Friday, May 15, 2009

No sympathy, sorry

Weekend finally! :D

Okay, serious topic. Nikki Catsouras died in 2006. I'm sorry she died. I'm sorry when anyone dies. She was only 18 years old. She was driving her car at or over 100 mph when she crashed.

But we're going to have to get honest because her family can't or won't.

The woman was high on coke when she died Halloween night 2006. Not only was she high that night, her coke habit had already had her hospitalized (see Wikipedia). Instead of admitting that the daughter chose to do drugs, the parents want to say that when she was eight she had a benin tumor and it and the treatment for it may have impaired her impulse control.

Your daughter was a coke head. Deal with it. If you'd done that when your daugher ended up hospitalized in the summer of 2006, maybe she wouldn't have gone driving coked to the gills and going 100 mph.

CBS Evening News did a dopey story on it tonight that left out a lot of the basic facts.

The news program wanted you to know that police photos of the crash (they forgot to identify them as such, but they are police photos) ended up online. Now the parents are in a tizzy. Oh our privacy!

I'm sorry when you die going 100 mph, your a news story even if you're not a coke head. If you are one, you're only more so.

Second, police takes photos of every accident that someone dies. Those are paid for by the tax payer. Those photos belong to the tax payers.

So this idea that the parents are going to sue for invasion of privacy, it's no one's fault but their own. They should have stepped in when their daughter ended up in the hospital because of her coke habit. They didn't.

The car she crashed in? Her father's Porsche that she wasn't allowed to drive. She ate lunch with her parents then snagged Daddy's car and went on a coke and speed tear.

I'm sorry she's not the saint you wish she was.

She may not be a bad person.

You're damn lucky she just killed herself. She could easily have killed someone else.

Instead of whining about imaginary privacy -- your daughter broke the speeding law, broke drug laws, broke the law of driving under the influence -- you might grasp that she chose to die publicly.

I'm not interesed in looking at photos of people's death. That's a choice I make. So I'm never going to go looking for the photos and should someone slide them over to me, I'll shove them back.

But this isn't about privacy.

The reality is it's about a cry baby Orange County couple who can't accept the blame they share for their daughter's death.

If she stole -- and she STOLE -- Daddy's car, she was obviously aware of how to do it. She knew she was banned from it. They could have taken measures. They didn't.

They didn't do a damn thing.

They were lousy or absent parents.

Their daughter needed more attention and care than they gave.

So now she's dead.

And it's not the fault of people posting photos online.

If you ask me, it's the parents guilt that has them purusing this stupid case.

As for the privacy of the adult daughter, she gave it up when she broke the law repeatedly as she sped to her death.

If that seems too 'mean' let me tell you a little story about my friend Tony who lost his uncle because a drunk was behind the wheel. It was raining, Tony's uncle (his only uncle and just four years older than him so like a big bro) was headed home from work. A drunken woman had been partying hard all day (it was six o'clock in the evening) and was beyond legally drunk (she'd been playing volleyball at a Sonic or something and drinking all day) crossed several lanes of traffic and hit Tony's uncle car head on. She lived. The drunk lived. Tony's uncle, coming home from work and completely sober, died.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for drunks and drug addicts who get behind the wheel.

And if they have an accident, oh well.

Shouldn't have been driving under the influence.

I drink. I don't drink and drive.

And I learned that lesson when Tony was ripped apart by his uncle's death. When you see a friend go through that, it registers.

So I'll repeat that the 18-year-old girl was very lucky that she only killed herself.

You can see the bad hand wringing CBS Evening News report here.

She made a decision to do coke. She made a decision to steal her father's car. She made a decision to get high and drive. She made the decision to break the speed limit and go at least 100 mph. She made her decisions. They resulted in a public death. She has no claim to privacy.

Wait! Stop! I'm putting this in here. I mentioned the case to C.I. and was asked, "Well what about the person who got injured?" Huh?

CBS Evening News didn't mention one word about that! C.I. said, "Slide the laptop over." She then found this at The OC Register:

Traveling at speeds exceeding 100 mph in a car her parents say she never had driven before, the 2001 Porsche Carrera zoomed northbound on the 241 before striking a 2006 Honda Civic. The Honda spun out, coming to rest in the dirt center divider.
The lone person in the Honda was transferred to a hospital with minor injuries. He has sued the Catsouras family for damages. That case is pending.
The Porsche Nikki was driving crossed all northbound lanes and then the center divider. It hit a dip, causing it to go airborne. The black convertible then crossed all southbound lanes of traffic and came to rest upside down against the toll plaza.
In an interview this week, Lesli Catsouras said Nikki had not been drinking but had used cocaine the night before the crash – only the second time she had tried the drug, her mother said.

They are in such denial. And they need to get right with the man their daughter wounded. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, May 15, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Steven D. Green's War Crimes sentencing hearing takes a breather, Dahr Jamail offers some Iraq realities, US installed puppet Nouri gets even more power hungry, a War Hawk lowers his Iraq ambitions (probably to preach war for other regions) and more.

Steven D. Green was convicted two
Thursdays ago in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and yesterday was day four. Brett Barrouquere (AP) reports, "U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell told jurors they should have the case for deliberations by Wednesday. He then adjourned court until Monday, when the defense is expected to present more witnesses." Barrouquere has been covering this case for nearly three years and he's the only one who's filed a report on Thursday's court room proceedings.

If the defense continues to present witnesses as late as Wednesday morning they will have offered 7 days of testimony for the sentencing phase. The trial itself, to determine guilt or innocence, lasted only 8 days. The defense began their presentation May 4th and concluded it May 5th. They offered two days of witness testimony when the jury was to determine whether Green was guilty or innocent. (The jury found Green guilty on all counts.) By contrast, they have already spent twice that amount of time calling witnesses this week.Away from the jury, the defense suffered a setback this week. They'd filed a motion arguing that some of the counts Green was convicted of should be dropped. Judge Russell considered their motion and the motion filed by Marisa Ford arguing the prosecution's case.Yesterday Judge Thomas ruled, "Defendant has moved the Court to (1) dismiss and/or preclude sentencing on counts 3-10, alternatively to (2) dismiss and/or preclude sentencing on counts 13-15, and alternatively to (3) permit sentencing on one murder count per victim. The United States has responded (DN 247). This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is DENIED."The motion by the defense was a head scratcher since the time to make such a motion (which most likely would have been denied) was before the conviction, not after. Not after the jury made a determination. The motion continues the pattern of the defense doing more work in the sentencing phase than they did when the jury was determining guilt or innocence.Green is facing the death penalty and to be sentenced to death, every person on the jury must vote in favor of a death sentence. Should the jury be unable to make a determination, the judge would sentence Green and, should that happen, the it would be a life sentence of imprisonment.

Wikileaks posts [PDF format warning] the US Military's Public Affairs Guidance memo on the case from back in 2006 and Wikileaks notes that they refer to Abeer as "a young woman" (at one point the US military was insisting Abeer was 24-years-old). The document identifies its target audience as Iraqis first and foremost.

"We have an update now on
Monday's shooting rampage at a US military stress clinic in Iraq in which a soldier gunned down 2 military doctors and 3 other servicemen," declared Jeff Glor last night on The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (here for video, and Ruth noted this last night). "CBS News has learned the suspect, Sgt. John Russell, was furious with doctors at the clinic, complaining they didn't believe he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The bodies of three victims arrived at Dover Air Force Base last night." The shooting was a topic on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show and while Barbara Slavin (Washington Times) was commenting, things were fact based. But Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) and the 'delightful' Demetri Sevastoulo (Financial Times) had to get creative and, for Demetri, sexist.

