ideas were exchanged, and how no matter the devastation, whoever had done it could not erase what was there, ultimately."
Turning to today's reported violence. Reuters notes a Baquba roadside bombing injured Baquba Mayor Abdulla al-Hayali and two bodyguards, an Abu Ghraib sticky bombing claimed the life of a Sahwa leader and 1 male corpse was discovered in Kirkuk. Aswat al-Iraq adds that Bayan Di'zai'i (former Minister of Reconstruction and Housing) was targeted today in Kirkuk when her convy was attacked and she was injured and "rushed to hospital, without any further details."
AFP reports that US forces caught three Iraqis -- Mohammed Salim Lafta, Munif Hashim Shinawa and Saeed Ubayd Sabir -- "on a highway south of Baghdad" March 14th where they were suspected of placing a roadside bomb. Today the 3 appeared before court for approximately 2 hours before they were let go without being charges with any crime. The time limit and being unable to provide testimony has angered the US military whose spokesperson, Col. Reginal Allen, states, "We are deeply disappointed in the court's decision."
Three US soldiers died in Iraq Sunday. L. Finch (Boston Globe) reports that one of the three is 22-year-old Sgt Matthew Gallagher who was on his deployment to Iraq and who was supposed to have a brief leave to return home next week for his 23rd birthday. James Ruggiero, Matthew Gallagher's step-father, states, "He loved the Army so much he was talking about reenlisting when the time was up." Sean Teehan (Cape Cod Times) adds a quote from Katie Gallagher, Matthew Gallagher's spouse, "He died a hero." In addition to his wife and his step-father, his survivors include his mother Cheryl Ruggiero and his biological father Peter Gallagher. His mother explains the military told her that he was doing "a house sweep" when he had been shot and she states, "I'm a gold star mother. But I'd give that gold star back if it could bring my baby back." WCVB offers a video report which includes Katie Gallger speaking of her late husband, "He's the most generous nice person that I've ever met in my life. He was everything to me. He was my best friend." Manny Gamallo (Tulsa World) reports 20-year-old Pfc Dylan Jeffrey Johnson was killed by "a grenade attack in Iraq on Sunday, his father said" in Jalula and that another soldier (a sergeant) was killed as well. Jeff Johnson says of his son, "He knew they were going to Iraq, but he didn't know when. He was really excited about going over there."
The three deaths Sunday brought the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq this month to 12, with 11 of them dubbed combat deaths and 1 under investigation. Please note, if parents above are accurately remembering what they were told (and I'm sure they are), there are 12 combat deaths. The 1 under investigation is from Sunday and was a single soldier. Now we learn that soldier was shot dead while doing a house sweep? Unless it was by a fellow US soldier, that was combat or else there's another death that hasn't been acknowledged. This needs to be cleared up by the Pentagon and it needs to be cleared up very quickly.
June 6th there was an attack that resulted in the deaths of 6 soldiers (5 died that day, one of the wounded died after he had a medical transport back to the US). One of the six who died June 6th was buried yesterday, 27-year-old Spc Micahel Cook Jr. CBS3 Sprinfield provides a video report which includes, "While family members of Cook declined to go on camera, they tell us Cook leaves behind his wife Samantha and two young children. Even though Cook is not from Pioneer Valley, family and friends say it's special for him to be buried with full military honors at the Massachusetts Veterans Cemetery in Agawam because his uncle, who also served in the military, is buried there as well." I'm going to go ahead and be rude here and not give a damn about it. It's your job to know what you're saying. If you're on camera or you're in print, it's your damn job. You need to learn to do it. CBS 3 wrongly states June 5th was the worst attack (based on US deaths) in Iraq in 2 years. No. That was the week of June 6th. Go back to June 12th here and you will find "Another US soldier dead from the Iraq War" and the Defense Dept annoucement:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Spc. Marcos A. Cintron, 32, of Orlando, Fla., died June 16 at a medical facility in Boston, Mass., of wounds suffered June 6 at Baghdad, Iraq, when insurgents attacked his unit with indirect fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan. For more information, the media may contact 1st Infantry Division public affairs office at 785-240-6359 or 785-307-0641.
