Thursday, March 17, 2011

5 movies

Ann and Stan with a joint-post. A rural -- deep rural -- community member e-mailed Ann for suggestions on this weekend. They live in an area that has a gas station and that's it. You drive 45 minutes and you get to a 'city' that has a Wal-Mart. Drive 45 minutes more and you get to a real city. But there are people concerned in this rural area.

So we thought about it and wondered why not a house party?

We may need to explain this is farm country. Meaning, its acres and acres and then a neighbor, then acres and acres and a neighbor . . . So the idea that there's a marching area? Not really so much.

So why not just gather and do a house party? Talk about the war. And, because we love movies, we say show a movie about the war or two.

We made a quick list of 5 films.

1) Stop-Loss.

This is a great one and we bet it will play well with the audience which is largely older. They'll most likely see the characters as their sons and daughter (singular on the last because there's only one woman with a big role).

2) Redacted.

This is a hard hitting film loosely based on the group of US soldiers in Iraq who plotted to gang-rape and kill 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer, kill her five-year-old sister and kill their parents. Possibly Brian De Palma's finest movie and one of the most important ones about the Iraq War.

3) The Hurt Locker.

This one is readily available. It's an Oscar winner. It's got much going for it. But we would urge you to check and make sure that everyone hasn't already seen it.

4) Coming Home.

This is a Vietnam war film. Jane Fonda and Jon Voight won Oscars for their roles. And there's a lot to tie in with today. And it has a great soundtrack. Our favorite scenes revolve around Jane and Jon's first date.

5) Avatar.

We're betting most movie lovers have seen it. But we're betting they'd be willing to see it again. Strongest argument on film against the current counter-insurgency craze. Classic film.

