20,802 troops have been treated at Landstuhl from injuries in wars on Iraq and Afghanistan

60,000 new disability claims each month

LANDSTUHL, Germany — Emerging from a meeting with injured troops at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ top official vowed Monday to work for the timely delivery of benefits to America’s “wounded heroes.”

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi spent more than an hour meeting with about 20 troops at the hospital in a brief stop on his way to Thanksgiving in Afghanistan.

Afterward, he spoke about the need to take care of soldiers wounded in the war on terrorism. Principi said he was heartened by the morale of the troops recovering at Landstuhl, and would work “to make sure that the VA takes care of them” when they separate from the military.

But the VA faces a massive task in trying to quickly funnel health benefits to troops recently wounded or disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a letter to The Washington Post last month, Principi said his office receives more than 60,000 new benefits claims each month, and at any given time has more than 250,000 claims being processed.

The government’s second-largest agency also has come under fire for the amount of time it takes to process claims.

Working through the complicated separation and claims process can take months for separating troops, prompting the VA to expand its services in 2001 and begin its “seamless transition” initiative last year to streamline the VA processing procedure.

That initiative included efforts to improve communication between the VA and the Department of Defense, the addition of extra benefits counselors and internal VA moves to ensure that troops wounded in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom receive priority care.

“They’ve earned those benefits, and I want to ensure they get them,” Principi said.

The VA’s 2001 expansion of services has made a big difference to troops passing through the Landstuhl hospital, according to Jerl York, officer in charge for the seven-member VA staff at Landstuhl.

As of Tuesday, 20,802 troops have been treated at Landstuhl from injuries received in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

York said that the predischarge program available at Landstuhl allows separating troops to work through the claims process while still in Germany, allowing them to circumvent most of the ponderous VA central claims system, based in Washington, D.C.

“In the States, processing can take up to a year,” York said. But working through the Landstuhl program allows separating troops to receive benefits in as little as 60 to 100 days, he said.

“We can essentially write the award and the benefit starts flowing then,” he said.

By Ben Murray, Stars and Stripes European edition, Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Soldier battling back-door draft must go to Iraq

Sacramento man can still pursue his case, appeals court says

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court Monday refused to block a Sacramento-area soldier's deployment to Iraq while he pursues a case against the military's use of laws allowing it to extend enlistments during wars or national emergencies.

The suit is one of at least four working their way through the nation's courts, challenging the "stop loss" program that critics call a back-door draft. Approximately 200,000 members of the armed forces could be affected, including 40,000 headed for Iraq.

The soldier, identified in court papers as John Doe to prevent retaliation, contends the extensions are illegal because Congress hasn't declared war and the military action in Iraq isn't a U.S. emergency. The government argues the program is justified by the post-Sept. 11, 2001, national emergency.

This month U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. in Sacramento refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have kept the soldier in the country while his case is decided. The soldier filed an emergency appeal.

But in Monday's brief decision a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Damrell didn't abuse his discretion. The appellate judges said the soldier could pursue his case from Iraq or, if the 9th Circuit ordered it later, he could be brought back from Iraq.

The soldier signed up to serve until April 30 with the California National Guard. His company recently was sent to Fort Lewis in Washington state for training before deployment to Iraq. Its mobilization order and a second order directed personally to the soldier both extended his service by at least 11 months.

Court papers describe him as a married father of two, a decorated combat veteran who enlisted with the Guard for two one-year terms.

© Sacramento Bee By Claire Cooper Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Iraq Veterans Call for an End to a War They Say Can't be Won

Not long after the U.S. declared victory in Fallujah, asserting that America had broken the back of the insurgency, armed rebels launched attacks against American troops and their Iraqi allies in other cities across the Sunni Triangle. A U.S.-Iraqi police raid on Baghdad's Abu Hanifa Sunni mosque on Nov. 12, resulting in 3 deaths and 40 arrests, triggered battles between Marines and insurgents throughout the capital.

Adding to the skepticism that the U.S., and its appointed Iraqi government, can organize national elections for January 30th, was the recent assassination of Sheik Mohammed Amin al-Faidhi, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a group which has called for a boycott of the election. There are fears that escalating violence and growing anger toward the U.S. could derail the election, particularly in Sunni Arab areas of the country. The election is slated to select a 275- member National Assembly which will then draft a constitution. Amid concern about the January vote, senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq say it is likely that they will need 3,000 to 5,000 more combat troops to confront the resistance.

In July, a handful of U.S. Iraq veterans announced the formation of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The group is demanding an immediate US withdrawal from Iraq and full funding for veterans' benefits at home. Former Marine Lance Corporal Michael Hoffman, who served in Iraq with a 1st Marine Corps Division Artillery Battery, is a co-founder of the group. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Hoffman about his experience in Iraq and why he believes the U.S. cannot achieve a military victory in this war.

Interview with former Marine Cpl. Michael Hoffman,
co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War,
conducted by Scott Harris

Visit the Iraq Veterans Against the War's website at or contact them via email at

Related links:

comment received for "Feed The West's Ego" (anonymously posted)

( '? duck note would really enjoy reading feedback on this, and also would ask that the person who posted it might send me a note, so we can understand more about the new proposed BandAid!

Hello Lisbeth, here is a copy of my recent post:

International development campaigners, the World Development Movement (WDM) condemned the lyrics of the UK's Band Aid 20 single “Do They Know It's Christmas?” as promoting a negative and inaccurate picture of Africa and its problems. The soon to be launched Band Aid 20 initiative is for famine relief in Darfur, Sudan.

Twenty years ago the Band Aid single and Live Aid concert, for the benefit of Ethiopia, raised awareness around the world of problems in Africa. The "feed the world" concert rocked all over the world and had great impact on a countless number of youngsters who went on to build careers in politics and humanitarian fields.

Recently, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was quoted as saying Band Aid changed his life. He has spent years pushing for the cancellation of debts of the world's poorest nations. Earlier this year, he set up a Commission for Africa and attended its first meeting in Africa. Next year, the UK holds presidency of the G8 summit.

The Band Aid 20 initiative will generate worldwide publicity for Darfur for many months, if not years. Already, in the campaign's first week, tens of millions of people have heard the word Darfur, probably for the first time, thanks to Band Aid. No other campaign for Africa has achieved such widespread interest, for so long, especially among the young.

Band Aid cannot simply be measured in terms of funds raised. The song may be regarded by some as "cheesey" but had it been more "heavy" it might not have captured the attention of the world's media or the imagination of young and old alike. The incredible success of Band Aid in raising awareness among all age groups is unmatched by any other campaign for Africa, or for Darfur.

Those who see it as fashionable to knock Band Aid are probably the ones that have done the least to help the Sudanese. Anyone who is aware of the catastrophe in Darfur would know how long it has taken to get the world's attention, and that any contribution is better than no contribution at all. The people of Darfur need all the help and publicity they can get.

Some visitors at the WDM and UK Indymedia sites have submitted alternative Band Aid lyrics. Can you do better?

Note, as an aside, according to the Pan African News Agency in 2002 alone, Africa paid $21.9 billion in external debt while official development assistance (ODA) to the region was $22.2 billion.

dao sieve

sieve Chinese characters for "sieve"
lovely tree stands tall over small home with green abounding

A course sieve catches little,
A fine mesh catches more.
If you want the subtle, be refined,
But prepare to deal with the coarse.

The irony of spiritual living is that you become more sensitive and more subtle. Therefore, you become intolerant of the discourse. There is not much choice in this. If you want to catch the subtle things in life, then you must become refined yourself. But the coarser things will then accumulate all the more quickly. A coarse sieve in a rushing stream will hold back only debris and large rocks. A fine mesh will catch smaller things, but it will also retain the large.

Some people attempt to cope with this by becoming multilayered. They set up a series of screens to their personalities, from the coarse to the subtle, so that they can deal with all that life has to offer. This is quite laudable from an ordinary point of view, but from the point of view of Tao, it is a great deal of bother.

