I hear the music coming out of your radio, indeed.
So Cathy Pollitt and I were off for some regular meet-up my husband and The Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel provided we stop for ice cream first.
I heard that last part, I agreed to it, but I hadn't really paid attention. My thoughts were elsewhere, wondering what exactly those two were up to. So, foolish me, if I thought about the ice cream parlor stop at all, it was to assume Cathy would be getting one or two scoops and then we'd be on our way.
After my explanation that the boast of 31 flavors was not encouraging patrons to sample each one in a single visit failed to get across, I resigned myself to the fact that Cathy was intending an extended chow down and hoped I had enough money on my ATM card to pay for this 'snack.'
So Peace Resister and Economic Cruelty knew one another? How?
I thought back to when I first met her and how excited she'd been. She was always in a dizzy state, true, but looking back, it seemed more than that.
How tight were they? And, more importantly, what exactly were they up to?
As faux liberals, they obviously should visit the same stomping grounds. But was it deeper than that and, if so, how deep did it go?
Those musings only took up a couple of hours and Cathy was still eating so I ended up doing my nails at the table and, when that still didn't provide Cathy enough 'quality time' with food, I began balancing my checkbook, dashing off 70 or so Christmas cards and, thanks to a patron at a nearby table with Berlitz tapes and a Walkman, learning to speak another language. Ogenki desu ka?
An ear drum shattering belch announced that Cathy had come up for air. It also knocked out the plate glass window in the front.
But no one behind the counter seemed to mind much and, looking at the bill, I realized that there was no reason they should. Made me wonder if we shouldn't hand Cathy a fork and knife and turn her loose on the national debt.
We hopped in a cab and headed northwest. Upstate, as Cathy had pointed out. But the cab was stopping.
Looking around, I noticed we were on West 15th.
"Yeah," Cathy said, digging through her purse for something other than a tip, "Upstate New York."
I explained that would be Albany, Syracuse, Rochester --
"Huh?" Cathy asked popping a roll of Lifesavers into her mouth. "What are you talking about?"
"Upstate New York! You said we were going Upstate!"
"We did. This is northwest of Manhattan."
I realized there was no point in arguing with Cathy Pollitt and that, clearly, for her NYC was New York, all of the state, and any place else might just as well not exist.
It was late and the streets were crowded with people, so I just trailed behind Cathy in the wake she created which was akin to a bulldozer clearing the roads after a heavy snow. I realized we weren't far from Greenwich Village and were, in fact, in the meat packing district.
"Gansevoort Market," Cathy corrected me. "Samantha Jones lives here."
That last part was added excitedly because Cathy was a huge fan of "Sex in the City" and Samantha Jones was a character on the show. Some felt too many "Sex in the City" marathons had warped what was once Cathy Pollitt's allegedly great mind.
I was flat on the sidewalk. So deep in thought, I hadn't noticed that Cathy had stopped dead in her tracks and I continued walking, bouncing into her and then off her. She helped me up.
"This is as far as I go."
"Where are they?" I asked her.
"One street over."
She couldn't walk with me one more street?
Remembering I had a Snickers bar in my purse, I pulled it out and waved it temptingly.
Cathy couldn't tear her eyes away from it, obviously mesmerized. She stamped her foot and cursed.
"That's not fair! I've taken you this far!"
One more block, I urged her, waving the candy bar, just one more block.
She explained it was on Little 12th Street and tried to snatch the candy from me.
"Take me there, Cathy," I said pulling back the Snickers.
"I can't!" she whined.
Little Twelfth Street, she explained again. Then said she was she barred from it, something about zoning restrictions. I was confused and must have looked it because she emphasized "Little" in Little Twelfth Street.
Feeling sorry for her, I tossed her the candy bar and continued on my way without her.
I was wondering up and down the street and had no idea where to look or even what to look for.
I was close to giving up when I heard something coming from what appeared to be an abandoned meat packing factory. It sounded like braying.
It was braying!
