Friday, September 28, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq War veteran Brian Kinsella begins motoring across America to raise awareness of soldier suicide, the Defense Dept releases their latest monthly suicide figures, the State Dept reclassifies a group, the Wall St. Journal does the best Western-English language report on the prison assault in Tikrit, Bradley Manning's attorney calls for charges against Bradley to be dropped, and more.
During the two-week ride, Kinsella will make stops at 12 military installations where he plans to promote SSS's mission, raise awareness about soldier suicide and form partnerships.
He's also encouraging people to join him on different lengths of the ride to show their support.
"Our desire is for people to join the ride as I pass through towns. It will really show how much people care and support our brave veterans," Kinsella said over coffee last week on September 11th in the Flatiron District.
The Ride For Life comes as the suicide rate is such that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has rightly termed it a crisis. July 25th, he appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. From that day's snapshot:
US House Rep Mike Michaud: Quick question, and I want to read from a Veterans Service Organization letter that they actually sent to Senator [Jim] Webb just last week. And just part of it says, "The only branch of the military to show a marked improvement decreasing the number of persons taking their own life is the United States Marines. They should also be praised for their active leadership from the very top in addressing the problem and implementing the solutions. The remaining services have yet to be motivated to take any substanative action. " Secretary Panetta, I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan several times and I've looked the generals in the eye and I've asked them what are they doing personally to help the stigmatized TBI, PTSD? And the second question is: Do they need any help? I get the same answer over there as I do over here in DC: 'Everything's okay. We've got all the resources we need. We don't need any help.' But the interesting thing is someone much lesser ranked came up to me, after I asked the general that question, outside and said, "We need a lot more help." And he suggested that I talk to the clergy to find out what they are seeing happening. And I did that trip and every trip since then. And I'm finding that our service members are not getting the help that they need. And my question, particularly after looking at this letter that was sent to Senator Webb, it appears the Marines are doing a good job so why is it so different between the Marines, the Army and other branches? And can you address that?
Secretary Leon Panetta: You know -- Obviously, there's no silver bullet here. I wish there were to try to deal with suicide prevention. We-we have a new suicide prevention office that's trying to look at programs to try to address this terrible epedemic. I mean, we are looking. If you look at just the numbers, recent total are you've got about 104 confirmed and 102 pending investigation in 2012. The total of this is high, almost 206. That's nearly one a day. That is an epedemic. Something is wrong. Part of this is people are inhibited because they don't want to get the care that they probably need. So that's part of the problem, trying to get the help that's necessary. Two, to give them access to the kind of care that they need. But three -- and, again, I stress this because I see this in a number of other areas, dealing with good discipline and good order and, uh, trying to make sure that our troops are responding to the challenges -- it is the leadership in the field. It's the platoon commander. It's the platoon sergeant. It's the company commander. It's the company sergeant. The ability to look at their people, to see these problems. To get ahead of it and to be able to ensure that when you spot the problems, you're moving that individual to the kind of-of assistance that they need in order to prevent it. The Marines stay in close touch with their people. That's probably one of the reasons that the Marines are doing a good job. But what we're stressing in the other services is to try to develop that-that training of the command. So that they two are able to respond to these kinds of challenges.
Yesterday the Defense Dept released the latest suicide data: "During August, among active-duty soldiers, there were 16 potential suicides: three have been confirmed as suicides and 13 remain under investigation. For July, the Army reported 26 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers: 13 have been confirmed as suicides and 13 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 131 potential active-duty suicides: 80 have been confirmed as suicides and 51 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation. During August, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were nine potential suicides (five Army National Guard and four Army Reserve): none have been confirmed as suicide and nine remain under investigation. For July, among that same group, the Army reported 12 potential suicides (nine Army National Guard and three Army Reserve); four have been confirmed as suicides and eight remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 80 potential not on active-duty suicides (49 Army National Guard and 31 Army Reserve): 59 have been confirmed as suicides and 21 remain under investigation. Not on active-duty suicide numbers for 2011: 118 (82 Army National Guard and 36 Army Reserve) confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation." The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK, 1-800-273-8255. (FYI, Cell phones have different lettering than landlines. That's a fact that seems to escape people giving out letters for phone numbers currently.)
The Secretary of State has decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its aliases as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and to delist the MEK as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. These actions are effective today. Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license. These actions will be published in the Federal Register.
With today's actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992. The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.
The Secretary's decision today took into account the MEK's public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base.
The United States has consistently maintained a humanitarian interest in seeking the safe, secure, and humane resolution of the situation at Camp Ashraf, as well as in supporting the United Nations-led efforts to relocate eligible former Ashraf residents outside of Iraq.
