Thursday, October 19, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, October 19, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the Giddiest Gabor of the Green Zone tries to spin, Bully Boy seems unaware (no surprise there) of how his comments comparing Iraq to Vietnam are being received, and Melanie McPherson faces a court-martial.
Starting with the Bully Boy.  As Demetri Sevastopulo (Financial Times) noted, Bully Boy "drew a comparison between Iraq and the Vietnam war for the first time on Wednesday when he said Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columinst, 'could be right' in writing that the violent situation in Iraq was the 'jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive."  Summarizing the interview, Ed O'Keefe (ABC) notes, "Bush said he could not imagine any circumstances under which all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of his presidency."  Bully Boy doesn't seem to register of what his comparison would result in.  Mark Tran (Guardian of London) walks readers through:
"Mr Bush has strongly resisted comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. Vietnam remains a touchy subject for America; the war deeply divided the country, ended in an ignominious retreat for the US after the loss of more than 57,000 American lives, and has become synonymous with political and military debacle.  The 1968 Tet offensive was a military failure for the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese, but it turned American public opinion against the war and fatally damaged President Lyndon Johnson, who abandoned his re-election campaign two months later."
As the comparison continues to be noted, the question is why Bully Boy, whose party has not just avoided the comparison but decried those making it, would offer the comparison?  Possibly he was feeling nostalgic?  He probably remembers those days in the trenches, in Alabama, when he self-checked out, with fondness and with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaking in Alabama, at Maxwell Air Force Base, that might have made him look back on his own 'misty, water colored memories'?  Whatever the reason, this comparison, or the fact that the Bully Boy made it, won't fade away.  No matter how Dana Perino and other flacks try to spin it.
It comes at a time when the US public has turned against the illegal war and when chaos and violence continue in Iraq. 
The BBC reports a truck bomb targeting a police stations claimed the lives of 12 people in Mosul while, in Kirkuk, a car bomb outside a bank "as soldiers gathered at the bank to collect their salaries" claimed eight lives and left 70 wounded  Al Jazeera reports on the Kirkuk bombing: "A large part of the bank building, two army vehicles and several nearby shops were set on fire by the explosion."  On Mosul, AFP reports that there were "a whole series of apparently coordinated attacks going off every 20 minutes Thursday, including several suicide car bombs, mortar fire and small arms attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi police,"  counting ten in all, that the city is now under curfew and that, in addition to those dying in the truck bombing, four more people died during the waves of attacks. Ziad al-Taei (Reuters) reports that there were six bombers and updates the death toll to "at least 20 people" (eleven killed by the truck bombing and, in addition, "[n]ine charred bodies lay on the debris-strewn streets").  Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post) reports "a huge fireball" and the truck was "an oil tanker [driven] into the Abu Tammam police station".
In Baghdad, home of the fabled 'crackdown,' China's People's Daily Online reports five dead and ten wounded in southern Baghdad as a result of three roadside bombs which are being seen as a "coordinated attack".   The dead included two police officers and KUNA reports four more police officers died from "improvised explosive devices" in Kirkuk.  Reuters reports that "near Mahmudiya" two people died from mortar rounds and four were left wounded while, in Mahmudiya proper, mortar rounds resulted in one family losing two members and three members being wounded.
Christopher Bodeen (AP) reports four police officers were shot dead in Dora during an attack on a police station, while, in Baghdad, Bassem Kadhim ("Police Brig.") was shot dead in front of his home.  Reuters notes the Baghdad shooting ("Basim Qasim" is their spelling) and slo notes that a man was shot dead in Diwaniya, "an employee in the Ministry of Higher Education" in Baghdad was shot dead.  On the topic of shootings, CNN has footage to "snipers in Iraq, targeting and killing American troops, taking them down with a single bullet from a high-powered rifle."  (The footage is news.  I'm sure it's also violent, that's your warning.)
Christopher Bodeen (AP) reports that the corpses of three men and one woman were discovered in Bahgdad. Reuters notes that five corpses were found in Mahmudiya.
As all of the above goes on, the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone grabs a feather boa and gets a wee bit giddier: William Caldwell IV, military spokespiece, attempts to spin.  Christopher Bodeen (AP) reports that Willie spoke to the press declaring: "In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in the level of violence." 
As Aileen Alfandary noted today (KPFA's The Morning Show), some will term that an "understatement."  CBS and AP report that Little Willie declared, "The violence is indeed disheartening."  Apparently before tossing the feather boa around his neck.
Many reports have the, the US joining the crackdown (the thing that hasn't "met . . . overall expectations") on August 7th.  However, the 'crackdown' began in June.  That's the reality.  It's been juiced up, beefed up and through various versions but it's gone on since June.  Little Willie will next entertain the press corps on Karaoke night by singing "What A Fool Believes."
That, all this time later, they're only now "reviewing strategy in Baghdad" (as Ibon Villelabeitia reports for Reuters), demonstrate that they've bought their own Operation Happy Talk.  Simon Hooper (CNN) notes the comments of British historian Dominic Sandbrook: "What I would imagine America will probably do is what they did before [Vietnam] which is to slowly start withdrawing its troops.  George Bush already talks a lot about training up people in Iraq just like Nixon did in Vietnam.  What Vietnam teaches us is that sometimes there is no easy answer, there is no strategy for success -- You can get into something and there is no way out."
Joshua Levs (CNN) notes that despite attempts at Happy Talk by the puppet of the occupation, "CNN journalists in Baghdad found these steps by al-Maliki -- like many other announced over they years -- have shown no impact."  CNN also notes, of the release of Sheikh Mazen al-Saedi, that "[r]eporters wanted to know why the release occurred.  One asked whether such a raid is making soldiers' jobs more difficult and whether the U.S.-led coalition can succeed if the prime minister doesn't allow arrests to be made."  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, al-Saedi was taken into custody by US forces, Nouri al-Malliki decided he needed to be released and Iraq's minister of the interior drove al-Saedi back to the Sadrist office.  Kirk Semple and John F. Burns (New York Times) report that this "rapid release" has "provoked a new wave of exasperation among American officials and military commanders, who have made little secret of their growing doubts about Mr. Maliki's political will or ability to stop the killings."
Turning to legal news Kristin Roberts (Reuters) reports: "U.S. service members will face military trials in three separate cases for the murders of Iraqi civilians, including the gang rape and murder of a teenage girl and the killing of her family in their home in Mahmudiya, the military said on Wednesday."  Roberts notes these trials include  the case of  "shot dead 14-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi's father, mother and six-year-old sister in Mahmudiya, near Baghdad, in March" which involves allegations of rape against Jesse Spielman and Paul Cortez while James Barker is now cooperating with the prosecutions (military as well as the federal prosecution that Steven D. Green faces because he had been discharged from the military before the charges surfaced).
In other legal news, a US soldier elected not to go to Iraq and her story is a new one for this community.  Randy Furst (Minnesota Star Tribune) reported last week on Melanie McPherson.  McPherson self-checked out of the US military in July of this year and turned herself in September -- the reasons for her self-check out was that the reservists was not given training for the assignment she was facing in Iraq (MP).  McPherson left a note that read: "Please fly without me.  I love my country.  I was hoping to use my God-given talent, not just be a bullet catcher."  McPherson has posted her own statement and notes that she joined the Army Reserves (May 1999) "as a journalist."  McPherson also posted a timeline which we'll note here:
 August 16, 1999

