Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cheap ass Michelle

Not only did she demonstrate that she spent approximately three seconds contemplating the needs of the Brown boys (having an aide pop to the White House gift shop for a piece of merchandising does not imply a great deal of thought), she appeared to show a most uncharacteristic lapse of judgment.

That's the Times of London going on about cheap ass Michelle Obama who gave Gordon and Sarah Brown's children cheap, tacky toys. By contrast, Ms. Brown arrived with actual gifts:

Sarah Brown arrived bearing gifts for the children, Malia and Sasha. And they were really nice presents. A bit of thought had clearly gone into choosing them: Top Shop dresses (with matching necklaces) and a selection of books by British authors. Lovely.

Ms. Brown is married to the Prime Minister of England. England's supposed to be our closet ally -- and then came Michelle and her insulting gifts. That woman has no taste and all you ever had to do was look at her in any outfit. Even when she's managed to steal some swag, she still has to wear it and the woman has never learned to stand properly.

Let's all be honest, she looks like a man. If Mad TV hadn't been cancelled and could have brought back Miss Swan, they could have had her go to the White House to give a manicure and wander around the halls looking. "Michelle? Michelle!" Michelle would say, "I am right here." No, you look like a man.

It could have been funny but of course Mad TV was as bad as Saturday Night Live at the Kool Aid drinking which is why I wasn't at all upset that Fox finally cancelled the show -- even though it meant 50% less African-Americans working for the networks.

(That was a joke about how White the broadcast networks are. If anyone's trying to do the math, stop. I was being funny. Or trying.)

And, if you missed it, Petty Barack's so jealous of Hillary, he and Michelle are planning a trip to Europe. In his first 100 days. This is just like when Hillary got that tremendous welcome at the State Department and Barack had to suddenly rush over to speak. He is just a jealous little punk.

Funny, I thought we were supposedly in the midst of an economic meltdown but Barry's not one to roll up the sleeves. Probably plans to 'delegate' the entire four years.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, March 5, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the UN talks of war crimes in Iraq, the US Defense Dept puts a number to TBI, Iraq trims its budget (slightly), the lies of 'withdrawal' garner more attention, and more.

Starting with talk of war crimes. Yesterday in Geneva the United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto, speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, called for an investigation into the crimes going on in Iraq.
Donn Bobb (United Nations Radio, link has text and audio) reports:UN General Assembly President, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann on Wednesday urged the Human Rights Council to investigate "massive human rights violations" in Iraq.The Nicaraguan diplomat describes Iraq as "a contemporary and on-going example of how the illegal use of force leads inexorably to human suffering and disregard for human rights."He says "it sets a number of precedents that we cannot allow to stand.""The illegality of the use of force against Iraq cannot be doubted as it runs contrary to the prohibition of the use of force in..the United Nations Charter. All pretended justifications notwithstanding, the aggressions against Iraq and Afghanistan and their occupations, constitute atrocities that must be condemned and repudiated by all who believe in the rule of law in international relations."General Assembly President D'escoto suggests the Council consider appointing a special mechanism to report on Iraq.Mr. D'escoto cites "reliable" estimates of over a million deaths in Iraq "as a result of the US-led aggression and occupation", saying " and still there is no rapporteur".He says this was a serious omission that should be corrected.D'Escoto also called for human rights to be seen in a more encompassing manner stating, "I see a profound relationship between access to safe drinking water and sanitation and the enjoyment of the right to life or health. Indeed, access to water is indispensable for a life in dignity and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of other human rights." Iran's Press TV states, "The UN General Assembly president's fiery speech coincided with the Obama administration's decision to take up observer status on the Human Rights Council -- which the Bush administration had boycotted. "

Friday Barack gave his kind-of-sort-of-leaving-Iraq-if-you-pretend-with-me speech at Camp Lejeune. Monday, USA Today's Susan Page hosted The Diane Rehm Show and the first hour was a discussion on Iraq (here for just that hour). Her guests were Tom Andrews (Win Without War), Michael O'Hanlon (right-leaning, War Hawkian Brookings Institution), Paul Pillar (former CIA, Georgetown University professor) and Thomas E. Ricks whose most recent book is The Gamble:
Susan Page: Well Tom Ricks, in brief, what is this new strategy that the president outlined on Friday?

Thomas E. Ricks: It was presented as a way to end the war . He said that we'll start drawing down troops at an undetermined rate over the next couple of years and that by August of 2010, next year, we'll be down to what he called a non-combat force that would then do the next year of transition to Iraqi forces. Oddly reminescent in many ways of President Bush's plan to accomplish the mission and stand down as they stand up.

Susan Page: Do you see, Michael O'Hanlon, big differences in what we would be doing in Iraq if President Bush were still in office and what President Obama has outlined?

Michael O'Hanlon: That's a good question, Susan. Probably not enormous. [. . . ] I think Mr. Obama, by going with the 19 months and then, as Tom says, keeping 50,000 thereafter is perhaps a little faster than Bush or [Senator and GOP presidential nomine John] McCain would have been but that 50,000 number is key and I'm sure we'll come back to that. That retains a lot of capability and that, I think, closes the difference between Obama and McCain - Bush which is why I'm sure Senator McCain endorsed it the other day.

Susan Page: Well, Paul Pillar, is there -- President Obama says he's withdrawing combat troops but leaving 35,000 to 50,000 US troops there. Is it a meaningful distinction that they will not be combat troops?

Paul Pillar: Good question. It's not an obvious distinction because -- well the president laid out three missions for the so-called transitional force. The residual is not the preferred term, it's a transitional force. One was training. A second was counterterrorism. A third was protect everything else we're doing there. If you talk about something like training, it's not a matter of US officers standing up in a safe classroom and lecturing. We're talking about side-by-side operations, we're talking about American troops still being in harms way. There will still be casulties incurred. So I think some of the questions we heard on Capitol Hill from Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and others about whether this 35 to 50,000 troop range really makes sense is not just disatisafaction or impatience with getting this thing over with. It reflects a real question about what the mission is going to be so that the combat versus noncombat distinction is still a question that hasn't really been resolved.

Susan Page: Well Tom Ricks is it clear to you what the mission of these transitional US forces will be?

Thomas E. Ricks: It's clear to me what President Obama said it would be: not to fight. But as Professor Pillar points out it's just a bizarre thing to say, that these are troops who are not combat troops. The heart of this mission is going to be two combat brigades. Now they're going to be renamed something like advisory units but look you can call them Mousekateers if you want. They are US army soldiers going in harm's way with bombs going off, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Troops will still be dying after August 2010 and I don't think a lot of Americans get that. For that matter, I think US troops will be dying in Iraq after the SOFA [Status Of Forces Agreement] comes to fruition in 2011.

Susan Page: Now the SOFA agreement is the Status Of Forces Agreement and that calls for all US troops to be out by when?

Thomas E. Ricks: By the end of 2011. Except unless it's renegoiated and I think the SOFA was all about getting through 2009 and taking the American troop presence off the table as a divisive issue in domestic Iraqi politics. So you get to that point and they say, "Well actually, we'd like you to stay." And I think this residual force that President Obama laid out is the same thing I heard about in Baghdad last summer. They talked about the post-occupation force and oddly enough it's very similar to what they talked about in Baghdad with me last summer which was 30 to 50,000 troops because it's really hard to get smaller than that and still have an effective force. There's a lot of minimums you need. [. . .]

Susan Page: Well before you get to the post-occupancy force you've got to get to the point where you're actually withdrawing these troops and Michael O'Hanlon, he's -- President Obama's indicated that these troops wouldn't be coming out a brigade a month which is what he talked about during the campaign but that rather this withdrawal would be pretty backloaded after elections toward the end of the year in Iraq. And I wonder, do you think this timetable is likely to hold up? Will events allow it to proceed the way President Obama outlined it on Friday?

Michael O'Hanlon: I -- I hope so. There's a decent chance by the way let me agree very much in answering with Paul and Tom but add one additional point: I do think we should view the mission as being difficult and enduring and dangerous but I also think that if we can get through this next year, we will have gotten through a lot of the residual dangers and problems in terms of getting through big elections -- that second election in a young democracy, the peaceable transfer of power and also I hope a resolution or at least a partial resoultion of some of these Arab-Kurd issues that are so difficult up north right now that I heard about last week when I was in Baghdad and that could come to a head very soon. So I'm hopeful without being able to convincingly demonstrate this that we can get to a much better place within a year.

