Friday, November 5, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the horror from Sunday's Baghdad attack continues to receive global (if not US) attention, turns out there will be NO Parliament meeting on Monday (start issuing those corrections, news agencies), the US military continues to refuse to address PTSD and the service members suffering from it, the US faces a tough audience in Geneva, and more.
Today on The Diane Rehm Show
(NPR) Frank Sesno filled in for Diane (who returns Monday) and he was joined for the second hour by Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera), Anne Gearan (AP
) and Thom Shanker (New York Times
). When Iraq was briefly mentioned? Excerpt in full:
Frank Sesno: Go to some phone calls in just a minute but, Abderrahim, there's been a very noticeable upsurge in violence in Iraq in the past week. Tell us what happened at that Church in Baghdad?
Abderrahim Foukara: Well basically a lot of Iraqi Christians were held hostage at that Church and when the Iraqi security forces tried to free them, the carnage ensued basically and many of the hostages themselves were killed. Look, we're talking about failed states. Yemen, in a lot of books, is a failed state. Somolia is certainly a failed state. There is a theory which says Iraq is also a failed state. Don't know if a lot of people would agree with that. But it has been described before as a failed state with oil. Iraq is at an impasse. I think the way that it has been described to people in this country, it has been described as a country that has been brought under control. But the violence in recent days has shown us that in addition to having spent seven months after the election without a government. Iraq remains a powder keg. Now the question is what happens down the road when the US completes its withdrawal of its forces?
Frank Sesno: Thom Shanker, you call the Pentagon your office, that's your beat.
Thom Shanker: Right.
Frank Sesno: How is the US military viewing what is happening in Iraq? Both in terms of what's actually happening on the ground and the status of stability there and in terms of how it might effect the continued withdrawal of US forces?
Thom Shanker: I mean, that's certainly the essential question. Not just at the Pentagon but I spent a couple of days talking to commanders in Iraq -- they're on the ground, we're here. And to the very good point that was just made, what they are saying, it's much like our discussion what level of violence is acceptable? They still maintain that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia has been knocked back, it doesn't have centralized command and control, most importantly it doesn't hold territory as it did in '05 and '06 when Anbar was the seat of power, Falluja was the capital, they're not a cellular organization, now shattered, but still capable and always will be of violence. So the American plan, as it draws down from 50,000 to a lower number next year, the counter-terrorism troops will be the last to leave.
And that was it. Time for a break. Time to move on. Do you really think they addressed the Sunday attack on Iraqi Christians? No, they didn't. Did they mention that as Tuesdays funerals were ending, Baghdad was slammed with bombings which claimed more lives than Sunday's assault? No, they didn't. They didn't discuss a damn thing.
What a load of crap. First Thom's long run-on sentence? I've made it that because NYT guidelines demand that it be made into a single sentence to convey it's what the US military thinks. He forgets mid-stream that he's not the US military, that's he's supposed to be a reporter. When, earlier in the broadcast, he's outlining what the US government MUST spend on (defense), he's also in opinion territory and coming off like an advocate and not like a reporter which, according to NYT's written guidelines, he's forbidden from doing.
NYT has no guidelines on stupidity but they should make it a firing offense. Talking about a drawdown and a withdrawal without noting what was stated at the State Dept briefing October 25th? That sort of ignorance should result in termination. But it's not ignorance, it's a wilful desire not to address the topic. You can refer to that day's "Iraq snapshot
" and you can click here
and go to the State Dept briefing. (You also have video on that link.) It's not that the press doesn't know what was said -- they were present, they asked the questions -- it's that they're not telling you what was said. Big difference.
If you're wondering where Anne was during the conversation, when Thom wasn't attacking her remarks (with his opinions hidden as facts), she wasn't allowed to speak for whole sections. It was rather sad, there was less sexism in the 1950s than what got exhibited on today's Diane Rehm Show. Thom would go on -- after a person called in -- to offer a single sentence on Sahwa which was so simplistic it was a falsehood and it's amazing he got away with that crap.
