Hump day, hump day. Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the illegal war. We'll talk Iraq and some other stuff tonight. First, I'm Irish-American and meant to already note Hillary's comments but I'll do it now. This is our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, speaking about Ireland and the link also has video:
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. Well, I am very pleased to be here this afternoon with two men who have really proven what leadership means and demonstrated clearly courage and commitment: First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
I want to begin by saying how pleased I am personally to welcome them here. I have known Peter and Martin for a number of years and have seen them take responsibility for the future of the people of Northern Ireland in a way that has inspired confidence and created a real opportunity for people not only in the United States, but around the world to look to Northern Ireland and to see the progress there. Of course, it’s St. Patrick’s Day and they are here on this occasion, but they are no strangers to either Washington or the State Department. And I know how important our relationship is to continue to support those who work for peace.
In addition to the discussion that I just concluded with the first minister and the deputy first minister, I have had excellent conversations with others as well who you have seen starting yesterday and continuing through today.
Northern Ireland has made such remarkable progress since the signing of the Good Friday Accord. We’ve had more than a decade of peace and progress and prosperity for many. Recent acts of violence cannot be allowed to undermine that progress and the progress that is yet to come as these two leaders and those who work with them continue to move into the future. The violence that has occurred with the killing of the two young soldiers and the police officer are an affront to the values of every community, every person who believes in the power of peace and reconciliation.
The two men standing on either side of me led Northern Ireland through the last days in a commendable manner. Along with the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom, they have confronted these acts of violence with boldness and statesmanship. And they have responded to actions intended to sow fear and division with unity and courage.
So we are here after ten years of peace, and we’re committed to looking forward to a future where we, the United States, working with them, can create a better life so that every child growing up in Northern Ireland has a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.
The State Department and the Obama Administration will be actively engaged in assisting the leadership of Northern Ireland. And this is not a subject of passing interest, but of surpassing interest. During my time as First Lady, during my time as senator from New York, I have been privileged to see the people of Northern Ireland move in a direction that has given so much hope to so many, including those far beyond their own boundaries.
So I want to thank the first minister and the deputy first minister, and now let me turn to the first minister for any comments he wishes to make.
FIRST MINISTER ROBINSON: Thank you very much. At the very outset, I want to express my appreciation and the appreciation of all of the people of Northern Ireland to Secretary Clinton. Hillary has been a good friend of Northern Ireland, a great friend of the process in which we have been involved. We were delighted to hear in our meeting which has just concluded that that is going to be an ongoing interest. We’re looking for excuses to bring her to Northern Ireland, and we’re delighted to hear that the Obama Administration is looking to bring an envoy to continue to partner with us, and indeed to have a particular emphasis with someone looking after the issue of the economy.
The deputy first minister and I have had a difficult period of time. I think that anybody who has followed recent events will know that there was a single purpose on the part of those who carried out those dreadful acts. They intended to divide us. They intended to drag Northern Ireland back into conflict. Their hopes were that the work of the politicians in the assembly and in the executive would begin to fray and that the institutions would crumble and fall.
They have not succeeded, and they will not succeed. There is a massive determination, not just on the part of the deputy first minister and myself, but I was delighted to see it from every single political party. There was no party political bickering on the issue. Every politician stepped up to the line and made it clear their denunciation of the incidents and also their determination that they were not going back.
It is that determination not simply not to go back or to stand still, but to drive us forward, to complete the tasks that we have set our hand to, and to bring Northern Ireland to that place where it has a stable political and economic future, where prosperity is a daily diet of our people. It is that hope that drives us forward, and it is that hope that I believe we have the full support of the people of Northern Ireland in realizing.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.
DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER MCGUINNESS: Well, if I could say that it’s an incredible good fortune for all of us on the island of Ireland and the north that Hillary Clinton has been appointed the new Secretary of State. She has for many, many years, alongside her husband, been a true friend of all of us, a true friend of the peace process, contributing tremendously to the transformation that has taken place over the course of the last number of years. And what has been really encouraging about this visit and the meeting that we’ve just come from is that it’s quite clear that she is surrounded by people who have a tremendous insight into our situation, going back many, many years. I find that tremendously encouraging, and we’re excited about our meeting with President Obama this morning and the things we heard from him and his reiteration of his commitment to help us within the process, continuing, I must say, a long line of important contributions from the United States of America.
And what we’ve heard just now in the course of our meeting with Secretary Clinton further encourages us that we will see the appointment of an envoy who will make their own particular contribution, also following in a long line of envoys who have been tremendously supportive for all of us.
And we talked about the economy because we believe that economic development is of critical importance, and our program for government identified the development of the economy as a key priority for all of us. And there has been a long tradition of American companies investing on the island of Ireland and in the north of Ireland, and our visit here and the West Coast, and we’ve been to Los Angeles, Peter’s been to Chicago, I’ve been to New York, and we’re now in Washington. Everywhere we went, it was quite clear that people were very tuned in to what had happened in our country and indeed at the time of those incidents were very shocked that it did happen.
But that shock quickly gave way to a bigger story, and the bigger story was the unity which Peter has just spoken about, not just between himself and myself, but between all of the parties recognizing that this represented a real challenge to our process by people who are dedicated to destroy the peace process, dedicated to the demolition of the political institutions, and absolutely dedicated to plunging our community. And we don’t speak about two communities. We represent – although we represent different parties, we represent one community in the north of Ireland, and we are not going to allow our community to be plunged into mayhem and destruction by people who have no support, no mandate whatsoever, and no right whatsoever to attack the peace that the people of Ireland as a whole and in the north voted for in the referendum in the aftermath of the Good Friday upheaval.
