Friday, April 24, 2009

A New Leaf

A New Leaf is a 1970 film directed by Elaine May and Friday is movie night. In addition to directing it, she also wrote the screenplay and she co-stars in the film.

Elaine May and Mike Nichols came to fame as a comedy team and even performed for John F. Kennedy. They were very successful. When they broke up their comedy duo, Mike Nichols went on to direct plays (Barefoot in the Park) and then films with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate among his early hits which remain classics.

A New Leaf was Elaine May's directing debut.

This is a very funny film and also a really great one. It stands up on the laugh meter and it stands up in terms of quality films.

Walter Matthau is the star. He's a playboy who spends all of his money. When he learns he's busted (which I had a question about), he comes up with a plan to marry for money. He doesn't like people so it's a problem finding a woman. He stumbles upon Elaine May's character and she's an orphan and rich so he chooses her.

Elaine May is so funny in the movie. It's really amazing that she directed this and acted in it because she's so good. There are bits that you have to see several times to get. I don't mean that you're confused, I mean you're laughing at one thing -- which is funny -- and only after you see it the third time do you notice that something else is going on the frame as well that's equally funny.

Doris Roberts is in the movie. That's a shocker! She's really good in her small part but she usually is good in films. But every one is so great in this movie. All the roles are just perfect, this was very well cast. And probably a sign of how well directed it is. At Third two Sundays ago we did "Movie roundtable" and Ty brought in an e-mail that just trashed Elaine May as a director. C.I. dispensed with that nonsense. But because of the way the author of a bad book was slamming May as a director, I wanted to see the film. She has no visual eye! That's what the author was saying.

No visual eye?

Repeatedly the camera work is strong, the shots are framed wonderfully. There's the scene where Elaine and Walter almost drown that comes to mind, the scene where Walter asks his uncle (James Cocco) for money (I really love the angles on that one) and Walter in his bedroom before the wedding. Those are three wonderfully visual sequences. I can list ten more with no problem.

But the film has a wonderful look to it and it is a funny movie that stands up. A New Leaf is a wonderful directorial debut for any director but it just proved how talented Elaine May was. In the roundtable, C.I. made the point that the bad author didn't watch some of the movies she was weighing in on. I can only guess that she didn't watch A New Leaf because this is an amazing film.

And I only knew Elaine May onscreen from In The Spirit with Marlo Thomas. So I knew she could play a funny character but she can do so a lot more. Very talented.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, April 24, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Chris Hill breaks his first Iraq promise, Cliff Cornell's court-martial is set for next week, and more.

We're going to start by looking back. Six years ago, the New York Times [Sunday] Magazine featured Peter Maass' "
Good Kills" which demonstrated all that was wrong with war reporting (April 20, 2003, pp. 32 - 37). Predictions? Maass opened with them: "As the war in Iraq is debated and turned into history, the emphasis will be on the role of technology -- precision bombing, cruise missiles, decapitation strikes." Really? Is that what anyone talks about today? And did they really talk about it then? No and no. But that was what the first Gulf War was about and lazy reporters couldn't capture what they were seeing -- apparently the US education system has failed them and they lack the ability to put their observations into words -- so they tried to use a narrative from a previous war.

Six years ago, this story demonstrated how the embeds were a success . . . for the US military. Reporting on his 'buddies' in The Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, Maass smoothed over all the edges even when the edges were dead civilians. Especially when it was dead civilians. Entering Diyala Province (though Maass didn't use -- and probably didn't know -- the term), his 'buddies' were drgiving over a bridge. He calles this attempt to get across the Diyala River (by vehicle, over a bridge) "a signal event in the war" -- which indicates the other problem. The reporters were so jacked up on their own sense of being 'history' that they jerked off in print and the audiences back home were stuck with it. What were minor events were suddenly 'epic' just because a reporter was embedded.