What do we do? If we remain coarse, then only the coarse comes to us. If we become subtle, then we gain the refined but are plagued with the coarse as well. If we become multilayered, then we create a complexity that isolates us from Tao.

The solution lies in floating on the current of Tao, uniting with it. That way we no longer seek to hold or to reject.

365 Tao
daily meditations
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9

email to friend
Chinese characters for "family courtyard"
Courtyard of My Home 1960
for a complete biography of this artist and his work>
**Suggested reading of daoist texts ancient poetry and contemporary Chinese literature is available at the site.
receive a full HTML copy of the daily meditation sent directly to your inbox, please send a note with the words "subscribe tao" in the subject line to duckdaotsu


Falluja: The 21st Century Guernica

Where’s Picasso?
Falluja: The 21st Century Guernica

By Saul Landau

On November 12, as U.S. jets bombed Falluja for the ninth straight day, a Redwood City California jury found Scott Peterson guilty of murdering his wife and unborn child. That macabre theme captured the headlines and dominated conversation throughout workplaces and homes.

Indeed, Peterson “news” all but drowned out the U.S. military’s claim that successful bombing and shelling of a city of 300,000 residents had struck only sites where “insurgents” had holed up. On November 15, the BBC embedded newsman with a marine detachment claimed that the unofficial death toll estimate had risen to well over 2,000, many of them civilians.

As Iraqi eyewitnesses told BBC reporters he had seen bombs hitting residential targets, Americans exchanged viewpoints and kinky jokes about Peterson. One photographer captured a Falluja man holding his dead son, one of two kids he lost to U.S. bombers. He could not get medical help to stop the bleeding.

A November 14 Reuters reporter wrote that residents told him that “U.S. bombardments hit a clinic inside the Sunni Muslim city, killing doctors, nurses and patients.” The U.S. military denied the reports. Such stories did not make headlines. Civilian casualties in aggressive U.S. wars don’t sell media space.

But editors love shots of anguished GI Joes. The November 12 Los Angeles Times ran a front page shot of a soldier with mud smeared face and cigarette dangling from his lips. This image captured the “suffering” of Falluja. The GI complained he was out of “smokes.”

The young man doing his “duty to free Falluja,” stands in stark contrast to the nightmare of Falluja. “Smoke is everywhere,” an Iraqi told the BBC (Nov 11). “The house some doors from mine was hit during the bombardment on Wednesday night. A 13-year-old boy was killed. His name was Ghazi. A row of palm trees used to run along the street outside my house – now only the trunks are left… There are more and more dead bodies on the streets and the stench is unbearable.”

Another eyewitness told Reuters (November 12) that “a 9-year-old boy was hit in the stomach by a piece of shrapnel. His parents said they couldn't get him to hospital because of the fighting, so they wrapped sheets around his stomach to try to stem the bleeding. He died hours later of blood loss and was buried in the garden.”

U.S. media’s embedded reporters – presstitutes? – accepted uncritically the Pentagon’s spin that many thousands of Iraqi “insurgents,” including the demonized outsiders led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had joined the anti-U.S. jihad, had dug in to defend their vital base. After the armored and air assault began and the ground troops advanced, reports filtered out that the marines and the new Iraqi army that trailed behind them had faced only light resistance. Uprisings broke out in Mosul and other cities. For the combatants, however, Falluja was Hell.

Hell for what? Retired Marine Corps general Bernard Trainor declared that: militarily “Falluja is not going to be much of a plus at all.” He admitted that “we've knocked the hell out of this city, and the only insurgents we really got were the nut-cases and zealots, the smart ones left behind­ the guys who really want to die for Allah.” While Pentagon spin doctors boasted of a U.S. “victory, Trainor pointed out that the “terrorists remain at large.”

The media accepts axiomatically that U.S. troops wear the “white hats” in this conflict. They do not address the obvious: Washington illegally invaded and occupied Iraq and “re-conquered” Falluja – for no serious military purpose. Logically, the media should call Iraqi “militants” patriots who resisted illegal occupation.

Instead, the press implied that the “insurgents” even fought dirty, using improvised explosive devices and booby traps to kill our innocent soldiers, who use clean weapons like F16s, helicopter gun ships, tanks and artillery.

Why, Washington even promised to rebuild the city that its military just destroyed. Bush committed the taxpayers to debts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, which Bechtel, Halliburton and the other corporate beneficiaries of war will use for “rebuilding.”

Banality and corruption arise from the epic evil of this war, one that has involved massive civilian death and the destruction of ancient cities.

In 1935, Nazi General Erich Luderndorff argued in his “The Total War" that modern war encompasses all of society; thus, the military should spare no one. The Fascist Italian General Giulio Douhet echoed this theme. By targeting civilians, he said, an army could advance more rapidly. “Air-delivered terror” effectively removes civilian obstacles.

That doctrine became practice in late April 1937. Nazi pilots dropped their deadly bombs on Guernica, the ancient Basque capital – like what U.S. pilots recently did to Falluja. A year earlier, in 1936, the Spanish Civil War erupted. General Francisco Franco, supported by fascist governments in Italy and Germany, led an armed uprising against the Republic. The residents of Guernica resisted. Franco asked his Nazi partners to punish these stubborn people who had withstood his army’s assault.

The people of Guernica had no anti-aircraft guns, much less fighter planes to defend their city. The Nazi pilots knew that at 4:30 in the afternoon of market day, the city’s center would be jammed with shoppers from all around the areas.

Before flying on their “heroic mission,” the German pilots had drunk a toast with their Spanish counterparts in a language that both could understand: “Viva la muerte,” they shouted as their raised their copas de vino. The bombing of Guernica introduced a concept in which the military would make no distinction between civilians and combatants. Death to all!

Almost 1,700 people died that day and some 900 lay wounded. Franco denied that the raid ever took place and blamed the destruction of Guernica on those who defended it, much as the U.S. military intimates that the “insurgents” forced the savage attack by daring to defend their city and then hide inside their mosques. Did the public in 1937 face the equivalent of the Peterson case that commanded their attention?

Where is the new Picasso who will offer a dramatic painting to help the 21st Century public understand that what the U.S. Air Force just did to the people of Falluja resembles what the Nazis did to Guernica?

In Germany and Italy in 1937, the media focused on the vicissitudes suffered by those pilots who were sacrificing for the ideals of their country by combating a “threat.” The U.S. media prattles about the difficulties encountered by the marines. It never calls them bullies who occupy another people’s country, subduing patriots with superior technology to kill civilians and destroy their homes and mosques.

On November 15, an embedded NBC cameraman filmed a U.S. soldier murdering a wounded Iraqi prisoner in cold blood. As CNN showed the tape, its reporter offered “extenuating circumstances” for the assassination we had witnessed. The wounded man might have booby-trapped himself as other “insurgents” had done. After all, these marines had gone through hell in the last week.

The reporting smacks of older imperial wars, Andrew Greely reminded us in the November 12, Chicago Sun Times. “The United States has fought unjust wars before – Mexican American, the Indian Wars, Spanish American, the Filipino Insurrection, Vietnam. Our hands are not clean. They are covered with blood, and there'll be more blood this time.”

Falluja should serve as the symbol of this war of atrocity against the Iraqi people, our Guernica. But, as comedian Chris Rock insightfully points out, George W. Bush has distracted us. That’s why he killed Laci Peterson, why he snuck that young boy into Michael Jackson’s bedroom and the young woman into Kobe Bryant’s hotel room. He wants us not to think of the war in Iraq. We need a new Picasso mural, “Falluja,” to help citizens focus on the themes of our time, not the travails of the Peterson case.

The Bush Administration sensed the danger of such a painting. Shortly before Colin Powell’s February 5, 2003, UN Security Council fraudulent, power point presentation, where he made the case for invading Iraq, UN officials, at U.S. request, placed a curtain over a tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica, located at the entrance to the Security Council chambers. As a TV backdrop, the anti-war mural would contradict the Secretary of State’s case for war in Iraq. Did the dead painter somehow know that his mural would foreshadow another Guernica, called Falluja?

