Tuesday, April 10, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, revisionary history on the Iraq War has already been launched, Mike Prysner pushes back against it with facts, Susan Rice and Martin Kobler disgrace themselves and the White House and the UN today in a Security Council meeting, the political crisis continues, there are many treatments and therapies for PTSD, and more.
This week, Omar Ali (Liberation) notesA.N.S.W.E.R.'s San Francisco chapter held a teach-in the afternoon of March 25th at the First Unitarian Chuch on Franklin. The topic of the teach-in was the Iraq War. Speakers included Dr. Jess Ghannam, Nazila Bargshady, Dr. Henry Clark, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Richard Becker and Gloria La Riva. Ali notes, "The teach-in was well attended by progressives from many different movements and communities. The diversity of the attendees demonstrates the sense of unity of different strata of the working class of this country in opposition to the war against the Iraqi masses.
We're going to note a section of Iraq War veteran and March Forward co-founder Mike Prysner's speech.
Mike Prysner: I am happy to see so many people here to talk about the real history of the Iraq War because now that it is perceived that for the most part the Iraq War as we knew it from 2003 until just recently has largely ended, a large number of troops, occupying troops, have gone and, of course with that, the US government is going to try to write the history of the war as they want it to be written. And that started not too long ago, actually started on the ninth anniversary of the war, the day that the invasion began, March 19th, President Obama made the day an official holiday to mark the anniversary. That day, March 19th, was now called The National Day of Honor. President Obama wrote in his declaration that soldiers fought block-by-block to help the Iraqi people sieze a chance for a better future, that the soldiers took new roles as diplomats and development experts to improve the communities where they served, that their strength toppled a tyrant and their valor helped build opportunity in oppression's place. Across the nearly nine years of conflict, the glory of their service always shone through. The language in this declaration is just gushing over the honor and heroism of US service members and the righteousness of the mission, the bravery, the glory, the valor the sacrfice, the success -- this is how they are writing the history of the war: A just, heoric mission with an unforseen evil resistance that was defeated only by our soldiers' determination to serve the United States of America. That's the history that they want to write. And they want to write the history that way because the reality is very different. The reality is that this government sent those soldiers that they are honoring with this holiday, sent them to a war against the will of the majority of the people both in the United States and in Iraq, that they lied and we can say now without any question that they lied about why they were sending those soldiers, that they ordered them to unleash the full might of the most powerful military machine in history against a people that had committed no crime nor posed any threat to our friends or family, that they gutted our schools, our communities, our healthcare services to pay for the war, that they laid waste to a beautiful, proud country and that when the war wasn't going well or going as they planned, they kept throwing bodies and more bodies and more bodies into the grinder. And in it's wake, it left every single person who is touched by that war destroyed and abandoned with no hope while the vultures on Wall Street cashed in. This is the real history of the war and what will -- for the time being anyway -- be etched into the calendars in the United States as a national day of honor, we know that it will be something very different for Iraq. It will be the day that they'll remember as a day of fear, as a day of pain, as a day that began a new nightmare -- one that would take the lives of over 1.3 million people, there would be 5 million homeless, 4 million orphans, a day when a foreign miltary invaded their soil in a war of aggression and would not leave and remained there for years to raid their homes, torture their parents and children, shred their identity and patrol their streets. That day, March 19, 2003, will forever be ingrained into the conscience of the Iraqi people not as a day to honor the US military but as the day when they saw its true face. I was one of those soldiers who marched into Iraq on the eve of the invasion in March of '03. I was 19-years-old. I wanted to go. I was willing to die for my country -- whatever that means, as President Obama has just honored us for. But I didn't know a lot of things then. I didn't know that when our commander-in-chief, my top military commanders, civilian advisors, and when they were telling us why we had to risk our lives, that they were lying and that they knew that they were lying. I didn't know that they lied because they couldn't tell the truth because the truth was so sinister. On the eve of the invasion, I didn't know that we would not be greeted with flowers and people cheering in the streets. I didn't know that for more than ten years prior, these people had arleady been dying at the hands of the US government. As we saw, they spent years bombing the food supply, water treatment plants, civilian infrastructure, hopsitals, that they intentionally starved Iraq, that they intentionally denied medicine so that hundreds of thousands of children would die as a result, that this was a calculated strategy. This is the government we're dealing with. I didn't know that I'd be a part of such an unparalleled loss of innocent life, such an unmatched level of destruction that it would constitute the greatest atrocity of the modern era. That's the real history of the Iraq War.
