Monday, January 28, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Monday, January 28, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue,  Parliament passes a law limiting the post of prime minister to two terms only, Nouri and his cronies hit the roof, a recent Pentagon decision continued to garner public opinions, Barack's done on the plan to close Guantanamo and some of the children killed by Barack's Drone War, and more.

The Gary Sinise Foundation notes that US Army PFC Brendan Marrocco became the "first surviving quadruple amputee injured in Iraq" (April 12, 2009).  The Gary Sinise Foundation and the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation built a Smart Home for Brendan in 2011.   They note:

In the early hours on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, Brendan Marrocco was returning to base in Iraq from a night mission in an armored vehicle with his close friend Michael Anaya when they tripped a roadside bomb.  Anaya was killed immediately; Brendan's arms and legs were blown off.  Other injuries included a severed left carotid artery; broken nose, left eye socket and facial bones; shrapnel to the left eye and face; burns to the neck and face and more. "Any one of his injuries was life-threatening," Major Jayson Aydelotte, the trauma surgeon told the New York Times.  "It is incredible."

The Daily Mail reports today that Iraq War veteran Brendan Marrocco "received a double-arm transplant. [last month . . .]  He also received bone marrow from the same dead donor who supplied his new arms.  That novel approach is aimed at helping his body accept the new limbs with minimal medication to prevent rejection."   They're noting the operation in England and also in Australia where the Daily Telegraph notes the pioneer of the surgery:

The novel treatment to help prevent rejection was pioneered by Dr W.P. Andrew Lee, plastic surgery chief at Johns Hopkins, when he previously worked at the University of Pittsburgh.
In his previous job, Dr Lee led five single-hand transplant operations on five patients, giving them new hands plus marrow from their donors. In an interview last fall, Dr Lee said that all five recipients had done well and that four were taking only one anti-rejection drug instead of combination treatments most transplant patients receive.

Catherine Griffin (Science World Report) explains, "Limb transplants, like organ transplants, are a difficult business.  Extensive treatment needs to follow the surgery in order to prevent  the patient's body from rejecting the new limbs."  Michael E. Ruane (Washington Post) quotes Brendan's father, Alex Marrocco, stating, "He's doing well.  Doing well.  It's been a little over a month now."  AP notes the procedure took place December 18th.

In other service issues, Thursday's announcement by the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta continues to make news.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: One of my priorities as Secretary of Defense has been to remove as many barriers as possible for talented and qualified people to be able to serve this country in uniform.  Our nation was built on the premise of the citizen soldier.  In our democracy, I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to protect the nation and every citizen who can meet the qualifications of service should have that opportunity.  To that end, I've been working closely with General Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  We've been working for well over a year to examine how can we expand the opportunities for women in the armed services?  It's clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation.  Women represent 15 percent of the force, over 200,000.  They're serving in a growing number of critical roles -- on and off the battlefield.  The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission.  Over more than a decade of war, they have demonstrated courage and skill and patriotism. 153 women in uniform died serving this nation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Female service members have faced the reality of combat, proven their willingness to fight and, yes, to die to defend their fellow Americans.

Retired Lt Col Joe Repya (Star Tribune) argues today that women shouldn't be allowed to serve in combat because "a combat zone is a dangerous place" and because "there is no glamour in combat" -- yes, he really wrote that.  Michael Foust (Baptist Press) adds that "Panetta's announcement that the military will remove its ban on women in combat drew criticism from several Southern Baptist leaders, who expressed concern over privacy and military effectiveness and also warned the move is part of a larger societal effort to blur differences between men and women."  Okay, now I'm confused.  The Southern Baptist leaders are opposed to the move because they know so little of human anatomy that they will no longer be able to tell men from women?  Those poor leaders, Rupal must send them into a catatonic state.  These Southern Baptist leaders must be the people who quit watching Felecity in season two because Keri Russell cut her hair.  It was all so confusing to them -- look, a long haired beautiful woman, wait, who's that person with the short hair? (Wednesday, Keri Russell's new series debuts on FX, The Americans and, rest easy Southern Baptist leaders, she has long hair.)