Landau directs digital media at Cal Poly Pomona University’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. He is also a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. His latest book is THE BUSINESS OF AMERICA: HOW CONSUMERS HAVE RPELACED CITIZENS AND HOW WE CAN REVERSE THE TREND.


GENNARO PELLEGRINI JR., a 31-year-old Philadelphia police officer, was playing Sony Playstation video games with a nephew one night last April when a single phone call turned his world upside down.

He was just two weeks away from the end of a six-year hitch in the Pennsylvania National Guard, one of several signs that Pellegrini was hitting a new phase in life.

As he neared his third anniversary as a cop patrolling the streets around Fishtown, he was now also engaged to be married. And a highly successful amateur welterweight boxer, he was also training for his first professional fight at the legendary Blue Horizon arena on North Broad.

That's when the commander from his National Guard armory called with some stunning news. The Pentagon, invoking the fine print in his enlistment papers, was not only extending his tour for up to 18 months, but was calling him up for active duty.

He was told to begin training to go to Iraq by year's end.

"I was mad," Pellegrini said last week, and his anger has only grown over the last six months of training in Texas and Louisiana. He said he's too out of shape to fight, and his fiancee broke up with him. He called the conflict in Iraq "a so-called war" and sees U.S. troops as caught in an impossible situation.

But like it or not, he left yesterday to begin his service.

Pellegrini is one of several thousands reservists or ex-soldiers who are going to the bloody war in Iraq under what the Pentagon calls "a stop-loss" program - but critics are calling "a back-door draft."

The Philly cop is hardly alone. Officials estimated that some 40,000 National Guard members have had their tours extended involuntarily, most for hazardous duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In recent weeks, the Pentagon has been digging deeper, calling on an additional 4,000 ex-soldiers - many of whom left the military years ago to start jobs or raise families - who are part of a pool called the Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, to resume active duty because troops are stretched so thin.

The Pentagon moves are legal - some 110,000 former troops agreed to belong to the IRR when they left active duty before their eight-year commitment - and officials say there is considerable precedent. Nearly 15,000 IRR soldiers were called up for the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, although for much less than the one-year commitment sought for the new conflict.

Still, with no end to the insurgency in Iraq in sight, the call-ups are starting to exhibit increasing resistance in ways that - like some other aspects of the fighting in Gulf region - may remind some people of the Vietnam era.

The New York Times reported last week that roughly half of the 4,000 IRR call-ups are trying to avoid their service either through official channels or by simply not showing up.

Among the larger pool of National Guard call-ups - the category that Pellegrini belongs to -- there are some looking to win conscientious objector status, and several have gone to court seeking legal protection.

In one Sacramento, Calif., case that's been receiving publicity, a married father of two serving in the California Army National Guard went to court this month in a last-ditch effort to prevent his deployment to Iraq, supposed to happen this week. His lawyers have argued that President Bush lacks the authority to make these "stop-loss" call-ups, but the unnamed soldier has already lost one round, and legal experts doubt he will succeed.

In the meantime, an ad hoc network of military families and anti-war activists has been working closely with soldiers looking for ways to contest their recent call-ups. Officials here say they're getting increasing calls for aid as the situation on the ground in Iraq seems to deteriorate.

"We get calls every day from people who are in the military reserves who are getting orders to go and who are saying, 'This is something that I don't want to do,' " said Bill Galvin, of the Center for Conscience and War, based in Washington, D.C.

Galvin said some of the most dire calls are from reservists who have already served one tour in Iraq and are getting orders to go back. "Some of them have said, 'I'd go to jail before I'd go back there,' " he said. "They say they've witnessed things or participated in things that have caused them terrible trouble sleeping at night, and they don't want to put themselves back in the middle of it."

Meanwhile, many soldiers who could be called up - and their families - wait and worry that they'll get a phone call like the one Pellegrini received.

"It's just like a back-door draft," said Ben Sears, a just-retired West Philadelphia High history teacher whose 28-year-old son is finishing a five-year Army enlistment in San Antonio. He said that Zachary Sears, a graduate of Philly's Masterman High and of American University, will be placed on the IRR if he doesn't re-enlist.

"Last week when he was home, he said he's not going to Iraq," Sears said. "He really hates the war - he's always been against it."

Most reservists and ex-soldiers are like Pellegrini - willing to obey their orders, but not particularly happy about it. Pellegrini said that he was just two weeks away from completing his National Guard obligation when he was called at his rowhouse in Port Richmond.

Yesterday, Pellegrini was slated to leave for a base in Louisiana, destined for an undisclosed location in Iraq. His unit A Company 1/111 from Northeast Philadelphia is slated to serve a year over there, possibly longer.

In the meantime, Pellegrini's been watching some news on TV, and he doesn't like what he sees. "This isn't a war they're giving us over there - this is policing stuff," said Pellegrini, who knows a thing or two about law enforcement.

He also knows something about putting up a fight. With a 17-1 record as an amateur, Pellegrini sent James Andre Harris onto the canvas in the 4th round when he fought this May at the Blue Horizon, his one and only pro bout.

Preparing for Iraq may be tougher than anything he's encountered in the ring. He said his fiancee left him rather than deal with his long absence, and hours of classroom training have left him in worse - not better - physical condition.

Now, he said, "I just want to get it done, come home, and continue my life."

© Philladelphia Daily News By WILLIAM BUNCH

photo credit Yong Kim / Daily News
caption: Gennaro Pellegrini Jr., a 31-year-old Philadelphia police officer, is one of several thousand reservists or ex-soldiers who are going to the bloody war in Iraq under what the Pentagon calls “a stop-loss” program—but critics are calling “a back-door draft.” “I was mad,” Pellegrini said last week, and his anger has only grown over the last six months of training in Texas and Louisiana.

Levine: "Iraq's Lose-Lose Scenario"

Since November 2 I have often heard it said that in an environment where the majority of Americans are divided, cynical and distrustful of their fellow citizens and government, it was natural for them to choose a strong, conservatively religious President with a narrow political vision to lead them. If true, this dynamic does not augur well for the Iraq that will emerge after January 30.

Underlying the decision to confirm Iraqi elections for the end of January are two important calculations: first, that the US military can manage the ongoing violence well enough to permit elections to take place across broad swaths of the country; second, that they will produce an outcome favorable both to the Bush and Allawi Administrations. Only time will tell if such optimism is warranted; the plea issued today by seventeen Iraqi parties to delay elections because of the "threats facing national unity" and "strong political polarization because of sectarian roots" do not augur well for a positive outcome. But even if they are held on or close to schedule, it is almost certain is that the elections will symbolize a frustration rather than fulfillment of the freedom, democracy and prosperity the US and its Coalition allies pledged to bring to Iraq twenty some months ago.

In this context, the ostensible "victory" of US forces in Falluja marks a strategic turning point for the United States; not because it has come close to enabling truly democratic elections by destroying the insurgency, but rather because it revealed a deepening erosion of solidarity between Shi‘i and Sunni Iraqis that is the United States’ only hope for maintaining a long-term presence in the country. Such lack of solidarity is in contrast to the mutual aid and support displayed during the Falluja and Najaf invasions of last spring. Had it been translated into coordinated Sunni-Shi‘i resistance--Sadr City exploding along with Falluja-- the occupation would have quickly become untenable.

Indeed, as the human, moral and material toll of the occupation skyrocketed, most Arab Iraqis, Shi‘a and Sunnis alike, have come to abhor the American presence along with an Allawi government viewed as little more than an American puppet. We don’t have to look far to figure out why they: 100,000 deaths and counting, untold billions of dollars of property and infrastructure damage, a barely-functioning health system, massive unemployment, and official corruption that is so pervasive that one of Prime Minister Allawi's senior advisors described the Government to me as “Saddam with new faces”--all are better recruiting tools for an insurgency than a dozen bin Laden and Zarqawi videos.