Joined Army Reserves. 8-year contract; 6 years as a Reservist, 2 years as an Inactive Ready Reserve

January 2000

Reported for Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC

April 2000

Attended Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for Journalism at Fort Meade, MD

August 2000

Graduated AIT
Joined the 88th Regional Support Command at Fort Snelling, MN with the Mobile Public Relations Department

August/September 2000

Attended two-week ULCHI Focus Lens Annual Training in South Korea

October 1, 2001

Moved to Vermont to work with Eckerd Youth Alternatives as a counselor for youth whom commited sexual offences

Summer 2002

Attended two-week Public Affairs exercise in Germany

May 15, 2002

Changed soldier status from Army Reservist to Inactive Ready Reservist

May 15, 2002 April 1, 2006

No military involvement

April 1, 2006

Received orders dated March 28, 2006, to report to Fort Jackson, SC on May 28, 2006, for an 18-month tour with Operation Iraqi Freedom (O.I.F.)
Orders for mobilization with 131st MPAD had been cancelled a month prior on March 4, 2006
Military contract extended from original exit date of May 27, 2007, to November 23, 2007, for fulfillment of O.I.F. orders
Assigned to the 131st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (MPAD) out of Mobile, AL

May 28, 2006

Reported to Fort Jackson, SC
Received orders while at Fort Jackson to report to a MOPERS non-unit at Fort Meade, MD on July 8, 2006

July 8, 2006

Reported to Fort Meade, MD

July 14, 2006

Received new orders to integrate into the National Guard 34th Brigade (BDE) 1st Infantry Headquarters (IN HHC) stationed in Iraq since March 2006
Ordered to report to the CRC 875th RC at Fort Bliss, TX on July 23, 2006, for movement to Kuwait en route to joining the 34th BDE 1st IN HHC in Iraq

July 23, 2006

Reported to Fort Bliss, TX
At this point, McPherson learns from someone she trained with (who is serving in Iraq) that he was shoved into a position he wasn't trained for, so she "went to the Commander and 1st Sgt. of the CRC who are in charge of processing soldiers" commanding officer who made a phone call with Melanie McPherson present during which the Commander made statements into the phone such as "How could they put her into the position of a military police officer?  It just doesn't make any sense!"
Ignored by the Commander and with "less than 24 hours away from our departure to Kuwait en route to Iraq," McPherson decided to self-check out.  That's a summary.  Click here for the full statements (and scroll down).  We'll close with the last paragraphs of her statement:
The command has also gone so far as to accuse me of encouraging other soldiers not to deploy. This is a very false accusation.

I respect the selfless service soldiers are willing to commit to in regards to their feelings of betterment for humanity and national safety. However, I also support soldiers who feel like they are not able to perform their assigned duties in the Army because of medical conditions, family issues, personal beliefs and legalities related to war, like Lt.
Ehren Watada's case, or circumstances such as the case of sexual harassment and assault SPC. Suzanne Swift is facing. They both have valid stances. I can also greatly relate to the prominence of sexual harassment females endure while in the service. It can run rampant. I hope she can heal and overcome such events. I, myself, have a long and documented history of severe depression since my teen years. Despite that documentation and myriad medications over time, I found that a medical discharge would be highly unlikely.

The military is not for everyone. It is difficult to predict what will take place once a person signs the dotted line. There are many unknowns until we are actually faced with them. When a situation does surface, it is very difficult to resolve without being ostracized or severely punished.

Due to my decision to take matters in my own hands by going AWOL, the CRC command recommended I face a summery court marshal. Their plans were to drop my rank from an E-4 to an E-1, take a month's pay, confine me to prison for 30 days, and then recycle me and send me over to Iraq to face the same situation I originally fled.

I decided to deny the summery court martial. I will be assigned either a general or special court martial in the coming few weeks or months for the charges of missing movement and desertion. I face several years in prison.

The decisions I have made are not only for my benefit, but also for the fair and better treatment of soldiers coming up who will face similarly difficult situations. We are regarded as the best military in the world. I believe we should make it better and safer for those that serve our nation. They absolutely deserve it.

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