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

Thursday, March 17, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi Parliament goes on holiday, Friday's protests in Iraq may be derailed, Robet Gates is still working on implementing appropriate dwell time -- all these years later, and more.
Starting with Medea Benjamin. Medea, what's wrong with you? And Charles Davis? Don't you know we're not supposed to remember an illegal war continues in Iraq? Thankfully Medea and Charles ignored the memo and become the most promiment names to remember the Iraq War on this eighth anniversary of the start of it reflecting on ten realities (Huffington Post):
4. Lights Still Out
Thirteen years of bombings and sanctions crippled the infrastructure and basic services of what was once a wealthy country. Then came the 2003 invasion, which destroyed electrical plants, sewage systems, water treatment facilities, hospitals and more. Eight years later, the living conditions of Iraqis are worse than under Saddam Hussein, with the country plagued by a continued lack of electricity, clean water, medical care and security. Iraqis wonder how it is, after the most powerful country in the world occupied it and ostensibly spent billions on reconstruction, they are still living in the dark.
5. Millions Flee Their Homes
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, since 2003 "more than 4.7 million Iraqis have fled their homes, many in dire need of humanitarian care" -- hardly an endorsement of life in the "liberated" nation. Many Iraqis fled their homes to seek asylum in Iran, Jordan and Syria, while roughly 1.5 million fled to other parts of Iraq, the majority of which "have found no solutions to their plight," according to the UN. In the aftermath of ethnic cleansing, millions will never be able to return.
6. Women and Girls Forced into Prostitution
Women in Iraq have been particularly hit by the invasion and occupation. The Iraqi government estimates there are up to 3 million widows in Iraq today. Meanwhile, violence against women -- including honor killings, rape and kidnapping -- has soared , forcing many women to remain at home and limiting employment and educational opportunities, according to a new Freedom House report. "A deep feeling of injustice and powerlessness sometimes leads women to believe that the only escape is suicide," the report notes.
Many Iraqi women who fled to neighboring countries have found themselves unable to feed their children. Just to make ends meet, tens of thousands of them -- including girls 13 and under -- have been forced into lives of prostitution, particularly in Syria.
"From what I've seen, 70 percent to 80 percent of the girls working this business in Damascus today are Iraqis," one refugee told the New York Times. "If they go back to Iraq they'll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available."
Good for Medea and Charles. And we'll stay on the topic of the Iraqi women a bit more.
William Cox (American Chronicle) observes, "At a cost of more than one trillion dollars, 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' has slaughtered more than 100,000 Iraqis, including thousands of children, and taken away the existing rights of women." This week, Francine Kiefer (Christian Science Monitor) examined the realities of 'free Iraq' for Iraqi women. She noted Freedom House's survey of the years 2005 to 2010 and the five categories they measured. In four of the five, the ratings dropped. Only in voting ("Political Rights and Civic Voice") did things improve -- from 2.2 to 2.6. On their grading scale, a 5 is the highest. Iraq never scored even a three. On "Autonomy, Security, and Freedom of the Peson," it dropped in the five years from 2.6 to 1.9. From the "Nondiscrimination and Access to Justice" section, we'll note the following:
The justice system does not always treat women and men equally, notably in the issues related to honor killings, rape, and personal status law. Article 409 of the penal code offers leniency in honor killing cases, setting a maximum penalty of three years in prison for a man who kills his wife or close female relative and her partner after catching them in an act of adultery. It also deprives the victims of the legal right to self-defense in such situations. Article 130 of the penal code allows penalties of as little as six months in prison for the killing of a wife or female relative for honor-related reasons. Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) Order No. 6 of 2001 extended the application of such mitigated sentences to those who kill third parties for "making reference" to the dishonorable act by the slain woman, and prohibited acts of revenge against the killer.[7]
After 2003, the instances of gender-based violence, including honor killings, soared throughout Iraq. In the southern city of Basra, authorities had recorded a 70 percent increase in such murders in 2008, with 81 reported by late November, resulting in only five convictions.[8] Lawyers who represent the victims of rape and other violence against women receive death threats. Most honor crimes go unreported by the family members, who bury the victims themselves and attribute the deaths to militia violence or other causes. Such families often receive sympathy and tolerance from the police, if not encouragement for doing what they see as the right thing. Perpetrators are released without investigation or charges, and the government remains silent, treating the cases as private matters. This response leaves women paralyzed with fear and vulnerable to daily domestic violence, sexual harassment, and killings. A deep feeling of injustice and powerlessness sometimes leads women to believe that the only escape is suicide.
