On All Things Considered today, NPR's Daniel Zwerdling offered an indepth look at veterans suffering from PTSD who received no treatment and now, in many cases, do not qualify for treatment. From the report:
NPR asked Pentagon officials to disclose how many vets with mental health problems have been discharged without all their benefits since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.
Pentagon spokesmen told NPR they don't know.
The Army said that since the U.S. went to war in Iraq, the Army alone has discharged about 28,000 soldiers for bad behavior, from taking drugs to going AWOL to assault. An Army spokesman said they can't tell how many of those soldiers were diagnosed with mental health problems, but medical specialists say troops who have PTSD or traumatic brain injury commonly misbehave in exactly those kinds of ways.
So advocates like Gary Myers, a former Army lawyer now in private practice, call on the nation's leaders to declare an amnesty. They say lawmakers should restore full benefits to all troops who were discharged for misconduct or other behavior after they returned from combat if they were also diagnosed with mental health problems such as PTSD.
My granddaughter Tracey spent the day reading and re-reading Rebecca's "the strong women (and thank god we have them!)," Mike's "Torture, Dave Lindorff, Dave Zirin," Elaine's "Only women & countries get 'discovered'" and C.I.'s "Jamie Leigh Jones and other realities ignored." They are amazing pieces of writing, I agree.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Thursday, December 20, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Jamie Leigh Jones testified yesterday but look who can't cover it, the refugee crisis continues and more.
Starting with war resistance. Joe McMorrow (Western Catholic Reporter) notes Sophie Scholl and Franz Jagerstatter (who both resisted the Nazi regime in Germany) and how the Catholic Church in Germany remained silent and McMorrow builds on that to call out: "The general indifference by Canadian Catholics to the plight of American war deserters who have fled to Canada in recent years rather than fight in Iraq is evidence that selective conscientious objection to war is still viewed as somehow not a valid Catholic moral, position. This despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Catholic moral theologians agree with these deserters: the Iraq war is unjust; destertion, in a situation where there are no other alternatives, is preferable to participation in an unjust war. The war in Iraq is conservatively estimated to have taken the lives of over 100,000 civilians and violates every traditional criterion used to justify war: the invasion of Iraq is not defensive, is not declared by a lawful authority, is not a last resort, does not sufficiently distinguish between civilian and military participants, and is not likely to create more good than the harm it is inflicting. Yet, the plight of American deserters who have fled to Canada for refuge has not drawn a word of attention from the Canadian Conference of Cahtolic Bishops (CCCE)."
The Canadian Parliament has the power to let war resisters stay in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (email@example.com -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. Both War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist are calling for actions from January 24-26.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
Meanwhile IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan
March 13th through *16th* are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. I would assume that this is fairly obvious but I would have assumed wrong: IVAW is asking that there be no anti-war rallies, marches, etc. called for the national level during that time period and that, since the Investigation is based in DC, that no "local" anti-war actions be planned for that period in DC. The illegal war started on March 19, 2003 so that's two days after the event. The 19th falls on a Wednesday. If there are other actions held during that period, we won't be noting them. This is something that was in planning stages for some time, something that a lot of people have worked very hard on and it's been announced for sometime. IVAW has carved out these dates and we will note the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation announcement in every snapshot leading up to this event. We won't be noting any other actions that take place during this time period. I don't believe any one group leads and I certainly don't believe the peace movement should attempt to hide behind the military (is there any room left with the White House and Democratic leadership already crowded around back there?). But this is a major event that's required intense planning and organizing and they gave more than enough notice ahead of time that everyone should have been aware of the event. Those days should belong to the Investigation. And the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation is a public event. So, in terms of mobilization, if any group or organization wants to mobilize, they can can mobilize people to Investigation which will include the testimonies of those who have served as well as people from Iraq and Afghanistan who have survived the illegal war.
Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman noted, "On Capitol Hill, Justice Department officials are coming under criticism for refusing to attend a hearing on allegations of rape ans sexual assault of female contactors in Iraq. A former employee has sued Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR after she says she was gang-raped by employees of the company in Baghdad. The alleged victim, Jamie Leigh Jones, accuses the company and the U.S. government of covering up the crime." Feminist Wire Daily summarizes: "Jones filed a lawsuit against her former employers, Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR in May, stating that she was drugged and gang-raped by a group of her co-workers in the KBR camp in the Green Zone in Iraq in 2005. In her testimony, Jones stated that her experience while working for contractors in Iraq was not an isolated incident, reports the Associated Press. Representative Ted Poe, R-TX, who was contacted for help by Jones's father while she was held in Iraq by her co-workers after the attack, also testified that several women have now come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault while employed by Halliburton's former subsidiary, KBR. As of yet, no charges have been brought against Jones's alleged attackers. According to ABC News, legal experts say they might never even have to stand trial: A loophole in US law effectively leaves contractors working in Iraq out of the jurisdiction of US courts." [Feminist Daily News Wire's item is also up at Feminist Majority Foundation.] On yesterday's House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, Maddy Sauer (ABC News) points out that DoJ "refused to send a representative to answer questions from Congress today on the investigations into allegations of rape and sexual assault on female American contractors." Rebecca Carr (Cox News via The Plains Dealer) observes, "Glaring at the empty seat assigned to an absent Justice Department official, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, vowed to 'move Justice in the right direction.' Gohmert told Jones she is giving a voice to other victims of rape." Barbara H. Peterson (OpEdNews) considers the meanings of these events: "Is the United States taking a step backwards in the area of women's rights? It would seem so. Violence against American women goes un-prosecuted, and women who have suffered violence remain traumatized with no justice in sight." CNN quotes Rep Poe declaring, "We need a new sheriff in Iraq to enforce federal laws." We also a need a US State Department that provides the oversight it is supposed to. AP notes that Rep Poe "says three women -- including Tracy Barker, who submitted written testimony of her account and was at the hearing -- contacted him" -- three women who have also been assaulted. The Secretary of State is Condi Rice. She heads the State Department and she assumed those duties January 26, 2005 which means she was in the charge of the department that was supposed to be overseeing contractors when the assaults on Jones and Barker took place. Tracy Barker was harassed by contractors, true, but she was assaulted by an employee of the State Department -- Ali Mokhtare -- an employee who, as of 20/20's report last Friday was still employed by the State Department. It's not as if the State Department's a model department. Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Charles Williams, who was in charge of oversight for the department's embassy construction in Iraq just became "the third senior State Department official to depart amid failures in managing the burgeoning U.S. diplomatic presence in Iraq. The department's inspector general and head of diplomatic presence in Iraq." Barker's statement was noted in yesterday's snapshot and maybe the fact that she submitted her statement in writing is why some of the press ignored her today? Jones testified in public. Flip through the New York Times today to find that report.
It's not there.
Jane Fonda speaking in January of this year (here for video, here for text)
Last month, in the Washington Post, there was a heart-breaking article by Nancy Trejos about the women's lives in Iraq. The headline was, "Women Lose Ground in the New Iraq. Once They Were Encouraged to Study and Work; Now Life Is 'Just Like Being in Jail'." The article was on page A12. If the female half of the world were visible and powerful, that article would have been the lead story, on the front page and above the fold.
And to return to the Abeer Al-Janabi's tragic story.
The U.S. Army wants us to believe that what happened to Abeer was just another tale of a few bad apples. One of the soldiers allegedly responsible -- the pupropted ringleader, private Steven Green, of Midland, Texas -- had a criminal record, and a history of drug abuse and emotional problems. Once, the army would have rejected him. But in 2005, desperate for recruits, they dismissed his dangerous past by granting him a so-called "moral waiver," and accepted him into their ranks.
On the first point, and Jamie Leigh Jones would be on the front page of today's New York Times (instead of not even noted) while on the second point, US soldiers carried out a criminal conspiracy to gang-rape and murder Abeer Qassim Hamza and to murder her parents, Qassim Hamza Raheem and Fakhriya Taha Muhsasen, and her five-year-old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza on March 12, 2006. Brian De Palma's brilliant film Redacted is work of fiction inspired by Abeer. Dan Geist (IPS) examines the film, "Brian De Palma's new movie 'Redacted' is a fictional take on the overseas exploits of another youthful resident of the city, one who Midland days are not touted by the local Chamber of Commerce. The real-life character whose deeds inspired the film is Steven Dale Green. Still shy of his twentieth birthday, he had already racked up a record of alcohol and drug abuse that included three misdemeanor convictions. Meanwhile, two years after Bush had declared a United States victory in its latest war, the U.S. Army was experiencing a severe recruitment shortfall. More liberal, embracing attitudes naturally gained sway in the hiring office. Thus it was that the newly anointed Private First Class Green arrived in another oil-rich country, Iraq, in the autom of 2005. There, if the acounts of his fellow soldiers are to be credited, this younger son of Midland left his mark on history as well. Steven Green is alleged to be the primary insitgator of the Mahmudiyah atrocity, a slightly altered version of which forms the centrepiece of 'Redacted'. One afternoon in March 2006, a group of U.S. soldiers based in that suburb of Baghdad, well lubricated by whiskey-and-energy-drink cocktails, stormed the home of 14-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi. As two soldiers took turns raping the girl, her parents and five-year-old sister were shot dead in another room, allegedly by Green. According to the testimony of the other soldiers involved, Green proceeded to rape Abeer and kill her. One of his associates then poured kerosene on her body, which was set ablaze. Following a tip from another man in their unit, four soldiers were arrested for their roles in the crme and a fifth for failing to report it. Green was discharged from the Army on psychiatric grounds before his participation came to light. The two men who first raped Abeer -- Sergeant Paul Cortez and Specialist James Barker -- ultimately confessed and are now serving prison sentences that will last a minimum of 10 and 20 years, respectively, perhaps much longer. Their roles are merged in one 'Redacted' character, B.B. Rush."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing claimed 3 lives and left twenty-eight people injured. Reuters notes, "A suicide bomber wearing a belt packed with explosives struck a recruiting station for neighbourhood patrols in the twon of Kannan in restive Diyala province. Police said 13 volunteers were killed and 10 wounded. The U.S. military said a U.S. soldier was killed and 10 U.S. soldiers were wounded." Hammooudi informs that the "neighborhood patrols" were the "Sahwa (awakening)" council -- the attack continues a trend. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) quotes an official who explains, "There was a meeting with U.S. forces at the time of the attack, when the suicide attacker aws able to get inside before exploding himself."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person was shot dead in Baquba and, also in Baquba, an armed clash resulted in 2 deaths.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) notes a US military statement released today on the discovery (apparently between the eighth of December and the eleventh but who knows) of 26 corpses in Muqdadiya.