Walking closer, I peered through a window as I heard "Well I don't know if all that's true, cause I got you . . ."
Standing in front of a crowd, I saw my husband Thomas Friedman braying into a microphone, sporting a long, black wig and packed tightly into a spangled number, flesh rolls spilling out all over. There was a beagle standing next to him that also holding a microphone.
Looking closer, I saw that the beagle was actually Katrina in a Beatle wig and bob-cat vest, the Sonny to his Cher.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 21, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, it's reported that Dems will round out their year of selling out with promises to sell out even more, media discussions on PTSD, the 3900 mark hovers, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Travis Lupick (Canada's Straight) notes the season and, "It will be a lean Christmas for some Iraq-war resisters living in Vancouver. These former U.S. army recruits are waiting on refugee claims and are fighting a return to the U.S. that could include imprisonment. Brad McCall moved to Vancouver after abandoning his army company in September. He told the Straight that this Christmas was going to be different from those of his childhood in Alabama. There wold be no spending money on presents this year, said McCall, who is still without a work visa. But it's not all bad. 'I've got plenty of dinner invitations,' he added. 'There will be no lack of food for me.' McCall said that he would spend the holidays quietly, just hanging out with his Canadian girlfriend. He maintains that he has no regrets, including joining the U.S army. 'Now that I'm in Canada and I'm in Vancouver, I realize how little I did really know about the world,' he said. 'I had pretty much been brainwashed my entire life, not to realize the struggles that are happening all over the world on a daily basis'." The publication first told McCall's story in October when Charlie Smith reported on McCall's attempt to enter Canada September 19, 2007 only to be denied entry by Canadian authorities, "I don't know what kind of police officer he was. He put me in handcuffs in front of all these people that were watching that were trying to get into Canada also. I told them, 'Why are you playing the part of the hound dog for the U.S. army?' They didn't know what to say. They just started stuttering and mumbling."
On November 15th, the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. The Canadian Parliament has the power to let war resisters stay in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (firstname.lastname@example.org -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. Both War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist are calling for actions from January 24-26.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
Meanwhile IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan
March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.
"In the face of a scandalous health care system, failing schools, and a fraudulent endless war, we are as docile as tattered scarecrows in a field of rotten tomatoes. As for that war, you may have heard that a quarter of the heavily-armed 'shooters' working in the streets of Baghdad for the Administration's mercenary Blackwater foreign legion are alleged to be chemically influenced by steroids or other mind-altering substances," declares Bill Moyers on tonight's Bill Moyers Journal. That's from tonight's essay and you can catch it right now at YouTube. PBS is fundraising in some markets so if you're thinking of watching PBS programming this week, check your local listings to make sure that the program airs at its usual time. On WBAI Sunday, 11 a.m. to noon, The Next Hour will feature Paul Krassner and Sean Kelly joining Janet Coleman and David Dozier for a discussion about the season. Monday's Cat Radio Cafe (also on WBAI, from two p.m. to three p.m.) will continue the seasonal motif with Coleman and Dozer. And Wednesday (the 26th), CCCP returns to WBAI for their monthly broadcast. The Christmas Coup Comedy Players is original comedy programming created for public radio. It will air from two p.m. to three p.m. and feature Coleman, Dozer, John McDonagh, Marc Kehoe, Scooter, Moogy Klingman and (Wally's favorite) Will Durst. Remember WBAI broadcasts from NYC and for those not in the broadcast area, WBAI streams online. For those who may miss Bill Moyers Journal, remember it streams online and it provides transcripts as well. It is fully accessible for all news consumers. PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio also regularly airs tonight (again, check your local listings) and the half-hour program will be addressing the issue of being homeless as they probe a new program which provides apartments to homeless persons." This show is already posted online for streaming. NOW with David Branccacio has also selected their "Top 10 NOW reports of 2007" (currently on the front page of the website).
And lastly, Rory O'Connor examines what's being left out in the promotion of the selection for Time magazine's latest "Person of the Year" in "Time to Cover up?" (MediaChannel.org).
