Iraq snapshot - June 24, 2011
The Common Ills
Friday, June 24, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Katty Kay confesses the education system failed her, more reactions to Barack's bad speech, Scott Horton and Patrick Cockburn talk Iraq, Iraq War veteran Aaron Hughes talks about the disconnect ("And when service members get home and they realize that there's no one in this entire country that understands that and understands what they've gone through and wants to listen to them, when the media is continually talking about American Idol or some other pop issue instead of dealing with the actual issues -- that we are conducting two occupations currently, that we are conducting operations in Pakistan, that we are conducting operations in Libya and Yemen. We have service members on the ground in all of these countries and those service members are experiencing things and they are doing it as they believe on behalf of their country and their country doesn't even know it. The country doesn't even know what we do. And then we get home. And then there's nothing. There's no way to connect that. And that disconnect, that's the crime and that's the PTSD. That's-that's all of the trauma right there -- is the inability to understand what happened and why no one else understands."), Iraqis take to the street to protest, and more.
US President Barack Obama gave his ridiculous I'm-ending-the-Afghanistan-War . . . in-2014-if-I'm-still-in-office speech Wednesday. Yesterday historian and journalist Gareth Porter discussed the speech on Flashpoints (KPFA) with guest host Kevin Pina. Excerpt:
Kevin Pina: What has he offered? What has President Obama put on the table in his speech yesterday?
Gareth Porter: I'm afraid my analysis is not a very optimistic one in the sense that I'm afraid he's offering a scam which is very similar to that that he's undertaken in Iraq. And I say that because what he did in his speech if you really carefully read through it, there's a passage that really demands parsing in light of the Iraq experience -- where he talks about the "responsible withdrawal" from Afghanistan being similar to what we did in Iraq. By that, he's talking about essentially, you know, once he's withdrawn the full increment of the so-called "surge" troops, that is the 33,000 that he added as a result of a decision in 2009 -- in December 2009 --
Kevin Pina: Subsequent to George Bush's committments -- troop committments.
Gareth Porter: Well that's right. I mean, first of all, he put in an increment that the Bush administration had already agreed on, he kind of taking up the burden of the Bush administration, that is in March 2009. But then in Decemeber 2009 came the big 33,000 increment which now he's talking about withdrawing that by the end of 2012 -- sorry, not the end of 2012 but September 2012, excuse me. And that is not everything that the military and the Pentagon wanted but I calculate that it's about 80% of what they asked for. [ . . .] My concern is beyond 2012. He's completely, without any details going to manuever. What he's going to do about Afghanistan once the surge troops have been removed. And what he has said is that it will be, like I said, it will be like Iraq. There will be a responsible withdrawal. He says there'll be some withdrawal after 2012.
Kevin Pina: And a larger role for contractors?
Gareth Porter: He doesn't talk about that but we know that there are contractors in Afghanistan. But look, there's -- The big problem here is that what he's talking about is the potential for a perpetual war in Afghanistan. He's really conceeded to the military the idea that even beyond 2013 -- 2013 -- the United States will continue to have combat troops there. Now he's being very vague in terms of what the policy is going to be like afterr 2013. But it's clear if you look at what happened in Iraq that this is what's going to happen.
Dana Milbank (Washington Post) heard echoes of George W. Bush's "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" and also questioned the veracity of the claims Barack made:
"Drawdown from a position of strength" sounds eerily like the "return on success" phrase that George W. Bush used in Iraq -- and the similarities did not end there. "We take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding," Obama told the nation. "We have ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance."
To be sure, the president was characteristically muted in his celebration, warning of "huge challenges" ahead. His staff was rather less restrained; speaking under the cloak of anonymity, his aides held a teleconference Wednesday afternoon with audible chest thumping. "We haven't seen a terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan for the past seven or eight years," one boasted, finding "no indication that there is any effort within Afghanistan to use Afghanistan as a launching pad to carry out attacks. . . . The threat has come from Pakistan over the past half-dozen years or so, and longer."
