Sunday, August 13, 2006

Blog Spotlight: Elaine reporting on a friend's speech

Elaine reporting on a friend's speech.


Another day where Iraq vanishes from the coverage. Unless, possibly, you think the most important coverage of Iraq is who wins the Democratic primary in Conn. If that's Iraq coverage for you, then maybe you got a taste of it today. If you think that's the weakest nonsense in the world and you're disgusted that independent media has given up on Iraq, then you probably aren't very pleased with the coverage. I'm not. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue in Iraq today, Tuesday, August 8, 2006. Bombings, a bank robery . . . all part of what the
AFP term "Bloody Day in Baghdad." And while people continue to dicker in the United States with games of "Is it or isn't it a civil war," Mohammed A. Salih (IPS) reports on Iraqi politicians who "way that the country is in civil war already." This as the so-called 'crackdown' (in beefed up form) appears to . . . crack apart.
Strongest dose of
reality comes from Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch): "The vast city of seven million people, almost the size of London, is breaking up into a dozen cities, each one of which is becoming a heavily armed Shia or Sunni stronghold. Every morning brings its terrible harvest of bodies. Many lie in the streets for hours, bloating in the 120F heat, while others are found floating in the Tigris river."
In the captial,
ITV notes "three near-simulaneous bomb explosins near the Interior Ministry building." Police officer Bilal Ali Majid tells the AP that at least 10 are dead and at least 8 wounded from the three bombs. Al Jazeera puts the toll at nine and notes "[t]wo roadside bombs exploded in the main Shurja market in central Bagdad within minutes of each other, killing 10 civilians and injuring 50". CBS and AP place the death toll at 10 for each bombing (20 total). AFP notes that ths market blast "set fire to several shops."
This is the AP in case anyone's confused (some early reports lumped the two attacks together): "Three bombs exploded simultaneously near the Interior Ministry buildings in central Baghdad, killing 10 people and wounding eight, police Lt. Bilal Ali Majid said. A couple of hours later, two roadside bombs ripped through the main Shurja market, also in central Baghdad, killing 10 civilians and wounding 50, police Lt. Mohammed Kheyoun said."
Reuters notes a police officer was wounded by a roadside bomb "in the eastern Zayouna district of Baghdad"; in Iskandariya, two people were wounded by a roadside bomb; and, in Tikrit, a police officer was killed by a roadside bomb (eight people wounded "including a child").
Reuters notes two civilians were shot to death in Rashad, "a police lieutenant colonel" was shot dead in Falluja (his brother was wounded), and two were shot dead in Mosul.
CNN reports that, in Muqdadiya, three people were shot dead (including a teacher) and that drive-by shootings claimed two lives in Baquba. AP notes "two Sunni brothers . . . slain in their car repair shop in southwestern Baghdad:.
In addition to the above, the
BBC notes the death of "three security guards and two bank officials" during a bank robbery in Baghdad today. AFP notes that the robbery of the al-Rasheed Bank utilized three cars and that the interior ministry is saying it only netted "seven million dinars (less than $5,000)". The AP states it was two cars.
CBS and AP note the discovery of nine "bullet-riddled" corpses in Kut. AFP notes that at least seven were "Iraqi border guards." Reuters notes that seven corpses were found "south of Baghdad" and that they were "wearing military uniforms". And the AP notes two corpses found in Baghdad ("shot in the head").
In addition, the
BBC reports: "Also on Tuesday, a US soldier died of wounds sustained in fighting, the US military said"; while CBS and AP report: "Two Iraqi journalists were killed in separate incidents in Baghdad, police said Tuesday. Mohammed Abbas Hamad, 28, a journalist for the Shiite-owned newspaper Al-Bayinnah Al-Jadida, was shot by gunmen at he left his home Monday in western Baghdad, police Lt. Mohammed Khayoun said. Late Monday, police found the bullet-riddled body of freelance journalist Ismail Amin Ali, 30, about a half mile from where he was abducted two weeks ago in northeast Baghdad, Lt. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said. The body showed sign of torture, he added." The AP reminds that the two are "among more than 100 Iraqi and foreign media workers slain here since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003."
Mohammed A. Salih (IPS) notes that Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister and puppet of the occupation) no longer pushes the "reconcilation project" and that Abdullah Aliawayi (Iraqi parliamentary member) describes it as "failed." Nouri al-Maliki's criticism of the "U.S.-Iraqi attack on Mahdi Army's stronghold in Baghdad's Sadr City" continues. Jeffrey Fleishman (Los Angeles Times) writes of the attack: "Families sleeping on rooftops to escape the summer heat were startled early Monday by helicoprters and gunfire" and that the action "killed three people, destroyed three homes and sent families scurrying for cover." (For those who wonder about the heat, a friend says it is 110 degrees in Baghdad right now). As AFP noted yesterday: "An AFP journalist in Sadr City reported that the raid on the area, a stronghold of the firebrand cleric, was accompanied by air strikes." Today AFP notes: "Coalition aircraft were called into action after the Iraqi army snatch squad came under fire, and at least three civilians were killed." Coalition aircraft would most likely mean US military aircraft. Elsa McLaren (Times of London) notes Times' colleague James Hider's observation that "This security plan is basically the last chance to save the country from civil war. It seems like he [al-Maliki] is trying to distance himself. There is a very fine line between sending your troops out to attack militia that are linked to a government party." Hider himself writes that "a clear rift" has opened between puppet al-Maliki "and the American military" which leads to "doubts about whether the security forces would have the political backing required to tackle powerful militias beholden to parties in the governing coalition."