From media notes to media gossip passed off as reporting. Frank James (Baltimore Sun) notes an article that ran in an online publication we don't note (the 'objective' reporters that aren't). Grasping fully that the grapple with the truth at PoorLice andTicksOh and the truth always loses, it's equally true the website is a megaphone for the Jane Harman types so when they 'report' something, fully grasp that they may be attempting to advance something that's not set. They report that "Iraq fatigue" has set in among the Congressional Democrats not at the top of the House or Senate. This "fatigue" -- the laughable 'news' source tells you -- is from a number of factors including the desire to "avoid showdowns with Bush over the war, wherever possible". There have been no showdowns with the White House. PoorLiceandTicksOh then wants to talk about how "forcing" votes on withdrawal hasn't worked. What withdrawal? There's been no voting on withdrawal -- forced or otherwise. PoLiceandTicksOh may be advancing for the "Blue Dogs" (no surprise) but if their report is correct, then prepare yourself for issues such as "troop readiness," diplomatic escalation and the alleged benchmarks while the Dems new strategy will be "to push Bush to accelerate any withdrawals called for by Petraeus". That's not a strategy. That's cowardice and a betrayal of the Congress. Petraeus can give any report he wants (and we now all grasp it doesn't even have to be factual) but the United States Congress is the third branch of the federal government, a branch co-equal with the executive and judicial. The idea that a new 'strategy' will be to do whatever General Davey Petraeus says is an insult to the Constitution. Citizens elected Congress members and they weren't elected to turn over the powers to a military general. Could it happen? Anything could but Nancy Pelosi already has her record lowest numbers in the eighth district currently and she is facing re-election. If she wants to hand the seat over to Cindy Sheehan, she should go ahead and pursue this non-strategy. Sheehan is a serious challenger. It's not a vanity campaign and she actually stands for something. Katha Pollitt and others didn't grasp it before the polling but Pelosi, who looks so wonderful from outside the Bay Area, has been a middle-of-the-roader while representing one of the country's leftist districts. She's going to have to campaign to win the election -- this from the woman who called off her regular townhalls in 2006 after she flat out lied to constitutents that there were no plans for permanent bases in Iraq and, when challenged on that lie, tried to back peddle with, "Well, nothing's permanent. Nothing lasts forever." No, nothing does. Including Congressional terms. Something Pelosi's beginning to grasp.
We're going to stay on the Congress for a bit more. The following is the letter that Senator Hillary Clinton wrote last week (December 12th) to Secretary of State Condi Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Attorney General Michael Mukasey:
I write to express my deepest concern about recent news reports that the U.S. government has failed to properly respond in the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, a young American woman who claims that she was brutally raped and detained in Iraq by U.S. contractors. I urge you to take swift action to investigate these allegations immediately.
As I hope you are all aware, recent news accounts indicate that Ms. Jones, a Halliburton/KBR employee in Baghdad, alleges she was gang-raped by her fellow employees and then held under guard against her will in a shipping container in order to prevent her from reporting the horrific crime. She states that she was denied food and water during her detention and told that she would be fired if she left Iraq to seek medical attention. More than two years later, news reports state that no U.S. government agency or department has undertaken a proper investigation of the incident.
These claims must be taken seriously and the U.S. government must act immediately to investigate Ms. Jones' claims. These allegations implicate all three of your departments. If one of your departments has already launched a private investigation, I urge you to disclose your findings without delay. If no investigation has been started, I urge you to decide the proper course for an inquiry into these claims and to commence your investigation with the utmost urgency.