"BATTLE IS CONFUSION." And you know Maass stood by it because it was in all caps. But REPORTING IS CONFUSION when reporters forget their role. As the marines attempt to travel (drive) over the bridge, things get, as Maass puts it, "complicated." We have wasted four pages on his War Porn when finally readers learn (in less than two pages) that civilians were being killed. This 'big battle'? Lt. Bryan McCoy is thrilled that people are dying. He utters a censored word -- the paper renders it "[expetives]" -- describing Iraqis and then self-strokes, "Boys are doing good. Brute force is going to prevail today." He adds, "We'll drill them." And indeed McCoy and the others did. But they were civilians attempting to cross the bridge from the other end. Civilians were attempting to drive across the bridge. Proving what a fool he was Maass -- even after it's known that civilians were killed -- is still writing about these precision shootings. A moving car's engine block is being taken out? Didn't we hear that one after the shooting on the car containing Giuliana Segrena? And those bullets were everywhere. Maass writes, "As the half-dozen vehicles approached, some shots were fired at the ground in front of the cars; others were fired, with great precision, at their tires or their engine blocks. Marine snipers can snipe." Can Maas gush over his 'buddies' any more foolishly and any less journalistically?

After he's done gushing, after approximately two-thirds of another page has been wasted, Maass finally informs, "The vehicles, it only later became clear, were full of Iraqi civilians." Now what reader would feel cheated? You got Maass playing Miss Cleo and offering predictions, you got pages and pages of rah-rah, you got everything but reporting and there's not a great deal in what remains of the article. Despite, for example, speaking to one survivor, Eman Alshamnery, who was shot, whose sister was shot dead along with two other people in one of the cars, he really doesn't have much to say. He speaks to another survivor who is digging graves to bury people and Maass doesn't have much to say. No one knows how many people were killed -- despite Maass and other journalists being present, Maass never feels the need to give a death toll. He estimates at least six cars with people and also one old man walking (with a cane) on the bridge were shot dead. But the number of dead isn't important to him. Nor is it important to give voice to the survivors.

But, naturally, he offers plenty of space for the marines such as Lance Cpl Santiago Venture who explodes when another journalist (unidentified) disputes a marine's assertion of "Better safe than sorry" and another's pant of "I wish I had been here" by noting that "the civilians should not have been shot." Why is that? That really is what a reporter using six oversize pages (the Sunday Magazine is the size of Rolling Stone until the recent 'downsize') in a magazine should be able to answer. Maass does note that maybe warning shots whipping through the air aren't readily heard or recognized by civilian populations. And maybe more so when the firing is coming from people in camo that the civilians can't see. Just idle observations that readers really have to fill in to grasp what's being inferred but not said: You don't grasp that these 'tink' sounds hitting your car are bullets being fired by people you can't see. And the US marines weren't trained to grasp that just because your instructor tells you someone under fire will stop doesn't mean that's what happens in the real world (as has been demonstrated in Iraq over and over).

But why did the journalist say the civilians should not have been shot? The journalist isn't quoted or even mentioned except for that sentence and another where "the journalist walked away". Hmm. Maybe because the Genever Conventions insists that those engaged in combat "distinguish themselves from the civilian population while they are engaged in an attack or in a military operation preparatory to an attack. Recognizing, however, that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities an armed combatant cannot so distinugish himself, he shall retain his status as a combatant, provided that in such situations, he carries his arms openly; (a) during each military engagement, and (b) during such time as he is visble to the adversary while he is engaged in a miliary deployment preceding the launching of an attack in which he is to participate." That's the Geneva Convention. That's what Maass can't tell you about, what he wouldn't tell you about.

