Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Section 60: Arlington Cemetery

October 14, 2008

Image from the from the HBO site for its documentary on some of the families that come to visit the graves in Section 60, where soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.

Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill… “embedded” themselves into the fabric of daily life in Section 60, capturing landscapes, families, friends and officials. Over the course of four months in 2007, they filmed on a daily basis, earning the trust of families who shared some of their most personal moments.

On October 10, Democracy Now interviewed Alpert on this his third film in a trilogy of Iraq-related HBO documentaries, which includes Baghdad ER and Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.

Also interviewed are Paula Zwillinger, whose son, Lance Corporal Robert Mininger, was killed in Iraq on June 6, 2005 and Patricia Genevie, whose son, Private First Corporal Aaron Genevie, died April 16, 2007, in Baghdad.

A May 18, 2007 photo essay on that section of the cemetary from the Washington Post is here.


Ali al-Mashhadani: US Frees frees IraqiJournalist…Again

August 23, 2008

Photo by Thaier al-Sudani of Reuters.

Ali al-Mashhadani must think this is getting old. Arrested by U.S. military forces for the third time without being charged, he was in the Green Zone in Baghdad on July 26 to renew his press card so that he could continue his work for Reuters, the BBC and NPR.

The U.S. released the 39-year-old journalist without charges August 21. A spokeswoman for the Multi-National Forces-Iraq had told the Committee to Protect Journalists that al-Mashhadani security risk and that his case would be reviewed within a seven-day period that began on July 29.

And this is not an isolated case, as documented by the Committee.

Risen on the cost of Iraq contracting

August 11, 2008

Risen reports on a new report out by the Congressional Budget office which according to people with knowledge of its contents say will reveal that

one out of every five dollars spent on the war in Iraq has gone to contractors for the United States military and other government agencies, in a war zone where employees of private contractors now outnumber American troops.

That adds up to $100 billion on contractors in Iraq since the invasion in 2003.

Suskind: "The White House had concocted a fake letter…to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001"

August 5, 2008

The Politico, may again have bought a book critical of the Bush administration which was supposed to be embargoed. At 11:51, on August 5, Mike Allen posted “Book says White House ordered forgery,” about Ron Suskind’s (email, website). The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism, out from Doubleday Canada had an August 5 publication date. So, Allen is a fast reader or didn’t finish the book prior to reporting.

Another book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What’s Wrong with Washington by Scott McClellan, which I posted about on May 29, raised a storm on the right blogosphere after Politico wrote about it while it definitely still was embargoed. Peter Osnos, the publisher talks about the reaction the book received on his blog for The Century Foundation, The Platform, here, here and here.

Discussion of Suskind’s book has yet to catch on at the right-leaning blogs. There, it seems that the meme so far is on Obama is losing steam, at least as of 1:50 p.m., when I checked on Memorandum. Instead, here are the sources discussing Suskind’s book:

There have been so many exposes about this administration that I sometimes wonder if we will ever have a repeat of Watergate, where a President resigns after revelations of alleged wrongdoing. Is this because the public is jaded about malfeasance or because most in Congress are loyalists and there are no members of the stature of a Barry Goldwater calling a President from their her own party out.

Memorial Day at Poplar Forest

May 25, 2008

Photo of Poplar Forest from a nearby Baptist conference center’s tourist info.

Tomorrow Barry and I will make our fourth trip to Poplar Forest for Memorial Day. Here’s a poem I wrote on the first visit.


Thomas Jefferson
rode the ninety miles
two days on horseback
three by carriage:
this octagon villa
his retreat from public life
at Monticello.

Sated on soda bread
a magnum of wine
we stretch out under the farthest surviving poplar
watch cumulous clouds dock and disolve.
One evokes a falcon
its swoop of wings, its talons.
Above us, the bough trimmed severely,
the poplar’s leaves crowd in along remaining wood
as if to compensate for phantom limbs.

On the house tour we learn
Tom’s slaves cast and laid a quarter million bricks
according to his design directly to clay
with no foundation.
After one hundred eighty-seven years
the skeleton of bricks remains intact
paint scaled off a coat at a time
then plaster, all stored to stoppered test tubes:
archeology essentially a deconstructive process.

Ghost marks on bricks
reveal a mantel here
a chair rail there,
let us glimpse the future restoration.
I prefer this bare brick:
strained backs of men and horses
beneath the great man’s surfaces.

And speaking of Memorial Day, here’s a baker’s dozen from NewsTrust on the Iraq War, something to keep in mind as we mark the day tomorrow.