In 2000, the Kurdish regional government revoked the laws on mitigated sentences for honor crimes and, a year later, made them punishable by up to 15 years in prison. These measures, however, did not apply in the rest of Iraq. In 2008, Narmin Othman, the current Minister of Environment and one-time acting minister of state for women's affairs, led a campaign to make honor killings throughout the country punishable by life imprisonment or death. Although many parliamentarians supported the proposal, they faced opposition from the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance and the Sunni-led Iraqi Accord Front. Party members claimed that such killings of women are permitted under Shari'a.[9]
Articles 19 and 37 of the constitution prohibit arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention, as well as all forms of torture or inhumane acts. But many Iraqi women, as well as men, have been unlawfully arrested and detained in crowded prisons for months or years without trial or access to a lawyer. Prisons allow women to keep their children with them if there is no extended family, especially if the child is an infant, and childcare supplies are provided. There are separate prisons for males, juveniles, and females. Still, some female inmates allege that they are sexually assaulted, tortured, beaten, and raped by Ministry of Interior guards and police investigators seeking confessions. According to one report, the women's prison of Kadhamiya in Baghdad was infiltrated by Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), the Shiite militia, and operated as a brothel at night. Its 174 female inmates and 17 children were later relocated to a new women's prison.[10]
March 2nd, Riz Khan addressed the issue of women in Iraq on his self-titled Al Jazeera show:
Riz Khan: I know that you, like Rabab El Mahdi, have also faced a lot of questions that you consider a bit naive or misdirected and I know you wrote a lot about women in Iraq after the US-led invasion.
Dr. Nadje Al-Ali: That's right.
Riz Khan: You get asked questions like what do Iraqi women want How do you tend to respond to those kind of questions?
Dr. Nadje Al-Ali: What do American women want? What do British women want? Uhm, you know, people rarely ask those questions? And I think the moment I ask it back, they realize well we are not a homogenious body, you know, we are different women with different ideas. And, you know, over the last few years, I've always been asked and I told them, "Well there are different Iraqi women with different experiences, different political views and it's not just because of sectarian differences but it's because of class differences, it's because people live in different places around Iraq."
If Iraqi women are seen as a monolithic group, and sometimes they are, it is equally true that other times they're completely ignored. They were ignored by many outlets -- including the New York Times -- when the war started. John F. Burns and Dexter Filkins couldn't be bothered writing about them or even quoting them. Time and again, to read the GoGo Boys of the Green Zone's 'reporting' was to feel Iraq's entire population must consist of men only. Which is not just a shame, it's a distortion. Many Iraqi women were working very hard in attempts to ensure that their voices were heard while rules were being made (by the US government). At the end of last month, Maria Fantappie (Women's Worldwide Web) noted:
OWFI is a grassroots organization aimed at helping women in need, no matter their background or history. OWFI's radio and newspaper -- Al Mousawat, or "Equality" -- gives voice to ordinary women, women whose stories would not otherwise be heard. "People say they do not want to speak about prostitution and consider it a 'shameful' issue to speak about," Houzan observes. "But we should openly discuss all the issues and oppressions women are facing, however 'shameful' these issues may be for some. Otherwise, these women would feel abandoned." She adds: "OWFI's aim is to be there for those women who don't have a life, those who did not receive an education, those who have been forced to become prostitutes, those who are widows, and those who have been beaten, tortured and raped." OWFI strives to empower women, to help them to achieve equality and protect their rights. As Houzan points out, the organization is also concerned to establish a secular constitution "without discriminatory laws against women, such as Islamic Sharia Law."
"In Iraq, some elite women entered politics and were elected to Parliament," Houzan tells us. "But," she laments, "Many of them don't fight for womens rights. For the political parties, these women are just a way of respecting the gender quotas. The women are utterly beholden to their party leadership."
No women took part in the protracted negotiations to reach a compromise government. And despite holding a quarter of the seats in Parliament, only one woman runs a minsitry; women's affairs, a largely ceremonial department with a tiny budget and few employees.
In the previous government from 2006 to 2010, four women led ministries, and in the government from 2005 to 2006, six did, including the influential ones governming public works, refugees and communications.