It's not just that it's 'bad' and 'sad' that these Iraqis were killed, it's that the way in which they were killed was, as described by Maass, a violation of the Geneva Convention. Maass can't be bothered with things such a the law. Much better to present the whole thing as if it were a traffic jam on some epic scale. No one's at fault, people died. Oh well. That is his 'angle.' It's embarrassing, it's not journalism. While he can't be bothered with explaining or citing the law, he does make time for the excussed. Ventura is quoted at length with a 'defense' that includes: "We've got to be concerned about our safety. We dropped pamphlets over these people weeks and weeks ago and told them to leave the city. You can't blame marines for what happened. It's bull. What are you doing getting in a taxi in the middle of a war zone?"

"Our safety"? Actually, as the invading force, you've got to be concerned with the civilian population and, are in fact, bound by law to protect the civilian population -- protect and not harm. "Dropped pamphlets" and people were supposed to leave their homes? And go where? And go why? Because another country told them to? Can't blame marines? Did the civilians shoot themselves? A taxi in the middle of a war zone? In the middle of Iraq, in the middle of their country, in the middle of their lives, in the middle of their homes. "Their" being the key term as in "theirs" not "ours."

Peter Maass, of course,
wrote about knowing Salam Pax -- an Iraqi blogger who worked for the New York Times though Maass' inflated self-opinion turned it into 'works for me'. The same ego that allowed him to think he had the right to disclose various details about Salam Pax without checking with Pax first. Talk about arrogance and a sense of entitlement. If you're missing it, note "working alongside -- no, employing --" Pax and "there were occasions when I stayed in my room and let Salam loose for several hours." Let him loose for several hours? Is he a dog? For all who whine about Devil Wears Prada type of employees, grasp that it's the pompous employers who write the most insulting 'memoirs.' Last month, at his own website (The Fear), Salam Pax noted AP's assertion that Baghdad' was "calm . . . in part because the city is now ethnically divided." To which Pax added, "No s**t! You're not telling me anything new here. This was government and US army policy. Who put up the walls cutting the Sunni districts from the rest of the city?" Pax also takes on the assertion that "Shia militiamen and death squads" are now "off the street":

Is the writer being wilfully naïve? I am sure he knows better. The militias might have disappeared but one of the main reasons why these Shia neighbourhoods are safer than other districts is because Shia political parties were allowed to have their own organised security and militia forces. Like the Kurdish parties no one was allowed to question the right of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq in having it's own militarised arm, the Badr Organisation. And al-Dawa under al-Maliki started their own security brigade, in the guise of a counter terrorism brigade.
The Sunnis on the other hand were left to fend for themselves. And between the Mahdi Militias with their ominous slogan 'Our regular programme will resume after this break' and the other Shia security forces the 'Awakening Groups' were too little and too late. The harm was done.

"Awakening," "Sons of Iraq" and Sahwa all refer to the same group and the
Boston Globe editorialized about it yesterday: "One sign of trouble is how Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has been treating the so-called Awakening Movement. . . . The Awakening fighters were promsied that once Al Qaeda was crushed, they would get jobs in the police and other security forces. But the Shi'ite-dominated government appears to be breaking that promise. Not only has it been slow to hire former Sunni insurgents, but it has allowed several Awakening leaders to be arrested on the basis of flimsy allegations. If this sectarian behavior is not stopped, sooner or later it may result in a resumption of calamitous Sunni - Shi'ite violence." independent journalist Dahr Jamail observed this week (at ZNet) that the whole thing was "ripe with broken promises" and:

It is an easily predictable outcome. An occupying power (the US) sets up a 100,000-strong militia composed of former resistance fighters and even some members of al-Qaeda, pays them each $300 per month to not attack occupation forces, and attacks decrease dramatically. Then, stop paying most of them and tell them they will be incorporated into Iraqi government security forces. Proceed to leave them high and dry as the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki begins targeting them - assassinating leaders, detaining fighters and threatening their families. Allow this plan to continue for over six months, unabated.Not surprisingly, the Sahwa are fighting back against US forces and those of the Iraqi government.