Today W.G. Dunlop (AFP) reports, "Iraqis thought a better life was at hand when Saddam Hussain's regime fell in April 2003, but after nine years of violence and suffering, many are still waiting for their dreams to be realised. Iraq still faces major shortages in basic services such as electricity and water, the UN says some 1.3 million Iraqis are internally displaced, and though violence is down from its peak in 2006-2007, attacks remain common."
Also today, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice called to order a UN Security Council meeting noting, "The provisional agenda for this meeting is the situation in Iraq." Martin Kobler is the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's Special Envoy to Iraq and he offered testimony as did the Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Hamid al-Bayati.
Kobler's opening remarks were confusing and not just for their spin. For example, he claimed, "The United States completed the withdrawal of its armed forces from Iraq on December 31, 2011." December 18, 2011 is generally seen as when the US military withdrew most of it troops. (Left behind? Trainers, Special Ops, Marines to protect the Embassy and Embassy staff, the CIA and the FBI as well as thousands of contractors working for the US State Dept.)
Kobler noted the political crisis, "The continued delays in convening the National Conference underscores the urgent need for Iraqi leaders to summon the political will and courage to work together to solve the country's problems through an inclusive dialogue. In this regard, UNAMI will continue to remain steadfast in its commitment in assisting the government and people of Iraq to address the major challenges facing their nation."
He spoke of "the need for conducting provincial elections in Kirkuk as soon as possible." The steps for this were outlined in Iraq's 2005 Constitution -- Article 140. Who refused to implement Article 140 by the end of 2007 as the Constitution required? Prime Minister and thug Nouri al-Maliki. Political Stalemate I followed the March 7, 2010 elections and lasted for 8 months as Nouri refused to allow anyone else to be named prime minister-designate (despite Nouri's State of Law coming in second to Iraqiya). He could dig in his heels because he had the backing of US President Barack Obama. In November 2010, the US-brokered Erbil Agreement ended Poltiical Stalemate I. The Erbil Agreement called for Nouri to get a second term as prime minister. In exchange for that, he had to guarantee certain things in the agreement including that Kirkuk would be resolved as outlined in the Constitution. Once he became Prime Minister (end of December 2010), he trashed the Erbil Agreement and that created Political Stalemate II which has now lasted approximately 16 months.
UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler: [. . .] the tensions that have arisen between the main party blocs in Iraq which have developed into a political impasse. I have therefore Iraqi political parties and leaders to work together in the spirit of partnership towards finding common ground that will resolve their differences. In this regard, Iraqiya's decision to end its boycott of the Council of Ministers and Council of Representatives was the right step. President [Jalal] Talabani suggested holding a National Conference as a way forward to bring about an end to the stalemate. Unfortunately, until today, there was no agreement on the agenda. An inclusive forum is needed, however, as a first step to end the political impasse. I call on all Iraqi leaders to sit together to address all their differences in a meaningful way. UNAMI stands ready to continue supporting these efforts. [. . .] I'm concerned that Iraq's political situation is heightening communal tensions in the country and leading to an increase in the number of attacks on civilians. Since my last briefing to the council, terrorist attacks have continued to target pilgrims and resulted in the killing and wounding of scores of defenseless people practicing their religion. Other attacks across the country have indiscriminately targeted civilians resulting in large numbers of deaths and injuries including children. In the first three months of 2012, a total of 613 civilians were killed and 1,800 were injured. This is slightly less than civilian casualties last year; however, every man, woman and child dying in terrorist attacks in the streets, markets or mosques of Iraq is one casualty too many. Such horrendous crimes against the Iraqi people need to stop and violence must end if Iraq is to achieve the prosperous and secure future its people deserve.
There is more on violence that we'll get to in a moment. But let's go to where things stand with the major blocs in Iraq today. Al Mada notes that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states the political crisis needs to be addressed and regrets that the national conference was not held last Thursday as scheduled. (The National Conference is what Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for since December 21st to address the ongoing political crisis.) Nouri has resisted the conference since it was suggested. In February, his refusal began to be based on the Arab League Summit which was scheduled for March 29th. He argued that the conference would have to wait until then. The weekend before the conference, Talabani pushed Nouri's hand by announcing that the conference would take place April 5th. Nouri quickly touted that in public statements. But then the conference was cancelled at the last minute, less than 24 hours before it was to be held.
