Monday, May 11, 2009

Barack O! goes for the yucks




Today the US military announced a Camp Liberty shooting at 2:00 p.m. Iraq time in which five US service members were shot dead. In a second announcement, they added, "A U.S. Soldier suspected of being involved with the shootings is currently in custody." Luis Martinez and Martha Raddatz (ABC News) encourage people to watch ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson this evening for a report on the shooting. Tom Leonard (Telegraph of London) states three more US soldiers were wounded in the shooting as does CNN; however, Jenny Booth (Times of London) goes with "at least two others were wounded" and she quotes Lt Tom Garnett (military spokesperson) stating, "The shooter is a US soldier and he is in custody." CNN states the shooting took place at a clinic for US service members seeking assistance with stress. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) cites a US military official: "The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the incident shook up soldiers, many of whom are in their third and even fourth tours. Some broke down in tears, he said." Yochi J. Drezen (Wall St. Journal) draws the conclusion that many are drawing (and they may be right or they may be wrong) which is that it was likely fratricide, "Such crimes were more common during the Vietnam War, but have occurred only sporadically in Iraq. In 2003, Sgt. Hasan Akbar killed two soldiers and wounded 14 others in a grenade attack in Kuwait; he was convicted and sentenced to death. In 2006, Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez was charged with murdering two officers in a suspicious explosion in Tikrit, though he was later acquitted. And last year, an American soldier was arrested in the shooting deaths of a pair of other soldiers at a base near the Iraqi city of Iskandariya." Mark Kukis (Time magazine) grabs a piano shawl and offers this crystal vision, "In the coming days and weeks, undoubtedly, a chilling tale will trickle out of the Pentagon and Camp Liberty as more details are revealed." "Timothy Williams (New York Times) goes with that as well and pretends Robert Gibbs is Barack Obama -- he's not. If the White House wants to issue a statement, they can do so. Gibbs fumbling in a press briefing when the issue is raised doesn't qualify as anything worth attributing to anyone but Gibbs. Or as Gi bbs said at another point during the press conference today, "I think the president -- I haven't talked specifically with him, but my guess is . . ." In the real world, BBC adds: "The BBC's Natalia Antelava, in Baghdad, says troops at Camp Liberty had been enjoying a much more relaxed atmosphere in recent months. She says there have been few attacks on the base recently, so the timing of the shooting will make it particularly shocking to the soldiers there." The Los Angeles Times offers Liz Sly's report and an AP video on the shooting. At the US State Dept today, spokesperson Ian Kelly stated that "our sympathies go to the families of the soldiers. But beyond that, I don't have anything to say. I'd refer you to the Pentagon." This was Ian Kelly's first press briefing. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined him for the start of the briefing to announce he was the new State Department spokesperson and the Acting Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs. She thanked Robert Wood who had been appointed a Deputy Spokersperson during the Bush administration: "And I want to thank for a wonderful job and provide my deepest appreciation to Robert Wood. He took over in the middle of a transition and has been drinking from a fire hose ever since. But I have really enjoyed getting to know Robert and I look foward to continuign to work with him as an important contributor within the Department to the Obama Administration's foreign policy."

At the Washington Post today, Ernesto Londono participated in an online chat. The scheduled topic was Iraq and, due to the news of the shooting, that became the primary focus of the chat. Below are some of the exchanges:

Fairfax, Va.: Is there anxiety there in Baghdad due to the new focus being on Afghanistan? If so, is the U.S. military doing about counseling or anything?

Ernesto Londono: I've spoken to some soldiers who feel that Iraq now feels like the "Forgotten War" -- a label that was coined to refer to Afghanistan back in 2004 and 2005. But I haven't heard soldiers express anger or anxiety over that. Some find it somewhat frustrating, but I wouldn't say it's a big deal for folks serving here that I talk to on a regular basis.
The U.S. military is paying a lot of attention to post traumatic stress disorder. Most large bases have combat stress clinics, where soldiers get counseling and sometimes medication. I know it's an issue commanders and squad leaders take very seriously. Unfortunately, seeking mental help also carries a stigma.

[. . .]

Bel Air, Md.: This is disturbing, especially that it happened at a military base. It's like what happens at local malls. How major an incident is this and how will it be handled. Is this the largest number of casualites in Iraq that have happened under Obama's watch?

