Monday, March 24, 2008


Mother at odds with Army over death of sgt.

Soldier’s mom believes son was victim of war; Army says death is undetermined

By Robert Imrie - The Associated PressPosted : Monday Mar 24, 2008 7:33:13 EDT

WAUSAU, Wis. — Joan McDonald believes her son was a casualty of the war in Iraq, but the Army says that while he did suffer a severe head wound in a bomb blast, the cause of his death is undetermined, keeping him off the casualty list.

She and her family are demanding more answers in the death of Sgt. James W. McDonald.
“I don’t want it to be an undetermined cause of death,” said Joan McDonald. “That is ridiculous.”

McDonald, 26, was injured in a roadside bomb blast in Iraq last May. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Hood, Texas. After treatment in Germany, McDonald returned to Fort Hood and underwent extensive facial surgery in August.

His body was found in his barracks apartment Nov. 12, a Monday. He was last seen alive the previous Friday.

The Army ruled out suicide and accidental factors, but an autopsy could not determine the exact cause of death, in part because of the decomposition of the body, said Col. Diane Battaglia, a base spokeswoman.

As a result, McDonald’s death is considered noncombat-related, with the caveat that medical experts couldn’t rule out that “traumatic brain injury” may have been a factor, Battaglia said.
Joan McDonald, of Neenah, has no doubts about her son’s death.

“If my son was not at the war, he would not be dead, plain and simple,” she said. “He was a strong healthy boy. ... Don’t tell me it was unrelated to the war. I will never accept that.”

Tom Wilborn, a spokesman for Disabled American Veterans in Washington, said the question of whether McDonald was a war casualty is the first that he was aware of from the Iraq war.

“But it happened a lot during Vietnam,” he said. “There’s a long history where guys would be wounded in the jungle and they might live long enough to come home. And then they would pass away and were not counted as a combat casualty.”

According to an Army study in 2007, 1.4 million people in the U.S. suffer traumatic brain injuries each year. Of those, 50,000 die, 235,000 are hospitalized and 1.1 million are evaluated, treated at a hospital emergency department and released.

A Government Accountability Office study found that of soldiers who required a medical evacuation for battle-related injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan, 30 percent suffered a traumatic brain injury. But it was unknown how many soldiers suffered more mild forms of brain injury.

The family has asked Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., for help. McDonald has a copy of a March 11 letter Feingold sent to Maj. Gen. Galen Jakman at the Pentagon outlining her concerns.
McDonald said her son was a strapping 6-foot-3, 200-pound soldier who served two tours of duty in Iraq and loved the military.

“He was having a problem sleeping since he came back from the war. I don’t think it had anything to do with sleep apnea. I think it had to do with bombs,” she said. He also had seen a doctor because of severe nose bleeds but was told the symptoms were not that unusual, given his August surgery, she said.

Before he died, McDonald had worked on the base at a weapons room and the post office, she said. He had planned to leave the Army in January to pursue a career in firefighting.

She said she recently ran across a T-shirt that said he helped build a memorial wall at Fort Hood to honor its soldiers killed in Iraq.

“I want his name on that wall,” she said. “We don’t know what else to do. I have one brother who is saying ‘Does it matter. To you, he is a casualty of war.

To everyone that knew him, he is a casualty of war.’ I am like, well, it kinda does matter.”


As only Michael Moore can put it......

Cheney on Another Grim Milestone: So?

By Michael Moore, MichaelMoore.comPosted on March 24, 2008, Printed on March 24, 2008

It would have to happen on Easter Sunday, wouldn't it, that the 4,000th American soldier would die in Iraq. Play me that crazy preacher again, will you, about how maybe God, in all his infinite wisdom, may not exactly be blessing America these days. Is anyone surprised?

4,000 dead. Unofficial estimates are that there may be up to 100,000 wounded, injured, or mentally ruined by this war. And there could be up to a million Iraqi dead. We will pay the consequences of this for a long, long time. God will keep blessing America.

And where is Darth Vader in all this? A reporter from ABC News this week told Dick Cheney, in regards to Iraq, "two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting." Cheney cut her off with a one word answer: "So?"

"So?" As in, "So what?" As in, "F*** you. I could care less."

I would like every American to see Cheney flip the virtual bird at the them, the American people. Click here and pass it around. Then ask yourself why we haven't risen up and thrown him and his puppet out of the White House.

