Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Afghanistan and more

Tuesday!!! Closer to the weekend. Carly Simon's album came out today, Never Been Gone. It's amazing. Be sure to grab a copy. It's really something amazing. My favorite track? I think "No Freedom."

This is from Karen DeYoung's piece in today's Washington Post:

When Matthew Hoh joined the Foreign Service early this year, he was exactly the kind of smart civil-military hybrid the administration was looking for to help expand its development efforts in Afghanistan.
A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.
But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.

Be sure to read Elaine tonight to find out about the jack ass, tiny prick who insulted not only Matthew Hoh but the Washington Post and Karen DeYoung too.

This is from IVAW:

Afghanistan Awareness Update 10.26.09Listen to Podcast (9:40 min) of Afghanistan veterans, Greg Papadatos and Chris Vongsawat
IVAW members, Greg Papadatos and Chris Vongsawat addressed an audience at a recent screening of the film,
Rethink Afghanistan, in New York City. Their remarks include a discussion of private contractors in Afghanistan and some of the major barriers to training members of the Afghan Army.
Download the podcast here.
Greg joined the Army at age 19 where he served as an Infantryman for 4.5 years before moving to the inactive reserve. In 1989, he graduated from Army Jump School to become a paratrooper, and was called back into active duty in 1991 for the First Gulf War. In 2003, after a 5-year break from service, Greg rejoined the National Guard and switched his specialty from infantry to medic. After sustaining injuries during service in Iraq he was directed to train medics for the Afghan military.
Chris began his military career in 1998 with the 35th Infantry Division. In 2004, he was commissioned as an Ordinance Second Lieutenant in the New York National Guard. Chris was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, where he worked as an advisor to the Afghan military. There, he witnessed first hand the waste by US military and non-military contractors and how private contractors contribute to an exceptionally high unemployment rate for Afghanis.Lucas Eastwood shares his story of serving on a remote outpost in AfghanistanIVAW Member, Lucas Eastwood, served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and got out of the military in April of 2005. He now lives in San Francisco where he started his own
construction company in 2007. He has been able to help his youngest brother pay for school so he doesn't have to join the military. In this blog entry, he describes his experience in Afghanistan early on in the US occupation, and the challenges of being targets for insurgents near the Pakistani border.
"This hilltop was a perfect target for anyone deciding to fire mortars at us... We had some make-shift bunkers made out of one-inch steel plates and sandbags on the perimeter of the base. The bunkers would surely withstand gunfire and some small bits of shrapnel, however I imagine one direct hit from a mortar would leave very little left of the bunker and anything in it. These served as security outposts."
Read full testimony here.
Take action to support jailed Afghanistan war resister, Travis BishopIVAW member and U.S. Army Sergeant Travis Bishop is serving a one year prison sentence for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because of his religious beliefs. Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for his conscientious objection (CO) to participation in war.Travis began his career with the Army in 2004. He was deployed to Iraq from August 2006 to October 2007. According to his lawyer, he had doubts about taking part in military actions since then. In February 2009 when his unit was ordered to deploy to Afghanistan, Travis was convinced that he could no longer take part in war because of his moral and religious beliefs.Travis went absent without leave (AWOL) for one week from the day his unit was deployed "because I didn't have time to prepare to file for CO status. So while AWOL I prepared a statement and filled out my application for CO." He then went back to Ft. Hood to turn himself in. "I never planned on staying AWOL," says Travis. The military assigned him to a platoon and told him to show up for work the next day. Despite having a pending CO application, the Army started pursuing criminal charges against Travis. At his court martial, Travis was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for going AWOL, suspension of two-thirds of his salary and a bad conduct discharge. He is imprisoned in Bell County Jail in Texas. His lawyer has pledged to appeal against the conviction.Your letters can help Travis' case. We are collecting letters to be used by Travis' lawyer. Please address letters to the following officials and forward them to:
IVAW National Office, 630 9th Avenue, Suite 807, New York, NY 10036.
Address letters to:
Lieutenant General Rick Lynch
Commanding General
III Corps HQ
1001 761st Tank Battalion Ave.
Bldg. 1001, Room W105
Fort Hood, TX 76544-5005
Colonel James H. Jenkins III
Headquarters, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade
Building 10053,
Battalion Avenue
Fort Hood, TX 76544-5068
Your letter can include the following points:
1) Travis has been unjustly imprisoned for his religious beliefs and conscientious objection to war, which is his legal and human right as recognized under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the U.S.A. has ratified.
2) Although Travis went AWOL, he did so to complete his application for conscientious objection status and seek legal advice, thereafter returning to his unit to submit the application.
3) Urge Travis to be released immediately and unconditionally.Please do not send letters to the military commanders at Ft. Hood, but forward your letters addressed to the commanders to: IVAW National Office, 630 9th Avenue, Suite 807, New York, NY 10036.Thank you for taking action to support Travis Bishop.We've almost reached our fundraising goal for October!At the beginning of October, we set a goal to raise $3,500 by the end of the month for our Afghanistan Awareness campaign. As of today, supporters like you have donated $3,020. We just need $480 more! If you haven't already given, will you take a moment to make a donation to IVAW right now? If 20 people give just $24 in the next few days, we will have reached our goal.Please donate here.
Thank you for your support.
Iraq Veterans Against the War