Some would be seers have insisted all week that the move was a mistake and that the MEK deserved to be labeled terrorists (in 1997 by the Clinton administration) yet they never found an argument to make on behalf of the Camp Ashraf residents. If Glen Glen and the other Three Faces of Eve are unhappy with the way things were headed, they should have factored in that there was a legal obligation to the Camp Ashraf residents on the part of the US government and then they should have come up with a suggestion of how to honor that obligation without taking the MEK off the list. As Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed earlier this year that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."
Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) observes, "The Iranian government condemned the decision and blamed the group for an incident in which a senior Iranian diplomat in New York for the U.N. General Assembly was assaulted on the street." CNN notes today that "since 2004 the United States has considered the group, which has lived for more than 25 years at a refugee camp in Iraq, 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions." So if the Three Faces of Eve had objections to changing the status of the MEK, they should have made time to propose how to address the issues of the Camp Ashraf residents. It's not as though, for example, Antiwar.com hasn't spent years savaging the MEK. If they had a way to address the legal obligations to Camp Ashraf, they should have proposed it.
Yesterday's violence included the assault on the Tirkit prison which left prisoners and guards dead and wounded. Mohammed Lazim (CNN) notes, "The attackers wore police uniforms and used cars similar to those driven by police, a police source told the National Iraqi News Agency." BBC offers, "The raid appeared to be well co-ordinated between the gunmen and some of the inmates, the BBC's Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad reports." Possibly well coordinated with others? Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that accusations are flying insisting that the police chief of the province received warnings -- "warnings," three -- ahead of the attack but that the warnings were ignored. The Saudi Gazette adds, "And a traffic police lieutenant colonel who was near the scene of the attack said militants blew up part of the prison fence, and between 30 and 40 inmates were able to escape. A police colonel said a riot broke out in the prison, while witnesses said inmates seized the guards' weapons, and that more than 100 of them escaped and fought security forces in the surrounding area." Not only did a number of prisoners escape but Radio New Zealand and Alsumaria report that they were smart enough to grab their own files and, as a result, there are no records on them. Apparently Iraq is an oil-rich country that's not worried about going green or paperless since all files are apparently paper.
Those reporting this morning on the violence were hard pressed to nail down the numbres as various officials gave various figures. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) cited Raed Ibrahim ("health official") for a death toll of 10 prison guards and 2 prisoners with thirty-two injured and cites politician Qutaiba al-Jubouri as the source of 81 prisoners escaping with 36 of them being captured after escape. UPI stated that 14 died in the assault and, citing Salaheddin Province Governor Ahmed Abdallah al-Jabouri said 33 escaped prisoners had been captured. Tang Danlu (Xinhua) offered 15 dead and forty-five injured and the source is the police who also state 200 prisoners escaped and that 81 remain at large. Hassan Obeidi (AFP) noted, "A hospital official in Tikrit, the ancesestral home of now-executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, said 13 police were killed and 34 wounded in the violence." And Duraid Adnan and an unnamed stringer in Tikrit (New York Times) were the only ones this morning to note the death penalty aspect by quoting Tikrit's head of security, Muhammad Hassan, stating, "They were sentenced to death, so they were ready to do anything to escape." Kuwait's KUNA notes, "The mass breakout started as the security services began transferring 40 convicts on the death roll fromt he jail to a Baghdad jail."
Frustration among Iraqi Sunnis with what they regard as the government's sectarian bias has colored parliamentary deliberations over a controversial amnesty law, which if passed could see thousands of prisoners freed for the sake of furthering national reconciliation.
On Thursday, a Shiite parliamentary bloc that had adopted the bill withdrew it from voting after failing to agree on whether those convicted under a terrorism law known as Article Four should be considered for amnesty as advocated by Sunni lawmakers.
[. . .]
Many of those held at the Tikrit prison were on death row and were scheduled for transfer to Baghdad to carry out their sentences, said Mr. [Mishaan al-]Jubouri [, former MP], and other officials in the province.
Good for the Wall St. Journal for being the only English language publication to address what's going on. The Iraqi press can and does address it. By English language outlets refusing to do the same they're encouraging the confusion many Americans encounter when they learn of the armed conflict between the PKK and the Turkish government today.
As the numbers make clear, it's not a surprising issue. The US Census Bureaus says the US population is 311.5 million. Iraq's population is about one-tenth of that. (28 to 31 million is the usual estimate -- they haven't had a census since the middle-stages of Saddam Hussein's rule; the CIA estimates its 31.1. million while the World Bank goes for 32.9 million). So with Iraq being one-tenth of the population, let's now look at the execution rates because both countries ignorantly continue to use the death penalty.