So I’m actually moving forward on all of this with tremendous confidence about the future, confidence in that we are united, that we are supported by the Irish Government and the British Government, and by a very strong Administration here in the United States of America led by President Obama and Hillary Clinton. So we will leave Washington incredibly buoyed up by the encouragement and support that we’ve received here, and I want to express my deepest thanks and appreciation to you, Hillary, and to President Obama and all those in all of the political parties on Capitol Hill who have stood by us through thick and thin.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, there are predictions of really catastrophic conditions in Darfur because of the president of Sudan’s expulsion of aid groups and apparent intention to shut them down completely. And I’m wondering what can the international community do about this. Will this in any way speed the appointment of another special envoy, a U.S. envoy to Sudan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have been deeply engaged in determining what we can do, because this is a horrendous situation that is going to cause untold misery and suffering for the people of Darfur, particularly those in the refugee camps. There will be a special envoy appointed for Sudan in the coming days. But the real question is what kind of pressure can be brought to bear on President Bashir and the government in Khartoum to understand that they will be held responsible for every single death that occurs in those camps, because by their expulsion of the aid workers, who came from all over the world to assist with the health and the sanitation and the security and the education of the refugees, they are putting those 1.4 million lives at risk.
And for those governments that support President Bashir’s decision to expel the aid workers, they have a responsibility to persuade the government in Sudan to change its decision to let the aid workers back in, or they must replace with money and personnel those who have been expelled, so that innocent lives are not lost and further undermined.
So we take this very seriously. We are looking for the most effective ways to convince and demonstrate to the Government of Sudan that they have now assumed an even greater sense of responsibility and infamy in the eyes of the world by turning their backs on these refugees whom they created in the first place. So we hope that either by the internal processes of the Sudanese Government or pressure brought to bear by the supporters of President Bashir and that government, the decision is reversed, or at the very least, the money and the personnel are replaced.
MODERATOR: Jim Dee from the Belfast Telegraph.
QUESTION: Thank you. This is a question for Madame Secretary and also the first and deputy first ministers.
Madame Secretary, as my colleague pointed out, there are many serious problems in the world. Northern Ireland has enjoyed top-level attention from the White House for many years now. When Barack Obama was running against John McCain, he indicated that he may revisit the appointing of an envoy. How long can the White House, in the highest levels of the U.S. Government, stay engaged in Northern Ireland? Will there be a time when they will not?
And to the first and deputy first ministers, you are here on an economic investment journey to try to find companies that will invest in Northern Ireland. The global economy right now is in a very serious state. How contingent on economic progress and stability is political stability in Northern Ireland?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to your first question, we waited until we had the opportunity to consult with the leaders of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland about the best way to structure our relationship going forward. And it has been a unanimous agreement that having this high-level attention from the United States Government provides a real value to the ongoing peace process and to the economic aspects of, you know, anchoring peace in the soil where people can actually see the fruits of that effort.
So we will be appointing a special envoy. We’ll be appointing someone who will pay attention to the economic investment side of this. You know, there’s a great sense of affinity between the United States and the Irish, and it’s something that I take very personally as well as professionally as part of my responsibilities. It’s not only that we have many millions – about 44 million, which I think is an undercount – of Irish Americans, but it is the fact that we formed this deep relationship. And we are there to help; we’re not there to do anything other than support the decisions that these extraordinary leaders make.
But if we are needed, if we provide value, we will continue to support this process. It is gaining strength every day. As both Peter and Martin said, the reaction not just by the leaders, but the people in Northern Ireland to the murders last week demonstrated how firmly anchored peace is. But there are still some bumps along the road.
And before I turn to Peter to answer your second question, you know, the Northern Ireland economy is doing better than a lot of economies right now, so I think it is quite attractive for people who understand that we will work our way through this global economic crisis we’re in right now, and there will be opportunities for investments. And I think Peter and Martin are absolutely right to be out talking about the advantages of investing in Northern Ireland right now.
FIRST MINISTER ROBINSON: Secretary Clinton is right. Northern Ireland does have a deep and special relationship with the United States as part of a secret deal. The deal is that as we have supplied you with 15 presidents that we will continue to do that. (Laughter.)
And we continue to get support from the leadership of the United States. It’s working well for both of us, I think. The economy of Northern Ireland is critical and is critical to the overall process in which we’re engaged. We want to be able to show people that having local control can make a difference. And it only makes a difference to them if they feel it themselves. And therefore, it has to be able to – raise everybody hopes, it has to get into every section of our community. And the economy is the one way that you can do that, you can make people feel better, you can make people feel that this is working.
Of course, we, relatively speaking, are weathering the economic storm better than many. And we have an unemployment rate to which I think most European countries and the United States would be happy with, at just about 5 percent. But we want to go up the food chain in terms of the type of jobs that we have in Northern Ireland. And we’re looking at high-end engineering, financial and businesses services, IT, creative industries. Those are the areas that we are wanting to grow in Northern Ireland. And we can provide businesses in the United States, even in these hard times, with a good reason to come to Northern Ireland, where you get the highest skills at the lowest cost.
So yeah, we do want to improve our economy. It’s important for the overall process. And we believe that the United States has something that it can give Northern Ireland, but Northern Ireland has something that it can give back.
DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER MCGUINNESS: Well, I think it is very important that people benefit from the fruits of the peace process. And reiterating what Peter said, our relationship with the United States of America is rock solid. We have connections going back here centuries, and the bonds between us are very strong. And I believe that in the future, we will continue to see investment from the United States of America and the island of Ireland and specifically also in the North. And Peter and I have been tremendously encouraged by the messages that we’ve had over the course of the last short while.
In terms of the whole issue of the connection between the economic situation and the issue of political stability, let me say this. The institutions are, in my opinion, stronger and more stable now in the aftermath of the three killings than they were before. And that should send a very powerful message to those who people who were responsible for those killings. And the message is that we are not going to buckle under this pressure, but we are going to continue to do our jobs, knowing that we have got the overwhelming support of our people, people who too want to benefit for their own sakes, for the sakes of their children, and those yet unborn.
So this is about providing a better future and a better history and this is about recognizing the damage that was done to our Island and to ourselves as individuals by the past that some of us have experienced. So what we have to do is – the key point is to give leadership. That’s what it’s all about.
I attended two very important conferences in a forest in Helsinki, alongside Jeffery Donaldson of the Democratic Unionist Party, alongside Cyril Ramaphosa from South Africa and Roelf Meyer. And there were many white boards and there were many black boards in attendance. And many words were written on the boards and many words were spoken. I wrote one word on the board when I addressed the Kurds, the Shia and the Sunnis, and that word was “leadership.” That’s what is required in the north of Ireland, that’s what’s required in the Middle East, that’s what’s required in Iraq, that’s what’s required in Afghanistan and in many other places throughout the world.
The benefit we had was that we had leaders who understood the need to forge an agreement, who didn’t want to be part of a process that saw the misery of the past inflected on future generations. And so I think – I would like to think that we have given strong leadership and that we have given a very powerful message – not just to our own people on the island of Ireland or in the North, but to the world – that the only way forward in situations where there is conflict and dispute is to sit down like sensible, reasonable human beings, forge agreements, and we have done that.
I mean, people have said to me, for example, what is different now in relation to what these people are doing and at a time whenever the IRA were involved in a conflict, which I supported, against the British Army? The difference is we have the Good Friday Agreement. The difference is we have all of the parties coming together, forming an inclusive government supported by the Irish Government, supported by the British Government and the U.S. Administration and the full width of international opinion, but more important than all of that, supported by the people, by ordinary housewives, workers, parents, people who have invested a tremendous amount and us as politicians, to give strong leadership and build a better future for them and for their children.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Thank you all.
So, yea for the Irish! :D Did I party hard yesterday? No. It sucks when St. Patrick's Day comes in the middle of the week. I did party hard over the weekend which may have been why I felt so sick Monday night. :D
Theme post! Tonight our theme is favorite artist's worst recording. And it's really hard to choose just one bad song by Huey Lewis & the News. I'm joking! That's for my second oldest brother who lived on Back To The Future, thought he was Marty McFly and would only listen to people on the soundtrack of that film for years (Huey, Etta James, I forget who else -- at least Etta has talent).
I'm actually going to go with an album. Do you remember the song "Brick"? I loved that song. It was by Ben Folds Five and was so amazing. I loved it and the album it was on. (Another song I liked on that album was "Give my money back, give my money back, you bitch, and don't forget my black t-shirt.") And I thought they were the best band ever. So the next year they had an album coming out. I saved all my Christmas money. I wouldn't spend any of it because the album was set to rock out in January. I probably could have spent some of it but if I'd spent any of it, I was afraid I'd spend it all so the smart thing was to sit on it and not spend any money, right?
So Naked Baby Photos comes out. It sucked. It so totally sucked. And I'd waited about three or four weeks, hadn't spent my Christmas money because I knew this album was going to be amazing and it sucked.
That was it for me in terms of rushing to buy an album based on one other one.
So that's me doing the theme.
Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the illegal war. Six years ago tomorrow the Iraq War started. Six years later and there's no end in sight, the war just drags on and on. If you can, please participate in an activity tomorrow. Most cities have stuff planned. And please take part on Saturday. In DC, there will be a March on the Pentagon and there will be stuff going on throughout the country. This is from James Circello's "G.I. Resister James Circello: Why I Will be Marching on the Pentagon :"
If we were to ask everyone planning to travel to Washington this month to march on the Pentagon, I’m sure we would get several different answers. For many people in the United States, they will be taking to the streets to demand an end to the sixth year of war on Iraq. But that is not the entire truth—in reality, the war is nearing its 19th year. Here are a few of the reasons why I will be marching.
"I encourage everyone to do as much as you can and join me in Washington D.C., on March 21 to say loudly and clearly: From Iraq to Afghanistan to Palestine, occupation is a crime."
I was sent to Iraq in March of 2003 as part of the invasion force in a war that I did not believe in. I was stationed in Italy, and due to the fact that we were really unable to stay current on the news, I had no idea that so many people here in the United States were opposed to the war as well.
While in Iraq, I was able to witness the extent of the devastation caused by the almost 20 years of constant bombardments and the genocidal sanctions placed on the people of that country.
The smell was often unbearable. Stagnant water and sewage filled neighborhood streets due to the intentional targeting of Iraq's sewer system and its water treatment facilities. Barefooted kids ran through these streets--not minding it all--because it is all they had ever known.
The infrastructure had been reduced to rubble. Garbage lined what were once grand streets and avenues. Human needs were unable to be met, not because of what U.S. propaganda called a "brutal tyrant," but due to strict economic sanctions on the people of Iraq.