In Baghdad, the trial into the murder of
Abeer Qasim Hamza and three of her family members continue (as well as into the alleged rape of Abeer). This is the case that yesterday, as Reuters notes: "A US military court heard graphic testimony about how US soldiers took turns to hold down and rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murderer her and her family." Ryan Lenz (AP) reports that the attornies for the four troops currently serving (James Barker, Paul E. Cortez, Jesse V. Spielman and Bryan L. Howard; Steven D. Green is no longer in the military) accused of rape, murder and arson are calling for "a new hearing, accusing Yrbie's counsel of deliberately asking incriminating questions. A ruling was expected later in the day." Anthony Yribe is accused of dereliction of duty for alleged failure to report the incident, he is not accused of rape, murder or arson. Also, CNN reports that a witness testified of "colleagues who drank whiskey and cough syrup and swallowed painkillers to cope with their jobs." The witness, Justin Cross, was asked if Steven D. Green could have done the crimes by himself and Cross responded, "Green does nothing by himself."
In the United States, peace activist Cindy Sheehan and others continue their protests in Crawford, TX.
Sheehan is quoted as saying of the Bully Boy, "He can shorten his vacations or not show up at all, but he's not hiding from the truth." Camp Casey III is up and going again this summer. Writing of Sheehan and the first Camp Casey last year, Tom Hayden noted: "Cindy Sheehan inhabits an alternative world of meaning that more Americans need to experience before this war can end. She represents the survivors' need to define a meaning in her son's death -- and her life -- that is counter to the meaning offered by President Bush. That is why she refuses any condolences, and why she continues to ask the President what was the 'noble purpose' for which Casey Sheehan died."
an interview with Dan Bacher (Toward Freedom), Sheehan spoke of the Troops Home Fast action and noted, "We hope the fast will galvanize public attention, invigorate the peace movement, build pressure on elected officials, and get our troops back home." Troops Home Fast continues with at least 4,549 people taking part today from around the world.
In other peace news,
Edwin Tanji (The Maui News) reports that Bob Watada, father of Ehren Watada, is getting the word out on his son (first known commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq) and will appear at Maui Bookseller (Wailuku) today at four p.m. as well as on the TV program Crossroads tonight at 7:00 p.m. Maui Democratic Party leader Lance Holter says of Ehren Watada: "I'm awe-struck by this man's bravery. He has taken on the entire American military machine and standing up for principles of honor and justice and American patriotism. There is no more patriotic man than this person."
Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" on August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada would be due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."
In Australia,
AAP reports "Soldier 14" will be the next to testify into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad. In addition to Soldier 14 testifying in person, AAP reports: "The inquiry is also this week expected to hear more evidence about the bungled repatriation of Pte Kovco's body from witnesses appearing on a video link from the Middle East." Last week, one of Kovco's former roommates testified that the repatriation was contracted out and done on the cheap, tying that into the mix up that led to the body of Bosnian capenter Juso Sinanovic being sent to Australia instead of Jake Kovco. Those remembering how the scene of Jake Kovco's death was cleaned up before the investigation into what happened began won't be surprised by Ian McPhedran (Australia's Courier-Mail) report that it's happened again -- in this instance David Nary ("father-of-five SAS Warrant Officer") died in Kuwait last November and the military board's finding include "criticism for the lack of procedures to preserve an incident site."
In election news in the United States, as Ned Lamont challenges Joe Lieberman (polls close at 8:00 pm EST) for the Senate seat currently occupied by Lieberman, commentators sees the race as a sign post.
Stephen Schlesinger (Huffington Post) draws comparison to Eugene McCarthy and LBJ in 1968 and offers that: "A Lamont triumph or near success will make (and is already making) Democrats like Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden shift progressively more in favor of withdrawal from Iraq and is certainly going to alter the entire spectrum of political views over the issue of Iraq, not only for Democrats, but for Republicans, too. In short, this is likely to be the turning point". Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post) takes a look at Lieberman's "strategy" noting: "Anxious to move Iraq to the backburner, Lieberma dug deep into his long history in the Senate to find a reason why Connecticut voters shouldn't send him packing tomorrow. The biggest selling point he came up with? 'I don't hate Republicans,' he said while arguing that he wasn't President Bush's 'best friend and enabler.' Talking points for the ages."

