CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O, DESPERATE TO IMPROVE HIS FADING POPULARITY, SUDDENLY REMEMBERED TRAGEDY CAN SOMETIMES CAUSE SYMPATHY.
SPEAKING IN COLORADO TODAY, BARRY O DECIDED TO INVOKE HIS GRANDMOTHER. THIS WOULD BE THE WHITE GRANDMOTHER. THE ONE HE THREW UNDER THE BUS WHILE SHE WAS ALIVE.
LIKE MANY A FAILED ACTRESS, BARRY O WAS UNABLE TO ACTUALLY CRY SO HIS MOMENT OF HIGH MELODRAMA FAILED RIGHT THERE.
BARRY O, HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU VISIT WHITE GRANDMA IN 2007?
TWICE. ONCE WHILE ON YOUR HAWAIIAN VACATION. STRANGELY, THOUGH YOU, MICHELLE AND YOUR TWO DAUGHTERS (WHO REPORTEDLY ONLY MET THE GRANDMOTHER ONCE) WERE ALL ON VACATION IN HAWAII, ONLY YOU VISITED. THEN CAME NEWS THAT SHE WAS DYING. AND YOU VISITED. OF COURSE THAT SECOND VISIT SHOULDN'T COUNT -- SHE WAS DEAD AFTER ALL.
BUT BARRY, WE CAN GO BACK THIS ENTIRE DECADE AND DEMONSTRATE HOW YOU NEVER VISITED THE WOMAN.
YOU IGNORED HER WHILE SHE WAS ALIVE, YOU THREW UNDER THE BUS TO SCORE POLITICAL POINTS AND NOW YOU WANT TO WHORE YOU HER MEMORY TO SELL YOUR GIFT TO BIG PHARMA AND THE INSURANCE COMPANIES?
HEY, BARRY O, HAVE YOU EVER LOVED ANYONE BESIDES YOURSELF?
Independent journalist Dahr Jamail (at CounterCurrents) observes, "Soldiers are returning from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan destroyed mentally, spiritually, and psychologically, to a general population that is, mostly, willfully ignorant of the occupations and the soldiers participating in them. Troops face a Department of Veterans Affairs that is either unwilling or unable to help them with their physical and psychological wounds and they are left to fend for themselves. It is a perfect storm of denial, neglect, violence, rage, suffering, and death." Dahr's latest book was released last month month and is The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. July 31st on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, a caller, Pamela, phoned to discuss a family member in the service who took his own life:
Yes. Good morning, how are you? Thank you for taking my call. I am responding to a comment I heard earlier and it really just like shot me in my heart. And the comment was that the suicide rates [in the US military] are skyrocketing and how this has to be addressed. And I literally like I said stopped dead in my tracks. I . . . lost my brother in service due to suicide. He was home on a leave and, uh, about to be, pardon me, to go back and to serve and, uh, was, uh -- the difficulty in getting the mental health services I believe that he needed -- I mean he was married with two children -- was most, most difficult and delayed and a long wait and this and that. And then the unfathomable happened and, uh, when I, uh, at times decided to share how he died rather than just say he died in the war and I would say he died by suicide the remark I would hear unfortunately was, "Oh my goodness, he didn't die a hero then." And-and I continually hear this and I guess I want to make a statement that how someone dies, um, should not be -- that -- that is not a definition of how they lived their lives. And here was a good man who gave and did so much for the community and yet because of how he died -- which you know is a mental illness health related, etc. etc. -- he is now being defined as -- not -- as a zero. And not being defined. And I think you know this-this suicide issue is getting way out of control and for every person that dies by suicide there are at least six to ten people that are horribly effected as well to the point where their mental health also, uh, you know, begins to fall apart and the whole mental health, how to get help, starts all over again. And I should say that the support groups for those that lose a loved one by suicide are now separated from regular grief groups and while attending one and sharing how my loved one died, people were going around the room, people said to me, "Oh my God, why is she here?" I've been asked to leave meetings because -- grief support meetings -- because of how my brother died and I don't think that's fair or correct or right and, um, so the issue goes far beyond the pain of losing a loved one and is extremely complicated. And, um, I wanted to share all that. And if ever anybody hears of someone that dies of a suicide please just say "I'm sorry for your loss" and ask about the person. And don't say anything cruel or unkind because, again, how one lives their entire life for 38 years should not be defined by a, you know, a irrational moment that effects -- that became a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
A caller named Mary also explained some of the stressors she sees (she's married to a service member) on that program (and there's transcripts of both calls in the July 31st snapshot). Moving to today's broadcast of The Diane Rehm Show. The second hour found Diane discussing the international news with Aljazaeera's Abderrahim Foukara, CNN's Elise Labott and McClatchy Newspapers' Warren P. Strobel. We'll come in on the Iran section where Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal -- the three American citizens being held by Iran -- come up.