  1. The Sergeant Lost Within NYT–Reviews
  2. Book Review – ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ NYT —Reviews
  3. Soldier-Brothers See All Sides of War AP Reviews
  4. Feeling safer, Iraqis come home APReviews
  5. As soldiers fill Sadr City, militia fighters wait LA Times Reviews
  6. Iran ‘paid Iraq insurgents to kill UK soldiers’ Daily Telegraph Reviews
  7. The Return of Iraq’s Ayatollah Time Reviews
  8. U.S. Teams Start Work Of Restoring South Iraq WaPoReviews
  9. Iraq Vets Get Poor Health Care, Americans Say in Harvard Survey Bloomberg
  10. War and service: Remembrance and debate Balt Sun Reviews
  11. Controversial Contractor’s Iraq Work Is Split Up NYT Reviews
  12. Congress declares budget war LA Times Reviews
  13. Pentagon public relations program investigated AP Reviews

The Need for a New GI Bill

November 12, 2007

Photo from UCLA’s web article on the GI Bill.

For some reason, my newsletter from Jim Webb (D-VA) (email) went to my spam folder. This is his Veteran’s Day plea for a better GI Bill for Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. I’d add that I wouldn’t be opposed to backdating this to include Vietnam vets, if any of them would like additional education. Heck, how about education for anyone willing to perform national service? As Webb says,

The United States has never gone wrong when it has made sustained new investments in higher education and job training.

It would be especially fitting to make such an investment, given the fact that the “All Volunteer Force,” and for that matter, the draft before it, is hardly an equal opportunity employer.

The Department of Defense has published an annual report Population Representation in the Military Service starting in 1974. The 1998 report notes that,

Analysis of Vietnam era veterans indicated that individuals of high socioeconomic status comprised about half the proportion of draftees compared to their representation in the overall population.

Interestingly, the reports for 1997-2004 are available online. Thus the last information is for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004. The 1997, 1998, and 1999 reports included a chapter examining socioeconomic status v.s the general population. This is no longer the case. The 2000 report did have a chapter about representation in the army.

Webb’s measure S.22 received a hearing in the Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs on July 31 with no action since then. Bobby Scott’s companion bill, H.R. 2702, introduced June 13, has been referred to subcommittee and there the tale ends to date.


Webb writes,

In terms of providing true opportunity and creating a level playing field among Americans of all walks of life, the original World War II G.I. Bill was perhaps the most important piece of legislation in our history. Designed to help veterans readjust to civilian life, this landmark legislation helped 7.8 million World War II veterans pursue a college education. The program cost about $14.5 billion (in 1940s dollars), and for every dollar invested, the government estimates that seven dollars were generated.

From political figures to Nobel Prize winners, the effectiveness of the G.I. Bill has been demonstrated by the broad success of those who benefited from it. As former Senator Bob Dole, himself a recipient of that G.I. Bill’s benefits, mentioned recently during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, “It made a big difference. I think it’s the single most important piece of legislation when it comes to education. It changed America more than anything I can think of.”

We have an opportunity to enact equally important legislation today for those who have served post-9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan. On my first day in office, I introduced the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007 in order to provide our returning troops benefits that mirror those provided to our veterans after World War II.

In the current debate about how to properly support our newest generation of veterans, history has taught us that we must not overlook the great transformative power of education. This Veterans Day, I believe it is time that we commit to a more robust educational assistance program and that we provide a first-class education for the men and women who have served us honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan.

First as an infantry combat Marine in Vietnam and later as a full Committee Counsel on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, I saw first-hand the inequities of the Vietnam-era G.I. Bill and the difficulties that so many veterans of that era encountered as they re-entered the civilian world.

Under the current Montgomery G.I. Bill, designed primarily for peacetime not wartime service, a service member must pay $100 a month for the first year of his or her enlistment, in order to receive up to $1,075 a month toward an education up to a total of $38,700. The average amount a veteran receives these days is $666.67 a month.

This amount is insufficient for readjustment to civilian life after serving two, three, or four tours of duty, as many of our post-9/11 servicemembers have. This compensation is hardly enough to allow a veteran to attend many community colleges, let alone a traditional four year institution.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, himself a Vietnam combat veteran, has since joined me in leading the charge in the Senate, in addition to 23 Senate colleagues who have signed on as co-sponsors to my legislation. Congressman Bobby Scott introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives, which enjoys the support of 75 co-sponsors, including Congressman Jim Moran.