And tomorrow we might not be together
I'm no prophet and I don't know natures way
But I'll try to see into your eyes right now
And stay right here
'Cause these are the good old days
-- "Anticipation," written by Carly Simon
, first appears on her Anticipation
Carly has often noted that she's more of a reporter in her lyrics -- for one example, see Stephen Holden's 1981 Rolling Stone cover story on Carly. She may have to change that self-description -- not because reporters are becoming more like poets, but because they're becoming so much less than reporters -- and we're not just talking about Thom Shanker. From this morning's second entry, word for word.
included: "Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) notes that Iraq's Parliament is currently set to meet on Monday -- that may or may not take place (court order not withstanding) -- and that it's possilbe a motion could be put forward favoring Nouri. Should that be attempted, it's equally possible that enough members could storm out of the session leaving the Parliament without a quorum." Quorum is in the news today. No, that's not being psychic, it's just paying attention and anyone can do it. Middle East Online informs today, "As a result, MPs are scheduled to convene on Monday to elect a speaker and two deputies, the first step toward forming a government. But with about 50 MPs on pilgrimage to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca, western Saudi Arabi, and other political groups unwilling to attend, it is unlikely to reach a quorum. The constitution stipulates that a speaker, president and prime minister must be elected in that order." Again, anyone should have known that it is possible -- especially after the strong arming required repeatedly in the last Parliament to reach a quorum -- that Monday's session may or may not go forward. There's reporting and there's predicting -- they are not the same thing.
Test, when Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) writes this:
Iraq's parliament elects a new speaker on Monday, eight months after an inconclusive election, in a move that could force Sunni forces to join a Shi'ite-Kurd alliance in a national unity government or risk falling apart.
is that reporting? No, it's predicting. Reuters does not know what's going to happen Monday. A new Speaker might be elected. Or Parliament might not reach a quorum. Or an earthquake could strike Baghdad. Or anything in the world can happen. Stating things will happen when they haven't yet is not, is never, reporting.
"I'm no prophet and I don't know nature's ways," as Carly sings. But I do know that which has not happened can never be reported as "will happen" because that's prophecy, not reporting. Since we made the above points this morning, that little thing called life has seen fit to give us some classroom teaching devices.
Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports
-- yes, we can use the term accurately to describe what she does in this sentence -- on the latest developments, "The convening of Iraq's parliament was postponed as the country's political leaders failed to reach an agreement to form a new coalition that would eliminate an eight-month power vacuum." CNN reports (term used intentionally)
, "Kurdish lawmaker Mahmood Othman told CNN that a vote for a parliamentary speaker was postponed from Monday to Thursday so lawmakers can review a plan from Kurdish politicians to help jump-start government formation. Othman did not disclose any details of the Kurdish proposal." The Kurdish proposal? No one knows what it is. But friends at the State Dept say the Kurds have been making comments to the US State Dept all this week about being king makers and noting that they hold the seats to make either Iraqiya or State of Law the rulers. They appear to be, as one friend at the State Dept put it -- only cleaned up (use imaginations and you'll grasp what I cleaned easily), in a size match with Moqtada al-Sadr whom they still take offense to being hailed as a "king-maker" during parts ot the long stalemate. Which way will they go? No one really knows and, supposedly, they're having private meetings with people from Nouri's slate and from Allawi's slate as they attempt to determine who can offer the Kurds the best deal.
"The Iraqi parliament has held exactly one official session since the March 7th elections," Kelly McEvers observed on yesterday's All Things Considered (NPR, link has audio and text)
. "That session lasted 17 minutes. Since then, politicians can be seen at parliament from time to time, but those are mostly meetings about meetings." The Wichita Falls Times Record News' editorial board offers
, "If you're looking for a job with great pay and perks and light duties -- none at all, in fact, since June -- you could do worse than be one of the 325 members of Iraq's parliament." Ammar Karim (AFP) quotes
an unnamed MP 'jesting,' "All of the oil incomes is going into the parliament." It's doubtful the average Iraqi will laugh at that statement coming from an MP. Middle East Online notes
the efforts of the Iraqi Civilian Initiative to Protect the Constitution to force the newly elected MPs to return their salaries. AP notes
, "An Iraqi lawmaker's basic monthly salary is $10,000, just $4,500 short of that of rank-and-file members of the US Congress. In addition, Iraqi MPs get a $12,500 monthly allowance for housing and security arrangements, for a combined total of $22,500." And use the link for more because they provide a breakdown of tax breaks, per diems, pensions and more that the MPs receive. Meanwhile Charles McDermid and Nizar Latif (Time magazine) quote
MP Aliya Nsayif on this week's violence, "Just a few weeks ago, the government said security was under control, but it doesn't look that way to me. It looks to me and to the public like politicians have abandoned their promises to protect the Iraqi people."March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and twenty-nine days and still counting.
