Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Iraq releases 2 American contractors

Iraqi journalist Ghassan Adnan reflected on the last eight years on NPR's All Things Considered (link has audio and text) yesterday:

I'm not sure if life will get better or worse. Everyone says something different. I have lost many friends. I'm not sure if I will lose more friends. What I am sure of is that my life will be completely changed with no American boots in Iraq, as it was changed when those same boots first entered Iraq eight years ago.

Meanwhile it's a member of the US Congress (and not the press) that broke the news of two Americans held by Iraqi forces who were released yesterday after being held for 18 days. AP notes US House Rep Peter King has announced the release of Alex Antiohos and Jonas March by the Ministry of the Defense. The limited details at present indicate that King's office lit a fire under the State Dept after his office was contacted by Antiohos' wife. King is talking of holding hearings into the matter. If things are as presented and the two Americans (as well as a third man) were working for the Ministry of the Interior and their paperwork was then judged not sufficient by the Ministry of Defense leading them to be held for over half a month, King is correct that the State Dept has a great deal of explaining to do including how they will be ensuring the safety of the contractors working for them.

If true, again, details are sketchy, the mishap backs up cries from Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate who repeatedly demanded that the State Dept have an action plan and show it to Congress for what happened October 1st when they took over contracting responsibilities (took over from the Defense Dept). The State Dept's Patrick Kennedy's been happy to go all over the media spinning in the last few weeks. Possibly that time would have been better spent preparing a concerte plan (and budget) to Congress?

The two Americans are expected to be back in the US shortly. But Press TV notes other Americans in Iraq; specifically 8,000 service members who, along with "14 warplanes, 125 helicopters and 28 drones" are now based in the KRG.

Sahar Issa is an Iraqi journalist who works for McClatchy Newspapers. Last Friday, she was on PRI's The World discussing the Thursday Baghdad bombings with Lisa Mullins (link is audio and transcript) and earlier this month on The World, she offered observations and reflections on the Iraq War in a discussion with Marco Werman (link is audio and transcript). Excerpt.

Werman: Is there one image or an interaction you had with American troops that you'll remember very clearly?

Issa: Yes, of course, one day at 6 o'clock in the morning the door was knocked on and there was a search, a house-to-house search. And they came into the house and were very afraid. Of course, there were Americans and Iraqis together. And they said can we search the house? They were very proper and we allowed them. And so these Americans go to the bookshelves that I have in my sitting room and they see English books. And so the man turns around and he says ma'am, you read a lot. And I said well, yes I do. And he goes on looking and he says hm, Grisham, hm…and all the writers that perhaps his family reads. And then he said do you have a weapon in the house? And I said in that cupboard, of course we do. And he opened the cupboard and he sees the video games that my sons play, and he said what, Auto Theft and the other one, their names, and he was grinning and he was laughing. And I felt inside me that for the first time he was able to see me as a person. And I think for him it was like a revelation, and I could see it in his eyes.

The following community sites -- plus Iraq Inquiry Digest, On The Wilder Side and -- updated last night and this morning:

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