Family distractions slowed down not only regular links but also daily photographs. I have even more photos to put up so I had better start doing so. This is one of my favorite buildings in old Oak Harbor. The light wasn't right for shooting it but I will be back.
This Nation investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate these assertions.
While some veterans said civilian shootings were routinely investigated by the military, many more said such inquiries were rare. "I mean, you physically could not do an investigation every time a civilian was wounded or killed because it just happens a lot and you'd spend all your time doing that," said Marine Reserve Lieut. Jonathan Morgenstein, 35, of Arlington, Virginia. He served from August 2004 to March 2005 in Ramadi with a Marine Corps civil affairs unit supporting a combat team with the Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade. (All interviewees are identified by the rank they held during the period of service they recount here; some have since been promoted or demoted.)
Veterans said the culture of this counterinsurgency war, in which most Iraqi civilians were assumed to be hostile, made it difficult for soldiers to sympathize with their victims--at least until they returned home and had a chance to reflect.
"I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi," said Spc. Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado. Specialist Englehart served with the Third Brigade, First Infantry Division, in Baquba, about thirty-five miles northeast of Baghdad, for a year beginning in February 2004. "You know, so what?... The soldiers honestly thought we were trying to help the people and they were mad because it was almost like a betrayal. Like here we are trying to help you, here I am, you know, thousands of miles away from home and my family, and I have to be here for a year and work every day on these missions. Well, we're trying to help you and you just turn around and try to kill us."
He said it was only "when they get home, in dealing with veteran issues and meeting other veterans, it seems like the guilt really takes place, takes root, then."
Statistics are one way to tell the story of the approximately 1.4 million servicemen and women who've been to Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004, 86 percent of soldiers in Iraq reported knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed there. Some 77 percent reported shooting at the enemy; 75 percent reported seeing women or children in imminent peril and being unable to help. Fifty-one percent reported handling or uncovering human remains; 28 percent were responsible for the death of a noncombatant. One in five Iraq veterans return home seriously impaired by post-traumatic stress disorder.
Words are another way. Below are the stories of three veterans of this war, told in their voices, edited for flow and efficiency but otherwise unchanged. They bear out the statistics and suggest that even those who are not diagnosably impaired return burdened by experiences they can neither forget nor integrate into their postwar lives. They speak of the inadequacy of what the military calls reintegration counseling, of the immediacy of their worst memories, of their helplessness in battle, of the struggle to rejoin a society that seems unwilling or unable to comprehend the price of their service. Strangers to one another and to me, they nevertheless tried, sometimes through tears, to communicate what the intensity of an ambiguous war has done to them.
One veteran, Sue Randolph, put it this way: "People walk up to me and say, 'Thank you for your service.' And I know they mean well, but I want to ask, 'Do you know what you're thanking me for?'" She, Rocky, and Michael Goss offer their stories here in the hope that citizens will begin to know.
Iraq on My Mind Thousands of Stories to Tell -- And No One to Listen By Dahr Jamail
1. Statistically Speaking
Having spent a fair amount of time in occupied Iraq, I now find living in the United States nothing short of a schizophrenic experience. Life in Iraq was traumatizing. It was impossible to be there and not be affected by apocalyptic levels of violence and suffering, unimaginable in this country.
But here's the weird thing: One long, comfortable plane ride later and you're in Disneyland, or so it feels on returning to the United States. Sometimes it seems as if I'm in a bubble here that's only moments away from popping. I find myself perpetually amazed at the heights of consumerism and the vigorous pursuit of creature comforts that are the essence of everyday life in this country -- and once defined my own life as well.
Here, for most Americans, you can choose to ignore what our government is doing in Iraq. It's as simple as choosing to go to a website other than this one.
The longer the occupation of Iraq continues, the more conscious I grow of the disparity, the utter disjuncture, between our two worlds.