Tonight, Niraj Warikoo (Detroit Free Press) reports, a mass was scheduled in Warren, Michigan to remember "martyrs of Our Lady of Salvation Church" in Baghdad. St. Mary's Assyrian Chuch issued a statement that, following the mass, they would hold a mourning rally. Sunday in Baghdad, at least 58 peopled died after assailants took over Our Lady Salvation Church. Tuesday as funerals were wrapping up, Baghdad was slammed with multiple bombings. Arab News notes:
Making it infinitely worse is the statement by Al-Qaeda in Iraq claiming responsibility. It has declared war on half a million Iraqi Christians because two Egyptian women, who supposedly converted from Coptic Christianity to Islam, are rumored to be held prisoner by Coptic monks somewhere in Egypt.
The story may or may not be true. The reality may well be more prosaic and connected to the fact that Coptic women get round their church's ban on divorce by announcing they have converted to Islam and then reconvert (which is legal in Egypt) once they have secured a divorce. Whatever, the rumor is being stirred up by extremists for political gain. But it has nothing to do with Iraqi Catholics. Even if they and Egyptian Copts were one and the same — they are not — the reality is that people in Iraq have no control over what happens in Egypt and cannot be held responsible for it. To insist otherwise is no different from the twisted and bigoted thinking that demonizes all Saudis, all Arabs and Muslims, as terrorists because of the involvement of 17 of them in 9/11 attacks. That is repugnant and so is what Al-Qaeda claims in Iraq.
Iraqi Christians say they do not believe their government is serious about protecting them, according to the Christian Post. One Iraqi Christian leader said many officials have given their sympathy following Sunday's slaughter at a Baghdad church, but he does not believe any promises. "At the funeral there was the Shiite leader, the official spokesperson of the government ministers," said Bishop Georges Casmoussa of Iraq, according to Christian Today. "All the discussion was flippant - 'We are with you, we are all suffering,' etcetera, but we have demanded a serious investigation. We can't count on good words anymore. It's all air. We've heard enough." Violence has increased steadily against Christians in Iraq, and about the religious minority has fled the country since 2003. Sunday's attack by Islamic militants killed 58 people and wounded almost 80, making it the deadliest recorded attack on Christians yet.
Alan Holdren (Catholic News Agency) quotes
Mosul's Father Firas Benoka stating, "Everyone watches as Christians are killed and no one tries to put an end to these attacks. This, for me, indicates the constant will to eliminate Iraqi Christians definitevely. So we are mistaken if we think that the recent attack on Christians will be the last." The Republican's editorial board offers
, "It's not a good development for Iraq, because many of the country's doctors and professionals are Christian. But what angers us most is the fact that the Islamic militants who prepared this attack -- reportedly a group linked to al-Qaida -- consider themselves martyrs. According to news accounts of the attack, one of the priests murdered in the attack, Taher Saadallah Boutros told his killers, 'kill me but let the worshippers go in peace.' Those were the words of a true martyr." Lebanon's Daily Star notes
the continued exodus of Christians from the Middle East, "In all, Christians used to comprise about 20 percent of the Middle East's residents 100 years ago; today the number has shrunk to about 5 percent. The peril in the disappearance of Christians is that this region, now dominated by Muslims, would lose a deeply meaningful part of its diversity as well as the beneficial interaction of cultures. Worse, the persecution of one minority always winds up leading to the hounding of other smaller groups; hwere in the Middle East, persecution of one religious minority always carries the danger of exploding into sectarian violence, a vicious cycle that needs to be snuffed out." Asia News reports
that, in Jerusalem, Holy Land bishops are asking for "three days of prayer for Iraq" and issued a statement which includes the following:
Words of distress, condemnation and incrimination are no longer enough in the face of the horror that is taking place repeatedly in Iraq, especially with regard to Christians over the past years and which reached a pinnacle of savage insanity with the massacre on Sunday. [. . .] The Church of the Holy Land, reaching out to her sister in Iraq, appeals to the conscience of each and every one in authority there, starting with the Iraqi government, to be vigilant in protecting all her citizens, especially those who have no protection, those who have no weapons and no militias, their only guilt being that they maintain their faith, in the land of their fathers and grandfathers.
Mahmud Abbas, Palestinian President, stating, "People who commit such barbaric acts can in no way claim to be followers of the Koran or to be Muslims. Today the Palestinian people suffer the same pain as the Iraqi people."