Tom Andrews wasn't on the first segment and had nothing of value to say when he did stammer onto the show via phone-in. He said that most Americans would give Barry the benefit of doubt. So nice of pathetic Tom Andrews to presume to speak for all of us. He had nothing of value to say and little that was factual. I don't believe I've ever agreed with one of Michael O'Hanlan's punditry moments but I'd rather sit through his nonsense (which O'Hanlan truly believes) than Tom Andrews spinning. Pillar is falling into the same trap that Phyllis Bennis already did, by the way, which is saying that two or three months doesn't matter. Currently 15 to 16 US service members die in Iraq each month. I would assume the families of those 15 to 16 could tell you that, yes, every month does matter. Michael O'Hanlan -- who is not, my opinion, very astute (to put it mildly) -- had enough sense not to make the kind of ridiculous statements others are.

Susan Page: Now we have notably seen praise from John McCain, his foe in the campaign, and criticism from Nancy Pelosi, his chief ally on Capitol Hill. What do you make, Tom Ricks, of the political situation the president now faces when it comes to Iraq?

Thomas E. Ricks: Well I think what that tells you, with respect, I disagree with Paul, I think it tells you that people understand what's going on here. Is that his speech on Friday at Camp Lejeune was much more about how to stay in Iraq than how to get out of Iraq.

Susan Page: Please expand on that idea.

Thomas E. Ricks: It's a formulation for walking away from taking a brigade out every month for 16 months and instead going to the post occupation force that the military has been planning for well over a year now.

Susan Page: When you go away from the pulling out a brigade out a month -- which is what he talked about during the campaign -- it then makes it possible if the situation after the elections isn't stable, doesn't seem right, I guess you could greatly delay the planned pull out of the forces there at the end.
Thomas E. Ricks: Well I think military feeling that I picked up in Baghdad is that there's a lot more things in Iraq that could go wrong than can go right. You really have to thread the needle to make this work right so they really do want to hedge they really think they're going to be there longer than the president thinks and I don't have the faith in the Status Of Forces Agreement I think that will be renegotiated and I think we're going to have US troops fighting in Iraq for a very long time to come.

Susan Page: If the situation there is less stable, not more stable, will the US forces stay or will the nation's patience basically have been exhausted and we pull out in any case? Paul, what do you think?

Paul Pillar: Well we should note that in the speech last week, the president did give himself some rhetorical wiggle room when he said "I intend" -- that was his word -- "I intend to have forces out by December 2011." Which was a somewhat weaker statement than his one about "Let me be as clear as I possibley can," you know, "no combat after August of 2010." So it's not totally out of the realm of possibility. The only thing I would say about these things, about getting over the next election or getting over the next whatever it is, there's always the next something or other. We've heard about that all in the past. There was the transfer of sovereignty way back in 2004. There were the constituent assembly elections. There was the next round of parliamentary elections. There's always another hump to get over, another reason for us to say, "Oh, the next year is going to be the critical year." We'll be saying that five years from now if we're still in Iraq just as we were saying it five years ago.

On the Status Of Forces Agreement,
Ricks (Foreign Policy) notes today, "Meanwhile, Sen. James Webb (D-A Country Such as This) notes with alarm in an interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell that the Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq has "plenty of loose language in there that would allow our troops to stay longer." He dislikes that idea. I think it is going to happen and think, on balance, that it is better than leaving. But I don't much like either option. "

Tom Andrews' comment about most Americans giving Barack the benefit of the doubt is echoed in another coward's comments.
Robert Fantina (link provided for laughter purposes only, CounterPunch) slobbers, "One hesitates to criticize Mr. Obama too strongly. Rarely, if ever, in the history of the United States has a president inherited such a colossal mess, ranging from the implosion of the U.S. and world economy, to two disastrous and ill-conceived wars." Really? And this is a surprise because? It's a shocker? You go out for a job and you get it, you have no right to whine about it. No one has sympathy for the actress who complains about the loss of her privacy and no one should have sympathy for Barack's 'new problems' that were all known some time ago. He wanted to run. He did. He won. And maybe cowards who run to Canada should just stop commenting on US politics? How 'bout that? And to be clear, we're not talking about someone in the US military making a brave decision to resist by going to Canada. We're talking about an alleged grown up -- who worked on John Kerry's campaign -- being such a coward that after the 2004 election, due to those results, he had to high tail it to Canada. What a coward, what a loser. No one needs to hear from people like that. They have no 'authority' with which to speak. They're the turncoats, the ones who go running whenever things get tough. And how embarrassing for John Kerry that someone associated with his presidential campaign (and associated with MoveOn) could be seen as so unAmerican as to flee the country in a panic over the results of an election. How very, very sad.