The United States has never gone wrong when it has made sustained new investments in higher education and job training. Enacting a more robust G.I. bill akin to that of the World War II era is not only the right thing to do, but its the smart thing to do, in terms of investing in the economic health of our country. As someone who hails from the soldier-citizen tradition, I hold immense personal pride in those who answer our nation’s call to duty.

Now as a U.S. Senator, I hope to put into place the mechanisms that will allow future generations of Presidents, Senators and Nobel laureates to rise through the ranks on a sturdy educational foundation provided by the G.I. bill.

Missing Miss Molly

January 31, 2007

Photo of Molly Ivins from her page at the Creators Syndicate, for whom she began writing a column in 1992.


Molly Ivins died today. Sigh. Anthony Zurcher, also of Austin, was her editor at the Creator’s Sundicate. .Zurcher wrote this anecdote in his tribute today:

For a woman who made a profession of offering her opinion to others, Molly was remarkably humble. She was known for hosting unforgettable parties at her Austin home, which would feature rollicking political discussions, and impromptu poetry recitals and satirical songs. At one such event, I noticed her dining table was littered with various awards and distinguished speaker plaques, put to use as trivets for steaming plates of tamales, chili and fajita meat. When I called this to her attention, Molly matter-of-factly replied, “Well, what else am I going to do with ’em?”

In her next to last syndicated column, “Iraq Exit is Up to Us” published on January 8, Ivins declared herself on an “old-fashioned newspaper campaign” and vowed to use every column she had to “write about this war until we find some way to end it.”

Becky O’Malley, editor of the Berkely Daily Planet had proposed a tribute:

And now it really is up to us. While Molly is sick, the rest of us will have to carry her “old-fashioned newspaper campaign” forward.

With that in mind, the Berkeley Daily Planet is hereby launching what we might call the “Molly Ivins Festschrift.” A festschrift is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a volume of writings by different authors presented as a tribute or memorial especially to a scholar.” Academics are wont to create festschrifts on the occasion of a revered colleague’s 60th birthday, for example. Molly’s already 62, but no time like the present to catch up with what we should have done two years ago. And we might call it festschrift if we could reliably remember how to spell or pronounce that German word, but let’s just call it the Molly Ivins Tribute Project.

The idea is that her colleagues in the opinionated part of the journalistic world should take over her campaign while she’s sick, creating a deluge of columns about what’s wrong with Bush’s war and what should be done to set things right. It would be nice if a lot of these columns could be funny, since skewering serious subjects with humor is what Molly does best, but that’s not required.

Here at the Berkeley Daily Planet we’ve set up a special mailbox to receive the offerings, We’ll publish them as they come in, at least one every day if possible, in our Internet edition, We’d like them to be contributed free of copyright, so that any publication, print or online, can take them off the web and re-circulate them to their own readers. The best ones we’ll also run in our Tuesday and Friday printed papers. A good length would be 600-800 words, which would work for most publications. And of course, columnists under contract should just write pieces to run in their regular outlets.

At 10:18 tonight, Austin NBC affiliate KXAN posted its story with a place to add coments.

Molly Ivins was my favorite political columnist. She managed to combine irreverance and humor with a keen understanding of the facts. She’s the one responsible for naming George Bush “Shrub.” And in her last column for Creative Synidicate on January 11, she came up with the slogan, “We are the deciders” as she wrote about the January 27 March on Washington:

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!”


While I was in Washington on the 27th, I had no idea; I somehow missed the AP blurb on Friday, January 26, that Ivins had been hospitalized in her ongoing battle with cancer which had started in 1999. Caught up in writing about the march, then about the W&M president’s travails, and finally working today to fill my taxes, I hadn’t read the news from in Austin, which didn’t seem so ominous. On Monday, January 29 at 11:31 a.m. , local station KXAN posted this story,

A close friend to Ivins told KXAN that even though the 62-year-old is sick, she still has her sense of humor, laughing and smiling with friends and family, visiting her in the hospital.

Ivins could be released from the hospital later Monday.

KXAN will keep you updated.

I missed Peter Rothberg entry January 30 at 5:00 p.m., “Molly’s Pledge.”In his blog for The Nation, “Act Now” spreading news of the Berkeley Planet charge.


September 24, 2006 Lisa Sandberg had written for the Houston Chronicle, “While battling politicians, writer is in a battle for her life / Illness hasn’t dulled Ivins’ wit” (available through E-Library or reprinted without a byline as an AP story on Editor and Publisher) .

At that time, going through her third bout of chemo and radiation, Ivins, Sandberg wrote, had a version of the disease had become “chronic-but-manageable, ” although she suffered from constipation, “poor balance, only a few patches of hair on her head and no assurance her breast cancer won’t undo her in the end.”

