Friday, October 09, 2009

Domestic abuse awareness month, Holly Near

Thank you to C.I. When I did my Holly Near and emma's revolution review (links in snapshot, Holly Near is also on my blogroll), I wanted to cover the problems people were having downloading the album. C.I. told me of course I had to cover it. But I did feel bad and I also thought, "C.I.'s not going to say a word if she is, but she may be ticked off." I made one man (yes, it was a man) very mad with a review of his album. He blew a fuse and C.I. had to hear all about it (she knows him). So I did wonder if C.I. was thinking, "It's a great album, why did Kat have to talk about the problems with the downloads." So today in the snapshot, C.I. quotes a Holly song and includes a link to that review and notes that -- oh, let me just include that paragraph:

Holly Near has a new album she's done with emma's revolution, We Came to Sing! which Kat praised here. If you will download from iTunes or purchase or oder the CD, it's an amazing album worth having. (See Kat's review. This community only recommends those two options due to issues members had attempting to obtain the album.)

So I was really glad to see that. C.I. runs TCI like a newspaper and if it hurts, oh well. That's her attitude. And she will and does call out friends there -- friends in the news industry. But I always think, "I cause so many problems with my reviews." And I probably do. But C.I. told me long, long ago that I needed to write what I believed "and if you believe it, I'm fine with it and I support it."

By the way, it's domestic abuse awareness month. So let me quote from Holly Near's "Somebody's Jail:"

And I feel the witch in my veins
I feel the mother in my shoe
I feel the scream in my soul
The blood as I sing the ancient blue
They burned by the millions
I still smell the fire in my grandma's hair
The war against women rages on
Beware of the fairytale
Somebody's mama, somebody's daughter
Somebody's jail

If you think, "Kat, you're so smart!" Thank you. You're wrong but thank you. I didn't realize it was domestic abuse awareness month. We're at Trina's and C.I. just got praised for including Holly and details about the war against women in the snapshot and she responded, "Well it is domestic abuse awareness month." I would not have known that.

Okay, this is from Between The Lines News:

Two of the Lansing area's most venerable music institutions, East Lansing's Ten Pound Fiddle and Old Town's Goldenrod Music, are joining forces to bring Holly Near and emma's revolution for a night of folk music and politics on Oct. 23 at LCC's Dart Auditorium.
After three years of touring together and repeated audience requests for "the CD with all of you singing," Holly Near and emma's revolution hit the studio in June 2009 and the result is "We Came to Sing!" The show promises a whirlwind of passionate harmonies when Holly Near and emma's revolution take the stage together. Near and emma's revolution will each perform songs from their own repertoire, plus music from the new LP.
On it, tender and daring a cappella vocal arrangements of some of Near's most requested songs are paired with some of emma's revolution's most popular tracks and some new ones that perfectly fit the three women's voices. Musical styles range from a meditation on "Study War No More" to a light-hearted jazzy version of "Swimming to the Other Side."

That's it from me. I'm tired and then some. Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, October 9, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, news of the US continuing the Iraq War on into 2012, the war against women continues and Sahar Issa documents it, where is the 'progress,' the US fails to meet the admission numbers for Iraqi refugees predicted in August by the State Dept, the US Army releases suicide data, and more.

Let's deal with realities and the first that the Iraq War has no end-date at present. Despite spin and lies and assertions, there is no end-date. In fact, if the SOFA truly eneded the Iraq War -- as the popular narrative and press fools claim -- then Bush couldn't have skipped the Congress. There would be no debating that it was a treaty if ended a war. That's what treaties historically have done. But let's deal in what is known.

Matthew D. LaPlante (Salt Lake Tribune), reporting on new deployments to Iraq for Utah units and, almost as a whispered aside, drops this explosive word-bomb: "And some Utah units have been told to anticipate deployments to Iraq as far off as 2012." As far off as 2012?

B-b-b-but my TV told me the Iraq War ends most certainly as 2011 draws to a close! My TV said so!!! Imagine that. A press that lied a nation into war might also lull a nation into a false belief that the Iraq War was ending. For the record, the press tried that during Vietnam as well. You can't learn about it in Norman Solomon's books because he always misses that point and fails to grasp the conflict between stateside editors and reporters stationed in Vietnam. It would be shocking that Norman might not know that . . . unless you grasped he's lied that the Iraq War ends in 2011 along with so many other gas bags. The pledged delegate for Barack Obama gave it up for his crush and was left with nothing but a wet spot and sullied reputation. Norman you kind of picture right about now peeing on a stick and waiting to see what color it turns.

The Dept of Defense released a statement on October 8th. AC W (Gather) examines the release, "The first thing to note is that all four elements mentioned in the press release are COMBAT forces. The three brigade combat teams (the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from the 3rd Infantry Division, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team from the 25th Infantry Division, and the 4th Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division) are just what their names say they are: brigade COMBAT teams. They are made up of COMBAT troops with weapons designed for COMBAT. The armored cavalry regiment, the 3rd ACR, is a combat unit with tanks and infantry troops. How will all COMBAT troops be out of Iraq by mid-next year if we are sending COMBAT troops to Iraq in mid-next year?"

Today, filing a rare report from Iraq,
Marc Santora (New York Times) opens with, "There is no more visible sing that America is putting the Iraq war behind it . . ."

Is America putting Iraq behind it? That's not only factually incorrect, it's also highly insulting. Did we not hear
yesterday from Russell Powell, an Iraq War veteran, explaining to the Senate about how exposure to Sodium Dichromate in Iraq has seriously destroyed his health? Is Russell Powell "putting the Iraq war behind" him?No, the New York Times wants to put the war behind it.Why? Because they sold the illegal war. Little liars -- and it went far beyond Judith Miller who, for the record, was woefully misguided but did not lie because she honestly thought there were WMDs in Iraq and that's why she commandeered that squadron while in Iraq to 'discover' the non-existent WMDs -- sold that illegal war. And it wasn't just the Times but it was the Times which never got accountable for their actions. There was the mini-culpa, the meaningless tiny item that might as well have been a blind item for all the weight it carried. And the promise of a later investigation into their errors. Where's that later coverage? Oh, right, they never did it.The New York Times would love to put the Iraq War behind it. First of all, it damanged their reputation in ways Jayson Blair can only dream of. Second of all, they can't sell a new war -- and, make no mistake, the New York Times always sells wars -- effectively while the Iraq War is still on people's minds. Look at the pushback the current administration is experiencing on their desire for war with Iran. What keeps getting brought up? Iraq. The lies that led to that war. So, yeah, the paper wants to put the Iraq War behind it. And the media at large does.But shame on all of them for pimping that when you have people suffering (including Iraqis but as John F-ing Burns explained so long ago, the paper's only concerned with Americans) and so many dead. Shame on them. It's not just that they lied to sell an illegal war, it's that they never owned the consequences of their decision to do so, let alone taken accountability.Marc Santora and the New York Times want to put the Iraq War behind them. How sweet for them. In the real world? William Cole (Honolulu Advertiser) notes that an estimated 4,300 members of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Schofield Barracks has received orders to deploy to Iraq "in the summer of 2010." Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) adds, "They are part of the three brigades and one armored cavalry regiment with 15,000 soldiers that the Pentagon said will be sent to Iraq next year." But don't worry, Marc Santora and the New York Times have put Iraq 'behind' them.Many Iraqi and American families don't have luxury of putting that (ongoing) illegal war behind them; however, the Times has never been known for having a sense of perspective. Among the many who won't be 'putting it behind them' so quickly will be Iraqi refugees. This week Human Rights Action and the Human Rights Institute at Georgetown Law Center issued [PDF format warning] a new report entitled "Refugee Crisis in America: Iraqis And Their Resettlement Experience." Behind them? "Across the United States, many resettled Iraqi refugees are wondering how, after fleeing persecution at home to seek refuge in a country that barely tolerated them, they have found themselves in 'the land of opportunity' with little hope of achieving a secure and decent life." Iraq is the MidEast refugee crisis with an estimated total of 4.7 million external and internal refugees (figure from the March 31st snapshot covering the Senate subcommittee hearing Senator Bob Casey Jr. chaired where the issue of the numbers was addressed at length). The report notes:

Under pressure from advocacy groups and increased reporting on the plight of Iraqi refugees, the United States ultimately began resettling more Iraqis. In the fall of 2007, Congress passed the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act, providing admission for Iraqis that worked for the United States or its contractors in Iraq, and allowing in-country processing for at-risk Iraqis. In 2008, the United States appointed two Senior Coordinators for Iraqi Refugees, one at the Department of State and one at the DHS, to strengthen the American humanitarian commitment to refugees with a particular emphasis on resettlement. In FY [Fiscal Year] 2008, the United States resettled 13,822 Iraqi refugees. As of August 31, 2009, the United States has resettled 16,965 Iraqi refugees in FY 2009, totaling over 33,000 since the 2003 war.

Fiscal Year 2009 is over. It ended with the month of September. So the study tells us that by August 31st, only 16,965 Iraqi refugees were granted resettlement into the US? Let's drop back to the
August 19th snapshot and Eric Schwartz (Asst Sect of Population, Refugees and Migration) State Dept press conference. He asserted in that press conference, regarding Iraqi refugees being accepted by the US, "The numbers -- let me -- I think I may answer your next question. The numbers for fiscal year 2008, I think are on the order of about 13,000. I'm looking to my team here. And the numbers for fiscal year 2009 will get us -- will probably be up to about 20,000." Click here for transcript and video of the press conference. About 20,000? August 19th, he claimed that. In the last month of Fiscal Year 2009 (which would be September), did the US manage to resettle over 3,000 Iraqi refugees? Great . . . if they did. But it's highly unlikely. Following the November 2008 election, Sheri Fink (ProPublica) reported on the issue and noted, "A State Department official contacted by ProPublica said, 'We really do recognize a special responsibility.' The official said that resettling 17,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal 2009 was a minimum target. 'We hope to bring in many more.' The U.S. will also be accepting Iraqis who worked for the US through special immigrant visas, a program [7] that resulted from legislation introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy (discussed [8] recently by Ambassador James Foley, the State Department's senior coordinator on Iraqi refugee issues)." They 'hope'd to bring in any more. 2009, when Americans learned the definition of "false hopes." So they most likely met the minimum target. What a proud, proud moment . . . for an under achiever.