Diane Rehm: He was a 21-year Army veteran, Barbara, accused of gunning down five fellow US troops. What were the circumstances?

Barbara Slavin: Well not entirely clear yet. A Sgt John Russell, I believe he was on his third tour in Iraq, and he apparently was very concerned that he was not able to keep up with the mortgage payments on his home in the US --
Which is why he re-enlisted in order to make money.

Barbara Slavin: Yeah. He clearly had mental problems. Unfortunately he was sent, I think, against his will to a mental health facility at Camp Liberty outside Baghdad and that's where he executed five people.

Diane Rehm: He had apparently gotten into a fracas with his controlling officer.

Demetri Sevastoulo: Yeah he did but I think the broader point that needs to be made here is that the military in the last two years has seen a spike in suicides or mental health related incidents like that and it's becoming a big problem. Until about a couple of years ago, the level of suicides in the military or -- or people shooting each other -- wasn't that high compared to the rest of the population. But in the last couple of years, we've seen a spike and you've seen a big push by Adm [Mike] Mullen the chair man of the Joint Chiefs [of Staff] to get people to go for treatment when they have mental health problems.

Diane Rehm: But it's the extraordinary stress that these people are under no matter what their ages generally. Jonathan?

Jonathan S. Landay: The -- the man who's been accused of this shooting in -- in Baghdad in fact according to what I understand, has never been in combat.He was an electronic specialist and attached to an engineering unit. Apparently one of his tasks was to go and salvage electric components from vehicles that had been hit by IEDs by -- bey explosives. And in doing so witnesses the gory aftermath of -- of these attacks. He was on -- nearing the end of his third tour in Iraq.

Diane Rehm: He had also been in Bosnia, Herzegovina.

Jonathan: And Kosovo. That is correct. And I think Demetri hits on the bigger point. There was a study done last year by the RAND Corporation which found that a full 20% of the 1.6 million US service people who have been through Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that only about half of them seek treatment because they see it as a stigma attached to this --

Diane Rehm: Exactly.

Jonathan S. Landay: Even those half that do seek treatment don't get adequate treatment.

They just make up what ever they want to, don't they? For example, resident pig Demetri Sevastoulo would bring up a general whose name he didn't know who he thought sought treatment (but there's no way to check that, is there Demetri) and went public "to say to the younger guys" -- Demetri, you are aware that women serve in the US military, right?
Or are you still too busy lusting for a cat fight between Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni to grasp that? Jonathan S. Landay declared "only about half of them seek treatment because they see it as a stigma attached to this". Did RAND's study find that? No. First off the study [PDF format warning] entitled "Invisible Wounds of War: Summary and Recommendations" was on PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The study extrapolated:

Assuming that the prevalence found in this study is representative of the 1.64 million individuals who have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq to date, we estimate that approximately 300,000 individuals currently suffer from PTSD or major depression and that 320,000 veterans report having experience a probabe TBI during deployment.

53% of those studied had sought treatment for PTSD. Landay maintained that the service members see a stigma. They do? Really?
In general, respondents were concerned that getting treatment would not be kept confidential and would constrain future job assignments and career advancement. About 45 percent were concerned that drug therapies for mental health problems may have unpleasant side effects, and about one-quarter thought that even good mental health care was not very effective. Logistical barriers to mental health treatment, such as time, money, and access, were mentioned less frequently but may still be important barriers for many individuals. At the same time, it is possible that servicemembers and veterans do not seek treatment they may perceive little or no benefit.

They see a stigma? Or they're worried that their information won't be kept confidential and will effect job promotions and future tasks? There's a world of difference between a stigma that they would identify as 'I believe seeking treatment is a sign of weakness' and what the study ACTUALLY found which was that they fear they will be stigmatized because their records will not be kept confidential. Considering all the information the VA has repeatedly accidentally made public this decade, that would be a reasonable concern. Their concern also goes to the culture in the military. It does not go to their own personal opinions of therapy which is what Landay suggested.

And actually the number one answer was medications: "The medications that might help have too many side effects." To get their number one answer, the study combined "It could harm my career" with "My coworkers would have less confidence in me if they found out" and should have also tossed in "I could be denied a security clearance" which was ahead of "My coworkers would have less confidence in me if they found found out." (Refer to diagram 2.3 on page 14 of the report.) But the number one single answer was medications.

Today the Las Vegas Sun editorializes, "
A tragic crime in Iraq:"Studies indicate that as many as one in five soldiers who have served in the combat zone have anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. The military's handling of those afflictions has been terrible, marked by poor treatment of those seeking help and a high suicide rate among soldiers. The sergeant's father, John Michael Russell, said his son was finishing his third tour in Iraq and thought his commanders were trying to drive him out of the service. He said his son feared losing his job and his military pension. The elder Russell noted the stigma attached to a soldier accused of having a mental health issue. "I think they broke him," he said. [. . .] Because the Pentagon has continually failed to address the problem, Congress should step in and make sure that those who serve in combat are given the help they need. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Feb. 28th, the US House Armed Services Committee (discussing FY2009 Defense budget) raised this issue with US House Rep Patrick Murphy asking General George Casey if Congress needed to legislate dwell time to ensure that service members were getting the time they needed:
Murphy noted that "we're begging for about 7,000 troops for Afghanistan from our allies" and wondered if Congress needed to "mandate that if you deploy for 15 months, you're home for 15 months, if you deploy for 12 months, you're home for 12 months"? Casey wasn't keen on that idea and claimed it would interfere with the military's ability to do their job. Which makes the 'promise' Casey and Geren made earlier this week seem even more hollow (even more hollow than Casey claimed, in today's hearings, his experiences in the seventies were).
April 1, 2008, US House Rep Shelley Berkley was pointing out to Walter Reed Amry Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge that he'd just stated 12 months was not enough dwell time (he hemmed and hawed but agreed he'd just said it) and she pointed out that some US service members didn't even get that. The Las Vegas Sun is correct, Congress needs to legislate on this and they need to do so immediately.

Though the Congress refuses so far to mandate dwell time, they did vote yesterday to continue the illegal wars by funding them. Thursday Karen Miller (
Free Speech Radio News) reported on the House of Representatives voting to fund Barack Obama's $96.7 billion war supplemental which does not include an exit strategy. US House Rep Diane Watson told Miller, "The last admistration never put the funds for the war in the regular budget. They always came as a supplement with all good things that we wanted in it so you were forced to vote for it. I am not voting for another cent for any war anywhere because we will never win a war in that part of the world: Iraq, even Iran -- if we choose or chose to go to war there, Afghanistan, Pakistan. It can only be done through diplomacy, through negotiations, through politics. But never at the end of the gun." Watson was one of sixty House members voting against the supplemental. The others were Tammy Baldwin, John Campbell, Michael Capuano, Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, John Conyers, Jim Cooper, Jerry Costello, Lloyd Doggett, John Duncan, Donna Edwards, Vernon Ehlers, Keith Ellison, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, Jeff Flake, Barney Frank, Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, Michael Honda, Jay Inslee, Timothy Johnson, Steve Kagen, Marcy Kaptur, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, Zoe Lofgren, Edward Markey, Eric Massa, Doris Matsui, James McDermott, James McGovern, Michael Michaud, George Miller, Grace Napolitano, Richard Neal, James Oberstar, Ron Paul, Donald Payne, Thomas Petri, Chellie Pingree, Jared Polis, Royce Dwards, Janice Schakowsky, James Sensenbrenner, Jose Serrano, Carol Shea-Porter, Jackie Speier, Michael Thompson, John Tierney, Edolphus Towns, Niki Tsongas, Nydia Velazquez, Maxine Waters, Anthony Weiner, Peter Welch and Lynn Woolsey. There are a few Republicans on the list and some in the press have interpreted this as an anti-Barack voter but Ron Paul is among those Republicans and his record is consistent on this issue regardless of whom occupies the White House. Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) quotes US House Rep Maxine Waters states "this bill simply amplifies and extends failed policies" and US House Rep Jim McGovern states, "When George Bush was president, I was on this floor saying we need an exit strategy. The same applies with Afghanistan. I'm tired of wars with no deadlines, no exits and no ends." Janet Hook (Los Angeles Times) quotes US House Rep David Obey, who voted for the measure, stating, "This is a bill that I have very little confidence in. But we have a responsibility to give a new president who did not get us into this mess the opportunity to get us out of it." David Lightman and William Douglas (McClatchy Newspapers) quote US House Rep Jim McGovern (who voted against it) stating, "As the mission has grown bigger, the policy has grown even more vague." The measure next goes before the Senate for a vote.

Staying with the Congress,
Dahr Jamail appeared on KPFA's Flashpoints and we'll note that again later in the snapshot but first this section where he's speaking of counter-insurgency:

Dahr Jamail: It's a really insidious form of neo-colonialism that the US is involved in both Iraq and Afghanistan now and this is a program called the HTS, the Human Terrain System. And what it is is they're employing social scientists so the likes of primarily anthropologists but also social psychologists and sociologists. They're bringing these people in, they're embedding them in military units in teams of between two and five social scientists to go out with combat units. And the goal is well first of all it's basically sold to the American public and gotten a lot of corporate media coverage in this light 'Well if we bring these people along, these people would have a better understanding of the culture and it's going to prevent civilian casualties, it's going to help the military make better decisions.' The reality is how these people are actually being used. First of all, they were used during the raging sectarian conflict in Iraq in 2006 up to mid-2007 to basically find fissures that existed between the Shia and the Sunni primarily and then exploit these so actually help the military stay out of the conflict and actually were involved in some cases in literally giving information to commanders to target certain individuals. And when we look at, for example, how does this stack up to the code of ethics of anthropology? The two primary aspects of their code of ethics is (1) you have to your subject's permission before you're going to do a study [informed consent] and, second, do no harm. So clearly they're in direct violation to both of the primary ethical codes of anthropology and it's caused massive outcry across most anthropologists -- where people, organizations have been formed, people are very much against this HTS program. It's a very insidious form of colonialism. And it's continuing on despite protests, most anthropologists being against this, we've seen no change. We don't know if it's been augmented and expanded but we definitely know that it's continuing on and it's not being disassembled whatsoever. So this is another very disconcerting way that the Obama administration is carrying on Bush policy in Iraq today.

Actually, we do know that it is being expanded and more money spent on it. That was clear in one hearing after another in the last weeks.
The US Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support April 22nd was where US marine Gen James F. Amos not only repeatedly confessed to his fears of 'emasculation' but also that the marines weren't ready for war with North Korea or Iran "right now because we're predominately a counter-insurgnecy, a regular warfar focus Marine Corps right now. So all those other skills -- combined armed fire manuever forcible entry -- those things -- we'd have to fjure out, we'd have to figure out, 'Okay, what do we need to do for this new -- this new contingency?'" May 7th the House Armed Services Committee's Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee heard from a wide range of War Hawks including Lisa Schirch who insisted the NGOs needed to work with the miltiary and provide "information" to help with counter-terrorism and more money (always more money from the War Whore Beggar) would help those "on the ground who have cultural intelligence information to share". Big Boy Pull-Ups David Kilcullen also testified to beg for more money (and the committee was all for it -- please note, the committee booked only pro-counter-insurgency witnesses) and also for the US to alter or dispose of some of those pesky laws that his home country of Australia apparently doesn't have:

Fat Ass Kilcullen: And one final legislative issue. We had a lot of trouble uh in Iraq uh trying to counter al Qaeda in Iraq propaganda because of the Smith-Mundt act which meant that we couldn't do a lot of things online uh because if you put something on YouTube uh and it's deemed to the information operations and there's a possibility that an American might log on to that page and read that and be influenced by that's technically illegal under the Smith-Mundt Act and we had to get a uh uh a waiver as you may recall to be able to do that. I think for Congress it might be worth looking at uh how that legislation may need to be relooked at or re-examined in the light of a new media environment so that it still has the same intent but doesn't necessarily restrict us from legitimate things that we might need to do in the field.

Kilcullen, note, wanted to counter what he dubbed al Qaeda in Iraq propangada with . . . propaganda. Not with truth. There's no law barring the US military telling the truth to domestic (US) audiences. There is a law against propaganda. Kilcullen whined to the subcommittee -- a pathetic subcommittee eager to whore itself out -- that he couldn't use the propaganda he wanted as easily as he wanted because of pesky US laws. In case Kicullen's missed it, there are 14 or so connecting flights each weekday out of Dulles to Melbourne Airport -- any of which Kicullen could easily grab to return to his own country where, apparently, propaganda is legal. And of course,
yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee found the Republicans objecting to the big increase in counter-insurgency while what they feel are defense items (missile systems, etc.) are being short changed. Kat shared her thoughts on yesterday's hearing here. Wednesday's snapshot covered some of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee's Innovative Technologies and Treatments Helping Veterans hearing and Kat covered that hearing here.

Meanwhile in Iraq, puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki makes another power grab.
Missy Ryan, Mohammed Abbas and Dominic Evans (Reuters) report Nouri is insisting that the agreements on power sharing among Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds need to be weakened and watered down. al-Maliki appears to want simple majority rule which is rather ironic since he's only sitting on his throne due to being installed by the US military and the fact that the US military remains on the ground in Iraq. The reporters note, "His comments were likely to fuel suspicions of Sunni Arabs, dominant under Saddam Hussein, and Kurds, who have their own semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, that minority groups could be subject to majority Shi'ite tyranny." On the subject of the tensions, Wednesday's snapshot wrongly credited "Violence Rises in Iraq's Tense North" to the New York Times' Timothy Williams when the author was Campbell Robertson. My apologies. The morning entry has been corrected and we'll note it in tomorrow's snapshot (snapshot corrections run in later snapshots, that's the policy that allows people to easily copy and paste them -- if you're confused, you're new to the policy). It was my mistake and I apologize for the error and thank community members Mia and Charlie as well as a visitor e-mailing the public account for pointing out my error. Souad Jaroush (Asharq al-Awsat) reports that some Ba'athists currently outside the party see a power vaccum in Iraq and quotes an unnamed official stating they are preparing to enter Iraq as the US draws down to "restore our control on the ground, returning Iraq to its rightful place, as well as expelling all the [foreign] agents that came with the occupation forces." Foreign agents could mean the likes of al-Maliki and the bulk of his cabinet since they were all exiles who chose to live outside of Iraq for years and decades and only returned to the country after the US invaded and exiles could be so easily installed. Alsumaria reports that the country's Parliament is calling for a new committee to be created in order to investigate "the dismissal of 114 officers from the Defense Ministry" by al-Maliki's government. As the tensions escalate, War Hawk and part of Team Colin! during the lead up to the illegal war Richard Haas, Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) reports, tells Bloomberg's Political Capital with Al Hunt (airs this weekend) that, "There's a ceiling on how good it can ever get, given the nature of Iraqi society, given the schisms. I'd be happy, quite honestly, in two or three years, if Iraq looked no worse." The program beings airing tonight at 6:30 pm EST (believe that's the debut) and repeats throughout the weekend (check schedule) and it also is available as a podcast.

Yesterday the
US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Coalition forces Soldier was killed and four injured Wednesday morning while conducting combat operations in Duluiyah, approximately 80 km northwest of Baghdad, when their unit came in contact with enemy forces. The unit was conducting operations to rid Iraq of a weapons facilitator and suicide vest cell known to be operating in the area. The Soldiers names will not be released until 24 hours after next of kin notification." The announcement brought to 4295. the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War, five away from 4300. How nice for Richard Hass that they apparently died for the war he cheerleaded so that Iraq didn't look any worse than it does today.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad grenade attack which wounded two people, journalist Khalida al-Mawla was targted with a Mosul sticky bombing but was warned before she got into the car (which exploded while she was outside of it) and a Baghdad roadside bombing Thursday night which injured two people,


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 1 person shot dead (internal refugee) in Baghdad, 2 police officers injured in a Mosul shooting and two police officers and one Sahwa were injured when unknown assailants attacked a police and Sahwa checkpoint in Samarra.

Wednesday, independent journalist
Dahr Jamail appeared on KPFA's Flashpoints and discussed Sahwa and the rise in violence in Iraq.

Dahr Jamail: I attribute it directly to US policy on the ground there. Just for a little context back in April 2006, well before Bush's so-called 'surge' strategy began which was in February 2007, the US got involved in basically bringing back to life a policy that actually Saddam Hussein used to control areas of Iraq that were very volatile and tended to fight against his dictatorship and so what Saddam did was to basically pay off tribal sheiks, find those who would collaborate with him, pay them off, pay them handsomely under the guise of so-called 'construction contracts' so that they would control people in their tribe and keep them from launching resistance attacks. Well the US basically incorporated the same policy. They called it the formation of the "Awakening" Groups which are now referred to in Iraq as the Al-Sawha, the "Sons Of Iraq." The Sunni militia grew to be 100,000 strong, they were all being paid 300 bucks a month, most of them former resistance fighters according to the [US] military and some of them even members of al Qaeda. But it worked very effectively in keeping violence down and the problem is that, as of last October, these forces were supposed to have been rolled into the government security apparatus -- of the government in Baghdad led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Rather than that actually happening, to date, 5,000 of the 100,000 have actually been given government jobs. The rest of them, in addition to not being paid -- many of them not since October, they've been undergoing attacks from government forces and sometimes even US forces. So as a result, they're not targeting al Qaeda as they used to be so that's why we're seeing a dramatic increase in these spectacular car bomb attacks at mosques and Shia markets, etc. And also that's why we're seeing an uptick in the number of attacks against American troops because some of these people are going back into the resistance since they are not being paid anymore and deciding to basically renew their attacks against occupation forces. So this is really the main reason as I see it why there's been a pretty dramatic escalation in violence. It started slowly in January, it increased in February, it increased more in March and then literally exploded in April and we're seeing it continue on into May.

Nora Barrows Friedman: And Dahr given this acceleration in attacks, what do you think will happen with the people who are in Sahwa forces over the next few months? Do you think the US has stepped into a potential landmine here? Could it actually effect Obama's policy in Iraq?

Dahr Jamail: Well, you know, this is a bigger discussion if we're going to talk about Obama's so-called policy in Iraq because it's really just a continuation of Bush policy. There is -- there is no change on the ground in Iraq. But really I see the situation continuing to degrade because there's a couple of things the Obama administration could do if they were serious about changing the direction things are going on the ground in Iraq. And one would be to pressure the Maliki government to hold true to their promises to incorporate the Sahwa into the government forces, start paying them, stop attacking them. And this is not happening. And instead of that even we saw Obama dispatch Hillary Clinton over to Baghdad a couple of weeks ago and the primary purpose of her mission was basically to assure the Maliki government, 'Look we're not going to abandon you, we will stay. We know the Status Of Forces [Agreement] deadline is coming the end of June, but we're going to be sticking around. So don't worry.' And as a result we're seeing -- if we talk about what is going to happen there, you know, everyone believes that as of June 30 all US troops are going to be out of all Iraqi cities, according to the SOFA. Well the reality is, for example, let's just look at the base Camp Victory which is right nearby Camp Liberty where the American soldier slaughtered five other soldiers on Monday. Camp Victory, over 20,000 US troops stationed at this base alone, it's also simultaneously Baghdad International Airport, Camp Liberty - Baghdad Airport -- I'm sorry, Camp Victory - Baghdad Airport. Same thing. Those are in Baghad. So they're not going to be moving this base because that would entail moving Baghad International Airport as well and it's simply not going to happen so there's your Status Of Forces Agreement for you right there. In addition to the fact that the SOFA also does not prohibit US military from patrolling every city in Iraq if they so please so we're not going to see a cessation in patrols either. So these are things that I see continuing on and it's going to continue to degrade. In fact, as the Brits pull out of southern Iraq, we're starting to see more and more attacks on American forces down there who are filling in for the Brits in the Basra area. In fact just a couple of days ago we had another American soldier killed in Basra by a roadside bomb.

Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox features Russell Baker to discuss his new book Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, The Powerful Forces that Put It in the White House and What Their Influence Means for America. Bonnie Faulkner (KPFA's Guns and Butter) interviewed Baker Wednesday and you can click here for the audio at Information Clearing House. TV notes, NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on many PBS stations (check local listings):A record 115,000 U.N. peacekeepers are now deployed in 20 countries, and their mission is more vital than ever. But critics and insiders alike are openly worried that the current peacekeeping model is overstretched -- and at risk of failure.This week, NOW travels to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to witness today's largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation. There, 17,000 U.N. troops are tasked with protecting millions of people over a rugged and dangerous territory the size of the Eastern United States. But the effort is struggling--last November, local rebels massacred civilians less than a mile from one of the U.N. bases. How can U.N. peacekeeping be improved so that it fulfills its promise of protection to the world? This show is a co-production with the Bureau for International Reporting (BIR), a non-profit video news production company. PBS is celebrating Sausage Fest. They tend to do that every week. Bill Moyers plans to have multiple guests tonight who all share one thing in common. Can you guess what? Gwen stacks her show but provides a token female on Washington Week: John Dickerson (Slate, CBS News), Michael Duffy (Time), John Harwood (CNBC, New York Times and John Dickerson's doppelganger) and -- TOKEN ALERT! TOKEN ALERT! -- Ceci Connolly (Washington Post). Gwen and Bill, proving each week that the "P" in PBS stands for "penis." Both sausage fests begin airing tonight. Be sure not to watch them with young girls unless you're prepared to explain, "Apparently the TV dinosaurs ate up all the women, honey. Gwen? Well they spit her back out." As a fix you can watch (and starts airing tonight on many PBS stations, check local listings) as Bonnie Erbe sits down with Latifa Lyles, Genevieve Wood, Melinda Henneberger and Rosemary Jenks to discuss this week's news on To The Contrary. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:Secretary Of WarDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates discusses the war in Afghanistan in a candid and wide-ranging interview with Katie Couric, who accompanied him to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. Watch Video
AIGEd Liddy, the man who took over the reins of out-of-control American International Group – the failed insurance giant to which the government has made $180 billion available in aid – speaks to Steve Kroft about the gargantuan task ahead.
Anna WintourThe sunglasses come off the high-queen of haute couture in this rare and unprecedented interview, in which the Vogue editor reveals why she always wears them and much more to Morley Safer in her first long-length interview for U.S. television. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, May 17, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

This week saw Barack Obama break another promise. The torture photos aren't going to be released. Despite promises to the contrary.
Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) notes:

Wednesday, while flying across the country, I was able to watch CNN all day as the news rolled out from the White House that the Obama administration was making an about face, and deciding to fight the court order to release the torture photos. It's an extraordinary story, and people are right to be outraged.