With one-tenth of the population the US has, they've already executed over three times as many people this year. At the end of last month, Human Rights Watch noted of Iraq's executions: Authorities said that all had been convicted on charges "related to terrorism," but provided little information about what crimes they had committed. Human Rights Watch has previously documented the prevalence of unfair trials and torture in detention, particularly in national security and terrorism-related cases."There is no doubt that Iraq still has a serious terrorism problem, but it also has a huge problem with torture and unfair trials," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The lack of transparency around these convictions and executions, in a country where confessions that may have been coerced are often the only evidence against a person, makes it crucial for Iraq to declare an immediate moratorium on all executions."
This comes as mass arrests continue -- yesterday there were 78 mass arrests (that does not count recaptured prisoners). In a country where mass arrests take place daily, where the arrested (some innocent, some guilty) disappear into a system that makes it impossible for most families to find their loved ones, where the judicial system is a joke, where even get a trial make take years, you've created an environment where people can feel sympathetic to the Islamic State of Iraq's actions. They can imagine it's them and not the person down the street, especially since the mass arrests have not only taken place for years now in Iraq but they continue.
Alsumaria reports the spokesperson for the Sadr bloc in Parliament, Mushriq Naji, is pointing out that yesterday's assault and escape is what happens when corruption reigns and the institutions of reform fail and he specifically notes the faliure of the Parliament to pass the amnesty law. All Iraq News adds that there is a demand to reform state institutions immediately. The National Alliance line comes from one of their MPs who insists that political parlies helped with the prison break and this is an attempt to provide pressure to pass the amnesty law. Al Mada notes Ahmed Chalabi is calling for MPs to propose amendments to the amnesty law to address whatever concerns they have. This is most likely aimed at State of Law since they've been the biggest obstacle to the passage of an amnesty law.
The prison assault was part of yesterday's violence, it was not the only violence. A number of Iraqi outlets are focusing on the assassination of former Basra Governor (2005 - 2009) Hussein al-Asadi. Alsumaria reports that MP Hussein al-Asadi, from Basra, states that the assassination is proof of how weak the security remains in Iraq. He notes an increase in recent bombings and called on Nouri al-Maliki and the Ministry of the Interior to make changes immediately. Dar Addustour covers the assassination here. Alsumaria notes the Ministry of the Interior has announced the formation of three committees to examine the assassination. Prior to that announcement, the Islamic Virtue Party (political party) was calling for an investigation to be started. All Iraq News notes that MP Hussein al-Asadi is insisting that the fault for the assassination lies with the Barra police. Alsumaria adds that MP Shawn Mohammed Taha is calling for the security leaders in the Iraqi government to be changed. What he should bbe noting is that Nouri al-Maliki has refused to nominate heads of the security ministries making him the de facto head of the Ministry of the Defense, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of National Security.
Yesterday, Parliament was in session. They were to vote on bills regarding a line of credit, infrastructure and amnesty. Over infrastructure, members of Iraqiya and the Kurdish Alliance walked out. Deprived of a quorum, the session ended. Al Mada notes that State of Law is now accusing Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi of blocking the infrastructure law. While al-Nujaifi is a member of Iraqiya, he has not taken part in any of their walk-outs, including the first day of the current Parliament back in 2010. Since he didn't walk out and since he's scheduled the infrastructure bill for a Monday vote, State of Law's latest attempt to uncork the crazy falls flat and then some. In the meantime, Al Mada notes, Parliament is denying that they have a draft law for compulsory service in the Iraqi military.
Iraq has had two political stalemates since the March 2010 elections. Immediately after the elections, when Nouri al-Maliki's political slate State of Law came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, Nouri caused the first stalemate by refusing to allow the Constitution to be followed (the results meant that Allawi's group should get named prime minister-designate and be given 30 days to form a Cabinet or someone else would be named prime minister-designate). Nouri refused to allow the process to take place. This created an eight month political stalemate. Nouri was able to create this because he had the backing of the US White House. In November 2010, the stalemate was finally ended as a result of a contract the US government brokered. This contract, the Erbil Agreement, found the political blocs agreeing that Nouri could have a second term as prime minister provided he meet certain agreements -- implement Article 140 of the Constitution, create an independent national security council, etc. Nouri used the agreement to become prime minister and then trashed the agreement Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been publicly calling for the Erbil Agreement to be followed. This is the beginning of political stalemate II which is ongoing.
Right now, hopes are pinned on a national conference. Supposedly, it will be able to resolve the political stalemate that has transitioned into a political crisis. Al Mada reports that Iraqiya would be represented in the talks by Allawi; however, 'would be.' The paper notes many are starting to doubt a national conference will actually take place. Nouri has opposed it from the start, it was first proposed December 21st -- by Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
In 2011, the Women's Affairs Ministry attempted to institute a dress code for female public workers. The order came from the Higher National Committee for the Advancement of Iraqi Women who demanded that women working for the government wear "moderate dress" in September 2011. The committee was under the Women's Affairs Minister Ibtihal al-Zaidi of the Dawa Party. One committee member said that the ruling came as a result of public workers not dressing according to Islamic traditions. The Planning and the Higher Education Ministries, which were run by the Sadrists and State of Law respectively read the rules to all their female employees. Other ministries run by other parties did not comply. Again, this was an instance where Dawa members were acting against what they saw as violations of their interpretation of religion. Iraqi public workers wear all types of dress from traditional to Western. Some members of the Women's Affairs Ministry were getting offended by the latter, and attempted to put an end to it. The fact that Iraq has a divided government with different parties controlling different ministries also showed the limited power the Dawa actually had over the matter. Those ministers with Islamist leanings attempted to enforce the ruling, but others who were either non-religious or opposed to Maliki, ignored it. That highlighted the unwillingness of Maliki and Dawa to go beyond those jurisdictions that they had direct control over.
The latest example of Islamist inspired action was far more violent. In 2012, there were reports that anywhere from six to forty emos and gays were murdered in Baghdad. This came after the Interior Ministry posted a statement on its website calling emos Devil worshippers in February. The Ministry then called for a police crackdown, while at the same time claiming that any deaths were being made up by the media. Stories emerged that Shiite militants were handing out lists of people they were going to kill. In March, Human Rights Watch blamed the government for the attacks, which was later substantiated by a BBC investigation. The BBC found that the Interior Ministry statement about emos being Satanists led to a concerted and covert campaign to murder gays and emos in the capital by members of the security forces. While Adnan Asadi is the deputy Interior Minister, he was appointed by Prime Minister Maliki in 2011, who is still the acting Interior Minister. Like the alcohol banning, this appears to be an instance where the premier has used the security forces to go after those he feels are in violation of his image of what an Islamic society should be like. Unlike those earlier events however, this one has led to several deaths, which will go unpunished since they are at the behest of the central government. At the same time, this again shows that Maliki and Dawa have only felt comfortable imposing their views on a limited scale, only going after emos and homosexuals in certain districts of Baghdad, rather than the whole city, other provinces or the entire country.
Julian Assange: Today I want to tell you an American story. I want to tell you the story of a young American soldier in Iraq. The soldier was born in Crescent, Oklahoma, to a Welsh mother and to a U.S. Navy father. His parents fell in love. His father was stationed at the U.S. military base in Wales. The soldier showed early promise as a boy, winning top prizes at science fairs three years in a row. He believed in the truth, and like all of us, he hated hypocrisy. He believed in liberty and the right for all of us to pursue it and happiness. He believed in the values that founded an independent United States. He believed in Madison, he believed in Jefferson, and he believed in Paine. Like many teenagers, he was unsure what to do with his life, but he knew he wanted to defend his country, and he knew he wanted to learn about the world. He entered the U.S. military and, like his father, trained as an intelligence analyst. In late 2009, age 21, he was deployed to Iraq. There, it is alleged, he saw a U.S. military that did not often follow the rule of law and, in fact, engaged in murder and supported political corruption. It is alleged it was there, in Baghdad, in 2010 that he gave to WikiLeaks, he gave to me, and, it is alleged, he gave to the world, details that exposed the torture of Iraqis, the murder of journalists and the detailed records of over 120,000 civilian killings in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He is also alleged to have given WikiLeaks 251,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, which then went on to help trigger the Arab Spring. This young soldier's name is Bradley Manning.
Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it. The court-martial was supposed to begin this month has been postponed until after the election .
On 19 September 2012, the Defense filed its Motion to Dismiss All Charges and Specifications With Prejudice for Lack of a Speedy Trial. PFC Manning has been in pretrial confinement since 29 May 2010. As of the date of the filing of this motion, PFC Manning had been in pretrial confinement for 845 days. To put this amount of time into perspecive, it took only 410 days to construct the Empire State Building. By the time the Government actually brings PFC Manning to trial in February of 2013 (983 days after he was placed into pretrial confinement), the Empire State Building could have been constructed almost three times over. On 29 October 2012, the Defense will argue that the military judge should dismiss this case with prejudice due to the Government's abject failure to honor PFC Manning's fundamental speedy trial rights.
During August, among active-duty soldiers, there were 16 potential suicides: three have been confirmed as suicides and 13 remain under investigation. For July, the Army reported 26 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers:
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