Saturday, April 04, 2009

Barack wears f-me pumps

Starting with the topic of Iraq refugees, Fahed Khamas has been expelled.  Alsumaria reports Switzerland expelled him yesterday and notes "he used to work as an Iraqi interpreter with the US military in Baghdad" and he stated elements in Iraq had made threats on his life.  Meanwhile Assyrian International News Agency reports, "The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees has called a protest on 16-17 April in Geneva about the plight of Iraqi refugees. It says: The situation of the Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Europe is a tragedy. Many thousands of Iraqi refugees have resorted to begging, prostitution, selling their internal organs to avoid destitution."  At the center-right Brookings Institution, Roberta Cohen contributes a lengthy article on Iraqi refugees (here for HTML intro, here for PFD format article in full) entitled "Iraq's Displaced: Where to Turn?" Cohen opens by sketching out how refugees were an Iraq 'industry' when Saddam Hussein was in power but the US war on Iraq "far from resolving the problem, however, made it worse. It catapulted the country into a near civil war between Shi'a, who had largely been excluded by Saddam Hussein's regime, and Sunnis who until then had dominated the government."  Combining external refugees (2.7 million) with internal ones (2 million), Cohen notes that "4.7 million people out of a total population of 27 million -- remained displaced."  While their numbers have increased, the sympathy for them throughout the world appears to have decreased and Cohen postulates that this is due to the fact that their displacement (due to the Iraq War) is "seen as a problem largely of the United States' making and one that the United States should therefore 'fix'." It's felt, she continues, that the US and the oil-rich government in Iraq should be footing the bill for host countries such as Jordan and Syria. "Even though Iraq's budget surplus from oil revenues is projected to be $79 billion by the end of 2008," Cohen writes, "the Shi'a-dominated government of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has delivered only minimal amounts of funding to neighboring states for the refugees.  Some believe it is because many of the refugees are Sunni and Christian or because the refugees humiliated the government by departing. Still others argue that support for the refugees will discourage their returning home.  Nor has the government been forthcoming with support for its internally displaced population, again dampening other countries' willingness to contribute." The post-9/11 world is noted by Cohen.  Tuesday Senator Bob Casey Jr. chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on "The Return and Resettlement of Displaced Iraqis" and one of the witnesses appearing before the subcommittee was Ellen Laipson of the Henry L. Stimson Center who noted that the 'security' measures post-9/11 were harming Iraqi refugees.  Cohen notes the "intense screening" refugees have to go through from the US Department of Homeland Security and that the number of Iraqi refugees the US accepted while Saddam Hussein was Iraq's president was much greater than the number the US has currently accepted.  Cohen notes the stereotypes of Iraqi refugees which include that, struggling for cash, they "could easily fall prey to militant groups" and how those stereotypes harm their attempts at garnering asylum.  These stereotypes are re-enforced (I'm saying this, Cohen touches on it but doesn't state it -- see page 314) when those attempting to help refugees make the case that, if you don't, there will be "security consequences."  Cohen quotes Brookings' Elizabeth Ferris arguing that if aid is not provided "there is a very real danger that political actors will seek to fill the gap."  Cohen notes that the bulk of Iraqi refugees are not the perpetrators of violence but refugees because they have been targeted with violence.
Cohen notes countries neighboring Iraq already had taken in Palestinian refugees and there were concerns re: large influxes of refugees as to cohesive societies.  Palestinian refugees from Iraq suffer, Cohen argues, because neighboring countries already which might take them in already have a large Palestinian refugee population with Jordan listed as having 70%.
The claims that these refugees are 'temporary' and will soon be returning is explored by Cohen who notes the small number of returnees to Iraq and cites the UNHCR for explaining that those who did return did so "because their resources or visas ran out in Syria and Jordan."  Cohen notes the 'guest'-like status of refugees in Syria and Jordan where they do not "have a clear legal status".  Neither Syria nor Jordan signed onto 1951's Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees so they do not recognize this agreement popularly known as the "Refugee Convention" which requires rights such as the right to work.  The agreement also recognizes the rights of refugee children to education and Syria does have free access but the bulk of Iraqi children are not enrolled.  Jordan officially allows all Iraqi children to attend public schools; however, 1/5 of the Iraqi refugee children is the number enrolled.  In both countries, they also have more medical needs than are being met. Not noted in the report is that having 'guest' status means a number of refugee children may not be enrolled for the reason that the parents are attempting to stay off the grid -- especially important in Syria where you are required to leave every six months and re-enter the country.  Staying off the grid allows them to avoid that.  (PDF format warning, click here for Bassem Mroue's AP article on this six month policy at Refugees International.)  Cohen notes how the economies in Syria and Jordan (mirroring the economices worldwide) have begun to slide and there is a growing hostility to the refugees in both countries where they are [unfairly] blamed for the economy.  She notes that the UNHCR maintains their request that neither Syria or Jordan forcibly deport any Iraqi refugees.
Cohen documents the US government's refusal to take responsibility for the Iraqi refugee crisis such as the State Dept's Ellen Sauerbrey telling Congress in 2007 that the situation was a "'very top priority' for the United States, but [she] expressed little urgency about expediting refugee resettlement.  As former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton explained it, sectarian violence, not American actions, created the refugee problem so it was therefore not the United States' responsibility" and Cohen quotes Bolton's pompous comments, "Our obligation . . . was to give them new institutions and provide security.  We have fulfilled that obligation.  I don't think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war."  Bolton -- and this is me, not Cohen -- should have been required to explain how the "sectarian violence" he credits for creating the refugee crisis came about because the US seeded and grew it.  Back to Cohen.  She notes fiscal year 2006 saw the US admit a paltry 202 Iraqi refugees, while in 2007 the figure rose to the still tiny 1,608.  Cohen doesn't note it but neither of those figures met the target goal the administration had itself set for admittance of Iraqi refugees.  Fiscaly year 2008 saw 12,000 Iraqi refuees admitted. While the US does grant refugee status to those admitted and Syria and Jordan do not, note the difference in numbers with Jordan and Syria both having over 750,000 each by the most conservative estimate (that's me, not Cohen).  Cohen notes that Syria and Jordan are said to need $2.6 billion in aid for their refugees but that the US in 2008 was offering a meager $95.4 million. [Me, under Barack, it should be noted, that figure is the meager $150 million and that's for the Iraqi refugee crisis period -- not just for Syria and Jordan -- neither of whom will directly receive any funds from the US.].  Cohen contrasts that meager $95.4 million with the $70 billion the Congress granted for the US military effort in Iraq for fiscal year 2008.  Cohen notes that al-Malikis government gave $25 billion to neighboring states towards the costs of sheltering Iraqi refugees.  (That is a shameful figure.) She tosses out that the Bully Boy Bush administration might have been less than eager to help Iraqi refugees due to the fact that doing so might be seen as admission of the failures of the Iraq War to create "peace and stability in Iraq" and she notes Barack Obama, campaigning for president, promised an increase to $2 billion in aid for the Iraqi refugees.  (In the words of Diana Ross, "I'm still waiting . . . I'm waiting . . . Ooooh, still waiting . . . Oh, I'm a fool . . . to keep waiting . . . for you . . .")