If you want to end the illegal war, you fight to end it. And it is always a fight to end an illegal war.
Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) observes, "Those who are breathing a sigh of releif that US troops are being slowly removed from Iraq should stop and realize that this is part of an overall strategy to deepen and strengthen, not end, US domination of the region. Those who think our job is to 'help' Barack Obama carry out this plan are not looking at the interests of the people here, or in the Middle East, in stopping this occupation immediately." Those who want to stop the Iraq War can join with The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War for an action this month. From IVAW's announcement:IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21stAs an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.) To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: or

Those not sure whether it's necessary to protest the ongoing, illegal war should consider
the evaluation of the draw down offered by Steve Chapman (Chicago Tribune):

During the campaign, Mr. Obama pushed a plan to withdraw one or two combat brigades per month until they were all out. Only two things have changed in Mr. Obama's 16-month departure plan: It will take longer than 16 months, and we won't depart.Instead of May 2010, the target date has been pushed back to August of that year. Nor will he bring back one or two combat brigades each month. Instead, The New York Times reports, Mr. Obama plans to withdraw only two between now and December, or one combat brigade every five months.The administration claims it will speed up the pace of withdrawal next year. But if someone says he's going to sober up tomorrow, it doesn't mean he will definitely do it tomorrow. It just means he definitely won't do it today.

Media Lens issues a call for sobriety:

But Obama's lies matter little to much of the public, anti-war activists among them. 'You don't understand,' they tell us. 'Obama +has+ to say all this stuff - it's not what he believes. He's out to change all this, but he has to say it.' This involves a kind of treble-think. Politicians typically hide their ruthlessness behind compassionate verbiage. Obama, we are to believe, is hiding his compassion behind ruthless verbiage - Machiavellianism in reverse.Which is exactly what was said of Clinton and Blair in the 1990s. Of course it could be the case now. But should we not aim to be a little more socially scientific in our political analysis? We can observe that, in a way that mirrors Newtonian physics, enormous political forces tend to act unimpeded unless challenged by powerful oppositional forces. We can observe, further, that there is no reason whatever to believe that the greed and violence that have become entrenched in American politics over decades and centuries have simply gone away. Certainly they have not been countered by mass democratic movements rooted in compassion rather than greed. There are no new, mass-based parties rooted in progressive values; no city-stopping protests erupting out of a transformational political process.If a brand new, benevolent face now fronts the system in which traditionally ruthless forces dominate, rationality demands that we assume it to be a makeover, a brand alteration, an attempt precisely to reduce pressure on the system to change. The Bush-Blair crimes contaminated the American brand with Iraqi and Afghan blood products - we have to assume that the same ferocious system is now in the process of rehabilitating, not revolutionising, that brand. Greed, ignorance and hatred do not miraculously transform into compassion, wisdom and peacefulness, in individuals or in superpowers. Call it Newtonian political physics. Call it Buddhist psychology. Call it common sense.

Today at the Washington Post online, Dana Priest participated in a discussion and, asked about what the US military commanders wanted, said she wasn't sure there was a consensus but she believes "many in the military are hoping for . . . some flexibility so the drawdown deadline doesn't become hard and fast." Asked about similarities between the Cold War and the current wars, she responded, "I agree that there are parallels between those who saw a Commie behind every bush during the Cold War and those who see a terrorist behind every Mid-Eastern face now. Such generalities always backfire, causing the U.S. to spend too much, waste too much and misdirect a lot of our foreign policy effort. But here's where the difference ends: the U.S. helped topple Communism abroad by enabling dissent (not by invading) from within and standing as an ideal for those who wanted out; for many reasons we (capitalists, promoter of equal rights and free speech, etc.) are not the model that moderate Islamic governments and believers want to follow. It's a third way we have not figured out how to effectively promote." Asked to explain why Barack's draw down so closely resembles George W. Bush's statements (Jon Stewart did a mash up on The Daily Show), Preist responds Barack "was being politically expedient during the campaign when he promised at first to get out of Iraq lickety-split. His base did not listen closely when he began to hedge on that later, so now they are surprised. Sorry."