Wayne White of the Middle East Institute in Washington told Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor), "if you continue arresting and harassing, and shunning Awakening types -- many of whom were originally derived from the insurgency -- you're really playing wtih fire." Yesterday, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a roadside bombing outside of Baquba which claimed the life of Sahwa leader Mubarak Hammad al Obadi and 3 of his aids while leaving two more aids wounded. Violence is increasing (again) in Iraq. James Hider (Times of London) adds that "Awakenings" "have been repeatedly targeted by militans, and complain they have not received support from the Shi government, which views them with deep distrust." Hider notes an investigation by his paper "revealed that widespread abuse of power and corruption among Iraq's sprawling new security forces are also stoking resentment among the population, stirring people to carry out attacks." Hider also reported on that investigation into Iraq's police and he notes, "In the desperate rush to drag Iraq back from civil war, sweeping powers were granted to its new security forces. Human rights workers, MPs and American officials now believe that they are all too often a law unto themselves: admired when they defeat terrorists but also feared for their widespread abuse of power." Hider also reports on a video of a woman being raped (video shot by a mobile phone) and ex-Falluja Mayor Jassim al-Bidawi identifies the man in the video "as an Iraqi police officer" and says the one filming the rape is as well: "They are thought to have drugged the woman as she visited her husband in a detention centre in Ramadi. Since the rapist's uncle is a senior policeman in the city the attacker is all but untouchable, Mr al-Bidawi says." Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) reported Thursday on a woman, Dalal, who was in a Tikrit prison where she was "raped by prison guards," she informed her brother who visited her "drew a gun and shot his visibly pregnant sister dead." They explain how common assaults on women are and how easily buried. No one is imprisoned for either raping Dalal or for murdering her. No one was fired. Just another example of the ongoing femicide in Iraq.

Staying on the topic of Iraqi women the
Janan Collection is Iraqi women's arts and crafts. Megan Feldman (Dallas Observer) reports that the collection/colletive was started by Ty Reed who was a US soldier serving in Iraq when she encountered a young Iraqi widwo named Fatima who, like many other Iraqi women, was now the sole support for her family. Fatima explained that she and approximately 24 other widows "had artistic skills such as basket-making, painting or leather-working. Could Reed help them find a way to earn a living?" So Reed and Teresa Nguyen (Ty Reed's sister) started up the collective and there will be an online auction May 9th. Feldman notes, "The work on tour now includes traditional baskets, ornaments and jewelry made of leather, turquoise beads and gold, as well as paintings like Harvest Moon, a minaret-studded cityscape set against a glowing moon. . . . The proceeds from just one painting, Reed said, will support the painter's family for at least a month."

More widows and widowers and orphans in Iraq today as
yesterday's violent bombings with mass fatalities is echoed. This morning Ernesto Londono and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) reported that at least 135 people have been killed in Iraq bombings today and yesterday with today seeing 55 dead and one-hundred-and-twenty-five wounded in a double bombings near a Shia mosque in Baghdad. Timothy Williams and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explain the double bombings were suicide bombers ("within five minutes of each other") outside "the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim and his grandson." The Times link also has audio option where Myers says, "The bombers came up and mingled with the crowd while they were waiting to get into the shrine that you mentioned and blew themselves up nearly simultaneiously as near as we can figure." He also stated, "It seems very clear that the last few attacks have targeted the Shi'ites in Iraq particularly." Corey Flintoff (NPR) adds, "Until the country can reach power-sharing arrangements among its ethnic Kurdish and its Shiite and Sunni Arab communities, Iraq remains vulnerable to attacks by al-Qaida and other militant groups, analysts say." James Hider (Times of London) notes that the death toll hit 60. Aws Qusay, Zahra Hosseinian, Michael Christie and Louise Ireland (Reuters) observe: "The attack was the deadliest single incident in Iraq since 63 people died in a truck bomb blast in Baghdad on June 17 last year, and came amid growing concerns that a recent drop in violence might turn out to have been just a temporary lull." Laith Hammoudi and Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) quote eye witness Hammad Faisel stating, "There were piles of bodies. I saw a man running after the explosions to get away, but he quickly fell. I watched him die."