In January 2004, I traveled through villages and cities south of Baghdad investigating the Bechtel Corporation's performance in fulfilling contractual obligations to restore the water supply in the region. In one village outside of Najaf, I looked on in disbelief as women and children collected water from the bottom of a dirt hole. I was told that, during the daily two-hour period when the power supply was on, a broken pipe at the bottom of the hole brought in "water." This was, in fact, the primary water source for the whole village. Eight village children, I learned, had died trying to cross a nearby highway to obtain potable water from a local factory.
In Iraq things have grown exponentially worse since then. Recently, the World Health Organization announced that 70% of Iraqis do not have access to clean water and 80% "lack effective sanitation."
In the United States I step away from my desk, walk into the kitchen, turn on the tap, and watch as clear, cool water fills my glass. I drink it without once thinking about whether it contains a waterborne disease or will cause kidney stones, diarrhea, cholera, or nausea. But there's no way I can stop myself from thinking about what was -- and probably still is -- in that literal water hole near Najaf.
Pulling the U.S. military out of Iraq would be a massive undertaking and would have to be done slowly and deliberately, defense officials said Friday. One general said it would take up to 18 months to cut his troop levels in northern Iraq in half.
Iraq is over. Iraq has not yet begun. Two conclusions from the American debate about Iraq, which dominates the media in the US to the exclusion of almost any other foreign story. Iraq is over insofar as the American public has decided that most US troops should leave. In a Gallup poll earlier this month, 71% favoured "removing all US troops from Iraq by April 1 of next year, except for a limited number that would be involved in counter-terrorism efforts". CNN's veteran political analyst Bill Schneider observes that in the latter years of the Vietnam war, the American public's basic attitude could be summarised as "either win or get out". He argues that it's the same with Iraq. Despite George Bush's increasingly desperate pleas, most Americans have now concluded that the US is not winning. So get out.
On May 30, the Coalition held a ceremony in the Kurdistan town of Erbil to mark its handover of security in Iraq's three Kurdish provinces from the Coalition to the Iraqi government. General Benjamin Mixon, the U.S. commander for northern Iraq, praised the Iraqi government for overseeing all aspects of the handover. And he drew attention to the "benchmark" now achieved: with the handover, he said, Iraqis now controlled security in seven of Iraq's eighteen provinces.
In fact, nothing was handed over. The only Coalition force in Kurdistan is the peshmerga, a disciplined army that fought alongside the Americans in the 2003 campaign to oust Saddam Hussein and is loyal to the Kurdistan government in Erbil. The peshmerga provided security in the three Kurdish provinces before the handover and after. The Iraqi army has not been on Kurdistan's territory since 1996 and is effectively prohibited from being there. Nor did the Iraqi flag fly at the ceremony. It is banned in Kurdistan.
Although the Erbil handover was a sham that Prince Potemkin might have admired, it was not easily arranged. The Bush administration had wanted the handover to take place before the U.S. congressional elections in November. But it also wanted an Iraqi flag flown at the ceremony and some acknowledgement that Iraq, not Kurdistan, was in charge. The Kurds were prepared to include a reference to Iraq in the ceremony, but they were adamant that there be no Iraqi flags. It took months to work out a compromise ceremony with no flags at all. Thus the ceremony was followed by a military parade without a single flag -- an event so unusual that one observer thought it might merit mention in Ripley's Believe it or Not.
Back in 1929, Lawrence of Arabia wrote the entry for "Guerrilla" in the 14th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is a chilling read - and here I thank one of my favourite readers, Peter Metcalfe of Stevenage, for sending me TE's remarkable article - because it contains so ghastly a message to the American armies in Iraq.
Writing of the Arab resistance to Turkish occupation in the 1914-18 war, he asks of the insurgents (in Iraq and elsewhere): "... suppose they were an influence, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile as a whole, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. The Arabs might be a vapour..."
How typical of Lawrence to use the horror of gas warfare as a metaphor for insurgency. To control the land they occupied, he continued, the Turks "would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and a post could not be less than 20 men. The Turks would need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill wills of all the local Arab people. They had 100,000 men available."