Ivins told her, as she had told others,

I’m sorry to say (cancer) can kill you but it doesn’t make you a better person.

But despite the treatments, Ivins had returned less than a week before from an 11-day, 227-mile raft trip through the Grand Canyon, a trip which she said reduced her ego “to the size of a grain of sand.”

OK, a confession: The raft had a motor.

Second confession: Her loyal assistant, Betsy Moon, had warned the 16 people on the trip that she was “a fragile case.” So you might have thought Ivins was the empress of China.

“People would bring me food and drink, and put up my tent,” Ivins said.

Then she laughed heartily. She hadn’t asked Moon to elicit sympathy, but she wasn’t complaining.

“I’m not above using cancer as the world’s greatest excuse,” she said.

I prefer what people say during your lifetime, so some tidbits via Sandberg:

At a gathering in May, former President Clinton called her a “great journalist,” who was “good when she praised me and painfully good when she criticized me.”

Her brother Andy Ivins, a lawyer, 56:

“Sometimes her Texan accent can get a lot thicker depending on where she is.” Her father, Jim Ivins, a corporate lawyer, argued about her about civil rights, the war in Vietnam, the women’s movement. He was was a conservative Republican , which meant, according to Andy , that his sister could have been only one thing: a leftist. “She was going to be anything he wasn’t.”

Ivins on Bush:

She’s fond of saying that calling President Bush “shallow” is like calling a dwarf “short.”

On the GOP seizing both houses of the Texas Legislature in 2003:

Well, fellow Texans, they can stick a fork in us, cause we’re done.

There are a bunch of good Ivins quotations at Whateveritisimagainstit.


  • Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?
  • Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (with Lou Dubose)
  • Who Let the Dogs In? Incredible Political Animals I have Known.

Ivins interned at Houston Chronicle while at Smith College,

where she wrote up street closings and bridal news and recalls accidentally marrying off one bride to her father and writing that another had earned a “B.O.” degree.

After Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and working three years at the Minneapolis Tribune, Ivins returned home in 1970 to cover the Texas Legislature, became co-editor of the biweekly left newsmagazine The Texas Observer and was hired away by the New York Times where she was fired six years because, Ivins proudly told Sandberg, the top editor, A.M Rosenthal, didn’t feel she showed

“due respect and deference to the great dignity of the New York Times.

Page View Statistics (visitor count no longer available from yahoo.)
January 2007: 9,239
2007 YTD: 9,239
2006 TOTAL: 61,308
Total since 1/1/06: 70,809

UPDATE: 2/1/07

She had been the Rocky Mountain bureau chief until she was summons back to New York by Rosenthal to cover City Hall. As the Harrrisonburg, Virginia Daily News Record, which ran her column editorialized today in “Molly Ivins,”

Her rollicking writing style often got her in trouble with one of her employers – The New York Times. Incandescent lines such as “squawked like a $2 fiddle,” was transformed into “like an inexpensive instrument.” Managing editor Abe Rosenthal also questioned her description of a chicken festival somewhere in Texas as a “gang pluck.”

The “Gray Lady” couldn’t hack Molly 27 years later. Here’s how the NYT tells it in her obit, “Molly Ivins, Columnist, Dies at 62:”

Covering an annual chicken slaughter in New Mexico in 1980, she used a sexually suggestive phrase, which her editors deleted from the final article. But her effort to use it angered the executive editor, A. M. Rosenthal, who ordered her back to New York and assigned her to City Hall, where she covered routine matters with little flair.

Wendy M. Grossman (email, website, bio)quotes Media Circus by Howard Kurtz at her Live Journal entry:

The classic Ivins tale involves her story about an all-day community chicken slaughter in a New Mexico town. Ivins couldn’t resist describing it as a “gang pluck”, knowing full well the phrase would never make it past the copy desk. Ivins was promptly removed as Rocky Mountain bureau chief and ushered into Rosenthal’s office.

“He said, ‘You used the word gang pluck.’ I said, ‘I thought it was a good line. ‘He said, ‘Gang pluck.’ I said, ‘It was a play on words. He said, ‘Gang pluck. Gang pluck sounds like gang fuck. You were trying to make our readers think of the word fuck.’ I said, ‘Damn, Abe, you are a hard man to fool.'”

UPDATE 2/3/07: Greg Mitchell’s take, “The Plucking Truth,” in Editor and Publisher

Surely, in swinging 2007, with some of the greyness drained out of the Grey Lady by now, the paper would finally print the phrase in its Ivins obituary? Uh, think again. Didn’t happen. Censored again.