This was the true face of occupation.
So figure out what your reason for standing up and demonstrating is and get on it. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Wendesday, March 18, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the damage to Iraqi and US women continues, Congress holds a hearing on military suicides, and more.
Friday's snapshot noted a video of US forces 'training' Iraqi police. We're revisiting the video because the critique offered Friday of how damaging it is for women when the US military condones that behavior is only more obvious today. At his site Adam Kokesh - Revolutionary Patriot, Adam Kokesh has posted the video so you can stream it there if you're able to stream and/or enjoy streaming. For those who can't, a transcript is below and, as noted Friday, the US service member mentions three areas that we're calling A and B and C (I have no idea what he's taling about):
We're going to talk a little about how you are conducting yourselves as Iraqi police. Raise your hand if you're in the Mahdi militia. Let's see it. Who's in the militia? Who has militia ties? Which one of you are more loyal to the militia than to your own country? None of you? Bulls**t. Some of you in this formation are f**king lie right now. You know why I'm pissed off? I've come down here with my soldiers to try and train you and you're trying to f**king kill Americans, you're trying to kill your fellow f**king Iraqis cause you got no f**king backbone. You want everything from me. You want weapons and ammunition. You want fuel, you want trucks. But you're too f**king p**sy to go three kilometers down the road and go get the people that are tearing this f**king town apart. That's pure f**king cowardice. I'll take three g**damn trucks down the road any f**king day.
[To an Iraqi, thumping him on the chest] You think this is f**king funny? You want to call me out? You think it's f**king funny? Why don't I take your ass out back and kick your little f**king ass? You better shut the f**k up. F**king pay attention.
[To all] I have no problems beating anyone of your asses, not one. Because I don't give a f**k. Because you're acting like a bunch of f**king women.
[To one Iraqi] Shut up when I'm talking. Shut your f**king mouth.
[To all] I'm not going to come down here and waste my f**king time or my soldiers' lives because you don't want to do s**t. You guys better figure out where your loyalties lie. Are you loyal to Iraq, Shia, Sunni, what is it? You want to fight for your country or are you better off having me die for your country because you're too much of a f**king woman to do it yourself? You love seeing Americans die for your f**king country, you won't die for it yourself. I don't see your ass in my hometown.
[Turning around] And you f**king leadership [ought to?] get off your ass too. Lead from the f**king front. When's the last time you went on patrol? Probably never. When's the last time you went these guys down to A, when did you take them to A and lead 'em on a f**king patrol? You never did, did you? Because you're too chicken s**t.
[Facing front] Figure out what the f**k you want from us or I'm going to stop coming down here. And when the Sunnis from A come down here and cut your f**king heads off, I'm not going to do a g**damn thing about it. I'm going to let them bomb your f**king ass into oblivion with their mortars because you will not do s**t about it. I will not help people that will not help themselves. Get your heads out of this f**king bulls**t Mahdi militia and start fighting for Iraq. What do you want? Questions? . . . . [Question asked, then translated.] You wanna erase that image, you want to fix your image.
This group right here, f**k your stupid checkpoints, they're worthless. Get together, get all your weapons and start marching south towards the river. I guarantee you'll get into a gunfight and I guarantee you'll f**k some people up. Get down there and kick some ass. What? You don't need trucks. Take some water, take some food. [shouting over him] Hey, quit making excuses. Don't f**king talk about US patrols. I never saw your ass down in ledge, where the f**k were you? I never saw you in B, C, so shut the f**k up. When I tell you to man up, you shut the f**k up. You guys want to be men, go down there and start beating some f**king asses. You're supposed to be Iraqi police. Why don't you try acting like it? You sit her with your thumb up your ass because you're too f**king scared to do your jobs.
Those are the remarks. They're offensive and appling on every level including what a police force actually does, law and order and so much more. [See "Iraq," "Iraq roundtable," "The Iraq roundtable," "iraq roundtable," "Iraq," "Iraq in the Kitchen," "Talking Iraq," "Iraq around the table," "Roundtable on Iraq," "The roundtable," "Roundtable," "Friday roundtable," "Iraq roundtable" and "Talking Iraq".] They are also sexist remarks and, as such, they are offensive and damaging. For Iraqi women and for American women. The US military has no right to use female as a curse word, to use gender as a put down. MADRE's Yifat Susskind explains at CounterPunch how the illegal war and the US have impacted Iraqi women's lives:
If you haven't thought about the Iraq War as a story of US allies systematically torturing and executing women, you're not alone. Likewise, if you were under the impression that Iraqi women were somehow better off under their new, US-sponsored government.
In the spring of 2003, Fatin was a student of architecture at Baghdad University. Her days were filled with classes and hanging out in her favorite of Baghdad's many cafes, where she and her friends studied, shared music, and spun big plans for successful careers, happy marriages, and eventually, kids.
Today, Fatin says that those feel like someone else's dreams.
Soon after the US invasion, Fatin began seeing groups of bearded young Iraqi men patrolling the streets of Baghdad. They were looking for women like her, who wore modern clothes or were heading to professional jobs. The men screamed terrible insults at the women and sometimes beat them.
By the fall, ordinary aspects of Fatin's life had become punishable by death. The "misery gangs," as Fatin calls them, were routinely killing women for wearing pants, appearing in public without a headscarf, or shaking hands and socializing with men.
As the occupying power, the US was legally obligated to stop these attacks. But the Pentagon, preoccupied with battling the Iraqi insurgency, simply ignored the militias' reign of terror.