Now who does that remind you of? The "fortified post every four square miles" is the ghostly future echo of George W Bush's absurd "surge". The Americans need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill will of the Iraqi people, and they have only 150,000 available. Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of "war lite" is responsible for that. Yet still these rascals get away with it.
When Simon Roberts sent me a copy of his new book Motherland, I thought that instead of writing a review I could talk to him about the book. I am glad he agreed to participate.
Jörg Colberg: You set out to travel across Russia for quite an extended period of time. Did you have an idea about the photo project in your mind when you started the trip?
Simon Roberts: There were two reasons for choosing Russia. Firstly it was somewhere that had always fascinated me. I studied Human Geography at the University of Sheffield and a number of the courses I took looked at social, cultural and economic issues surrounding Russia and the former Soviet Union. Secondly, while there had been a number of important photo documentaries on Russia in the last decade, many were produced around the time of the fall of Communism, and tended to concentrate on themes surrounding disintegration and decay. I felt that the dialogue was very one sided and that the debate had moved on in recent years but photographic representations hadn’t. I was interested in exploring a different side to Russia and regions that had often been overlooked.
I’d only been to Russia once before, passing through in 1994 to visit my wife, Sarah, who was studying there. We decided that now would be a fascinating time to return, fifteen years after the fall of Communism. After researching the project for 18 months, we left London in July 2004 and spent the next 12 months travelling over 75,000km from the federation’s Far East, through Siberia to the Northern Caucasus, the Altai Mountains and along the Volga River. We finished in Moscow in July 2005.
The idea of using the concept of Rodina (Russian for motherland) for the framework of the book came about as I was traveling. The national pride among the Russians I met was much more powerful than I’d ever experienced before, especially when compared to Rule Britannia or patriotism in America. It was somehow less arrogant, slightly sorrowful and much more spiritual, almost a painful yearning of the heart. The majority of Russians we met were intensely proud of their homeland’s beauty and its achievements and I wanted the tone of the work to explore these themes.
This past week has seen major family distractions and most of it is because of these three.
A week ago Wednesday, the 11th, my oldest, Jenny, arrived from Fort Carson, Colorado, with her kids Robyn and Evan. It's been a zoo ever since. This picture was taken Tuesday the 17th, which was their last full day here. Jenny came over to get instructions on how I make Gordy Bread®. Passing on a family tradition. We also went over old family pictures. I will be scanning several of them to be framed for her. I will post them when I do. I will be posting a series pf photos taken at this time with text. Until then, you can read what Zoe had to say.
On the 12th Zoe and I had breakfast with Jenny, Robyn, and Evan. Robyn then spent the rest of the day with us as Zoe and I ran our errands. More pictures to come on this.
On Saturday the 14th we had the family over for a barbecue. Katie picked up my mom and brought her up for the festivites. After that Zoe, Jenny, and I went down to Mukelteo Coffee to see Danny O'Keefe. Robby had to work the show and hadn't been at the barbecue. Great show. More pictures on this coming. Until then, check out what Zoe had to say. Jenny took off for Colorado on Wednesday the 18th. Zoe and I went down to Tacoma to visit Zoe's mom who had Alzheimer's on the 18th. Her speech is increasingly incomprehensible but occasional names from the past pop up. However, she was in a good mood and was cracking jokes. We didn't know what the jokes were buy you could tell from the expressions on her face that she was enjoying herself immensely. She was very animated and was having a good time. We did too. Jenny called Thursday evening from her home in Colorado. A safe trip. We miss them.
In the middle of all this Katie had her 27th birthday on the 16th and Robby his 25th on the 18th. We will have to wait until Katie gets back from camping on the Duckabush River, in the Olympic Penninsula, to celebrate her birthday. Today we took Robby up to San Remos in Oak Harbor for some Greek food. More pictures on this, too. Whew! Now to catch up on everything else.