In this context sustained Iraqi Arab unity would have meant the defeat of the occupation and an ignoble American retreat from Iraq. But its opposite, intercommunal hostility and even violence, will just as surely mean the defeat of democracy, peace and prosperity. This is the stark choice facing Iraq in the coming weeks, and the US management of the occupation has encouraged both trends since March, 2003: by creating both a weak state open to US influence and a weakened society too torn by internal strife to unite against the occupation.

There are many reasons why the solidarity between Sunnis and Shi‘a, which has historically been tenuous, dissipated in the last six months. To begin with, while leaders of the two communities have exerted great efforts to promoting sectarian harmony (made easier by the fact that so many Iraqi families are a mix of both sects, and even Kurds as well), numerous interviews I conducted while in Iraq earlier this year, seconded by the often insulting and sometimes incendiary language of sectarian media, reveal significant suspicion and even hostility between the two groups after the toppling of the Hussein regime. This was heightened by acts of extreme violence, including suicide bombings that killed more than 150 Shi‘a in Karbala and Baghdad, and the murders of many religious figures on both sides.

But the historical staying power of an “Iraqi” rather than sectarian identity, coupled with the grind of an occupation beset by failed promises and worsening violence, made common cause a logical option among many Sunnis and Shi‘a (especially the poorer Shi‘a who are attracted to Moqtada al-Sadr). Such sentiments remained strong even as the Shi‘i establishment has by and large supported--or at least tolerated--the American presence as a way to secure power based on their position as the country’s largest ethniic or religious group.

This calculus has clearly changed in the last few months. Of the many reasons for this, perhaps the most important is that so many victims of the revolt have been Shi‘a, especially the police and army recruits and officers killed in large numbers at least once every week or two. Such attacks, along with the presence of many (perhaps thousands) of foreign and often anti-Shi‘i Sunni fighters in Iraq, have resurrected the Shi‘i anger at the suffering they endured under Saddam’ rule, when Sunnis were generally accorded better treatment communally than their Shi‘i neighbors.

In this situation, as one former high ranking Governing Council official explained to me, “This time around in Falluja the Shi‘i view was, "‘Good, let the Sunnis feel what we felt all those years under Hussein’.”" Indeed, if a figure whose ear is as close to the proverbial Shi‘i street as Moqtada al-Sadr remained largely silent as Falluja burned, it seems clear that most Shi‘a have decided that however much they dislike the occupation or Allawi, both are needed to cement Shi‘i political power and defeat an increasingly Sunni insurgency that would be very costly and nearly impossible for the Shi‘a to combat on their own.

Such a sentiment has enabled the US and Iraqi authorities to transform an Arab into a Sunni revolt, with Shi‘a and Kurds predominating among the forces fighting alongside the Americans and leaders in both communities stressing the political and religious duty to vote. Of course, Ayatollah Sistani and the Shi‘i establishment might well be playing the United States: using the elections to solidify political power, after which it the Americans will be asked--or forced--to leave‘’. The worse the violence, however, the less the chance of this happening anytime soon. But also the lesss the chance of peace, reconstruction or a functioning democracy, so far the still-born birthright of post-Saddam Iraq.

Mark Levine
Department of History
University of California Irvine

By Mark LeVine
author of Why They Don’t Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the ‘Axis of Evil’.

Army Guard misses recruiting goal

The Army National Guard has fallen significantly behind its recruiting goal one month into the military's new fiscal year, continuing a downward slide that began in 2003 and could make it harder for the Pentagon to find enough troops for the war in Iraq.

In October, the Army Guard recruited 2,546 enlistees, more than 30% below its target of 3,675.

The numbers do not bode well for the Army Guard, which missed its 2004 recruiting target of 56,000 enlistees by nearly 7,000. This year, the 350,000-member Guard has an even larger goal of 65,000, in part to make up for last year.

The chief reason for the shortfall is a downturn in recruits with military experience, men and women who leave the active-duty Army but sign up for Guard duty that usually involves a weekend a month and two weeks during the summer.

In past years, these "prior service" soldiers accounted for about half of all Guard recruits. Now, however, many soldiers leaving active duty are reluctant to join because of the enormous new demands on America's part-time military, including active duty missions that can last up to 18 months.

The Army National Guard and Army Reserve are auxiliary forces that back up the active-duty military. Most troops serve part-time, but in the last three years the Pentagon has called up thousands for active-duty tours. Guard and Reserve soldiers now make up more than 40% of the 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

"I'd be very worried right now (about meeting the 2005 recruiting goal) if I were the Guard," says David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland. "You would have to look at a couple more months of data before you could say the sky is falling. But the sky is definitely tilting."

Lt. Col. Mike Jones, a deputy division chief in charge of National Guard recruiting, says Guard officials remain optimistic. "I would much rather be in the positive than the negative at this point," Jones acknowledges, but he predicts recruiting will pick up next year.

Another bad year could affect the Guard's ability to fully staff some units. Lt. Gen. Steve Blum, the Guard's top commander, announced earlier this year that the Guard will increase its recruiting force by adding 1,400 recruiters to augment the 2,700 on duty .

By Dave Moniz, © USA TODAY

Guardsmen Say They're Facing Iraq Ill-Trained

Troops from California describe a prison-like, demoralized camp in New Mexico that's short on gear and setting them up for high casualties.

DOÑA ANA RANGE, New Mexico — Members of a California Army National Guard battalion preparing for deployment to Iraq said this week that they were under strict lockdown and being treated like prisoners rather than soldiers by Army commanders at the remote desert camp where they are training.

More troubling, a number of the soldiers said, is that the training they have received is so poor and equipment shortages so prevalent that they fear their casualty rate will be needlessly high when they arrive in Iraq early next year. "We are going to pay for this in blood," one soldier said.

They said they believed their treatment and training reflected an institutional bias against National Guard troops by commanders in the active-duty Army, an allegation that Army commanders denied.

The 680 soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment were activated in August and are preparing for deployment at Doña Ana, a former World War II prisoner-of-war camp 20 miles west of its large parent base, Ft. Bliss, Texas.

Members of the battalion, headquartered in Modesto, said in two dozen interviews that they were allowed no visitors or travel passes, had scant contact with their families and that morale was terrible.

"I feel like an inmate with a weapon," said Cpl. Jajuane Smith, 31, a six-year Guard veteran from Fresno who works for an armored transport company when not on active duty.

Several soldiers have fled Doña Ana by vaulting over rolls of barbed wire that surround the small camp, the soldiers interviewed said. Others, they said, are contemplating going AWOL, at least temporarily, to reunite with their families for Thanksgiving.

Army commanders said the concerns were an inevitable result of the decision to shore up the strained military by turning "citizen soldiers" into fully integrated, front-line combat troops. About 40% of the troops in Iraq are either reservists or National Guard troops.

Lt. Col. Michael Hubbard of Ft. Bliss said the military must confine the soldiers largely to Doña Ana to ensure that their training is complete before they are sent to Iraq.

"A lot of these individuals are used to doing this two days a month and then going home," Hubbard said. "Now the job is 24/7. And they experience culture shock."

But many of the soldiers interviewed said the problems they cited went much deeper than culture shock.

And military analysts agree that tensions between active-duty Army soldiers and National Guard troops have been exacerbated as the war in Iraq has required dangerous and long-term deployments of both.

The concerns of the Guard troops at Doña Ana represent the latest in a series of incidents involving allegations that a two-tier system has shortchanged reservist and National Guard units compared with their active-duty counterparts.

In September, a National Guard battalion undergoing accelerated training at Ft. Dix, N.J., was confined to barracks for two weeks after 13 soldiers reportedly went AWOL to see family before shipping out for Iraq.

Last month, an Army National Guard platoon at Camp Shelby, Miss., refused its orders after voicing concerns about training conditions and poor leadership.

In the most highly publicized incident, in October, more than two dozen Army reservists in Iraq refused to drive a fuel convoy to a town north of Baghdad after arguing that the trucks they had been given were not armored for combat duty.

At Doña Ana, soldiers have questioned their commanders about conditions at the camp, occasionally breaking the protocol of formation drills to do so. They said they had been told repeatedly that they could not be trusted because they were not active-duty soldiers — though many of them are former active-duty soldiers.

