Friday, January 13, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Friday, January 13, 2012,  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq arrests 4 American citizens, Nouri unleashes the crazy on the Turkish Prime Minister, Joe Biden and Barack Obama both speak to the Turkish Prime Minister (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) like embarrassed parents attempting to smooth things over, Nouri finally decides that the pilgrimage that's been going on for a week now might need extra security protection, Saleh al-Mutlaq calls for Nouri to step down, and more.
The Iraq War and the Afghanistan War have produced many veterans.  Many services are needed, many resources are overtaxed.
In San Diego a vacant building could house close to fifty veterans.  KGTV's 10 News reports, "Dr. Robert Smith presented the plan which he said is particularly necessary in the San Diego area as it has the largest population of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the nation at 28,000."  But the psychiatric facility found objection at the Mission Hillas Town Council hearing by some parents who say that a school across the street from the vacant building means children could be at risk.  Jeanette Steele (San Diego Union-Tribune) adds "neighbors are wary, saying it's not a 'vets versus kids' equation.  They ay it's a great facility but there must be better places to put it in sprawling San Diego."  If they're worried about danger to the kids, a vacant building in a city, as a general rule, tends to attract more problems than an occupied building.  That's drug use and drug dealing, that's a safety hazard for children (who naturally enjoy exploring and may enter a vacant building) and so much more.  The facility would be a medical one.  There's no guarantee that it would be any more safe than any other medical facility, or any less safe.  There are many reasons to oppose a new facility -- veterans or otherwise -- coming into a neighborhood but one that would fill a building that now stands empty?  Ex-Navy nurse Mary Rushton is quoted stating, "When these veterans fail the program and are asked to leave, that's the end of the VA's responsibility.  Who knows what could happen? From not controlling their emotions and reactions, things along those lines.  I don't think these kids need to see anything."  And what's really sad is that's from a former Navy nurse.  The government sent people to war, there's no need to hdie that reality from children.  Are they at risk?  By the nurse's argument everyon across the country is at risk.  I believe schools are supposted to have their own safety procedures.  Does she not trust the school?  We know she doesn't trust the veteran.  In the comments, Tikvah Organics' owner Cyndi Norwitz makes this point:
Unbelievable. There are children in every neighborhood, so are these people in opposition saying these vets aren't welcome anywhere? There are schools in most neighborhoods too. As for being across the street from a school, that seems ideal to me. When school is in session (plus the hours before and after), the place is swarming with staff. What could be safer than that? My daughter's in first grade and I would have no problem with a center like this being across the street from her school
Hugh Lessig (Virginia's Daily Press) reports on Hampton Veterans Administration Medical Center's program which issues housing vouchers to veterans in need: "The bad news? Business is bomming here in Hampton Roads" and the veteran population they served used to trend to 40 to 60 years old but is now starting to decrease in age to their 20s and 30s.  Meanwhile in Illinois, homeless veterans continue to increase in numbers.  Susan Frick Carlman (Naperville Sun) reports  the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans needs to open a second home and raised the issue at a town hall.  US Senator Dick Durbin offered a non-reassuring, "I've got to look for new ways to help you, and if I can, I'll find some.  If you've got the dedicated volunteers and professionals to make it work, it's a heck of an investment."  If San Diego is the norm 9i hope it's not), then, should money be found, the shelter would next face the issue of finding a location that didn't have all the neighbors clutching the pearls.
Finding the money should be easy, after all the government's worked so very hard to refuse to give veterans the proper disability rating to save money (and cheat veterans).  But sometimes veterans win in spite of it all.  Michael Doyle (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "After three years of legal maneuvering, a federal judge in late December quietly approved the settlement that covers [Iraq War veteran Chris] Crotte and about 2,100 other veterans who've been medically discharged since 2002 with post-traumatic stress disorder.  Under the settlement, one of several similar efforts now under way, affected veterans discharged with PTSD will get better benefits, including lifetime health care and post-exchange privileges.  The affected veterans had been discharged with disability ratings that were way too low to receive such benefits."  On the subject of PTSD, the University of California San Francisco's Steve Tokar reports of a new study on women veterans and PTSD:
Women who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan were involved in combat at significantly higher rates than in previous conflicts, and screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder at the same rate as men, according to a study led by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.

"While women technically are not supposed to serve in direct combat, this research demonstrates that, in reality, they are experiencing combat at a higher rate than we had assumed," said lead author Shira Maguen, PhD, a clinical psychologist at SFVAMC and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSF. "At the same time, it shows that men and women really don't differ in how they react to the stresses of combat."

Women in the U.S. military gradually have been integrated into combat roles since the early 1990s, and today comprise about 14 percent of Americans serving in uniform. Of roughly 2.2 million troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 255,000 have been women, according to the Pentagon. Under current U.S Army rules, women are not officially assigned to units whose primary mission is direct combat on the ground, but can be assigned to other roles in combat zones.
The study of 7,251 active-duty soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan is the first study, the authors say, to include gender as a variable in examining responses to four combat-associated traumatic experiences: killing, witnessing someone being killed, exposure to death (seeing dead soldiers or civilians) and injury.
Earlier this week, Laura Unger (Lousiville Courier Journal) observed that "almost 15 percent of today's active-duty troops are women;" however, health service for women continue to lag. For example, "VA hospitals don't provide obstetrics, for example, and most don't offer mammograms on-site. Medical centers on U.S. military bases, meanwhile, transfer women to civilian doctors for certain high-level care." In addition women who serve often face what H. Patricia Hynes (Truthout) calls another battlefield:

These same women have found themselves, concurrently, caught in a second, more damaging war - a private, preemptive one in the barracks. As one female soldier put it, "They basically assume that because you are a girl in the Army, you're obligated to have sex with them." Resisting sexual assault in the barracks spills over to the battlefield, according to many women veterans, in the form of relentless verbal sexual harassment, punitive high-risk assignments and the morbid sense that your back is not being watched.
The double trauma of war and sexual assault by "brothers-in-arms" within a culture of impunity for perpetrators may explain why a 2008 RAND Corporation study [1] "found that female veterans are suffering double the rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] than their male counterparts." Patricia Resick, a psychiatrist who researches PTSD in women for the Veterans Administration (VA), asserts "sexual trauma is a more significant risk factor for PTSD than combat or the types of trauma that men generally experience." Resick adds that sexual trauma, unlike combat trauma, is caused by people who are supposed to bond with you and protect you, and that betrayal by those you need to trust with your life deepens the harm.
Military sexual trauma (sometimes referred to as MST) is so extreme that it is even more likely to cause PTSD in women than civilian sexual trauma ­­- because of military culture.

Many veterans and contractors also suffering from exposure to burn pits.  For some the exposure has cost their lives.  Next next month, the first ever scientific symposium will be held in New York.

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deplyoment to Iraq & Afghanistan
February 13, 2012

sponsored by
Office of Continuing Medical Education
School of Medicine
Stony Brook University

Health Sciences Center, Level 3, Lecture Hall 5
Anthony M. Szema, M.D., Program Chair
Stony Brook
Medical Center

This program is made possible by support from the
Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.


* Register with your credit card online at:

* Download the registration form from:
fax form to (631) 638-1211

For Information Email:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan
Monday, February 13, 2012
Health Sciences Center
Level 3, Lecture Hall 5

Program Objective: Upon completion, participants should be able to recognize new-onset of lung disease after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast (Honored Guest, Congressman
Tim Bishop

9:00 - 9:30 Peter Sullivan, J.D., Father of Marine from The Sergeant Thomas Joseph
Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.