Today AK News reports that Ministry of State for Women's Affairs announced that the Council of Ministers decided "to allocate a proportion of small loans for women." Which takes us back to the March 2nd, broadcast of Riz Khan:
Riz Khan: Do you see in this new changing landscape of the Middle East that perhaps women can play a greater role as entrepreneurs and perhaps and perhaps improve their situation that way?
Dr. Nadje Al-Ali: Yes, but I think it's a double-edged sword. I mean when we see developments, economic developments in the country like Iraq, there's lots of push for -- new liberal, capitalist push for women and men to become entrepreneurs. This is at the expense of women being involved in the public sector and historically, in the region, women have been much more involved in the public sector. This is at the expense of welfare provisions of the state. So I think it is a very sort of narrow angle to look at it. Yes, women entrepreneurs? Yes, of course it is nice and we have it in the Gulf but I don't think it really addresses the wider issues of socio-economic rights and I'm very concerned about this neoliberal agenda of "let's train some women to become entrepreneurs." And actually, we saw that in Iraq. There was lots of training programs funded by the American government to try to train Iraqi women to become entrepreneurs and I think this is very problematic.
Manal Omar is the author of Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity -- My Own and What it Means to be a Woman in Chaos. It charts her journey to Iraq, as an American (and an Arab) to help the women of Iraq and what she learned from and of Iraqi women. Manal shares many stories and, Iraq being the site of an ongoing war, they don't all have happy endings. One example:
During one of the visits, a young Iraqi woman accompanied the [US] soldiers as their translator. I had seen many translator before, but something struck me about this woman. She had an aura of strength, and I was impressed by her confidence. She also had a slight limp, and instinct told me this was something new. I found myself staring at her with curiosity.
She caught my eye and smiles. "You are either worndering about my limp, or you are thinking I am some sort of traitor for working with the Americans."
I was embarrassed at having been caught staring and openly confessed, "I am just thinking about how hard it is to be a female translator. I am an American, so I cannot say much to the traitor part."
She laughed and introduced herself as Raghad. She began by telling me how her team had been caught in a roadside bomb on the airport road. I was stunned. She described in detail the events of that horrible day: the sound of the explosion, the eruption of fire, and her realization that she might not make it out alive. She explained to me how, in the last few seconds before she passed out from the pain, her only thoughts were for her twelve-year-old son. Similarly, in the first few minutes after she woke up after a four-month coma, her only desire was to see her son.
"Why are you back at work?" I asked, shocked that after a near-death experience she would temp fate so soon.
"The same reason I took the job in the first place," she answered. Raghad explained that she was a divorced mother, and her parents would not allow her to return to their home with her son. Raghad's husband had been abusive, and she could not bear the idea of leaving her son with him. When she was able to earn a substantial income, her parents had allowed her back in the home. In return, her earnings were given to her father at the end of the month.
Manal Omar notes that Raghad died three months later when she was shot by a sniper.
Unrest continues in Iraq. notes "clerics, politicians and intellectuals" demonstrated in Najaf yesterday to show support with the people of Bahrain and denounce the "Arab silence" over the violation of human rights. If you're new to events in Bahrain, you can click here for BBC News' round up of reactions from the Bahrainis to the arrival of Gulf state troops ("mainly Saudi Arabia and the UAE") at the invitation of the government with the hopes that the troops will intimidate (or worse) the protesters. In addition, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, today expressed her alarm over "the reported [military] take over of hospitals and medical centres in the country, which she called shocking and a blatant violation of international law." Aswat al-Iraq notes yesterday saw "hundreds" in Karbala protesting on behalf of the people of Bahrain. Mohammed Taqi al-Mudarrisy is quoted declaring, "The demonstrators have demanded Saudi Arabia to withdraw its forces and stop its interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain, and the demonstrators have demanded the Iraqi government to announce a firm attitude against such 'savage' interferences, also calling on the Iraqi Parliament and the political officials to take a 'brave attitude' to force Saudi Arabia to withdraw its forces from Bahrain." al-Mudarrisy is a Shi'ite and, as Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) observes, "A regional showdown over Bahrain is exacerbating the split between Iraqi Shi'ites and Sunnis, who see the machinations of their neighbors through the lens of the sectarian divide that led to years of war in Iraq." Al Rafidayn reports Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is making statements and Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for protests in Baghdad and Basra on Friday.