The Georgetown study notes that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees created "11 resettlement elegibility criteria for Iraqi refugees" and that the US government signed off on them:

(1) Survivors of torture and violence, including sexual and gender based violence;
(2) Members of minority groups and persons targeted due to their ethnicity or sect;
(3) Women at risk in country of asylum;
(4) Unaccompanied or separate children;
(5) Dependents of refugees living in resettlement countries;
(6) Elderly refugees;
(7) Refugees with medical needs;
(8) High profile cases;
(9) Iraqis who fled due to their associations with U.S. or other foreign institutions;
(10) Stateless persons;
(11) Iraqis at risk of refoulement.

Despite the US government agreeing to these criteria, the study notes that "the USRAP [US Refugee Admissions Program] expects the most vulnerable refugees will find employment and become self-sufficient almost immediately. Thus, the United States offers resettlement to those refugees with particular vulnerabilities that can inhibit their ability to achieve self-sufficiency while expecting them to quickly become self-sufficient."

Avi Selk (Dallas Morning News) reports on the approximately 865 Iraqi refugees who are now in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas. Selk notes a study on Iraqis who have experienced torture and how they "and their family members" are very likely to have "suffered post-traumatic stress disorder". They're not seeking treatment for PTSD in part because they don't know what resources are out there for them. That's really a shameful comment on the government process for Iraqi refugees.

Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq, thinks he's Ann Wilson's lover talking to the refugees: "'Come on home, girl,' he said with a smile, 'You don't have to love me yet, Let's get high awhile'" ("Magic Man" written by Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson and recorded by the Wilson sisters' band
Heart). But Chris Hill is apparently the one who needs to try to understand, try to understand, try, try, try to understand. On the subject of repatriation, the report notes that "international humanitarian groups agree that Iraq is still not safe enough to allow return. And though some are returning, there is 'still no big flow back into Iraq.' The International Commission of the Red Cross informally estimates the flow at close to one percent of the total refugee propulation and believes that 'most come in to look and see if it's safe, if their property is still there, [and so], then quickly [go] back [to countries of asylum].' There are no credible reports of Iraqi refugees returning home in significant numbers."
Twenty families -- a small number -- were in the news this week for returning to Iraq. But they're not the refugees the report is talking about (or that were sold as part of
the Myth of the Great Return). Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reported this week that the approximately 250 people were exiles . . . during Saddam Hussein's reign. They returned from Iran.

The external refugees of the current conflict settle in countries such as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The majority of the refugees in Jordan interviewed for Jordan's study want to move to the United States but "[w]hile the situation in Jordan is quite bad for many Iraqi refugees, the news of struggling friends and family in the United States is causing more and more Iraqi refugees to wonder whether choosing resettlement is really worth the risk."

Along with a lack of coordination among the government agencies helping refugees who arrive in the US, other issues include lack of vehicles and poor or no public transportation in the areas they are resettled in, difficulties with the maze of the DMV in order to get a driver's license and cash assistance being far too small. The study notes, "As it exists now, the totalk package of assistance to refugees amounts to between just seventeen to forty precent of the federal pvoerty line. Although a family of six may receive up to $2,500 in R&P assistance to cover living costs for the first ninety days, a single adult receives only $425, or less than $5 a day."

Those are only some of the problems facing Iraqi refugees resettling to the US. We'll go over more next week but we'll note the study's recommendations:

• Refugee resettlement should be decoupled from U.S. anti-poverty programs andtailored to the unique needs and experiences of refugees. Refugee assistance should be increased from eight to eighteen months, and programs designed to promote the long-term self-sufficiency and integration of refugees should be better funded. A stronger emphasis should be placed on the core barriers to self-sufficiency and integration, including lack of English language skills, lack of transportation, and lack of opportunities for education and recertification.
• Funding for employment and social services should be tailored to estimates ofincoming refugee arrivals and secondary migration, as well as the unique needs of these particular groups. Funding should not be based on the number of past refugee arrivals.
• All actors within the USRAP must improve planning and information sharingcapabilities. Planning should anticipate and prepare for the unique needs of eachrefugee group prior to arrival. In order to tailor services for refugees, actors musttake into account important information on refugees collected in the resettlementprocess, such as health status and professional background.

On today's NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, the last two minutes raised the issue of Iraq. Had it been a longer segment, Paul Richter's assertions might have been explored by the panel. Along with the Los Angeles Times' Richter, panelists includes Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) and Hisham Melhem (Al-Arabiya TV and An-Nahar) with Susan Page guest hosting.

Susan Page: We've seen the campaign start in Iraq for the election of a new Parliament. Any surprises there, Paul?

Paul Richter: Well there's an interesting alignment that's taking place there. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has been the dominant figure in Iraq for a couple of years obviously, he's put together a coalition that is largely Shia but includes some Sunnis, some Kurds and a few other -- a scattering of a few other small ethnic groups. That's lined up against another Shia coalition which is pretty much solidly Shia and has -- actually has some backing from Iran. And so the question is going to be which of the two coalitions is going to prevail in the elections? I think from the US standpoint, it would be better to have the Maliki coalition prevail because it is nationalist but it claims not to be sectarian. You know, the US goal obviously is to have power sharing.

Susan Page: So we'll see perhaps a debate on how secular the Iraqi government -- the next Iraqi government -- will be?

Karen DeYoung: Well, and I think that, so far at leas, from the American point of view, this is not all bad. You know Maliki was a compromise candidate to start with. He was nobody's first choice. He ended up being the choice several years ago that everyone could live with and the census that he's developed into a politician and is trying to gather these disparate groups.

So Iraq's holding elections in January. Hmm. Thing is, the elections were supposed to take place in December. Thing is, to hold elections at any time, certain things need to be done. Is everything in order for January elections in Iraq? Uh, no. Not at all.
Mike noted Michael Jansen (Irish Times) report this week which explained, "DISAGREEMENT OVER Iraq's election law and a spike in violence threaten dissent and death ahead of the January parliamentary poll." September 30th, the top US commander in Iraq offered testimony to the US House Armed Services Committee. During the hearing, he was asked to explain the voting in Iraq.

General Ray Odierno: I'll wal -- Congressman, I'll walk you through in general terms. First, the el - by the [Iraqi] Constitution, the election is supposed to occur no later than the 31st of January. Right now, it's scheduled for the 16th of January. Again, pending the passing of the election law.

We'll stop on that point. "Pending the passing of the election law." If discussing 'progress' in Iraq on public radio, might be a good idea to know something about the election law. The same week Paul didn't appear to, his paper runs Saad Khalaf's "
Hope survived one Iraq bombing, but not the second:"

Every day, I worry that someone will plant a bomb on my car or I will drive into a suicide attack on my way to work. The other night at a restaurant, a waiter dropped a cutting board and I jumped. One minute Iraq could be the best country in the world, and in the next minute it could be the worst. I don't know what to do do. All my thoughts are about leaving the country. If I stay here with my parents, there is a possibility that I will face another attack and die. If I leave Iraq, I will lose my job and my family but I will probably save my life.

Doesn't sound safe even with all the spin. The elections may or may not be held in January. That uncertainity remains the only consistent in Iraq.
Vivienne Walt (Time magazine) notes this uncertainity and this lack of defined progress:

Among the key "benchmarks" for progress in Iraq set by President George W. Bush in January of 2007 was the passage of a new Iraqi oil law. But almost three years on, the controversial legislation setting terms for foreign investment in the country's oil sector, and for distributing its revenues, remains stalled in the legislature. And Iraqi politicians admit it's unlikely to pass before the current parliament is replaced following Iraq's general elections next January.

So we've had a serious complaint about NYT, a complaint about a LAT reporter (who's not really knowledgable on Iraq, hate to break it to you) and now we move to McClatchy where a friend this morning passed on
an article and lamented it was presented as a blog post. And now you can find Nancy A. Youssef leaving a comment on the 'blog post' which does, at least, give Sahar Issa a byline. But someone should have looked at Sahar Issa's writing and said, "This isn't a blog post, this is an article." And it should have been run as such.
What's Sahar reporting on? Women in Iraq. Which is the subject of so few articles. She went to "The Crossed Swoards" symposium in Baghdad's Green Zone and heard a lot of patronizing comments about women and what they could and couldn't do. No surprise, Iraqi military women like Rasha Ahmed tell Sahar, "The problem is not the women themselves. Many are capable and willing. It's the men. They don't take us seriously as professionals. They don't even train us as they do other men -- 'What a waste, where will you practice fighting? In your homes? Ha ha ha.' That's their attitude." Rasha Ahmed also tells Sahar, "We are pioneers. We will pave the way for other women who wish to take this path. We may be a novel spectacle in our society today, but if we prevail, the next generation will not laugh when they see a woman in uniform." It's really appalling that Iraqi women have been dealt such a huge setback, such an overturning of their rights, due to the US government's desire to get 'stability' in Iraq by installing thugs. It's a shame that even when the US administration changed, women were still not important. The symbolic value, for example, of a qualified and capable woman in the post of US Ambassador to Iraq would have gone a long way towards helping Iraqi women. It's disgusting. And Rasha Ahmed's comments about the road she has to blaze? Inspiring. In the face of all the setbacks, it's women like Rasha who have to do the work and know they have to do the work and, most of all, grasp that it's not going to mean a great deal in their own lifetime but it's going to help the next generation. As
Holly Near sings (and she wrote the song -- she wrote the song women live) in "Somebody's Jail" (from Show Up):

And I feel the witch in my veins I feel the mother in my shoe I feel the scream in my soul The blood as I sing the ancient blue They burned by the millions I still smell the fire in my grandma's hair The war against women rages on Beware of the fairytale Somebody's mama, somebody's daughter Somebody's jail

Holly Near has a new album she's done with emma's revolution, We Came to Sing! which Kat praised here. If you will download from iTunes or purchase or oder the CD, it's an amazing album worth having. (See Kat's review. This community only recommends those two options due to issues members had attempting to obtain the album.)

From the war against women to the daily violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad grenade attack left three people wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded three people, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded three people and a Falluja car bombing claimed 3 lives -- an Imam and two of his bodyguards. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds it was Sunni cleric Jamal Humadi who was "known for denouncing insurgents in Iraq". Reuters notes a Tikrit car bombing last night which left six people injured.


Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk.

Yesterday the
US Dept of Defense issued the following:

The Army today released suicide data for the month of September. Among active-duty soldiers, there were seven potential suicides. One has been confirmed as a suicide, and six are pending determination of the manner of death. For August, the Army reported 11 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, four have been confirmed as suicides and seven remain under investigation.
There were 117 reported active-duty Army suicides from January 2009 through September 2009. Of those, 81 have been confirmed, and 36 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 103 suicides among active-duty soldiers.
During September 2009, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were seven potential suicides. Among that same group, from January 2009 through September 2009, there were 35 confirmed suicides. Twenty-five potential suicides are currently under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 40 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.
Over the past year, the Army has engaged in a sustained effort to reduce the rate of suicide within its ranks. This effort has included an Army-wide suicide prevention stand-down and chain teach for every soldier; the implementation of the Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention; the establishment of both a Suicide Prevention Task Force and Suicide Prevention Council; a long-term partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health to carry out the largest ever study of suicide and behavioral health among military personnel; and more than 160 specific improvements to Army suicide prevention policies, doctrine, training and resources.
"Whether it's additional resources, improved training or ensuring those in our Army community can readily identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior, all our efforts often come down to one soldier caring enough about another soldier to step in when they see something wrong, " said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, Director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "Soldiers will be willing to do that if they know help is available, if they believe there is no stigma attached to asking for that help, and if they are certain that Army leaders remain absolutely committed to the resiliency of our entire Army Family."
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647, their Web site address is
Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.
The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at .
The Army's most current suicide prevention information is located at

Meanwhile Page Gardner,
Women's Voices, Women Vote, notes the traditional decline from the number of voters in a general election to those in the mid-terms. They're focusing on the Rising American Electorate (RAE): "The RAE is comprised of Unmarried women (the largest portion), African Americans, Latinos, other people of color and Youths (18-29 yr olds). [. . .] WVWV is committed to keeping the RAE engaged in the democratic process and is at the forefront of analyzing who will turn out to vote in the 2010 midterm elections. To see our work on drop-off voters and the composition of the 2010 electorate, as well as state by state analyses, you can click here and here or visit"

Caro (MakeThemAccountable) observes:I no longer have any respect whatsoever for the Nobel committee. Obama is continuing TWO wars, with no end in sight.How that can be considered giving hope for peace is simply beyond me. Obama no more deserves this prize than George Bush.The man never has to do a damn thing for people to shower him with praise and gifts.

iraqthe salt lake tribunematthew d. laplante
nprthe diane rehm show
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
nancy a. youssef
william colethe honolulu advertiserthe honolulu star-bulletingregg k. kakesakothe new york timesmarc santora
the dallas morning newsreuterszhang pengfei
the los angeles timessaad khalaf
holly near
make them accountable

Thursday, October 08, 2009

US Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs

This morning and into this afternoon (with breaks), the US Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing on chemical exposure. The witnesses included those who had been exposed while serving in Iraq (and the sister of an Iraq War veteran who died) and people whose families were exposed to chemicals on bases.

Jay Rockefeller probably did the best job on the committee but all the senators did a strong job. Including the Ranking Member who is a Republican. I can't think of his name. Okay, I just asked C.I. and was told it was Senator Richard Burr. Even Burr did a strong job. But Rockefeller was the strongest and not afraid to say how angry the whole thing made him.

He also noted the curious timing of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki responding with a letter today, on the day of the hearing.

Burr may have been as strong as Rockefeller but Burr was talking about chemistry and I could follow in 'chemical exposure is bad' way. But it did get a bit too in depth for me at times.

We heard from a man who developed breast cancer because he was born on a military base. We heard from a woman whose teenage son saw his entire health crater due to exposure to chemicals while they lived on a base. We heard from a woman whose brother was exposed to chemicals while serving in Iraq and he was told it was all in his head by the VA. He had to go to a private hospital to get a correct diagnosis. And he passed away, in great physical pain. And that was a tear jerker story, I don't know how anyone listening could have not been touched.

Then there was Russell Powell who has testified at a few of these before. He seemed a lot better today. For example, his throat usually bothers him throughout his testimony but I don't remember him having to clear his throat repeatedly. I would love to believe that means he's recovering but I'll just take it to mean he had a good day. (And I'm sure that addressing his exposure to those chemicals -- especially now as they try to find others who were exposed -- helps him because he's obviously someone who takes service very seriously.)

Okay, last night Cedric and Wally did their humor joint-post and the rest of us did our theme post on Aimee Mann's songs. Here are the links:

Cedric's Big Mix
World tour
9 hours ago

The Daily Jot
9 hours ago

Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
Little bombs
10 hours ago

Mikey Likes It!
10 hours ago

Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude
no 1 is watching you now
10 hours ago

I Can't Get My Head Around It
10 hours ago

Trina's Kitchen
Will She Just Fall Down?
10 hours ago

Ruth's Report
I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas
10 hours ago

Oh Boy It Never Ends
Goodbye Caroline
10 hours ago

Like Maria Said Paz
J For Jules
10 hours ago

Ann's Mega Dub
That's Just What You Are
10 hours ago

Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
Freeway Medicine Wheel
13 hours ago

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, October 8, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Senate explores military chemcial exposures that put people at risk, Senator Jay Rockefeller notes of the miltiary and VA's 'response,' "And I don't get it, why they don't learn?", an update on War Criminal Steven D. Green, and more.

Today the US Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, chaired by Senator Daniel Akaka, held a hearing entitled "VA and DoD Response to Certain Military Exposures." We're going to jump into the first panel -- well into it -- and then work a bit backwards. Imagine yourself infected or exposed to a substance that puts your life in danger. Imagine that your government put you at risk and/or hid the risk. After the exposure is known of, how's the government contacting you, getting the word out?

Senator Daniel Akaka: Many of you have given heart-felt testimony regarding some very, very personal issues that have effected your lives. I know I speak for the entire committee -- members of this committee -- when I say that we appreciate your here today. I'd like to ask my question to four of our witness: Mr. Partain, Ms. Pennington, Ms. Paganelli and Mr. Powell. Are you satisfied with the military's response to each of the exposures your or your family member was effected by including high-risk list -- high-risk health problems? Mr. Partain?

Michael Partain: As far as the military's response to my exposures at Camp Lejeune, I would say no. I was diagnosed with male breast cancer in April 2007. My wife found the disease when she gave me a huge before bed one night. Two months later, I discovered that I had been exposed in the womb while at Camp Lejeune. I had no knowledge of my exposures until then. It just happened to be -- my father was watching a newscast and saw a hearing about Camp Lejeune and that's how I became aware of this.

Senator Daniel Akaka: Ms. Pennington?

Stacy Pennington: We-we were disappointed actually with the doctors at actually Duke University for orally citing the reasons for my brother's aggressive AML [Acute Myelogenous Leukemia]. When pushed again, they admitted it was definitely due to chemical exposure but they couldn't prove it. And there is some pushback that they are receiving from the military there at Fort Bragg. And I don't know the details to that. They wouldn't elicit any further. I can tell you the [Matt] Bumpus family, no, has not received any assistance from the VA or military because Matt ended his service one year after -- or the disease came to light one year after his service. So the VA has harshly denied the connection between the AML and his service in Iraq and where he was stationed in Balad. So, no, they are not receiving any benefits from the VA or military and are completely dissatisfied.

Senator Daniel Akaka: Thank you. Ms. Paganelli.

Laurie Paganelli: Thank you. I would say on behalf of [US Naval Air Facility] Atsugi residents and past Atsugi residents, "no," because I really strongly believe there needs to be a accurate registry and so many families are not informed. I just really would like there to be a registry for these families and benefits for those who, further down the line, need them. Some acknowledgment for that. Thank you.

Senator Daniel Akaka: Thank you. Mr. Powell?

Russell Powell: I think that the Army did, or the Department of Defense did kind of lack in acknowledgment that we were even exposed later, about five years later. after we returned home. And it was just kind of an eye opener. So that's kind of -- I'll tell you like this. We go to the VA and the VA has no idea what's going on with us but they still are kind of timid on what to say -- whether it's exposure or anything like that. They're just -- are trying to back away from us. So we're all pretty disappointed. We're on a registry but the registry, to us, doesn't -- still doesn't say "You guys were exposed." Or a lot of soldiers try to put in claims for the chemical exposure get denied.

They were not informed. They were not informed at all. The first panel was composed of those four plus Colorado State University's John R. Nuckols, University of South Carolina's Charles Feigley, Dr. Robert F. Miller and Herman Gibb who has a PhD. We're focusing on the four witnesses already quoted above.

Michael Partain's parents were stationed at Camp Lejeune. His mother became pregnant there, he was born on base. Camp Lejeune residents "were exposed to high levels of tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TC), dichloroethylene (DCE), benzene and vinyl chloride in the tap water provided to my family by the Marine Corps." In his testimony, Partain discussed the song-and-dance and outright lies between 1981 through November December 198 and, "The misrepresentation did not end with the public and the media, it extended to the EPA. On November 1, 1985, there was a meeting at Camp Lejeune between base officials and EPA representatives. During this meeting, base officials including Robert Alexander, told the EPA that the contamination had not reached the distribution plants. Three years later, another base official, Assistant Chief of Staff Facilities, Col Thomas J. Dalzell was quoted in the media that prior to 1983: 'At that time, we were not aware of any of these particular compounds that might have been in the ground water and we have no information that anyone's health was in any danger at that time'." Again, among the many health problems that Michael Partain faced as a result of his exposure to these chemicals was breast cancer.

Stacy Pennington is the sister of Staff Sgt Steven Gregory Ochs and was speaking on behalf of him and their family and on behalf Staff Sgt Matt Bumpus and his family. Her brother was in the military for 14 years and Matt for 8 and 3/4 years. Both men were deployed to Iraq.