In fact, some of the most treacherous armed groups belonged to the very political parties that the US had brought to power. By 2005, the Pentagon was giving weapons, money and military training to these Shiite militias, in the hope that they would help combat the Sunni-led insurgency.
And after destroying women's lives, the US military thinks it is acceptable for one of their own to 'train' Iraqi police officers to further disrespect women? Train them to think that female is the ultimate insult? Really? That's acceptable?
The US war destroyed the rights of women in Iraq and someone wants to pretend it's 'acceptable' for US service members to further destroy the lives of Iraqi women with little stunts like that 'training'? And what about the women in the US military? wowOwow notes, "A Pentagon report released Tuesday claims one in three women soldiers will be victims of some sort of sexual assault during their service, compared to one in six women civilians. In fiscal 2008, 2,923 sexual assaults were reported -- an 8 percent spike over the prior year; 63 percent were rapes or aggravated assaults. Also, 251 incidents occurred in combat areas, with 141 in Iraq and 22 in Afghanistan -- a 26 percent increase from fiscal 2007." On yesterday's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, (here for text, here for video), Katie Couric reported on sexual assault and the principal Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Michael Dominguez told her, "Sexual assault injures troops, injures readiness. So regardless of the numbers we have, it is by definition too much." Katie observed that 2007 saw 2,200 reported sexual assaults and "only 181 were prosecuted" to which Dominguez responded, "Yes, we absolutely have to get better. Secretary Gates himself is driving this initiative this year to improve our ability to investigate, to prosecutre and convict." Remember that point, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is driving it. NBC Nightly News also offered (video only) a look at sexual assault in the military yesterday. Jim Miklaszewski filed the report and started with Angela Peacock who was sexually assaulted while serving.Angela Peacock: You want to stay in the army keep your mouth shut, suck it up and drive on.Jim Miklaszewski: Angela did drive on and later deployed to Iraq but under the lingering trauma of the sexual assault and the horrors of war she cracked.Angela Peacock: I started having panic attacks and like sleepless nights. I was spiraling down pretty fast.Jim Miklaszewski: She was diagnosed with post traumatic stress and discharged from the army. A Pentagon report on sexual assaults released today shows Angela is not alone. In 2008 there were more than 2900 sexual assaults in the military -- an 8% jump over the previous year. Perhaps more alarming, the number of sexual assaults in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan spiked by 26%. Pentagon officials insist they're taking the disturbing trend seriously. US House Rep Jane Harman smells a cover-up and tells Miklaszewski, "And anyone in the chain of command who covers up the act, and says 'Oh, it's just boys will be boys,' which is what has been happening, also should be prosecuted." Exactly but it's equally true that when a member of the US military -- in a training position -- insults women, makes it so that the worst thing in the world to be is a woman, he is encouraging assaults on women serving in the military. He's encouraging it and so is the military command which lets him get away with. If Robert Gates is seriously concerned, he'll need to address the culture. Mike Mount (CNN) speaks with the idiot Kaye Whitley ("director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office) and Whitley is part of the problem as anyone who has attended a Congressional hearing on this issue knows. A victim provides testimony -- tears herself up to provide testimony -- and Kaye Whitley comes along on the next panel and gets all these little jabs in discrediting the witness -- out of compassion, you understand. She tells Mount that there's no increase in actual assaults, there's just an increase in them being reported. She's a damn fool, a damn liar and someone who should have been kicked off the tax payer payroll a long time ago. It's past time Kaye Whitley got a real job and stopped living off tax payers. Whitley pulled that crap most recently on January 28th where she pretended to be 'concerned' about Laura Waterson. Whitley was pimping for the military (and pimping's the only word) to push for more use of the trial programmed "restricted reports." What this does is allow a rape to go unreported. It counts . . . as a statistic. The women (and male victims as well) are 'counseled' by the military about this option and how it can 'help' them. And throughout their 'counseling' with the military's untrained (a seminar is not training, nor is reading a notebook) 'clinical staff' they will be counseled on whether they're prepared to step forward now or not. It's a crime. Crimes need to be reported. For the victim and especially for the attacker. A rapist may walk -- many do. But if I'm at Fort Lewis and I prosecute my rapist, even if he walks, that follows him because he's not just going to rape once. So the next victim who steps forward has a little easier way to go. As US House Rep Niki Tsongas pointed out to the dithering Whitley, with 1,896 Restricted Reports, "It means a significant number of people who committed these assaults are not accountable." They are not. Whitley wasn't concerned about the victim or about future victims. She declared that if you didn't have that restricted option (where no crime is reported and prosecuted) you would be left with something that "just tears a unit apart." Guess what, Dumb Ass Whitley, maybe it needs to. Maybe it f**king needs to. Maybe if enough units are "torn apart" by these sexual assaults, the military will get serious about preventing them. But that won't happen as long as apologists like Kaye Whitley are allowed to continue in their jobs. The woman needs to be removed from her job immediately. And civilian clinicians need to be brought in because we are talking about crimes and the military's history is one of hiding sexual assaults. Civilians who do not answer to the military chain of command need to be brought in as counselors. As Niki Tsongas also explained to Whitley "we do have new women coming into the military who have no real understanding of the threat that might exist" and "we have many young people coming into the services who we want to protect." "Restricted Rape" assists no one except the US military command which is already well versed in how to cover up sexual assault crimes.