Around the world what took place Sunday is huge news. It has huge implications. It's only the US press that refuses to address that. You saw in Thom Shanker's embarrassing babbles on The Diane Rehm Show today which didn't even acknowledge the deaths. You see it in coverage that wants to treat it as just another day or wave of violence. Religious persecution is taken seriously around the world because many people and regions have longer histories than the United States and have not had even lip service of religious freedom. Possibly because the US has had that, they're not understanding the global shudder that's taken place over the attack on a religious miniority, in their place of worship. In the US, a number of Christian communities are again voicing the belief that the US press refuses to cover such attacks because they're hostile to Christians. I'm not in the mood to defend the press so I'll just note that this reaction inside the US from a large number of Christians? Not at all surprising. And the reaction should have been factored into the coverage. Some outlets around the country -- the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News -- have beats that can cover this issue from a religious perspective and have done so. Those that don't? They should have worked harder at conveying the horror this attack had globally.
Around the world, you have seen government leaders and religious leaders and communities of all kinds and faiths speak out against the horror of a minority being attacked in a place of worship. It strikes fear around the world and unites people that often have no common ground. But here in the US, it's been treated by the press, largely, as just another day in Iraq. That not only does a disservice to the victims, it does a disservice to the world community which rallied from all sides on this issue and it divorces the United States news consumer from the realities and horrors that the rest of the world is experiencing. In no way, shape or form have the US outlets provided good journalism on what took place Sunday and what followed.
Of the latest waves of violence, The Economist points out
The violence is still far less intense than it was three years ago.
But the security forces are plainly unable to stop the occasional big attack. Factionalism does not help, with branches of the forces loyal to different political leaders and ministries. Intelligence gathering, a crucial tool in counter-terrorism, is still patchy, because different branches are reluctant to share information with each other. American forces still share intelligence across the board, but have shifted many of their best people and units to Afghanistan.
In particular, the Sunnis are still underrepresented within the intelligence services. The Awakening Councils, drawn largely from Sunni former insurgents, whose recruitment by the American army was instrumental in lessening sectarian violence during the American military surge in 2007, have not been adequately incorporated into the Iraqi forces. As a result of the ensuing resentment, extremism may once again become more tolerated among Sunnis. Last year's budget freeze after the fall in oil prices in 2008 has left little money for training forces in intelligence. A new budget cannot be passed until a government is in place.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports
a Baquba car bombing which claimed 1 life and left eight more people injured, a Mosul bombing which wounded "three young siblings," and, dropping back to Thursday, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured five people. Reuters adds
a Kirkuk roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa leader. With more details on the Baquba bombing, Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports
that nine people were wounded and the bombing claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi security forces. Karadsheh adds, "According to local residents, the city has been on high alert since a series of coordinated bomb attacks in Baghdad on Tuesday. Many roads have been cut off and a vehicle ban has been imposed in some areas, including the main market."
In related news, Al Bawaba reports
, "On Wednesday afternoon, November 3, the subordinate forces of Nouri al-Maliki, in a new move against Camp Ashraf, blocked the road leading to the camp's cemetery and set up a check point searching vehicles and the residents visiting the cemetery. When the residents peacefully protested against this unjustified move, the Iraqi forces started insulting them and then beat them with cables, sticks and truncheons. One of the residents was wounded on his face during the attack and taken to hospital. Among the assailant forces, there was a man who spoke in Farsi and appeared to be a member of the terrorist Qods force. He was giving the instructions to the Iraqi forces and telling them that he was the commander in the field and tried to create a crisis. These forces said that the attack was ordered by Lieutenant Ahmad Hassan Khodheir of the Army's Intelligence under Maliki's command. He is a well-known agent of the Iranian regime whose affiliation to the regime has been exposed by the Iranian Resistance on number of occasions."
Today in Geneva, [WikiLeaks] Julian Assange spoke to the press. CBS and AP report that he's calling for an investigation into the incidents documented in all the papers WikiLeaks has released on Iraq and Afghanistan. Stephanie Nebehay (Reuters) quotes him stating, "It is time the United States opened up instead of covering up." Assange was in Geneva as the US prepares to face a UN Human Rights Council review tomorrow in Geneva. AFP notes that "human rights campaigners" are making public their disappointment with the White House and the ACLU's Jamal Dakwar is quoted stating of Barack, "We all thought that was a terrific beginning. However, we are now seeing that this administration is becoming an obstacle to achieving accountability in human rights."