Kevin Gostzola, a student at Columbia College, pulled together the tortured logic of the Obama argument in
Obama Employs Bush Administration Tactic to Halt Release of Detainee Photos.

The moment my plane landed in San Francisco, the voice mails, texts, emails began...people thinking about what to do in response. A quick conference call Thursday united World Can't Wait chapters to go Friday to media outlets (FOX in New York; CNN in Atlanta) with the demand:

Release the Torture Photos! Prosecute the War Criminals!

World Can't Wait is planning actions to protest the torture of the previous administration and the cover up of the current one (plus, Barack's policies have not ended torture -- in some cases it has farmed torture out). From "Thursday MAY 28 National Day of Resistance to U.S. TORTURE!:"

On or by May 28, the Obama administration is being forced to release 2000 photos of detainee abuse in US facilities from 2001-2006. The Abu Ghraib photos, released in 2004 only because a solider was horrified over the torture, brought an international storm of protest against the US torture state. The new photos, including many from Bagram, where the detention facilities have just been doubled to hold 60,000 Afganis, will show that US torture was widespread, sustained, and systemic, not an "aberration," but an integral part of the "global war on terror."
Weeks after 4 more torture memos revealed the detail with which George Bush's lawyers managed the torture of individual detainees, calls to prosecute those responsible -- from the White House principals, to the legal torture team, to the CIA agents who tortured -- have met objections from Washington. Cheney and the open advocates of torture scream that they must be able to use "harsh methods" to win the global war on terror. The Obama administration, after deciding to continue indefinite detention, CIA rendition, and Bush's executive powers, says prosecution would stop them from "moving forward." Democratic party leader Nancy Pelosi knew about the torture and waterboarding since 2002, saying and doing nothing to stop it..
It's up to the people to act! World Can't Wait and other groups are planning non-violent civil resistance protests, programs digging into the substance of the charges, waterboarding and rendition re-enactments, and film showings in communities around the country to demand prosecution of the Bush era war criminals. More information, listings, posters, flyers & background on the war criminals at
Wherever the Bush era war criminals are appearing this month, raise the cry "Torture is a War Crime! Prosecute!"

evan brightsteven d. green
brett barrouquerethe los angeles timesruben vives
the washington postperry bacon jr.brian falerdavid lightmanwilliam douglasmcclatchy newspapersjanet hookthe los angeles timesmissy ryanmohammed abbasdominic evanscorey boylesthe las vegas sunnprthe diane rehm show
dahr jamail
flashpointsnora barrows friedman
free speech radio news
cindy sheehan
cbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs
the cbs evening news with katie couric
world cant wait
Here's C.I.'s "

Thursday, May 14, 2009

ACLU, al-Sadr, more

Thursday!!!! One day until the weekend! Can't hardly wait, like the movie says. Diving in . . .
Explaining the history on this. Rebecca called me, Betty called her and Stan passed it to Betty. This is from the ACLU:

ACLU Challenges Patents on Breast Cancer Genes
On May 12, 2009, the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (PUBPAT), filed a lawsuit charging that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer are unconstitutional and invalid. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four scientific organizations representing more than 150,000 geneticists, pathologists, and laboratory professionals, as well as individual researchers, breast cancer and women's health groups, genetic counselors and individual women. Individuals with certain mutations along these two genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, are at a significantly higher risk for developing hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has granted thousands of patents on human genes – in fact, about 20 percent of our genes are patented. A gene patent holder has the right to prevent anyone from studying, testing or even looking at a gene. As a result, scientific research and genetic testing has been delayed, limited or even shut down due to concerns about gene patents.
As a result of the PTO granting patents on the BRCA genes to Myriad Genetics, Myriad's lab is the only place in the country where diagnostic testing can be performed. Because only Myriad can test for the BRCA gene mutations, others are prevented from testing these genes or developing alternative tests. Myriad's monopoly on the BRCA genes makes it impossible for women to access other tests or get a second opinion about their results, and allows Myriad to charge a high rate for their tests – over $3,000, which is too expensive for some women to afford.
The lawsuit, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. United States Patent and Trademark Office, et al., was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan against the PTO, Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation, which hold the patents on the BRCA genes.

That's an important topic and I'm happy to note it. Breast cancer is a serious issue and we need to all take it seriously, women and men.

Now turning to Iraq, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is not in Iraq. He communicates via spokespersons and one of them, AFP reports, was attacked today:

"The media official of the Sadr movement Abdul Jabbar Waheed al-Hajami was not injured in the attempt on his life in Al-Nedhal street by unknown gunmen," a police official in the capital said.
The attack in central Baghdad killed Hajami's driver and wounded a colleague, added the official.

Moqtada surfaced in Turkey not all that long ago. He's thought to be in Iran and he's thought to be studying to become a Grand Ayatollah. A major US publication ran an article that called him a "dunce" and said he'd never be able to do that. This was a news publication. The article was a plant, government propaganda.

Which reminds me, "Why don't you highlight . . .?" I get those e-mails a lot. Why? Because ___ isn't worth highlighting. This week the question came in on Brian M. Downing's "The Road Out Of Iraq." Did you people read that piece of sh*t? He's saying it's okay if troops aren't out until the end of 2011. I'm so glad like Brian is okay with that. It's not like he's over there. It's not like he has a child over there. But he's okay with it. Troops home now? No, Brian says troops home in over 2 years from now.

He's a putz.

Your first clue came along in July of 2008 when he was echoing Michael Gordon of the New York Times and maintaining that Iran had been arming the militias.

You idiots suggesting that as a link, do you want me to link to Michael Gordon too?

CounterPunch should link to Brian. He's an idiot. But they don't have a lot of standards at CounterPunch as becomes obvious if you pay attention for long.

I find it hilarious that Alex Cockburn, who went after Gordo on Iran and other things, posts Brian's scribbles that are basically the same as Gordo's.

If I'm not linking, there's a reason. Remember, I live with Elaine. I'm on the phone with C.I. I'm hearing about Iraq all day long and I'm hearing about the people we need to avoid, the liars. So I generally have a good idea who to highlight and who to avoid. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, May 14, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Steven D. Green's War Crimes sentencing continues, new details emerge in John Russell's shooting of five fellow service members in Iraq, the US Armed Services Committee forgets Iraq today and Dems let Republicans set the game for next week, Dennis Kucinich calls out the War Hawks, and more.

Steven D. Green was convicted last
Thursday in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and today was day four. Evan Bright reports that the defense called Green's friend Tammi Dehay, Green's Cousin Suzi Woolsey and a social worker, Jan Vogelsang. Bright states the latter offered "an extreme walk through of Steven Green's family". Brett Barrouquere (AP) notes today's "witnesses were called by defense attorneys trying to persuade jurors that Green, 24, of Midland, Texas, should be sentened to life in prison rather than face a death sentence." Of yesterday's hearing, Bright reported:

The defense brought Jim Isclaw to the stand. At entry, Isclaw winked at Green when their eyes met. Isclaw, a native of Alvarado, TX, is an assistant football coach, golf coach, and teacher at Alvarado High School, and has been there for 23 years. To be quite frank, he's a good ol' country boy, and he's got the persona of one as well. In his face, you can see the hours/days/years spent in the hot(understatement) Texan sun, calling plays and yelling at players. The attorney got straight to the point by beginning with "Do you remember Steven Green?" Isclaw immediately fired back with "I'll never ferget 'im...there's some kids you just don't forget." He spoke of meeting Steven in the summer of his freshman year for the football team's two-a-day workouts during the summer. He spoke of Green living with his uncle, David. He highlighted on his memory of green: his far and few between class/school absences, "he had very good fact I did some research and he only had four absences that entire year," and about his personality as he remembered it, "he was a very likable guy, very enjoyable, he was easy to spot and when you did see him you could count on him to put a smile on your face." He told of Green being a typical "knucklehead" and getting into small trouble. Defendant Green couldn't help but to laugh. He spoke of Green's unfaltering attendance at the varsity games, "he never missed a game." He told of Green's undying sense of humor, "he was a funny guy, he'd do this one leg chicken dance at all the pep rallies." This humor/dance would become a recurring theme throughout the rest of the days' testimony. He gave the courtroom a laugh when he spoke of Green's "lack of" athletic ability in playing wide receiver. The jury and audience was shown a picture from the yearbook of Green on the football field, "looking for an opening" against Arlington Heights, to which Isclaw commented, "If he had the ball against Arlington Heights... We were either way ahead or way behind," bringing a few chuckles. Wolff began a difficult line of questioning in the witnesses by asking Isclaw "If Green were to be executed, what impact would that have on you?" Isclaw visibly thought about his answer, and you could almost see his stomach churning as he responded, "It'd….it would break my heart...(pausing)...he's one of my own. 185 days of school to get to know him, I know that don't seem like much but he was always one that I liked and remembered…I'd be saddened...(pause)...I believe it'd crush me." No cross from the prosecution. The next witness was Chase Bentley, a 24 year old from Lovett, Texas. He just completed his Masters Degree in Civil Engineering last week, and is already engaged with a wedding on December 14th, he told the court. He spoke of meeting Green during his junior year of high school, when Green was only a freshman(Green only attended Alvarado for his freshman year). As a requirement, football players must run track in the spring, which was where Green and Bentley met. When asked what his impression of Green was, he quickly spoke of having "only great memories. He was just one of the fellas" He spoke of Green being "the class clown….this guy was funny." When asked about his track running ability, Bentley grinned profusely for a few seconds before eluding to his opinion that "well…he was fun to watch, let's just put it that way." Once again, his testimony ended with what his thoughts would be if Green were to be executed, "I couldn't imagine…(long, thoughtful pause)…he lost his father and….I can't imagine that with a set predetermined date and…" His testimony ended there, again with no cross examination.

"Even as our focus shifts to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the stability situation in Iraq remains a source of concern and significant effort," declared Senator Carl Levin today . . . after spending five minutes in his opening statement discussing Afghanistan and Pakistan. Levin was making opening remarks as the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee which heard testimony this morning from US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Adm Mike Mullen. It was all a bunch of posing and preening from the witnesses and from Congressional members. Senator Jim Webb may have scored most embarrassing as he rushed to sing the praises of Iran-Contra War Criminal Caspar Weinberger ("Cap Weinberger," he called him). [Weinberger was indicted by the grand jury, George H.W. Bush pardoned him. It's a sad day in Congress when Iran-Contra War Criminals earn praise . . . from Democrats.] Democrats rushed to grovel and preen before Gates and Mullen and to play I-love-the-military-more. The Republicans laid down markers that they intend to develop in a future hearing (possibly next week) which will bring an officer to Congress to testify about his opposition to Gates' budget recommendations. Iraq rarely came up in the hearing. Republicans focused on the budget -- chiefly what wasn't in it -- while Democrats obsessed over Pakistan to the point that they appeared eager to go to officially go to war with the country. We'll drop back to opening remarks since it was one of the few times Iraq came up.

Senator Carl Levin: This June, pursuant to the US-Iraq SOFA, Status Of Forces Agreement, US combat forces are supposed to be withdrawn from Iraqi urban areas, turning over the security of cities and major towns to Iraqi security forces. The agreement also sets a December 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq. President Obama has called for an end to US combat missions in Iraq by August of 2010. I hope that the draw down of forces in Iraq can be maintained while preserving our hard fought gains and while continuing to build Iraqi capacity to provide for their own security. The failure of Iraqi leaders to complete the political steps that they promised to take long ago puts at risk the reaching of those goals.

And with that approximately one minute and ten second bit, Levin was done with Iraq. Aaaaaawwwwww. Did the illegal war drag on longer than Congress cared to pay attention? How very lucky for our members of Congress that they serve in DC and not Iraq. Can you imagine how bored they be and how much their non-stop yawns would be as they patrolled Iraq? Poor, poor Congressional members.

Senator John McCain is the Ranking Member on the Committee. He used his opening statements to focus on "runaway costs." In the general, you understand. The abstract. He mentioned Afghanistan and Pakistan repeatedly and Iraq only once. You might have thought otherwise especially since McCain has an annoying habit of whistling his "s"es and Iraq has none. Considering his remarks in the presidential debates about Iraq it was amazing to watch him reduce the Iraq War to a subordinate clause of single sentence. The hearing itself lasted over three hours and that was due in part to Levin breaking from the topic to address civilian nominees since the committee had a quorum. After those were approved, it was time for the prepared opening statements from Gates [PDF format warning,
here] and Mullen [PDF format warning, here].

Gates noted he was in Afghanistan last week. And that he had damn little to say, "As I told a group of soldiers on Thursday, they have done their job. Now it is time for us in Washington to do ours." Does Gates ever not repeat that statement? He's been repeating it since 2006. It was also popular with then-Senator Hillary Clinton when she was running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008, with then-Senator Barack Obama when he was running for the presidency in the summer and fall of 2008, and for then-and-still Senator John Kerry throughout his 2004 campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and his run in the 2004 general election. By no means is that a full listing of all those who have repeated that over and over for the last five years. But at some point, when the next person tells US service members that, one hopes at least one shoots back, "When is Washington ever going to get around to doing their job?" Because, as these never ending statements indicate, DC seems to be the hold up, the bottle neck, at least according to the constant repetition of that stale statement. It's also kind of stupid to repeat that statment and then, in an exchange with Senator Susan Collins, get all catty about a marine at Camp Leatherneck who asked when his equipment was going to arrive and then snort that the commander told Gates that the equipment was there they just hadn't given it to the soldier.

Like Gates, Mullen read from a prepared statement. It was not, however, the prepared statement he turned in. It's always amusing to watch someone read word-for-word, in a bored manner, such phrases as "Let me tell you why". Mullen invented a phrase or hangs out in very strange circles. "We are what we buy," he declared ("It has been said that we are what we buy"). If so, he must do a great deal of his shopping in horse stalls because the committee stank of it as he called the budget a people's budget and asserted it put people first and these people were service members. Really? The increase of $700 million in funding for missile 'defense' systems? $17.6 billion for equipment replacment in Iraq and Afghanistan? $15.2 billion for "force protection" for equpiment such as MRAP All Terrain Vehicles?$7.5 billion to Afghans composing their country's National Security Forces? $700 million to Pakistan (for counter-insurgency)? An additional $200 million for Aegis ships? $550 million for "global partnership efforts"? We could go on and on but let's stop pretending that this is about putting US service members first. And if Mullen has a problem with any of the figures listed, he can take it up with Robert Gates who used those and more in his testimony today. For the record, while Mullin called it "the people's budget," Gates called it a "reform budget." Gates would also note that "a third of this budget is the people cost." A third. Not exactly "a people's budget."