Those who missed Laura Watterson's powerful and moving testimony can refer to Jan. 28th's "Iraq snapshot," Kat's "When I tried to smoke a banana," Jan. 29th's "Iraq snapshot," Ruth's "Laura Watterson's testimony and its meaning" and Kat's "Laura Watterson's testimony."
We're not done with the 'training' the US military is giving the Iraqi police. It disrespected the traditions of law and order, it confused the role of a civilian police. The US military -- which is not a trained civilian police force -- is giving 'training' lessons on topics they know nothing of. The civilian police force, in any country, is not supposed to attack civilians or suspects. They can arrest suspects but the US service member in the video isn't recommending that anyone be arrested, he is recommending that police become a viligante force. Rob Nordland (New York Times) reported earlier this week that six prisoners from Camp Bucca were released by the US military and they returned home. That was not the end of the story for them. A Haditha police "posse" was after them and "hunted them down, hancuffed them and shot them repeatedly, killing all six, according to a leader of their Al Bonemir tribe, Salal Rasheed al-Goud, was interviewed Saturday." al-Goud explains, "One of the police officers thought they had killed his brother more than a year ago." That's not justice and the US military is part of the problem when a US 'trainer' tells the Iraqi police, "This group right here, f**k your stupid checkpoints, they're worthless. Get together, get all your weapons and start marching south towards the river. I guarantee you'll get into a gunfight and I guarantee you'll f**k some people up. Get down there and kick some ass." The military is not the police and people who can't grasp that -- including the service member and all those ranking above him -- do as much longterm damage to Iraq as do any bombs dropped. This kind of 'training' -- with all the 'benefits' -- is why the US military needs to leave Iraq immediately.
Tomorrow marks the sixth anniversary of the illegal war. Some will say it's going into year seven! We won't say that. When it comes to the basics, we stick with the basics. If you were born in 2003, let's say I gave birth to you, I would be throwing you your sixth birthday this year. If your birthday was tomorrow, you would be turning six years old. No one would say, "S/he's starting her/his seventh year!" If they said that, we'd probably all encourage them to leave the birthday party -- we certainly would serve them dry cake without ice cream. The Iraq War turns six-years-old tomorrow. It is the anniversary of the start of the illegal war. March 19, 2003, Bully Boy lied the world into war with the help of an eager and compliant media. It's Barack Obama's illegal war now. He has trashed all of his promises from the campaign (as we all knew he would) including removing a brigade a month. Barack Obama is not ending the illegal war, he is continuing it. If George W. Bush told us he needed 19 months to get US forces down to 50,000, the peace movement wouldn't have gone for it and wouldn't have mistaken that for ending an illegal war.
If you want to live in the real world, World Can't Wait offers a list of other cities holding demonstrations. Saturday, those wanting to call out the illegal war can join with groups such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- all are taking part in a real action. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains: IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.) To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately. For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.
Today the US Senate's Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Personnel held a hearing on suicides in the military. Senator Lindsey Graham is the Ranking [Republican] Member on the Subcommitee and he noted early on that the Army suicide rate has doubled since 2004, that the Air Force rate has been "neglible" (and he pointed out that the Air Force has had just as many deployments as other branches, he also noted that the Army deployments were longer than some branches), he felt the Marines and the Navy had a "pretty consistent rate" over the last years. US Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen James F. Amos explained that the Marine's rate went up in "'06, '07 and '08." This is a problem throughout the branches -- even in the Navy which has had a more steady rate (a steady rate is not zero).
Republican Senator John Cornyn does not serve on the Committee or the Subcommittee. He participated in the meeting because he has pressed the military to investigate the suicides among recruiters stationed in Texas -- pressed them last fall. Cornyn spoke briefly, noted he was intrested in finding out the why and hows and spoke of "saving families." He stated, "It doesn't seem taking one's life is what you would call a normal response" and he pointed out that not everyone in the service (or civilian life) takes their own life. He wondered, "Is this something you think we need to do a better job of identifying on the front end when someone is recrutinged into the military . . . [or] when they return from deployments?" He wanted to know what 'the key" was for intervention.
"That is a tough question," the Army's Vice Chief of Staff, Gen Peter Chiarellis said. "70% of those or greater, a little bit greater than that, had some sort of a relationship problem" at the time of their suicides. But these relationship problems were not the only factor, "it was compounded with something else" like deployments. Chiarellis wanted a "multi-discplinary approach" which would all for "attacking" it all points. "It's going to take a multi-disciplinary approach across the entire career of the soldier."
The Navy's Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Patrick Walsh spoke of influencing factors such as alcohol, it's "glamorization," the stigma attached to asking for help and noted the differences in what the individaul reports and what the family does. Amos would echo the reporting issue when later replying to Senator Susan Collins' questions and note that family members -- wives and mothers -- were more likely to disclose more about the stress or behaviors of the individual than was the individual. (Would this include husbands disclosing more? That wasn't addressed.) To Cornyn, Amos wanted to make it clear that he did not feel there was a problem at the intake end -- meaning he refuted the notion that the problem was the 'wrong' people were being admitted. Amos referred to boot camp and how it was "designed to do a whole lot of things," to put an individual through "a stressful environment" for the purpose of identifying "those areas where he or she needs improvement -- where he or she needs our help". As for Cornyn's "why," the Air Force's Vice Chief of Staff Gen William Fraser declared, "There's no one suicide that's exactly the same as another" which is why they investigate.