And that's going to be it for me tonight. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq wants to go nuclear, Thomas E. Ricks repeats the lies that sold the illegal war (connecting Iraq to you know what), if your loved one takes his or her own life while serving in a war zone the President of the United States sends you no letter expressing sorrow, and more.

Frank Sesno was the guest host on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today and the first hour was devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan. Sesno spoke with McClatchy Newspapers Nancy A. Youssef, Wall St. Journal's Peter Spiegel and Crazy Ass Thomas E. Ricks.

Frank Sesno: Tom Ricks, let's start with these incredible bombings in Iraq and the shockwave they've sent through the military and the political systems there. What signal were they intended -- intending to send?

Thomas E. Ricks: I think they were intended to send the signal that [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki does not have the control over Iraq that he asserts and that's really his sole campaign plank -- is look "You may not like me, you may not like how we're running the government but at least you're feeling safer" and I think was designed to undermine that. I was struck -- I read this morning that one of the trucks used to do the bombings was stolen in Falluja which indicates it probably came out of Anbar Province.

Frank Sesno: Which means?

Thomas E. Ricks: Which means a Sunni extrimist probably working with al Qaeda. Simeloutaneous large blast is one of the al Qaeda signatures that they like to do. We all remember that from 9-11.

Did Thomas E. Ricks just make a total idiot of himself? Yes, he did. He attempted to conflate al Qaeda in Mesopotomia with the al Qaeda group thought to be responsible for 9-11. The two are not related. Thomas E. Ricks is worse than George W. Bush because Ricks actually had a semi-functioning brain that wasn't destroyed via drink and cocaine. But that didn't stop him from conflating two separate things. al Qaeda in Mespotamia is a homegrown (Iraqi) group. It did not exist prior to the 2003 invasion. It is a response to the 2003 invasion. And Thomas E. Ricks needs to learn to choose his words a little more carefully. With each day, he drifts further and further from journalism.

What a moron. That anyone -- let alone a journalist -- would attempt to conflate 9-11 and Iraq at this late date is offensive. That a journalist would do so -- knowing full well that this conflation helped sell the illegal war -- helped sell it because the news media refused to call it out -- the same ones that will fact check a Saturday Night Live skit -- is just beyond belief. But notice that on the program, they just moved along past Crazy Ass Thomas Ricks -- not unlike they ignored that LIE when it was sold by the Bush administration. There WAS NO and IS NO connection between Iraq and 9-11 -- no matter what Thomas E. Ricks jibber-jabbers.

Frank Sesno: Which means, Nancy Youseff that Iraq is what? No where near as stable as the previous lull had indicated?

Nancy A. Youssef: Well it indicates that sectarian violence is still continuing despite the US military assertion that it's not as aggressive as it would be. These were Sunni attackers hitting Shia government buildings. It's an effort to sort of revitalize the sectarian fighting and I think it raises questions about ultimately what Iraqis and what Americans consider acceptable levels of violence in Iraq. Can these sort of occassional bombings -- you'll remember that the last one was in August -- will the Iraqis accept it? Will the Americans accept it as a condition for their leaving? That-that attacks will continue to go on? There are fewer attacks but they're becoming more and more spectacular.

Frank Sesno: And, Peter, at a critical critical moment.