Stacy Pennington: Both of these brave soldiers you see before you dodged bullets, mortar attacks, roadside bombs and suicide bombers. Eventually their tours of duty would take their lives. The ultimate sacrifice for a soldier, for his country, is death. However, their deaths did not show up in the manner you may assume. In Balad is the site of the infamous enormous burn pit that has been called by Lt Col Darrin L. Curtis, USAF and Bio-environmental Engineering Flight Commander, as "the worst environmental site" he had ever visited. Staff Sgt Ochs and Staf Sgt Bumpus were both stationed in Balad and war, as strategic as it is, followed them home. Death lay dormant in their blood and waited for them to return safely home and into the arms of their loved ones. Like every silent ticking bomb, it eventually exploded. On September 28, 2007, just months after Steve's return home from his third tour, he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, also known as AML. He spent the next ten months as a patient -- more like a resident -- at Duke University Hospital. Doctors at Duke said his aggressive form of AML was definitely chemically induced and, like Steve, both agreed it was due to the exposures he experienced while in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the doctors refused to go on record citing as the reason that they could not prove it. The aggressive AML that Steve endured was similar to bullets ricocheting in the body causing torturous pain. The graphic images embedded in my mind are of Steve's last screams for air as he was rushed into ICU. Steve waved goodbye to my husband. Steve, with very little strength, said, "I love you, sis" and my mom kissed his forehead and said, "We will see you when you get comfortable." Five minutes later, while in the ICU waiting room, the nurse came in to tell us Steve went into cardiac arrest and they were working on him now. My mom ran into ICU -- fell to her knees as she realized her son was dying. Screams filled the air as we begged God to keep Steve here with us. We know Steve heard us as tears were in Steve's eyes. Doctors and nurses pumped on Steve's chest trying to revive him. But I knew immediately he was gone. His spirit that surrounded my dear, sweet brother was gone. We were left alone with Steve's body for hours as we were all in pure shock. My mom looked upon my brother's face and wiped away the tears puddled in his eyes. And at that very moment, our lives were changed forever. Steve died on July 12, 2008. Two weeks later, on the opposite of the coast, Staff Sgt Bumpus would succumb to the same fate. For Staff Sgt Matt Bumpus, the ticking time bomb exploded with a vengeance on July 31, 2006. Matt was rushed to the hospital by ambulance with acute appendicitis. In Matt's own words, I quote, "The next thing I remember is hearing that I had been diagnosed with AML." Doctors declared that there was chromosome damage due to exposures he must have come in contact with while in Iraq. Matt ended his prestigious service to the Army one short year before the war zone chemical warfare showed signs of its presence. As if this was not enough suffering, Staff Sgt Bumpus' family was met by the VA with harsh claims of denial to benefits. This battle continues to this day as Lisa, Staff Sgt Bumpus' wife, is left alone with two small children to raise with no VA or military benefits for her family. The aggressive assault of the AML in Matt's body was taking claim. Jo, Matt's mother, recalls the haunted look in Matt's eyes as he revealed to her that the AML invasion was back. Matt's mother will never forget the discouragement and sadness that overwhelmed Matt as the realization that promises he made to his wife and children to provide for his family, to love and protect them, and that his sacred word would be broken. He knew now that the battle was over and he would be leaving his family behind. Tuesday, July 29, 2008, Matt once again entered the hospital with fever and septic infection that discharged throughout his body. Doctors notified the family that it would just be days before his demise. Matt was heavily sedated as the pain and incubation was unbearable. Nate, Matt's ten-year-old son, bravely entered his father's hospital room to lay on his daddy's chest as he said his final goodbye. Nate curled up by his dad and cried and cried. Despite Matt's heavy sedation, Matt too was crying. Matt, being a devoted Christian, appropriately passed away on a Sunday morning, surrounded by his wife, mother, father and sister as they expressed to Matt their everlasting love. They, too, were in shock and stayed with Matt's body as the realization overwhelmed them that Matt would not be going home. Matt died on August 3, 2008.

Later, with Senator Jay Rockefeller, Pennington would pick back up on this topic and note,
I need to tell you that my brother immediately upon return from his third tour in Iraq the end of April 2007, suffered from flu-like symptoms almost immediately. He went to Womack [Army Medical Center] Hospital at Fort Bragg, North Carolina three times. The doctors did exactly what you just said. They said, 'You have some type of virus." She explained he was sent home with Ibuprofin and, not until September and after "he had to get special permission to be seen by a private hospital, where the private hospital actually discovered that my brother actually had AML."

Laurie Paganelli spoke "on behalf of my family and as a representative for hundreds of Sailors, Marines and civilians who were unknowingly exposed to and have been adversely affected by the contaminated air, soil and water at US Navy Air Facility Atsugi, Japan." Her husband is a member of the US Navy and he and his family were stationed at Atsugi from 1997 to 2000. Their son Jordan was only five years old in 1997. Eleven years later, January 11, 2008 ("our lives changed forever") when their son "was diagnosed with a rare, vicious and highly aggressive form of cancer -- so aggressive, in fact, that by the time he displayed any symptoms, his cancer had already progressed to a Stage Four condition. The name of his cancer is Alveolar Rhabdo-Myo-Sarcoma, "ARMS" for short." He was sixteen-years-old and his parents were learning he had cancer and that his type of cancer does not have a high survival rate. He immediately went into treatment which included "twelve total weeks of radiation" and ended up on crutches "quite a contrast to the young boy who played at Atsugi Base and the high school cross country star he had been just months prior to diagnosis." The Shinkampo Incineration Complex on the base was releasing toxic fumes and chemicals. Starting in 1997, when Laurie Paganelli's family was stationed at the base, the Navy started to let a few people know of some of the risks. The limited risks the Navy was willing to acknowledge were further minimized by encouraging people to believe they were safe as long as they were inside when chemical plumes from the incinerator were visible in the air. She explained, "The Navy had knowledge that Atsugi residents were being exposed to Dioxin in the SIC's emissions by the early 1990s; and they knew what detrimental effects such exposure would do to the human body. As you remember, Dioxin is what made Agent Orange so toxic. So it's no surprise that, by 1998, the Navy recognized their liability and instituted a one-page waiver that did not convey information of the known long-term risk associated with SIC. We were all required to sign this waiver."

Russel Powell joined the army in 1994 and was discharged in 2001 and he then enlisted in the West Virginia Army National Guard. March 2003, he was deployed to Iraq. In Iraq, "1092nd Charlie Company was assigned as security for the KBR contractors. My duties consisted of battalion medic and supplied defensive positions and cover fire if needed to protect KBR contractors at Qarmat Ali Water treatment plant in Basra, Iraq." They were immediately confronted with the orange dust everywhere which coated everything and spilled out of open sacks, caught up in the dust storms which Powell estimated hit "ten times daily." They were not offered protective clothing or masks, nor were they warned that the orange powder was dangerous.

Russell Powell: After a few weeks of being at the facility, several personnel began getting lesions on their hands, arms, faces and nostril area. As a medic, I felt very concerned for the safety and health of persons exposed. I questioned of the KBR workers, I have forgotten his name, and he told me that his supervisors told him not to worry about it, that we were allergic to sand and dust. Shortly there after, there was another severe dust storm. I ate an MRE and my throat and stomach began to burn like nothing I have felt before. My nose began to bleed and I was nauseated. After this particular storm, I was severely sick to the point that when we returned to Kuwait City, Kuwait, I was told that I was not going out on the mission the following day. The following day, I went to the infirmary at Camp Commando and was seen by a Naval doctor. After a brief examination, he dismissed me as being sick and prescribed me Motrin and Tylenol. Approximately thirty minutes later, I went to a bombshell bunker to give myself an IV, a couple soldiers found me. I was delirious and coughing up blood. I do not remember anything until waking up the following day in the Kuwait Soldiers Hospital. My face and lips were burnt and my throat was sore to the point I couldn't swallow anything. I was there for almost a week getting antibiotics intravenously. The doctors had no explanation why I was sick or why my face and lips were burnt so badly. The day I was released from the hospital, I returned to Qarmat Ali with Charlie Company 2nd platoon. Upon my return to Qarmat Ali, numerous soldiers were complaining of the same symptoms I was experiencing. I prescribed those soldiers antibiotics; however, the symptoms persisted. At the end of June 2003, the Indiana National Guard relieved us of our duties. Our unit moved into northern Iraq. The nose bleeds subsided a little, but the nausea was still present daily. After leaving Iraq in April 2004, I went to the VA clinic in Clarksburg, West Virginia to talk to the doctors about my skin rashes and lesions, stomach problems and nose bleeds. The doctors were unable to determine what the cause is of these problems. In 2009, I received a letter from the West Virginia National Guard stating we were possibly exposed to Sodium Dichromate while serving at Qarmat Ali and the VA doctors believe that this could be what's causing my health issues, but because they know little about Sodium Dichromate, they are researching and trying to figure out the affects of it on the human body.

Senator Jay Rockefeller was thanked by name by Russell Powell and he's worked on this issue for decades. He was sharing in the hearing about twenty-five years ago when they were dealing with it with regards to WWII. He spoke of doctors with the VA who have ignored the problems or suggested "take an aspirin and go home or you've got a virus, go home, sleep, get a good sleep. It makes me mad. And what scares me is that I don't know if the culture has changed." He spoke of the frustration with the same situations repeating over and over: "And I don't get it, why they don't learn? And maybe I'm wrong but until someone shows me I'm wrong, I'm just mad." We'll note this section of Rockefeller's questioning.

Senator Jay Rockefeller: What fascinates me but angers me so much is that -- as I said, and you'll remember this, Russell, at our August hearing -- is there such a direct comparison between this and the Gulf War Syndrome? The denial on the part of the military, their refusal to not only respond to soldiers whose lives were being shredded -- couldn't sleep, couldn't keep marriages, couldn't get jobs, couldn't read newspapers because they were being told to take a pill, which had never been cleared by the FDA for animal use -- much less for human use, to protect them from what they thought Saddam [Hussein] was going to do and it turned out actually it was the wrong pill anyway. It was for the chemical he didn't have . And that's another story. But the refusal -- and I want to get into the military culture. Now I know the military is the next panel and I'm not going to be here in the next panel. But your a medic, Russell, and you're a good one and you've been through this and you come and you testify and you tell us about what you're going through and you've see the letter from [Secretary of the VA] Eric Shinseki that he sent this morning --

Russell Powell: Correct.