So if there hasn't been a terrorist threat coming from Afghanistan for seven or eight years, why did Obama send tens of thousands of additional troops into a conflict that has claimed more than 1,500 American lives? And why is he leaving most of them there?
Justin Rainmondo (Antiwar.com) also sees questions the statements made and notes how truly illogical they were:
Ah yes, those glorious days of "unity" -- when no one, save a brave few, dared stand up against the war hysteria. When anyone who looked vaguely Muslim was attacked in the streets. United in hatred and fear -- what a grotesque nostalgia for our "progressive" president to give voice to! Like his predecessor, Obama has often praised this mystic post-9/11"unity," including twice in this speech, and therein lies the mark of the tyrant, who always welcomes the unthinking submission to authority wartime brings.
This war-narrative is getting threadbare, however, and has some significant gaps: suddenly, we are told that, seemingly out of nowhere, "our focus shifted," and "a second war was launched" – apparently all by itself, by means of spontaneous combustion. One hardly expects him to mention of the key role played by his own party, which stood by and cowered -- or cheered -- as George W. Bush led the nation down into the quagmire, banners flying. But the distancing act -- "by the time I took office" – is a little too glib: Bush gets all the blame for Iraq, and the decision to escalate the Afghan war is pushed off on "our military commanders." But isn't Obama the commander-in-chief?
Our president, a prisoner of history, bravely confronts circumstances shaped by others. He praises himself for making "one of the most difficult decisions I've made as President," the launching of the "surge" in which 30,000 more troops were sent to the supposedly neglected Afghan front. "We set clear objectives," he avers, and yet our ultimate goal was -- and still is -- obscured in murk: does anyone, including the President, know what victory looks like?
And in what may be the first editorial board of a daily newspaper since Barack's speech earlier this week to call for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Santa Fe New Mexican offers "Light? What Light? Bring 'em All Home"
The president couldn't have chosen worse words Wednesday as a framework for announcing a minimal troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: "The light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance."
Shades of Lyndon Johnson, linked forever to the "light at the end of the tunnel" he sought to show a press and public increasingly and properly wary of our war in Vietnam. That war, fought on behalf of a corrupt regime with our military's hands tied, would go on for another half-dozen years after Johnson's public-relations campaign on behalf of futility and 60,000 American deaths before we abandoned the place amid chaos.
Let's move on over to Iraq and let's start by noting The Diane Rehm Show (NPR). When Diane ignores Iraq on her Friday 'round up' of pretend stories and non-issue, it's disgusting because she knows better, she knows when the US is at war, it is the job of the US press to cover it. But Diane, for all her faults, was not a War Whore. Katty Kay was. The trash from England -- who forever thinks she's about to step into a time machine and be transported back to the 90s where she can Chris Matthews can cackle as they trash Hillary Clinton (Katty's always jumping at the bit to trash Hillary to this day) -- shouldn't be allowed on NPR to begin with. Truly, the media needed to get accountable after selling the illegal war on Iraq. Accountability would mean two-bit whores like Katty Kay weren't put back on the airwaves.
Of course if that happened, we wouldn't realize just what a stupid imbecile Katty Kay is.
There was Katty, in the second hour, avoiding Iraq even when National Journal's Michael Hirsh managed to work it in for one sentence. Katty quickly changed the subject. At the end of the show, Katty found there was time to fill. So she launched into China -- where no US forces are on the ground. Maybe Brit's shouldn't host American programs that the US government pays for if they're so stupid that they really think that after the violence in Iraq this week, China was the way to go?
But there was Katty, wanting to talk abot Syria and proving she's the stupidst and sorriest excuse for a journalist today.
KATTY: How nervous are people, Nancy? I mean, not just in Syria, of course, but in all . . . I mean -- uh, how many countries does Syria border? I can't count them, but it's right there in the middle of that area. And it's causing -- the ripples of what is happening in Syria are being uh watched very carefully from Israel --
Nancy A. Youssef: That's right!
KATTY: -- from Lebanon, of course, from Turkey, from Iran. They must all be watching what's going on there.
Do they not teach geography in England?
She doesn't know what borders Syria but managed to cheerlead the impending Iraq War?