Most major industrialized countries experienced the explosive popularity of photography and its use in jewelry, although the vogue for it was greatest in England, France, Germany, and the United States. Queen Victoria increased worldwide acceptance of the taste by wearing and collecting a variety of photo-jewelry - making a fashion statement that many embraced, first in the United Kingdom, and then in North America. Photo-jewelry’s acceptance in America was rapid, like that of photography itself. The moneyed class in every Western country had long enjoyed the painted portrait miniature. But photo-jewelry offered almost all the same attributes, and in addition, an exact mirror image of a loved one, in a small, jewel-like, wearable object of charm and sometimes great beauty. A personal item to be shown off proudly in public, or cherished in private. An heirloom to hand down to future generations. A permanent record. No wonder the exchange of gifts of photo-jewelry became a tradition lasting for many decades - in both America and Europe.
First, it’s worth noting that the whole idea that Palestinian “moderates” are being bolstered in order that they will make peace with Israel is just a PR line, or a rather sick joke. The Israelis have left no doubt that when they talk about boosting Mahmoud Abbas in order to strengthen prospects for a two-state solution, they are simply taking the piss — or more correctly, to borrow a line from Mike Leigh’s “Naked,” the U.S. media is giving it away. Nor is it only the media: the Western world’s political elites seem equally comfortable with the charade. Leading Israeli political correspondent Aluf Benn reports that there is now a firm consensus, across Israel’s political spectrum, that there can be no withdrawal from the West Bank for the foreseeable future. Benn writes:
In this atmosphere, it is clear that any talk about a “two-state solution” and the prime minister’s declarations at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit about “new opportunities” and “accelerating the process toward a Palestinian state” are bogus. This diplomatic lip service, disassociated from reality and real expectations, is meant to assuage the Americans and the Europeans and deflect pressure on Israel.
The international community is participating in the show, and gradually is losing interest in the conflict. The postponment of the speech of President George W. Bush, meant to commemorate five years since he presented his “vision” and to offer new ideas for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, suggests that he has nothing to say. As it winds down its tenure, the Bush administration in Washington is toying with fake charms: like the “shelf agreement,” proposed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, or the appointment of Tony Blair as the Quartet representative “to build Palestinian institutions.” Does anyone remember his predecessor in that job, James Wolfensohn?
Not only does the Israeli position make nonsense of all talk of peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians — and Blair, rabid Bush sycophant though he may be, must surely be aware that he has signed on for a humiliating postcript to a failed career on the global stage — but it also fundamentally challenges the manner in which Palestinian political rivalries are being cast in the Western media right now. You’d think that the fact that BBC reporter Alan Johnstone was freed by Hamas this week after 16 weeks as a hostage held by a criminal gang that enjoyed the protection of the very Fatah security forces that were recently driven out of Gaza would give some pause for thought. Don’t bet on it. In any event, the idea that the West is backing Fatah as a moderate force for achieving Palestinian national goals is equally derided on the Palestinian side. They know all too well that the regime of Mahmoud Abbas is being boosted in order that it can more effectively play the role of gendarme, eliminating threats to Israel and policing the status quo. Israel simply has no intention of withdrawing to its 1967 borders; there is no “political horizon” to rationalize this policing role, it is simply an end in itself.
1. Diplomacy is not mainly about talking to people you agree with, but to people you disagree with.
2. They won a free and fair parliamentary election in 2006. Fateh's Mahmoud Abbas won a free and fair presidential election in 2005. Outsiders have no credibility when they seek to include one of these parties while excluding and indeed also attacking the other.
3. For 18 months or more in 2005-6 Hamas participated in good faith in a ceasefire against Israel even though the ceasefire was not reciprocated by Israel either formally or informally.
4. When the British government finally realized it could not "defeat" the IRA by force but needed to explore reaching a political agreement with the IRA / Sinn Fein, they set as the only two preconditions for any party entering peace talks that it should (a) engage in good faith in a ceasefire and (b) demonstrate that it had at least some significant mandate from the electorate. The peace negotiations thereby started met with eventual success.
The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.
The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."
Throughout my so-called career (I'm more inclined to think of it as a "careen"), my goal (seldom articulated, even to myself) has been to twine ideas and images into big subversive pretzels of life, death and goofiness on the chance that they might help keep the world lively and give it the flexibility to endure.