Senator Joe Lieberman doesn't believe that the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget request is adequate and feels that some baseline issues (especially personnel) were being underestimated/underaccounted. He gave Gates the opportunity to clarify that. Gates took a pass. Remember that if a supplemental request comes along after the passage of the FY2010 request. Lieberman wasn't being hostile (Lieberman loves to fork over money to the defense industries). He was concerned that the money wasn't enough and that the request needed to be upped. Senator Jeff Session noted he "was concerned" about the budget which he thought was too small and especially with two ongoing wars. Gates rejected that notion (and went into a long drawn out response about research including airborne lasers and how, to use it on Iran, it would have to be circling within Iran's borders which he didn't see happening so research needs to continue and blah, blah, blah). So twice Gates was given the opportunity to ask for an increase, twice he declined. Senator Jim Inhofe did get out of Gates that he will receive a list of "unfundeds" from staff tomorrow and will forward that to the Congress on Monday. Senator Saxby Chambliss brought up the issue as well. He noted that in private conversations, General Norton Scwartz (Air Force Chief of Staff) has disagreed with the budget and that the general has told him he will testify to that which Senator Chambliss expects to happen shortly (next week). (
Schwartz was interviewed by Lara Logan in a report that aired Sunday on CBS 60 Minutes, link has text and video.) For those who caught Cindy Sheehan's most recent Soapbox, this is the concern some Republicans -- including one she spoke to in Arkansas -- have regarding the defense budget and that it is not meeting security needs. Cindy Sheehan took last Sunday off because her son was hospitalized and in a grave condition. He has recovered and she will have Russell Baker on her show this Sunday to discuss his new book Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, The Powerful Forces that Put It in the White House and What Their Influence Means for America. Bonnie Faulkner (KPFA's Guns and Butter) interviewed Baker Wednesday and you can click here for the audio at Information Clearing House. Senator John Thune pursued this issue as well and his website has posted audio, video and a transcript of the exchange. We'll note this exchange and encourage those interested in the full exchange to use the link:

Senator Thune: We've had a lot of combatant commanders in front of this committee who've testified to the need for this capability. And also, to the concern about the aging fleet and the fact that half of our bombers are pre-Cuban Missile Crisis era bombers and being able to persist and penetrate some of the more sophisticated air defense systems that we're expecting to encounter in the future. So it seems like a very relevant, very real-time question. But I guess my final question is this, what I hear you saying is you are still analyzing and looking at this. What OMB's budget said is terminated. So is this delayed, is this terminated, what is this? Secretary Gates: The program that was on the books is terminated. The idea of a Next Generation Bomber, as far as I'm concerned, is a very open question. And the recommendation will come out of the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Nuclear Posture Review. And I certainly don't want to leave the impression that the Russians are going to help us decide whether or not we have a Next Generation Bomber. What I was trying to say is if it looks like we're headed for a lower number of deployed nuclear weapons then we will have to make a recommendation to the president and to you as to how we allocate those weapons among missiles, submarines and aircraft.

While the Republicans laid down the marker and Gates grew testy (his "fine" to Thune was sharper than one expects from the flat affect Gates), Dems seemed unaware what was taking place with one exception: Evan Bayh. Bayh attempted to take on the Republican argument that the Defense Dept proposed budget was puny or weak. Attempted. He was throwing Gates life preservers but Gates appeared determined to drown.

Senator Evan Bayh: Is it still true, Mr. Secretary, that the amount that we're spending next year [on defense] will in the aggregate will be more than all our likely adversaries combined? It used to be that way. The reason I ask the question is, if it's true, what we're really facing is not a question of the amount of resources but how we most effectively allocate them to meet the challenges that we face. Is it still true that we appropriate more for national security and defense than all our likely adversaries combined?

Secretary: Robert Gates: Yes, but I -- Let me just add two things to that. First of all, more than -- more than any other country we have global interests and we have allies around the world who -- who depend on us for their -- for their security. So I mean, that's one of the reasons why we spend as much as we do.

Senator Evan Bayh: To be sure. I was just trying to put it in perspective. I don't think we've been -- We're allocating what we need to to protect the country and take care of some of these other interests. And it was by way again of saying we need to allocate the resources effectively to meet the threats and deal with some of the legacy and reform issues. I think you've done that.

Secretary Robert Gates: Senator let me interject just to provide some perspective Last summer as the economy was detoriating I I told Admiral Mullin that no matter who was elected I thought we'd be lucky if we got the FY09 number plus inflation.

Senator Evan Bayh: And we have real growth.

Secretary Robert Gates: And we've got two percent real growth.

Lieberman asked Gates about dwell time not being the ideal yet and Gates responded
"That's absolutely right we hope that toward the end of next year and more likely into next that the dwell time will begin to increase." Collins asked if screening was being done for PTSD and TBI upon returning stateside? Mullen stated PTSD screening is occuring at least 90 to 120 days after they return. TBI he was less precise on. PTSD, dwell time and other issues are especially in the news since Monday's shooting in Iraq when John Russell shot five of his fellow service members at a Baghdad stress control clinic.
Kimberly Dozier (CBS News) reports that Russell did not feel "that the doctors at the clinic" believe him about combat stress and that "each day, the counselors 'sent him back to his base'" according to a soldier in Russell's unit. Yesterday's snapshot included the following:

Luis Martinez, Martha Raddatz and Kate Barrett (ABC News) speak with Yates' stepfather, Richard Van Blarga Jr., who states, he thinks Yates mentioned Russell in a call on Sunday: "On the conversation with my wife on Mother's Day, he said that he had met a sergeant, that he was, in his words, he was a very nice guy, he could deal with him, but he had some major issues. He was out there on the branch hoping for somebody to help him." Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News) reports Christian Bueno-Galdos, Matthew Houseal and Jacob Barton are the other three who were shot dead on Monday. She also notes the phone call Yates made to his mother on Sunday and quotes Shawna Machlinski (his mother) stating, "I do have some sympathy and I do know that I can forgive him [Russell]."

Click here for the ABC News report. UPI reports the five were flown into Dover Air Force yesterday. In headlines today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) played a clip of Yates' mother Shawna Machlinski stating, "As much as I have a lot of anger towards him, I also have some sympathy, because I know he must have been going through a lot as well. That doesn't excuse the fact that he murdered my son. But I believe that if he would have gotten the help that he was there to get maybe sooner or gotten more help, and other people recognized the signs, because there are signs, and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure those signs out." At OneWorld, Aaron Glantz adds that "long-time observers of the U.S. military say the shooting shows all the signs of a soldier pushed to the brink of insanity by repeated and consistent exposure to war. The 44-year-old Russell had spent many years of his life at war when he allegedly opened fire and killed five of his fellow soldiers. Russell was drawing to the end of his third tour in Iraq and had also served deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo."

Today Gates wanted to whine about needing longer dwell time. Then why isn't it being provided?
Feb. 28th, the US House Armed Services Committee (discussing FY2009 Defense budget) raised this issue:

US House Rep Patrick Murphy was also concerned about readiness. He wanted to know specifically that, regardless of any upcoming announcements, would the length of tours be reduced.
On Tuesday of this week, Casey and Geren appeared before the Senate's Armed Service Committee also offering testimony on the 2009 Fiscal Year. From that hearing, the only thing that the media picked up on was that tours in Iraq and Afghanistan would (maybe) drop from fifteen months to twelve months. (Some outlets picked up on the stop-loss issue, stop-loss will continue but they 'hope' to drop the numbers from 8,000 to 7,000 -- ignored was Senator Jim Webb's questioning of Casey which produced Casey's claim that the UCMJ had been applied to Defense Department contractors serving in Iraq.) Murphy wanted to know specifically with the Afghanistan War still going on, an incomplete serach for Osama bin laden, with "the majority of our military in Iraq," what happens "if we're still bogged down refereeing a civil war in Iraq?" And when Petraeus appears before Congress, Murphy wanted to know, "What happens" in terms of the reduction of tours of duty "if he comes back to us and says we need a 'pause' not a 'drawdown.' Casey maintained that regardless of a "a brief pause, as you say, that will not impact our ability to come off of 15 months . . . the most important thing for us to do is to come off 15 months."