"I'm a cop. I've got a career, a house, a family, a college degree," said one sergeant, who lives in Southern California and spoke, like most of the soldiers, on condition of anonymity.

"I came back to the National Guard specifically to go to Baghdad, because I believed in it, believed in the mission. But I have regretted every day of it. This is demoralizing, demeaning, degrading. And we're supposed to be ambassadors to another country? We're supposed to go to war like this?"

Pentagon and Army commanders rejected the allegation that National Guard or reserve troops were prepared for war differently than their active-duty counterparts.

"There is no difference," said Lt. Col. Chris Rodney, an Army spokesman in Washington. "We are, more than ever, one Army. Some have to come from a little farther back — they have a little less training. But the goal is to get everybody the same."

The Guard troops at Doña Ana were scheduled to train for six months before beginning a yearlong deployment. They recently learned, however, that the Army planned to send them overseas a month early — in January, most likely — as it speeds up troop movement to compensate for a shortage of full-time, active-duty troops.

Hubbard, the officer at Ft. Bliss, also said conditions at Doña Ana were designed to mirror the harsh and often thankless assignments the soldiers would take on in Iraq. That was an initiative launched by Brig. Gen. Joseph Chavez, commander of the 29th Separate Infantry Brigade, which includes the 184th Regiment.

The program has resulted in everything from an alcohol ban to armed guards at the entrance to Doña Ana, Hubbard said.

"We are preparing you and training you for what you're going to encounter over there," Hubbard said. "And they just have to get used to it."

Military analysts, however, questioned whether the soldiers' concerns could be attributed entirely to the military's attempt to mirror conditions in Iraq. For example, the soldiers say that an ammunition shortage has meant that they have often conducted operations firing blanks.

"The Bush administration had over a year of planning before going to war in Iraq," said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who has acted as a defense lawyer in military courts. "An ammunition shortage is not an exercise in tough love."

Turley said that in every military since Alexander the Great's, there have been "gripes from grunts" but that "the complaints raised by these National Guardsmen raise some significant and troubling concerns."

The Guard troops in New Mexico said they wanted more sophisticated training and better equipment. They said they had been told, for example, that the vehicles they would drive in Iraq would not be armored, a common complaint among their counterparts already serving overseas.

They also said the bulk of their training had been basic, such as first aid and rifle work, and not "theater-specific" to Iraq. They are supposed to be able to use night-vision goggles, for instance, because many patrols in Iraq take place in darkness. But one group of 200 soldiers trained for just an hour with 30 pairs of goggles, which they had to pass around quickly, soldiers said.

The soldiers said they had received little or no training for operations that they expected to undertake in Iraq, from convoy protection to guarding against insurgents' roadside bombs. One said he has put together a diary of what he called "wasted days" of training. It lists 95 days, he said, during which the soldiers learned nothing that would prepare them for Iraq.

Hubbard had said he would make two field commanders available on Tuesday to answer specific questions from the Los Angeles Times about the training, but that did not happen.

The fact that the National Guardsmen have undergone largely basic training suggests that Army commanders do not trust their skills as soldiers, said David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland. That tension underscores a divide that has long existed between "citizen soldiers" and their active-duty counterparts, he said.

"These soldiers should be getting theater-specific training," Segal said. "This should not be an area where they are getting on-the-job training. The military is just making a bad situation worse."

The soldiers at Doña Ana emphasized their support for the war in Iraq. "In fact, a lot of us would rather go now rather than stay here," said one, a specialist and six-year National Guard veteran who works as a security guard in his civilian life in Southern California.

The soldiers also said they were risking courts-martial or other punishment by speaking publicly about their situation. But Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Dominguez, 45, one of the soldiers who allowed his identity to be revealed, said he feared that if nothing changed, men in his platoon would be killed in Iraq.

Dominguez is a father of two — including a 13-month-old son named Reagan, after the former president — and an employee of a mortgage bank in Alta Loma, Calif. A senior squad leader of his platoon, Dominguez said he had been in the National Guard for 20 years.

"Some of us are going to die there, and some of us are going to die unnecessarily because of the lack of training," he said. "So I don't care. Let them court-martial me. I want the American public to know what is going on. My men are guilty of one thing: volunteering to serve their country. And we are at the end of our rope."

© LATimes By Scott Gold Times Staff Writer November 25, 2004

Great-Grandmother Being Deployed to Iraq

LAWTON, Oklahoma - A 72-year-old great-grandmother is preparing for deployment to the war zone in Iraq and will become one of the oldest Department of Defense civilian workers in the war zone.

"I volunteered," said Lena Haddix of Lawton, who has five children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. "I wanted to do something for the country, because I was always left behind taking care of the children."

Haddix was a military wife from 1950 until 1979, and has worked at the Fort Sill Post Exchange, or PX, since 1977.

"I've been a supervisor of every department out there," Haddix said. "I guess I'm the flunky."

The PX is more than just a store for soldiers, she said. It's also a boost to morale, giving soldiers stationed overseas a link to the United States and Haddix said that's why she wants to go to Iraq.

"I just see so many of the boys. They're like little kids. They keep telling me, 'I'm going over,' or 'I've just come back,'" she said.

"I would just like to go over and be with them."

And Haddix said others have tried to talk her out of her decision, to no avail.

"I'd already made up my mind I wanted to go. I just wanted to do something for myself and other people instead of working and coming home.

"I'm sure there'll be times that I'll be scared, but I'm not now."

Haddix is now going through much of the same process soldiers go through before deployment, including shots and a thorough medical checkup to make sure she's physically able to do a tour of at least six months.

She will be sent to Fort Bliss, Texas, for one week of training, then be sent to Germany where she will receive her orders on where in Iraq she will be stationed.

The Associated Press

Carabineros vs. Very Ugly Americans

Imagine you are suddenly bum rushed by a pack of US police. Not just any police, but elite, scary, federal police, like FBI, DEA, Air Marshals, or Secret Service. You're an important dude, though, and you've got places to go, things to do, &c., &c. So what you do is, you yell "You're not stopping me! You're not stopping me! I'm with the president!," and you argue and attempt to fight your way through the pack of police blocking your way, so you can go about your very important business. Right?

No, that's not what you do, because not only would you be dealt with like the Indiana Pacers deal with unruly Detroit fans, but if you survived, all of your broken bones, bruises, cuts, scrapes, wounds, and critical internal injuries would be said to be your own fault, leaving you with a five hundred thousand dollar plus hospital bill. Moreover, in addition to whatever matter you were initially detained over, now you'd be facing a slew of additional charges: resisting arrest, assault on a peace officer, battery, interfering with police performance of lawful duties, plus whatever else the cops thought up depending on how much they disliked you – And rest assured, US police are intimately familiar with the additional charges they can levy against uncooperative detainees, because their own police unions draft and lobby for those particular laws, both at the federal and state level. Basically, the US Attorney would run out of ink trying to print out your charge sheet, and you would be facing charges carrying maximum prison sentences, if served consecutively, of several hundred years, which is not a very strong position from which to begin plea negotiations.

My point is, US citizens just can't afford to pick fights with the federal thugs who lord it over us – and, come to think of it, who lord it over the whole world. I seem to recall recently reading about there being an FBI office in Prague. What does that tell you about the limits that the imperial US government recognizes on its jurisdiction?

This is why I find it so eminently satisfying to see the proud Carabineros of Chile's state security service standing up to the imperial feds at the Asia-Pacific economic summit in Santiago. Apparently, Bush and his bodyguards picked a fight with the Chileans when they broke an agreement that only one bodyguard per leader would enter through the main entrance at an official dinner. As Bush entered the formal dinner on Saturday night, escorted by his entire SS security detail, offended Chilean officers stepped in front of Bush's bodyguards, initiating a mêlée. In videotape of the incident, Nick Trotta, one of "Bush's gorillas," as the Chilean press referred to the American security detail, can be heard yelling "You're not stopping me! You're not stopping me! I'm with the president!" Bush returned to the scene of the shoving match to rescue his agent, whereupon the Carabineros backed down.