Are we the United States of Israel (some might argue we are and I could see their point based upon the weapons and other support we provide)? Last time I checked we were officially the United States of America. My point is that a war the US declares, an illegal war, that continues, that drags on, seems like a story that independent media would be interested in. But they aren't.

I was going to write about Abeer tonight but I got a call and someone else wants to grab that. I'll highlight the post tomorrow and my lips are sealed other than that. I was happy to say, "Grab it" because I actually had something else I wanted to write about as well.

A friend who served in Iraq (not a patient, he's a friend and I referred him to others when he got back because I didn't think it would help him to have me as a therapist) gave his first speech today. I had blocked out my schedule so I could go this afternoon. Sunny wanted to go as well (and I should have thought to invite her ahead of time, my bad) so we went ahead and closed the office.

This was the first time he was going to be speaking to anyone that wasn't his therapist, a friend or a support group of fellow vets and he was nervous. Do you know what he was most nervous about?

That no one would care. That no one would be interested. What gave him that idea?

Sunny and I weren't surprised when he said, "Well it's not really a topic these days."

We assured him it was a topic. It's not one the media cares about but people do. I have never seen him as nervous as he was before the speech and I attended his wedding. He is a very shy person. Happy to blend in with a group, never one to attempt to grab the spotlight.

He was speaking to a group of kids that will likely be increasingly targeted by recruiters this year (they were all high school students, with parents who live paycheck to paycheck in an econmy that provides less and less of a safety net).

For about the first two minutes, his voice was shaking. Then he got into the speech and by the time he was taking questions, he was completely over his fear. (But he told us after, he thought he would be as nervous if he spoke again. He has a thing next week that's been lined up by someone at his church, high school kids again, and he's already nervous about that.)

The kids loved it. They loved that he didn't pull punches. He went over all the empty promises they'll hear and the reality. He spoke of how while he was over there, all those empty promises didn't help a bit and his wife had to go on food stamps. (Which I hadn't known. She and I get together about once a month. After the speech, I asked about that and he said she was too embarrassed and he was as well. So if you know someone who has a husband or wife serving in Iraq, don't be an idiot like I was an assume that if they need something they will ask. Offer. Offer repeatedly. It may not be needed. But better to offer something that's not needed than to assume there is no need.)

He was injured over there and he talked about that and the kids had a lot of questions about injuries in general. One young man said that, more than anything else, that's what he feels the media doesn't cover "unless there are just like five people injured a year, you know?" His point was he can usually find coverage of that, five injuries, a year. He wondered what it was like in the hospital and how many people were there. He was the one who asked the question but you could just feel the room lean collectively forward as the question was answered at length.

The young man had a follow up question (putting him miles ahead of most 'reporters') which was why that wasn't covered? My friend responded that if it were covered, it would hurt recruitment. There was a lot of physical nodding to that and verbal was well (example, shouts of "Word" and "I hear that").

A young woman, and there weren't that many young women attending which surprised me because they are targets for recruiters, talked about how the calls were already coming, she's going into her senior year this year, and that they'd only picked up over the summer. So my friend asked for a show of hands for who had a been called at their home by a recruiter and every hand in the room went up. There was one young man who didn't look very old to me and I did ask him after how old he was? He was fifteen-years-old and he's already been called twice -- once by the Army, once by the Navy.

I do a group, volunteer, with young women and we decided to take the summer off but when that starts back up, my friend's already agreed to speak to them. (I told him we'd all be sitting in a circle and that eased the pressure. He hates the focus that standing in front of a group brings.)

He did a wonderful job speaking. I'll be at the second engagement and report how that goes. He's going to bring some photos of when he was wounded and during his recovery because he was surprised the kids were interested in that. (Why was he surprised? Because no one talks about it -- I mean the media.)

The other big question that he was asked was if he knew why the US was over there? He was shipped over early on and he talked about how the reasons had changed and, that by the time he left, most people had stopped wondering or citing any reason because "they'd all fallen through and you're over there just trying to stay alive, just trying to make it through each day, counting them down."

He brought up the 172nd Stryker Brigade (which was supposed to be home this month but Donald Rumsfeld extended their year of duty by a year) and how that just "freaks with your mind because you've been telling yourself '30 more days, 20 more days' and the end is in sight when all the sudden the count starts all over."

Please check out Wally's "JOE LIEBERMAN SUDDENLY CARES ABOUT THE DISENFRANCHISED!" and Kat's "I love KPFA but I can't take any more of this 'THE ONLY STORY IS ISRAEL!'."

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