Iran does not border Syria. Iraq, howevver, does. What a stupid moron. She wants to talk about Syria but doesn't know the countries around it. In 2002 and 2003, you couldn't escape Katty insisting that the US must go to war with Iraq. And today she doesn't even know that Iraq borders Syria. (And that Iran doesn't.)
NPR can't deal with Iraq these days and not just Diane's bad show, but all of NPR -- forty dead in four Baghdad bombings yesterday and not one damn story on any of their three major "news magazines" NPR airs daily. That's putting the Crock in the Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. Iraq does get discussed elsewhere, it can be done. On Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton spoke with journalist Patrick Cockburn about Iraq.
Scott Horton: My first question, if it's alright, is going to be about the sujbect of your book there, Moqtada al-Sadr, and the future of Iraq and whether or not that includes the American occupation after the end of this year which is the deadline for withdrawal in the Status Of Forces Agreement. I'm sure you're aware that the Secretary of Defense and others in the administration have made it pretty clear that they want Malki to "invite us" to stay longer. I just wonder, of course, you've always told me on this show is that Moqtada al-Sadr is the answer to that question. Is that still the case and is his position still the same?
Patrick Cockburn: If US troops remain then this is not going to be without opposition -- particularly from Moqtada, from the Sadrists. So, you know, up to now the assumption has been that they would not stay. I don't think they've quite taken on board that having some troops -- depending on how many troops -- stay, having troops remain and trying to be some sort of player in Iraq you know is going to create a reaction in the opposite direction.
Scott Horton: Well so I mean as far as the oversimplified math of it goes, is it still a matter of Maliki, the prime minister, needs Moqtada al-Sadr's support and Sadr will not support him if he makes this compromise and therefore he will not? Is it that easy?
Patrick Cockburn: No, everything in Iraq is sort of complicated because everybody has the ability to checkmate everybody else. I mean Maliki got back in because ultimately the Sadrists backed him. He got support from the US and -- excuse me [coughs] -- he got support from Iran. Somebody, an Iraqi leader, said to me, you know it's a lucky Maliki, you know, he's got support from the Great Satan -- which the Iranians call the US. And he got support from the Axis of Evil -- which is what the US calls Iran. Now he needed Moqtada to get back. He needed various other people to get back. He did deals. Now is he going to drop everybody say now he's back in and return to what made him so unpopular previously and try and sort of set up an autocracy. We don't know. He keeps sort of ducking and diving. But I don't think having a continued US presence is going to stabilize Iraq.
The Youth of Iraq continue attempting to save their country with protests demanding the basic rights owed alll human beings. Today's protests were called "Firm Roots Friday." The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Our Correspondent in Baghdad: Streams of crowds approaching Tahrir amidst pressures and hurdles imposed by heavily deployed security forces around the Squar while the crowds chant 'THEY ARE ALL THIEVES!'" Here for video of the Baghdad protesters chanting "'Jethab Nourie Al Maliki' (Nourie Al Maliki is a Liar)!!!" And they note:
Meanwhile Tony Clarke is a member of the House of Lords in England (he's Labour Party, for those who wonder) and he's penned "Obama must tackle Iraq's new dictator" (Independent of London):
Few could have expected it. Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, once the darling of bi-Partisan US administrations, today seems engulfed in domestic upheaval as the Arab Spring has shown no sign of abating in Iraq.
But rather than choosing to resign power respectfully like in Tunisia and Egypt, al-Maliki seems to have made up his mind to hold a firm grip on power using deadly force like fellow dictators in Libya and Syria.
No longer able to tolerate the weekly demonstrations by Iraqis in central Baghdad's al-Tahrir Square, and with widespread arrests failing to subdue the population irate over corruption and lack of basic services, earlier this month al-Maliki sent his thugs under the disguise of ordinary government supporters to brutally attack protestors demanding the resignation of his government.
Iyad Allawi, a former Iraqi Prime Minister and the de-facto leader of the opposition movement, recently launched a stunning televised attack on al-Maliki accusing him of running a new dictatorship in Iraq and owing his Premiership to Iran's theocratic rulers.