Both al-Sistani and al-Sadr previously attempted to stop a Friday protest (they were unsuccessful) so their actions at present may be sincere or they may be an attempt to derail the protests against the Iraqi government. The possibility becomes only more worth considering when you grasp that Nouri al-Maliki has shown no solidarity with protesters in other countries but suddenly is speaking out on this issue. Sincere or not, their actions risk (as they should be aware) re-inflaming sectarian tensions within Iraq. Tomorrow's protests will be interesting even though they will probably be ignored by the US press again. AP will file, possibly the Washington Post and that will be it for the US outlets as we have seen week after week.
Al Rafidayn reports that Parliament has suspended their activities and meetings until March 27th in 'solidarity' with the people of Bahrain. If you're grasping how stupid that is, you may be grasping that the Parliament has accomplished not a damn thing despite drawing huge salaries and per diems. Or you might be thinking that Iraq has its own unrest which the Parliament and Nouri were supposed to be addressing in less than 100 days -- but now they're taking off ten? Or maybe you're thinking that the Obama administration wants US tax payers to fork over more billions to this country whose 'government' accomplishes nothing.
Then again maybe you're just remember the earlier grand standing Parliament did this month? From the March 9th snapshot:
In other news of Parliament, the National Alliance held a press conference today. Al Mada reports that they are threatening to walk -- all 80 of them -- if Parliament doesn't stop 'reading speeches and statements and failing to legislate.' The report also notes that although Parliament was to go into recess April 14th, they've extended the session to run through May 14th.
'Look at us,' they bragged a mere eight days ago, 'we care so much we're not going to take our spring break! We're going to get to work! Roll up our sleeves and be hear until May14th!'
And yet now the little overpaid babies need ten days off. For 'solidarity,' you understand? Nouri al-Maliki couldn't have make them look as stupid as they've just made themselves look.
And by the way, today was the day -- remember the whispers -- or the latest day that Nouri was supposed to announce Minister of Interior, Minister of Defense and Minister of National Security. It didn't get done. Three of the main security positions for the country and the positions remain unfilled. And at this time the Parliament thinks they need to take ten days off?
Is it any wonder the Iraqis protest? Related, Inas Tariq (Al Mada) reports that the Iraqi forces are importanting large quantities of "electric batons" (stun batons) with the intent to use them on demonstrators. The Integrity Commission's Sabah al-Saadi has stated in response that attacking the demonstrators would be contrary to the Constitution and that instead of importing 'electric' batons, the government should have been working on delivering electricity to the people. Meanwhile Ali Hussein (Al Mada) wonders what would happen if Nouri al-Maliki showed up for the protests in Baghdad's Tahrir Square (also known as "Liberation Square") tomorrow. Hussein explains the thought was inspired by a photo of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shaking hands and speaking in Tahrir Square. Stephanie McCrummen's "In Iraq protests, a younger generation finds its voice" (Washington Post and Foreign Policy) covers the Iraqi youth:
"What we have passed through is like a dark dream," said [Basaam] Abdulrizak, referring to the U.S invasion and the sectarian bloodshed that claimed relatives, friends and his own youth. "We believe in Iraq as the primary identity, not sect or religion."
It would be easy to dismiss such pronouncements as youthful romanticism, and the more cynical do. The demonstrations here, calling for reform, not revolt, have been relatively small. And Iraq is different, the refrain goes: a place fractured along sectarian, tribal and class lines, divisions mirrored in a governing elite that derives its power from them.
Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured, a Baghdad bombing cliamed 1 life and left three more people injured and a Mosul bike bombing left eight people injured. Kurdistan News reports police Lt Col Mohammed Abdul Jabbar al-Obeidi states the US military conducted a raid in Tikrit and killed 1 Iraqi and that a Tikrit missile exploded killing 3 shepherds.