The Democrats have had the power to literally pull the plug on this war for the past 15 months -- and they have refused to do so. What are we to do about that? Continue to sink into our despair? Or get creative? Real creative. I know there are many of you reading this who have the chutzpah and ingenuity to confront your local congressperson. Will you? For me?

Cheney spent Wednesday, the 5th anniversary of the war, not mourning the dead he killed, but fishing off the Sultan of Oman's royal yacht. So? Ask your favorite Republican what they think of that.

The Founding Fathers would never have uttered the presumptuous words, "God Bless America." That, to them, sounded like a command instead of a request, and one doesn't command God, even if they are America. In fact, they were worried God would punish America. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington feared that God would react unfavorably against his soldiers for the way they were behaving. John Adams wondered if God might punish America and cause it to lose the war, just to prove His point that America was not worthy. They and the others believed it would be arrogant on their part to assume that God would single out America for a blessing. What a long road we have traveled since then.

I see that Frontline on PBS this week has a documentary called "Bush's War." That's what I've been calling it for a long time. It's not the "Iraq War." Iraq did nothing. Iraq didn't plan 9/11. It didn't have weapons of mass destruction. It DID have movie theaters and bars and women wearing what they wanted and a significant Christian population and one of the few Arab capitals with an open synagogue.

But that's all gone now. Show a movie and you'll be shot in the head. Over a hundred women have been randomly executed for not wearing a scarf. I'm happy, as a blessed American, that I had a hand in all this. I just paid my taxes, so that means I helped to pay for this freedom we've brought to Baghdad. So? Will God bless me?

God bless all of you in this Easter Week as we begin the 6th year of Bush's War.
God help America. Please.
Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an Academy award-winning filmmaker and author of "
Dude, Where's My Country?"

Ah, yes. As ONLY Michael Moore can put it. Thanks, Michael. I needed that. Bill Corcoran, editor of CORKSPHERE


There have been additional deaths of Americans in Iraq in addition to the four on Sunday which brought the overall death toll to 4,000. The are listed here.

Also, it is has been a very violent day all across Iraq and even Afghanistan, but still President Bush and his ridiculous propaganda arm, FOX NEWS, which still masquerades as a "news organization" when that is the last thing in the world FOX NEWS could ever be considered. FOX NEWS is an electronic version of a super-market tabloid with all the depth of a wading pool.

Commentary by BILL CORCORAN, editor of CORKSPHERE

MNF-Iraq is reporting the deaths four Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers in a roadside bombing in an southern neighborhood of Baghdad on Sunday, March 23rd.. One other soldier were wounded in the attack.

The DoD is reporting a new death previously unreported by the military. Tech. Sgt. William H. Jefferson, Jr. died in an improvised explosive device explosion near Sperwan Ghar, Afghanistan, on Friday, March 22nd. No other details were released.

CJTF-82 is reporting the deaths of two U.S. coalition soldiers in an improvised explosive device explosion in the Zharmi District, Kandahar Province, on Friday, March 21st. No other details were released.

The overall U.S. death toll in Iraq rose to 4,000 after four soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in

BaghdadSecurity incidents:Baghdad:#1: update At least five people were injured in the Green Zone, a U.S. Embassy statement said without specifying nationalities. The zone includes the U.S. and British embassies as well as major Iraqi government offices. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to release the information, said those injured included an American and four third-country nationals, meaning they were not American, British or Iraqi.Iraqi police said 10 civilians were killed and more than 20 were injured in rocket or mortar blasts in scattered areas of eastern Baghdad — some of them probably due to misfired rounds.

#2: Four Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers were killed at approximately 10 p.m. March 23 after terrorists attacked them with an improvised-explosive device in southern Baghdad while conducting a mounted vehicular patrol. One additional Soldier was injured from this attack.

#3: Ali Mahmoud, 45, who lives on the street, said the explosion was the first in the neighborhood in two years. “The American warplanes were shelling most of the area all last night because of the Madhi Army,” he said. It dominates the neighborhood, he said

.#4: One policeman was wounded by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad's Zayouna district, police said.A policeman was injured in an IED explosion that targeted Iraqi police patrol on Mohammed al Qasim high way in east Baghdad around 8:00 a.m.

#5: Iraq's Oil Ministry says crude oil exports in February amounted to 56.1 million barrels.That's a slight decrease from the 59.6 million barrels exported in the previous month. But revenues increased due to the rise in world oil prices. Iraq's average production for February was 2.4 million barrels per day. Exports averaged 1.93 million barrels per day.#6: Three policemen were injured in an IED explosion that targeted a walking police patrol in Zayuna neighborhood in east Baghdad around 9:00 a.m.