Max Delany (Christian Science Monitor) reports on Ugandans, suffering from extreme poverty, being exploited by contractors in Iraq. Paul Mugabe is paid $600 a month for being a guard at American Camp Diamondback -- while US mercenaries would make $15,000 a month for the same job -- and he observes, "If I am earning $600 a month and these companies are making billions, it is not fair." And it's not fair that US service members make pennies while the mercenaries get rich. The US military offers its own form of pennies: Fight in the US armed forces and maybe you can become a citizen! Today M-NF announced that 251 members of the US military in Iraq ("from 65 countries") took part in a naturalization ceremony becoming US citizens on March 3rd. Tuesday, M-NF noted that the age range was from 19 to 45 and from places as varied as Micronesia and Vietnam. Spc Rosemarie Narvaez is excited because, "I get the right to vote which is something I've looked forward to doing." One might think she should have that right just for being deployed to Iraq by the US government. Possibly she and others should take comfort in that they were made citizens while they were alive -- some US service members have become US citizens posthumously.

In political news from Iraq,
Ahmed Rasheed and Michael Christie (Reuters) report that, moaning over the drop in the price of oil per barrel, Iraq's Parliament has trimmed $4.2 billion from the budget ("nearly 7 percent"). For those wondering, the Parliament still has no Speaker. Meanwhile Manav Tanneeru (CNN) notes, "The Kurds, who have long sought to establish a state, have operated with relative autonomy for the past few years. They also hold oil-rich regions in the northern parts of Iraq." Daniel Williams (Bloomberg News) reports on expansion by the Kurdistan Regional Government:

Just north of Mosul, Iraq's second- biggest city, an ornamental metal gate spans the highway. Beyond it, the sunburst-on-tricolors of the Kurdistan flag proliferate in this region 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the Kurds' agreed-to autonomous zone in the country's far northeast.
Neither Iraqi police nor soldiers venture beyond the gate.
[. . .]
In northern Nineveh Province, of which Mosul is the capital, political offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan have sprouted in several villages. The parties jointly control the peshmerga -- the word means someone who is ready to die. Those forces occupy the Saddam Dam, the country's largest hydroelectric supplier of energy, which lies 35 miles northwest of Mosul.

Meanwhile, Iraqi women suffer in all provinces.
Amnesty International has issued a new report [PDF format warning] entitled "Trapped By Violence: Women In Iraq." The press release notes:

Women and girls are being attacked in the street by men with different political agendas but who all want to impose veiling, gender segregation and discrimination. Islamist armed groups have claimed and justified violent attacks on women not complying with their views.
Women are also suffering violence at the hands of their fathers, brothers and other relatives, particularly if they try to choose how to lead their lives. Many face terrible retribution if they refuse to be forcibly married or dare to associate with men not selected by their families -- even though Iraqi legislation specifically prohibits forced marriage, and the right to choose a spouse is guaranteed under international law applicable in all parts of Iraq.
Wars and conflicts, wherever they are fought, invariably usher in sickeningly high levels of violence against women and girls. Amnesty International is concerned that even if greater stability and peace return soon to Iraq, levels of violence against women may remain high if the authorities continue to allow men to kill and maim women with impunity, and if gender segregation and discrimination against women become further entrenched.
The eight page report will be covered tomorrow. The snapshot is late because it is too long (and not hitting when e-mailed) so we are quickly reducing a number of topics. Amnesty International's report will be addressed in tomorrow's snapshot. We can note right here, however, that Amenesty "International" would get a lot more respect if it treated all world leaders equally. They claim they do. And then you visit the website. Hint, check out the sidebar on the right and ask yourself when, for example, Hugo Chavez got such a following? If they don't want to be considered Amnesty "Provincial" they might try addressing (removing) that nonsense.