Turning to the refugee crisis. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees notes, "Popular Arab Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma on Tuesday launched a fund-raising campaign that he hopes will raise millions of dollars to help Iraqi refugees in major host countries such as Syria and Jordan" and quotes Shamma declaring, "I did not know before today that there are many layers [of Iraqi refugees] under the poverty line. UNHCR has done its share but it is time now for the Arab people to do their share and support Iraqi refugees." Over 4 million Iraqi refugees have been created by the illegal war (that's internally and externally displaced Iraqis). Of course some aren't in Iraq technically and some aren't in another country technically. Miret El Naggar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Hundreds of Palestinian refugees who've been forced out of thier homes in Iraq are stranded in a remote stretch of the Syrian desert, where they're living in tents that offer little shelter against blinding sandstorms and the biting cold of winter nights, according to humanitarian aid workers and refugees. Syrian authorities have barred the Palestinians from leaving the Tanaf refugee camp near the border with Iraq. Journalists aren't allowed to visit." On all Iraqi refugees, Church World Service notes, "Despite recent reports their homes, it is reportedly a small percentage and those returning face an uncertain future given continuing violence and widespread humanitarian needs. As well, authorities in Iraq, Syria and Jordan have begun restricting movement of civilians, raising concerns about the ability to flee dangerous areas." Cara Buckley (New York Times) examines Maha Hashim and Afraah Kadhom and their families are two of the refugees Buckley examines. Both women tell similar details -- monies ran out in Syria, return to Baghdad . . . to nothing. There is no work, there is no place to live. A truck bombing destroyed Hashim's home and she (and her children) live in an uncle's apartment, Kadhom's is gone. Bombed. Rubble. Hashim's husband was a police officer. He was shot dead in 2006. Kadhom's "father and four brothers were killed two years ago" in a home invasion. On employment, Ali al-Fahdily (IPS) quotes Mohammad al-Dulaymi explaining, "To survive in Iraq under U.S. occupation, there are only two jobs; police and garbage collection. Unemployment is leading many Iraqis to join the security forces despite the risk invovled."
Finally, on the heels of Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism latest study noting the effects of Operation Happy Talk, FAIR has issued an analysis (which sounds similar to some of the points Peter Hart was making last Thursday and Friday) entitled "War Is Over -- Say the Pundits" (here for Common Dreams, here for FAIR):
To hear many in the mainstream media tell it, the Iraq War is of diminishing importance to American voters. But the evidence for such a shift in the electorate is thin at best--suggesting that journalists and pundits are really the ones who would rather not talk about Iraq as we head into an election year.The New York Times offered a glimpse of this argument in a November 25 piece headlined "As Democrats See Security Gains in Iraq, Tone Shifts." The article suggested that "leading Democratic presidential candidates" were having trouble acknowledging "success" in Iraq while still opposing the war: "But the changing situation suggests for the first time that the politics of the war could shift in the general election next year, particularly if the gains continue." This was carried further a few days later by the Washington Post (11/28/07), where it was reported that the "debate at home over the Iraq war has shifted significantly," a phenomenon that "has strategists in both parties reevaluating their assumptions about how the final year of the Bush presidency and the election to succeed him will play out." The Post suggested that the "evolving public attitudes reflect, or perhaps explain, a turn in Washington as well." The suggestion that Washington might be reacting to subtle changes in public opinion is a curious one; if public sentiment were truly guiding policy, then U.S. troops would have long been on their way out.
iraq veterans against the war
democracy nowamy goodman
rebecca carrbarbara h. peterson
the new york timescara buckley
mcclatchy newspapersmiret el naggar
warren p. strobel
tina susmanthe los angeles times