9:40 - 10:10 Overview of Exposures in Iraq, Anthony Szema, M.D., (Assistant
Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Stony Brook University)

10:10 - 10:40 Constrictive Bronchiolitis among Soldiers after Deployment, Matt
King, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Meharry Medical College,
Nashville, TN)

10:40 - 11:10 BREAK

11:10 - 11:40 Denver Working Group Recommendations and Spirometry Study in
Iraq/Afghanistan, Richard Meehan, M.D., (Chief of Rheumatology and
Professor of Medicine, National Jewish Health, Denver, CO)

11:40 a.m. - Microbiological Analyses of Dust from Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Mark

12:10 p.m. Lyles, D.M.D., Ph. D., (Vice Admiral Joel T. Boone Endowed Chair of
Health and Security Studies, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI)

12:10 - 12:20 Health Care Resource Utilization among Deployed Veterans at the White
River Junction VA, James Geiling, M.D., (Professor and Chief of Medicine,
Dartmouth Medical School, VA White River Junction, VT)

Graduate students Millicent Schmidt and Andrea Harrington (Stony Brook
University) present Posters from Lung Studies Analyzed for Spatial
Resolution of Metals at Brookhaven National Laboratory's National
Synchrotron Light Source

1:20 - 1:40 Epidemiologic Survey Instrument on Exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan,
Joseph Abraham, Sc.D., Ph.D., (U.S. Army Public Health Command,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)

1:40 - 2:10 Overview of the Issue Raised during Roundtable on Pulmonary Issues
and Deployment, Coleen Baird, M.D., M.P.H., (Program Manager
Environmental Medicine, U.S. Army Public Health Command)

2:10 - 2: 40 Reactive Oxygen Species from Iraqi Dust, Martin Schoonen, Ph.D.
(Director Sustainability Studies and Professor of Geochemistry, Stony
Brook University)

2:40 - 2:50 BREAK

2:50 - 3:15 Dust Wind Tunnel Studies, Terrence Sobecki, Ph.D. (Chief Environmental
Studies Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Laboratory, Manchester, NH)

3:15 - 3:45 Toxicologically Relevant Characteristics of Desert Dust and Other
Atmospheric Particulate Matter, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ph.D. (Research
Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

3:44 - 4:15 In-situ Mineralogy of the Lung and Lymph Nodes, Gregory Meeker, M.S.
(Research Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

Continuing Medical Education Credits

The school of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
The School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brooke designates this live activity for a maximum of 6 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
In other veterans news, Justin Raimondo ( has taken up the cause of Cpl Jesse Thorsen who is facing reprimand for sharing the stage, in uniform, with US House Rep Ron Paul in Iowa. 

The War Party's lynch mob was out for Thorsen's hide the very next day, with
Democratic party shill Paul Rieckhoff, head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
of America,
"Our troops are many things to many people. Heroes, parents, diplomats,
victims, villains, victors. But as the GOP Primary races roll through New
Hampshire this week, there is one thing that all of America must understand
they're not: political props.
And that's not just my opinion, it's the law.

"This is why so many of us in the military and veterans community were
so shocked and outraged last Tuesday night when we saw Corporal Jesse
Thorsen step up to the microphone in uniform and

endorse Ron Paul for President. We know the law -- the military law
under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). We know
Article 88
of UCMJ prohibits contemptuous speech by commissioned officers against
the President and certain elected officials at penalty of court-martial."