Cohen then turns to the issue of the internally displaced and notes "radical Sunni and Shi'a militias who drove the 2006-07 sectarian violence were tired to political parties, police and army units.  The Ministry of the Interior is still widely reported to be infiltrated by Shi'a militias, which assaulted and expelled people from their homes, sometimes in police uniforms.  In such a political environment, it is not surprising that the government has failed to exhibit the will, resources or skills to deal with the needs of the displaced.  In the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, it is not unusual to find staff that sees the displaced only from the perspective of their own ethnic or religious group." Cohen observes that when displaced, Sunnis and Shi'ites tend to relocate to an area where their sect is dominant while Iraqi Christians flee "to parts of Ninewah province and Kurds to the northern Kurdish areas." A large percentage (40%) state they do not intend to return to their homes. As with external refugees, Iraq's internal refugees "face extreme hardship, many with urgent needs for shelter, food, medicine, clean water, employment and basic security."  Cohen observes, "Thus far, the national government has not demonstrated that it has the skills, resources, or political will to take care of its displaced population or provide the security, access to basic services, and livelihoods needed for the return of large numbers to their homes."  Cohen notes that while the government provides no assistance "radical sectarian Sunni and Shi'a groups" rush to fill the void. Robert Cohen offers several proposals for helping both the external and internal refugees and you can read her report for that (and we may or may not note them next week).
Sahar S. Gabriel is an Iraqi media worker for the New York Times who was granted refugee status in the US.  She (at the paper's Baghdad Bureau) reports on her initial impressions of the US:
After spending 21 hours waiting in airports and 13 hours in flying I arrived at the windy city of Detroit, Michigan.           
It is raining, always a good sign to me. My sister and I put on our gloves and jackets as we get off the plane. While I follow the baggage claim sign, I keep repeating to myself: "Don't panic, but you've made it." I am now on the other side of this war. The less violent side.            
Iraqi refugees in the US have found how quickly initial benefits dry up and how few the opportunities often are -- to the point that some refugees are considering returning for economic reasons only.  And think how sad that is, refugees to the US think they'd have better economic chances in Iraq.  (As noted before, those refugees who want to should be offered jobs at various US bases where they could provide cultural training to those due to ship out to Iraq for the first time -- and to those who've been to Iraq as well.)  If the paper were smart, it would set up a fund for Sahar and any other Iraqi media worker who came to the US because, without them, the paper's coverage of Iraq would not have been as strong as it was and a large number of readers grasp that and would contribute to a fund.  But let's turn to the violent side.
New news in the continued attacks on Sahwa (e.g. "Awakenings," "Sons of Iraq," etc.).  This morning Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) broke the news that US "aircraft opened fire Thursday night on Sons of Iraq members who were allegedly spotted placing a roadside bomb north of Baghdad".  Mohammed Abbas, Khalid al-Ansary and Dominic Evans (Reuters) add, "The incident could further heighten tensions with the Sunni forces, who number some 90,000 and whom the U.S. military had backed to steer Iraq's Sunni Arabs away from an anti-U.S. insurgency.  The arrest of Adil al-Mashhadani, a Baghdad Sunni Arab force leader, last week started clashes between his supporters and Shi'ite led government forces." UPI reports, "A U.S. military official said an air weapons team spotted four men placing a roadside bomb near Taji 'near a critical road juncture' in a rural area close to a U.S. military base, and where several attacks were carried out in recent months."  Ernesto Londono calls the bombing "the latest sign of the fraying allegiance between the paramilitary groups and the U.S. military." Amazingly, this is how this weekend starts -- amazing after last weekend's violence. Last weekend's violence was kicked off by the arrest of Adel Mashhadani and the slowly revealed of arrest of Raad Ali. Though Mashhadani remains imprisoned, Raad Ali has just been released. Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) report Raad Ali was released by a judge (who dismissed the charges) Wendesday and quotes him stating, "They've accused me many times.  I went to court and they listened to me and said I am clean. If anyone wants to talk about me, every time they have a charge against me, I have shown that I am clean." He also states he was imprisoned in a "secret" location and that the US military had no idea where he was.  Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes that Raad Ali "returned home to a rain of celebratory shooting by neighbors and supporters.  He told McClatchy that he'd been charged with seven crimes, including kidnapping a man who'd already accused someone else of the crime, planting roadside bombs, displacing Shiite families and killing two police officers, one of whom had been his own follower.  He said that all of the charges were bogus."  Deborah Haynes (Times of London) quotes an unnamed Sahwa leader in Diayla Province explaining "that the Government did not trust the Awakening movement because it was made up of Sunni arabs.  'We fought al-Qaeda, so how could it be that my guys are terrorists?' said the man, who goes by the nickname of Abu Iraq (father of Iraq). 'I do not trust my Government'."  Haynes notes al-Maliki's pledge to take on responsibility for Sahwa from the US and that only 5% have been provided with jobs (al-Maliki pledged 20%) and that Thursday saw the transfer of the last thousands of Sahwa to al-Maliki's government.  For "Abu Iraq," he has seen half of the 1,000 of the men working under him "laid off without the prospect of further employment and there was no sign that the 530 still with jobs would be accepted into the security forces soon."  Haynes notes the Baghdad located Abu Safar "said a quarter of his force was on strike because of the lack of wages" (the Iraqi government has not been making their payments).  But one Sahwa isn't worried.  Hamza Hednawi (AP) reports the Abu Risha 'clan' is positively glowing and Shakey Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha is thrilled to be in bed with Nouri al-Maliki -- wet spot or not -- and that "he and al-Maliki arleady have discussed joining up in the government that will emerge from parliamentary elections expected late this year." Really?  First off, as Dahr Jamail explained back in February, Shakey is in the "construction business" -- Iraqi mafia -- and a real thug. Second of all, imagine that, Shakey Risha being thrilled with al-Maliki.  Now why would that be?  Let's drop back to the US Defense Dept report [PDF format warning] entitled  "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq March 2009" which we were discussing yesterday. The report went out of the way to lavish the provincial elections held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces on January 31st.  You had to go deep to find out 'irritating' facts such as only 51% of Iraqis voted (many -- largely Shia -- have lost faith in the process as a result of the ones elected in 2005 having done little; Sunnis boycotted the 2005 elections and had they done the same this year, the percentage would have been even lower).  Deep in, it did note that "no party won the majority of votes in any province.  As a result, most of the 14 prvoinces where elections were held will face a period of complex coalition-building before they can form governments."  It also included the laughable assertion that "parties pledged to accept the outcome of the democratic vote."  Did they?  Which brings us back to Shakey Risha.  Did he make that pledge?  Well damned if he didn't abandon it lickety-split.  From the Feburary 4th snapshot:
 Ned Parker, Caesar Ahmed and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha vowing, "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission."  If the Iraqi Islamic Party is declared the winner in Anbar, the "Awakenings" say they will begin a slaughter.  And instead of being called out, they're getting catered to.  [. . .] Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes how "quickly" the officials go into motion for the ones making threats in Anbar, "The Independent High Electoral Commission sent a committee from Baghdad Wednesday to recount ballot boxes from some polling stations in the province after tribal leaders accused the Iraqi Islamic Party, IIP, which currently controls the provincial council, of rigging the vote.  The accusations of vote rigging came from an especially important source, Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the province's Awakening Council, which is widely credited with bringing calm to Anbar."  Oh, yes, that voice of peace Sheik Risha.  And what did LAT quote him saying? "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." [. . .] And Monte Morin and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) quote the menacing Sheik Risha promsing, "There will be very harsh consequences if this false election stands.  We won't let them form a government."