Will the cry for Barack to face reality get larger? Will Nouri continue to be the designated thug of the occupation?
Al Mada reports that Nouri spent yesterday blaming others for his problems including insisting that politicians and the media worked together to malign his 100 Days and that the 100 Days program he implemented was a success. As per usual, Moqtada al-Sadr issues statements of support for Nouri. He did the same when protests were really taking hold last February. Moqtada al-Sadr has apparently cast himself in the role of First Lady of Iraq.
Al Mada also offers a profile of Ayad Allawi based on anonymous sourcing and it paints him as depressed, considering ending political participation, weighing whether to make London home, etc. He is said to be depressed over the continued upheaval in Iraq and Nouri's inability to lead. Al Rafidayn reports on another political player in the mix, Ammar al-Hakim. The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq president is calling for all participants to continue dialogue and he cautioned against reaching the "point of no return." In related news, Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The head of the National Alliance Ibraheem al-Jaffari discussed today with Vice-Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq the most prominent question in the Iraqi arena and means of providing the best of services to the citizens. H called for an end to the dilemma with the security ministries and dialogue to bring viewpoints closer for national interests."
Reuters notes a Baijia home invasion resulted in the murder of 1 police officer and his wife and a children's doctor was kidnapped in Kirkuk today. Aswat al Iraq notes 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad and 1 clothing store owners was shot dead in Mosul.
In the US, an Iraq War veteran is in legal trouble. He is 26-year-old Elisha Leo Dawkins. Susannah Nesmith (New York Times) reports Elisha has been "in federal lockup" for a month with the government planning to deport him because of a passport application and his apparently not being a citizen. His attorney explains that Elisha was raised in this country and led to believe he was a citizen. He was never informed he wasn't. The US military considered him a US citizen and gave him a very high security clearance. The State Dept issued him a passport. Kyle Munzenrieder (Miami New Times) adds, "Dawkins applied for a passport in order to serve in Guantánamo. A question on the form asked if he'd ever applied for a passport before. He checked no. That wasn't entirely true. He had begun an application for a passport before deploying to Iraq but never finished the process. That single check on a box is why he now sits behind bars." Carol Rosenberg (Miami Herald) explains, " His lawyer says he grew up fatherless and estranged from his mother, staying with relatives in Miami, believing he was a U.S. citizen. He even obtained a Florida Birth Certificate to get a passport to travel to war as a soldier, with neither the Navy, the Army nor the state of Florida apparently aware of a two-decade-old immigration service removal order issued when he was 8 years old."
He joined the military, the US sent him into war. That should be the end of the story, he should be considered a citizen if he wasn't before. But that's not how the policies work. What actually is required is for him to apply for citizenship. And now that he knows he's not a citizen, he could apply but a conviction -- yes, a conviction on what he's being charged with -- would mean that he would be barred from becoming a citizen.
If anyone in the government really valued the service those being sent to war zones are doing, this wouldn't be happening. Barack Obama should be ashamed that his administration is prosecuting this case.
And he should be ashamed because as much as Elisha deserves to stay in the US and have citizenship, so do many others and Barack's done nothing on that issue despite a lot of pretty words in 2008 about citizenship for immigrants. Elisha's attorney might want to explore whether Elisha has PTSD. If he does, I don't understand how the US government could legally deport him and believe they would have to provide treatment immediately as well as drop deportation efforts.
Earlier this month, Aaron Hughes and other members of Iraq Veterans Against the War -- Malachi Muncy, Scott Kimball, and Sergio K -- appeared on KOOP's Rag Radio which airs each Friday in Austin (airwaves) and online (live from two p.m. Central time to three). This week, IVAW has posted the audio to the hour long discussion. We'll do an excerpt where they were discussing PTSD.
Aaron Hughes: 60% of the service members that are veterans of these occupations that have applied to the VA -- which is only a quarter of the service members that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan -- that's only a quarter of the service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan -- of that quarter, 60% of them are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Thorne Dreyer: Now what do we mean by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? I mean, back in the old days of war, we talked about people being shell-shocked.
Aaron Hughes: Yeah.