Senator Ben Nelson is the Committee Chair and he wanted to know what role help or assistance played in some of the suicides since "medical record reviews indicate of the recent victims that a majority" of those who took their own lives while serving had utilized some programs -- for drinking or other preventions -- and "while it's clear that they reached out for some help -- as their medical records would indicate, they still committed suicide. [. . .] What are your throughts on that fact? Prior use of the mental health services and yet it was not sufficient or may not have been sufficient -- it may have been something else that came along?"
"That is something that we are trying to understand better," Fraser responded and noted that a suicide case where the deceased attempted to receive help "automatically triggers a mental health investigation" that attempts to discovere "was there something that happened in their care?" He was not clear in response initially, so let's be clear here. This automatic investigation does not start when someone in the military seeks help or after they have received help. This investigation only kicks in if someone takes their own life (or is thought to have taken their own life) and records show that they sought help or assistance of some form -- at that point the investigation automatically kicks in.
Also of interest is that early on, Fraser would tell Senator Nelson, "We, too, are experiencing a shortage of mental health care providers . . . due to the shortage going on across the country."
The hearing is ongoing and the second panel is doing opening statements as I dictate this. Staying with the US military, Adam Levine (CNN) reports that Secretary Robert Gates declared today that stop loss is being phased out. Stop loss is the back door draft. When someone's service is over, they are informed that there service has been extended. Camilo Mejia was stop lossed -- and he was stop lossed illegally because he was not a member of the US and could not therefore be stop lossed. Levine notes that 13,217 service members have been stop-lossed as of January. Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) quotes Gates stating, ""I felt particularly in these numbers that it was breaking faith . . . [stop lossing them] To hold them against their will is just not the right thing to do." She also notes:
About 13,000 soldiers are serving in the Army under the stop-loss policy, nearly double the number of two years ago. Gates said the goal is to reduce that number by 50 percent by June 2010 and to bring it down to scores or less by March 2011.
Those numbers have climbed. And they have climbed as the Defense Dept has repeatedly told Congress that stop loss was ending. As noted in the February 26, 2008 "Iraq snapshot," the Senate's Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2009 and the Future Years Defense Program:
In regards to the issue of the months involved in a tour, the committee chair, Carl Levin, had to be rather specific repeatedly finally asking "shorthand, you have to drawdown to what level?" Levin also had to pin Casey and Geren down regarding stop-loss. Beaming, Geren declared that the Army will get the number of stop-lossed soldiers down to "a little less than 8,000 today" and insisted -- at length -- that the Army wanted to "move away from" using stop-loss. Stop-loss is the backdoor draft. It's when you're service contract is ending and you're told, "Forget what your contract says, you're staying." Pressed by Levin about the decrease in the number of soldiers stop-lossed that Geren was so optimistic about, the Secretary of the Army swallowed and stated, "It might get to 7,000." Wow. It might drop to 7,000. To hear him spin and spin before Levin pinned him down you would have thought the figure was going to be significantly below 5,000. Geren insisted, "We're growing this Army faster than we planned."
Hopefully Gates is being serious but this song and dance has taken place over and over and all that happens is the number of service members stop lossed continues to increase.
Maj Gen David A. Rubenstein, in his opening statement to the committee, just revealed that a soldier who was a motivational speaker with the PBI committe committed suicide. I believe he stated yesterday but he is saying 'We lost a soldier today'.
Let's go into some of today's reported violence in Iraq . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing that wounded one police officer, a Mosul "suicide car bomber" who took his/her own life and the life of 1 police officer with three more and one civilian left wounded, a Baquba sticky bombing which claimed 1 life, a Baquba roadside bombing which claimed the lives of "a husband and wife," and dropping back to yesterday, "A roadside bomb targeted a U.S. military convoy near al Gzaiza Bridge, northern Basra at around 5 p.m. Tuesday. No comment was available from the U.S. military at time of publication." Reuters notes a Kirkuk bombing which left three people wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad attack on a vehicle with employees of the Interior Ministry which left two passengers wounded, a Mosul shooting that wounded "an employee of the displaced and emigration department," and 1 person shot dead in Mosul. Reuters notes 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul.