Ann McFeatters (Scripps Howard) notes today, "Once men scoffed that women could meet the same physical requirements required of men in the military. No longer. Physically fit women volunteering for combat roles will meet the same standards men must meet."  But some men -- or what passes for them -- still make that ridiculous claim.  Language and stupidity warning, Larry Johnson (No Quarter) insists the news "reminds me of the awarding participation ribbons to participants in the Special Olympics."  That's really insulting.  I think most people can realize what a Stupid Sexist Ass Larry Johnson is so we'll leave that alone to instead note his insult of Special Olympics.  I seem to remember Larry pissing his bikini shorts over rude remarks and insults about Sarah Palin's youngest child.  But now Larry thinks it's okay to mock Special Olympics?  What a filthy and disgusting piece of trash to write that.  These are real Olympics and the children and adults participating are competing.  How pathetic that Larry Johnson, someone with all of his limbs, all of his senses and presumably all of his mental functions would lash out at those who didn't get the breaks he did.  He should be ashamed of himself.  I could take him being a sexist pig.  That's nothing new, I'm used to them.  But as I noted when people thought it was funny to mock Trig Palin -- a child who never did anything to harm anyone -- when I read this kind of garbage where people with all the breaks mock those who try to live life to the fullest with less breaks, I just want to cry because I really cannot believe people would be so cruel.  You hate women, I get it.  Fine, I doubt most women like you.  Why do you have to bring Special Olympians into it and insult them?  That's just disgusting.  I would have thought Larry Johnson had more class than that.

Richard Sisk ( reports on Army Lt Col Kellie McCoy and we'll note this from her Iraq War service:

McCoy led 11 men, two Humvees, and two light trucks on a mission to visit her troops in other outposts when the convoy was hit by a well-coordinated attack of daisy chain roadside bombs and direct fire.
“The first IED went off right in front of my vehicle,” McCoy said. She ran her Humvee up and down the road to direct the fire of her troops, leaping out several times to fire her M4 carbine and M9 sidearm to repel the attackers firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.
“I believe I hit two (of the enemy), but I don’t know how many we killed,” she said.
"The situation kept getting worse and worse," she said. "That is where training kicks in. You don’t have time to consider everything that is going on. You’re just acting. I really do credit a lot of our training for that and making us prepared to just react in an appropriate way."
Three of the four vehicles were disabled by the ambush. McCoy piled all 11 of her paratroopers into her Humvee and returned to base. Several of the troops had injuries, including concussions and ruptured eardrums, but none were life-threatening.

Mark Thompson (Time magazine) speaks to the rank and file and finds support for the new policy.  We'll note this from Thompson's report:

Command Sergeant Major Darrin Bohn said he was amazed at the first woman -- an intelligence officer -- he served with in an infantry battalion during his 23 years in uniform. She was, he said, "deeply integrated" into the unit’s combat mission in Iraq. “I don’t want to sound like a male chauvinist jackass, but she was that smart and was immediately respected by the other guys for her knowledge and her know-how,” he said of her. “It really didn’t seem to matter.”
He liked her initiative. "She had control of a Predator and actually fired a Hellfire missile from Camp Fallujah to where we were running through the objective area, where she had seen some folks running around," he recalled "She was running back and forth to the Marine TOC [tactical operations center], tapping into some of the national assets, feeding them to the S2 [intelligence] guy and to the battalion commander so we could have a better and bigger picture of what was going on around us – the movements, some of the voice intercepts and so on."

The editorial board of USA Today points out, "Critics argue that standards will in fact be lowered, that the presence of women will create awkward situations and relationship problems, and that military readiness will suffer. Couched in slightly different terms, the same sort of arguments were raised when the military was racially integrated, and more recently when gays were allowed to serve openly. None of the dire predictions has materialized. "

Meanwhile the suicide crisis continues in the military and veterans community.  Nathan Max (San Diego Union-Tribune) observes that the active duty suicide rate climbed to a record high last year and Robin Lynne Andersen and Robert John Andersen share how their son, Iraq War veteran Robert Bryan Guzzo, returned home attempting to get help repeatedly for Post-Traumatic Stress but receiving no help and finally taking his own life.  Bill Briggs (NBC News) notes that suicides are increasing in military families and he speaks with Monica Velez whose brother Freddy Velez was killed while stationed in Iraq.  She attempted to take her own life.  Then her brother Andrew Velez asked her to promise him in writing that she wouldn't try to do anything like that while he was deployed to Afghanistan.  Andrew Velez ended up taking his own life while serving in Afghanistan. 