AP's Sinan Salaheddin reports a "cattle market south of Baghdad" was the location for a car bombing today which resulted in 10 lost lives and thirty-two people being injured. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) adds, "The explosion occurred today in a crowded livestock market in Hamza, 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Hillah in Babil province, President Jalal Talabani's political party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said on its Web site. The car had been parked near cattle traders. Rescue teams evacuated the wounded, several of whom were in serious condition, to the Hillah and al-Hashmiya hospitals, the PUK quoted Mahmoud Abd al-Rida, director of the health services in Babil, as saying." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes the death toll rose to 14 and the wounded number fifty-five.

In other reported violence today . . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of one "Awakening" Council member and left three people wounded, a Mosul suicide car bombing claimed the life of the bomber and 1 Iraqi soldier and left seven people wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul car bombing that left one police officer and one woman injured and Salahuddin Province's head of education Muhsin Taha al-Mismar and his driver were wounded in a Tikrit roadside bombing (actually, just outside Tikrit).


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Brig Gen Salam solaiman was wounded in a Baghdad shooting and 1 Iraqi service member was shot dead in Mosul last night.

The violence from the ongoing illegal war has created the world's largest refugee crisis. As noted
yesterday, Europe plans to take in only 10,000 Iraqi refugees this year. Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Reuters) reports "disappointed" is term used by Swedish Migration Board's Dan Eliasson on that that level of 'welcoming' and "Eliasson said Sweden had taken 40,000 Iraqi asylum seekers and another 40,000 Iraqi refugees, many joining family there, since a spike in sectarian violence in Iraq in 2006 but expected the number of applicants to fall this year as violence declined." The topic of Iraqi refugees came up again today at the US State Dept press breifing and spokesperson Gordon Duguid explained, "Iraqi refugees receive the same resettlement benefits from the department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services that are provided to all incoming refugees. All refugees are able to receive from the Office of Refugee Resettlement social services for up to 60 months, that is, five years. These services include employment services, employment assessment services and on-the-job training, English langague instruction, vocational training, case management, translation and interpreter services."

In the US,
Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports that the Pentagon offered their first estimate for brain injuries among Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans yesterday: 360,000. AP's Pauline Jelinek observes that "roughly 1.8 million" American men and women "have served in Iraq and Afghanistan" and that, prior to yesterday's announcement, the highest estimate had been by the RAND Corporation which offered the figure of 320,000. Kathy Helmick of DoD's Defense Centers of Excellence noted that this is Brain Injury Awareness month and
cautions, "A very important misconception about traumatic brain injury (TBI) is that it equals a mental health problem -- it does not. TBI does have a number of different health components including mental, behavioral, physical and spiritual, however that does not make TBI a mental health issue." The
National Council on Disability is calling for more services for those suffering from PTSD and TBI. Their chairperson John R. Vaughn states:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are resulting in injuries that are currently disabling for many, and potentially disabling for still more. They are also putting unprecedented strain on families and relationships, strain that can contribute to the severity of the service member's disability over the course of time. The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Veterans Administration (VA) have initiated a number of improvements in the delivery of health care for service members and veterans with PTSD and TBI. They are to be congratulated for these efforts, but more needs to be done. Medical and scientific knowledge needed to comprehensively address PTSD and TBI is incomplete. However, many evidence-based practices do exist. Unfortunately, service members and veterans face a number of barriers in accessing these practices including stigma; inadequate information; insufficient services to support families; limited access to available services, and a shortage of services in some areas. Many studies and commissions have presented detailed recommendations to address these needs. There is an urgent need to implement these recommendations.

NCD [warning, upcoming document opens in Microsoft Word] issued a report yesterday entitled
Invisible Wounds: Serving Service Members and Veterans with PTSD and TBI.

In other news
Stuart Tomlinson (The Oregonian) reports Army Captain Michael Dung Nguyen has been accused of stealing "narly $700,000 in case from an emergency fund while stationed in Iraq and shipp[ing] it back to the states". KOMO notes that he has been charged and was to appear in court this afternoon. For those wondering, Michael Dung Nguyen was not one of the people named in James Glanz, C.J. Chivers and William K. Rashbaum's "Inquiry on Graft in Iraq Focuses on U.S. Officers" (New York Times). None of those named has yet to be indicted. Should they be, we will note them here.