Peter Spiegel: It is a critical moment because you have elections coming up in January. And just to not be overly pessimistic here 'cause, as Nancy mentioned, there was a very similar attack in August, we did not see the country descend into another round of sectarian violence. That's the good news. The other good news, as Tom pointed out, they seemed to be very political oriented. There are elections coming up. You know Maliki is vying for position with other Shia parties, with other Sunni parties. Is this just a domestic political issue being expressed through violence? If that's the case, there's an argument that as long as there's some sort of Sunni outlet through the political system, this may eventually go away. Now the problem is there appears to be no Sunni outlet for legitimate political expression right now because most of the parties are still dominated by Shi'ites and a lot of the government institutions are dominated by Shias -- they're using them to suppress Sunnis in the country. So as long as that continues, as long as there's no legitimate way for Sunnis to express their political outrage this stuff could continue.

Frank Sesno: Do you expect this stuff to continue?

Thomas E. Ricks: I do actually. The last line in the last book I've written on Iraq, The Gamble, is a quote from [former US] Ambassador [to Iraq] Ryan Crocker. He said to me twice in the course of 2008, "The events for which the Iraq War will be remembered have not yet occurred." There's a significant chance that the war will go on for another five to ten years. I think we're going to have American troops there for many, many years. They'll call them "trainers" and "advisors" but this war is far from over.

Frank Sesno: But Tom as they leave, as we have pulled out of the cities and as we withdraw to concentrated areas around the country, what vulnerability then does this latest string of events suggest for the innocent public in Iraq trying desparately to put their lives back together again because it suggest the vulnarability is extreme.

Thomas E. Ricks: Recently, the former mayor of Tal Afar, a city up in the northwest, wrote a very interesting essay in which he said all the conditions for civil war in Iraq are still there. This is why I think the civil war failed. It succeeded tactically, it improved security.

Frank Sesno: For the moment.

Thomas E. Ricks: Yes, but it's purpose was to lead to a political breakthrough and that didn't happen. That's not my saying what the purpose was, that's what the president said the purpose was.

Frarnk Sesno: Nancy, I see you nodding your head.

Nancy A. Youssef: Yeah, you know, what's interesting is that when you ask them at the Pentagon, "Look there have been two massive attacks in the last few months and what are you going to do?" And there's sort of a shrugging of the shoulders. The Status Of Forces Agreement calls for us to leave and the Pentagon's focused on Afghanistan now and yet if you go right below the surface you can feel from soldiers who have served, who wear braclets of fallen comrades, the frustration that potentially the United States is leaving as sloppily as it entered, that you've got 120,000 troops still based in Iraq and yet nothing is being done to-to-to stop this. The-the line --

Frarnk Sesno: Nothing is being done to stop this?

Nancy A. Youssef: No, because the line at the Pentagon is "We're asking for Maliki to ask us for help" or we're waiting for something like the Samarra mosque bombing. But if it gets to that level, it's already too late. I mean the Samarra mosque bombing didn't happen in a vacuum. That was a building of sectarian violence that manifested itself in a very violent way.

Peter Spiegel: One other issue, there are still 120,000 troops in Iraq which everyone seems to forget, which is about the levels they were pre-surge, which is still a very big level. But what is happening in sort of the granularity of that is a lot of assets that are needed to track down these bombing networks -- the UAVs, the unmanned drones, the intelligence assets -- all that is being sucked away to Afghanistan. And having spent time with General [Ray] Odierno, who is the commander there, a year ago, his-his real -- the thing he's most proud of is the ability to track down these networks through human intelligence through systems like unmanned drones and dismantle them. Well if you move all those assets to Afghanistan, are you still able to dismantle all those bombing networks that are still clearly sort of roving freely in Baghdad and be able to do these kind of things?

Frarnk Sesno: These bombs went off near three government buildings -- three important government buildings. How much of a set back does this present to the fledgling, struggling Iraqi government itself?

Nancy A. Youssef: I don't think we know yet. I mean, you saw the government try to respond by passing an election law which they've been debating for several months now as a way to sort of speak up. I think you're seeing Maliki -- it hurts Maliki the most, as Tom mentioned, because his political platform, his election platform is "I bring security to you." You saw rival political parties trying to exploit that.