Turning to Iraq, with January winding down at the end of this week, Iraq Body Count is counting 320 violent deaths so far this month through Saturday.  Margaret Griffis ( reports yesterday saw four deaths (2 Iraqi soldiers and a husband and wife) and eleven injured in Iraq.  Today?  All Iraq News notes an armed attack just northeast of Baghdad resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi soldier, 1 corpse was discovered (shot to death) in Mosul and 1 driver of a Baghdad provincial council member was shot dead in BaghdadAFP adds that a Kirkuk bombing claimed the life of 1 neighborhood chief and a Falluja rocket attack left two Iraqi soldiers injured.  Alsumaria notes 1 parent and 1 child were shot dead in Mosul by the Iraqi military in what is being termed a "mistake" by the government.

In addition to violence, the Iraqi people are also at risk of death from illness. Dar Addustour reports there are 89 confirmed cases of Avian Flu in Iraq at present.  There is one confirmed case in Dhi Qar Province with four more suspected.  Avian Flu is also known as bird flu and H5N1 virus.  The United Nations noted Friday that Iraq had 1 death from Avian Flu and that Cambodia and China also saw deaths.  They also note that Iraq has imposed a poultry ban.  The Center for Disease Control notes "virus infection of humans is rare" but that over 600 human cases have been reported "since November 2003."  How do people get avian flu?  The CDC notes, "In the majority of cases, the person got HPAI H5N1 virus infection after direct or close contact with sick or dead infected poultry.  Other HPAI H5N! risk factors include visiting a live poultry market and prolonged, unprotected close contact with a sick HPAI H5N1 patient."

The government has attempted to blame the outbreaks on "foreign workers."  Rather ironic when you consider how much they are paying some foreign workers to take jobs in Iraq.  Nasiriyah News Network reports that Dhi Qar Province has allocated two billion dinars to pay for foreign doctors to work in the province. Azzaman reports that the Ministry of Planning's spokesperson Abdulzahra al-Hindawi stated last week that they had reduced the official unemployment rate from 38% (2004) to 20% (last year).

And if they had used that money over the last years to train Iraqis to be doctors and nurses?  No one wants to make that point apparently.  Or to point out that doctors and nurses who were not part of the pre-2007 "brain drain" have asked repeatedly for protection and, had the government provided protection, many Iraqi doctors and nurses might have been willing to remain in the country.

As protests continue in Iraq, All Iraq News reports Iraqiya MP Falah Zaidan stated that the continued refusal to meet the demands of the protesters is threatening stability in Iraq.  Alsumaria notes that tribal sheikhs have declared Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi has four months to resolve the issue of Article IV.  Article IV is the law that allows for the mass arrests of 'terrorists' -- it allows, among other things, for the authorities to take in the wife, mother, daughter, sister, brother, father, son, etc. of a suspect when you can't locate the suspect.  This is why so many innocent people are in Iraqi jails and why there are no trials for them.  They can't hold a trial to charge you with the 'crime' of being related to someone -- and they shouldn't be able to hold you in prison for that either.  Dirk Adriaensens of the BRussells Tribunal writes about the prison situation in Iraq:

Azzaman reported on 25 January:
The question “How many times did you blow yourself up?” is part of a joke doing rounds in Iraq. It refers to a prisoner who under duress and in order to prevent his interrogators from torturing him any further admitted that he had blown himself up several times.For his tormentors the response was ‘good’ enough to brand him ‘terrorist’ and keep him behind bards without proper trial for many years.Many Iraqi prisoners, some of them still languishing in their prison cells and other released, speak of their torture and imprisonment in Iraqi jails in these terms.
Hurling empty and ridiculous accusations is part of the skills that U.S. troops and their jailers have bequeathed Iraqi security forces.The shortest way for an Iraqi in custody today is to quickly confess to the accusation hurled at him to escape humiliation and torture.
The issue of tens of thousands of jailed Iraqis is at the top of demands of Iraqi demonstrators and protesters.Stories of families being destroyed following the arrest of their breadwinners without charges and proper trial are common in Iraq.Some of the prisoners started their terms at the age of 19 or even younger and have been in jail for many years without trial.
Would the government have the guts to ponder the future of a young generation in prison for so long and of children whose father has been jailed simply on ungrounded suspicions and for so long? What kind of future awaits them?The government should listen carefully to the demands of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets of major cities in central Iraq.
Freeing prisoners and putting an end to jailing people without proper trial is only a first step. Maliki’s government should be dissolved and put on trial.Reparations should be paid to all the victims who have been unjustly and illegally detained for so many years, including the detainees in American administered prisons.
Many Human Rights Organisations, including The BRussells Tribunal, have frequently alarmed the world community about the horrible conditions in Iraq prisons, where torture, rape, sodomy and outright murder are endemic.