Turning to Anbar Province.  As noted yesterday, Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha has been threatening violence over the possibility that the Iraqi Islamic Party might have done better in the polls than his own party.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) observes, "In Anbar province, in western Iraq, tension between rival Sunni parties have been running high after leaders of the Awakening Council groups, or Sahwa militant groups who fought al-Qaida militants in their areas, accused the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), headed by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, of committing fraud to win majority of the 29-seat provincial council. IIP vehemently denied the accusation."  Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports "al-Maliki sent a deputy, Rafie al-Issawi, a Sunni who is an Anbar native" to speak with Shik Risha and that the meeting was also attended by the Iraqi military.  He threatens violence -- he continues to threaten violence -- and he gets his way. All the people who peacefully demonstrated against not being permitted to vote? They're ignored. But it's rush down to make nice with Sheik Risha when, if it was anyone else, the US military would be rushing down to arrest him. And al-Maliki can't stand Risha. The fact that the sheik is being catered to indicates just how little control al-Maliki still has.   

Dahger speaks with another tribe leader from the area, Sheik Ali al-Hatem, who has (like many in Anbar) frequently been in conflict with Sheik Risha (al-Hatem has also had issues with the Iraqi Islamic Party)who notes that each tribe put up their own candidates so you had slates competing against each other as well as competing against IIP. He states that Risha is "sowing rifts among the tribes" and that the violence could become "intratribal": "Ahmed is playing with fire. We will confront him if he acts this way and divides the tribes." al-Hatem doesn't call on al-Maliki to reign in Risha, he calls on the US military to do so. (If that happens, it may take place during today's meet-up in Anbar.) 
Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reports the US Marines are back in "Ramadi in observation roles, patrolling areas from which they had largely withdrawn."  Again, Risha stamps his feet and threatens violence and gets his way. All the people turned away from the polls and refused the right to vote? All Faraj al-Haidari has to offer them is this 'pithy' little comment, "It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote." Again, they should have ditched the peaceful protest and run around threatening violence -- that's the only way al-Haidari would have listened. Sheik Risha works the commission the way he wants to.
Now what had Shakey Risha so upset was the fact that he lost big.  He knew it, the pollsters knew it.  And instead of telling him "tough cookies," he got catered too.  The mafia don threatened violence and Iraqis and Americans rushed to soothe him.  Many believe the election was tossed to him in the 'counting' as a result of his tantrum.  The fact that he and al-Maliki will be building so many alliances begs the question of what was offered during those February talks that, honestly, should have resulted in Shakey Risha's ass being hauled off to jail? 
International Christian Concern notes that on the first two days of this month, "four Iraqi Christians were killed [in] Baghdad and Kirkuk." Sabah Aziz Suliamn was murdered in Kirkuk and the Baghdad killings, taking place on April 2nd, were of Nimrud Khuder Moshi, Glawiz Nissan and Hanaa Issaq.  The organization's president, Julian Taimoorzy, states, "The killing of four innocent people within the last two days has put renewed fear in our hearts.  What is important to keep these continuous atrocities in the media and on the policy makers' radars.  What we need is a more safe and secure Iraq for all of Iraq, especially for the Christians who have faced ethno-religious cleansing." And they quote Jonathan Racho, ICC's Regional Manager for Africa and the Middle East, declaring, "The suffering of Iraqi Christians has been beyond description and is not yet over.  More than ever, the Iraqi Christians need our prayer and support.  The latest martyrdom of our brothers should serve to awaken churches in the Western countries to come to the aid of their Iraqi brothers and sisters.  We call upon Iraqi officials and the allied forces in Iraq to avert further attacks against Iraqi Christians.  It is simply unacceptable to watch the extinction of the Christian community from Iraq."  Sabah is the Iraqi Christian Betty was noting last night who was beheaded.  Betty also noted Daniel Graeber (UPI) reporting on the fears of Iraq's Christian community quoting Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako declaring, "Under Saddam's regime, we had security but no freedom.  Today we have freedom, but the problem is security." The Archbishop also pointed out the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have fled Iraq.  On Iraqi refugees, an Iraqi correspondent for BBC News shares this popular joke in Iraq, "A Jordanian finds a magic lamp.  A genie appears and asks him what is his heart's desire.  'Send all these Iraqi refugees back across the border,' the man says. 'Why?' asks the genie. 'Whatever have we done to you?'"

  • Thursday, April 02, 2009

    Barack's faux public meetings















    As Gather notes today, "Gays are now apparently going to be executed in Iraq, for the 'crime' of being gay.  How nice that the neocons instilled that form of vicious hatred into this fledging experiment of theirs."  Kilian Melloy (Boston's The Edge) reports:
    The country Iraq, liberated by U.S. forces and purportedly on the road to democracy, is set to execute more than 100 prisoners accused of the crime of homosexuality, says a GLBT group headed by an exiled Iraqi gay man.
    The charge comes from Iraqi LGBT, which is run from London by exiled gay Iraqi Ali Hili, according to a March 31 article posted at UK Gay News.     
    Hili claims that the prisoners face execution from the Iraqi government in groups of 20 starting this week.         
    A total of 128 Iraqis accused of being gay face death.  
    The group has posted a petition at its Web site to protest the reportedly imminent executions, and has issued an appeal to the United Kingdom and to the UN's Human Rights Commission to exert political pressure on the Iraqi government to stop the executions from taking place.       
    Kelvin Lynch (San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Examiner) notes, "The men were all convicted and sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), which the group says ignores international standards against torture, and consistently falls short of giving those arrested a fair trial."  Lez Get Real posts a video chronicling the targeting of Iraq's LGTBT community.  Over photos, the following text appears:
    Amar, abducted and shot in the back of the head (2006)
    Ameer, abducted by militias and found shot dead (2006)
    Emad, lived as a woman and was crushed to death (2006)
    Hosam, found shot dead (2006)
    Khalid, taken by police. His family collected his body a week later (2006)
    Othman, abducted and strangeled to death (2006)
    Haydar, a transgender person, beaten and burned to death by Badr militias (2005)
    Karar, killed and set alight by Badr militias (2006)
    Men [3] suspected of being gay gunned down (2006)
    In another section, Peter Tatchell explains, "Wathiq, age 29, a gay archietect, was kidnapped in Baghdad.  Soon after, the Badr militia sent his parents death threats accusing them of allowing their son to lead a gay life and demanding an eleven-thousand pound ransom.  The parents paid the money, thinking it would save Wathiq's life but he was found dead a few days later with his body mutilated and his head cut off."  At, Michael Jones observes, "If true, this is shocking, and quite possibly one of the gravest consequences of the Bush administration's War in Iraq. Groups like Amnesty International have called for investigations into executions in Iraq based on sexual orientation discrimination, but sadly little has been done to address LGBT discrimination in Iraq. If LGBT people are being systematically murdered in Iraq, it's something the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress need to address. The U.S. government shouldn't be in the business of propping up administrations around the globe that execute people because of their sexual orientation. We've created an action here where you can write your members of Congress, express concern about the reports coming out of Iraq that people are being executed simply because they are LGBT, and ask them to investigate these atrocious killings.
    Investigate the killings?  What might happen if all the killings in Iraq were investigated?  January 16, 2008 snapshot included this: "Today the US military announced: 'Three Multi-National -- North Soldiers were killed by small arms fire while conducting operations in Salah ad Din province Jan. 16. Additionally, two other Soldiers were wounded and evacuated to a Coalition hospital'." ICCC notes the three who died:
    US Private 1st Class Danny L. Kimme  Balad - Salah Ad Din Hostile - hostile fire -- small arms fire, grenade  
    US Private 1st Class David H. Sharrett II   Balad - Salah Ad Din Hostile - hostile fire -- small arms fire, grenade   
    US Specialist John P. Sigsbee   Balad - Salah Ad Din Hostile - hostile fire -- small arms fire, grenade    

    The links all go to the same DoD release which reads:

    The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Jan. 16 of wounds suffered in Balad, Iraq, when they were attacked by grenade and small arms fire during combat operations. They were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.            
    Killed were:                          
    Pfc. Danny L. Kimme, 27, of Fisher, Ill., who died in Balad, Iraq.           
    Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, 27, of Oakton, Va., who died in Pallouata, Iraq.         
    Spc. John P. Sigsbee, 21, of Waterville, N.Y., who died in Balad, Iraq.       
    For more information media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at (270) 798-9966.          

    The three weren't killed by enemy fire nor were the two wounded actually injured by enemy fire.   James Gordon Meeks (New York Daily News via US News & World Reports) reports
    that the David Sharrett was killed by US !st Lt Timothy Hanson "during a botched night raid" in what is being called "friendly fire" and that Robert McCarthy ("the unit's ex-commander") states "he knew within days of Sharrett's death that a soldier had killed him".  If the unit's ex-commander knew it why didn't the platoon leader and others also know it?  Platoon leader Lt Tim Cunningham told Corey Flintoff, "We assaulted through their [insurgents']  position, we confirmed by kicking or moving their bodies, to make sure that they're dead, and then we secure the site around our casulties." That was for a NPR report which All Things Considered aired January 25, 2008 -- nine days after, recorded eight days after.  "Within days" the unit commander McCarthy says he knew what happened.  So why, eight days later, did Cunningham tell Flintoff the (now known to be) false story?  Yesterday, Corey Flintoff updated his story and noted that the fathers of Kimme and Sharrett say there was no reason for any of the deaths:
    Sharrett and Kimme cite a list of mistakes that were documented by the Army investigator. There was no need for the soldiers to approach the enemy position in the dark, Kimme says, "there was no hurry. They owned these guys." In other words, the regiment knew where the six insurgents were hiding and had them under surveillance by helicopter. The insurgents were pinned down. They could have been forced to surrender or killed from a distance. Kimme says the general consensus among soldiers he spoke with "was that [McCarthy] wanted those prisoners, he wanted his trophies," and that the effort to capture them was hasty.
    There was also no reason to assume that the insurgents were unarmed.
    "Looking at the casualty report," Sharrett says, "we compromised ourselves tactically, and we assumed that the enemy was unarmed, although we knew it was a well known tactic of these guys to cache weapons in the groves and then run to them."
    There was no reason to approach a group of six suspected enemy fighters with a team of only eight soldiers.
    "They violated the three-to-one rule," Kimme says, referring to Army guidelines that recommend soldiers outnumber their opponents by three-to-one when attacking.
    James Gordon Meeks quotes Douglas Kimme stating, "McCarthy should be relieved of duty and Hanson should be court-martialed."  In other Iraq shooting news, September 17, 2007 Blackwater mercenary workers staged a slaughter in Baghdad. That's the most famous one but it is far from the only one. It is the one, however, that has nudged Blackwater/Xe out of Iraq.   Elaine covered the news yesterday on the US State Dept's decision to turn security tasks over to Triple Canopy noting Charles Keyes (CNN), Sharon Weinberg (Wired) and Wednesday's State Dept press briefing.  Quoting ABC News' Kirit Radia on how Triple Canopy and Dyncorp were in northern and souther Iraq, Elaine pointed out that meant they were under less scrutiny seems Bagdhad, due to the press concentration there, gets more oversight from the press corps.  Elaine concluded with , "So let's recap with what we learned: Blackwater, now Xe, is no longer going to be in Baghdad. I say 'in Baghdad' because everytime Blackwater is allegedly out of Iraq, it turns out they've found a loophole. Again, I would also caution that just because a mercenary isn't 'Blackwater' doesn't mean it's a group of Santa's happy elves out to save the world."
    Today Matt Kelley (USA Today) reports  that John Frese ("top security official at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq" when the slaughter took place) made the decision not to take "disciplinary actions" because to do so, he felt, "would be deemed as lowering morale". Frese was aware Blackwater mercenaries were "making fales statements". When did the incident take place? February 16, 2005 ("previously unreported," Kelley notes)and Blackwater had attacked an Iraqi vehilce "with more than 70 bullets". Had that example not been hidden and those involved not escaped punishment, the Sept. 17, 2007 slaughter might not have taken place. But the State Dept repeatedly sent the message that they would look the other way when it came to the wounding and killing of Iraqi civilians.
    The challenge for the IqAF [Iraqi Air Force] will be to expand current capabilities and build the foundation of a credible and enduring IqAF for the future.  Currently, the IqAF has minimal capability across the spectrum of capabilities, but progess is being made in ISR, airlift (fixed/rotary wing), and developing its Airmen, with a focus on the COIN [Counterintelligence] fight.  These areas should achieve foundational capability by December 2010.  Ground attack, airspace control, and C2 lag behind with these foundational capabilities expected by December 2012.  Despite its rapid growth in the past year, the IQAF lags behind all major Middle Eastern air forces, and achieving a credible and enduring IqAF will require continued Coalition support.
    The US Defense Department released the report.  Zoom in on one sentence above: "Ground attack, airspace control, and C2 lag behind with these foundational capabilities expected by December 2012."  Now how would the US military leave Iraq December 31, 2011?  Is Iran going to cover and protect Iraq's air space?  Will the US allow that?  (If you answered "yes," read the report.) Turkey?  No, that won't fly either.  Long before the treaty masquerading as the Status Of Forces Agreement was signed, you could find various Iraqi military figures holding press conferences in the Green Zone and explaining the US would help with the Iraqi Air Force till at least 2014.  What's changed?  A piece of paper?
    The new report was released at the end of last month (March 25th) and is entitled  [PDF format warning] "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq March 2009."  Every two months, the Defense Deprt does an update and sends the report to Congress.  The actual report is 55 pages of text and updates the situation since the last report with the March report covering December 2008 through February 2009.  Information included is basic such as the fact that the following countries have left Iraq since the last report (which covered through November 2008): Albania, Armenia, Azebaijain, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Tonga and the Ukraine.  It also includes problematic sections such as the evaluation of Iran that seems based on something other than facts and that, in fact, really has nothing to do with the period that report is allegedly covering.
    For example, the report insists, "Despite repeated promises to the contrary, Iran atttempted to derail the negotiation of a security agreement between the United States and the GoI [Government of Iraq], but ultimately achieved little success in affecting the SFA [Security Framework Agreement] or the SA." The "SA" refers to what the US government calls the Status Of Forces Agreement.  It is what the White House calls it.  It is what the document itself, the document Nouri al-Maliki and Bully Boy Bush both signed, called it.  Why the Defense Dept feels the need to call it another name -- one not used by the US government -- is a question to put to them.  If and when you do, ask them what the hell that sentence is doing in the report to begin with?  Allegedly this report covers December through February.  Nouri al-Maliki's Council of Minister signed off on the SOFA November 16th, November 17th the agreement was signed by US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari.  The Status Of Forces Agreement passed the Iraqi Parliament on Thanksgiving Day,  November 27, 2008.  While it still had to be ratified by the presidency council (December 4th) and signed by Bully Boy and Nouri (December 14th -- the shoe heard round the world press conference), those were ceremonial events and after it passed the Parliament, the treaty was no longer in doubt.  Nouri controls the Cabinet and without his approval, it would not have passed his own Council and gone to the Parliament.  The presidency council is a three person council: Jalal Talabani, the president, and Iraq's two vice presidents Tariq al-Hashami and Adel Abdul Mahdi.  Who would Iran have pressured?  Talabani's a Kurd, al-Hashami's Sunni and that leaves only Shi'ite Adel Abdul Mahdi.  However, Iran was already doing cartwheels public (check Iran's Press TV) on the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement after it passed Parliament.  Any objections or attempts to derail the treaty on Iran's part would have required Shi'ite channels.  Any objections or attempts to derail the treaty on Iran's part would have had to have taken place prior to Thanksgiving.  Why are November events making it into a report allegedly covering December through February? 
    Another problematic area is their rates on unemployment and underemployment which I was not able to verify with any NGO working in Iraq.  It was thought by the one that the percentage the report refers to might be a percentage increase since the previous report but no one believed the percentages in the report were the acutal rate of unemployment or underemployment.  We're skipping that section of the report for that reason.
    The report hails the "progress" in Iraq but reminds "gains remain fragile and uneven throughout the country."  That phrase has been a mantra since the first anniversary of the illegal war (March 2004).  No commander in Iraq goes before Congress without repeating it and no one occupies the White House without repeating.  From Bully Boy Bush to Bully Boy Barack, it is the phrase of choice and that's really frightening and sad.  Six years after the start of the illegal war and the US government continues to trot out the "gains remain fraigle" excuse is sad.  Frightening comes in when you grasp that if something can't be done in six years, it can't be done.  It never could.  The first sentence of the introduction to the report lists US goals and, while the goals change from time to time, these are -- more or less -- the generally cited goals: "The United States seeks an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant; an Iraqi Government that is just, representative, and accountable; neither a safe haven for, nor sponsor of, terrorism; integrated into the global economy; and a long-term partner contributing to regional peace and security." Sometimes those goals are wrapped in the words "democracy" and/or "liberation."  Those really aren't goals the US can do anything about other than stand and cheer.  But for six years, the US has used it as an excuse to be in Iraq and for how many more years will they continue to use it as an excuse?
    Stars & Stripes notes the report referred to the drop in the price of oil per barrell and how this might harm "the training and equpping of Iraqi forces."  I don't know what report Stars & Stripes read, but the one I read stated clearly that the hiring freeze did not apply to bringing people back into the military.  So what's stopping them from doing that?  We'll get to it.  Yesterday Marcia addressed Reuters' report that "basic services . . . such as sewage treatment and power supply" will have to be cut.`   The Government Accountability Office found in their most recent report, [PDF format warning] "Iraq: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight," that "many Iraqis are without water or have access to water that puts them at risk of diseases such as cholera and dysentery, as evidenced by outbreaks in 2007 and 2008.  According to the United Nations, only 40 percent of children have reliable access to safe drinking water; with water treatment plants operating at only 17 percent capacity, large voluments of untreated waste are discharged into Iraq's waterways."  And what does the Defense Dept's report say about the basic services?  Quote: "Simarly, many Iraqis continue to have limited access to clean water, and challenges continue with respect to sewage services and water treatment plant operations, maintenance, and sustainment."  And yet this is what will be cut?  The report lists billions and billions being spent on military hardware by the al-Maliki government, but apparently cholera outbreaks every summer is a-okay.  On electricity, the report noes, "Only 43% of Iraqis feel they have been able to get the electricty they need at least some of the time, twelve percentage points less than the previous ten-month average.  Only 18% of Iraqis are somewhat or very satisfied by the zmount of electricity they receive, down from 34% who felt satisfied in November 2007."  If the Kurdistan Regional Government was removed from the polling, the percentages would be even lower since their provinces have very high averages of daily electricity with Erbil topping all of Iraq with 22 hours per day on average.
    Remember those fragile 'gains' and how we'd also get back to the issue of members who have left the Iraqi military returning?  We're getting to it. 
    Constitutional reform is the responsibility of the 29-member Constitutional Review Committee (CRC).  The original deadline for the completion of the CRC's work was March 2007, but it did not issue its final report until August 2008.  The CRC's final report left all of the major constitutional issues, including revenue distribution, federalism, and the status of Kirkuk, entirely unresolved.
    Yes, it did.  And the census the report's so ga-ga over?  That too was already supposed to have taken place.  As with the Constitution reform, these dates just pass and yet the US continues to want to hail 'progress.'  (During the period of review, the Speaker of Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, was forced out of his job -- December 23rd -- and there is still no one in that position.  The 'report' handles it by stating he resigned.  A very simplistic version of the events which went down.)  So there's a sort of show-progress or non-progress, what does that have to do with the military.  Paul Bremer de-Baathified Iraq.  He drove the Baathists out.  One of the benchmarks the US White House devised for Iraq (which was never met) was for the Baathists to be brought back in -- a kind of de-de-Baathify.  The DoD report notes, "Despite the January 2008 passage of the Accountability and Justice Law, the GoI has not begun implementation.  The Council of Ministers (CoM) has yet to nominate the individuals to head the new De-Ba'athification Commission, leaving the original Coalition Provisional Authority-appointed commission in place, but with no authority."  No, there's been no progress.  Nouri al-Maliki signed off on Bush's benchmarks, agreeing to them, and then did nothing.  The law referred to, even if implemented, has no oversight mechanism to ensure that it's working.  But it's not been implemented.  So those who served in the military prior to the 2003 invasion can't be easily brought back in.  Bremer purged the Baathists from the government.  It should be pointed out that Nouri al-Maliki and his toadies love to scream "Baathist!" whenever they target a Sunni and claim some conspiracy/coup.  Nouri doesn't want the Baathists back in and that's why there's been no progress on this issue.  Just as he doesn't want to absorb the "Awakening" Council members. 
    The report notes that he agreed to absorb 20% of the 94,000 "Awakenings" within the Iraqi Security Forces.  The others would be considered for civil service jobs or for training for other jobs.  Considered.  Only 20% -- despite the nonsense the Guardian of 'London' -- see Rebecca's post last night -- and AFP have been reporting -- were pledged to be given jobs.  Not all.  He doesn't want the "Awakenings" and he doesn't want the Baathists. Over the weekend, Nouri launched another attack on the "Awakenings."  Gareth Porter (IPS via CounterPunch) reports:
    Despite reported U.S. efforts to reassure Sunnis that they are not being abandoned to repression by the Shi'a government, the U.S.-assisted operation against Sunni militiamen protesting the arrest of Adel al-Mashadani in the Fadhil neighbourhood has already prompted threats by Sunni militia commanders in other neighbourhoods to go back to armed resistance.     
    Given the present U.S. definition of its mission in Iraq, U.S. forces are likely to be directly involved in more such operations against Sunni militiamen in the future, analysts of Iraqi military affairs say.           
    The Awakening Councils or Sahwa, which U.S. military officials have generally called "Sons of Iraq", were created in 2007 through arrangements reached by Multinational Forces-Iraq with Sunni tribal chiefs and some commanders of armed resistance groups, under which former Sunni insurgents became paid local security forces in Baghdad neighbourhoods as well as in nearby Diyala Province and in Sunni-dominated Anbar province.                   
    But al-Maliki has never hidden his hostility to the U.S. scheme to set up neighbourhood Sunni security units. "These people are like a cancer, and we must remove them," one Iraqi general was quoted by Shawn Brimley and Colin Kahl of the Centre for New American Security as saying last summer.            
    Iraqi army units and special operations forces which were controlled directly by al-Maliki began arresting SOI leaders in Diyala and Baghdad, and the arrests continued through the fall.                        
    Despite the evidence that al-Maliki intended to destroy them, the United States agreed last October to turn over control of all 90,000 Awakening Council members to the Iraqis. The government agreed, in turn, to continue paying the neighbourhood Sunni security forces 300 dollars a month.          
    What Gareth Porter's describing was known as a very real possibility.   April 10, 2008 Senate Foreign Relations Committee discussed agreements the then-administration was attempting to make with al-Maliki.  The then-proposed agreements would require the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war," then-Committee Chair Joe Biden noted, and "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out. . . . Just understand my frustration. We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist." 


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    "The Duke and Duchess of Tacky"

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    Wednesday, April 01, 2009

    The Duke and Duchess of Tacky

    Tonight, first hour of prime time, PBS airs a special:
    Elmo: Hi, Miss Queen Latifah.
    Queen Latifah: Hey, Elmo. Hi, it's so good to see you.
    Elmo: It's so good to see you too.  Well what brings you here to Sesame Street?
    Queen Latifah: Well I'm meeting up with some friends who've been through some pretty tough times.  They were all hurt in one way or another while serving in the military.  And you know those kinds of changes can be really tough on a family. 
    Little Girl A: When I saw my dad's legs it made me feel a little bit nervous.
    Little Girl B: He doesn't have no legs and one arm.
    Dad B: At first I didn't think she wanted to hug me -- because she was scared of me maybe. That hug made me feel so happy and complete inside that it made me feel like I didn't really lose anything at all. 
    Dad C: When I was first injured I did struggle for awhile with the idea that I may be chasing this little kid here around on crutches or in a wheel chair because I didn't know what my future held so I was, I was nervous.  I was afraid it was going to change the way I was going to be a father.
    Son D: I was a little worried that he was injured but I don't care if he has his whole body gone as long as he's still living.
    Daughter E: I heard Mama was talking.  She said that our daddy was injured.  I was scared because I didn't know if he was actually going to come home or if he would just passed away.
    Mom E:You know it was really hard for them to comprehend what had happened in Iraq, let alone a burn injury.
    Dad E: I was in the denial stage and I didn't want to accept that I had a problem. Took awhile for me to get the pride to go away.   And what it was that made me let the pride go was I was tearing my family apart.
    Mom E: To see your kids and your husband have to go through that is hard.
    Queen Latifah: My father actually suffered from PTSD.  He was a veteran of Vietnam.  I mean it was very challenging for us too as a family so I can kind of relate to what the kids have gone to.  Luckily, he sought treatment, just like you guys did, and it really made a big difference because it helped him to recognize you know what was going on.
    Dad D: You're not as macho as you thought you are and that you're a US soldier and you're a fighting machine.  This particular fight you can't do alone.  You need, you need that family. 
    Elmo: Is that your daddy's new hand?
    Son D: Yeah.
    Elmo: Well can Elmo see it?  Wow.  Wow.  Look at that, it's like a robot hand.
    John Mayer: It's really important that families talk about the change and say what's on their minds. 
    Elmo: Oh, you mean (singing) "Say what you need to say."
    [John Mayer begins performing "Say"]
    Queen Latifah: Please join us for Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change and meet some parents and kids who are pulling together.
    The special airs tonight.  It's a Sesame Street special, it is geared towards childen and one of the few programs thus far -- all this way into the Iraq and Afghansitan Wars -- to note the effects on the families, especially young children.  For example, a wounded veteran who suffered from extreme depression for over a year shares his story as does his son who explains, "He'd be laying there like a lump on a couch.  I'd go upstairs and get mad."  Again, that's PBS tonight.  First hour of prime time.  (Unless your local stations are playing it at a different time or not at all.  Check your local listings.)  The challegned/disabled community and their families rarely get coverage.  Their ranks have increased due to two wars this decade. 
    Another rarely covered topic was given a full hour on NPR today.  USA Today's Susan Page filled in as guest host on The Diane Rehm Show and, for the second hour, explored the topic of sexual assaults in the military with guest Helen Benedict and whack-job Kaye Whitley making a brief appearance that was as fact-free as her Congressional appearances are.