There was other violence in Iraq today and we'll note that but the bombings and Iraq were a good portion of the second hour of
The Diane Rehm Show today so let's note this from Diane and her guests Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), Daniel Dombey (Finanical Times of London) and Yochi Dreazen (Wall St. Journal).

Diane Rehm: Daniel Dombey, let's talk about this latest violence in Iraq. Another explosion this morning, a suicide bomber killing perhaps as many as 125.

Daniel Dombey: These are obviously awful events with terrible human costs. I think, however, the key thing to bear in mind is this is a crucial year and any easy assumption that meant -- that went from the progress of last year in terms of safety and security to believing that this coming year would mean that Iraq would just go on getting better was always going to be a perilous one. There are lots of longterm political problems in Iraq. Maybe those have been papered over. Maybe we focus too much on the military side. And this is becoming ever more clear. It's a very important year in Iraq. There are an awful lot of tensions in the country.

Diane Rehm: What does this mean or what could this mean for US plans to reduce the military in Iraq, Karen?

Karen DeYoung: The statements that have been made as various withdrawals have been announced have been very careful to say 'We know it's not going to be totally peaceful in Iraq when we leave. We believe we have set up political and economic structures that are lasting and it's up to them to deal with it.' I think that you -- it's interesting that these attacks in -- over the past two days in Baghdad and Diyala are believed to have been Sunni groups against Shi'ites in at least two cases at mosques where people were worshiping [and] don't involve US troops. I think that we're concerned about the north where we believe al Qaeda still is around Mosul and we're concerned about Kirkuk which is the kind of oil center in the north which is being contested by the Kurds and the Arabs. Uh, it's been intimated that we might be asked to stay a bit in those cities but I think these kind of bombings -- Iraqi on Iraqi in Baghdad and father south -- I think are not going to hold up the plan to depart.

Diane Rehm: Yochi Dreazen, would you agree?

Yochi Dreazen: I think it depends on which part of the plan one is scrapping. US troops have already made clear that they're going to stay in bases that they consider to be 'joint bases.' So if there is -- pretty much all US bases now have Iraqis on them. The interpretation that US commanders have is that they're allowed to stay on those bases beyond summer of 2010. They can stay on those bases pretty much until all troops leave. So I think that the US footprint in major cities will shrink further but it's not going to be as if we disappear. I mean, we will still have a fairly large footprint in Baghdad, we'll still have one in Mosul. Falluja, which we've pulled out of entirely, has had a spate of bombings lately so now US troops at Ramadi and Taqaddum -- the two bases closest to Falluja -- have begun inching closer back to that city as well. I think the broader point is that if they're had been a broader political consensus that the US hoped would emerge from stability consensus wise and that consensus is very fragile in part because the decisions about Kirkuk, about Arab-Kurdish delineation of powers and oil money were never made. They've been kicked down the road, down the road, down the road. Now we're leaving so the vacuum is re-emerging and those questions still have to be answered.

Daniel Dombey: Yes, I would absolutely agree with that. I mean there are some very fundamental problems in Kirkuk where you have this Kurdish-Arab tension and, actually, US forces have increased in Kirkuk in recent months. You also have this basic critique that Obama always made of the Bush policy which was it didn't concentrate enough on the politics and, in fact, we don't really see a political initiative so far in terms of the US to try and push deals in Iraq. But you haven't had a US ambassador there so there is a US ambassador who is headed out this week. But it's an enormous struggle to reach any kind of an accord in Iraq. It's a very important year though as we've seen Maliki really try to consolidate his power and lots of tensions emerging as well.

Diane Rehm: But you know what's interesting? What's happened is that Iraq has completely knocked Afghanistan off the front pages. Now we see concentration on the suicide bombings in Iraq but also what's happening in Pakistan. We were planning to send more troops to Afghanistan, removing them from Iraq. Now how is all of this going to be effected, Karen?