The Chileans, moreover, were doubtless responding to cumulative US provocations of the whole week, including outrageous demands by US Secret Service agents that they control the president's immediate space even while on Chile's sovereign turf, and further demands that Chilean President Ricardo Lagos' guests pass through Secret Service metal detectors to be set up for Bush's security before attending an elaborate state dinner with leading Chilean citizens, that was to be held in Bush's honor. Instead of dropping the demand, Bush and his security agents allowed the event to be canceled.

What intolerably rude, arrogant, disgusting behavior! The fault is doubly compounded by the feeble attempt by the White House to portray, for the consumption of Bush's ignorant red state constituency, 90% of whom surely couldn't locate Chile on a map, the president's intervention in the scuffle he provoked as the act of real American tough guy facing down strange, foreign looking cops.

What a sick way to score puny PR points. Oh yeah, George W. Bush, real brave! If Bush was so tough, why didn't he intervene to drop the demands of his bodyguards for a metal detector at the state dinner? What's he afraid of? That the Chilean aristocrats have joined Al Qaeda? That Chilean plutocrats are going to assassinate him? Ridiculous! What a fool! It's a stunning embarrassment to the US to have this crude, crass little man as our president.

(Come to think of it, what's going on with Bush's much touted Spanish fluency? – I saw no report from the summit mentioning any spontaneous exchanges conducted in Spanish by our Ivy League "educated" president.)

US federal police are so arrogant and stupid at the same time, they even yell at the Chilean Carabineros in English: "You're not stopping me! You're not stopping me!" How could any American abroad, federal cop or otherwise, behave so crudely, yelling English into Spanish speaking foreign police officers' faces while resisting their authority and trampling on their sovereignty?

What does that even mean, "You're not stopping me!"? It sounds like some kind of pro sports trash talk, like something you'd expect to hear from a gangsta athlete like Keyshawn Johnson or Warren Sapp. What I suppose it means is, I'm a fed, and nobody ever crosses, me no matter what, no matter where, ever.

As Chilean Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza said on Monday, while recognizing the U.S.'s heightened security issues are different from Chile's (because of our egregious foreign policy), "in Chile we are the ones in charge." Exactly right!

A US citizen could never get away with an insult directed personally at the feds, never mind physically confront them. But note to feds: Chile is not a conquered US state, it's a sovereign country. – And as for Bush's supposedly bold rescue of his bodyguard from the fray (one of his weasley DC spinners, PR secretary Scott McClellan claimed it showed how Bush is "a hands-on kind of guy") one would suppose that Bush has been desperately seeking an opportunity to show what a man of action he is, but everyone knows what this newfound, protocol be damned, risk free courage is worth. Bush's courage in the face of real danger was tested on Sept. 11, 2001, and, after he was allowed to finish "My Pet Goat," he flew to a nuke bunker in Nebraska, just like the military industrial complex ordered him to.

What a phony.

Russ Stein is a paralegal in Boston.

11.26.04 Copyright © 2004

100,000 Iraqi Civilian Deaths - Part 1

The Nicest Guys You Can Imagine 

In their film, The Corporation, Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan describe how in the mid-1800s the corporation was declared a "fictitious person" in law and granted the same legal rights as real individuals. So what kind of 'person' is a corporation?

The filmmakers assessed the corporate 'personality' using diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organisation and standard diagnostic tools of psychiatrists and psychologists:
"The operational principles of the corporation give it a highly anti-social 'personality': It is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism... Concluding this point-by-point analysis, a disturbing diagnosis is delivered: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a 'psychopath.'" (

We, of course, live in a society dominated by these corporate psychopaths. Our media is not controlled by them, as is sometimes claimed; it is comprised of them.

Unsurprisingly, then, the corporate media system consistently responds in an inhuman and callous way to even the most horrific suffering. But isn't the media made up of nice, well-educated, well-spoken journalists? Yes, absolutely, but Noam Chomsky makes the point that matters:
"When you look at a corporation, just like when you look at a slave owner, you want to distinguish between the institution and the individual. So slavery, for example, or other forms of tyranny, are inherently monstrous. But the individuals participating in them may be the nicest guys you can imagine - benevolent, friendly, nice to their children, even nice to their slaves, caring about other people. I mean as individuals they may be anything. In their institutional role, they're monsters, because the institution's monstrous. And the same is true here." (Ibid)

And the same is certainly true of the media response to the US-UK assault on Iraq.

On October 29, the prestigious scientific journal, The Lancet, published a report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: 'Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey'. (

The authors estimate that 100,000 more Iraqi civilians died than would have been expected had the invasion not occurred. They write:
"Eighty-four percent of the deaths were reported to be caused by the actions of Coalition forces and 95 percent of those deaths were due to air strikes and artillery." (Press Release, 'Iraqi Civilian Deaths Increase Dramatically After Invasion,' October 28, 2004,

Most of those killed by "coalition" forces were women and children.

The report was met with a low-key, sceptical response, or outright silence in the media. There was no horror, no outrage. No leaders were written pointing out that, in addition to the illegality, lies and public deception, our government is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 civilians.

Scepticism is reasonable enough, of course, but there have been no debates allowing the report's authors to respond to challenges. Journalists seem uninterested in establishing whether the government's dismissal of the report might be one more cynical deception. Instead they have been happy to just move on. And to just move on in response to a mass slaughter of innocents on this scale is indeed indicative of corporate psychopathy. As Chomsky says, in their institutional roles, corporate journalists really are monsters.

At time of writing (November 2), the Lancet report has not been mentioned at all by the Observer, the Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Star, the Sun and many others. The Express devoted 71 words to the report, but only in its Lancashire edition. We asked the Observer editor, Roger Alton, why his paper had failed to mention the report. He replied:
"Dear Mr Edwards,

Thanks for your note. The figures were well covered in the week, but also I find the methodology a bit doubtful..." (Email to Media Lens, November 1, 2004)

In fact, the figures were covered in two brief Guardian articles (October 29 and October 30). The second of these, entitled, 'No 10 challenges civilian death toll', focused heavily on government criticism of the report without allowing the authors to respond. The Guardian then dropped the story.

The Independent also published two articles on October 29 and 30. But these were then followed up by two articles on the subject totalling some 1,200 words in the Independent on Sunday.

The Guardian's David Aaronovitch told us:

"I have a feeling (and I could be wrong) that the report may be a dud." (Email to Media Lens, October 30, 2004)

This is the sum-total of coverage afforded by The Sunday Times: "
Tony Blair, too, may have recalled Basil Fawlty when The Lancet published an estimate that 100,000 Iraqis have died since the start of the allied invasion." (Michael Portillo, 'The Queen must not allow Germany to act like a victim,' The Sunday Times, October 31, 2004)

The Evening Standard managed two sentences:
"The emails came as a new study in The Lancet estimated 100,000 civilians had died since the conflict began. The Prime Minister's official spokesman... added that the 100,000 death toll figure could not be trusted because it was based on an extrapolation." (Paul Waugh, 'Blair "did not grasp risk to troops"', October 29, 2004)

The Times has so far restricted itself to one report on October 29. This, however, at least contradicted the growing government and media smear campaign:
"Statisticians who have analysed the data said last night that the scientists' methodology was strong and the civilian death count could well be conservative.

"They said that the work effectively disproved suggestions by US authorities that civilian bodycounts were impossible to conduct." (Sam Lister, 'Researchers claims that 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died in war,' The Times, October 29, 2004)

Scientific Strength - Our Data Have Been Back And Forth

The tone for the response was set on Channel 4 News (October 29, 19:00), by science reporter Tom Clarke, who spent 53 seconds of his 2 minute 15 second report challenging the methodology of the Lancet report:

"Today, Downing Street dismissed the report saying the researchers used an extrapolation technique, which they considered inappropriate, rather than a detailed body count." (Tom Clarke, Channel 4 website, October 29, 2004)

Clarke emphasised how much higher the report's estimate of civilian deaths was than previous estimates:
"The Iraq Ministry of Health has estimated 3000 civilian deaths, but they've only been counting for six months.