Nancy A. Youssef was referring to a proposal put together by the Political Council for National Security and then passed on to Parliament.
That was a proposal made (with much fanfare) yesterday. Like just about everything else on the governance front in Iraq, it fell apart. John Leland (New York Times) reports there was no consensus today and that they are at a stalemate, "another blockage in negotiations that have dragged on for weeks, threatening national elections scheduled for January 16th." 'Scheduled'? I believe the appropriate term is intended. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) adds that the issue of Kirkuk was the falling out point for the "proposal submitted by a high-ranking council that included Maliki and President Jalal Talabani." Repeating, no election law. Still.

Staying on
Sunday's bombings, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported this morning that credit for the bombings is allegedly being claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and he noted that "rescue workers continued to pull bodies out of the rubble Monday". Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation via CBS News website) observes:

The perpetrators of the huge bomb attacks are unknown. Not unexpectedly, every Iraqi faction is blaming its enemies. Maliki is blaming Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Baathists, but at the very least the attacks have severely hurt Maliki's main cliam to leadership, namely, that he's kept Iraq safe. Many Sunnis are blaming Iran, charging that Iran's intelligence service is orchestrating the Baghdad attacks in order to force Maliki to abandon his independent electoral stance and sign on to the Shiite bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance. And, indirectly speaking for the Shiite bloc, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran has blamed "foreign agents" for the attacks:
"The bloody actions being committed in some Islamic countries, including Iraq, Pakistan and in some parts of the country (Iran), are aimed at creating division between the Shiites and Sunnis.... Those who carry out these terrorist actions are directly or indirectly foreign agents." Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but such claims have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Sunday's bombings resulted in some TV coverage for Iraq yesterday.
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, click here for the video of that segment

Ann Curry: We turn now to Iraq, still reeling from massive explosions that wrecked three buildings in Baghdad on Sunday. The dead now number more than 150. Hundreds more are injured. And the attacks raise the question: can the Iraqi government keep the lid on? The latest tonight from NBC's Tom Aspell. Tom Aspell: Grief and shock today at some of the funerals for bombings in Baghdad. Iraqi police and hospitals now say that up to thirty children from a day care center at the Justice Ministry are among the dead. The second blast was captured on a cell phone. The blast destroyed two government buildings outside the Green Zone in central Baghdad. Iraqi officials said at least 150 people were killed, at least 500 people were wounded. A security spokesman said two buses were used to carry the explosives -- 2,000 pounds in one and 1500 pounds in the other. It was the worst attack in Baghdad for two years. This morning Iraqis were blaming the government for lax security issues. There are checkpoints every one-hundred yards How did these vehicles come here" asked this man. Iraqi troops were patrolling Baghdad streets this morning. The government is warning there could be more attacks before elections in three months time. Tom Aspell, NBC News, London.

Also covering the bombings was PBS' NewsHour (link has text, audio and video options) and this an excerpt:JANE ARRAF [Christian Science Monitor]: It has. The death toll looks like it's going past about 150, Ray, and hundreds more wounded. And more than that, a lot of questions being raised as to how this actually could have happened just two months after the horrific bombing of the Finance and Foreign Ministries. Now, yesterday, at the site, there were absolute scenes of devastation, people sobbing, carrying away wounded relatives, trying to find their relatives, and pretty much chaos for the first little while. The streets were flooded. Rescue workers were trying to wade through bystanders. It really was one of the most horrific scenes that many of us have seen in quite a long time. We had kind of thought this was over with. And now it seems to have started again. And that is definitely the feeling that you feel on the streets, that things could very much get worse again.RAY SUAREZ: You mentioned that August attack. At the time, weren't measures put in place to make this kind of operation less likely in Baghdad?JANE ARRAF: Absolutely. That August attack, which killed at least 100 people with an eerily similar attack, a truck packed with explosives in two different places, and a suicide attack, at that, was actually a wakeup call. And it was said to have been a systemic failure -- failure of security. Now, the Iraqi government responded by firing some senior Iraqi security officials. It said it put new measures in place. I spoke with a senior American official today who said, indeed, they had put measures in place. But it has not prevented these two bombings, which, again, were eerily similar. These were trucks traveling streets where no trucks are supposed to be in daytime. They apparently went through checkpoints, where they should have been checked, but weren't. And they managed to explode in one of the busiest times of the day, in one of the most packed places in Baghdad, killing government workers, as well as passersby, including children.