Karen DeYoung: I think the, you know, this year, they've already settled on which troops are going to Afghanistan and the request from the commanders there is for another 10,000 next year which has not been authorized. I don't think that's going to seriously impinge on plans to withdrawal from Iraq. Right now those are the only requests. The 21,000 that were authorized, actually 21,000, for this year and a request that the president has not signed off on for an additional 10,000 next year. Right now there are not additional requests to send more troops to Afghanistan and, in fact, the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, has said many times, as have others, there's a limit to the number of troops you can send to Afghanistan.

Diane Rehm: Have Americans, with the exception of military families, stopped caring about Iraq, Yochi?

Yochi Dreazen: I think even in the military there's been a massive shift of military manpower and military mental power. Within the military the question now is how do you try to win Afghanistan and stabilize Pakistan. It's less Iraq. I think there was a bit of false complacency that came in when violence fell and Obama won and made clear his plan to leave. To the degree that anybody was still following Iraq, and I think many people had tuned it out, at least a year earlier if not longer, there's a belief that we won, that the war was over. Violence was down, we were going to leave. Things were not great but there was a somewhat functioning government and now we could do something else. And when that happened, I remember getting an e-mail from someone in Baghdad saying that we in the US could decide to leave and we could say we're done with our part of the fighting come 2010 or 2011 but there's another side and that side might want to keep fighting. And I think what you're seeing now is that there is another side, it does want to keep fighting and we're going to decide do we keep fighting to?

[. . .]

Yochi Dreazen: I think that the intent of those carrying out the attacks is precisely that issue. You're trying to stir up renewed Shia on Sunni violence and reprisals. To be honest, I don't think it's going to work -- in part because Shia political power is stronger and more stable across the Arab portions of Iraq then it's been at any point since 2003. Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army which had been the main form for Shia reprisals is largely receded into the background. A lot of its members no longer affiliate themselves with him or his movement. I think the intent is clearly that if a Sunni group carries out an attack big enough or horrific enough, some Shia group will carry out a revenge attack. So the hope would be -- obviously, I use 'hope' not in the way we would use it -- the hope would be that if you kill 500 Shia at prayer one day, something bad will happen, Shia on Sunni. To be honest, I think that was what happened in '05, '06, '07. I think to a degree early '08. I think that has largely played out.

Diane Rehm: So do you all believe that what's happening in Iraq now is not going to effect US plans to draw down troops moving forward? Karen?

Karen DeYoung: Uh, not right now, I don't think it will.

Diane Rehm: Not right now.

Karen DeYoung: I think that what was said previously, that what we think of as a complete withdrawal eventually is not going to be a complete withdrawal as soon as we -- as we think it will.

Diane Rehm: And what happens to those large bases that the United States has built in Iraq?Karen DeYoung: They're supposed to be turned over to Iraq eventually --

Daniel Dombey: You've got. Oh, I'm sorry.

Karen DeYoung: No, go ahead.

Daniel Dombey: You've got to remember a three-stage process. By June of this year, the US is supposed to be out of major cities although with the conditions that Yochi mentioned before. By August 2010, it's supposed to cease combat operations which is an Obama phrase that probably doesn't mean anything very much. And by the end of 2011, it's supposed to be out completely. Now that's actually according to a deal negotiated with the Bush administration. Whether that's going to happen -- that's a long way off One criticism of Bush and a criticism of Obama is that you really need to get the politics right. The real priority, however, for the US, is for Iraq not to provoke a regional conflict.

Diane Rehm: Mmm-hmm.

Daniel Dombey: That's why something like Kirkuk, which is something that involves the Kurds, the Arabs and Turkey -- which does not want Kirkuk to fall under Kurdish control, is so sensitive. They do not want Iraq to be a source of instability in the region. I think that they're prepared for Iraq to be a less than wonderful place for Iraqis to live in.

