Category Archives: Iraq

They Are United In Death, The Five From Camp Liberty

Six men’s names will forever be connected by the stresses of the Iraq War, five will be remembered by their loved ones as the other waits his fate in military custody.
On Monday John Russell allegedly walked into a stress clinic with his gun and opened fire. In the wake five bodies littered the ground. Two of the dead had devoted their time in the service to helping those suffering from stress and three had been fighting their own demons within the clinics walls.

Navy Cmdr. Charles Springle was a Sanford Central High School graduate in North Carolina. His career in the Navy was devoted to treating those who dealt with the stress caused by the frequent deployments to the battle fields. He fought hard to take away the stigma that clouded the troops from seeking help.

AP reports:

“He regarded it as very important work,” said Bob Goodale, a friend of Springle’s and director of behavioral mental health for the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Citizen-Soldier Support Program. “We all who work in this know that it is difficult. This is an example of how difficult.”

Lubbock Online reports:

“Major Houseal was a beloved, kind and generous physician and soldier, who volunteered for additional duty in Iraq to care for our servicemen and women,” said William Biggs, an Amarillo endocrinologist who works in the same group as Houseal’s wife. “To honor the memory of Major Houseal, we have established an education fund for the benefit of his six children.”

Dr. Matthew Houseal, a psychiatrist and major in the Army Reserve was at the clinic because he felt it was the place he needed to be at. He had enlisted as an Army reservist after becoming alarmed at the rising suicide rate in the armed forces. The father of seven had worked as a psychiatrist for Texas Panhandle Mental Health Mental Retardation in Amarillo.

Armarillo.com reports:

“He was dedicated to his patients. He was a family man, very thorough diagnostician,” said Bud Schertler, executive director of Texas Panhandle Mental Health Mental Retardation. “We couldn’t ask for a better psychiatrist.”

Army Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J. was Eugenia Gardos’ youngest child. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was gunned down at Camp Liberty.

The young man who joined the service after finishing high school had come to the US from Peru as a child. His family remembers how he used to hand out candy to the kids in Iraq just as he did as a young man at home.

Military City reports:

About 10:30 p.m. May 11, Army officials showed up at the door of the place Christian shared with his wife a few blocks away.

“We were all here at home,” Carlos Bueno said. “I was getting ready to go to bed when I heard screaming downstairs. I ran downstairs and everyone had thrown themselves to the floor, thrashing around, screaming.”

“We want people to know we’re proud of our son’s Army, but if my son had died in war we would be able to handle that,” he said. “But not to die in this manner.”

He leaves behind his family and a young wife.

Spc. Jacob D. Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo. was a quiet student who loved graphic novels and science fiction. He followed his older sister into the Army after graduating high school last year. Barton was known for sticking up for the kids who were being picked on in school.

The Army told his family that Barton died a hero, using his body as a shield to protect another man while trying to convince the gunman into putting down his weapon.

Pfc. Michael E. Yates Jr., 19 leaves behind an infant son. He followed his stepfather and stepbrothers into the Army. At the age of 17 he completed his GED and signed up for service. He had told his mother about meeting Russell, saying that the man had issues.

Yates was at Camp Liberty to deal with the stresses of the battle field knowing that he needed help to get through the hard times.

He had been home just last month to celebrate his son’s first birthday.

Alexis Mister, 18, of Seaford, Del., and the mother of Michael Yates’ son Kamren, said he was an extremely caring father. “He was always was concerned with Kamren so much,” she said. “He loved him.”

Mister said Yates came home in April for the boy’s first birthday party and doted on his son by buying him a four-wheeler. “It’s absolutely devastating,” Mister said, choking up during a telephone interview discussing Yates’ death. “My son doesn’t have a father anymore.”

Regardless of where a soldier dies he is a hero. He or she has offered up their life for the service of others.
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Shooting at Camp Liberty in Baghdad

A U.S. statement has been issued about a shooting that occurred at about 2 p.m. at an American camp in Baghdad. The shooting took place at Camp Liberty. Five coalition soldiers were killed.
Five coalition soldiers have been killed in a suicide/murder at U.S. Camp Liberty in Baghdad. Nationalities of the slain soldiers have yet to be revealed.

This is a breaking news story.
AFP reports:

“Five coalition forces members were killed in a shooting at Camp Liberty in Baghdad today at approximately 2 pm (1100 GMT),” the statement said.

MSNBC reports that a U.S. service member opened fire on his fellow soldiers. Four were killed in the attack and several more were injured. The soldier is now in custody.

Details will be added as they come in.

update 1:While initial reports indicated that the shooter had committed suicide it is now unclear how and if he was wounded.

update 2:The New York Times reports:

Reuters quoted Marine Lt. Tom Garnett, a military spokesman, as saying “the shooter is a U.S. soldier and he is in custody.”

The attack according to CNN took place at a clinic that deals with soldiers suffering from war stress.

update: All of those who were killed are US personnel but it is yet to be confirmed that they were all military service members.


Women and children make up large portion of death count in Iraq

The bombs drop on a village said to be housing insurgents. The death tolls mounts. The village mourns their dead women and children.
That is the sad tale of too many villages in Iraq where the most innocent members of the war have been the ones that pay with their lives. Analysis being carried out for the Iraq Body Count report the 39 per cent of those killed in air raids are children, 46 per cent are women. When it comes to mortars used by both American and Iraqi government forces and the insurgents the death toll is even higher; 42 per cent children and 44 per cent women.

Those road side bombs that make the news do not just kill the military. One in five of the deaths are children and one in four are women.

The Raw Story reports:

“Analysis carried out for the research group Iraq Body Count (IBC) found that 39 per cent of those killed in air raids by the US-led coalition were children and 46 per cent were women,” Kim Sengupta reports for The Independent. “Fatalities caused by mortars, used by American and Iraqi government forces as well as insurgents, were 42 per cent children and 44 per cent women.”

When suicide bombers hit a market even more women and children perish. Pushing the numbers at King’s College and Royal Holloway, University of London academics see that the highest cost in the war in Iraq has been those who have the least amount of say, the children and women in small villages. the figures were reported in the report The Weapons That Kill Civilians, Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq.

There have been 99,774 total deaths so far in Iraq according to the IBC. The death tolls according to The Lancet is much higher with one study saying in the first three years of the war 600,000 people were killed.

IBC reports:

The authors conclude that “Policymakers, war strategists of all persuasions, and the groups and societies that support them bear moral and legal responsibility for the effects that particular combat tactics have on civilians — including the weapons used near and among them.”


Dozens Dead In Baghdad Attack Of Tribal Leaders

A suicide bomber has killed at least 33 people in Baghdad Tuesday targeting Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders. The leaders were touring a market after a reconciliation meeting earlier in the day.
The tribal leaders were touring a market in Abu Ghraib along with security officials and journalists. The market had been considered a safe venue.

A lone bomber detonated as the leaders passed him in the market which is in a Sunni suburb. Abu Ghraib was once the hub of the Sunni insurgency and the site of the infamous prison where US troops abused Iraqi detainees shortly after the 2003 invasion. In the past year violence had gone down in the area.

The New York Times reports:

”This terrorist attack was aimed at stopping reconciliation and the improvement in the security situation,” Shakir Fizaa, the mayor of Abu Ghraib told The Associated Press. ”The criminal attack bears the fingerprints of al-Qaida, but we will not be deterred by the acts of the vicious group against innocent civilians.”

Two journalists from private TV station al-Baghdadiya were among the dead. Another journalist from the Iraqi government station was wounded.

There are reports that 46 people were also wounded in the attack.

No one has yet to claim responsibility for the attack. Shakir Fizaa is blaming al-Qaida.


Suicide bomb attack at Iraq police academy, 28 dead

A suicide bomber killed 28 people on Sunday at the largest police academy in Baghdad. The first major attack in a month in Baghdad also wounded 57 people.
The attack at the police academy killed a large number of police and police recruits. A man wearing an explosive vest rode a motorbike packed with explosives to the back entrance of the academy. He then blew himself up.

The authorities are struggling to identity the victims. Police recruits have been a large target of these type of attacks in Iraq. The injured have been taken to Al-Kindi and Ibn al-Nafees hospitals. Emergency crews are at the scene treating other victims.

The bomber was able to get close enough to the academy because of a protest near the school. The bomber is said to have been at the protest.

Reuters reports:

“We know recruits are a favorite target for suicide bombers. We tell them to come in small groups instead of big groups, but they don’t pay attention,” an academy official said.

“This is the result — a suicide bomber managed to infiltrate and explode himself,” he said, requesting anonymity.

Violence in Iraq has started to decline but it is not a safe nation for civilians yet. In Baghdad there is violence in the streets almost every day.

In December another attack at the academy left 15 police and police recruits dead.

Even with security measures protecting the academy is difficult because of the incoming traffic of the recruits. The authorities have placed check points and concrete blocks up nearby the academy.


Iraqi Refugees Will Be Coming To The US In The Thousands

The United States is getting ready for tens of thousands Iraqi refugees to flood the shores. In 2009 a minimum of 17,000 refugees will be coming to America.

The United States began interviewing refugees in Baghdad last year.