Thorne Dreyer: What -- As a clinical diagnosis, what are we talking about?
Aaron Hughes: Well the diagnosis changed. In the Civil War, it was Soldier's Heart. In WWI, it was Shell-Shock. And in WWII, it was Battle Fatigue. And in Vietnam, it was Combat Stress. And now -- now it's called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They syllables keep getting longer as George Carlin pointed out in a comedy sketch. But basically, it's -- it's everything from nightmares to anxiety, to depression, to anger issues. And they can be subtle. Like these-these issues, I think, you know for me, I was home in 2004 but it wasn't until 2006 that I realized I was dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when I had a basically a psychotic break. I lost it. And that was triggered by listening to 50 cal. rounds in a audio tape going off. And I -- I just disappeared emotionally and psychologically. But, you know, I think -- I think what a lot of service members don't realize is how deep these issues and how much they're underneath the surface. And that's why a lot of service members, they may even volunteer to go back on a third deployment like Malachi did and he can talk to you a little bit about that. But before he does, I just -- I just want to point out that the percentages go up every time somebody goes on a deployment. And these brothers that are going -- brothers and sisters -- that are going on their third, fourth and fifth deployment, some of them are never going to come home.
Thorne Dreyer: Malachi -- and you guys, when you signed up, you weren't signing up for -- you weren't expecting to be going back and back and back. I mean, that wasn't part of the deal. Tell us about that and tell us about your multiple deployments.
Malachi Muncy: Yeah-yeah. I actually volunteered for my second deployment. You know, I had a really, really rough first deployment. My wife had tried to kill herself and I didn't get to go home for that. My mother has another psychotic break and was institutionalized. My father died while I was deployed. I did get to go home for that. And on top of that, 36 hour missions and roadside explosives like you said and uhm -- So it was a really rought deployment. I didn't really get to take in everything, I couldn't compute everything. And so when I came home, I was cut loose pretty quick -- cut loose to being a civilian -- civilian-soldier, you know, National Guard. And, uh, got in trouble with the law for shoplifting. I was taking a lot of methamphetimes and anything that could get me up and going, driving fast, doing all sorts of crazy adreneline stuff and I ended up trying to commit suicide in October of 2005. And -- and after that event, I came to the conclusion that I needed -- I either needed help or I needed to get back to Iraq because all these problems weren't in Iraq, these problems were here at home. And so I volunteered to go back and they took me back and it wasn't a big deal to them that I had tried to kill myself. It wasn't a big deal to them that I had pointed a weapon at an NCO on my first deployment. They didn't have any problem with where I was mentally so long as I took specific meds and there was no oversight as to whether or not I took those meds. It was just, 'Here we have on this piece of paper that you're taking those meds. Good to go."
Thorne Dreyer: Is transitioning back one of the real problems because they don't -- they don't -- they prepare you to kill but they don't prepare you to, you know what I mean, let go of that stuff? Right?
Aaron Hughes: This is Aaron again. I would -- I would argue that it's not so much the transition home as it is the disconnect. This country isn't at war. The service members are at war. And when service members get home and they realize that there's no one in this entire country that understands that and understands what they've gone through and wants to listen to them, when the media is continually talking about American Idol or some other pop issue instead of dealing with the actual issues -- that we are conducting two occupations currently, that we are conducting operations in Pakistan, that we are conducting operations in Libya and Yemen. We have service members on the ground in all of these countries and those service members are experiencing things and they are doing it as they believe on behalf of their country and their country doesn't even know it. The country doesn't even know what we do. And then we get home. And then there's nothing. There's no way to connect that. And that disconnect, that's the crime and that's the PTSD. That's-that's all of the trauma right there -- is the inability to understand what happened and why no one else understands. In fact, that's actually the definition of trauma: It's an experience that you haven't processed and therefore you can't communicate it. You keep rewinding it in your head. You keep trying to relive it over and over and over again which is why you have nightmares, why you have dreams, why you have anxiety. But you can't because you never actually experienced it the first time. And when you get home, there's no one that's experienced these wars. And that's -- that's where the trauma exists.