Senator Jay Rockefeller: -- which has some promise to it. He says he's going to give full pulmonary tests and, in West Virginia, we've discovered all of those people who weren't on the registry or weren't yet found. In Indiana, I'm not sure they have. They have a lot more of them but I'm not sure that they've discovered all of those. But when you got into that situation and you had the orange dust and you're a medic and you've got some stature and you go over to that place and you just lie down and try to give yourself an IV and all the rest of it, it-it says something about soldiers -- Well, first of all, it says something about the military's inability to deal with something that might either be embarrassing for them or for which they can't explain because they're busy fighting wars which is a rather large task. On the other hand, there are people who are doctors and who have medical responsibilities and they're not fighting wars, they're taking care of soldiers. There's something which prevents -- and I've heard this in other sessions about other types of problems -- soldiers taking on the military even as they suffer. And I want to talk about that for a moment. From your point of view, first of all, I understand the chain of command, I understand -- From my point of view, this is kind of a repeat, you went through this in 2003?

Russell Powell: Correct.

Senator Jay Rockefeller: And nobody discovered what you had until 2009. What-what is the culture problem we're dealing with here?

Russell Powell: Well the biggest problem is when you go to -- Or let me say this. I don't think the army knew fully -- was fully aware with the chemicals being on the ground through the KBR not actually providing-providing them with that information. And -- but the Army could have actually told us a little bit sooner whenever they did find out in August -- August of 2003. But they didn't tell any of the soldiers and there are still some of the soldiers that I've talked to who are government employees who just found out within a week that they were one of the guys that were exposed to chemicals and he's a government employee. And they're saying they can't find these gentlemen at and this is the Dept of the Army saying they can't find them. Well one of the officers, high-ranking officers from West Virginia was on an aircraft with him and this was a month or two ago. And still on that individual -- because I can't really tell you what he does for the government -- but, uh, he was talking to one of our generals and he told them that he was in the 1092nd Charlie Company. And the general just didn't say, "Well maybe you might want to look at this or look at that." And he was just dumbfounded until we linked up with that individual just through e-mails and trying to find all our soldiers because we're trying to do our best to find out where our people went and give them the heads up on their actual medical problems because a lot of them didn't have medical problems just didn't know why. And when you go to the VA or anything like that and it's so horrible because you say you're a medic and a flight medic and they kind of look down to you in a sense because they say, "Well you already know everything" or "Mister Know It All." That's how most physicians feel. And we're not even trying to do that, we're saying, "Hey, this is what's wrong with me. I'm pretty sick. I'm not -- I'm not faking a funk on you. I was doing medicine for a lot of years, I'm not trying to get over on you." And it's real frustrating because they're just brushing you off, brushing you off. Now there are a few doctors that are actually concerned and figure out the problems for mechanicals but most of them just kind of brush you off at the VA and it's really a hard obstacle to go through.

Senator Jay Rockefeller: Dr. Gibbs, do you have any thoughts about that? Why is it that people, strong men like Russell can't -- or they look down at a medic or they -- Some doctors are good, some doctors are bad. Whatever. For heaven's sakes, they knew they were going to send you to this camp, to Qarmat Ali and therefore they had to have been there. For the fact of there being some orange dust must not have escaped them unless they were color blind and so I don't understand that. There's a lack of thoroughness or a lack of concern or a lack of care. I mean if you saw the orange dust -- you now know and knowing what the world now knows six years later, it's not very complicated to me. They were entering a risky environment and chose not to know about it, not to warn about it, to take steps to clean it up or to do whatever. Now, Dr. Gibbs, I don't know if you have any thoughts on that?

Dr. Herman Gibbs: I think they had a significant exposure there. I mean, some of the soldiers described looking like orange powder dough nuts. And it was all over the ground. Statements of the soldiers at the previous hearing indicate that it was everywhere. Uhm, I think that -- and the bags read: Sodium Dichromate. It wasn't like guessing. So they should have known and it should have been reported and, again, I don't think there was a good understanding of what Sodium Dichormate is or what it's effects are. So I think there was a significant exposure that should have been addressed immediately as soon as they learned what it was. So I-I think that there was just, uh, uhm, I feel like it was dealt with uh, irresponsibly. I can't think of a better word.

Senator Jay Rockefeller: Well let me be -- let me be tougher about it then. Doesn't the military have a responsibility? And particularly when you're not in a huge situation which varies a lot. Like the Second World War, the First World War, you know, whatever. But you've got a particular type of territory where there are certain factors which are common for all that territory. Basra, I guess was where you were. And then there's this orange dust. I don't understand that. I don't understand why, if there are doctors who are in charge of the health, are they not in the deployment decision process in any way? Are they left out until somebody does get sick? Is there anybody here can answer that question?

Dr. Herman Gibbs: Again I think that the knowledge of industrial hygiene is uh we could do -- you could recommend pre-deployment physicals and post-deployment physicals and those kinds of things but if you don't understand what substances that you're dealing with those kind of physicals are not going to get the kind of information that you need. So you know I think this was um a lack of -- a lack of understanding of the industrial hygiene, of the environmental health. And then the follow-up to that was uh . . . You know -- It was just . . . sort of like "Don't worry about it, it's okay." And I think uh that, you know, that to me is just uh uh I don't want to say -- unconscionable> But I think it was uh -- This was -- This was a very dangerous substance, this was a very potent carcinogen, a very irritating substance. You don't have to look very far to find out about the effects of Sodium Dichromate. It's not some arcane chemical that we don't know about.

And, as Dr. Robert Miller pointed out, the military knew about it and issued a memo sent out for the soldiers exposed from the 101st Airborne [Fort Campbell] that said Sulfur Dioxide is not a problem it has no known serious side effects, it's not a carcinogen. They had measurements that the levels were toxic well above the military's baseline of thirteen parts per million" and a 62nd Brigade Medical Staff report that also insisted that the exposures were safe.

Iraq isn't safe. And the violence continued today . . .

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Yousifiyah roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives and left ten people injured and, dropping back to Wednesday, a Mosul sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 person and left "four of his family members" wounded and a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded three people. The Scotsman notes the death toll on the Yousifiyah bombing has risen by 2 -- from three to five. Reuters drops back to yesterday to note a Jalawla roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left four more injured.

Wow. Imagine what it would be like if, for example, we ignored either McClatchy or Reuters? Imagine if we ignored it when the Los Angeles Times updates a death toll. Imagine the crap-fest of a count we'd end up with each month? We do a monthly count now because there are too many damn lies. And we note, in the monthly count summary, that it's an undercount based on western outlets reporting. And anyone can click on any of those days and check our count. But what if we just went with Reuters? And what if we kept a 'toll' and what if we were cited by the New York Times and other outlets for our 'count' of Iraqis killed? That would be pretty pathetic. On our part and their part. And I'm not going to be nice too damn much longer. We called out IBC for their nonsense and we'll call out anyone else. This is where I'm nice and bite my tongue and that's the last time I'm nice. Next time I raise the issue, I won't be nice. When do I plan for that to take place? When the month of October toll is addressed. So the first day(s) of November. If you're an outlet and you're citing numbers, you better be damn sure of the count someone else is using if you're citing it. Or you better be prepared for it to get ugly because I intend to make it very ugly. Western reporting on deaths is an undercount. For a number of reasons including limited mobility on the part of those outlets and the fact that a number of deaths are never known by reporters. But if anyone's being cited as an expert on the count, they damn well better be using more than one source. And reporters damn well better know what they're citing. The Iraq War is one long undercount. I'm not in the mood to be part of that. This was the one warning. Come November, it'll be ugly. And we'll open with it.

In July, July 27th, Nouri al-Maliki ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf which led to at least 11 deaths and to 36 Iranian dissidents being hauled off to an Iraqi prison. They were kept there until yesterday despite rulings that they should be released. As noted in yesterday's snapshot:

BBC News reports the 36 have been released and returned to Camp Ashraf: "A spokeswoman for the group told the BBC they had been tortured in custody and were now being treated in hospital." Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) notes "An Iraqi judge had ruled three times they must be released, but officials refused to comply" until today and that the US "The United States recently called for assurances that camp residents would be treated humanely and not sent back to Iran." Tim Cocks (Reuters) adds, "The camp's residents and the 36 arrested on rioting charges had said they were on hunger strike until they were released. PMOI spokesman Shahriar Kia, speaking by phone, said the detainees were critically ill because of their hunger strike, which he said had gone on for many days. It was impossible to verify this claim."

Sebastian Usher (BBC News) reports the international protests will continue -- the hunger strike is ended -- until the United States and/or the United Nations takes back over the security responsibilities for Camp Ashraf.

Turning to the United States and war criminal Steven Dale Green.
May 7th Steven D. Green was convicted for his crimes in March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents (Kassem and Fakhriya) and the murder of her five-year-old sister (Hadeel) while Green was serving in Iraq. Green was found to have killed all four, to have participated in the gang-rape of Abeer and to have been the ringleader of the conspiracy to commit the crimes and the conspiracy to cover them up. May 21st, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead kicking in sentence to life in prison. September 4th, Green stood before US District Judge Thomas B. Russell for sentencing. Kim Landers (Australia's ABC) quoted Judge Russell telling Green his actions were "horrifying and inexcusable." As mentioned in that snapshot, not noted in any of that day's coverage (it came from a friend present in the court), Steven Dale Green has dropped his efforts to appear waif-ish in a coltish Julia Roberts circa the 1990s manner. Green showed up a good twenty pounds heavier than he appeared when on trial, back when the defense emphasized his 'lanky' image by dressing him in oversized clothes. Having been found guilty last spring, there was apparently no concern that he appear frail anymore.

Green was tried in civilian court because he had already been discharged before the War Crimes were discovered. Following the gang-rape and murders, US soldiers attempted to set fire to Abeer's body to destroy the evidence and attempted to blame the crimes on "insurgents." Having been convicted, Green attempted to climb up on the cross September 4th and play the victim.
AP's Brett Barrouguere quoted the 'victim' Green insisting at today's hearing, "You can act like I'm a sociopath. You can act like I'm a sex offender or whatever. If I had not joined the Army, if I had not gone to Iraq, I would not have got caught up in anything." He's a sociopath and even he knew you didn't rape and even he knew you didn't sexually assault a young girl. And he knew you don't murder. He knew you don't break into a family's home and murder them. He thought he could get away with it. We see how that worked out for him. As the Fayetteville Observer noted last month of Green's 'defense' that serving in the military made him do it, "Some things can plausibly be linked to military service: post-traumatic stress disorder, obviously. But there's no rape training in Army basic, no instruction in murdering unarmed civilians."