ABC World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson covered the bombings.Charlie Gibson: In Iraq meanwhile the funerals began today in the wake of the stunning twin bombings that tore through the heart of Baghdad yesterday. The death toll is now 155 with the grim discovery that 24 children at a day care center were among those killed. The attacks raised questions about Iraq's security. Miguel Marquez was at the scene of the blasts.Miguel Marquez: The devastation is almost unimaginable, buildings shredded as far as the eye can see, glass, blood splattered clothing and burned rubber. When the bombs went off they shattered the relative calm here. Six months ago this street was off limits to traffic but with security improving the barriers were lifted. An investigation is now underway into how two vehicles carrying 1500 pounds of explosives each including military grade C4, got through multiple military checkpoints before reaching their targets. Despite all the security agencies the government here is helpless he says, they only cause traffic jams. Today Iraqis begin the wrenching task of burying their loved ones. Comfort was in short supply. They blame their government for failing to stop the violence. This is the hole created by the explosion. It goes down about twenty-five feet. The blast was so powerful they burst a water main, flooding this section of Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who faces re-election in January has campaigned on his ability to make Iraq safer. His opponents say this bombings proves the military is infiltratedIraqi National Security Advisor Mouwaffak Rubaie: What we need to concentrate on is enabling our intelligence agencies. This is an intelligence led war now. Miguel Marquez: The bombings are especially shocking because security here has improved by leaps and bounds in the last two years. Construction is everywhere and night life has made a roaring comeback. [An Iraqi woman speaks.] "We have one quiet week and then the next week things get worse," she says. "The security situation is still the same." The US military says it is assisting in the investigation but there are no plans to increase US patrols here nor slow the rate of pulling US forces out of Iraq. Miguel Marquez, ABC News, Baghdad.

Not everyone provided significant time for the news. CBS Evening News (Harry Smith sitting in for Katie Couric) reduced it to a five-sentence headline. Remember that when you've heard a story and are trying to select an evening newscast in order to find out what happened. It was just a headline to CBS Evening News.
Oliver August (Times of London) quotes a government employee stating, "Sadness is overwhelming today in the office. It's as if we are sitting at a funeral in the office because many of our colleagues and people we know were killed." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) quotes an employee injured in the bombings, Shauki Abdul Jabar, stating, "There is no security, no hope." And he reports on three men searching through the rubble for some sign of Youssef Musen Nouri, their four-year-old nephew whom they now assume is dead. It wasn't just a passing headline to any of those people.

The heartbeat went out of our house
The rhythm went out of our romance
But in life that happens and you just have to remember to breathe . . .
-- "Coming Around Again," written by
Carly Simon from her new recording on Never Been Gone.

Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "Baghdad governor on Tuesday said that his council voted to demand resignation of Iraqi minister of interior and chief of Baghdad operations command over Sunday's bloody blasts that enraged Iraqis and shaped a setback to the Iraqi government which struggle to restore normalcy in the country nearly three months ahead of the country's national elections." Sammy Ketz (Mail & Guardian) adds that Baghdad Governor Salah Abdul Razzaq said of the bombings (after viewing video footage of it), "It's a human failure . . . It can only be negligence or collusion."

And while these bombings are fresh on everyone's mind, someone might want to ask who in the world thinks nuclear power is needed in Iraq? What if a nuclear reactor were in Iraq and had been targeted on Sunday. It's something people better start considering.
Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports:

Iraq has started lobbying for approval to again become a nuclear player, almost 19 years after British and American war planes destroyed Saddam Hussein's last two reactors, the Guardian has learned.
The Iraqi government has approached the French nuclear industry about rebuilding at least one of the reactors that was bombed at the start of the first Gulf war. The government has also contacted the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and United Nations to seek ways around resolutions that ban Iraq's re-entry into the nuclear field.
Iraq says it envisages that a reactor would be used initially for research purposes. "We are co-operating with the IAEA and expanding and defining areas of research where we can implement nuclear technology for peaceful means," the science and technology minister, Raid Fahmi, told the Guardian.

From future violence to some of today's reported violence,
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 shop owner was shot dead in Mosul and 1 "young man" was shot dead in Mosul.