Click here for the PDF formatted letter. First, note that Clinton didn't just send the letter to Mukasey -- who, as AG, is over the Department of Justice -- it effects all three departments. (And more.) Second, Clinton led on this issue among women in the Congress and Clinton wasn't one of the women running for office in 1992 on the gender-quake and the rage of what was done to Anita Hill in 1991. Hello, Di-Fi, where are you? Patty Murray was among those women and she is circulating a letter similar to Clinton's (and also to all three department heads). Republican Olympia Snowe (who ran for the Senate three years after) has signed on to Murray's letter. But a lot of women were happy in 1992 to point to Anita Hill facing the all male Senate panel and say that's why we needed to elect them. Many of them got elected and many are still in office. Exactly what are they doing? (There's no reason to let the men off the hook but I am noting, for those too young to remember or those who forgot, the mistreatment of Anita Hill in 1991 fueled the 1992 genderquake which a number of female politicians were eager to ride the wave of. Of the male Senators, Florida's Senator Bill Nelson is among those being active on the issue. And, of course, it was a House Rep, Republican Ted Poe, who immediately sprung into action.)
Marie Tessier (The Women's Media Center) observes, "The Jones case is the perfect storm of competing public values. It is a dreadful reflection of a thriving American culture of violence against women. It is one odious long-term consequence of an ill-conceived war in Iraq in an era of troop cutbacks. It illustrates the fate of crime victims in the real world experience of criminal and employment law. Still, Jones, now 23, is an emblem of a new generation of women who have come of age expecting justice for sexual assault, and willing to tell their families, the media and the world about their exploitation. They intend to hold law enforcement officials and employers accountable for every violation of trust that has followed the crime. As employment lawyers know, Jamie Leigh Jones is, in the end, one extreme example among thousands of victims of violence whose jobs and careers suffer as a result. Experiences like hers at KBR are the reason that sexual assault is recognized as an occupational safety problem throughout the workforce by the Centers for Disease Control and the Pentagon, for example." Stephanie Mencimer (Mother Jones) zooms in on the possibility that Jones may not be able to sue KBR:
When Jones went to work for KBR in Texas, and later for its subsidiary, Overseas Administrative Services, she signed contracts containing mandatory binding arbitration clauses, which required her to give up her right to sue the companies and any right to a jury trial. Instead, the contracts forced Jones to press her case through private arbitration, which she did in 2006. In that forum, the company that allegedly wronged her pays the arbitrator who is hearing the case. For that she can thank Dick Cheney.At the time of the alleged attack on Jones, KBR was a subsidiary of Halliburton, the behemoth military-contracting and oil-technology firm. (KBR was sold off earlier this year.) So Jones is covered by the Halliburton dispute-resolution program, which was implemented when Cheney was Halliburton's CEO. The system bears the markings of Cheney's obsession with secrecy and executive power. On his watch, Halliburton, in late 1997, made it more difficult for its employees to sue the company for discrimination, sexual harassment, and other workplace-related issues.
AP explains that along with Jones, Tracy Barker (sexually assaulted by a State Department employee STILL employed by the State Dept even after he admitted to the assault) and notes of the third woman that Rep Poe spoke of, but did not identify, that she "was molested several times and raped by a KBR co-worker. After the alleged rape, her attacker was allowed to work alongside her. Military officers escorted him off the base when she complained, and she was fired."
On Iraq, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorializes regarding the military bombings by Turkey, "Turkey's air and land attacks on Kurdish civilian targets in an attempt to disable the Kurdish separatist group, the PKK, have been roundly condemned by both Iraqi and Kurdish governments. Not only was the Iraqi government not notified -- so that's how we treat soverign nations -- our own military commanders there were left in the dark, and Gen. David Patraeus is angry about how it was handleed. So now U.S. and Turkish officials are reviewing how the attacks went, hoping to 'streamline' the process furhter. Gosh, not informing two of the four concerned parties seems pretty streamlined to us." China's Xinhua reports that Condi Rice spoke with Ali Babacan, Turkey's Foreign Minister, Wednesday night via phone and that "during the phone conversation, Babacan told Rice that Turkey was pleased with intelligence sharing from the United States." In other news from the Kurdish north of Iraq, Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) reports that the region's prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, has stated that things "must be changed" or the Kurdish MPs will leave the 'coalition' (puppet) government which would destroy al-Maliki's leadership role (emphasis on "role"). Things? The oil law and the referendrum on oil-rich Kirkuk [whether it remains a part of the central (puppet) government or is folded into the Kurdistan region]. Also at the Telegraph of London, Con Coughlin provides (apparently unknowingly) the laugh for the day: the United Kingdom's new Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, states "the big difference between Iraq and Afghanistan is that Iraq has the wealth and resources to finance its own reconstruction, whereas Afghanistan has to reply on hand-outs." For those not in on the joke, that lie's been repeated many, many times before. Click here for the Institute for Policy Studies' "Wolfowitz Chronology" to be reminded of War Hawk Paul Wolfowitz telling Congress pre-Iraq War and after it started that reconstruction would be paid for with Iraqi oil.