Last week,
Barrouquere reported that Green was assigned to the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. Barrouquere informs that Green's in "good spirits" according to his father (John Green) but they had their fingers crossed that he'd be assigned to a prison closer to the family in Texas. Yes, that is too bad. How unfair! Poor Steven Green. What were his actions again? Oh, yeah, Barrouquere reminds us, "raping Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, conspiracy and multiple counts of murder. [. . .] Green shot and killed the teen's mother, father and sister, then became the third soldier to rape her before shooting her in the face. Her body was set on fire March 12, 2006, at their rural home outside Mahmoudiya, Iraq, about 20 miles south of Baghdad." Yeah, the great 'tragedy' is that Green's prison wasn't closer to Texas. He can take comfort in the fact that many won't forget him . . . or his crimes. Asst Director of the National Security Branch of the FBI Arthur M. Cummings testified Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law and noted of the FBI's efforts with regards to international human rights:

For its part, the FBI is committed to supplementing the international community's efforts to advance human rights. Our mission is to identify human rights violators in the U.S. and bring them to justice for violations committed within and outside of the United States. We investigate violators for both human rights and traditional criminal violations. For example, together with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we investigated Roy M. Belfast, aka "Chuckie Taylor," son of the former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. Chuckie Taylor was found guilty in federal court on multiple counts of torture and violent crime offenses for his role in commanding the paramilitary Anti-Terrorist Unit in Liberia between 1999 and 2003. In addition, together with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division, the FBI investigated Steven D. Green, a Ft. Campbell, Kentucky soldier who was eventually convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering both the girl and her family.

Finally, we'll note Sherwood Ross' "
Internet More International-Minded Than mainstream Media, Journalists Say" (Australia.To News):

A survey comparing online and mainstream media finds that 27 percent of lead news stories in the former had an international focus compared with 16 percent in the latter.
"That's a pretty big difference," says Paul Hitlin of Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism(PEJ) of Washington, D.C.
Only five of the top 10 stories in media overall last year were international, compared to seven of 10 in online media, Hitlin told a conference of journalists and journalism authorities at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover(MSL).
The seven international stories that made the top online 10, he said, were Iraq, Pakistan, the Olympics, Afghanistan, the Georgia-Russia conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Zimbabwe.
For the conventional media---newspapers, TV, and radio---the campaign and the economy were "by far" the biggest stories, Hitlin said, taking up 51 percent of all space. Online, those two stories combined to make up 39 percent of all space.
To track Internet coverage, Hitlin says PEJ is publishing a New Media Index Friday mornings on its website,
Two characteristics of Internet activity, he said, are opinion columns and stories that are driven by small, but intensely interested, groups of readers.
"Articles that get the most attention from bloggers are not articles, they're columns," Hitlin says. "They're opinion pieces, very often New York Times columns." Paul Krugman or David Brooks of the Times "will write something, and those will become among the most talked-about things by bloggers."
"So they're starting not with a piece of reporting, but a piece of opinion, and then they offer their opinion on the opinion. It becomes cyclical, and people offer their opinions on the opinions, and so forth," Hitlin says.
Small groups of readers can keep a story alive on the Internet for weeks, Hitlin added. He pointed to an optical firm that sold eyeglasses for as little as $8 a pair that was among the top five online stories for two weeks in a row.
Hitlin said PEJ measures the popularity of a story in terms of percentage of links. "We're talking roughly 200 blogs linking to a story in a week makes our top list," he said.
Some Internet experts are giving their stories titles that "are unbelievably boring, and they do that on purpose," Hitlin said, "so that when people search (a subject) on the Internet, "their stuff comes up."
Jonathan Last, online editor of The Weekly Standard, another conference participant, faulted print media publishers for giving their material away for free online. "I think that's a problem (and) that a lot of publications are going to pay for that by going out of business."
"It just seems to me ludicrous that you have to pay, what is it, $59 to get the New York Times delivered to your doorstep, but you can access all of it for free online. Well, what are you paying for?"
Last went on to say, "I think the traditional media does general interest news gathering very, very, very well" (but) the Internet does general interest news very, very, poorly, because they don't do news gathering, they do news commentary."
What the Internet does really well, Last added, "is super-specialized technical discussions….if you're looking for a serious discussion about intellectual property law, or fisheries management, or stamp collecting, or scotch, publications are not going to do that very well. If you go online, though, you're going to find very small communities of very, very specialized experts who are not media in any way, they do something else for a living" and who conduct "high-level, very in-depth discussions which I think are super valuable."
Transcripts of the conference at MSL are published in the book "News Media In Crisis"(Doukathsan) and are available by emailing
The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is a 21-year-old law school whose pioneering mission is to inexpensively provide rigorous legal education, a pathway into the legal profession, and social mobility to members of the working class, minorities, people in midlife, and immigrants.
Through its television shows, videotaped conferences, an intellectual magazine, and internet postings, MSL - - uniquely for a law school - - also seeks to provide the public with information about crucial legal and non legal subjects facing the country.(Further Information: Sherwood Ross, media consultant to Massachusetts School of Law at Andover at ) #

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Freeway Medicine Wheel

You got a lot of money, but you cannot keep your bills paid
The sacrifice is worth it just to hang around the arcade
You found yourself a prophet, but you left him on the boardwalk
Another chocolate Easter bunny, hollowed out by your talk

You know it
I know it
Why don't you
Just show it?
You got a lot of money, but you can't afford the freeway
You got a lot of money, but you can't afford the freeway

Those are some of the lyrics to Aimee Mann's "Freeway" from her @#%&*! Smilers album. That's probably one of my favorite tracks for a number of reasons but what really put it over the top was that it was a complete surprise. It's a groove song and I really wasn't expecting that from Aimee at this point. But there's another song from the album I have to note as well, "Medicine Wheel."

The day you left and you called me bitch
I called you selfish, better pull that switch
Put my son on amphetamines
He came home crying and there's your proof
Crying but nothing but a missing tooth
You shade the truth almost every day
Phone calls at night, it's gonna be okay

She co-wrote that one, with Gretchen Seichrist, and it's a really strong song that you'd be surprised at how sing-along-able it is. Especially on the refrain of "Are you saddened baby under the bride, Are you saddened baby on Lake Street."

I reviewed the album here. It grows on me to this day. I still think I prefer The Forgotten Arm but this album has so many wonders that I might not be able to say that in another year. I always listen to it with a sense of wonder and awe. It's got a lot of layers.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, information about a US prison in Iraq emerges, the inquiry into the death of Iraqi Baha Mousa while in British custody continues, Senator Byron Dorgan calls for accountability in the exposure of US troops serving in Iraq to sodium dichromate, DoD's Inspector General agrees to begin a formal investigation into the issue, 36 Iranians are finally released from an Iraqi prison, and more.

Monday on NPR's Morning Edition, Jonathan Blakley reported on what journalist Ali Omar al-Masshadani experienced while impisoned at Camp Bucca.
Jonathan Blakley: At it's peak it's prison housed over 22,000 detainees in separate camps at the sprawling facility. Ali Omar al-Mashhadani was one of them. Ali Omar al-Mashhadani: Each camp had up to a thousand prisoners. Some of the camps have tents. Each one was air conditioned. Each camp had different kinds of prisoners like extremists or ex-regime officials from the Ba'ath Party.Jonathan Blakley: Ali is a 40-year-old journalist. His voice drops when he recalls his detention at Bucca. All of his memories negative.Ali Omar al-Mashhadani: We were isolated from everything. We didn't have a radio or anything. The Americans would sometimes bring us very bad news like a Sunni guy killing a Shi'ite or vice versa to make the prisoners hate each other.Jonathan Blakley: Following the US invasion, Ali worked as a cameraman for the BBC and Reuters and as a stringer for NPR. In the summer of 2005, he was detained without charges while videotaping a clash between US forces and insurgents in Haditha. He was released after spending three months at Camp Bucca.Ali Omar al-Mashhadani: We demonstrated inside because we heard about massacres or other bad news about the war, we'd throw apples and they'd respond with gunfire and dogs.Jonathan Blakley: Over the course of six years, Ali was detained no fewer than seven more times by the US military -- essentially, he believes, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time while holding a camera near US forces. Like many other detainees, he has never been charged. Today in England, the inquiry into the death of Iraqi Baha Mousa (while in British custody) continued. Baha died September 16, 2003, after being beaten so badly that he had at least 93 injuries. Iraqi witnesses who were prisoners at the same time Baha was (none of the prisoners were ever found guilty of anything) are listed with "D" and a series of numbers. There names are not given to protect them. D004 testified today. D004 testifed that Baha was being abused before they left the hotel that the British army hauled them away from.

D004: As for me, no, but I could see the late Baha. He was being beaten up.

Gerald Elias: That is Baha Mousa?

D004: Yes.

Gerald Elias: What did you see happen to him?

D004: I saw a soldier kicking him on the head.
Gerald Elias: How forceful or otherwise was that kick?
D004: It was enough to make him sound in pain.

Gerald Elias: Upon arriving at the detention center, D004 was hooded (at one point with multiple hoods) and the hooding continued for three days with the hoods removed once for a doctor's visit, once when they were given water and once when they were given food. He described the three days:

D004: The torture was beyond belief. All kinds of beating, swearing. They did it in an artistic -- they were trying to be creative in their beating of us. [. . .] They beat me directly on all my body. There were also kicks and punches and suffocating holds.

Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports on Tuesday's testimony which included an Iraqi prisoner explaining how "he was forced to drink the urine of British soldiers and described how his head was pushed down a toilet." This prisoner was the son of one of the owners of the hotel and is identifed as D005 and his father offered testimony earlier as D006. D005 explained what the British soldiers did to him (from inquiry transcript):

[. . .] he lowered my head to the opening of the toilet and asked me to stay as such, looking into the hole of the toilet. The smell was extremely bad because it had been an abandoned toilet, as far as I know. So I stayed in that position about an hour -- even more than an hour -- and it was such a scene, such an abominable scene and very improper. [. . . ] I felt I was not a human because a human who would be lowered to such a leave -- first of all, I felt inhuman. I felt a lack of respect, because the level of a man -- human being -- who was lowered to such an extent to foul -- to a foul level, this moved me a lot and affected me psychologically. [. . .] The stench was unbearable. When I lifted my head away from the smell, the soldier would hit me on the back with his feet because he was standing behind me. [. . .] This episode ended with beating by the soldiers and shouting, sleeplessness, I mean -- it was a very bad ending. [. . .] I was beaten by the soldiers whilst handcuffed, completely helpless, in pain, screaming, crying.On Monday, Ali Aktash gave testimony to the inquiry via videolink from Iraq and he explained, "I was detailed to go to Battlegroup Main firstly to look after the radio equipment there that I had been trained on and also to man the brigade net, which just involved keeping a log of radio traffic that was sent to Battlegroup Main." While working in the Ops Room, he overheard a conversation.Gerald Elias: All right. Let's see if we can just take a step back then and let me ask you about the conversation or conversations that you may have heard in that ops room which interested you. Who was present when these conversations took place?Ali Aktash: Okay, there was Lieutenant Crawford and Major Peebles was called into the ops room when they detained these men. Also there was a --Gerald Elias: Can I just ask you to pause a moment? Just pause a moment. When you were referring to a major a few minutes ago, was that Major Peebles or is that another major?Ali Aktash: Oh, no, Major Peebles, but there was another major whose office was -- he was the 1QLR major. There was another major, yes, there was. Gerald Elias: So when you were referring a few minutes ago to a major with an adjoining office, that is a different major to Major Peebles? Is that what you are saying?Ali Aktash: Yes, sir, yes.Gerald Elias: All right. So you are going to tell the Inquiry about something that happened when Lieutenant Crawford and Major Peebles were present in the ops room with you?Ali Aktash: That's correct.Gerald Elias: Yes, well tell us what happened please. What was the conversation that you heard?Ali Aktash: At that time my network wasn't busy. It generally wasn't that busy and I happened to overhear on the battlegroup's network that they had detained some people and Major Peebles was called into the room, and at some point the soldier on the ground asked, "Shall we commence the shock of capture?", and Major Peebles then said something along the lines of, "Yes, but don't go as far as before" and that caught my attention.Gerald Elias: Just pause there, if you will. Just pause. Major Peebles said "Don't go as far as before" or something like that. You say that he had been called into the room. Who called him into the room, do you remember?Ali Aktash: I don't remember. I don't remember.Gerald Elias: Did you hear any further conversation across the airwaves on this occasion?Ali Aktash: I don't remember, no. But then I -- because Lieutenant Crawford was no longer manning the -- their network at that time, I turned and asked Lieutenant Crawford what he meant, because once the soldier on the ground has said, "Can we commence the shock of capture?", Lieutenant Crawford then said, "Well, that sounds a bit ominous", which got my attention, and I asked Lieutenant Crawford what he meant by that and then he explained about the shock of capture.Gerald Elias: So what did Lieutenant Crawford say to you about the shock of capture?Ali Aktash: Well it's when they -- there's a procedure to keep the shock of capture going which I believe is used to help with interrogation. Gerald Elias: I'm going to stop you, Mr Aktash, because if you can listen to the question, I would be grateful. What was it, if anything, that Lieutenant Crawford said to you? You asked him what he meant by "That sounds a bit ominous", as I understand it. Correct? Ali Aktash: Yes, that's correct.At which point, they referred to Aktash's statement from May 7, 2004.Gerald Elias: All right. What I want to ask you about is the second paragraph. You see in the second paragraph -- you refer to Major Peebles in the top line: "When [he] had finished on the net I asked him 'How did you mean, what happened before?' or words to this effect . . ." That's what you have just told us about, isn't it?Ali Aktash: Yes, it is.Gerald Elias: Then you said this: "He said, 'They went too far and beat him up, they were in a state', or words to this effect. I did not ask and Major Peebles did not clarify this comment." Is that true? Ali Aktash: I don't recall exact words now --Gerald Elias: All right. Ali Aktash: -- but I can only rely on my statement. Gerald Elias: I understand. What I do want to ask you about is that you are here reciting in those paragraphs what Major Peebles had said to you in the ops room. Do you see how the next paragraph begins: "Later that same day, the exact time I do not recall . . ."Ali Aktash: Yes.Gerald Elias: ". . . though it was still daylight, I completed my shift and together with Sergeant Hitchins I walked with him to the prisoner holding cell. I knew that prisoners were being held in the cells as I saw that there were members of the guard of 1QLR milling around the holding cells . . ." Do you see that?Ali Aktash: Yes, I do. I understand what you're saying.Gerald Elias: Can that be taken off the screen please? What I want to ask you about, Mr Aktash -- if you can't help us further, you say so -- you seemed to be saying in 2004 that the conversation, if I can call it that for the moment, that you had with Major Peebles was on the same day as your visit to the TDF holding cells. Ali Aktash: When I gave my statement, it was in the context that -- the way the evidence came about was quite stressful for me and it -- at that time all I can put it down to is nerves and stress and I made a mistake. I'm quite clear now that it was the following day that I went to the TDF.They then discussed what he saw there. Ali Aktash estimated he saw eight prisoners whom he testified "weren't in good condition."Ali Aktash: Well, they -- firstly they were hooded with sandbags and they were making noises as if they were distressed. Also, I -- at one point one of the guards took off a hood and I noticed that they had bruising on their face. One of the detainees in the room to the left was falling over and having to be put back up again into their seated position.Gerald Elias: Just pausing there, do you recall, were they all hooded with sandbags?Ali Aktash: There was one guy closest to the door, the right-hand room, that didn't have a hood and was allowed to smoke a cigarette, and I asked about him too and one of the guards mentioned that he had already been through questioning. But I can't 100 per cent say if they were all hooded. All I can remember, the majority were hooded. [. . .] They were huffing and puffing a lot and groaning. Gerald Elias: When you saw one with bruising, you say, to the face because his hood was taken off, where was the bruising do you remember?Ali Aktash: It doesn't -- I can't remember specific. I just remember that there was bruising.Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left five people injured, two Zinjili roadside bombings wounded four people and a Mosul roadside bombing injured three people. Yesterday a truck bombing in Amiriya claimed multiple lives. Nawaf Jabbar and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report this morning that the death toll rose from 9 (listed in yesterday's snapshot) to 11.


Reuters drops back to yesterday to note 1 police officer shot dead in Samarra.


Reuters drops back to yesterday to note 3 corpses discovered in Shirqat.

Yesterday's snapshot included this: "Adam Lictenheld and Byron Moore (DC Bureau) are examining contractors and the way they US service members lives were risked in Iraq and a four-part series entitled 'No Contractor Left Behind.' Click here for part one." US Senator Byron Dorgan chairs the Senate Democratic Policy Committee ( I believe the August 4th snapshot was the last snapshot reporting on a hearing of the committee -- the committee's been mentioned since, but I believe the August 3rd hearing was the last one I attended). Dorgan's office has released the following statment from him:

There's an important development regarding the exposure of hundreds of U.S. troops to the deadly chemical compound sodium dichromate in Iraq. The Department of Defense's Inspector General has agreed to investigate the Army's response to that exposure. I requested such an investigation, in a ltter in August, along with six other Senators.
The reply we have now received is heartening. What happened to U.S. troops -- mostely National Guard men and women from Indiana, Oregon and West Virginia -- should never have happened and must not be allowed to happen again. They were exposed because of shoddy work by one of the largest military contractors, KBR, but the Army's deeply flawed response is just as troubling.
The exposure of troops to this deadly chemical compound was first revealed at a June 20, 2008 hearing by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC), which I chair. We found ample evidence that KBR dropped the ball multiple times with regard to the contract it held for assessing the site, cleaning it up, and getting it running again. It failed to inform the Army of the contamination until months after it knew there was a problem and after hundreds of U.S. soldiers had been exposed. It failed to clean up the site properly. KBR failed to warn even its own workers of the danger.
But the evidence suggests the Army's response was also highly inadequate and compounded the problem.
We found that when the Army finally got around to informing the soldiers, they consistently down played the seriousness of the exposure. When it finally got around to testing soldiers to determine the amoung of exposure they had experienced, too much time had passed. The test results were useless.
We found troops back home in the U.S. coping with illnesses consistent with exposure to sodium dichromate with no idea why they were sick. They did not know they had been exposed to sodium dichromate or that that exposure was life-threatening.
When I called the head of the Indiana National Guard after our 2008 hearing to tell him what we'd learned about the exposure of his troops in Iraq to the deadly chemical, he said it was the first he'd heard of it. No one at the Army thought to tell the Commander of the Indiana National Guard that his troops, while serving our country in Iraq, had been exposed to one of the most potent carcinogens in the world.
I asked the Army to review its response to the exposure.
The Army appointed a task force, which reported back, months later, that the Army had not only acted appropriately, but that its response had been exemplary!
We scheduled a second hearing to examine the Army's response ourselves. That hearing was held on August 3, 2009. We heard very little that was reassuring.
Following the hearing, Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Robert Byrd (D-W VA), John Rockefeller (D-W VA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) joined me in formally requesting an investigation by the Defense Department's Inspector General into the Army's handling of all this.
We now have a written request from the Inspector General's Office, agreeing to conduct an investigation and making clear it will get underway immediately.
Someone recently asked me what I hope will come out of the investigation. The answer is simple -- in a word, accountability. I want to know how all this happened, why it happened, and whose being held accountable for it. I want to know what is being done to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
I also want every soldier exposed at Qarmat Ali to be accurately informed, first, that he or she was exposed, and second, that the exposure presents serious health risks. I want every exposed soldier to have access to on-going health monitoring and, if they should get sick, treatment, through the Veterans Affairs network of hospitals. I want this exposure made part of the service file of every soldier who was at Qarmat Ali during this time, so doctors can proactively look for sodium dichromate exposure related symptoms. Time is of the essence in treating illnesses that result from sodium dichromate exposure. Doctors need to know immediately, and up front, that the soldiers was exposed.
I also want there to be no question about whether illnesses that result from this exposure are service connected. They can take years, even decades, to show up. If every exposed soldier's service record includes information about what happened at Qarmat Ali, there will be no question about whether a resulting illness -- no matter when it appears -- is service connected, and therefore, eligible for treatment at a VA medical facility. If an illness develops, time is of the essence in treating it. I don't want anyone to have to waste time fighting to establish that the illness is service connected.
War is risky business. Soldiers know that when they sign up. But there is no excuse for any of that risk to come from sloppy work by a U.S. military contractor. Nor is acceptable for that risk to be increased because the Army dropped the ball in dealing with the aftermath of that contractor's failure.
I look forward to the Inspector General's report.