Rieckhoff is off his rocker: the section of the complicated and often
contradictory regulations being invoked against Thorsen has nothing to do
with "contemptuous speech," but with engaging in partisan political activity
while in uniform. Here is what Thorsen had to say at the Paul rally: do you
hear any "contemptuous speech" in these remarks? I thought not. However,
if you're a
Democratic party operative like Rieckhoff -- who has served as
official party spokesman – you do indeed hear "contemptuous speech" in
Thorsen's condemnation of President Obama's foreign policy. CNN did an
interview with Thorsen earlier, but
cut him off when he started to talk about
how our interventionist foreign policy is opposed by most soldiers -- which is
why Paul has garnered more donations from military personnel than all other
candidates combined.
In Iraq, Al Mada reported this morning that 4 Americans -- 2 men, 2 women -- have been arrested in Iraq. They were carrying weapons according to the governor of Baghad, Salah Abdul Razak. They were in a BMW which was stopped at a checkpoint and they were discovered with weapons. They displayed some form of identity badges but they were arrested and our in police custody with the Sixth Brigade conducting the investigation.  Alsumaria TV quotes the governor stating:
The four Americans were arrested in a popular residential area that doesn't include vital sites. Detainees testified in preliminary investigations that they were ensuring the region's security. [. . .] Security forces could have shot them for penetrating the area without the consent or knowledge of authorities. There are strict orders to shoot any person that penetrates the area without the consent of operations' command. [. . .] Iraq's security is an internal affair that doesn't concern Americans even if they were intelligence members.

Despite the fact that this news, via the Al Mada story, was up, in English, at The Common Ills before 8:00 am EST, no one asked about it at the State Dept press briefing. Despite the fact that many of the reporters attending the State Dept press briefings read Arabic, no one asked about it.  Despite the fact that foreign press attends the State Dept press briefings, no one asked about it.  And the New York Times didn't report it.
And the history books forgot about us
And the Bible didn't mention us
And the Bible didn't mention us
Not even once
You are my sweetest downfall
I loved you first, I loved you first
-- "Samson," writen by Regina Spektor, first appears on her Begin to Hope
Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) states, "Expect a lot of more of these kinds of incidents in the coming days. While there hasn't been much coverage of the incident in English, it's being heavily covered in the Arab and Iraqi media. Arresting and exposing American operatives in Iraq is going to be politically popular and the local media will eat it up. A lot of ambitious political forces might find it useful to be seen on TV arresting an armed American. Armed Americans traveling around Iraq, whether security contractors or intelligence operatives, are going to be an endless source of potential crisis."
In Iraq, the political crisis continues.  Nouri started it and now he wants to expand it, apparently, to go beyond Iraq's borders.  How else to explain his attacks today on the Prime Minister of Turkey?  Today's Zaman reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has harshly criticized Turkey for its what he said 'surprise interference' in his country's internal affair, claiming that Turkey's role could bring disaster and civil war to the region -- something Turkey will itself suffer."  Interfere?  Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cautioned that the political crisis could lead to a civil war in Iraq and has called on parties to start a real dialogue to resolve the issues.  That's really not "interfering."  But what has Nouri so ticked off is that Erdogan also stated the very plain fact that Nouri started the political crisis.  It's a fact, Nouri doesn't like facts, but that doesn't change the status.  AFP quotes  Nouri stating, "Recently, we noticed their surprise interventions with statements, as if Iraq is controlled or run by them.  Their latest statements interfered in domestic Iraqi affairs . . . and we do not allow that absolutely.  If it is acceptable to talk about our judicial authority, then we can talk about theirs, and if they talk about our disputes, we can talk about theirs.  Turkey is playing a role that might bring disaster and civil war to the region, and Turkey itself will suffer because it has different sects and ethnicities."  It's always funny when Nouri unleashes his crazy in public.  That was what bothered the French government the most about the White House backing Nouri in 2010, that Nouri was clearly unstable and that's who Barack wanted to rule Iraq?  Crazy Nouri.  KUNA reports Nouri and Erdogan were on the phone Thursday discussing the situation in Iraq.  And now, today, Nouri's parading the crazy.  At this rate, the bullet to the head so many observers feel is in Nouri's immediate future just may come from his own gun.
While Nouri was showing the world how unhinged he is, the Turkish Press reports that Erdogan was speaking on the phone with US Vice President Joe Biden about Iraq: "Reportedly, Erdogan said to Biden that if Iraq distances itself from the culture of democracy, efforts previously exerted for peace and stability will be wasted. Sources added that Erdogan and Biden also indicated that authoritarian and sectarian policies will never benefit Iraq and that Turkey and the US consider benefit in holding dialogue and consultations regarding the developments in Iraq."  In addition, Erdogan spoke with President Barack Obama.  The White House issued the following today:
Office of the Press Secretary