While Iraqis are scheduled to protest tomorrow, in the US, protests are expected to take place Saturday, A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in these action:

March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.

The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.

While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.

Actions of civil resistance are spreading.

On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.

Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.

As we enter into the 8th year of war with Iraq and have already passed the 9th year mark with the war with Afghanistan, the costs of these wars are adding up. There is the economic cost, which has reached the trillion dollar mark at an estimated cost of 2.5 to 4.6 trillion dollars [1]. Yet, the human cost to our troops has been skyrocketing as well, and not just those dying in combat but those who have taken their own lives when they returned home.
We constantly hear the mantra of the psychological effects of fighting in the wars, and that they are taking an extreme toll on the troops. But this mantra brings the horrors of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma, and traumatic brain injury to just numbers. The facts as just numbers don't show the real pain to service members and their families. They only reduce that pain to a rating system just like the Veterans Affairs hospitals.
To understand the real pain is to hear the stories of the suicides and the attempted suicides of our service members.
Today the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel met. They heard from DoD's Under Secretary Clifford Stanley, the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff Lt Gen Thomas Bostick, the Navy's Deputy Chief Vice Adm Mark Ferguson, the Air Force's Lt Gen Darrell Jones and the Marines' Lt Gen Robert Milstead. We'll note one exchange.
Chair Joe Wilson: I know firsthand that active duty personnel, guard personnel, reserves, are grateful to serve. They're grateful to be deployed. I know first-hand, my former National Guard Unit, the 218th Brigade, served for a year in Afghanistan. 1600 troops led by our new Adjutant General Bob Livingston It was the largest deployment since WWII. But the people were very proud of their service. But something that has to be kept in mind is dwell time. And as we look at reduction or downsizing, beginning with Secretary Stanley, I'd like to know what the goal of dwell time is. This is of great concern to members of the military and their families.
Under Secretary Clifford Stanley: Thank you, Chairman Wilson. Secretary Gates, set dwell time goals of one-to-five active and one-to-two for -- Excuse me. One-to-five for our reserve, one-to-two for our actually our active component. I actually think that's one-to-three. I just wrote it down as one-to-three. And, uhm, the service is now moving in the direction of getting there. And I'm going to allow the services to address that, if that's okay?
Chair Wilson: Yes.
Under Secretary Clifford Stanley: Alright.
Lt Gen Thomas Bostick: We-we [Army] would certainly like to get to one-to-two for the active, one-to-four for the reserve component. There has been discussion about going to three years and it's really a one-to-three. It's one year or we think if you go to one-to-three, it could be nine months deployed, for example, and 27 months back home. So that's a one-to-three ratio, not necessarily three years back. Right now, we're at one-to-two for the active force and we believe that it takes two-to-three years to get your family and yourself settled after a tour of one year in length. So it's important for us to get as a minimum of two years back home. And we think that for the units that deploy in October of this year, we'll see that when they -- when they return. And, uhm, so it's very much of interest for us, we're working towards. What really matters for us though is -- the end strength is important, but it's what are the demands? What are the demands on the force? If those demands come down then within the end strength that we're directed to go to we could still meet one-to-two [active duty] dwell and one-to-four for the reserves.
Vice Adm Mark Ferguson: Uhm, Chairman Wilson, we're meeting, as I said earlier, on the broad force, we're seeing select units go under increasing stress. And I want to mention our Special Operations Forces, our Explosive Ordinance Detail, and our -- and our Special Operators in particular because their training ranges and what they need to do to work up is not co-located at their home site, that they spend a greater amount of time away from home in preparation to deploy and then in actual deployment. So we have concerns about those particular forces, they're very small, In the broader force, we manage it very carefully. We set fairly strict policies and track their PERSTEMPO and dwell. And to break certain boundaries, the Chief of Naval Operations has to approve those. And so we feel very comfortable but I do see some concern with those forces that are carrying the fight in theater for us.
Chair Joe Wilson: And they're so effective. Excuse me, Gen Milstead, I believe.
Lt Gen Robert Milstead: Yes, yes, sir. For the Marine Corp, our goal for active forces is a one-to-two dwell. And then, post-Afghanistan, our goal will be a one-to-three. For the reserves, currently, in combat it's a one-to-four and post-[. . .] our goal will be a one-to five.
Chair Joe Wilson: Thank you. And Gen Jones.
Lt Gen Darrell Jones: Mr. Chairman post conflict our goal will be one-to-four dwell time for our Airmen who are very much in the fight. 37,000 Airmen are deployed today. 29,000 of those are in the CentCom AOR. But also we have to remember that, in the Air Force, we have a large number of our forces who are supporting COCOM requirements every day. In fact, 43% -- about 217,000 people at places like Creech Air Force Base and the Nevada desert which, as you walk through the front door, you see the sign that says "You're now entering the CENTCOM area of responsibility," cause they're able to do their mission in a distributed fashion, actually flying the remotely piloted aircraft over the conflicts, so we're very much involved. We need to provide, as we have bands and buckets with our different dwell times from one-to-one, to one-to-two, to one-to-three, we try to focus very hard on getting those Airmen that are in the short dwell times, the one-to-one, the one-to-two, to incentivize them to give them the special bonuses to re-enlist, to keep the numbers up because only by keeping the numbers up in those-in those specialities can you -- can you increase their dwell time and shorten the amount of time that they have back home -- or, excuse me, increase the amount of time they have back home with their families.
For five years now -- at least -- we have been attending Congressional hearings on "dwell time" and always, it's just around the corner. It's coming. Any day now. Five years later and they're still saying it'll be coming. Five years and they can't do a damn thing. And "they" isn't the witnesses. They is Robert Gates and George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
April 1, 2008, the US House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health heard testimony from US Army Director, Divisions of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge who declared, "One of the issues with multiple deployments and the dwell time for soldiers when they've come back, we've learned from the research that we've done, [is] that 12 months is not enough time for soldiers to reset and go back for another deployment." US House Rep Shelley Berkley followed up, "Not enough time between tours of duty, did I hear you correctly?" Hoge paused frequnetly in his reply, "Yes . . . What we've found . . . Yes. That's what I said . . . The 12 months is insuf- . . . appears to be insufficient." As Berkely noted, not only was that the not the policy but some were "being called back in less than 12 months" leading Hoge to pathetically reply, "I don't know." (It's his job to know and if Hoge doesn't know his job, hint to Gates, that's something you might want to stress over.)
For Gates to still have not accomplished what is needed is dereliction of duty. He needs to stop talking about stepping down and he needs to step down. For all the soft and easy press he's received, he is one of the worst Secretaries of Defense the country has ever seen. There is no excuse. None.
Gates reports to Barack Obama for the treatment of Iraq War veteran Bradley Manning who remains a political prisoner. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements about the charges against him. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. Earlier this month, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104. Like many, Sophie Elmhirst (New Statesman) emphasized the possibility of the death penalty.