Saturday the Parliament voted to limit the three presidencies (President, Speaker of Parliament and Prime Minister) to two terms.  Wael Grace (Al Mada) reported that 170 of the 242 MPs present voted in favor of the law.  Ahmed Rasheed, Patrick Markey and Andrew Roche (Reuters) add, "Lawmakers from Sunni, Kurdish and Shi'ite parties voted for the law, but the legislation still needs the president's approval and will face challenges in federal court after Maliki's supporters rejected it as illegal."  Jalal Talabani is the President of Iraq.  Last month, he had a stroke.  He was moved to Germany for medical reasons.   State of Law has spent the last days insisting the law is unconstitutional.  All Iraq News notes that Parliament's Legal Committee states that the law is constitutional and that it is needed to maintain a peaceful transition of power.  The Iraq Times notes whispers that Dawa (Nouri's political party), like Nouri's government, is on the verge of collapse.

Friday, Nouri al-Maliki's armed thugs in Falluja fired on protesters killing at least seven (Alsumaria reported another of the victims has died from wounds raising the death toll)  and sixty more were left injured.  Alsumaria notes the Iraq's Literary Federation and the Association for Defending Press Freedom and the General Union of Writers have all called for the protection of the protesters, decried the violence and are calling for early elections.  Uday Hadim (Association for Defending Press Freedom) states that putting the military out there was a mistake to begin with and now the government and the Parliament must tender the resignations and early elections must take place under the supervision of the United Nations.   Writer Fahmi Saleh points out that the Constitution guarantees Iraqis the right to demonstrate and protest. In the KRG, Alsumaria reports, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's political party) has called on Nouri to remove the military from protests and to show restraint.  All Iraq News notes that the Kurdistan bloc in Parliament also condemned the assault and called for Nouri to stop using the military on internal issues.  They also note that the National Alliance (Shi'ite grouping of various slates -- including Nouri's State of Law but I'm sure they're not part of this) is calling for a prompt and thorough investigation into the shootings.  Alsumaria notes Iraqiya announced they will boycott all upcoming Parliamentary votes that are not a no-confidence vote or votes addressing the demands of the protesters.

Alsumaria reports that the military was withdrawn from Falluja Saturday. Kamal Naama Suadad al-Salhy, Ahmed Rasheed, Patrick Markey, Andrew Roche and Jason Webb (Reuters) quoted Mustafa Jamal, the brother on one of the 7 shot dead by the military yesterday, stating, "Withdrawing the army from the city is not enough, I do not know how this will benefit me and it won't get my brother back."   The dead and wounded were taken to Falluja General Hospital yesterday.  Al Mada noted that Falluja residents descended on the hospital in large numbers to donate blood.  Kamal Naama Suadad al-Salhy, Ahmed Rasheed, Patrick Markey, Andrew Roche and Jason Webb (Reuters) report that "thousands" turned out for the five funerals in Fallluja Saturday.  Al Mada adds that the mourners chanted and marches calling for soldiers who executed the 7 citizens to be handed over.  Mohammed Tawfeeq and Chelsea J. Carter (CNN -- link is text and video) reported that Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha who is a tribal leader and a Sawha leader delivered a statement on television Saturday in which he "gave Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government seven days to hand over to Anbar's criminal court those involved in the shootings."   Today the Sheikh tells Al Mada that he believes the violence was premeditate and planned because Nouri had declared on TV that the demonstration would be targeted.   BBC News adds, "Sunni leaders in Anbar province, where Fallujah is located, had earlier told the BBC that they would attack army positions in the province if the government failed to bring the soldiers responsible for the protester shootings 'to justice'." 

Turning to the topic of oil,  Saturday, Kadhim Ajrash and Khalid al-Ansary (Bloomberg News) reminded, "Chevron Corp. (CVX), Total SA (FP) and Exxon, which operates the West Qurna-1 oil field in southern Iraq, are among companies that have angered the central government with proposals to explore in the Kurdish area. While the Baghdad authorities don’t recognize contracts signed by the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government without their permission, foreign investors say Kurdish authorities offer them more attractive terms."  They're reporting on Minister of Oil Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi declaring in Boston today that ExxonMobil must decide if it's going to work in West Qurna or the KRG.  Julia Payne and Jessica Donati (Reuters) report that "European oil companies are purchasing an increasing volume of oil independently exported by Kurdistan, in defiance of Baghdad's threats to punish those that deal in exports it says are illegal."  And there may be another oil contract with the KRG.  Huseyin Hayatsever (Hurriyet) reports, "A main opposition lawmaker insists that Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) secretly signed a 'framework agreement' last year that outlined transportation and marketing of oil and gas sources in northern Iraq to the global market by excluding the central government in Baghdad."