Dar Addustour notes that State of Law MP Mahmoud Hassan and Kurdish Alliance MP Bir Saz Shaaban got into a loud argument yesterday. These actions mirror the conflict between Nouri and the KRG which includes, most recently, the issue of oil contracts and more long-term the lack of an oil and gas law and the failure of Nouri to implement the agreed upon Erbil Agreement. Florian Neuhof (The National) notes:
Baghdad is irked by ExxonMobil's decision late last year to explore six blocks in the Kurdistan region, following the lead of Tony Hayward, the former BP chief executive who is heading the investment company Vallares, along with numerous smaller oil companies. The central government has an informal policy of blacklisting oil companies active in the autonomous region from licensing rounds in the south of the country. But tough contracts and difficult conditions have made Kurdistan an attractive option for big operators over the rest of Iraq. The French oil major Total has hinted it may set up shop in the north.
Al Mada reports that officials in both the central-government in Baghdad and the KRG government are stating that to prevent ExxonMobil from operating in Iraq would be a blow to Iraq's oil industry. Moqtada al-Sadr has waded into the issue. Al Mada reports his online column this week responds to questions about the dispute and he states that the oil is not the centeral-government's oil or the KRG's oil but Iraqis' oil and belongs to all Iraqis. Asked of speaking with US President Barack Obama, al-Sadr states Barack needs to learn a lesson and floats that option that Barack, on a visit, could meet the same shoe treatment Bully Boy Bush did. He also states that Barack continues occupation and oppression of Muslims.
There were other tidbits about little Kurdistan, but I am going to be picky for the purposes of this report. In America, he said, he was happy to meet with the likes of President Obama and conveyed to him our people's unswerving commitment to the constitution of Iraq, which recognizes Kurdistan as a federal state. But, he added, there were unmistakable signs of trouble in the city on the Tigris. The source of that concern was Nouri Maliki. He was concentrating power in his hands, he was like five ministers at once, and now, again, Mr. Barzani raised his voice: "He also wants to be head of the Central Bank of Iraq."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has demonstrated an increasingly authoritarian rule as he consolidates power over the country's institutions and security forces. He has marginalized his political opponents through force and coercion, which has stoked sectarian tensions and even threatened a break-up of the nation. And Obama is supporting all of it.
Tareq al-Hashemi is Sunni, he's also a member of Iraqiya which won the most votes in the March 7, 2010 elections. Emre Peker (Bloomberg News) reports that Tareq al-Hashemi "arrived in Turkey last night". He's on a diplomatic tour and has already visited Qatar and Saudi Arabia. AFP adds, "During his visit to the kingdom, Saudi officials said that Al Hashemi might remain in the kingdom until his political foe, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, leaves office. But Hashemi's aides said he would not live in exile and would return to the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, where he has been sheltering since he was accused late last year of running a death squad." Today's Zaman notes, "Al-Hashemi's visit to Turkey was his first trip to Turkey since the allegations were leveled against him."
Of even greater concern is the increasing number of attempts to quash or take over institutions that are supposed to be independent, such as the elections, integrity and communication commissions and, most recently, the Central Bank. These, among other disturbing acts, are chilling reminders of the governance pattern established by dictatorship. More recently, Mr. al-Maliki stepped up his rhetoric against the government of the Kurdistan region. This was partly on the heels of Mr. al-Maliki's unconstitutional moves to target Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq immediately after he returned from a trip to the United States. This, in turn, brought Iraqis to make wrongful inferences about Washington's role in this series of events, in contradiction to the original vision of the United States to build a democratic state in Iraq with civil liberties, national reconciliation, an independent and fair judiciary, and pluralistic political and media systems.
Washington's evident disengagement gave Mr. al-Maliki the confidence to move even closer to his objective of achieving absolute power by blatantly avoiding the implementation of the power-sharing Erbil Agreement sponsored by Masoud Barzani and the White House. Eventually, the political momentum behind the agreement dissolved, allowing the country to drift back into sectarianism and autocratic rule instead of moving forward with reconciliation and reconstruction. The resulting disastrous state of affairs is fanning increasing disillusionment among Iraqis about the role of the United States and its efforts to create a stable democracy in Iraq.
With no obvious effort by Washington as the patron of the Erbil Agreement to break the current deadlock, Iraq surely will plunge into violence among Iraq's sects, ethnic groups and even political parties.
So that's where things stand in Iraq today. More or less, the same place they've stood for months now. This is Political Stalemate II -- or to use Martin Kobler's term "political impasse."
Now we're going back to Kobler. See if you see what's he's done. It's not cute and it's pretty damn shameful and there's enough slices of the shame pie to make sure Susan Rice grabs a slice as well.
UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler: Statistics indicate that Iraqi women -- and we are just having had the month of the women in March -- that they continue to face widespread instances of gender-based violence including domestic violence and the so-called 'honor' killings. Many of these issues related to the violence of women and girls derives from entrenched traditional conditiona and social practices. It is the duty of Iraqi leaders to act responsibaly and in unity to end the ongoing violence against women and girls. In recent months, I've expanded my regular consulations with the representatives of all minority communities around the country including Christians, Shabaqs, Sabean Madeans, Yazzidis. I would like to emphasize that violence against minorities is unacceptable and should have no place in Iraq as it moves forward on the path of consolidating democracy. UNAMI is able to provide support to the Iraqi authorities in protecting Iraq's ethnic and religious communities and promoting their rights in accordance with the Constitution including fair representation in the political system in Iraq.
He then wanted to praise Iraq for creating a human rights commission.
Last month, Igor Volsky (Think Progress) noted (March 7, 2012), "Earlier today, the UN Human Rights Council held the first hearing 'to discuss discrimination and violence against LGBT people." UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon issued a special message to the council, decrying violence against the LGBT community as a 'monumental tragedy' that is a 'stain on our collective conscience' and a 'violation of international law' [. . .]" and he quotes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stating, "To those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, let me say -- you are not along. Your struggle for an end to violence and discrimination is a shared struggle. Any attack on you is an attack on the universal values the United Nations and I have sworn to uphold."
Is Kobler not part of the UN? Has he sworn to do the same.
We got a little talk about women in this presenation. That is new. Previous presentations to the Security Council by the Special Envoy to Iraq frequently left women out. But apparently, something more "gross" and "disgusting" than women has been found by the office of Special Envoy: Iraq's LGBTs.
It was really disgusting to hear Kobler prattle on about violence and minorities and never once note the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community. It was disgusting.
It was disgusting that Susan Rice never bothered to raise the issue. As evidenced by this White House announcement, the administration is aware that this is LGBT Pride Month. Somehow the memo didn't reach Susie Rice. If the US LGBT community has any sense of community with those LGBTs living in other countries where their lives are threatened for who they are, US LGBTs would insist that the White House start proving they give a damn about LGBT rights.
These photo ops and press releases are bull f**king s**t if in hearing after hearing, the administration refuses to address threats to LGBTs. Susan Rice presided over the Security Council hearing today. She had it in her power to set the agenda. She was happy to slam that hammer down repeatedly announcing "So ordered" after she'd issued an edict. But she wasn't happy or willing to use that power to address the plight of Iraq's LGBT community. Since the start of this year, many have been killed. This isn't a secret, it's well reported, and we've certainly covered it here.
Martin Kobler and Susan Rice and the United Nations and the White House enable those killings by refusing to address the murders in what they call a hearing on the "the situation in Iraq." There's no excuse for that. Shame on them for their non-actions and their silence.
Shame on the White House for allowing Susan Rice to conduct herself in that manner. Her actions demonstrate that these words in the White House press release yesterday were nothing but pretty lies, "Across the country, ordinary people are doing extraordinary things to improve the lives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. They are parents and students, neighborhood and business leaders, artists and advocates, all united in the fight for equality." If you really valued diversity and really valued LGBTs, you'd damn well address them in a hearing on Iraq after the non-stop targeting that's taken place since the start of the year -- which is only the latest wave in the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community. Repeating, shame on the White House.
There was more in the hearing, water rights, Camp Ashraf, etc. In addition, he had a 17 page report that I've still not had time to read all of (I've skimmed the entire thing, neither Iraq's LGBTs nor the Iraqi Emos are mentioned). So the plan is to pick up on the UN Security Council hearing in tomorrow's snapshot. That said, I'm so disgusted by the silence on Iraq's LGBTs that I'll be looking for any other Iraq issue to cover to avoid going through the notes I took on today's hearing.
Keith Gattis: Daily my main issue is sleep. I was at work and doing something very normal, very every day, taking out the garbage. One of the very first things I noticed was a box, a medium sized box, with a type of liquid or stains coming from the box. Really the only thing that crossed my mind was not "What is that?" or why is this here, it was: Bomb. You know, a lot of people will think that's completely out of the norm but for us, it's survival.
Devin Hamilton: And Keith pointed out that the survival mentality soldiers live with makes them seem too strong to be depressed or unaffected by war.
Keith Gattis: They're not supposed to cry, they're not supposed to be weak. But, you know, I mean we are. We're human. We have our flaws, we have our doubts, we have our fears. We seem to find ourselves on this pedestal as the bravest, the toughest, you know. Men of action, if you will. But everyone has seen the movie where the soldier cries for his buddy. But no one has seen the part [long pause] where he still cries for his buddy.