Today Matthew Schofield (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the lack of potable water in Iraq, "Everybody complains about the water in Baghdad, and few are willing to risk drinking it from the tap. Six years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, 36 percent of Baghdad's drinking water is unsafe, according to the Iraqi Environment Ministry -- in a good month. In a bad month, it's 90 percent. Cholera broke out last summer, and officials fear another outbreak this year." And yet the UN will allow their WHO head in Iraq to blame the cholera outbreaks on Iraqi women. Schofield does the sort of reporting we might have expected all outlets to do as the sixth anniversary approached. Instead we get silence and we get ABC's World News Tonight. Charlie Gibson was huffing about "Dramatic changes, no where more dramatic than in Baghdad" last night as he rushed to set up Terry McCarthy for another "I was in Baghdad [with three bodyguards]. I'm not now. I will proclaim it safe now that I am out of Baghdad and no one should wonder why ABC and I have refused to do live reports from Iraq." Terry opened last night's 'report' with, "Snapshots of a city reborn. Speed. Light. Style. This is Baghdad today. Where car bombs give way to car races. Where a once looted museum has been restored and reopened. Where --"Stop the tape and zoom in on Terry McCarthy's last lie. Baghdad's museum -- the "looted museum" -- has been restored and reopened? In what world? Reality from when the museum 'opened' for one day (Feb. 23rd). "As for when the rest of Iraq will be able to see the museum, that's unclear. Iraqi guards Monday afternoon told journalists it would be a couple of months," notes the Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond (credited that way here and in the snapshot Feb. 23rd because no writer is named in the blog post). That's really the heart of the story. You had a limited, for-show opening. Sudarsan Raghavan and K.I. Ibrahim's "Six Years After Its Pillage, Iraqi Museum to Reopen" (Washington Post) reported puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki insists the 'opening' indicates an "embrace of democracy" -- embrace by who and of what by whom? Democracy for invited guests only? The reporters provide this background:Founded in 1923, the museum in central Baghdad once contained important pieces from the Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian periods, as well as from the Stone Age. After the collapse of Saddam Hussein's government, thieves carried away thousands of important artifacts; U.S. troops did nothing to stop the looting, drawing intense criticism from Iraqis as well as the international community. Since then, a massive effort has been underway by Iraqi ministries and foreign governments to restore the stolen pieces, which Iraq estimated at as many as 15,000. According to the United Nations' cultural arm, UNESCO, as many as 7,000 pieces are still missing, including 50 items of historical importance. Steven Lee Myers' "Far From Whole, Iraq Museum That Was Looted Reopens" covered the topic for the New York Times and Myers has previously covered the topic for the paper. His best moment may be his judgment call that "2,700-year-old stone reliefs from the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II at Khorsabad . . . eerily recalls the blast walls that protect buildings and divide streets in today's Baghdad." Terry stated last night on network TV that the museum was reopened and citizens were visiting it. LIE. It reopened for one day and it was the press and dignitaries only that could visit it. Check Myers' report on the woman outside the museum. They should be ashamed of themselves at ABC 'News.' Dahr Jamail is back in Iraq and without any bodyguards. He doesn't get to be on ABC News. He doesn't get to be much of anywhere but that may come from reporting on the ground from Iraq and not including the happy spin that people like Charlie Gibson are so in need of. From his latest report:
For centuries, artists, writers, and intellectuals have been meeting in Baghdad's teahouses over tulip-shaped glasses of sweet lemon tea, cigarettes, and shisha pipes.
A car bomb detonated near one of the oldest teahouses a year-and-a-half ago, causing massive destruction around the area. When it reopened recently, Mohammed Al-Mumain, a 59-year-old biology teacher resumed his visits there. The portly, jovial teacher brought tea for my colleague and I before settling to talk, "The mind needs art and education. I come here because the lamp needs electricity. The lamp of my mind, like that in all of us, needs to discuss and review life continually. That feeds me. When I come here I feel like a teenager again. All that I need, the old culture along with the new, I find here."
His eloquence was a pleasure as he proceeded, "Life is interaction. Anywhere, anytime, any moment, we are changing. Our biology and blood pressure changes, and interactions, whether positive or negative, bring us change. Some people resist change, others accept it. It depends upon the culture of the man or woman. This is why we need our art, because it connects us with what has brought us here, and reminds us of where we are headed."
By exploring the human condition, art brings about new insights into the human ability to relate and communicate. By appealing to finer human emotions, it creates a framework of values in society, while giving us a context in which to grasp our relationship to the universe.
While Dahr offers reality and real reporting, you need to consider how many are staying silent and read Betty's "Our childish press" which really says it all.
In other news, we don't cover scandals or 'scandals' so we've ignored the attempts to attack one of the hardest working members in Congress but Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) has weighed in and his article is essential reading. The same people were behind other attacks, for example, they derailed the anti-war Jack Murtha and allowed Steny Hoyer to be installed as Nancy Pelosi's right hand (and they continue to attack Murtha). Maybe it's time they were examined because those losers have done a lot of damage. Who do they work for, this 'organization' that just suddenly sprouted up? It's a question to ask and it's one the DC press is whispering about. We'll note this from Bruce Dixon (Black Agenda Report) on the response to Rev Jesse Jackson's people-empowered campaigns:
The threat to Democratic party leaders faded after the '84 and '88 elections, when Jackson demobilized his people into the existing structures of the Democratic party. But the lesson was not lost on Democratic Party leaders. In the wake of the small-d democratic upsurge of the 1980s they cemented their hold on the Democratic Pary by founding the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC assured them access to the same sources of corporate funding as Republicans, and on the same basis. As long as Democrats carried the water of big insurance, big pharma, the airlines, the energy companies and Wall Street, as long as DLC-funded candidates could speak for the party's base rather than allowing that base to speak for itself, and as along as the Democratic base was sent home between elections, Democrats would be assured a steady stream of corporate funding.
In a generation, the nation's elite educational institutions along with think tanks from the Manhattan Institute to the Rand Institute, and funding from corporate foundations, would incubate a new generation of "black leaders," the Cory Bookers, the Artur Davises, and finally Barack Obama. While paying expert lip service to the tradition of African American struggle for human rights and economic justice, the new-style leaders declare themselves "pragmatic, not dogmatic," and actively oppose the interests of the constituents that make their careers possible.The so-called New Democrats with whom Barack Obama identifies are, next to the House Blue Dogs, the most rightwing of Democratic reps in Congress, with considerable overlap between the two groups. In fact, several House New Democrats are also Blue Dogs. New Democrats supported the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and continual increases in the military budget. They all supported the bailout, and uphold No Child Left Behind and favor the gradual dismantling and privatization of public education in the US which NCLB set in motion. New Democrats are tepid at best on the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give workers across the country the legal standing workers have in many other advanced industrial countries to fight for wage and benefit increases and respect and dignity on the job.
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