The degree to which I've been successful I suppose only history can judge, provided history is not too preoccupied watching digital video to pay any notice to wood-pulp junkies like me. In any case, it doesn't matter much because after nearly 40 years of pursuing phantasmagorical novels down shadowy hallways, I've recently aimed my cognitive flashlight at an entirely different corner of the crumbling castle of literature.
Specifically, I've decided to write a children's book. A children's book about beer.
Britain's most senior generals have issued a blunt warning to Downing Street that the military campaign in Afghanistan is facing a catastrophic failure, a development that could lead to an Islamist government seizing power in neighbouring Pakistan.
Amid fears that London and Washington are taking their eye off Afghanistan as they grapple with Iraq, the generals have told Number 10 that the collapse of the government in Afghanistan, headed by Hamid Karzai, would present a grave threat to the security of Britain.
Lord Inge, the former chief of the defence staff, highlighted their fears in public last week when he warned of a 'strategic failure' in Afghanistan. The Observer understands that Inge was speaking with the direct authority of the general staff when he made an intervention in a House of Lords debate.
'The situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognise,' Inge told peers. 'We need to face up to that issue, the consequence of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for Nato... We need to recognise that the situation - in my view, and I have recently been in Afghanistan - is much, much more serious than people want to recognise.'
In August 2006 my mother in Germany was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As soon as I could I flew over to be with her. From the day of my arrival in Germany she had six more weeks to live which we spent together.
She always had been an avid reader and literature played an important part in both of our lives. I had previously often thought about a project involving her library and I soon embarked on the idea to photograph all her books, one after the other in one long row. It quickly became our joint project.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on a proposal, championed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq in exchange for bipartisan Congressional support for the long-term (read: more or less permanent) garrisoning of that country. The troops are to be tucked away on "large bases far from Iraq's major cities." This plan sounded suspiciously similar to one revealed by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt in the New York Times on April 19, 2003, just as U.S. troops were preparing to enter Baghdad. Headlined "Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access to Four Key Bases in Iraq," it laid out a U.S. plan for:
a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to…. perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north.
Shortly thereafter, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, denied any such plans: "I have never, that I can recall, heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed in any meeting…" – and, while the bases were being built, the story largely disappeared from the mainstream media.
Even with the multi-square mile, multi-billion dollar, state-of-the-art Balad Air Base and Camp Victory thrown in, however, the bases in Gates' new plan will be but a drop in the bucket for an organization that may well be the world's largest landlord. For many years, the U.S. military has been gobbling up large swaths of the planet and huge amounts of just about everything on (or in) it. So, with the latest Pentagon Iraq plans in mind, take a quick spin with me around this Pentagon planet of ours.
Many think they now see through the Democrats' complicity with the Bush administration's illegal wars and unconstitutional actions. If they think this is new, they don't know that half of it.
Exactly twenty years ago today, on July 13, 1987, I witnessed the Democratic Party establishment covering up -- and therefore helping -- the subversion of the U.S. Constitution. It was actually on national TV, but few seemed to care.
The Iran-Contra hearings were going on. I watched them almost in their entirety, had just graduated from college and wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so I spent time with my dad, who'd just been diagnosed with a severe heart condition and we watched much of the hearings together.
For a while, I was admiring of the co-chairs of the Iran-Contra committee, the Democrats Sen. Daniel Inouye and Rep. Lee Hamilton -- who would go on to co-head the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Commission.
But, following events closely, it became clear Inouye and Hamilton were covering things up. This became glaring on July 13, 1987 when the following exchange took place as Rep. Jack Brooks, a Democrat from Texas, questioned Oliver North:
REP. BROOKS: Colonel North, in your work at the NSC, were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the "continuity of government" in the event of a major disaster?
BRENDAN SULLIVAN (North's lawyer): Mr. Chairman?
SEN. INOUYE: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch on that, sir?
REP. BROOKS: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was the area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.
SEN. INOUYE; May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I'm certain arrangements can be made for an executive session.