Diane Rehm: And Elise what is the fate of the Newsweek journalist who strayed apparently into Iran?
Elise Labott: Well you have a couple of detainees. You have a Newsweek journalist, Maziar Bahari, whose been working in Iran, who's been licensed by the Iranian government to work and whose coverage frankly of the regime hasn't been all that critical and he's been caught up in this post-election crisis. He's-he's one of forty -- more than forty journalists that are being tried as part of hundreds of opposition leaders -- some of the most well respected people of the country like Shirin Ebadi, noted Nobel laureate. And there's been a large campaign by Newsweek to-to free him. And then you have three American hikers --
Diane Rehm: Hikers. Right.
Elise Labott: Three American hikers that were hiking in northern Iraq in the Kurdish area in the mountains and it seems as if they strayed into uh, strayed into Iran and were detained by the authorities. And after a kind of week or so of no news whatsoever, the Iranians finally confirmed that they do have them, they are in custody, there's been no consular access, no visits to them at all. What US officials are saying is it's prob -- they don't think that Iran is irrational in these situations and that eventually it will probably shake out like it did in 2007 when Iran picked up these three British -- several British soldiers, held them, milked them for all they were worth and then when the costs -- international outrage and costs of them were too high, they had this ceremony and let them go. So they kind of think that after these hikers, they find out that they've satisfied themselves that they really didn't pose any risks -- the Iraqi government now is getting involved saying, 'They were really just guests of our country and they strayed in, please let them go' -- that eventually, as they did with Roxana Saberi journalist, they will let them go.
Elise Labott: No, it was a member of Parliament, yeah.
Warren P. Strobel: -- that the only reason these three people could have strayed across the border is because they are part of a Western plot to keep things unhinged in Iran. But by and large, I think Elise is probably right that they will be released.
Warren P. Strobel: The costs are too high.
Elise Labott: -- have done it at a worse time. I mean there should be some sort of a warning on your passport not to go into these countries.
Diane Rehm: Yes, you bet. You bet.
Abderrahim Foukara: Yes, I mean regardless of this ball being kicked back and forth between the Iranian government and the United States government as to the nature of what actually happened when those hikers went into Iranian territory, I mean in these situations you inevitably have a new card to play if you're the Iranian government when it comes to negotiations. It just puts one added step on the road to negotiations between the Iranian government and the US government instead of cutting straight to the chase and talking about pressure regarding the nuclear issue, now the US government has this extra hurdle of the three hikers to actually clear before they can talk about any other substance.
Diane Rehm: And speaking of hurdles a new wave of violence in Iraq this week, Warren Strobel?
Warren P. Strobel: Yes, indeed. I think yesterday there was two suicide bombings in the Mosul area targeted against an ethnic minority -- religious minority called the Yazidis, 21 people killed. That's the latest on a string of these ever since US combat troops left the cities June 30th.
Diane Rehm: So since last Friday, we've had 150 people killed.
Warren P. Strobel: It's, it's a lot. And it's -- though actually, you talk to American commanders they think -- they predicted even worse once -- in other words, it's terrible, I'm not trying to minimize it in any sense of the word but there was a concern that there would be an even larger wave of violence.
Diane Rehm: So how is the Iraqi security handling this?
Warren P. Strobel: You know they -- they're doing better. You had this memo from the American colonel (Timothy Reese) that was published in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago saying the Iraqi security forces were just barely good enough and it's time for us to leave. Iraq is still very unstable and the big concern now is the fault line between the Kurdish areas and the Arab areas and the concern about a full scale ethnic conflict there which we have not seen yet, thank God, but it's a possibility.