Yochi Dreazen: If I -- if I was a betting man, which I would never publicly admit to being, I would put considerable money that there is absolutely no chance that we would be out of those big bases by the end of 2011. The bases are so beyond-belief enormous. I mean, the Victory compound out by Baghdad airport is roughly 50 square miles, it's huge. You have thousands and thousands of tons of equipment, tens of thousands of vehicles. So the idea that somehow in the next two years all of these bases will be dismantled is non-existant. Beyond the fact that US officials have made clear all along that, should the Iraqis request it, maybe we'd stay beyond 2011. And you can envision a 100 scenarios --

Diane Rehm: Of course

Yochi Dreazen: -- in which the Iraqi government says we need you.

Steven Lee Myers of NYT (audio link again): "The fact is that not many American troops have yet withdrawn so the numbers are still high." That's an important point and also one made in a Congressional hearing this week that Jim, Dona, Ava and I have already decided is part of an editorial for Third Sunday. There are parts you probably agree with above and parts you don't. Some you may strongly disagree with. What's interesting is how November 2007 is actually the crucial period if you want to talk US draw down. That was avoided. We may cover it at Third or here next week.

But right now, some of the other violence.
Hussein Kahim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which killed police Maj Raad meki and left three people in his car injured and a Jalwlaa car bombing which claimed 2 lives and left twenty-six people injured. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and injured another, a Sinjar sticky bombing claimed the life of "the son of a local sheikh" and, dropping back to Friday, a police major was shot dead in Kirkuk.

Today the
US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division - North Soldier died in a non-combat related incident in Salah ad Din province April 24. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings to 4277 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. This is the third death of a US service member announced this week and the 14th for the month thus far -- already putting April's death toll ahead of March's.

Tuesday Chris Hill was confirmed as US Ambassador to Iraq. AP reports Hill arrived in Baghdad today. And they seem on the point of gushing that it's only "three days after" his Senate confirmation. What the hell have they been drinking? Reality, the unqualified Hill has already broken his first promise. As John Kerry noted in the Senate Foreign Committee's hearing on Hill March 25th, Hill stated he would leave for Iraq "within a day of his Senate confirmation." Does it matter? Yeah it does. You say you'll do something, you better do it. This is another example of Hill telling the Congress one thing and then doing another. And it makes John Kerry look like an idiot because, in his opening remarks at that hearing, Kerry argued against any attempts to delay Hill's confirmation stating that it "would do a serious disservice to our efforts" in Iraq if senators attempted "holding up a vote on Ambassador Hill's nomination." Kerry said, "This is not a time for delay." He added, "The committee will move to quickly discharge Ambassador Hill, who has committed to depart for Iraq within a day of his Senate confirmation." Committed. And he already broke it. It's not a minor issue and one more sign that Hill's a little 'too casual' when it comes to job responsibilities.

Winding down on Iraq,
Mattis Chiroux faced a military board this week (see Tuesday and Wednesday's snapshots). The board has a recommendation. Yesterday, Matthis wrote a very intense and moving account of his life thus far. We've noted the process here and a few people have e-mailed to dispute where it stands now. In Tuesday's snapshot, I'm going by three officers I spoke to on the phone and one JAG attorney I spoke with in addition to a woman Jess spoke with and she typed up the process and e-mailed it. Here is that e-mail:

SGT Chiroux's duty status will not change today because his case is notcomplete. HRC-St. Louis will compile the board record and complete alegal review prior to forwarding the case through the Commander, HRC-STLto the Commanding General, Human Resources Command. Before he left today, SGT Chiroux was informed of the Board's findingsand recommendations. Due to Privacy Act constraints, I am not able todiscuss this with you. SGT Chiroux remains a member of the Individual Ready Reserve until theCommanding General takes final action. This is expected to occur inseveral weeks' time. Thank you, v/r, Maria Quon LTC, U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer U.S. Army Human Resources Command-St. Louis 1 Reserve Way St. Louis, MO 63132-5200 (314) 592-0726 [. . .] Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE
Based on the conversations and the e-mail, the board made a recommendation or even a decision but it goes on up the chain of command. No one is attempting to insult Matthis in any way. Nor to, as two e-mails suggest, take something away from his victory. But I'm not Scott Horton. Translation, I can't know the truth and say something else. I can't say "Bush is going to be indicted!" when I don't know that's true. The e-mail published above is censored only to take out Quon's e-mail -- which is her business one but I'm not comfortable having that in there. I didn't speak to anyone in public affairs. Jess spoke to her and she e-mailed him. What she's stating in that e-mail is what I was told by three officers familiar with the procedure and by one JAG attorney who knows the drill. We met the three-source rule with two extra.
At Courage to Resist, a piece by Matthis Chiroux states he was awarded a recommendation by the board. I don't know where people are seeing something other than that but I've explained why we have worded it the way we have and, again, it's also the way Chiroux himself does. Also at Courage to Resist:

Cliff Cornell was denied sanctuary in Canada; will face general courts martial Tuesday, April 28 at Ft. Stewart, Georgia
Donate to Cliff's legal defense here ]56 people have given $2,270 as of April 22. Goal: $3,000
By Friends of Cliff Cornell. Updated April 22, 2009
The U.S. Army has charged Specialist Clifford Cornell, with desertion. Cornell, 28, surrendered himself to authorities at Fort Stewart, Georgia on February 17, after being denied refugee status in Canada. The Arkansas native left Fort Stewart four years ago, when his artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. According to family and friends, Cornell did not want to kill civilians, and said that Army trainers told him he must shoot any Iraqi who came near his vehicle.

That's this Tuesday. Turning to public television
NOW on PBS examines rape in "Justice Delayed:"A terrible statistic: one in six women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. But an even more shocking reality: A backlog in processing rape kits--crucial evidence in arresting violent predators -- is delaying and sometimes denying justice for tens of thousands of American women. NOW travels to Los Angeles County to investigate why it has the largest known rape kit backlog in the country--over 12,000 kits are sitting untested in police storage facilities. An internal audit found that more than 50 of these cases have exceeded the 10-year statute of limitations on rape. "The evidence that we're talking about represents human lives," Los Angeles Controller Laura Chick tells NOW. "Those are lives stacked up on the shelves waiting for justice." NOW talks with courageous rape survivors and law enforcement experts for insight and answers in this disturbing but important report. Are these women being victimized twice?

NOW on PBS begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings) as does PBS' Washington Week which finds Gwen sitting around the table with Dan Balz (Washington Post), Joan Biskupic (USA Today), Jeanne Cummings (Rona Barrett's DC) and Mark Mazetti (New York Times). Also on PBS (and starts airing tonight on many PBS stations, check local listings), Bonnie Erbe sits down with Kim Gandy, Amanda Carpenter and Avis Jones-DeWeever to discuss this week's news on To The Contrary. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers: Vice President BidenIn this profile of Joe Biden, Lesley Stahl spends three days with the vice president and also interviews his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and his boss, President Barack Obama. Watch Video
Powered By CoalCoal is America's most abundant and cheap fossil fuel, but burning it happens to be the biggest contributor to global warming. Scott Pelley reports. Watch Video
The OrphanageIvory is selling for nearly $1,000 a tusk, causing more elephants to be slaughtered and more orphaned babies in need of special care provided by an elephant orphanage in Kenya. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video

the boston globe
dahr jamail
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
tom a. peterthe christian science monitor
james hider
karen deyoungthe washington post
nprthe diane rehm show
the los angeles timestina susmancaesar ahmed
megan feldman
corey flintoff
ernesto londonoaziz alwan
laith hammoudi
corinne reillythe new york timestimothy williamssteven lee myers
aws qusayzahra hosseinianmichel christielouise ireland
matthis chiroux
cliff cornell
the third estate sunday review

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