The lies of the US press on the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement were called out here starting in November. We're returning to
Media Lens' alert because they close with a critique of some of the spinners/liars in the British press:

The above was covered by the corporate press with the same wilful gullibility that is found in its reporting on all key issues - the pattern is systematic and unvarying. Patrick Cockburn announced dramatically in the Independent:
"The pullout will bring to an end one of the most divisive wars in US history..." (Cockburn, 'Obama announces troop pullout,' The Independent, February 28, 2009)
No reasonable person could use "will" in that sentence. Honest news reporting would begin: "It is claimed...". Instead, the Independent predicted:
"31 December 2011 "The date by which all US forces will have left Iraq." (Ibid)
Ewen MacAskill wrote in the Guardian:
"Almost six years after the invasion of Iraq, the end is finally in sight for America's involvement in its longest and bloodiest conflict since Vietnam. Barack Obama yesterday set out a timetable that will see all US combat units out by summer next year and the remainder by the end of 2011." (MacAskill, 'US withdrawal: Six years after Iraq invasion, Obama sets out his exit plan,' The Guardian, February 28, 2009)
There is no reason to believe this, but it is the required 'liberal' view of the new 'liberal' president's GIN. Stated with this level of confidence it is potent propaganda. MacAskill added for good effect:
"The prospect of 50,000 staying, even if only for another year, produced dismay among the Democratic leadership in Congress."
It is an interesting and significant reality of modern press performance that the right-wing media are often more honest about 'liberal' leaders than the 'liberal' press. Compare the Independent and Guardian's take on events with Tim Reid's in Murdoch's Times: "President Obama announced the withdrawal yesterday of more than 90,000 US combat troops from Iraq by August next year but his decision to keep a force of up to 50,000 was attacked by leaders of his party as a betrayal of his promise to end the war." (Reid, 'Obama promises to pull out 90,000 troops - but keep 50,000 there,' The Times, February 28, 2009)

And we'll bump a press conference that was pretty important for tomorrow (a press conference from February) and we'll hold off on another item (which will allow us to see how the press rushes to jump on the bandwagon -- or more likely doesn't -- tomorrow ) in order to close with this from
John Pilger's "War Comes Home To Britain:"

In January last year, a report by the respected Opinion Research Business (ORB) revised an earlier assessment of deaths in Iraq to 1,033,000. This followed an exhaustive, peer-reviewed study in 2006 by the world-renowned John Hopkins School of Public Health in the US, published in The Lancet, which found that 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion. US and British officialks immediately dismissed the report as "flawed" -- a deliberate deception. Foreign Office papers obtained under Freedom of Information disclose a memo written by the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, in which he praised The Lancet report, describing it as "robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to 'best practice' given [the conditions] in Iraq." An adviser to the prime minister commented: "The survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones". Speaking a few days later, a Foreign Office minister, Lord Triesman, said, "The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern."The episode exemplifies the scale and deception of this state crime. Les Roberts, co-author of the Lancet study, has since argued that Britain and America might have caused in Iraq "an episode more deadly than the Rwandan genocide". This is not news. Neither is it a critical reference in the freedoms campaign organised by the Observer columnist Henry Porter. At a conference in London on 28 February, Lord Goldsmith, Blair's attorney-general, who notoriously changed his mind and advised the government the invasion was legal, when it wasn't, was a speaker for freedom. So was Timothy Garton Ash, a "liberal interventionist". On 9 April, 2003, shortly after the slaughter had begun in Iraq, a euphoric Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian: "America has never been the Great Satan. It has sometimes been the Great Gatsby: 'They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things...'. One of Britain's jobs "is to keep reminding Tom and Daisy that they now have promises to keep". Less frivolously, he lauded Blair for his "strong Gladstonian instincts for humanitarian intervention" and repeated the government's propaganda about Saddam Hussein. In 2006, he wrote: "Now we face the next big test of the west after Iraq: Iran." (I have italicized we). This also adheres precisely to the propaganda; David Milliband has declared Iran a "threat" in preparation for possibly the next war.

thomas e. ricks
debra sweet
john pilger
steve chapman
the washington postdana priest
gregg zoroyausa todaypauline jelinek
ahmed rasheedmichael christie
media lens
the new york timesjames glanzc.j. chiverswilliam K. rashbaum
donn bobbsinan salaheddin

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