"Another figure - over 16 000 since the conflict began - comes from a project called Iraqbodycount. Their estimate is based on reported casualties. This latest study comes up with a very different number: nearly 100,000 extra civilian deaths since war began - possibly more."

Clarke then added:
"But without bodies, can we trust the body count? Higher than average civilian casualties in Fallujah strongly distorted this study making the nationwide average well over 100 thousand so families surveyed there were discounted from the final figure.

"The reliability of interviews must be questioned too, though four out of five families were able to produce a death certificate."

Curiously, Clarke claimed that Fallujah "strongly distorted this study". And yet, as he himself noted, "families surveyed there were discounted" - so Fallujah did +not+ in fact distort the report. But he then claimed the reliability of interviews must +also+ be questioned - ie that this was a further problem in addition to the distortion he had just discounted.

Clarke then made his most serious claim:
"But the study's main weakness, and the one highlighted by Downing Street in dismissing today's figures, is that it multiplies a small sample across the whole of Iraq. A country at war, where people are aggrieved and displaced from their homes, makes household based surveys far less accurate."

It is remarkable that a news reporter could so casually dismiss the methodology and findings of a carefully implemented study that has been rigorously peer-reviewed for one of the world's leading scientific journals.

We asked the report's authors about the large rise in numbers of estimated civilian deaths over previous estimates, and also on the ability to make a reliable body count without bodies. Dr. Gilbert Burnham responded:
"In short, we used a standard survey method that is used all over the world to estimate mortality. So bodies are not necessary to calculate mortality. In fact going to the community for household surveys on mortality is the standard method used for calculating mortality all over the world, and is probably the method used in the UK census as well, although I am not a demographer.

"Anyway, information collected in surveys always produces higher numbers than 'passive reporting' as many things never get reported. This is the easy explanation for the differences between, and our survey.

"Further a survey can find other causes of death related to public health problems such as women dying in childbirth, children dead of infectious diseases, and elderly unable to reach a source of insulin, which body counts cannot do--since they collect information from newspaper accounts of deaths (usually violent ones). Can one estimate national figures on the basis of a sample?

"The answer is certainly yes (the basis of all census methods), provided that the sample is national, households are randomly selected, and great precautions are taken to eliminate biases. These are all what we did. Now the precision of the results is mostly dependent on sample size. The bigger the sample, the more precise the result. We calculated this carefully, and we had the statistical power to say what we did. Doing a larger sample size could make the figure more precise (smaller confidence intervals) but would have entailed risks to the surveyors which we did not want to take, as they were high enough already.

"Our data have been back and forth between many reviewers at the Lancet and here in the school (chair of Biostatistics Dept), so we have the scientific strength to say what we have said with great certainty. I doubt any Lancet paper has gotten as much close inspection in recent years as this one has!" (Dr. Gilbert Burnham, email to David Edwards, October 30, 2004)

Channel 4's Tom Clarke had made a further observation:

"The definition of civilian is also unclear. The majority of violent deaths were among young men who may - or may not - have been insurgents."

The report's lead author, Dr. Les Roberts, responded to this point:
"The civilian question is fair. About 25% of the population were adult males. 70% of people who died in automobile accidents were adult males. Presumably, they died more than other demographic groups because they are out and about more. 46% of people reportedly killed by coalition forces were adult males. Thus, some of them may have been combatants, some probably were not... perhaps they were just out and about more and more likely to be in targeted areas. We reported that over half of those killed by coalition forces were women and children to point out that if there was targeting, it was not very focused. Thus, we are careful to say that about 100,000 people, perhaps far more were killed. We suspect that the vast majority were civilians, but we do not say each and every one of the approximately 100,000 was a civilian." (Email to David Edwards, October 31, 2004)

Clarke concluded his Channel 4 report with a damning statement:

"Given the worsening security situation, it'll be a long time before we have an accurate picture for civilian losses in Iraq, if ever."

This suggested that flawed methodology meant the Lancet report could safely be dismissed as failing to provide "an accurate picture for civilian losses in Iraq". It meant the researchers, the Lancet peer review team, and the Lancet editors, had produced an unreliable piece of work.

To reiterate the response of the report's authors: "we have the scientific strength to say what we have said with great certainty. I doubt any Lancet paper has gotten as much close inspection in recent years as this one has!"

An October 29 Downing Street press release read:
"Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about a survey published today suggesting that 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died as a result of the war in Iraq, the PMOS [Prime Minister's Official Spokesman] said that it was important to treat the figures with caution because there were a number of concerns and doubts about the methodology that had been used. Firstly, the survey appeared to be based on an extrapolation technique rather than a detailed body count. Our worries centred on the fact that the technique in question appeared to treat Iraq as if every area was one and the same. In terms of the level of conflict, that was definitely not the case. Secondly, the survey appeared to assume that bombing had taken place throughout Iraq. Again, that was not true. It had been focussed primarily on areas such as Fallujah. Consequently, we did not believe that extrapolation was an appropriate technique to use." (

We again raised these queries with the report authors. Dr. Roberts replied:
"Point 1 is true and it is not a mistake on our part. We would have had a more accurate picture if we conducted a 'stratified' sample, with some in the high violence areas and some in the low violence areas. But, that would have involved visiting far more houses and exposing the interviewers to even more risk. Secondly, we do not know how many people are in the 'high violence' areas, so this would have involved large assumptions that would now be criticized.

"Most samples are taken with the assumption that all the clusters are 'exchangeable' for purposes of analysis. The difference between them is considered in the interpretation of the data.

"Point two, assumes bombing is happening equally across Iraq. There is no such explicit assumption. There is the assumption that all individuals in Iraq had an equal opportunity to die (and if we did not, it would not be a representative sample). It happens, that the one place with a lot of bombings, Falluja, and we excluded that from our 100,000 estimate....thus if anything, assuming that there has not been any intensive bombing in Iraq.

"Finally, there were 7 clusters in the Kurdish North with no violent deaths. Of those 26 randomly picked neighborhoods visited in the South, the area that was invaded, 5 had reported deaths from Coalition air-strikes. This, I suspect that such events are more widespread than the review suggests." (Email to David Edwards, November 1, 2004)

Almost none of the above has been debated anywhere in the UK press. It is clear that the Johns Hopkins researchers, the Lancet editors, and the Lancet's peer-review team, naturally took every precaution to ensure that the methodology involved could withstand the intense scrutiny a report of this kind was bound to generate. Their results point to the mass slaughter of 100,000 civilians. The media is just not interested.

Part 2 will follow shortly...

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Observer editor, Roger Alton Email:

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Write to Andrew Gowers, editor of the Financial Times Email:

Write to Martin Newland, editor of the Daily Telegraph Email:

Ask them why they have failed to so much as +mention+ the Lancet's report of 100,000 excess civilian deaths as a result of the US-UK invasion of Iraq.

Email Channel 4 News about their reporting:

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What Became of Conservatives?

Conservatives Are Turning Into Nazis

They are the enemies of freedom and decency.

I remember when friends would excitedly telephone to report that Rush Limbaugh or G. Gordon Liddy had just read one of my syndicated columns over the air. That was before I became a critic of the US invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration, and the neoconservative ideologues who have seized control of the US government.

America has blundered into a needless and dangerous war, and fully half of the country’s population is enthusiastic. Many Christians think that war in the Middle East signals "end times" and that they are about to be wafted up to heaven. Many patriots think that, finally, America is standing up for itself and demonstrating its righteous might. Conservatives are taking out their Vietnam frustrations on Iraqis. Karl Rove is wrapping Bush in the protective cloak of war leader. The military-industrial complex is drooling over the profits of war. And neoconservatives are laying the groundwork for Israeli territorial expansion.

The evening before Thanksgiving Rush Limbaugh was on C-Span TV explaining that these glorious developments would have been impossible if talk radio and the conservative movement had not combined to break the power of the liberal media.