Today, Stephanie Nebehay (Reuters) reports
, the US faced criticism from "friend and foe alike" as its human rights record was addressed by the UN Human Rights Council. Harold Hongju Koh, State Dept legal adviser, skirted reality with claims such as, "Let there be no doubt, the United States does not torture and it will not torture. Between Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, we have conducted hundreds of investigations regarding detainee abuse allegations and those have led to hundreds of disciplinary actions." Reality, as long as John Yoo freely roams the earth, the US does promote torture. "A few bad apples" at the top have been consistently and repeatedly excused, their crimes overlooked and ignored. Torture was the policy and, thank you, Harold, for the bedtime story, but we're not all eight-years-old. For some reality, refer to Andy Worthington's most recent writing on the topic
Turning to the US, Friday, September 24th
FBI raids took place on at least seven homes of peace activists -- the FBI admits to raiding seven homes -- and the FBI raided the offices of Anti-War Committee. Just as that news was breaking, the National Lawyers Guild issued a new report
, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US
." Heidi and Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner covered the topic on WBAI
's Law and Disorder Radio
including during a conversation with Margaret Ratner-Kunstler which you can hear at the program's site by going into the archives and the program has also transcribed their discussion with Margaret and you can read it here
. Nicole Colson (US Socialist Worker) spoke
with Michael Ratner
about the raids and you can also refer to that. Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) noted
a development today, "We turn now to an update on the fallout from the FBI raids in late September that targeted antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury were served on thirteen people but later withdrawn when the activists asserted their right to remain silent. But this week the Justice Department said it intends to enforce the subpoenas for some of them and require them to appear before a grand jury. All those subpoenaed have been involved with antiwar activism that is critical of US foreign policy in Colombia and the Middle East." The National Lawyers Guild's Bruce Nestor joined the show briefly:
BRUCE NESTOR: Three people are now being -- looking at reappearing in front of the grand jury and likely being forced with the choice between talking about who they meet with, what the political beliefs of their friends and allies are, or perhaps risking contempt and sitting in jail for eighteen months. These are people who are deeply rooted in the progressive community in Chicago and Minneapolis. These are grandmothers, they're mothers, they're union activists. They were some of the organizers of the largest antiwar march at the 2008 Republican National Convention. And so -- and they're being prosecuted under this material support for terrorism law, a law that was really enhanced under the PATRIOT Act and that allows, in the government's own words, for people to be prosecuted for their speech if they coordinate it with a designated foreign terrorist organization. What you run the risk of there is that even if you state your own independent views about US foreign policy, but those views somehow reflect a group that the US has designated as a terrorist organization, you can be accused of coordinating your views and face, if not prosecution, at least investigation, search warrants, being summoned to a grand jury to talk about who your political allies and who your political friends are. So, so far, this law has largely been used against individuals, often Muslim Americans. Of course, Lynne Stewart --
AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds.
BRUCE NESTOR: Lynne Stewart is one of the biggest cases. This is the first time that they're going directly after the antiwar and peace movement. It's something people really need to respond to. Go to www.stopfbi.net for more information about what you can do.
For some time it's been a 'ten seconds' rule on stories that actually matter and 'ten seconds' certainly describes Amy's sorry coverage over the last three years of what was done to Lynne. Meanwhile Coffee Strong
, the GI coffeehouse next to Fort Lewis, has issued a statement this week:
November 2, 2010 JOINT BASE LEWIS MCHORD, WASHINGTON – An anonymous group of soldiers in 4-9 Infantry Brigade have released a statement detailing how the Army drove one soldier to suicide. It details the humiliation that soldiers who seek help for mental problems face from their superiors. This comes on the heels of a rash of incidents involving soldiers from JBLM who had untreated mental issues, including one soldier who shot a police officer in Salt Lake City, UT. The letter reads:
"On March 17, 2010, Spc. Kirkland returned home from his second deployment to Iraq. Three days later he was dead—killed by the Army. Spc. Kirkland was sent home from Iraq because the burden of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder became too great—so much that he wanted to take his own life. Many of us also struggle with the effects of PTSD, which is a completely natural, human response to what we are exposed to overseas. It is not a sign of weakness or cowardice, but the inevitable result of serving in combat. It is a burden we all share, and we all deserve adequate treatment and understanding for the sacrifices we have made.