War Hawk Down? Many hoped when John Howard was outed in elections and Kevin Rudd became the country's new prime minister. AFP notes that Rudd "was elected on a promise that he would pull out the 550 troops deployed in Iraq along with the British forces in the south of the country." In addition, Australia has approximately 1,000 troops stationed 'outside' of Iraq. AFP reports Rudd commented on a surprise trip to Baghdad today, "Australia will continue to support our friends in Iraq through navy deployment in the Gulf to assist in long-term security of Iraqi exports." Doesn't sound like Australia is "out" of the illegal war or that the new prime minister is planning for that.
While Democratic leadership may or may not be planning a coma for 2008 (you really can't call it caving after it keeps happening), it's worth noting that the number of service members announded dead since the start of the illegal war currently stands at 3896. That's four away from the 3,900 marker. With over a week left in the year, it might end with the marker being reached.
Perspective on the Democratic 'leadership' in Congress: The 3000 mark was reached December 31, 2006. And, in one year's time, nearly a thousand have died. The Congress held their first session on January 4, 2007. At that point the number dead was 3006. There was a huge shake-up in the Congress, for any who've forgotten. Democrats promised a lot with regards to Iraq and they delivered nothing. In the November 2006 elections, they had a sweep. They had hoped to win control of one house. They won control of both houses of Congress. Since their first session, 890 US service members have been announced dead in Iraq. Since they were handed control, Byron W. Fouty and Alex R. Jimenez went missing. They were part of a group that was slaughtered. (By Iraqis waived through checkpoints, for those who've forgotten.) Hopefully, they are still alive. But they went missing May 12th. (They are two of four missing since the start of the illegal war. Keith M. Maupin went missing April 16, 2004 and Ahmeda Qusai al-Taei went missing right before the November elections, October 23, 2006. Ahmeda Qusai al-Taei is the US soldier who married an Iraqi and was captured while visiting her in Baghdad, outside the Green Zone.) The count doesn't include the deaths from physical wounds following the departure from Iraq. Five service members are known to have died. The number is probably higher. This year three died, from physical wounds received in Iraq, after leaving Iraq: Jack D. Richards (July 29, 2007), Gerald J. Cassidy (September 25, 2007) and Anthony Raymond Wasielewsk (October 8, 2007). In addition there are the many who have come back with mental traumas and have taken their own lives. They aren't included in the count either.
That is what Democrats have to show for their non-action after the American people went to the polls in November 2006 to give them control of both houses of Congress with a mandate to end the illegal war. They have not ended the illegal war (they really haven't even tried to end it) and 890 US service members have been announced dead in Iraq since Congress' first session of this year.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that claimed the lives of 4 police officers and 1 civilian (seven police officers and one more civilian were also wounded) and the driver of the car was also killed, and an Al Salam mortar attack that claimed the life of 1 child (two more wounded).