President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan spoke by telephone today about issues related to democracy, security and development in the Middle East and North Africa region; this was their first conversation in the New Year.  The two leaders discussed recent developments in Iraq and their continued support for an inclusive, partnership government that brings stability, democracy and prosperity to the Iraqi people. They agreed that the U.S. and Turkey should continue to support the legitimate demands for democracy for the Syrian people and condemned the brutal action of the Assad regime.  The two leaders discussed Iran's nuclear program and how Iran should engage with the international community in this regard.  They agreed that U.S. and Turkish teams would remain in close contact on ways that Turkey and the U.S. can support the democratic transitions underway in the Middle East and North Africa.

Poor Nouri.  UPI reports Iraqiya spokesperson Haidar al-Mulla declared today no national conference "can take place so long as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains in power".   Al Mada reports that the expanded meeting (not the national conference) is set for this Sunday. This follows the meet-up Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had this week. The three are scheduled to attend the Sunday meet-up along with heads of the main political blocs. Whether a national conference follows after that is open to debate. Al Mada also reports that the National Alliance has demands for attending any national conference and they include that the meet-up takes place in Baghdad and that "no Saddamists or terrorists" be invited. Following up on that thread of insults, Al Rafidayn reports that Yusuf Qaradawi, head of the International Association of Muslim Scholars, now stands accused of being an agent of Israel and the United States. Alsumaria TV notes that debate continues on where the national conference would be held (KRG President Massoud Barzani will not attend if it's held in Baghdad). And Barazani is now saying -- from scrawl on Alsumaria website -- that he won't attend any national conference if the Erbil Agreement is not implemented. Continuing his surprising recent pattern of 'elder statesman,' Moqtada al-Sadr continues to talk like a leader. Alsumaria TV reports he is calling on everyone to stay calm and not let differences tear the country apart.

Nouri kicked off the political crisis last month by targeting Iraqiya. Among other things, he wants Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq stripped of his office and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi arrested.  Adam Schreck (AP) reports that al-Mutlaq declared in an interview today that Nouri needs to resign.  He fails to quote Saleh al-Mutlaq directly. Considering that these type of interviews lead to endless charges by politicians in Iraq, Schreck needed to quote al-Mutlaq word for word.  He didn't.  And the confused don't just include Iraqis, they include AP staff.  It was really embarrassing for the AP today at the State Dept press breifing to try to ask a question about the interview when the reporter (for AP) was unsure of what AP was stating al-Mutlaq had said.  From the State Dept's official transcript (link is text with video option, press briefing was conducted by spokesperson Victoria Nuland):
QUESTION: We have an interview with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister al-Mutlaq today, where he calls Prime Minister Maliki a tyrant or  something. I think it was a dictator, and he talks about getting (inaudible) of Iraq. Do you have a comment on that?
MS. NULAND: We saw the interview, obviously. What we are continuing to do, as we've said a number of times in the last few days, is to impress upon senior Iraqi politicians the importance of direct dialogue with each other to resolve their differences and to work towards a solution that represents the interests of all Iraqis for an inclusive government and that's within the Iraqi constitution.  We don't think it's helpful for Iraqi politicians to be hashing out their differences in the media. We'd much rather see them sit down together. In that regard, we are encouraged that Prime Minister Maliki, President Talabani, Speaker Nujaifi have all begun a process of working out the parameters for a national conference that will focus on a political solution that represents the interests of all Iraqis. That's something that we support. As you may know, Deputy Secretary Burns arrived in Iraq this evening and will have consultations with a broad cross-section of Iraqi leaders tomorrow.
QUESTION: Can I just ask a quick follow-up?
QUESTION: Do you have any expectation of when this conference might finally take place, and would the U.S. participate in some way either as an observer or as a monitor or facilitator to this?
MS. NULAND: Well, certainly, on the latter point, our goal is for Iraqis to talk to each other. There's no expectation that we would be in the room for that. That said, we have encouraged all parties to get to the table. With regard to the timing, I think that's exactly the kind of thing that the Iraqis are trying to hash out now.
Niqash interviews Tareq al-Hashemi:

NIQASH: In terms of the charges of terrorism against you, you have always insisted upon your innocence. But if that is so, then why did you leave Baghdad and why don't you return there?

Tariq al-Hashimi: I left Baghdad on Dec. 17 so I had left the city before the testimonies of my guards [against me] were broadcast on TV. I came to Sulaymaniyah after an official invitation was extended to me on Dec. 15 by His Excellency, the President of the Republic [Kurdish politician Jalal Talabani]. The invitation was extended to me and my colleague Khodair al-Khozaei [also a vice president] in order for us to attend the presidency's council meeting.

NIQASH: So you're saying you were not trying to escape the arrest warrant?

Al-Hashimi: No, I did not run away. I am confident that the judiciary and the Iraqi courts will uphold my name and reputation in due course.

NIQASH: So why don't you just return to Baghdad?

Al-Hashimi: Because I don't trust the judiciary in Baghdad. This is why I officially requested that the government transfer my trial to Kirkuk. This is a legitimate request under Article 55, which gives the defendant the right to request a change of location for a trial.

Meanwhile Sami Moubayed (Asia Times) weighs in on the crisis and possible motivations:

A closer look at Hashemi's arrest warrant shows that Maliki's move had little to do with Hashemi himself. Although the aging statesmen has been a headache for Maliki's coalition in recent years, his mischief was always "controllable" as the man threatened to walk out on cabinets over and over - but never took the bold move.
He does not command a militia that roams the streets, has not been convicted of any treason and certainly is not "Saudi Arabia's number one" in Iraqi politics.
The charge brought against him is of operating a militia in the post-2003 order that is accused of killing political opponents. Big deal - by Iraqi standards. If Maliki wanted to go by an anti-militia yardstick, then he would have to arrest his prime allies Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim, who respectively run the Mehdi Army and Badr Brigade, two Iran-affiliated military groups.
Hashemi's warrant, pretty much as he has been saying all along, is 100% political, aimed at arm-twisting and scaring the Sunni community at large, which he represents.
Maliki is worried that the Arab Spring will soon reach Baghdad, now that the Americans have left, only this time it won't be society at large rising against an aging despot; it will be the Sunni minority that ruled Iraq since creation of the modern country in the 1920s, against the Shi'ite majority that came into power after the 2003 toppling of Saddam. 

In other news,  Al Mada reports that MP Rafi Abd al-Jabbar (Sadr bloc) is objecting to the continued presence of the (US) CIA in Iraq, stating it undermines Iraqi sovereignty and continues the US occupation.  And Press TV reports this morning that 35,000 security forces are now being deployed to protect the pilgrims. The question is, since Arbaeen ends tomorrow, and since the pilgrims have been attacked since last weekend, why, only now, are these 35,000 being deployed?  Sam Dagher and Ali A. Nabhan (Wall St. Journal) report, "Iraq's Shiite-led government took unprecedented security measures Friday to protect Shiite Muslim pilgrims observing the high point of a religious occasion from attacks by extremists. Meanwhile, car bombs targeted officials in the polarized and volatile northern city of Kirkuk." The two car bombs left twenty-six people injured.  In addition, Reuters notes a Kirkuk sticky bombing claimed 1 life, a Mosul suicide bomber took his own life and left two police officers injured (two suspects were killed in the assault as well), a Hamman al-Alil roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Baquba roadside bombing injured three Iraqi soldiers and 1 corpse was discovered in Khanaqin.