Saturday, June 26, 2010

Barack's pal heads to the slammer






This Sunday is PTSD Awareness Day. US Senator Kent Conrad's office issued the following:

Washington -- In an effort to bring greater attention to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the United States Senate last night passed a resolution authored by Senator Kent Conrad designating June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day.

"The stress of war can take a toll on one's heart, mind and soul. While these wounds may be less visible than others, they are no less real," Senator Conrad said. "All too many of our service men and women are returning from battle with PTSD symptoms like anxiety, anger, and depression. More must be done to educate our troops, veterans, families and communities about this illness and the resources and treatments available to them."

The Senator developed the idea for a National PTSD Awareness Day after learning of the efforts of North Dakota National Guardsmen to draw attention to PTSD and pay tribute to Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, a friend and member of the 164th Engineer Combat Battalion. Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour in Iraq.

Earlier this month, Senator Conrad visited the Fargo VA Medical Center and met with physicians and social workers to discuss their capabilities for helping those suffering from PTSD. He also met with friends of Sgt. Biel and presented them a copy of the resolution designating June 27 -- Biel's birthday -- as National PTSD Awareness Day.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, accidents, and military combat. From 2000 to 2009, approximately 76,000 Department of Defense patients were diagnosed with PTSD.

"This effort is about awareness, assuring our troops -- past and present -- that it's okay to come forward and say they need help. We want to erase any stigma associated with PTSD. Our troops need to know it's a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek assistance," Senator Conrad said.

To learn more about PTSD and locate facilities offering assistance, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for PTSD at

Veterans in need of immediate assistance can call the VHA Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

That is this Sunday, June 27th. Toady, on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), second hour, the caller did what the host and guests couldn't: Raise the issue of Iraq. Henry from Florida was the only one aware that Iraq was the locale of an ongoing war. Others were aware of it as a 'fixed' reference point for Afghanistan.
Henry: Yes, thank you for taking my call. I have a simple question. Did George [W.] Bush not ask his generals when we would be getting out of these stupid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or did the generals not ask him, "Sir, when will we be getting out of this war that you started?" Because essentially that Republicans find it okay for us to be spending whole millions and billions on this war but it's not okay with them to spend on our poor people in this country.
Diane Rehm: Lots of folks have raised those kinds of issues.
Elise Labot: Well Henry raises an issue that's felt about a lot of Americans around the world about how much money we're spending on wars in Iraq, in Afghanistan. We look at the world economy. A lot of the US economy is in the toilet and we're continuing to spend on both these wars. However, both President Bush and President Obama spent many weeks and months talking with the generals about how to win the strategy in Iraq, in Afghanistan. The problem is that these wars might not be winnable. The US can leave the situation in a better place than it found it but maybe not win.
That was Elise Labot from CNN. That was all that was worth hearing. And sometimes, when it's pointed out how pathetic it is that Iraq's not covered on Diane's show, a little whiner will show up in the e-mails. (Friends with that show know not to. I'm not in the mood for this show right now.) And it will be, boo hoo, they have so many topics and they're winging it and blah blah blah. Since the Idiot Kevin Whitelaw outed Diane today, let me as well. On air, he says, "I forgot what you wanted me to say, Diane," in reference to what he was supposed to say. Diane curtly called on Moises Naim to take over. Point? That show's worked out in advance. Only real surprises are the calls -- and they generally know what the call's about before it goes on air (though some callers don't stick to the topic they say they're calling in about). Here's reality on how the show works on Fridays. Diane divies up topics and the guests begin searching (the web) for the topic. Then they speak into the mike on air and act like they did something wonderful. Ask any guest -- ask Roy Gutman -- and they'll tell you that's how it goes. Diane determines the topics ahead of time, assigns aspects of the topics ahead of time, and then the 'non-scripted' conversation takes place. And if you missed it Sunday, read "Only 30% of Diane Rehm's guests are women (Ava and C.I.)." And any whine Diane freaks, grasp that while Iraq was not a topic during the international news hour, Diane WASTED the international news hour with approximately seven minutes of talk about tennis. Apparently, Diane is hoping to move to ESPN in her tarnished years. No time for Iraq. 7 US service members have died there so far this month but Diane's not interested. Tennis? She's mad for it. It's all about priorities.
Priorities was the question. And isn't it curious that no one -- not the host, not her guests -- while talking about the money spent on the wars -- bothered to mention the numbers? Isn't that rather telling. Diane says a lot of people are talking about this. But apparently not on her show. Not even today. From Monday's snapshot:
Moving over to the finanical cost of war, at the start of this month, the Institute for Public Accuracy offered a dollar amount for the financial costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars: $1 trillion dollars. BBC notes that the costs for the UK government in fighting the two wars has surpassed the 20 billion pound mark -- which would be approximately 29.7 billion US dollars. They go on to note, "Critics questioned why the UK was spending so much on conflict when public finances were in a dire state." The US has spent much, much more than that but ask yourself when you ever heard the anchor of the ABC, CBS or NBC news note that anyone might wonder why, when the US' economy is "in a dire state," the government was spending so much money on war? Carl Ramey (North Carolina's Pilot) notes, "Amazing, isn't it? We can talk endlessly about the nation's debt crisis and rampant spending, but nary a word about two wars that are costing us more than $12 billion every single month, and whose cumulative costs, over the past eight years, have already surpassed $1 trillion."
One trillion dollars. The dollar amount that was ignored by Diane and company today.
At McClatchy's Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent remembers Yasser Slaihee, "In June 2005 there was supposed to be a sovereign government on June 30, Yasser's birthday, but Yasser didn't live long enough to see the date changed to June 28, they deprived Yasser from a wish that didn't come true even after his death, off course I blame no one for it doesn't matter, the ceremony and the announcement was everything but true on the ground." Yaseer was shot dead by a US sniper June 24, 2005. NPR's Jacki Lyden noted of the journalist, "Yasser was hip: blue eyes, wire rims and a buzz cut, average height, endless smile. He invited me for coffee to meet his wife and baby daughter, and our coffee klatch never ended. When NPR producer Tom Bullock turned ashen, feverish and couldn't get out of bed, Yasser hooked him up to an IV bag hoisted on a camera tripod before he even told Tom who he was." In real time, Ron Brynaert (at Why Are We Back In Iraq) blogged about Yasser's death and, in the excerpt below, he's citing a report by McClatchy's Tom Lasseter:

Once again, the Pentagon initially lied about the murder of a journalist in Iraq.

"An early report said Salihee was shot by a passing U.S. convoy when he failed to heed hand signals or shouts from soldiers. That later turned out to be untrue."

But there are conflicting accounts.

"Most of the witnesses told another Knight Ridder Iraqi special correspondent that no warning shots were fired. But the front right tire of Salihee's car, a white Daewoo Espero, was pierced by a bullet, presumably meant to stop him from advancing."

FYI, Ron's now with Raw Story. Yesterday's violence included assaults on Sahwa with four members of one family kidnapped in a home invasion and later found dead. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's All Things Considered) reported yesterday that the month of June has seen a minimum of 19 Sahwa killed. Sahwa, also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" are largely Sunni fighters that the US put on the payroll to stop them from attacking US military equipment and US service members, numbered over 91,000 and Nouri al-Maliki agreed to take them and fold them into government jobs, putting them on the Iraqi payroll. That really didn't happen. Targeting has happened, repeatedly. These are Iraqi citizens. Nouri has an obligation to protect them. His refusal to do so goes to the fact that he's not a leader. He can't protect the people and he has refused to call out the killings. Doing so wouldn't violate his attempts to continue sectarian tensions. Nouri's caught in the past and Iraq will never be able to move forward with him as prime minister. Back to Lourdes Garcia-Navarro who reports:

Now, the exit of American troops is under way. In 2009, the fate of the Sons of Iraq was left in the hands of Iraq's Shiite-dominated coalition government, which agreed to pay the men and eventually either integrate them into the armed forces or give them civilian jobs.
But scores have been arrested over the past year by the government, says Hussam, while others have fled the country, leaving a sense of bitterness among the remaining Sons of Iraq.

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