Diyala Prv:Baquba:#1: Two children in Baquba, a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old, also died Sunday. They were playing in a street when a homemade bomb hidden under garbage detonated, killing them instantly. When the authorities reached the scene, the security official said, all they found were pieces of the children’s bodies.

#2: Three policemen were killed and two civilians were injured in an IED explosion that targeted a police patrol in Sadiyah town north of Baquba on Monday morning.

Qurna:#1: One police officer was wounded in clashes between Iraqi police and militants on Sunday and Monday in the southern Iraqi town of Qurna, police said.One civilian was killed and a policeman wounded in clashes that erupted in northern Basra on Sunday evening and continued until the early hours of Monday between security forces and gunmen, police said.

Baili:#1: A civilian was killed when a mortar shell hit Tal Jwad village near Biji city north of Tikrit on Monday morning.

Kirkuk:#1: In Kirkuk, gunmen shot four Iraqi soldiers and burned their armored vehicleMosul:#1: Iraqi army forces detonated vehicle rigged with explosives and arrested two bombers without incident, according to an Iraqi army source in Ninewa province on Monday.

Afghanistan:#1: Nearly 40 trucks carrying fuel to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have been destroyed in two bomb attacks on the Pakistani border. Officials say about 100 people have been injured. Local government official Muhammad Iqbal Khan said the blasts late Sunday were from two bombs planted in a parking lot on the Pakistani side of the Torkham customs post.

#2: Around 100 police officers on Afghanistan's poppy eradication force were killed in the line of duty over the last year, an official said Monday

#3: The police in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan killed at least 12 Taliban insurgents, provincial police chief Juma Gul Humat told Xinhua on Monday. "The clash, during which 12 rebels were killed, took place on Sunday in Chora district when police backed by the international troops launched a clean-up operation against militants in that area," Humat told Xinhua. Three policemen were wounded in the operation, he said.

#4: A group of armed gunmen attacked a convoy of deminers in relatively peaceful northern Afghanistan, killing five workers and wounding another seven, the director of the demining organization said on Monday. The attack took place in Afghanya area, near Sheberghan city, the capital of northern Jawzjan province on Sunday afternoon, Kefayatullah Eblagh, director of Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC), an Afghan demining non governmental organization said. "The gunmen attacked one of the four-vehicle convoy by small arms fire," Eblagh told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. He said five men - a section leader, three deminers and a driver - were killed and seven others were wounded in the attack.


Yesterday we reported mortar shells were fired into the Green Zone inside of Baghdad, and today we can report 13 Iraqi civilians were killed in the attack.

The Green Zone houses the Iraqi Parliament, the U.S. embassy and other important government agencies in Iraq.

March 24, 2008
13 Iraqis Killed by Shells Fired at the Green Zone

BAGHDAD — As many as 20 mortar shells were fired Sunday at the heavily fortified Green Zone, one of the fiercest and most sustained attacks on the area in the last year.

The shelling sent thick plumes of dark gray smoke over central Baghdad and ignited a spectacular fire on the banks of the Tigris River. It ushered in a day of violence around the country that claimed the lives of at least 58 lraqis and four American soldiers.

According to tallies by The Associated Press and, an independent Web site that tracks casualties in Iraq, those military deaths pushed the number of American service members killed in the five-year-old war to at least 4,000. The figure includes service members whose names have not been released by the Pentagon.

American military officials said the soldiers who died Sunday were killed by a homemade bomb about 10 p.m. as they patrolled southern Baghdad in a vehicle. Another soldier was wounded in the attack.

The intensity of the violence added to the sense that insurgent and sectarian attacks had been on the rise in recent weeks.

Bush administration officials have said repeatedly that an increase in troop levels has reduced violence to the point that political and sectarian reconciliation is becoming a reality. The administration has withdrawn some of the reinforcements and is assessing the effect of that reduction before withdrawing additional troops, a decision expected in the next week.

Recent statistics compiled by the Pentagon suggest that after dropping significantly last fall, the number of daily attacks remained static from November through January, the last month for which official figures were available. And the relative calm has been pierced by a flare-up of violence in recent weeks.

No Americans were killed in the shelling on Sunday, officials said, but mortar shells that fell short of their target killed 13 Iraqis in neighborhoods east of the Green Zone. The first attack, about 6 a.m., sent thunderous booms echoing across the city, shaking buildings and rattling windows.