PTSD can span from mild to severe. Some self-medicate due to lack of VA resources (sadly, this includes those who actively seek help and are denied or delayed due to various budget and staffing issues), some are unaware of the resources that are out there. (Click here for the VA's National Center for PTSD page.) There is also the military culture stigma towards seeking help that undercuts treatment of PTSD. For those who seek and receive treatment, PTSD is something that can be managed. I'm sure there are a number who have PTSD and never seek treatment and never self-medicate or self-harm that do just fine. There are always exceptions to the rule. Most people, however, will need treatment whether it's clinical, medical, holistic or whatever. There are a variety of treatments and ways to address PTSD.)
2nd Lt Marie Denson writes at the US Air Force website, "There are many treatments for PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs' National Center for PTSD, but at this time there are two types of treatments that appear to be the most effective, medicines and cognitive-behavioral therapy counseling. Different treatment options are often tried to see what will work most effectively for the individual." Yeah, right. That works for some, it doesn't work for all and the military's done damn little in terms of treatment, they're really not in the place to say what treatment works and doesn't.
Different people will respond to different treatments. I know a veteran who suffered from PTSD and learned to manage it in therapy by treating it (a severe outbreak) like a panic attack via a claming technique that involved cupping his left wrist with his right hand and repeatedly (and lightly squeezing) as a calming technique. I know three other veterans who deal with it via guided journaling. I can sit here and list 60 different therapies being used by veterans I know. Different things work for different people. Some people will respond, for example, very well to medication. But medication isn't a cure-all for everyone.
And too often medication is resorted to just to move someone on down the line and be done with them.
Considering what happened to Iraq War veteran Anthony Mena, you'd think the government would be a little more careful. As Charles D. Brunt (Albuquerque Journal) reported in March 2011, "Five months after being medically discharged, the former member of Kirkland Air Force Base's 377th Security Forces Squadron died in his sleep -- the result of a lethal mix of nine prescribed medications, including antidepressants, pain killers, tranquilizers and muscle relaxers."
Madison's Channel3000.com reports the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a program for Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans with PTSD in which they utilize yoga to address mental stimulation, "Only 50 percent of the vets who undergo the traditional therapies are cured. [Dr. Emma] Seppala said she thought there had to be a bettr way." Ashley Korslien (KREM2 News -- link is text and video) reports that Spokane veterans can utilize a treatment called "Operation Dog Tag" which Vietnam veteran, PTSD sufferer and dog trainer Joe Sheffer has created based on his and his friends experiences.
Ashley Korslien: The program will pair veterans up with dogs trained to meet their needs.
When they're going through Post-Traumatic stress, they [the dog] can put their heads on their lap or something and they can begin to show some kind of affection.
Iraq War veteran Chrisina Holt: They're not required to understand your experiences. They're not going to ask you inappropriate questions. They're just going to always going to be there for whatever you need.
In related news, Abby Weingarten (Herald Tribune) reports on the Southwest Florida branch of the Purple Heart Program where trained greyhounds are used to help those with PTSD. Ken Wuelfing explains, "We have many veterans returning from war who are unable to cope with life due to PTSD and they could really do well with dogs like Nickel or Sox. PTSD is one of the biggest problems facing our veterans returning fromw ar, and we owe it to our veterans to assist in any way we can."
In an ideal VA, veterans with PTSD would be exposed to range of treatment (including acupuncture) and be able to choose the one that worked best for them. PTSD is a coping mechanism in many ways -- your mind telling your body -- due to trauma, violence, etc. -- to be hyper-aware and hyper-vigilant. It originally kicks in as a response to a crisis. It's a survival mechanism. Once it has kicked in, there's not a natural 'off switch' -- at least none discovered thus far. And that's why people need the skills various treatments and therapies can supply to manage PTSD. Since the mind is responding to an event with a protection technique and since the mind is a universe of possibilities, there is no one treatment or one therapy that will help everyone. The government would do well to stop attempting to steer everyone into one of two programs -- especially when government doctors are so guilty of over-medicating. For more on that, see this June 2011 report by Charley Keyes (CNN).
Leo Shane III (Stars and Stripes) reports on a new federal government program announced today in which over "3 million nurses in the coming years" will be trained on recognizing and responding to PTSD, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and other so-called invisible wounds of war and "Amy Gracia, chief nursing officer of the American Nurses Association, said the new initiative should have a more immediate impact on veterans care, because officials can introduce the lessons into professional development courses, medical journals and other nursing resources in a matter of weeks, not years."