Upon returning home, Spc. Kirkland was not more than three steps into the barracks before the acting First Sergeant publicly ridiculed him, calling him a "coward" and a "pussy," knowing full well that Kirkland was suffering from severe depression and anxiety. He was then carelessly assigned to a room by himself, and like every other soldier with PTSD, given substandard care by Army mental health doctors. Forty-eight hours after he was in the care of 4-9 Infantry, he was dead. Spc. Kirkland had a wife and young daughter. Before his blood had even dried off the floor, our respected leadership was already mocking his death.
Spc. Kirkland did not kill himself. He was killed by the Army. The Army inadequately treats PTSD, while it re-enforces a culture of humiliation for the soldiers who suffer from it. Spc. Kirkland was accused of faking his trauma. PTSD is a legitimate medical condition that is unavoidable in a combat zone. As soldiers who lay down our lives every day, we deserve adequate treatment for the wounds we receive in combat. We deserve to be treated for PTSD just like we would for a bullet wound or shrapnel. Spc. Kirkland received the opposite. But what happened to Spc. Kirkland is not an isolated incident. This is happening at such a high rate in the Army that it is becoming an epidemic. Now, more active duty soldiers commit suicide than are killed in combat. Every year, the number of suicides far surpasses the year before, and 2010 is already dwarfing last year's numbers.
How has the Army responded? Scandal after scandal has broken out about Army officers ordering doctors not to diagnose PTSD; to instead deny veterans the care they deserve, pump them full of pills, and return them to combat. It has become Army policy to do everything possible to avoid diagnosing PTSD. And when it is diagnosed, the care is inadequate.
Throughout the Army, soldiers have to fight for simple medical care. The Army doesn't care at all about us, our lives, or our families—and hundreds of us are dying because of it. We are denied care because the Army needs bodies to throw into two quagmires, and because the VA doesn't want to pay us the benefits we deserve. Maj. Keith Markham, Executive Director of 4-9 Infantry, put it very clearly in a private memo to his platoon leaders: "We have an unlimited supply of expendable labor." That's what we soldiers are to the Army and the Officer Corps: expendable labor. Spc. Kirkland was expendable, and we witness that fact every day. But soldiers all over the Army are standing up. At Ft. Hood, the base with the highest number of suicides, protests have been held both outside the base and in the hospitals, consisting of active duty soldiers demanding better treatment. All over the country soldiers are organizing in their units to fight for adequate care. The Army will never give us the care we deserve unless we force it to do so. As soldiers, we have rights. Mental health care is a right for the job we were made to do. We have the right to be adequately treated and compensated for PTSD -- but the Army is not doing that, so we have the right to collectively organize and demand proper treatment.
Actual defense spending in the U.S. is over 1 trillion dollars a year. Most of that money goes into the pockets of defense contractors, while only a tiny fraction is allocated for mental health care. There are hundreds of billions of dollars for new fighter jets, or to open Burger Kings and KBR facilities overseas, but when extra resources are needed to combat a suicide epidemic, we only get scraps from the table."
The Army has taken no disciplinary actions against the leadership involved with SPC Kirkland's death. Nor has the Army released any statements regarding the circumstances behind the incident.
GI Voice, DBA COFFEE STRONG, is a veteran owned and operated coffee house for soldiers, veterans, and military families to speak out about their experiences in a comfortable and safe environment. We provide free GI rights counseling, veterans benefit advocacy, and PTSD counseling for soldiers and veterans. Coffee Strong is located 300 meters from the Madigan Gate of Fort Lewis at 15109 Union Ave. SW Ste B.
For more information please contact:
GI Voice, DBA COFFEE STRONG
At Truthout, Sarah Lazare reports on Iraq War and Afghanistan War veteran Jeff Hanks who has self checked-out in an attempt to get treatment for his PTSD. He tells Sarah, "I am just trying to get help. My goal in this situation is to simply heal. And they wonder why there are so many suicides." We'll note more on this next week but I just got a call about Coffee Strong's press release while I was finishing up dictating this snapshot and we are already long. Had I known about it going in, we would have opened with Coffee Strong. But we'll come back to the topic next week.
President Obama takes questions from Steve Kroft in his first one-on-one interview since his party's midterm election defeat in the House.
Boxing sensation Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao has done it all in the ring, winning world championships in seven different weight divisions. He'll go for an eighth title next week, but will his new job as a Philippine politician hurt his career? Bob Simon reports.
60 Minutes, Sunday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.