Although the source of the attacks could not be determined conclusively, two witnesses said the early-morning rounds were fired across the river from the Shiite-dominated Baladiyat neighborhood by militia men who the witnesses believed belonged to the Mahdi Army of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

American military officials have in the past blamed Shiite militia factions or “special groups” backed by Iran for such attacks. The factions are thought to be splinter groups of the Mahdi Army.

Last month, Mr. Sadr announced the extension of a cease-fire begun last year and said that he would not tolerate any violations. But in recent weeks, there have been clashes between Mahdi fighters and multinational forces in Kut, southeast of the capital, and Diyala Province, to the north.

The attack on Sunday morning sent early risers in the Green Zone running for shelter. Sirens went off, and loudspeakers blared: “Duck and cover! Duck and cover!”

Barrages of mortar fire continued through the day at four- to five-hour intervals, including a series of intense blasts just before 8:30 p.m. In that assault, one round landed just outside the Green Zone wall on the west bank of the Tigris, igniting a large brush fire.

For hours afterward, the city was oddly silent, the helicopters that are a constant presence here nowhere in sight.


How much more can this country keep demanding of Justin Bunce, Daniel Verbeke and Michael McMichael?

The three veterans of the Iraq war recently told the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and the men's families about anguished tales of trips through bureaucratic hell in the transition between the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs

By Lawrence Downes
The New York Times

Monday 24 March 2008

The men - a marine, a sailor and a National Guardsman - went to Iraq to fight as ordered, served honorably and suffered grave injuries. When they came home another struggle began, to find the care to make them whole again.

At a recent hearing in Washington before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, the men's families told anguished tales of trips through bureaucratic hell in the transition between the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs. That terrain is notorious for its paperwork mountains and tripwires of red tape, but especially treacherous for those with traumatic brain injuries, the signature affliction of this five-year-old war.

Mr. Bunce lost an eye in a roadside bomb blast that also thrust shrapnel into his frontal lobe. His father, Peter, said his care was so "stovepiped," with nobody knowing what anyone else was doing, that doctors working on his head ignored his broken leg. Technicians nearly did an M.R.I. on his brain, not realizing - because scans had not been done - the danger from the metal in his skull. Nobody tried to coordinate his many medications.

Time and again his parents had to cross the country looking for the right therapies and treatment. Whatever expertise they found they stumbled on; there was no one but them to manage his case. The V.A. relied on the brain-damaged young corporal to evaluate his own mental state, and once sent him a letter threatening to cut off benefits because he could not manage his affairs.

Mr. Verbeke's injuries, in a shipboard accident, were catastrophic. He cannot speak or control his limbs, though he can laugh and smile. His father, Robert, told of years of battling with the V.A. over treatment, tests, prescriptions and plans for therapy and assistance at home. "They can't plan or execute," he said. "The only logical conclusion is that they just don't care."

The bomb blasts that crushed Mr. McMichael's vertebrae and damaged his brain did not take his life, at least not all at once. When he came home he seemed intact, but it soon became clear that his psyche was in shreds. His behavior put him in constant danger of losing his independence, his composure and dignity, his home, his family.

His wife, Jackie, has refused to let that happen. As a National Guard spouse not immersed in military life, she had to rely on doggedness and patience and large measures of self-tutoring. It took her a year and a half, on her own, to assemble a support network for her husband.

That forced self-reliance is the most difficult and baffling part of these veterans' struggles. Had they lost arms or legs, the process would have been much easier. But the quest for care for psychic injuries takes place on a landscape without maps. All three families said that doctors and therapists were constantly handing out business cards, friendly advice and vague offers of help, but that it was nearly impossible to find firm guidance and quick, flexible, responsive care.

At the hearing, representatives of the Pentagon and V.A. played to type, laying down a bewildering fog of acronyms and promises. Their central point was that things were moving now, that the two departments were "in the process of implementing more than 400 recommendations of five major studies."

One involved hiring eight "recovery coordinators" to oversee care for 46 people. That's a droplet of care in an ocean of need: about 3,000 veterans have sustained traumatic injuries, by some rough estimates, and untold thousands of others are afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder.

The U.S. Naval Institute reported last month on the staggering immensity of paperwork that veterans confront. Defense Department records are on paper and often incomplete; the V.A.'s are electronic. Service members have to carry records between departments, never knowing what might be missing.