The ACLU issued the following yesterday:

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

NEW YORK – In a letter sent today to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the American Civil Liberties Union charged the "gratuitously harsh treatment" to which the Department of Defense is subjecting Pfc. Bradley Manning in military custody is in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and serves no purpose other than to degrade, humiliate and traumatize him.

Manning, imprisoned for the past nine months at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia on charges of handing government files to WikiLeaks, has not been tried or convicted of any crime. He is reportedly being held in solitary confinement, which includes being forced to remain in his cell for 23 hours a day, and is stripped naked at night.

"The Supreme Court has long held that the government violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment whenever it 'unnecessarily and wantonly inflicts pain,' the ACLU's letter reads. "No legitimate purpose is served by keeping Private Manning stripped naked; in prolonged isolated confinement and utter idleness; subjected to sleep deprivation through repeated physical inspections throughout the night; deprived of any meaningful opportunity to exercise, even in his cell; and stripped of his reading glasses so that he cannot read. Absent any evident justification, such treatment is clearly forbidden by our Constitution."

Following the resignation this week of P.J. Crowley, the former State Department spokesman who called Manning's treatment "counterproductive and stupid," President Obama said Pentagon officials had assured him that the conditions of Manning's confinement are appropriate and meet basic standards.

"Given that those standards apparently permit Private Manning to be subjected to plainly unconstitutional conditions, it is clear that the Department of Defense must adapt its standards to meet the demands of the Constitution," the ACLU's letter reads.

The full text of the letter to Defense Secretary Gates can be found below:

March 16, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
United States Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Gates,

On behalf of the ACLU and its members, I write to express our grave concern about the inhumane conditions under which PFC Bradley Manning is being confined in the Quantico Base Brig. As a pretrial detainee who has been convicted of no crime, Private Manning may not be subjected to punitive treatment. Based on the reports of Private Manning and his counsel, it is clear the gratuitously harsh treatment to which the Department of Defense is subjecting Private Manning violates fundamental constitutional norms.

The Supreme Court has long held that the government violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment whenever it "unnecessarily and wantonly inflicts pain." No legitimate purpose is served by keeping Private Manning stripped naked; in prolonged isolated confinement and utter idleness; subjected to sleep deprivation through repeated physical inspections throughout the night; deprived of any meaningful opportunity to exercise, even in his cell; and stripped of his reading glasses so that he cannot read. Absent any evident justification, such treatment is clearly forbidden by our Constitution.

Nor has the Department of Defense any legitimate purpose in requiring Private Manning to stand naked in his observation cell at "parade rest," with legs spread and genitals displayed, in full view of guards and other officers. The very purpose of such treatment is to degrade, humiliate, and traumatize -- a purpose that cannot be squared with what the Supreme Court has described as "the basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment, which is nothing less than the dignity of man."

President Obama recently stated that Private Manning's conditions comply with the Pentagon's "basic standards." Given that those standards apparently permit Private Manning to be subjected to plainly unconstitutional conditions, it is clear that the Department of Defense must adapt its standards to meet the demands of the Constitution. We ask that you take immediate steps to ensure that Private Manning is treated lawfully and humanely.


Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director

The editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle weighs in today on Bradley, the firing of State Dept spokesperson Philip J. Crowley for criticizing the inhumane treatment of Bradley and more: "President Obama made things worse by insisting that Manning's treatment was 'legal.' In the past decade this country has insisted that many horrible imprisonment procedures were legal. Obama campaigned on the promise that just because some things were 'legal' didn't mean that they were right. He should heed his own words on the Manning case."

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