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 people shot dead in Diyala province.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person was kidnapped in Al Touz.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy also reports, "The U.S. military and Iraqi police said one Iraqi police officer was killed and one marine was injured in an altercation at a joint outpost in the Jazeera area of Ramadi on Wednesday. The police officer died of stab wounds and the marine was treated for minor injuries from lacerations at a military hospital. The U.S. military said the incident is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Colleagues of the police officer said the man's throat was slit." On Thursday, Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reported on an event that left someone, assumed to be 18-year-old Waleed Khalid Khudhaier, an Iraqi police officer, dead -- Farrell noted that the event was under investigation (an Iraqi police officer and a US marine are thought to have been involved in a knife battle on a base and the police officer was killed) and that:
The incident is an embarrassment for the United States military, which has paised Anbar as a model for Sunni tribes and American soldiers cooperating to fight fundamentalist groups like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown militant group that United States intelligence officials say is led by foreigners. The death has provoked local anger and demands for legal action.
Today UNICEF announced, "An estimated two million children in Iraq continue to face threats including poor nutrition, disease and interrupted education. Iraqi children were frequently caught in the crossfire of conflict throughout 2007. Insecurity and displacement continues to cause hardship for many in the most insecure parts of the country and further eroded access to quality essential services country-wide." Among the many distrubing facts UNCIEF reports, we'll grab two. "Hundreds of children lost their lives or were injured by violence and many more had their main family wage-earner kidnapped or killed." Earlier this week, IRIN reported that "Iraqi women parliamentarians and activists are pressing for a new law to help the increasing number of widows and divorced women in their war-torn country" and quoted parliamentarian Nadira Habib stating that violence had created ("over the past three decades") over 1 million widows in Iraq but the country plans to cut subsidies in next year's budget, despite the fact that "country's social protection programme" already only provides the US equiavalent of fifty-dollars a month to those in need. Cara Buckley (New York Times) reported on some of the problems facing Iraq's internally displaced refugees and noted that you have to jump through a hoop to get new benefits in another area -- you must return to the area that turned you and your family into a refugee to ask them to take you off the role (one of the women interviewed by Buckley explained it was just too dangerous for her to return there) and then apply in your new neighborhood.
UNICEF also notes: "Approximately 1,3500 children were detained by military and police authorities, many for alleged security violations." Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) examines the realities of the US prison releases in Iraq and doesn't find 'happy' and 'pretty.' She tells the story of a woman (Leila Nasser) who sees her husband hauled away while she's six-months pregnant because he committed the 'crime' of sleeping on the roof. At least 15 months later, she waits outside the prsion for Mohammed Amin's release, waits with their one-year-old son Moubin that the father has never seen due to the 'crime' of sleeping on his home's roof. Fadel notes, "More than 25,000 Iraqis are now in US dentention facilities. The Jihad reconciliation committee of Sunni and Shiite Muslims had requested that 562 men be released. Last month, 48 people were released, but more were detained."
In other non-progress news, Reuters reports, "Iraq's powerful Shiite Muslim leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, has called for curbs on US-backed neighourhood patrol units, which are mainly Sunni, saying weapons should only be in the hands of the government. Mr Hakin, head of the biggest party in the Shiite-led government, praised the role of the patrols, known to Iraqis as 'Awakening councils', in contributing to a sharp drop in violence but said they should only play an auxillary role."
Finally, two things on the issue of the PTSD. The Army Times' Kelly Kennedy spoke with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) today about her recent reporting:
JUAN GONZALEZ: Your series presents a really fascinating picture of how the medical folks who dealt with some of these soldiers, the psychologists who dealt with them, reacted to their situation, and also how the commander dealt with being faced with an actual mutiny by his troops. Could you enlighten us about that some more?
KELLY KENNEDY: Yeah, I think there's--that's one of the key differences of this war. I'm a veteran myself, and I served in Mogadishu, and I served in Desert Storm. We didn't know what PTSD was--post-traumatic stress disorder. We didn't have mental health people we could go to while we were out in the field or while we were out in battle. We didn't talk about ethics. We didn't talk about how we were feeling or how we would react professionally to certain situations. And these guys are. They're going to mental health, and they're saying, "Hey, I'm upset about this." And the mental health people are talking with the unit commanders and saying, "Hey, maybe you need to pull your guys out Adhamiya," or "Hey, maybe your guys need some more rest." And they're certainly saying, "Listen, if you think you're going to act unprofessionally, you need to do something else. You need to take care of that." And I think that's huge. I don't think a lot of people understand that that's a big difference in this war, between the last war and this war.