    Susan Page: Since March 2003, nearly 200,000 American women in Iraq -- more than in any other war since WWII.  They are participating in combat more than ever before but they can feel isolated in a military culture that seems hostile to females.  Helen Benedict is a novelist and journalist who interviewed forty soldiers and veterans about the struggles and challenges they experienced in Iraq.  Their stories are part of a new book titled The Lonely Soldier.  
    Helen Benedict's The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq is out today, published by Beacon Press.  Benedict explained the book started when she attended a townhall with veterans discussing their experiences and all the ones up front were men.  She found a female soldier at the back who explained her experiences serving in Iraq.  Women service members and veterans groups allowed Benedict to find others who wanted to share their stories.  Liar who needs to be fired Kaye Whitley appeared briefly on the show as a call-in and let's deal with that liar first off.
    People seem unaware that Kaye Whitley helps no one.  She does her soft purr and creates 'facts' as she goes along and offers cover for the sexual predators.  That's what she does.  If that surprises you, you need to own up to the fact that you haven't been paying attention.  In July of 2008, she refused -- REFUSED -- to testify before Congress.  When she finally did appear (and you can check out this Feminist Wire Daily News item from September 12, 2008 if you were caught napping when that was going on) she refused -- REFUSED -- to provide an answer as to what allowed her to legally refuse.  Kaye Whitley NEEDS TO BE FIRED.  Is that clear?  She is paid by the US tax payer.  Barack Obama should have immediately fired her upon taking office -- and it's a sign of how useless so many 'leaders' are that they didn't ask for this easy, quick (and probably cosmetic) change to take place.  She insults victims who testify before Congress by getting in little digs after they've offered their testimony.  She makes up figures and facts as she goes along.  Congress needs to confront her -- each time she provides testimony -- with her previous testimony because the two never, ever mesh.  She's a liar.  And she can sell make up door to door and be as big a liar as she wants to be.  But right now she's the director of DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and, in that capacity, her lies are hurting a lot of people.
    Susan Page asked the little liar about the increase in reported assaults and, being the liar she is, Kaye Whitley tried to assert that there was no increase in actual assaults, it was just that there was so much more comfort these days with reporting . . . thanks to the work she (Whitley) had done.  That woman is a menace. 
    And so is the idiotic PSA she's so thrilled with.  Prepare to be disgusted in mere seconds.
    Male voice: My strength is for defending my nation and my fellow service members.
    Female voice: Preventing sexual assault is part of that duty.
    Male voice: So when I saw my buddy's date was drunk, I told him, ask her when she's sober.
    Female voice: When some guy went way too far with my friend, I got her out of there.
    Male voice: Sexual assault can be prevented when friends and co-workers look out for each other.
    Female voice: If you see a situation headed in the wrong direction, do your duty.
    Male voice: Say something, do something.
    Female voice: Get help.
    Male voice: Find out more at
    Note, it's not when a man goes too far, it's when he goes "way too far."  Hopefully, Whitley will explain the difference between the two.  And the first offense was probably "ask her when she's sober."  Because surely sexual assaults are fine and dandy when someone's sober.  "Do you mind if I sexually assult you?"  When drunk, a woman is so apt to immediately say, "Yes, please sexually assault me."  Right?  Because sexual assault is nothing but 'good times' gone bad, right?  That's what that insulting and appalling PSA is saying and Kaye Whitley's proud of it? 
    Whitley then wanted to bring up "restricted reporting" and forgot to note that it was a pilot program.  She also -- yet again -- revealed how stupid she is, how inept she is and how fired her ass needs to be immediately.  Pimping her stupid "restricted reporting" program, she claimed that if you were in the corporate world and were sexually assaulted, you could choose whether or not to participate and "certainly" no one would phone the CEO about it.  If a sexual assault takes place at any corporation, everyone knows about for legal reasons.  Kaye Whitley is an idiot.  We could go on and on about how she twsited reality to convey a false impression.  It's past time she was fired.  She should have been canned on day one of the new administration for her refusal to testify to Congress.  Her job does not permit her to make such a refusal. The tax payers pays her salary and when Congress wants her front and center, her ass plops down before them.  That's how it works. 
    She praised her stupid "restricted reporting" program insisting it was a "success" and that "the reason I say that" is because, since 2005, she's had "over 2,500" victims come forward ("and last year alone over 700").  How many of those went on to file charges?  That's the question she refuses to answer when Congress asks her.  That was the point of the "restricted reporting" option -- how it was sold.  It would provide counseling and work the victim towards filing charges.  Kaye never provides an answer -- even when asked by Congress -- how many "restricted reporting" have gone on to file charges.  And "over 2500"?  That's not a lot.  Especially when she was claiming before Congress January 28th of this year that 1,896 was the number.  Again, her numers change at random -- based apparently on whom she's speaking to. When she walked that 1,896 number out before Congress, US House Rep Niki Tsongas pointed out, "It means a significant number of people who committed these assaults are not accountable." Whitley was too busy whining to that Congressional hearing (chaired by US House Rep Susan Davids) that reporting rape (not using restricted reporting -- and this was for rape, that was the topic, not sexual assault which can be attempted and can be verbal, this was reporting actual rape) "tears a unit apart."  You want to explain where this woman's loyalties are because anyone who, interviewed about the huge increase in rape, that would want to whine about how the unit is harmed doesn't need to be the director of DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.  It's Sexual Assault Awareness month and there's no indication that Kaye Whitely has any; however, firing her might increase awareness nation-wide.
    When Kaye left the show, the broadcast improved tremendously and similar effects would no doubt happen at the Pentagon.  When Kaye Whitley was gone, Susan Page asked Helen Benedict for her take on Kaye and her 'efforts' at the Pentagon?
    Helen Benedict: One is she said that even if you report your assault anonymously, they call "restricted," the  commander is still told that there was an assault. And the thing is that platoons are very enclosed, gossipy, hiearchical organizations and everybody knows everybody's business so what this means is that it's very, very likely that she [the victim] won't in fact be anonymous and everyone will know exactly who it is.  And women are aware of this so that's enormously intidimating.  The other thing that worries me is how much can an ad work to really change behavior?  I mean, we've seen that sometimes it works better than others but, uhm, we've had sexual prevention classes in the military for quite a long time now, we've had the unrestricted reporting -- I mean the anonymous reporting since 2005.  There's no evidence that sexual assault is going down. And if the numbers of reporting go up you never know if it's actually more reporting or more rapes.  The culture has to change and advertising alone isn't enough.  I think all these steps are good, but they're not enough.  I would like to see anybody who's ever found guilty of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, kicked out of the military altogether -- not given some demotion or slap on the wrist or letter in his file, which happens all too often.  Anybody who has a record of domestic  or sexual violence against women should never be admitted into the military -- some have under the moral waivers.  I'd like to see civilian hotlines put in all the bases at home so that a woman who has been assaulted can call a civilian rape crisis center, not even have to deal with the military at all.  And I would like to see a culture where it's really understood that rape is a war crime just like at war  whether you're raping civilians of the enemy or  your own kind, it's a war crime.  It's that serious. 