In the Thanksgiving issue of National Review, editor Richard Lowry and former editor John O’Sullivan celebrate Bush’s reelection triumph over "a hostile press corps." "Try as they might," crowed O’Sullivan, "they couldn’t put Kerry over the top."

There was a time when I could rant about the "liberal media" with the best of them. But in recent years I have puzzled over the precise location of the "liberal media."

Not so long ago I would have identified the liberal media as the New York Times and Washington Post, CNN and the three TV networks, and National Public Radio. But both the Times and the Post fell for the Bush administration’s lies about WMD and supported the US invasion of Iraq. On balance CNN, the networks, and NPR have not made an issue of the Bush administration’s changing explanations for the invasion.

Apparently, Rush Limbaugh and National Review think there is a liberal media because the prison torture scandal could not be suppressed and a cameraman filmed the execution of a wounded Iraqi prisoner by a US Marine.

Do the Village Voice and The Nation comprise the "liberal media"? The Village Voice is known for Nat Henthof and his columns on civil liberties. Every good conservative believes that civil liberties are liberal because they interfere with the police and let criminals go free. The Nation favors spending on the poor and disfavors gun rights, but I don’t see the "liberal hate" in The Nation’s feeble pages that Rush Limbaugh was denouncing on C-Span.

In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush. Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush.

The Iraqi War is serving as a great catharsis for multiple conservative frustrations: job loss, drugs, crime, homosexuals, pornography, female promiscuity, abortion, restrictions on prayer in public places, Darwinism and attacks on religion. Liberals are the cause. Liberals are against America. Anyone against the war is against America and is a liberal. "You are with us or against us."

This is the mindset of delusion, and delusion permits of no facts or analysis. Blind emotion rules. Americans are right and everyone else is wrong. End of the debate.

That, gentle reader, is the full extent of talk radio, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal Editorial page, National Review, the Weekly Standard, and, indeed, of the entire concentrated corporate media where noncontroversy in the interest of advertising revenue rules.

Once upon a time there was a liberal media. It developed out of the Great Depression and the New Deal. Liberals believed that the private sector is the source of greed that must be restrained by government acting in the public interest. The liberals’ mistake was to identify morality with government. Liberals had great suspicion of private power and insufficient suspicion of the power and inclination of government to do good.

Liberals became Benthamites (after Jeremy Bentham). They believed that as the people controlled government through democracy, there was no reason to fear government power, which should be increased in order to accomplish more good.

The conservative movement that I grew up in did not share the liberals’ abiding faith in government. "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Today it is liberals, not conservatives, who endeavor to defend civil liberties from the state. Conservatives have been won around to the old liberal view that as long as government power is in their hands, there is no reason to fear it or to limit it. Thus, the Patriot Act, which permits government to suspend a person’s civil liberty by calling him a terrorist with or without proof.

Thus, preemptive war, which permits the President to invade other countries based on unverified assertions.

There is nothing conservative about these positions. To label them conservative is to make the same error as labeling the 1930s German Brownshirts conservative.

American liberals called the Brownshirts "conservative," because the Brownshirts were obviously not liberal. They were ignorant, violent, delusional, and they worshipped a man of no known distinction. Brownshirts’ delusions were protected by an emotional force field. Adulation of power and force prevented Brownshirts from recognizing implications for their country of their reckless doctrines.

Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy. I went overnight from being an object of conservative adulation to one of derision when I wrote that the US invasion of Iraq was a "strategic blunder."

It is amazing that only a short time ago the Bush administration and its supporters believed that all the US had to do was to appear in Iraq and we would be greeted with flowers. Has there ever been a greater example of delusion? Isn’t this on a par with the Children’s Crusade against the Saracens in the Middle Ages?

Delusion is still the defining characteristic of the Bush administration. We have smashed Fallujah, a city of 300,000, only to discover that the 10,000 US Marines are bogged down in the ruins of the city. If the Marines leave, the "defeated" insurgents will return. Meanwhile the insurgents have moved on to destabilize Mosul, a city five times as large. Thus, the call for more US troops.

There are no more troops. Our former allies are not going to send troops. The only way the Bush administration can continue with its Iraq policy is to reinstate the draft.

When the draft is reinstated, conservatives will loudly proclaim their pride that their sons, fathers, husbands and brothers are going to die for "our freedom." Not a single one of them will be able to explain why destroying Iraqi cities and occupying the ruins are necessary for "our freedom." But this inability will not lessen the enthusiasm for the project. To protect their delusions from "reality-based" critics, they will demand that the critics be arrested for treason and silenced. Many encouraged by talk radio already speak this way.

Because of the triumph of delusional "new conservatives" and the demise of the liberal media, this war is different from the Vietnam war. As more Americans are killed and maimed in the pointless carnage, more Americans have a powerful emotional stake that the war not be lost and not be in vain. Trapped in violence and unable to admit mistake, a reckless administration will escalate.

The rapidly collapsing US dollar is hard evidence that the world sees the US as bankrupt. Flight from the dollar as the reserve currency will adversely impact American living standards, which are already falling as a result of job outsourcing and offshore production. The US cannot afford a costly and interminable war.

Falling living standards and inability to impose our will on the Middle East will result in great frustrations that will diminish our country.

November 26, 2004
Dr. Roberts is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Copyright © 2004 Creators Syndicate

January 20 Call to Action: RISE Against Bush/SHINE For A Peaceful Tomorrow

RISE Against Bush
SHINE For A Peaceful Tomorrow

A Call for Anti-War Actions in Washington, DC, January 20, 2005

Every morning, the sun rises up, penetrating and overcoming the darkness of night. What once was dark becomes bright, changed by the force of the sun’s rays.

Our world is in darkness tonight, plagued with war, poverty, environmental destruction, and attacks on many of the liberties that so many of us hold dear. The darkness over our world has grown yet darker with the election of George W. Bush to another 4 years in office.

In the dark of the night, we need only wait for the sun. However, in the dark of our world, we cannot wait. If we are to see a new dawn, we must take action now. The DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) calls on the people of the world to RISE Against Bush and SHINE For A Peaceful Tomorrow.

  • Against the needless slaughter in and occupation of Iraq
  • Against the assault on civil liberties, as represented by such acts as the Patriot Act and the immoral detaining of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay
  • Against U.S. support of Israel’s apartheid against the Palestinian people
  • Against U.S. overthrow of Aristide in Haiti
  • Against U.S. attempts to overthrow any other democratically elected leader, including Hugo Chavez in Venezuela
  • Against any U.S. military action in Iran.

  • For a world that embraces peaceful dialogue instead of war
  • For a world where we respect the liberty of all beings
  • For a world that looks out for all those who are now oppressed including the poor, women, racial minorities, workers, people with disabilities
  • For a world that embraces social justice
  • For democracy and the autonomy of all people to have a full say in how they are governed
  • For each other.

The Call

DAWN calls for people all over the nation and world to converge on Washington, DC, on the day of George W. Bush’s Inauguration, January 20, 2005, for peaceful anti-war actions.

While DAWN is coordinating with many groups for a day of actions, DAWN calls additionally for these specific actions:

  1. A permitted nonviolent anti-war rally followed by a march to Bush’s inaugural parade route
  2. A nonviolent civil disobedience die-in, following the rally, in memorial to the dead at the hands of Bush and his Administration
DAWN also calls for organizations, affinity groups, and individuals to partner with us in organizing these two actions.

Next Steps

If you or your group or organization wants to endorse DAWN’s call to action, please send an e-mail to Write also if you wish to collaborate in the planning or offer financial donations or other material support.

Find out more information about DAWN’s and other groups’ actions at, by participating in the DC Cluster Spokescouncil meetings (refer to website), or by participating in DAWN’s weekly meetings. Check our website, for more details. Housing boards, events boards, working group information, and (soon) ride boards can be found at We will post updates of our actions, as they become available, to that website.

The new dawn begins with our rising up. It will take a lot of light to break through such darkness, but we can do it. We have no other choice. Join us on J20!

***please forward widely***