Murphy noted that "we're begging for about 7,000 troops for Afghanistan from our allies" and wondered if Congress needed to "mandate that if you deploy for 15 months, you're home for 15 months, if you deploy for 12 months, you're home for 12 months"? Casey wasn't keen on that idea and claimed it would interfere with the military's ability to do their job. Which makes the 'promise' Casey and Geren made earlier this week seem even more hollow (even more hollow than Casey claimed, in today's hearings, his experiences in the seventies were).

Murphy was right, it needs to be mandated by Congress. Otherwise it won't happen.
April 1, 2008, US House Rep Shelley Berkley was pointing out to Walter Reed Amry Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge that he'd just stated 12 months was not enough dwell time (he hemmed and hawed but agreed he'd just said it) and she pointed out that some US service members didn't even get that. Let's stop pretending these are new problems or new issues. These are the same issues the military command has said they were addressing. They have not. It's time for the US Congress to do so.

Meanwhile in Iraq,
Alsumaria reports Nouri al-Maliki is again speaking publicly of conspiracies against him. The puppet of the occupation declared "he fears the return of" Ba'athis "conspiracies and dictatorship while he stressed that the Constitution bans reconciliation with Baathists as a party." While he frets over imaginary plots by 'Ba'athists,' Nouri announced he wasn't at all alarmed by the increase in bombings.Alsumaria explains Nouri's not the only one floating conspiracy theories. Ahmad Al Jalabi ("head of Iraqi National Congress Party") has declared Iraq's intelligence community has been "infiltrated by Al Qaeda and defunct Baath Party" and how does he know that breaking news? He just now read it. In George Tenet's book. At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA was published in April. Of 2007. Fresh intel for Iraq? Alsumaria notes the book "points out that Iraqi intelligence chief Mohammed Al Shahwan is an employee of US Intelligence since 1991." That would mean that the intel community was infiltrated by the US. If the names seems familiar, it's Ahmad Chalabi. Ahmad Al Jalabi is another name he's known by. And of course, Chalibi was a CIA asset for many, many years.In other insanity, April 23rd, al-Maliki's government announced they'd captured Abu Omar Baghdadi. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times' Babylon and Beyond) reports they continue to claim that they've captured al-Baghdadi, "There is already widespread skepticism whether the man in custody is really Baghdadi -- which is itself a nom-de-guerre indicating only that the man is from Baghdad." Sly notes the US still has not been allowed to examine the alleged al-Baghdadi.

As noted throughout the week, kidnappings never went away and now appear to be on the rise in Iraq.
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the corpse of a six-year-old boy was found in a plastic bag in Baghdad and he "had been kidnapped three days ago". Reuters notes "a Christian male teacher" was kidnapped in Rashad. Today Paul Schemm (AP) reports on the exodus of Christians from Iraq and notes the US State Dept estimated there were 1.2 million Christians in 2003 and that the number has fallen to as low as 550,000 with other estimates even lower. Philippe Leclerc, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees acting rep in Damascus states Iraqi Christians who are external refugees are not planning on returning, "They simply do not feel safe enough. They cannot suffiicently count on state security or any other force to protect them." The reasons include the ongoing violence, the past threats and the fact that they are shut out of previous employment opportunities by the Shi'ite controlled government. Bobby Ghosh (TIME magazine) notes "the surge of violence" and how only 1% of Iraqi external refugees have returned while only 18% of Iraq's internal refugees have returned to their homes and yet the UN has recommended that Iraqi refugees no more "get automatic refugee status abroad" -- 'automatic,' the UN was being comical. Ghosh notes:

Although the U.N. agency has warned that its new guidelines don't mean Iraq has turned a corner, aid workers fear that's exactly how they will be taken by officials in Damascus and Amman -- with dire consequences for the refugees. "I'm wary that this will be interpreted by asylum countries that it's O.K. to return Iraqis forcibly," says Bob Carey, vice president for resettlement and migration policy at the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Joe Sterling (CNN) reports on refugees coming to the US and notes that the US admitted 60,000 refugees in FY 2008 but only 13,823 were from Iraq (Burma resulted in the largest number of refugees). Sterling also interviewed Internaional Rescuee Committee's George Rupp:

Sterling: Any bigotry encountered in job searches?

Rupp: Certainly some of the refugees feel there is bigotry encountered and it is very difficult to confirm whether that is or isn't the case. But several reported they have been told by several prospective employers, that, "You are from Iraq, you are rich, there's no reason we have to worry about finding a position for you."

Sterling: Employers actually thought they were rich?

Rupp: Because of the oil resources that these few employers were aware that Iraq has. There's no question that refugees of all ethnicities often feel they have a special burden, a special hurdle to get over. But what is remarkable is how many of them feel the U.S. is welcoming, and is open, and does not discriminate against them. It's not surprising there are at least some instances in which people feel they were discriminated against and no doubt they were, but that is not a dominant pattern I don't think.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Kirkuk roadside bombing wounded two police officers and a Mosul roadside bombing wounded four people.


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the Sunni Endowment Office's Haider Hassoun was shot (wounded, not killed) in Baghdad while another employee of the Endowment was wounded in second attack, a Baquba home invasion in which a woman and her sons were killed (both sons were Sahwa) and 2 people were shot dead in Kirkuk "late Wednesday". Reuters notes 1 Sahwa member shot dead and three more injured in Kirkuk.

While the Senate Armed Services Committee debated the FY10 defense/war budget, the House passed Barack Obama's war supplemental request today.
Jeremy Pelofsky (Reuters) reports that the $96.7 billion request (over $17 billion more than Barack requested) passed out of the House while the Senate continues working on their version. US House Rep Dennis Kucinich released the following statement:

America went to war against Iraq based on a lie. We were told back in 2002 that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The previous administration even pursued torture to try to extract false confessions in order to justify the war. It is time to tell the truth. The truth is we should not have prosecuted a war against the Iraqi people. The truth is the Democratic Senate could have stopped the Iraq war in 202. The truth is we Democrats were given control of Congress in 2006 to end the war. The truth is this bill continues a disastrous war, which has cost the lives of thousands of soldiers. The truth is the occupation has fueld the insurgency. The truth is the Iraq war will cost the American and Iraqi people trillions of dollars and as many as a million innocent Iraqis have lost their lives as a result of this war.
Don't tell the American people that you are ending the war by continuing to fund the war. Don't tell the American people that the war will end when their plans leave 50,000 troops in Iraq. Don't tell the American people that the way out of Afghanistan is to escalate our presence.
Get out of Iraq. Get out of Afghanistan. Come home America.

Yesterday Barack broke another promise, he won't release the torture photos. At CNN, Col Janis Karpinski weighs in:

About-face! President Obama's reversal of his administration's decision to release more photographs of prisoner abuse is disappointing and infuriating.
It is sad and tragic. The reversal will absolutely stir up more controversy than release of the photographs, causing an outpouring of rampant speculation -- What is the government hiding? Who are the people in the photographs? How awful can these new photos be? And worse.
The president is going to Egypt, and discussions surrounding the photographs are inevitable. He is far better off armed with the ability to have open discussions on all topics instead of apologizing for holding back information. Withholding evidence is counterproductive and does not sound like "truth," and it surely does not sound like "change."
The truth is always helpful. If we put all the photographs on the table, clearing the air, then, and only then, we can get on with the discussion of how to make sure this never happens again. The truth will set us free -- free to find the roots of the problem, allowing us to do what we did best -- making the world a better place to live.

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