That took the number to six dead from that attack. June 12th. It's now June 28th. There's no excuse for not knowing about Marcos A. Cintron's death now. It's disrespectful to him and makes you look like a lazy ass when you can't get your facts straight. 6 US soldiers were killed in that attack, not 5. That is so disrespectful. It's not like DoD just announced the death yesterday. Nor is it like you're doing a podcast. You've got a whole newsroom behind you and you can't get your facts right.
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 the1st 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 Victorville, 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.
Here's George Graham (The Republican) writing about Cook in a story published yesterday at 5:00 pm, "U.S. Army Spc. Michael Benjamin Cook Jr., one of five soldiers killed in action in Iraq earlier this month, was laid to rest here Monday at the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery." But, as we've established, he wasn't "one of five," he was one of six. Again, there's no excuse for this. I am appalled.
Jake O'Donnell (Patch) notes, "During the funeral ceremony Cook was honored with several posthumous awards and medals, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Good Conduct Medal. Cook has also been honored with the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Army Service Ribbon." O'Donnell provides a photo essay of the service here. David Roback (The Republican) offers a photo essay here.
There are two who were seriously wounded this month. There are probably more than that but they aren't getting noted by the Pentagon. One lost both his legs, a 28-year-old soldier. June 11th, Ryan E. Little (The Ledger) reported that Spc Charles Lemon has arrived back in the US early after surviving a bombing ("improvised explosive device in An Najaf") June 8th. Lemon has "lost both legs and suffered other injuries including burns to his body" according to his sister Kimberly Lemon. June 18th, Matthew Pleasant (The Ledger) reported on the event (Clicks For Charles) Brianna Towns was doing to raise funds for her cousing Charles' immediate family who were at Walter Reed with Charles Lemon and Pleasant noted, "On Tuesday, he was strong enough for doctors to remove him from life support, but he is still undergoing surgeries." Updates can be found at Charlie's Change for Change where secure donations can also be made. Judy Zavalla (Alvin Sun) reports Joseph L. Finney was injured in the June 6th attack. Zawalla notes of the father of three and husband of Heather Kinsey Finney, "He is doing better at this time. His brain has experienced trauma and he still has serious injuries to his right shoulder. The last report said the doctors were keeping him sedated to let the brain swelling subside. When he is awake, he will not rest because he is constantly texting his family to assure them he is alright."
Yesterday on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, Pelley (link has text and video) introduced Bill Whitaker's latest investigative report, "On any given day in this country, more than 75,000 military veterans are homeless. So we were shocked to discover what's become of land in southern California that's meant to house homeless veterans and once did." Whitaker's report reveals how the city of Los Angeles is misusing land that was given to the city for veterans housing and how the city can't explain why they've misused the land for over a century or where the money has gone that they've charged various companies they've rented it out to in that time. Today CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley (link has text and video) reported on military families whose loved ones take their own lives receive no letter of condolence from the president of the United States. Elaine Quijano reports on Gregg and Jannett Keesling whose 25-year-old son, Spc Chance Keesling, took his own life while serving his second deployment in Iraq. In addition, the president sends no condolence letters to those like Jessica Conckling's family whose loved one dies "in stateside training accidents." Sara Conkling tells Elaine Quijano, "She was willing to put her life on the line and she did lose her life doing it. But it doesn't count as much to them."
Senator Patty Murray is Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. For some time she has been raising the issue of veterans employment -- young veterans of today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from a very high unemployment rate -- as she's pointed out in hearings and in news conferences, many are worrying that listing their service is harming their employment chances. Tomorrow her Committee will address proposed legislation and her office notes:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 29th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing on pending legislation. During the hearing, the committee will vote on pending legislation. Included among the bills to be considered is Senator Murray's Hiring Heroes Act, a major veterans employment billthat make jobs skill training necessary for the separation of service members from the military and provides new pathways to federal and private sector employment. A full list of the bills the committee will vote on is available HERE. WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee