Saturday, May 16, 2009

No spine



Obama is emerging as a leader so committed to pragmatism that he will move to a new position with barely a shrug.
[. . . ]
He said he would oppose making the detainee pictures public -- a 180-degree switch that could put him at odds with a federal judge who ordered them released. And he declared that the administration would stick with a modified version of the Bush administration's military tribunals for trying terrorism suspects; during the campaign he had promised to rely on federal courts and the traditional military justice system.
Similarly, on domestic policy, Obama aides last week suggested that much of the fees for exceeding carbon emissions caps might be given to factory owners and power companies if that's what it takes to gain their support for the proposal. During the campaign, Obama called for the revenues to be used for alternative energy technology and middle-class tax cuts.
The recent shifts in position appear to be part of a pattern of starting in a liberal position and then rerouting toward the center.



Steven D. Green was convicted two Thursdays ago in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and yesterday was day four. Brett Barrouquere (AP) reports, "U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell told jurors they should have the case for deliberations by Wednesday. He then adjourned court until Monday, when the defense is expected to present more witnesses." Barrouquere has been covering this case for nearly three years and he's the only one who's filed a report on Thursday's court room proceedings.

If the defense continues to present witnesses as late as Wednesday morning they will have offered 7 days of testimony for the sentencing phase. The trial itself, to determine guilt or innocence, lasted only 8 days. The defense began their presentation May 4th and concluded it May 5th. They offered two days of witness testimony when the jury was to determine whether Green was guilty or innocent. (The jury found Green guilty on all counts.) By contrast, they have already spent twice that amount of time calling witnesses this week.Away from the jury, the defense suffered a setback this week. They'd filed a motion arguing that some of the counts Green was convicted of should be dropped. Judge Russell considered their motion and the motion filed by Marisa Ford arguing the prosecution's case.Yesterday Judge Thomas ruled, "Defendant has moved the Court to (1) dismiss and/or preclude sentencing on counts 3-10, alternatively to (2) dismiss and/or preclude sentencing on counts 13-15, and alternatively to (3) permit sentencing on one murder count per victim. The United States has responded (DN 247). This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is DENIED."The motion by the defense was a head scratcher since the time to make such a motion (which most likely would have been denied) was before the conviction, not after. Not after the jury made a determination. The motion continues the pattern of the defense doing more work in the sentencing phase than they did when the jury was determining guilt or innocence.Green is facing the death penalty and to be sentenced to death, every person on the jury must vote in favor of a death sentence. Should the jury be unable to make a determination, the judge would sentence Green and, should that happen, the it would be a life sentence of imprisonment.

Meanwhile Wikileaks posts [PDF format warning] the US Military's Public Affairs Guidance memo on the case from back in 2006 and Wikileaks notes that they refer to Abeer as "a young woman" (at one point the US military was insisting Abeer was 24-years-old). The document identifies its target audience as Iraqis first and foremost.

"We have an update now on Monday's shooting rampage at a US military stress clinic in Iraq in which a soldier gunned down 2 military doctors and 3 other servicemen," declared Jeff Glor last night on The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (here for video, and Ruth noted this last night). "CBS News has learned the suspect, Sgt. John Russell, was furious with doctors at the clinic, complaining they didn't believe he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The bodies of three victims arrived at Dover Air Force Base last night." The shooting was a topic on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show and while Barbara Slavin (Washington Times) was commenting, things were fact based. But Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) and the 'delightful' Demetri Sevastoulo (Financial Times) had to get creative and, for Demetri, sexist.

Diane Rehm: He was a 21-year Army veteran, Barbara, accused of gunning down five fellow US troops. What were the circumstances?

Barbara Slavin: Well not entirely clear yet. A Sgt John Russell, I believe he was on his third tour in Iraq, and he apparently was very concerned that he was not able to keep up with the mortgage payments on his home in the US --
Which is why he re-enlisted in order to make money.

Barbara Slavin: Yeah. He clearly had mental problems. Unfortunately he was sent, I think, against his will to a mental health facility at Camp Liberty outside Baghdad and that's where he executed five people.

Diane Rehm: He had apparently gotten into a fracas with his controlling officer.

Demetri Sevastoulo: Yeah he did but I think the broader point that needs to be made here is that the military in the last two years has seen a spike in suicides or mental health related incidents like that and it's becoming a big problem. Until about a couple of years ago, the level of suicides in the military or -- or people shooting each other -- wasn't that high compared to the rest of the population. But in the last couple of years, we've seen a spike and you've seen a big push by Adm [Mike] Mullen the chair man of the Joint Chiefs [of Staff] to get people to go for treatment when they have mental health problems.

Diane Rehm: But it's the extraordinary stress that these people are under no matter what their ages generally. Jonathan?

Jonathan S. Landay: The -- the man who's been accused of this shooting in -- in Baghdad in fact according to what I understand, has never been in combat.He was an electronic specialist and attached to an engineering unit. Apparently one of his tasks was to go and salvage electric components from vehicles that had been hit by IEDs by -- bey explosives. And in doing so witnesses the gory aftermath of -- of these attacks. He was on -- nearing the end of his third tour in Iraq.

Diane Rehm: He had also been in Bosnia, Herzegovina.

Jonathan: And Kosovo. That is correct. And I think Demetri hits on the bigger point. There was a study done last year by the RAND Corporation which found that a full 20% of the 1.6 million US service people who have been through Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that only about half of them seek treatment because they see it as a stigma attached to this --

Diane Rehm: Exactly.

Jonathan S. Landay: Even those half that do seek treatment don't get adequate treatment.

They just make up what ever they want to, don't they? For example, resident pig Demetri Sevastoulo would bring up a general whose name he didn't know who he thought sought treatment (but there's no way to check that, is there Demetri) and went public "to say to the younger guys" -- Demetri, you are aware that women serve in the US military, right? Or are you still too busy lusting for a cat fight between Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni to grasp that? Jonathan S. Landay declared "only about half of them seek treatment because they see it as a stigma attached to this". Did RAND's study find that? No. First off the study [PDF format warning] entitled "Invisible Wounds of War: Summary and Recommendations" was on PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The study extrapolated:

Assuming that the prevalence found in this study is representative of the 1.64 million individuals who have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq to date, we estimate that approximately 300,000 individuals currently suffer from PTSD or major depression and that 320,000 veterans report having experience a probabe TBI during deployment.

53% of those studied had sought treatment for PTSD. Landay maintained that the service members see a stigma. They do? Really?
In general, respondents were concerned that getting treatment would not be kept confidential and would constrain future job assignments and career advancement. About 45 percent were concerned that drug therapies for mental health problems may have unpleasant side effects, and about one-quarter thought that even good mental health care was not very effective. Logistical barriers to mental health treatment, such as time, money, and access, were mentioned less frequently but may still be important barriers for many individuals. At the same time, it is possible that servicemembers and veterans do not seek treatment they may perceive little or no benefit.

They see a stigma? Or they're worried that their information won't be kept confidential and will effect job promotions and future tasks? There's a world of difference between a stigma that they would identify as 'I believe seeking treatment is a sign of weakness' and what the study ACTUALLY found which was that they fear they will be stigmatized because their records will not be kept confidential. Considering all the information the VA has repeatedly accidentally made public this decade, that would be a reasonable concern. Their concern also goes to the culture in the military. It does not go to their own personal opinions of therapy which is what Landay suggested.

And actually the number one answer was medications: "The medications that might help have too many side effects." To get their number one answer, the study combined "It could harm my career" with "My coworkers would have less confidence in me if they found out" and should have also tossed in "I could be denied a security clearance" which was ahead of "My coworkers would have less confidence in me if they found found out." (Refer to diagram 2.3 on page 14 of the report.) But the number one single answer was medications.

Today the Las Vegas Sun editorializes, "A tragic crime in Iraq:"Studies indicate that as many as one in five soldiers who have served in the combat zone have anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. The military's handling of those afflictions has been terrible, marked by poor treatment of those seeking help and a high suicide rate among soldiers. The sergeant's father, John Michael Russell, said his son was finishing his third tour in Iraq and thought his commanders were trying to drive him out of the service. He said his son feared losing his job and his military pension. The elder Russell noted the stigma attached to a soldier accused of having a mental health issue. "I think they broke him," he said. [. . .] Because the Pentagon has continually failed to address the problem, Congress should step in and make sure that those who serve in combat are given the help they need. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Feb. 28th, the US House Armed Services Committee (discussing FY2009 Defense budget) raised this issue with US House Rep Patrick Murphy asking General George Casey if Congress needed to legislate dwell time to ensure that service members were getting the time they needed:
Murphy noted that "we're begging for about 7,000 troops for Afghanistan from our allies" and wondered if Congress needed to "mandate that if you deploy for 15 months, you're home for 15 months, if you deploy for 12 months, you're home for 12 months"? Casey wasn't keen on that idea and claimed it would interfere with the military's ability to do their job. Which makes the 'promise' Casey and Geren made earlier this week seem even more hollow (even more hollow than Casey claimed, in today's hearings, his experiences in the seventies were).
April 1, 2008, US House Rep Shelley Berkley was pointing out to Walter Reed Amry Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge that he'd just stated 12 months was not enough dwell time (he hemmed and hawed but agreed he'd just said it) and she pointed out that some US service members didn't even get that. The Las Vegas Sun is correct, Congress needs to legislate on this and they need to do so immediately.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Matt Rothschild awakes from his wet dream











Steven D. Green was convicted last Thursday in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and today was day four. Evan Bright reports that the defense called Green's friend Tammi Dehay, Green's Cousin Suzi Woolsey and a social worker, Jan Vogelsang. Bright states the latter offered "an extreme walk through of Steven Green's family". Brett Barrouquere (AP) notes today's "witnesses were called by defense attorneys trying to persuade jurors that Green, 24, of Midland, Texas, should be sentened to life in prison rather than face a death sentence." Of yesterday's hearing, Bright reported:

The defense brought Jim Isclaw to the stand. At entry, Isclaw winked at Green when their eyes met. Isclaw, a native of Alvarado, TX, is an assistant football coach, golf coach, and teacher at Alvarado High School, and has been there for 23 years. To be quite frank, he's a good ol' country boy, and he's got the persona of one as well. In his face, you can see the hours/days/years spent in the hot(understatement) Texan sun, calling plays and yelling at players. The attorney got straight to the point by beginning with "Do you remember Steven Green?" Isclaw immediately fired back with "I'll never ferget 'im...there's some kids you just don't forget." He spoke of meeting Steven in the summer of his freshman year for the football team's two-a-day workouts during the summer. He spoke of Green living with his uncle, David. He highlighted on his memory of green: his far and few between class/school absences, "he had very good fact I did some research and he only had four absences that entire year," and about his personality as he remembered it, "he was a very likable guy, very enjoyable, he was easy to spot and when you did see him you could count on him to put a smile on your face." He told of Green being a typical "knucklehead" and getting into small trouble. Defendant Green couldn't help but to laugh. He spoke of Green's unfaltering attendance at the varsity games, "he never missed a game." He told of Green's undying sense of humor, "he was a funny guy, he'd do this one leg chicken dance at all the pep rallies." This humor/dance would become a recurring theme throughout the rest of the days' testimony. He gave the courtroom a laugh when he spoke of Green's "lack of" athletic ability in playing wide receiver. The jury and audience was shown a picture from the yearbook of Green on the football field, "looking for an opening" against Arlington Heights, to which Isclaw commented, "If he had the ball against Arlington Heights... We were either way ahead or way behind," bringing a few chuckles. Wolff began a difficult line of questioning in the witnesses by asking Isclaw "If Green were to be executed, what impact would that have on you?" Isclaw visibly thought about his answer, and you could almost see his stomach churning as he responded, "It'd….it would break my heart...(pausing)...he's one of my own. 185 days of school to get to know him, I know that don't seem like much but he was always one that I liked and remembered…I'd be saddened...(pause)...I believe it'd crush me." No cross from the prosecution. The next witness was Chase Bentley, a 24 year old from Lovett, Texas. He just completed his Masters Degree in Civil Engineering last week, and is already engaged with a wedding on December 14th, he told the court. He spoke of meeting Green during his junior year of high school, when Green was only a freshman(Green only attended Alvarado for his freshman year). As a requirement, football players must run track in the spring, which was where Green and Bentley met. When asked what his impression of Green was, he quickly spoke of having "only great memories. He was just one of the fellas" He spoke of Green being "the class clown….this guy was funny." When asked about his track running ability, Bentley grinned profusely for a few seconds before eluding to his opinion that "well…he was fun to watch, let's just put it that way." Once again, his testimony ended with what his thoughts would be if Green were to be executed, "I couldn't imagine…(long, thoughtful pause)…he lost his father and….I can't imagine that with a set predetermined date and…" His testimony ended there, again with no cross examination.

"Even as our focus shifts to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the stability situation in Iraq remains a source of concern and significant effort," declared Senator Carl Levin today . . . after spending five minutes in his opening statement discussing Afghanistan and Pakistan. Levin was making opening remarks as the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee which heard testimony this morning from US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Adm Mike Mullen. It was all a bunch of posing and preening from the witnesses and from Congressional members. Senator Jim Webb may have scored most embarrassing as he rushed to sing the praises of Iran-Contra War Criminal Caspar Weinberger ("Cap Weinberger," he called him). [Weinberger was indicted by the grand jury, George H.W. Bush pardoned him. It's a sad day in Congress when Iran-Contra War Criminals earn praise . . . from Democrats.] Democrats rushed to grovel and preen before Gates and Mullen and to play I-love-the-military-more. The Republicans laid down markers that they intend to develop in a future hearing (possibly next week) which will bring an officer to Congress to testify about his opposition to Gates' budget recommendations. Iraq rarely came up in the hearing. Republicans focused on the budget -- chiefly what wasn't in it -- while Democrats obsessed over Pakistan to the point that they appeared eager to go to officially go to war with the country. We'll drop back to opening remarks since it was one of the few times Iraq came up.

Senator Carl Levin: This June, pursuant to the US-Iraq SOFA, Status Of Forces Agreement, US combat forces are supposed to be withdrawn from Iraqi urban areas, turning over the security of cities and major towns to Iraqi security forces. The agreement also sets a December 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq. President Obama has called for an end to US combat missions in Iraq by August of 2010. I hope that the draw down of forces in Iraq can be maintained while preserving our hard fought gains and while continuing to build Iraqi capacity to provide for their own security. The failure of Iraqi leaders to complete the political steps that they promised to take long ago puts at risk the reaching of those goals.

And with that approximately one minute and ten second bit, Levin was done with Iraq. Aaaaaawwwwww. Did the illegal war drag on longer than Congress cared to pay attention? How very lucky for our members of Congress that they serve in DC and not Iraq. Can you imagine how bored they be and how much their non-stop yawns would be as they patrolled Iraq? Poor, poor Congressional members.

Senator John McCain is the Ranking Member on the Committee. He used his opening statements to focus on "runaway costs." In the general, you understand. The abstract. He mentioned Afghanistan and Pakistan repeatedly and Iraq only once. You might have thought otherwise especially since McCain has an annoying habit of whistling his "s"es and Iraq has none. Considering his remarks in the presidential debates about Iraq it was amazing to watch him reduce the Iraq War to a subordinate clause of single sentence. The hearing itself lasted over three hours and that was due in part to Levin breaking from the topic to address civilian nominees since the committee had a quorum. After those were approved, it was time for the prepared opening statements from Gates [PDF format warning, here] and Mullen [PDF format warning, here].

Gates noted he was in Afghanistan last week. And that he had damn little to say, "As I told a group of soldiers on Thursday, they have done their job. Now it is time for us in Washington to do ours." Does Gates ever not repeat that statement? He's been repeating it since 2006. It was also popular with then-Senator Hillary Clinton when she was running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008, with then-Senator Barack Obama when he was running for the presidency in the summer and fall of 2008, and for then-and-still Senator John Kerry throughout his 2004 campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and his run in the 2004 general election. By no means is that a full listing of all those who have repeated that over and over for the last five years. But at some point, when the next person tells US service members that, one hopes at least one shoots back, "When is Washington ever going to get around to doing their job?" Because, as these never ending statements indicate, DC seems to be the hold up, the bottle neck, at least according to the constant repetition of that stale statement. It's also kind of stupid to repeat that statment and then, in an exchange with Senator Susan Collins, get all catty about a marine at Camp Leatherneck who asked when his equipment was going to arrive and then snort that the commander told Gates that the equipment was there they just hadn't given it to the soldier.

Like Gates, Mullen read from a prepared statement. It was not, however, the prepared statement he turned in. It's always amusing to watch someone read word-for-word, in a bored manner, such phrases as "Let me tell you why". Mullen invented a phrase or hangs out in very strange circles. "We are what we buy," he declared ("It has been said that we are what we buy"). If so, he must do a great deal of his shopping in horse stalls because the committee stank of it as he called the budget a people's budget and asserted it put people first and these people were service members. Really? The increase of $700 million in funding for missile 'defense' systems? $17.6 billion for equipment replacment in Iraq and Afghanistan? $15.2 billion for "force protection" for equpiment such as MRAP All Terrain Vehicles?$7.5 billion to Afghans composing their country's National Security Forces? $700 million to Pakistan (for counter-insurgency)? An additional $200 million for Aegis ships? $550 million for "global partnership efforts"? We could go on and on but let's stop pretending that this is about putting US service members first. And if Mullen has a problem with any of the figures listed, he can take it up with Robert Gates who used those and more in his testimony today. For the record, while Mullin called it "the people's budget," Gates called it a "reform budget." Gates would also note that "a third of this budget is the people cost." A third. Not exactly "a people's budget."

Senator Joe Lieberman doesn't believe that the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget request is adequate and feels that some baseline issues (especially personnel) were being underestimated/underaccounted. He gave Gates the opportunity to clarify that. Gates took a pass. Remember that if a supplemental request comes along after the passage of the FY2010 request. Lieberman wasn't being hostile (Lieberman loves to fork over money to the defense industries). He was concerned that the money wasn't enough and that the request needed to be upped. Senator Jeff Session noted he "was concerned" about the budget which he thought was too small and especially with two ongoing wars. Gates rejected that notion (and went into a long drawn out response about research including airborne lasers and how, to use it on Iran, it would have to be circling within Iran's borders which he didn't see happening so research needs to continue and blah, blah, blah). So twice Gates was given the opportunity to ask for an increase, twice he declined. Senator Jim Inhofe did get out of Gates that he will receive a list of "unfundeds" from staff tomorrow and will forward that to the Congress on Monday. Senator Saxby Chambliss brought up the issue as well. He noted that in private conversations, General Norton Scwartz (Air Force Chief of Staff) has disagreed with the budget and that the general has told him he will testify to that which Senator Chambliss expects to happen shortly (next week). (Schwartz was interviewed by Lara Logan in a report that aired Sunday on CBS 60 Minutes, link has text and video.) For those who caught Cindy Sheehan's most recent Soapbox, this is the concern some Republicans -- including one she spoke to in Arkansas -- have regarding the defense budget and that it is not meeting security needs. Cindy Sheehan took last Sunday off because her son was hospitalized and in a grave condition. He has recovered and she will have Russell Baker on her show this Sunday to discuss his new book Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, The Powerful Forces that Put It in the White House and What Their Influence Means for America. Bonnie Faulkner (KPFA's Guns and Butter) interviewed Baker Wednesday and you can click here for the audio at Information Clearing House. Senator John Thune pursued this issue as well and his website has posted audio, video and a transcript of the exchange. We'll note this exchange and encourage those interested in the full exchange to use the link:

Senator Thune: We've had a lot of combatant commanders in front of this committee who've testified to the need for this capability. And also, to the concern about the aging fleet and the fact that half of our bombers are pre-Cuban Missile Crisis era bombers and being able to persist and penetrate some of the more sophisticated air defense systems that we're expecting to encounter in the future. So it seems like a very relevant, very real-time question. But I guess my final question is this, what I hear you saying is you are still analyzing and looking at this. What OMB's budget said is terminated. So is this delayed, is this terminated, what is this? Secretary Gates: The program that was on the books is terminated. The idea of a Next Generation Bomber, as far as I'm concerned, is a very open question. And the recommendation will come out of the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Nuclear Posture Review. And I certainly don't want to leave the impression that the Russians are going to help us decide whether or not we have a Next Generation Bomber. What I was trying to say is if it looks like we're headed for a lower number of deployed nuclear weapons then we will have to make a recommendation to the president and to you as to how we allocate those weapons among missiles, submarines and aircraft.

While the Republicans laid down the marker and Gates grew testy (his "fine" to Thune was sharper than one expects from the flat affect Gates), Dems seemed unaware what was taking place with one exception: Evan Bayh. Bayh attempted to take on the Republican argument that the Defense Dept proposed budget was puny or weak. Attempted. He was throwing Gates life preservers but Gates appeared determined to drown.

Senator Evan Bayh: Is it still true, Mr. Secretary, that the amount that we're spending next year [on defense] will in the aggregate will be more than all our likely adversaries combined? It used to be that way. The reason I ask the question is, if it's true, what we're really facing is not a question of the amount of resources but how we most effectively allocate them to meet the challenges that we face. Is it still true that we appropriate more for national security and defense than all our likely adversaries combined?

Secretary: Robert Gates: Yes, but I -- Let me just add two things to that. First of all, more than -- more than any other country we have global interests and we have allies around the world who -- who depend on us for their -- for their security. So I mean, that's one of the reasons why we spend as much as we do.

Senator Evan Bayh: To be sure. I was just trying to put it in perspective. I don't think we've been -- We're allocating what we need to to protect the country and take care of some of these other interests. And it was by way again of saying we need to allocate the resources effectively to meet the threats and deal with some of the legacy and reform issues. I think you've done that.

Secretary Robert Gates: Senator let me interject just to provide some perspective Last summer as the economy was detoriating I I told Admiral Mullin that no matter who was elected I thought we'd be lucky if we got the FY09 number plus inflation.

Senator Evan Bayh: And we have real growth.

Secretary Robert Gates: And we've got two percent real growth.

Lieberman asked Gates about dwell time not being the ideal yet and Gates responded
"That's absolutely right we hope that toward the end of next year and more likely into next that the dwell time will begin to increase." Collins asked if screening was being done for PTSD and TBI upon returning stateside? Mullen stated PTSD screening is occuring at least 90 to 120 days after they return. TBI he was less precise on. PTSD, dwell time and other issues are especially in the news since Monday's shooting in Iraq when John Russell shot five of his fellow service members at a Baghdad stress control clinic. Kimberly Dozier (CBS News) reports that Russell did not feel "that the doctors at the clinic" believe him about combat stress and that "each day, the counselors 'sent him back to his base'" according to a soldier in Russell's unit. Yesterday's snapshot included the following:

Luis Martinez, Martha Raddatz and Kate Barrett (ABC News) speak with Yates' stepfather, Richard Van Blarga Jr., who states, he thinks Yates mentioned Russell in a call on Sunday: "On the conversation with my wife on Mother's Day, he said that he had met a sergeant, that he was, in his words, he was a very nice guy, he could deal with him, but he had some major issues. He was out there on the branch hoping for somebody to help him." Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News) reports Christian Bueno-Galdos, Matthew Houseal and Jacob Barton are the other three who were shot dead on Monday. She also notes the phone call Yates made to his mother on Sunday and quotes Shawna Machlinski (his mother) stating, "I do have some sympathy and I do know that I can forgive him [Russell]."

Click here for the ABC News report. UPI reports the five were flown into Dover Air Force yesterday. In headlines today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) played a clip of Yates' mother Shawna Machlinski stating, "As much as I have a lot of anger towards him, I also have some sympathy, because I know he must have been going through a lot as well. That doesn't excuse the fact that he murdered my son. But I believe that if he would have gotten the help that he was there to get maybe sooner or gotten more help, and other people recognized the signs, because there are signs, and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure those signs out." At OneWorld, Aaron Glantz adds that "long-time observers of the U.S. military say the shooting shows all the signs of a soldier pushed to the brink of insanity by repeated and consistent exposure to war. The 44-year-old Russell had spent many years of his life at war when he allegedly opened fire and killed five of his fellow soldiers. Russell was drawing to the end of his third tour in Iraq and had also served deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo."

Today Gates wanted to whine about needing longer dwell time. Then why isn't it being provided? Feb. 28th, the US House Armed Services Committee (discussing FY2009 Defense budget) raised this issue:

US House Rep Patrick Murphy was also concerned about readiness. He wanted to know specifically that, regardless of any upcoming announcements, would the length of tours be reduced. On Tuesday of this week, Casey and Geren appeared before the Senate's Armed Service Committee also offering testimony on the 2009 Fiscal Year. From that hearing, the only thing that the media picked up on was that tours in Iraq and Afghanistan would (maybe) drop from fifteen months to twelve months. (Some outlets picked up on the stop-loss issue, stop-loss will continue but they 'hope' to drop the numbers from 8,000 to 7,000 -- ignored was Senator Jim Webb's questioning of Casey which produced Casey's claim that the UCMJ had been applied to Defense Department contractors serving in Iraq.) Murphy wanted to know specifically with the Afghanistan War still going on, an incomplete serach for Osama bin laden, with "the majority of our military in Iraq," what happens "if we're still bogged down refereeing a civil war in Iraq?" And when Petraeus appears before Congress, Murphy wanted to know, "What happens" in terms of the reduction of tours of duty "if he comes back to us and says we need a 'pause' not a 'drawdown.' Casey maintained that regardless of a "a brief pause, as you say, that will not impact our ability to come off of 15 months . . . the most important thing for us to do is to come off 15 months."

Murphy noted that "we're begging for about 7,000 troops for Afghanistan from our allies" and wondered if Congress needed to "mandate that if you deploy for 15 months, you're home for 15 months, if you deploy for 12 months, you're home for 12 months"? Casey wasn't keen on that idea and claimed it would interfere with the military's ability to do their job. Which makes the 'promise' Casey and Geren made earlier this week seem even more hollow (even more hollow than Casey claimed, in today's hearings, his experiences in the seventies were).

Murphy was right, it needs to be mandated by Congress. Otherwise it won't happen. April 1, 2008, US House Rep Shelley Berkley was pointing out to Walter Reed Amry Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge that he'd just stated 12 months was not enough dwell time (he hemmed and hawed but agreed he'd just said it) and she pointed out that some US service members didn't even get that. Let's stop pretending these are new problems or new issues. These are the same issues the military command has said they were addressing. They have not. It's time for the US Congress to do so.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Barry's Endless Disappointment Trip






Starting with Steven D. Green, convicted last Thursday in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and on the third day. Evan Bright reports that the defense put Gary Solace ("a Vietnam War vet who testified about military training+combat stress and its effects") and Andrew Horn. Horn's a retired Marine. He knows Green from . . . well he doesn't. Green has been convicted. The defense is tossing up 'experts' and using damn little time to provide people who know Green. Green's been convicted. 'Experts' aren't the issue at this point. Yesterday was nothing but 'experts' except for Green's uncle Dr. Greg Simolke. Evan Bright reports of that testimony yesterday:

You could see the emotion growing in Simolke's face and demeanor. He spoke of Steven, Doug, and Danny not having many rules. When asked about Doug's "being tough" on Steve, he testified that "Doug...was hard on Steve...(pause) felt like that...wore on Steve. Doug was sort of..." At this point, Dr. Simolke broke down crying and had to pause for a few minutes to regain his composure. He was given some water and he continued. "Doug was sort charge, but he was too young to manage Steve." Bouldin asked what his(Simolke's) thoughts were on Green and he "generally..I felt sorry for Steve. I felt that he wasn't completely normal....nothing drastic or super unusual...he was generally left out [throughout] his life. (pauses...more tears) Nothing ever worked out for him, he had a black cloud hanging over him..(pause)..I just didn't think life was workin' out for him." During all of this, Green was noticed staring straight ahead. Simolke testified that he wouldn't have called Steven Green a leader. "No....I don't want to be offensive...he wasn't a leader...anyone who knows Steve wouldn't say he was. He's a follower." Simolke testified about Green living with him for a few months, maintaining a C-average, before realizing that he was so far behind in school that wouldn't be able to graduate high school that year with the rest of his classmates; after which dropping out and moving back to his hometown of Midland, TX where he got his GED.

Instead of staying with that and pursuing that line, they offered 'experts'. Deborah Feverick (CNN) notes, "Defense lawyers trying to save their client from the death penalty argued Tuesday that former U.S. soldier Steven Green exhibited clear symptoms of acute stress disorder in Iraq and that a military psychiatric nurse-practioner failed to diagnose the troubled infantryman and pull him out of combat." The 'experts' didn't even know what they were talking about and one conflicted his account on the stand and better hope the jury doesn't learn what happened this weekend. Bright reports that Dr. Ruben Gur stated Green needed structure and was asked if Green would do well in military? Gur answered affirmative. After explaining the MRI said otherwise. Did no one catch that? He would also, according to Gur, do well in prison with the structure. AP reports Green "threw a lunch tray" in jail Saturday over needing to shave but not having (or, more likely, being given) a razor. Gur was an 'expert.' Another reason not to waste the jury's time with 'experts.' Guilt was already established. The issue now is the sentencing. Friends and family of Green is who needs to be put on the stand to humanize Green, not to turn him into a case study.

Yesterday CBS Evening News with Katie Couric offered a report by Bob Orr on the Sgt John M. Russell shooting five other service members in Iraq:

Bob Orr: His commander feared Sgt John Russell was on the edge. They took away his weapon and ordered him into counseling in a combat stress clinic in Baghdad. He went there yesterday, officials say, and opened fire killing five service men. 22-year-old John Michael Russell: He's got medals. And he was doing good for -- for the country. Bob Orr: Today at their home in Sherman, Texas, Russell's twenty-one year-old son struggled to understand how his dad on his third tour of duty in Iraq now faces five counts of murder. 22-year-old John Michael Russell: For him to do something like that, he couldn't have been in his right state of mind. They had to -- they had to put him to a breaking point and just -- he just had to have lost it. Just lost all train of thought to do anything like that. Bob Orr: [Sgt] Russell's father said he may have snapped fearing his military career could be ended by a stress diagnosis. Wilburn Russell: His life was over as far as he was concerned. He was going to lose everything. And I guess it was too much. Bob Orr: Military investigators don't know what triggered the shootings but say Russell was agitated when asked to leave the clinic after arguing with a counselor. A short time later, Russell returned to the stress center with a weapon he apparently stole from his armed escort. The rampage played out quickly. Gen David Perkins: The suspect was apprehended outside the clinic shortly after shots were heard. Bob Orr: The incident is the deadliest involving soldier-on-soldier violence in the six year Iraq War. In response the army has now launched an investigation to determine whether it needs more people and facilities in war zones to deal with combat stress and soldiers on the brink. Patrick Campbell (Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America): These are the canaries in the mine. If we don't start addressing these issues, people are going to get more and more injured and it's going to be harder to treat them. Bob Orr: For Sgt Russell who had planned to be home by July, it's too late. Wilburn Russell: His father's heartbroken, his mother's crying in their hiding. We're -- we're sorry for the families involved too. Cause they're going through heart ache. Bob Orr: His family says they knew of no warning sings. Russell in fact recently e-mailed his son on his birthday and just Sunday e-mailed his mother for Mother's Day.

James Dao and Lizette Alvarez (New York Times) report, "Lt. Col. Edward Brusher, the deputy director of behavioral health proponecy for the surgeon general, said in March that there was one provider for 640 service members in Iraq." They quote him stating, "There are currently enough behavioral health providers." As Elaine noted last night:The military is saying that speculation does no good but this is the same military that has closed the stress center. 1 US soldier just shot 5 others dead. If there were ever a time when a stress center was most needed, it would be right now. Had a shooting taken place at a support hospital or triage center, they would not have shut down.They wouldn't have had the option. The feeling would have been, "This is emergency work." But note the difference when it comes to the brain, to mental issues, to stress.They closed down the combat stress center yesterday. When it was most needed.

Meanwhile Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) identified two of those killed on Monday: Charles K. Springle and Michael Edward Yates. Luis Martinez, Martha Raddatz and Kate Barrett (ABC News) speak with Yates' stepfather, Richard Van Blarga Jr., who states, he thinks Yates mentioned Russell in a call on Sunday: "On the conversation with my wife on Mother's Day, he said that he had met a sergeant, that he was, in his words, he was a very nice guy, he could deal with him, but he had some major issues. He was out there on the branch hoping for somebody to help him." Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News) reports Christian Bueno-Galdos, Matthew Houseal and Jacob Barton are the other three who were shot dead on Monday. She also notes the phone call Yates made to his mother on Sunday and quotes Shawna Machlinski (his mother) stating, "I do have some sympathy and I do know that I can forgive him [Russell]." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) notes, "The shootings concerned the military, which is preparing to withdraw troops from Iraq's cities by the end of June under the terms of the security agreement reached with the Iraqi government. Camp Liberty, part of the sprawling complex of bases that make up Camp Victory, will not close because both countries have decided that it is not part of Baghdad." The bases are in Baghdad and out of it (they sprawl). According to the treaty masquerading as the Status Of Forces Agreement, the US soldiers on them should be removed or else the US base could become a joint US-Iraqi base. Neither is happening, the much lauded SOFA is being violated. That's only one aspect. In a report that only Alsumaria currently has, the Status Of Forces Agreement doesn't apply to all of Iraq. That's the claim being offered by a US Major: "56th Combat brigade Chief in the US military Major Marc Ferrero clarified that his forces stationed in Taji are not included in the decision of US Forces withdrawal from Iraq cities since this region is out of Baghdad Province. He ruled out as well the possibility of violence spike in the regions under his command where security and stability reign." Back to the issue of the US soldiers and of injuries . . .

"I want to thank you all for being here," declared US House Rep Bob Finer bringing the House Veterans' Affairs Committee -- full committee, which he chairs -- to order [click here for prepared opening statement, I'm quoting what he actually said.] "The purpose is very simple. In my job and I'm sure everyone of my colleagues has the same experience, we come into contact with constituents in business or patients who have had contact or have invented or have manufactured instruments, technologies, treatments which would seem to have a great benefit for our veterans. And yet many have had a frustrating experience of dealingwith a bureaucracy that just doesn't seem to react very quickly to new ideas and treatments and people are frustrated."

The committee was holding a hearing this morning entitled Innovative Technologies and Treatments Helping Veterans. There were two panels of witnesses. The first panel was composed of David R. Bethune (Zila, Inc), Dr. David Sidransky (Johns Hopkins University), Robert A. Beckman (Brainport Technologies), David A. Broecker (Alkermes, Inc.), Mark Munroe (Mobile Medical International Corporation), Stanley Stern (TeleMed Network) and Dr. David Scadden (Harvard). The second panel was composed of Dr. Howard J. Federoff (Georgetown University), Dr. Nelson M. Handal (Harmonex, Inc) and James A. Schoeneck (BrainCells Inc). Click on the name for prepared statements (these are all non-PDF format, no worries). We'll be focusing on the first panel and largely one aspect.

The full committee was supposed to be present but that did not happen. "None of our Republican colleagues are here," Chair Bob Finer explained. "They decided somehow that special interests were invited." If so, wasn't it their job to call out special interests? Apparently Republicans on the Committee just needed a Snow Day.

Robert Beckman spoke of a portable device, the Brainport Vision Device, where a small camera ("with zoom capability") is hooked to other neurochannels ("such as the tongue"). Beckman stated, "One blind user with two glass eyes was able to successfully shoot a basketball and another used the Brainport Vision Device at an indoor rock climbing gym to see the next rock holds and at home with his daughter to play Tic-Tac-Toe."

"The Brainport Vision Device will not replace the cane or the sight dog," he continued. "But it will become an important, additional tool to improve the safety, mobility and quality of life for blind users. Some examples. Finding the open seat on a crowded bus or train. Identifying the direction to the target building in a confusing parking lot. Finding the handle in order to remove a hot pot from the stove. Wicab recently sponsored clinical testing of the Brainport Vision Device at the Atlanta VA. Dr. Michael Williams, the PI concluded, 'Bottom line, the device performs remarkably well for the tasks that we looked at in phase one'. To optimize the device we need feedback from a much larger pool of users who are blind. We would welcome the opportunity to further test the Brainport Vision Device at VA sites. Perhaps those willing soldiers who are blind as a result of a blast injury should be first in line to test this new technology?"

US House Rep Jerry McNerney's had a few questions.

Jerry McNerney: Mr. Beckman, the Brainport Vision Device. This sounds very -- How intrusive is the -- is the device that's on the tongue? Are you able to eat? Do you have to remove it for different activities? Or -- how intrustive is this?

Robert Beckman: Well for vision, the device does rest on top of the tongue. And so, yes, indeed, in its current form you would have to remove the device when you were eating, talking, etc. However, with additional funding there is no -- there are no technological barriers to making this device totally wireless so that the intra-oral device could be mounted on the upper pallette and blind people using wireless techonology would be able to use the device without anybody else knowing that they actually have the technology available to them.

Jerry McNerney: Well that's pretty exciting. I'm kind of thrilled by the technical aspect of this rather than the administrative aspect, if you can't tell.

US House Rep John Hall also had some questions.

John Hall: Mr. Beckman, I was wondering if you could tell us why Brainport Devices are not implantable and is that something that could change?

Robert Beckman: I think one of the key advantages of the Brainport Device is the fact that it's non-implantable. In fact, it's a portable device where there's no need to implant the techonology. Other technologies for vision such as retinal implants are being developed. But I think the fact that they involve surgery, that they're invasive, means that those technologies will likely not be available for probably ten years or more. Our technology is available today.

John Hall: I understand that and I can see the advantadges to either -- to both. Cochlear implants, for instance, have been and are being used by large number of people with some success. Is that because of the location in the brain of the nerves that one would need to get at and the centers one would need to get at that it's more difficult. Or is this something that you see happening in the future?

Robert Beckman: That was really, going back to my testimony, that was really one of Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita's main hypothesis that the brain is not hard wired so, in other words, you can use an alternate sensor -- you can use an alternate sensor and also an alternate path to send that signal to the brain. And we have demonstrated that, for instance, people who are blind who perform a certain task with our device and while they're performing that task they are analyzed with PET [Positron Emission Tomography] imaging. We have demonstrated that those people process the visual information in the visual cortex of their brain. On the other hand, people who are sighted, that perform the exact same task, process that same information in the somata sensory region of their brain. So in other words, people do -- the brain is masterful in the way that it can process the information in the appropriate area

John Hall: And it can -- it can change? It can switch and adapt from one pathway to another?

Robert Beckman: Yes.

John Hall: What's the typical training -- You may have said this in response to a question before I got here -- what's the typical training time for someone to use --- to adapt to Brainport?

Robert Beckman: I think that's also an amazing part about this technology. We train blind people literally in hours to start to recongize symbols, pathways, doorways, etc. We have not, so far, had anybody except for one blind person, Erik Weihenmayer, use the device even more than ten hours. So all the -- we've got videos on our website, etc., that show some of the benefits. All of those people are performing the tasks that we show with less than ten hours of training. And I think what is most interesting is what will happen when we get this technology into the hands of many, many adults letting them take it home, use it on their own, explore the potential benefits of the technology on their own. That's where we'll start to really discover what the advantages and possibilites are for this technology.

Beckman also spoke of the Brainport Balance Device for those with balance problems. Broecker spoke of VIVITROL which was FDA approved in 2006 and treats alcoholism. How? He was more interested in discussing alcoholism. Were I testifying to Congress, I would assume the members were aware of alcoholism and would use my time to explain why my medicine needed government money and/or veterans access as opposed to offering a history of alcoholism. Bethune and Sidransky spoke of oral cancer, the rate of which is on the rise and veterans account for five-percent of all cases each year in the United States. Bethune explained, "Veterans are almost 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with oran cancer than are members of the general public." They were seeking to have ViziLite Plus used for early screening of veterans. Mark Munroe was asking for attention to and resources for Mobile Medical which is a "mobile surgical hospitals." It was used in Iraq on The Learning Channel's Little People, Big World, episodes nineteen and twenty which TLC described as follows, "When Matt Roloff learns of an Iraqi family with dwarf children who are in severe need of medical intervention, he is compelled to help them. Amy and the Roloff kids are concerned for Matt's safety as he makes the long, difficult and dangerous journey to Baghdad. Once there, he falls in with the U.S. military, who provides armed escort into the Green Zone -- where Matt meets the family and gains their trust. Touched by the familys heartwarming spirit, Matt gets photos and X-rays of the kids to bring back to America for evaluation by medical specialists." From those two episodes, let's note this clip where Matt Roloff speaks with Iraqi journalists

Matt Roloff: I think it was important for me to be able to communicate with the Iraqi people that it's important for their citizens to put value on all of their fellow citizens, even if they are little people. That's an important message we're still trying to communicate in the States and to be able to do it in another country is just as, if not more gratifying, just as gratifying.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Barack's latest lies



Q And a question on another subject. Even some of the President's friends are now saying that he is hedging on his promises on "don't ask, don't tell." He said he would overturn it, and now -- and you're saying, you have said, the President will keep his promise. But we heard from General Jones saying that "I don't know" when he was asked when it would be overturned. And some people feel that it's really on the back burner.
And also, cases of people -- there's a group now of people who were in the military who are gay who have come out, who are -- we're doing a profile on one who's a linguist, Arabic linguist, who's been kicked out because -- precisely of that.
MR. GIBBS: I think that case, in fact, shows why the President, why former members of the Joint Chiefs, and why the administration believe that the policy isn’t working for our national interests.
Now, in terms of keeping his promise, I would note that many of the questions that have been asked here require more than the snapping of one's fingers. To get fundamental reform in this instance requires a legislative vehicle. The President made a promise to change this policy; he will work with the Joints Chiefs of Staff, the administration and with Congress to ensure that we have a policy that works for our national interests.





Steven D. Green, convicted last Thursday in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing. Today Evan Bright reports the defense put Dr. Ruben Gur on the stand: "Got one hell of a biology lesson on the brain and its functions from Dr. Ruben Gur of UPenn. 'Green acts on impulses and does as he's told'." And that Greg Simolke, Green's uncle, testified. Brett Barrouquere (AP) reports, "Gur told jurors that Green likely suffered closed head injuries." Evan Bright reports of yesterday's hearing:

And so it began. Marisa Ford of the prosecution opened up by speaking about murdering children and how terrified Abeer Al-Janabi must have been before she was killed. "The murder of a child is an unspeakable act, especially an innocent child, which all children are. Abeer's last moments must have been filled with terror as she was raped while her parents and little sister were shot in the room next door. And then, by one of the men who was sent there to protect them, she was murdered." Lots of legal jargon made it's way into the opening statements. Marisa Ford reminded the jury that they are encouraged and in fact, required to reconsider the evidence which was heard in the guilty phase of the trial. She spoke of imposing the death penalty, and how doing so requires that they, the jury, by law, must outline and note the aggravating circumstances, especially in the death of Abeer, which according to Ford was committed in an "especially heinous, cruel, and depraved manner." She repeated how the four soldiers committed the crime on March 12th, 2006, and reiterated how they agreed on the plan, changed clothes, "brought weapons and took tools to complete their mission," and how they worked to cover up the evidence. She told the jury how they would hear of the impact on the victims, and how the Al-Janabi family was like many families from both Iraq and "right here in Paducah, Kentucky." She ended her opening by elaborating on a quote from Winston Churchill: "All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope." Ford defiantly expressed, "The defendant Steven Dale Green failed to live up to his duty, he didn't show mercy to Abeer, he took away the two remaining brother's hope for a normal life, he doesn't deserve mercy."

Last night, Ruth summarized the AP reporting on yesterday's hearing:The Associated Press' Brett Barrouquere reports that today's sentence hearing for Steven D. Green included testimony from members of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi's family. He reports that cousin Abu Farras stated Abeer's brothers Mohammed and Ahmed no longer attend school because the killing of their two sisters and parents "destroyed their future. I'm sure if they died with their family it would be better for them." Mohammed is the older of the two brothers and he told the jury of "how his father taught him to ride a bike". Bright's reports that Abeer's aunt also testified and "spoke of having a good relationship with Qassim" (Abeer's father): "What I say about him ... isn't enough. He cared for all our family." The aunt said of Abeer, "She was proud of being young, and she was proud of the freedom her father gave her. She was spoiled, her father never suppressed her." Dave Alsup (CNN) notes, " Green might become the first former U.S. soldier to face the death penalty for war crimes before a civilian court. The reason for the distinction: Green was discharged from the military before his crimes came to light." Meanwhile the Daily 49er editorializes that "War is turning Americans into what we despise most:"The second incident is a clear-cut case of unjustifiable brutality. Last week, former Army Pfc. Steven Dale Green was found guilty of raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her family. He now faces either death of life in prison.According to the AP, Green's defense team had asked jurors to consider the "context" of war, saying "soldiers in Green's unit … lacked leadership." Defense attorneys also said the Army missed signs that Green was struggling after the loss of friends in combat, and offered little help to him and other members of his unit.It is right that Green be punished, but there is little doubt his vicious acts were at least provoked by the horrors of war. If that's the case, why is he getting the book thrown at him while Ayala is receiving only probation?

Yesterday, a US soldier shot five others in Baghdad. Ernesto London (Washington Post) reported this morning that Sgt John M. Russell is the soldier who shot the five. The story actually caused the networks to snap to attention last night. ABC's ABC World News Tonight did the best job (click here for Martha Raddatz and Luis Martinez' text report and the video -- video is of the report aired on World News Tonight).Charlie Gibson: There was a tragic incident in Iraq today that is a stark reminder that while the demands on US forces in Iraq may be diminishing, the mental stress on service members remains high. A soldier this afternoon opened fire in a clinic in Baghdad that was treating military personnel for stress and suicide prevention. 5 American soldiers were killed, four others wounded including the shooter who is in custody. It was the worst case of soldier on soldier violence since this war began. ABC's Martha Raddatz, with us now. Lt Col Beth Salisbury: This is the entrance into our facility in Camp Liberty. Martha Raddatz: It was just days ago that Lt Col Beth Salisbury showed ABC News the very same combat stress control center where today's horrific shooting took place. Lt Col Beth Salisbury: They will sign in at our front desk. They'll be greeted by our staff here. Martha Raddatz: Salisbury, who runs the center, was not hurt but of the dead, two were on her clinical staff and three were soldiers waiting for treatment. The shooter, who officials say is a Sgt on his third deployment to Iraq, went on a rampage down these hallways and offices in one of the few places where those who were attacked would not have been armed. Lt Col Beth Salisbury: Their weapons are taken for safety and we secure those here for the safety of our staff and themselves. Martha Raddatz: The Sgt being held for the murders is married and based in Germany. ABC News has learned he had been having problems during his deployment. Initial indications are that he did not seek mental health treatment voluntarily but that his unit had referred him for care. It is unclear whether he had yet received treatment. Col Salisbury said recently soldiers are encouraged to look for signs of stress in others. Lt Col Beth Salisbury: The great thing is to have a leader bring in a soldier, come in -- leadership staff -- come in and ask us how that we can help them take care of their soldiers. Martha Raddatz: These centers are part of the response to a dramatic spike in army suicides a record 143 in the last year. Today the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the shooting will be investigated to see if the stress of multiple and frequent deployments contributed to it. Adm Mike Mullen: It speaks to the issue of--of multiple deployments, you know , increasing dwell time, all those things that we're focused on to try to improve to relieve that stress. Martha Raddatz: It can't be understated what a terrible blow to any unit this is when soldiers are killed by fellow soldiers, especially soldiers who were trying to help others. Charlie?
On yesterday's Free Speech Radio News, Aaron Glantz reported on the story

Aaron Glantz: "Veterans advocates say the details of the incident will be critical in assessing whether the killings could have been prevented. Paul Sullivan is Executive Director of Veterans for Common Sense.

Paul Sullivan: We need to know if this soldier was examined by a physician before or after deployment and if any mental health symptons were observed. We know from repeated Congressional investigations and hearings that the military has knowingly sent soldiers back with physical and mentalh health diagnosis and severe symptoms back to the war zone in some of those case the service members killed themselves or others.
Today Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) quotes Maj Gen David Perkins stating of Russell, "The commander of the suspect had taken his weapon away. He had been referred to counseling a week beforehand. There was a concern that he should not have a weapon." Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) explains he's been charged "with five counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault" and that "Two of the victims worked at the clinic, Perkins said. Both were officers, one in the Army and one in the Navy. The three other victims were enlisted soldiers." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "Confiscating the weapon of a noncommissioned officer in charge of other soldiers would be an extremely serious step. Russell, from Sherman, Texas, has served previous deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo. . . . Perkins said the sergeant, whom he said had been deployed to Iraq 'at least two other times' had been referred to counseling about a week before the shooting. He was being treated as an outpatient and it was not known whether he had been prescribed medication." Jenny Booth (Times of London) notes Russell "was due to leave Iraq soon" and a difference between the story out of Iraq that Russell got a hold of gun in the clinic and the story out of DC that that Russell left the clinic and returned with a weapon. CNN explains the timeline this way, "A defense official said that Russell was escorted out of the stress clinic Monday by a fellow soldier. Russell and that soldier apparently struggled over the soldier's weapon in a vehicle after they began to drive away, the official said. Russell then walked back to the clinic, the official said, after apparently obtaining the weapon." CNN quotes Perkins decrying the speculation. The entire last 24 hours have been speculation including retired Col Jack Jacobs, now a military propagandist, who told Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News yesterday (Click here for video page, here for transcript) that the problem was too much time on your hands -- a ridiculous assertion unless you know Jacobs has been opposed to increasing dwell time between deployments. "Speculation does not serve us well or rumor," insisted Perkins . . . while CNN notes that the clinic has been closed at least briefly. Gee, a stress clinic closed. How well does that serve? Especially after the shooting?

Veterans for Peace's Mike Wong explained this morning on KPFK's Sojourner Truth:

Well we don't know the exact circumstances In this particular incident so it's hard to comment on this particular incident other than -- other than the obvious observation that a lot of troops have been doing multiple tours, third, fourth and, in some cases, fifth tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and they're under a lot of stress. There's a lot of really bad things that have happened in the war including torture, atrocities, accidental shootings, deliberate shootings of civilians. There's been a lot of dissent within the army. There was a poll taken back in, I think it was '06 when 72% of the troops in Iraq said that they disagreed with the war. In talking to soldiers today, I find that if anything that percentage has risen. So there are a lot of troops who are unhappy with the situation, unhappy with the war, being deployed and redeployed, they are under a great deal of stress and dissent is growing. Iraq Veterans Against the War started several years ago with about seven members and they have grown to the point where they now have many hundreds of members approching thousands probably and they have chapters clear across the country. They have chapters in Europe, they have a chapter in Canada and they have soldiers blogging against the war from Iraq. So dissent within the military is growing and if you see the movie Sir! No Sir! you'll see how it grew within the military during the Vietnam War. And you had people fragging their officers, throwing fragmentation grenades into their bunkers. You had people shooting their own officers.

Cloy Richards mother, Tina Richards was also on the broadcast.

Tina Richards: My oldest son is a Marine who did two tours in Iraq, came back with traumatic brain injury and severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And he was actually out, he was honorably discharged and they stop-lossed him and they were going to send him back for his third tour and he literally told me that he would kill himself before he was going to go back and participate in an illegal and immoral war in Iraq. And I went to Capitol Hill and I stopped it but my other son who did a tour in Iraq and he suffers from PTSD and it took years to finally convince him to seek help. He's in the army right now and he's facing a second deployment in June and he got help went through the PTSD clinic in the army. They told him he was perfectly fine and ready to be deployed and two days later he beat his wife, he was thrown in jail and my son never would have struck a woman. And the DA dropped the charges so that he could be deployed. So still facing this deployment when he's obviously suffering severe PTSD is just insane. This soldier that did this [yesterday's shooting] he was on his, finishing up his third tour over in Iraq and he was, obviously, he needed help. And often when they're in the field and they report stress or that they're in trouble, they're given a handful of pills and they're sent back out onto the battlefield. I've talked to hundreds of soldiers that that's their exact experience when they report that they're having problems processing what they're doing over there.

Steve Mraz (Stars and Stripes) adds, "The alleged shooter fits the Army's profile of troops who are more vulnerable to mental health problems when deployed. Noncomissioned officers on their third and fourth deployments are more than twice as likely to have mental health problems as NCOs serving on their first deployment, according to the latest Army report on the mental health of deployed soldiers."

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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"