    And we'll get to some current problems but Page and Benedict also discussed some what ifs and we'll note this section: 
    Susan Page: You know some people would look at the experience, the difficult experience many women have had in this combat situation in Iraq and say, 'Well okay, maybe women should not be put in this situation, maybe women should not be in the military in these combat support roles that put them in these isolated situations.'  What would you say to that argument?
    Helen Benedict:  I'd say it's like the argument that was once used women-shouldn't-vote, women-shouldn't-be-fire-fighters, or teachers, or professors.  We've always had to fight against the sort of predjudice, [in order] to be treated equally, but women are adults, they should be able to have any job they want.  Not everybody would choose to have that kind of role -- just as not every man would -- but it should be up to women to choose what jobs they want, not up to the government or anyone else.
    Susan Page: Well let's do the reverse side.  What if there were no restrictions on what women could do in the military?  What do you think the effect of that would be?
    Helen Benedict: I think if -- if the Pentagon lifted its ban on ground combat it would help women win respect and stop this perpetuation of seeing them as second class soldiers.  I think it would have a large effect on how they were treated by their male comrades because at the root of every assault and harassment is lack of respect. And if the message comes down from the top "Yes, this is a second class soldier. No, there is no reason to respect her,"  then things aren't going to change.
    Now some realities right now.  Amanda Hess (Washington City Paper) notes how difficult it is for women on bases to get emergency contraception and quotes Nancy Northup of Reproductive Health Reality Check explaining, "It's excluded from the list of what military facilities, including the primary stores where families shop, are required to stock.  That can be particularly challenging for women and families who are based overseas and rely solely on those facilities to buy over-the-counter drugs."  Corpus Christi, Texas' KRISTV reports a 29-year-old "military police officer" is a suspect in the "aggravated sexual assault" on "a 14-year-old Aransas Pass girl".  Virginia's WDBJ7 Roanoke News reports Stephen J. Lloyd, 21-years-old, is in jail for suspicion "of sexually assaulting another cadet".  Mike Gangloff (Roanoke Times) adds that allegations involve a female and states she's 20-year-old and has stated she was raped.  Sunday Jane Lerner (Lower Hudson Valley Journal News) reported that Atlanta police had taken Lavell Tyrone McNutt into custody under suspicion over a recent series of sexual assaults in Atlanta.  McNutt raped two women while he was a West Point cadet and faced a court-martial in 1976.  Despite pleading guilty he was given only nine years -- five for one rape, four for another -- and the judge ordered that the two sentence run consecutively.  This week IVAW's Jen Hogg joined with Veterans and Servicemembers Project at Urban Justice Center's director Rachel Natelson and Hogg's co-founder of Claiming Justice Anuradha Bhagwati in addressing the issue of sexual assault in a letter to the New York Times which noted:
    Violence against servicewomen will continue to exist so long as sexual assault is treated as an internal military mater.  
    As it did in the aftermath of the Tailhook and Aberdeen Proving Ground scandals, Congress has lately renewed its demand that the military imporve the matter in which it polices itself.  But why should the military be trusted to police itself at all?        
    Under military policy, the disposition of harassment and assault cases is left entirely to the discretion of unit commanders, who alone decide on the need for corrective action.  Since service members are exempt from civilian workplace harassment laws, the military is shielded from precisely the sort of outside judicial review that could act as a real deterrent.   
    This lawlessness has fostered a culture of underprosecution in which only 38 percent of substantiated rape cases even go to trial. 
    Surely these numbers prove that it's time to stop trusting the fox to protect the henhouse. 
    VETWOW is an organization for female military veterans and RAAIN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is an organization serving all victims of sexual assault (civilian and military, male and female) -- RAAIN's toll free number is 1 (800) 656-HOPE or 1 (800) 656-4673.  
    Helen Benedict said rape should be treated like a War Crime and, if it were, that might be the saddest thing of all.  That's said because what happened to Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, was a War Crime and yet most outlets, including the New York Times, refused to print her name or run a photo (USA Today and the Washington Post were two exceptions -- the Associated Press repeatedly did a strong job portraying Abeer as a person and not a statistic or, worse, an 'other'). The 14-year-old girl was gang-raped at her home by US soldiers while one US soldier shot her parents and her five-year-old sister dead in the next room.  Then that soldier joined the others and allegedly shot her after he raped her.  He then allegedly attempted to set Abeer's body on fire to destroy the evidence.  When that didn't work, they just made sure 'insurgents' would be blamed for their actions, then they returned back to the base where -- after disposing of the blood-stained clothes -- they grilled chicken wings and proceeded to get drunk while celebrating.  All the US soldiers have confessed to their role in the conspiracy and rape (two soldiers confessed to their rape, others to various parts of the conspiracy where they planned to do this to Abeer and her family) except one: Steven D. Green.  The others, still in the military, faced an August 2006 court-martial and then trials that were completed by last year.  All fingered Steven D. Green as the ringleader.  They stated Green came up with the plan(Abeer's brother told reporters that Green stroked his sister's face and had long made his sister uncomfortable), that he shot and killed the sister, the parents and then Abeer, that he participated in the gang-rape and that he set Abeer's corpse on fire.  Steven D. Green has, through is attorneys, maintained he was innocent.  How 'innocent' the world will soon see since his attorneys have been attempting to navigate an insanity plea with the court.  The last Friday in June 2006, Green, who had already been discharged from the military before the War Crimes came to light, was apprehended by federal authorities in Kentucky.   After many delays (including a postponement for a quilting fair -- that is not a joke, they actually postponed last year's trial for a quilting fair) Green's trial is now scheduled to begin April 27th at the United States District Court Western District of Kentucky.  April 6th jury selection will begin.  They are anticipating media interest (after the media silence on Abeer, that's an interesting prediction) and Judge Thomas B. Russell issued media guidelines March 26th including that a media room would be set aside and laptops and cell phones would be allowed there, they also restricted the press to doing all interviews outside the courthouse ("Interviews may be conducted on the sidewalk on Broadway across from the courthouse").  Well maybe they're expecting the international press?  Sunday AFP noted the case: "In another case involving the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of her father, mother and younger sister, four soldiers were convicted by a court martial and handed sentences of up to 110 years in prison.  The last defendant, Steven D. Green, is to be tried next month in a civilian court in Paducah, Kentucky and could face the death penalty if convicted."  (AP filed two stories on Green's attempt to make a motion that the prospective jury pool did not contain enough African-Americans.  Green's attorneys filed paperwork today to withdraw that motion -- PDF format warning, here for that paperwork.] And, to be clear, James Barker and Paul Cortez entered guilty pleas, Jesse V. Spielman was convicted and Bryan L. Howard had made a plea agreement.