The three families in this article were unusually, perhaps stunningly, well equipped to overcome those hurdles. Robert Verbeke is a corporate executive. So is Peter Bunce, who worked at the Pentagon as the Air Force's liaison to the House of Representatives. His wife, Patty, is an occupational therapist. Jackie McMichael has a master's degree in counseling, and practically grew up at the V.A. hospital in Durham, N.C., where her mother worked.

As Ms. McMichael testified, Michael sat behind her, his back straight, hands gripping a cane and shaking so hard they looked as if they were plugged into something. Peace has not arrived for him, and may not come anytime soon.

He is lucky in many ways: he has two young children and a wife who loves him and has sacrificed so much to travel the bureaucratic labyrinth for him. It is more than anyone could ask, but far less than any wounded soldier deserves.

"I am educated, tenacious and resourceful," Ms. McMichael said of her work as a self-taught case manager. "And I was completely lost."


Civilian killed, policeman wounded in clashes in Basra

Basra - Voices of Iraq
Monday , 24 /03 /2008 Time 2:53:17

British pull-out from Basra delayed after rise in rocket attacks --Plan to reduce forces to 2,500 by next month put off indefinitely as Iraqi troops prepare to take on militias. 23 Mar 2008 Further British troop withdrawals from Iraq have been delayed indefinitely amid renewed rocket attacks on British forces in Basra, and a looming showdown between Iraqi government forces and Shia militias.

Basra, Mar 24, (VOI) – One civilian was killed and a policeman wounded in clashes that erupted in northern Basra on Sunday evening and continued until the early hours of Monday between security forces and gunmen, police said.

"Violent clashes broke out between a joint Iraqi army-police force and outlaws. The clashes started at 9:00 p.m. on Sunday and continued until the early hours of Monday in the city of al-Qarna, (100 km) northern Basra," an official security source, who asked not to be named, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI) by telephone.

"The clashes left one civilian killed and a policeman wounded," the source said, not revealing whether there were casualties among the gunmen.The oil-rich port city of Basra lies 590 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.


The Iraqi Civil War Bush and the Media Don't Tell You About

By Raed Jarrar, Foreign Policy in FocusPosted on March 24, 2008, Printed on March 24, 2008

The death of the 4,000th GI in Iraq has come and gone and the media couldn't care less.

On Monday morning, Fox and Friends found everything under the sun to talk about, but only a passing mention of the death of the 4,000th GI in Iraq.

There is even more of a disconnect between the mainstream media and the average American when it comes to Iraq.

While the majority of Iraqis know that the current Sunni-Shiites tension did not exist before 2003, no one can deny that after five years of U.S. occupation, sectarian tension is now a reality. Sectarianism is another disaster that was brought to Iraq by the war and occupation of Iraq.

The U.S.-led invasion did not only destroy the Baath political regime, it also annihilated the entire public sector including education, health care, food rations, social security, and the armed forces.

The Iraqi public sector was a great example of how millions of Iraqis: Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and Christians, religious and secular, all worked together in running the country.

The myth that the former Iraqi government was a "Sunni-led dictatorship" was created by the U.S. government.

Even the Iraqi political regime was not "Sunni-led," let alone the rest of the public sector. A good way to debunk this fairy tale is through a close look at the famous deck of cards of the 55 most wanted Iraqi leaders. The cards had the pictures of Saddam, his two sons, and the rest of the political leadership which most Iraqis would recognize as the heads of the political regime. What is noteworthy is that 36 of the 55 were Shiites. In fact, the two vice presidents were a Christian and a Shiites Kurd.

Sometimes I feel like Iraqis and Americans are analyzing two different wars happening in two different countries. In one narrative, there is a civil war based on ancient sectarian hatred where a U.S. withdrawal will cause the sky to fall. In the other, there is a country struggling under occupation to get its independence back where the occupation is not welcomed and it is causing political, not sectarian, splits and violence.

According to the Iraqi mainstream narrative, the foreign occupation is the major reason and cause for violence and destruction. Foreign intervention is not only destroying Iraq's infrastructure, but it is also splitting Iraq's formerly integrated society.

In addition, Iraqis are fighting among each other over fundamental questions about the future of their country, but the central conflict is not between Sunnis and Shiites, it is between Iraqi separatists and nationalists. Unlike other countries in the region such as Lebanon, the Iraqi sectarian tension is still reversible, because it just started five years ago.

More importantly, it isn't main driver fueling the Iraqi-Iraqi conflict. This "hidden" conflict is between separatists and nationalists.

Click on link above to continue reading.