Elise Labott: And also there-there, as Warren said, there really trying to fuel an already existing tension between the Arab and the Kurdish government in the north but also up until recently when we've seen these bombings in the north the bombing campaign has really been directed at the Shia and to -- and the bombings have just been horrific, they've been on food lines, you know, school buses, hospitals, funerals, really aimed at the Shia and trying to drag them back into a sectarian war. And the Shia by and large have been very patient. Their spiritual leaders like Grand Ayatollah Sistani have uh told them listen 'No retaliation, renounce violence' and this -- by and large they've been patient but I think people are waiting to see how long that patience will last and whether we'll see the militias come again.
This could very well be a Shi'ite effort to destabalize the area in order to weaken any claim the Kurds may have on the territory. We saw that before. Repeatedly. We saw it with the attacks on Iraqi Christians from the summer of 2008 through November 2008. And we saw, if we paid attention, that the ones blamed originally were the Kurdish peshmerga. The Shi'ites started a whisper campaign that the always-eager-to-please press ran with. But the peshmerga wasn't responsible for the attacks nor would it ever make sense for them to be responsible for the attacks on Iraqi Christians. It was the Shi'ites in that region with indicators that they were being fed/fueled from elsewhere in Iraq.
The Yazidis are not Shi'ite. If they were Shi'ite, they'd be part of the dominant culture and not a minority. More importantly, as per usual, the press can only see the big attacks. There have been attacks for the last two weeks. And those attacks have included attacks, again, on Iraqi Christians in that region. It's interesting how the press only seems to give a damn when the victims are Shia. It's interesting that they then pretend they give a damn because of the violence when the reality appears to be that Shia thugs controlling the government get press appeasement. Out of fear? I have no idea. I only know that Shia thugs have conducted genocide and not been called out by our allegedly free press and now when violence is being conducted in nothern Iraq against Yazidis, Iraqi Christians, Kurds and a host of others, the press can only see Shi'ite victims. It's very strange and very telling. Notice how Mayada Al Askari (Gulf News) covers the hundreds of deaths: "Kurdish villages, with mixed populations of Sunnis and Shiites, were targeted heavily. Nearly 3,000 kilogrammes of explosives went off near a small coffee shop in the forgotten village of Khazna, where poor labourers were killed." And the Shia are not monolythic. Frequently here we refer to the Shi'ite thugs (or the Sunni ones). We're referring to the government and militias. (Which are often the same thing for the Shi'ites.) And within the Shi'ite thug grouping, you have various divisions that can and do go to war with one another. A point that the Western media forgets as it renders the division it's helped to create (Shia v. Sunni) as a hard line that easily divides and which finds only one of two groupings.
Last Friday, Abderrahim Foukara hosted a discussion on the United States exiting Iraq on Aljazeera's Inside Iraq (link is video). The panelists were Thomas E. Ricks, Rend al-Rahim and Scott Carpenter. Rahim is an Iraqi and an American and she was the US ambassador to Iraq immediately after the Iraq War. Rahim was a very loyal supporter of George W. Bush and she got in some attacks on Joe Biden. Not a surprise. Rahim was among the exiles agitating for the illegal war. Long gone are the days when she could sit with Laura Bush at State of the Union addresses. Carpenter is with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Abderrahim Foukara: Tom, is President Obama in a pickle now having promised that -- during his campaign -- that he would end the war and withdraw US military forces from that country at a time when, on the ground, the situation seems to be somewhat deteriorating?
Thomas E. Ricks: I think it is deteriorating. I think security will worsen throughout this year and probably into next year. The fewer American troops you have, the less influence you have. The American troops have been pulled out of the easier parts first. Later, when the troop numbers start coming down -- they really haven't come down much at all, we're really at the same level the Bush administration had for most of the last six years -- when you start pulling troops out of the difficult areas that are less secure or where Iraqi forces are considered less reliable, I think you're going to see even more violence, more of an unraveling of the security situation.
Ricks went on to note that Barack "threw out a major campaign promise," noting that Barack promised to take a brigade of troops out a month from the time he took office and "if that were the case, he would have taken out 40,000 troops already. He hasn't. So he's thrown away a major promise and he's paid no political cost for that." Of Barack's alleged 'withdrawal' plan (it's not withdrawal and it's George W. Bush's plan), Ricks it wasn't the first one he'd covered, it was "the sixth one."
RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"