John Glaser ( reports there will be no movement on Barack's open promise to close Guantanamo:

The Obama administration has decided to close the office and eliminate the special envoy devoted to closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The State Department on Monday reassigned Daniel Fried, the special envoy and will not replace him, according to an internal personnel announcement.

And, lastly, Professor Michel Chossudovsky (Global Research) attempts to put a human face on Barack's Drone War by providing the name of some of the children Barack's killed:

 Partial List of Children Killed
Name | Age | Gender
Noor Aziz | 8 | male
Abdul Wasit | 17 | male
Noor Syed | 8 | male
Wajid Noor | 9 | male
Syed Wali Shah | 7 | male
Ayeesha | 3 | female
Qari Alamzeb | 14| male
Shoaib | 8 | male
Hayatullah KhaMohammad | 16 | male
Tariq Aziz | 16 | male
Sanaullah Jan | 17 | male
Maezol Khan | 8 | female
Nasir Khan | male
Naeem Khan | male
Naeemullah | male
Mohammad Tahir | 16 | male
Azizul Wahab | 15 | male
Fazal Wahab | 16 | male
Ziauddin | 16 | male
Mohammad Yunus | 16 | male
Fazal Hakim | 19 | male
Ilyas | 13 | male
Sohail | 7 | male
Asadullah | 9 | male
khalilullah | 9 | male
Noor Mohammad | 8 | male
Khalid | 12 | male
Saifullah | 9 | male
Mashooq Jan | 15 | male
Nawab | 17 | male
Sultanat Khan | 16 | male
Ziaur Rahman | 13 | male
Noor Mohammad | 15 | male
Mohammad Yaas Khan | 16 | male
Qari Alamzeb | 14 | male
Ziaur Rahman | 17 | male
Abdullah | 18 | male
Ikramullah Zada | 17 | male
Inayatur Rehman | 16 | male
Shahbuddin | 15 | male
Yahya Khan | 16 |male
Rahatullah |17 | male
Mohammad Salim | 11 | male
Shahjehan | 15 | male
Gul Sher Khan | 15 | male
Bakht Muneer | 14 | male
Numair | 14 | male
Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
Ihsanullah | 16 | male
Luqman | 12 | male
Jannatullah | 13 | male
Ismail | 12 | male
Taseel Khan | 18 | male
Zaheeruddin | 16 | male
Qari Ishaq | 19 | male
Jamshed Khan | 14 | male
Alam Nabi | 11 | male
Qari Abdul Karim | 19 | male
Rahmatullah | 14 | male
Abdus Samad | 17 | male
Siraj | 16 | male
Saeedullah | 17 | male
Abdul Waris | 16 | male
Darvesh | 13 | male
Ameer Said | 15 | male
Shaukat | 14 | male
Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
Salman | 12 | male
Fazal Wahab | 18 | male
Baacha Rahman | 13 | male
Wali-ur-Rahman | 17 | male
Iftikhar | 17 | male
Inayatullah | 15 | male
Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
Ihsanullah | 16 | male
Luqman | 12 | male
Jannatullah | 13 | male
Ismail | 12 | male
Abdul Waris | 16 | male
Darvesh | 13 | male
Ameer Said | 15 | male
Shaukat | 14 | male
Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
Adnan | 16 | male
Najibullah | 13 | male
Naeemullah | 17 | male
Hizbullah | 10 | male
Kitab Gul | 12 | male
Wilayat Khan | 11 | male
Zabihullah | 16 | male
Shehzad Gul | 11 | male
Shabir | 15 | male
Qari Sharifullah | 17 | male
Shafiullah | 16 | male
Nimatullah | 14 | male
Shakirullah | 16 | male
Talha | 8 | male

Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser | 9 | female
Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 7 | female
Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 5 | female
Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser | 4 | female
Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 13 | male
Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 9 | male
Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | female
Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 3 | female
Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye | 1 | female
Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye | 6 | female
Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | male
Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye | 15 | female
Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad | 2 | female
Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad | 1 | female
Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh | 3 | female
Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 12 | male
Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 9 | female
Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 4 | female
Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 2 | male
Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari | 13 | male
Daolah Nasser 10 years | 10 | female
AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout | 12 | male
Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki | 16 | male
Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki | 17 | male
Nasser Salim | 19