And the reason they do that is because early on in this war we did have situations where troops did not behave properly. In Vietnam, we certainly saw it. For these guys to stand up and say, "Listen, we're not sure we can handle it right now," could be considered very courageous, in my mind. The commander, I think, also realized that, and he said as much, that he sees the two sides of the situation.
After Bravo Company's IED went off, Charlie Company was supposed to go back out and patrol the same area. When some of the members who had been patrolling with Charlie Company before the scout platoon went as the quick reaction force to the IED attack for Bravo Company, they were struck by how much it looked like the first IED attack that--the roadside bomb attack, and they reacted as if it were their own men, and they went right to mental health and they got sleeping medications, and they basically couldn't sleep and reacted poorly.
And then, they were supposed to go out on patrol again that day. And they, as a platoon, the whole platoon--it was about forty people--said, "We're not going to do it. We can't. We're not mentally there right now." And for whatever reason, that information didn't make it up to the company commander. All he heard was, "2nd Platoon refuses to go." So he insisted that they come. They still refused. So volunteers went out to talk with them, and then he got the whole situation. In the meantime, it was called a mutiny, which is probably a bigger word than should be used for it, but that's what the battalion called it.
And eventually, what they did was they separated the platoon. They said, you know, "You guys aren't acting well together anymore, so we're going to split you up, and we're going to have you work with other platoon sergeants, other squad leaders, and see if we can turn things around this way." But they also punished them, in a sense, by flagging them and saying that they couldn't get promotions and they couldn't get their awards for two months. So there was a feeling that there had to be punishment for these soldiers refusing to go on a mission, but there was also understanding that the guys may have acted properly in this case.
AMY GOODMAN: Kelly Kennedy, I think what is so profound about this story is the refusal of the men to go out. Were there women, by the way, in this unit?
KELLY KENNEDY: No, it was all infantry.
AMY GOODMAN: The refusal of these men to go out, because they were afraid they would commit a massacre. Explain that.
KELLY KENNEDY: Yeah. They're--I need to say this: they are good guys. I mean, I saw them take care of each other. I saw them take care of Iraqis.
When the IED, the roadside bomb, went off, it was so close to one of the Iraqi police stations that they should have been able to see somebody burying that. It was right in front of somebody's house, and nobody said anything. Nobody said to these guys, "Listen, there's a bomb here. We're worried about you," even though they had been going out and patrolling and doing what they were supposed to be doing, in their minds. So when that IED went off and killed their five friends, they're in--you have to understand, they've been living together for a year like brothers in the basement of this old palace. And it's--they're right on top of each other and going out and taking care of each other on the battlefield, daily firefights. And so, they're closer probably than anyone could be. And when they lost their five men, they--I think they gave up on the Iraqi people. If the Iraqi people weren't willing to fight for them, then what was the point? And they were so angry. They just wanted to go out and take out the whole city. They didn't understand why they couldn't finish up what they call the war, and the whole idea of counterinsurgency is that you're supposed to be building relationships, but they're trying to build relationships with people who obviously aren't that concerned about them. So this idea of a massacre was just--they were just so angry, they could barely contain it anymore.
And yesterday on All Things Considered (NPR), Daniel Zwerdling explored the topic of PTSD and noted the number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and being discharged without all their health benefits which means receiving treatment for PTSD is very dificult which is why there is a "call on the nation's leaders to declare an amnesty" and "restore full benefits to all troops who were discharged for misconduct or other behaivor after they returned from combat if they were also diagnosed with mental health problems such as PTSD." Ruth noted Zwerdling yesterday. And the December 17th snapshot contains links to the Army Times series.
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