For those needing additional information, December 22nd
Armen Keteyian (CBS Evening News with Katie Couric -- text and video) reported on James Gentry's developing lung cancer after serving at Iraq where he guarded KBR's water plant, "Now CBS News has obtained information that indicates KBR knew about the danger months before the soldiers were ever informed. Depositions from KBR employees detailed concerns about the toxin in one part of the plant as early as May of 2003. And KBR minutes, from a later meeting state 'that 60 percent of the people . . . exhibit symptoms of exposure,' including bloody noses and rashes." At the August 3rd hearing, Senator Dorgan spoke again (this isn't a new issue for him) about the need to document these illness now. That may confuse some people but during Vietnam, many veterans were left without the needed help and assistance because their illnesses and exposures were not documented. For example, those exposed to Agent Orange while serving n Vietnam? It wasn't until 1991 that Congress passed the Agent Orange Act. When Dorgan speaks of getting this in the files now and acknowledging it now, he's attempting to ensure that everyone is treated as quickly as possible and that no Iraq War veterans have to spend ten or twenty years lobbying Congress for a Sodium Dichromate Act. By that time, many people will be much sicker and many may have passed away. Many of the victims of Agent Orange were too badly damaged or dead by the time the Agent Orange Act was passed by Congress. The Senate's Democratic Policy Committee provides video archives of their hearings and you can click here to access that page. The issue goes before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs tomorrow. NPR's Keri Brown (All Things Considered -- Brown is reporting from WVPB), reports on the issue today and among those she speaks with is Iraq War veteran Russel Powell who explains how his life has changed since exposure to the chemical, "And I was a very active person and now I can't even be active anymore And it's tough for my families also because my kids look up to me as a coach and I can't even do that anymore. It's sad." Powell also spoke with Adam Lichtenheld and Byron Moore (DC Bureau) for their article and explained to them, "My nose would bleed for 5 to 10 minutes."

Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) reports this morning on a September 28th Green Zone incident involving four contractors of DynCorp International and Iraq's Baghdad Brigade in which a scuffle allegedly took place when the Iraqis stopped the Americans, shots were allegedly fired, "security contractors refused to get out of their Suburban, and the [Iraqi] colonel ordered a tank to run over the vehicle," at which point the contractors allegedly exited their vhicle and they were allegedly "cuffed and beaten." The US military and Embassy quickly worked for their release and got the contractors out of the country. (See, they could do a lot more for Iraq's LGBT community.) It should be noted that the line drawn in the US between the military and the contractors is considered arbitrary in the countries they're stationed in. The incident's a reflection of the climate Nouri's remarks have created and may be a portent as well. Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) cites the Serious Incident Report (and notes he covered this story before today) to add the following details: "The four bodyguards were then arrested and their weapons confiscated. They were taken to the Iraqi brigade headquarters, where they were 'repeatedly assaulted.' 'One soldier used an Olympic Barbell (45 lbs in weight) to strike Brandon Sene in the abdomen and lower back.' He is listed in the report as suffering bruises and lacerations. His comrades were struck with the butts of AK-47 rifles."

Still on the topic of assaults, Camp Ashraf is where Iranian dissidents live in Iraq. They have lived in Iraq for decades. Welcomed by Saddam. After the US-invasion, the US government had the US military protect them. They were declared protected persons under the Geneva Conventions by the US government. Nouri al-Maliki swore he would respect their rights. Nouri's a damn liar. 2009 saw the US hand over protection of Camp Ashraf to Nouri who launched an assault on the camp in July. As noted in
Monday's snapshot, for the third time in a row, an Iraqi judge ordered that the 36 Ashraf residents being held (and tortured -- according to the judge) by Iraqi forces be released. Nouri just ordered them moved to another prison. BBC News reports the 36 have been released and returned to Camp Ashraf: "A spokeswoman for the group told the BBC they had been tortured in custody and were now being treated in hospital." Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) notes "An Iraqi judge had ruled three times they must be released, but officials refused to comply" until today and that the US "The United States recently called for assurances that camp residents would be treated humanely and not sent back to Iran." Tim Cocks (Reuters) adds, "The camp's residents and the 36 arrested on rioting charges had said they were on hunger strike until they were released. PMOI spokesman Shahriar Kia, speaking by phone, said the detainees were critically ill because of their hunger strike, which he said had gone on for many days. It was impossible to verify this claim."

Keiffer Wilhelm apparently took his own life while serving in Iraq and allegedly due to repeated and non-stop abuse from those he was serving with. August 21st, the
US military announced that Staff Sgt Enoch Chatman, Staff Sgt Bob Clements, Sgt Jarrett Taylor and Spc Daniel Weber are all "charged with cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates . . . The four Soliders are alleged to have treated Soldiers within their platoon inappropriately."
Chris Roberts (El Paso Times) has reported that Keiffer Wilhelm "was abused by his 'first-line supervisors,' Sgt. Brandon LeFlor wrote in an e-mail. He is a spokesman for Multi-National Division-South in Basra, Iraq." We noted the case most recently in the September 24th snapshot:
"A loss in any family is hard to take,"
Shane Wilhelm, father of Keiffer P. Wilhelm, tells Cary Ashby (Norwalk Reflector). Keiffer Wilhelm died of "a gunshot wound to the head" in Iraq August 4th. It is thought he took his own life and that this resulted from abuse he suffered from other soldiers. The US military has charged four soliders in the matter and the military states a date has been set for the hearing, however, it isn't giving out the date. Ashby explains, "Shane and Shelly Wilhelm, Keiffer's stepmother, want to attend the hearing. The couple said Sept. 14 they're not sure if the military will allow them to attend or testify, but they want the chance to share their side of the story and the impact Keiffer's death has had on them." Marcia noted earlier this month that the First Merit Bank of Willard has set up a Memorial Fund for Keiffer Wilhelm to raise money for the family to attend the hearing (419-935-0191, Cari McLendon for more information and donations can be sent by mail to First Merit Bank, 501 Ft. Ball Road, Willard, OH 44890).Today Erik Shilling (Mansfield News Journal) reports that the military has deicded to toss out any murder charges which "means extended jail terms and dishonorable discharges are likely the stiffest penalties the accused will face." Shilling notes that Shane Wilhelm continues attempting to raise funds for the travel for himself, "his wife and an uncle" ($9,000 raised thus far)." The military states that if they paid for the father to attend, they'd have to pay for others to as well. But, point, Keiffer died while serving in Iraq and the US military made the decision to hold the inquest in Iraq. Once that decision was made, the government's next step should have been arranging for the flights to Iraq for the inquest for any members of Keiffer's family who wanted to attend. That is how you honor someone who served. Anything else is a slap in the face.

We'll close with Sherwood Ross' "
Journalists Says Use of 'Embeds' In War Slants True Persepective" (Veteran's Today):
Television reporters embedded with the U.S. forces that invaded Iraq "didn't actually report" the news but provided "color commentary" instead, a Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent says.
Even though some 650 journalists were embedded with U.S. troops, "we actually learned less because there was less reporting and because these people, in essence, saw their role as providing color commentary," says Christopher Hedges, formerly a war correspondent for The New York Times.
"They said, 'Okay, we see that tank going over there. Oh, look, there's a puff of smoke,'" is how Hedges described their role. They "did precisely the same thing that (sports) commentators do when they broadcast a football game."
Hedges said that he is not against using embeds but "when you rely exclusively on embeds for your vision of the war, you see, as we have in Iraq, the occupation exclusively through the lens of the occupier, and this gives a very distorted vision of the conflict."
The war correspondent's remarks appear in the just issued "News Media In Crisis," (Doukathsan) from the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. The work is the ver batim transcript of a conference held there last March on the changing profession of journalism.
Hedges went on to say that he does not allow himself to cover wars as an embed because "if you cannot report from among the vast majority of the powerless in a war zone (civilians) you end up unwittingly becoming a tool, however critical you may try and be of the occupation."
This happens, Hedges went on to say, "Because you humanize the occupiers and because you don't have any contact with those being occupied, you invariably stereotype or dehumanize those who are bearing the brunt of the violence."
Hedges said in the days preceding the U.S. invasion of Iraq, French intelligence experts tried unsuccessfully to get the New York Times to publish their findings "that there were no weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam Hussein was not reconstituting a nuclear weapons program, and that he had no links with Al-Qaeda."
The views of John Louis Brugier of French intelligence and Mohamed El-Baradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations, "were dismissed because they were not Americans," Hedges said, adding that at the time he was "intimately involved" with his paper's coverage of Iraq.
Even in the newsroom of the New York Times, "when I would come back from Paris…people would make jokes about the French, about their identity, their culture," Hedges said. "I think the New York Times was particularly susceptible to this because (the paper) looks at itself as a quasi-official organization, one which because of its power and influence, has been given the mandate to articulate the views of the elite."
Robert Rosenthal, director of Project Censored, and managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle in the days preceding the Iraq invasion, said he did not believe the articles on Iraq written by reporter Judith Miller of The New York Times because "many of them were single-sourced, and it was just too carefully being put together." Miller, essentially, reflected the Bush administration's views about the military menace Hussein allegedly posed to the U.S.
Conference attendees in general agreed that the Knight Ridder Washington bureau -- which was skeptical of the government's charges -- did the best job of reporting on Iraq.
Transcripts of the conference at the law school are published in the book "News Media In Crisis" (Doukathsan) and are available by emailing
The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is a 21-year-old law school whose pioneering mission is to inexpensively provide rigorous legal education, a pathway into the legal profession, and social mobility to members of the working class, minorities, people in midlife, and immigrants.
Through its television shows, videotaped conferences, an intellectual magazine, and internet postings, MSL - - uniquely for a law school - - also seeks to provide the public with information about crucial legal and non legal subjects facing the country.
The Massachusetts School of Law is an independent, non-profit law school purposefully dedicated to the education of minority students and those from low-income and immigrant backgrounds who would otherwise not be able to afford a legal education.
(For further information contact Sherwood Ross, media consultant to MSL at

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