Turning to the US,
today on Democracy Now! (link has text, audio and video options), Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Amy Goodman spoke with Chancellor Keesling's parents Jannett and Gregg Keesling. Their son, Chancellor, was serving in Iraq, on his second deployment, when he apparently took his own life earlier this year.

JANNETT KEESLING: I spoke to Chancellor the night before he died for about four minutes. And as always, he wore a really tough exterior, because even after conversations with some of the soldiers after he died, no one saw that he was in any type of distress or trouble. I know they say he was sleeping. He was happy that morning. He was singing.
But what he did tell me that night is that he was going to have a very long, difficult day. His conversation was quite brief. Normally he would say that he loves me, and he would say goodbye. But this time he simply hung up. I had the feeling that something was definitely bothering him more than the norm. And the next thing we knew, they were at our door saying that he had --

GREGG KEESLING: He had passed.

JANNETT KEESLING: -- passed away.

AMY GOODMAN: Where was he?

JANNETT KEESLING: But nobody saw.

GREGG KEESLING: He was at Camp Stryker in Baghdad. And he --

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they explain to you? What happened?

GREGG KEESLING: That he had gone to a latrine and locked himself in the latrine and took his own life, with his M4.

[. . .]

GREGG KEESLING: Well, I just -- we do not believe our son would have taken his life if he had been here at home. This would not have happened. This is directly related to his military service. Our casualty officer -- the military has been very, very, very good to us in helping us. And our casualty officer, though, said the same thing, that "We do not believe your son would have taken his life if he was back home." And, you know, every other benefit that the military provides to families has been afforded to us. We were flown to Dover to greet the body, in a very emotional experience. And we had a military burial and the twenty-one-gun salute. And Jannett was presented the American flag, which is a very moving ceremony. But the issue of presidential condolences -- in fact, we were shocked. I began -- President Obama has set up the suicide task force, and I began to talk with Brigadier General Colleen McGuire and members of staff there, and they were very helpful and wonderful. And during those conversations, I mentioned, "By the way, you know, when do you think the letter comes from the President?" And she goes, "I don't know. I'll check it out." And we talked again a few times. And every time at the end of the conversation, you know, "How are you guys doing?" and all that. And I said, "By the way, when are we going to get the letter from the President?" And on our third conversation, one of the staff members said to me, "Oh, my god, Mr. Keesling, I've just discovered there's a longstanding policy that prevents the President from acknowledging the death of a soldier who takes his life in the war theater by his own hand." And I nearly dropped to my knees. I was shocked. And I just said to her that I think this is a policy that should change. Our loss is no different. He was on his second tour. The investigative report shows that he was a good soldier. One of my favorite comments in the report is that his unit commander said, or unit leader says, "I wish I had fifteen Keeslings." He was a good soldier. He helped other soldiers. In fact, there's a soldier back stateside today who was at risk of suicide that Chancy intervened to help. And we got his uniform back, and when my sister was packing away the uniform, she found in the pocket and pulled out the suicide information card. He had it in his pocket of his uniform. And he helped other soldiers, but he was unable to help himself. And so, our grief is deep. And, you know, the letter won't stop -- we'll still be hollow inside for the rest of our lives, but the acknowledgement from the President that our son gave his life in service to the causes of the United States is important to us, and I think it should be important to the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of suicide victims in this war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well. It's my understanding that the suicide rate in the military has, for the first time, surpassed the civilian suicide rate. The mental health issues are quite severe. And so, we're just simply appealing to the President to change the policy, to offer condolences to the families, like ours, that are struggling and suffering with the unique form of suffering a military suicide leaves in its wake. And it's been especially hard for us.

The suicide rate has repeatedly increased and the stories of it are usually 'this happened, then that happened' in a sort of timeline manner that rarely connects the death to the loss those who survive feel. The parents expressed their loss today and on
July 31st, on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, guest host Susan Paige spoke with a caller who wanted to address this topic.

Susan Paige: Let's go to Pamela. She's calling us from New Jersey. Pamela, thanks so much for calling.