Ernesto Londono: It's the deadliest incident in which a soldier -- apparently intentionally -- opened fire on comrades. A truck bombing in Mosul last month killed 5 soldiers.
Dallas, Tex.: You've been covering Iraq for two years now. How candid are the soldiers about how the war has affected them, and have any of the ones you've talked to said they're not surprised this happened?
Ernesto Londono: It varies. Some soldiers don't seem to mind talking about harrowing things. In fact, many seem to find it cathartic. Others do. Every soldier I've spoken to today is dismayed, saddened and frightened. I think everyone wants answers to two questions: who and why. Before we have those two pieces of information I think it's hard to draw firm conclusions.
Iraq: Was the soldier escorted to the clinic, was it a command referral? If so why did the commander not take the ammunition away and leave him his weapon?

Ernesto Londono: Some soldiers are escorted to combat stress clinics. Many are "walk ins." No appointment needed. We don't know whether the suspected gunman was a patient or what his motive may have been.

Also today the US military announced: "BASRA, Iraq -- A Multi-National Divison -- South Soldier died when an improvised explosives device struck his vehicle in the Basra Province at approximately 2 p.m. May 10. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The name of the service member will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at The announcement will be made on the website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's family." Saturday the US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier was killed in a non-combat related vehicle accident May 9. The accident is under investigation. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." And they announced: "JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- A 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier died here as a result of non-combat related causes May 8. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending next of kin notification and release by the Department of Defense." And Saturday the Defense Department issued the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Shawn D. Sykes, 28, of Portsmouth, Va., died May 7 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered from an accident that occurred May 5 at Combat Outpost Crazy Horse, Iraq. He was assigned to 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas." ICCC currently lists 4292 but they don't have the Basra death announced today so the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq since the start of the war thus far is 4293.

Today War Criminal Steven D. Green faces sentencing. Thursday the man who took part in the gang-rape of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, who murdered her, who murdered her parents and her five-year-old sister was found guilty on all counts by a federal jury. Evan Bright is the 18-year-old high school senior who has attended and reported one every day of the trial. Yesterday Bright contributed an article on the verdict to The Huffington Post. Today Evan Bright's reporting on the sentencing on Twitter. Bright notes, "Heard from Qassim Hamza's older sis, the orphan Mohammed again, & for the 1st time, his little brother, Ahmed, & the uncle, Abu Farras again." And, apparently for the defense, "Heard from Sgt Miller, more on conditions in Iraq, & what it was like. In the middle of hearing Eric Lauzier, who is speaking abt leaders." Most interesting, he noted first thing this morning, "Just heard opening statements of sentencing phase from (P) Marisa Ford and (D) Pat Bouldin. CNN and the NYTimes are here as well." NYT?

Saturday's paper included Campbell Robertson and Atheer Kakan contribute "Ex-G.I. Guilty of Rape and Killings in Iraq" which was the first by name mention of Abeer by the paper. (For the paper's history, you can see Friday's snapshot.) However, she finally is named by the paper in paragraph thirteen of the fourteen paragraph story.

*First paragraph "the rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, and the killings of her and three members of her family"*Paragraph three "where the girl and her family lived"*Paragraph nine "moving the girl's parents and her young sister into a back room while two of the soldiers raped her"; "raping the girl and then shooting her repeatedly in the head and trying to set fire to her body"*Pargraph thirteen finally gives her a name. We call her Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and that's what most outlets call her, it is what the FBI called her in their two press releases on Steven D. Green and it's how she was referred to in court.

Credit to the two Iraq based reporters for covering the verdict. The domestic staff? They sent how many reporters to Alaska and couldn't send anyone to Kentucky? (That should actually be, "They don't have a reporter in Kentucky?") Dave Alsup (CNN) reports background today on Green's arrest including Green declaring to FBI agents, "You probably think I'm a monster." Brett Barroquere (AP) notes Ford asked for the death penalty while Green's attorneys are arguing, 'None of the others got the death penalty!' Leaving the penalty out of it for a moment, did the others murder Abeer, her five-year-old sister and her parents? They took part in the War Crimes, no question. But Green was the ringleader and Green was one who shot dead all four family members. Killed four people. Green and co-horts committed War Crimes -- and good for CNN for calling them what they were ("On Monday, as the penalty phase of his trial begins, Green might become the first former U.S. soldier to face the death penalty for war crimes before a civilian court.") -- but Green was already labeled the ringleader and he is the one who murdered four people.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Plan for your PR, Pelosi"
"Counter-insurgency is not ethical, it's that basic"
"And the war drags on . . ."
"The DoD announces another death"
"Abeer makes the NYT finally"
Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
A note to our readers
Editorial: Justice for Abeer?
TV: Smart drama and the real fringe

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She sounds like an idiot

"Same old same old"