Pamela: Yes. Good morning, how are you? Thank you for taking my call. I am responding to a comment I heard earlier and it really just like shot me in my heart. And the comment was that the suicide rates [in the US military] are skyrocketing and how this has to be addressed. And I literally like I said stopped dead in my tracks. I . . . lost my brother in service due to suicide. He was home on a leave and, uh, about to be, pardon me, to go back and to serve and, uh, was, uh -- the difficulty in getting the mental health services I believe that he needed -- I mean he was married with two children -- was most, most difficult and delayed and a long wait and this and that. And then the unfathomable happened and, uh, when I, uh, at times decided to share how he died rather than just say he died in the war and I would say he died by suicide the remark I would hear unfortunately was, "Oh my goodness, he didn't die a hero then." And-and I continually hear this and I guess I want to make a statement that how someone dies, um, should not be -- that -- that is not a definition of how they lived their lives. And here was a good man who gave and did so much for the community and yet because of how he died -- which you know is a mental illness health related, etc. etc. -- he is now being defined as -- not -- as a zero. And not being defined. And I think you know this-this suicide issue is getting way out of control and for every person that dies by suicide there are at least six to ten people that are horribly effected as well to the point where their mental health also, uh, you know, begins to fall apart and the whole mental health, how to get help, starts all over again. And I should say that the support groups for those that lose a loved one by suicide are now separated from regular grief groups and while attending one and sharing how my loved one died, people were going around the room, people said to me, "Oh my God, why is she here?" I've been asked to leave meetings because -- grief support meetings -- because of how my brother died and I don't think that's fair or correct or right and, um, so the issue goes far beyond the pain of losing a loved one and is extremely complicated. And, um, I wanted to share all that. And if ever anybody hears of someone that dies of a suicide please just say "I'm sorry for your loss" and ask about the person. And don't say anything cruel or unkind because, again, how one lives their entire life for 38 years should not be defined by a, you know, a irrational moment that effects -- that became a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Changing topics,
Senator Carl Levin's office released the following statement yesterday:WASHINGTON -- Calling the plight of religious minorities in Iraq "a tragic consequence" of the war there, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., today introduced a Senate resolution calling on the U.S. government, Iraqi government and United Nations Mission in Iraq to take steps to alleviate the dangers facing these minority groups. Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., joined Levin in sponsoring the sense of the Senate resolution. "While violence has declined in Iraq overall, religious minorities continue to be the targets of violence and intimidation," Levin said. "Members of many minority groups who have fled other parts of the country have settled in the north, only to find themselves living in some of the most unstable and violent regions of Iraq. We strongly urge the Iraqi government, the United Nations and the U.S. government to address this crisis without delay." Of approximately 1.4 million Christians of various denominations living in Iraq in 2003, only 500,000 to 700,000 remain. Another minority group, the Sabean Mandeans, has seen its population decline by more than 90 percent. Iraq's Jewish community, once one of the largest in the Arab world, has almost ceased to exist.According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, members of religious minorities "have experienced targeted intimidation and violence, including killings, beatings, abductions, and rapes, forced conversions, forced marriages, forced displacement from their homes and businesses, and violent attacks on their houses of worship and religious leaders." The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees reported that in 2008, there were an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced persons living in Iraq. Of that 2.8 million, nearly two out of three reported fleeing their home because of a direct threat to their lives, and, of that number, almost nine out of ten said they were targeted because of their ethnic or religious identity. The resolution introduced by the senators addresses the tragedy in several ways. It states the sense of the Senate that the fate of Iraqi religious minorities is a matter of grave concern and calls on the U.S. government and the United Nations to urge Iraq's government to increase security at places of worship, particularly where members of religious minorities are known to face risks. The resolution calls for the integration of regional and religious minorities into the Iraqi security forces, and for those minority members to be stationed within their own communities. The resolution calls on the Iraqi government to ensure that minority citizens can participate in upcoming elections, and to enforce its constitution, which guarantees "the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights" of minorities. Finally, it urges a series of steps to ensure that development aid and other forms of support flow to minority communities in Iraq.

And lastly
Carly Simon's latest album is released, Never Been Gone. The twelve track album is Carly dipping into her songwriting canon and providing two new songs and ten re-imaginings of earlier favorites including "You're So Vain," "Let The River Run" (her Grammy, Academy Award and Golden Globe winning song as Diane Sawyer pointed out yesterday on ABC's Good Morning America), "Anticipation," "You Belong To Me," "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" and "The Right Thing To Do." Tomorrow Carly's on NBC's The Today Show, Thursday's she's on Tavis Smiley (PBS) and also on NPR's Talk Of The Nation.

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