The first wave of refugees have already made their way to the US. 12,118 have landed while another 1,000 have their bookings to travel by the end of this month.

Last year only 1,600 Iraqi refugees were admitted to the US. That small number drew criticism from the international community who thought that the US should be doing more. The Iraqi refugee crisis begun in March 2003 when the US invaded Iraq.

Since 2003 Sweden has welcomed over 40,000 refugees.

This year the United States has spent over $318 million helping to take care of the Iraqi refugees.

As Yahoo reports:

Foley said he was grateful that Syria, a country with which the United States has strained relations, had agreed to a new facility for refugee processing, which would enable Washington to handle larger numbers of refugees.

“Despite the vagaries in our bilateral relationship which all are familiar with, I think we have managed to agree that for humanitarian purposes we will together make this happen for the sake of the Iraqi refugees,” he said.


U.S. Is Currently Holding 500 Juveniles In Adult Prisons From Iraqi War

Since the war in Iraq started, more than 2,500 youths under eighteen have been detained, according to the United States report to the U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child.

At this time there are more than 500 youths in detention held as “unlawful enemy combatants” throughout Iraq by the United States. In Afghanistan another 10 are being detained.

The juveniles that the United States has detained have been captured engaging in anti-coalition activity, such as planting Improvised Explosive Devices, operating as lookouts for insurgents, or actively engaged in fighting against U.S. and Coalition forces,” the U.S. report said.

Most of those that are in centres are between the ages of 16 to 17.

There are also a total of eight juveniles that have been held at Guantanamo Bay. It is said that those children were released.

“It remains uncertain the exact age of these individuals, as most of them did not know their date of birth or even the year they were born,” the report says. But U.S. military doctors who evaluated them believed that three were under age 16.

Those held in Afghanistan are at Bagram Theater Internment Facility. The United States refuses to list those held there so the number of youths may differ.

In Bagram, a U.S. military spokesman, Marine 1st Lt. Richard K. Ulsh, told the AP on Sunday: “At any time there are up to 625 detainees being held at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility. There are no detainees being held under the age of 16 and, without getting into specifics due to the frequent fluctuation in the number of detainees being held, we can tell you that there are currently less than 10 detainees being held under the age of 18.”

The United States reports shows that these young people are being housed in the same facilities as adult detainees. This violates the obligations of the U.S. under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict that the U.S. ratified in 2002. Children are to be housed in separate facilities and have certain rights not afforded to adults. It appears that these rights have been overlooked in the case of the Iraqi War.


Journalist Serwa Abdul-Wahab Killed In The Streets Of Mosul Sunday

Gunmen pulled reporter Serwa Abdul-Wahab from the taxi she was riding in, shooting her once in the head. As the woman laid dead in the street of Mosul, she joined the ranks of journalists who have been killed in Iraq for reporting the news.

There are conflicting reports to who Serwa Abdul-Wahab worked for in Iraq. Fellow journalists say that she contributed to www.muraslon.org. an Iraqi news site.

Iraq is the most dangerous place in the world to work as a journalist. Since 2003 the Committee to Protect Journalists based in New York estimates 127 journalists have died. That figure does not include Abdul-Wahab yet.

In a nation where there are so many cultural and religious conflicts journalists have been targeted for the very nature of their work. Reporting on any one side of the conflict will bring forth enemies from the other sides.

In February Shihab al-Tamimi, 74, was gunned down in an attack on his car. He was the head of Iraq’s biggest journalist organization.

CPJ says that three journalists have been killed so far in 2008 while Reuters puts the number at 5.

Not only is Iraq a dangerous region for journalists to cover the news but it has a horrible track record in bringing justice for the murders. At this time there are 79 unsolved journalistic murders.

In Mosul journalists struggle to both bring the news and remain low profile. Al Qaeda has threatened those who attempt to bring forth current news in the area. Mosul is the last city stronghold of the Sunni Islamist group.


Bilal Hussein Is Free After Two Years Of Detention

A Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist has been freed after two years of being detained by the United States military. Bilal Hussein was handed over to AP colleagues today at a checkpoint in Baghdad.

“I want to thank all the people working in AP … I have spent two years in prison even though I was innocent. I thank everybody,” Hussein said after being freed.

Hussein is now resting with his family after the long ordeal.

He is a journalistic face of how the United States military has been detaining individuals deemed to have ties to insurgents without having to file charges.

Last week Hussein’s case was finally over when an Iraqi panel dismissed all charges. Since that time it’s been a waiting game for the photographer’s release from Camp Cropper in Baghdad

Showered with candy and flowers Hussein embraced his family in an emotional reunion. A feast is being prepared in his return with two sheep being roasted.

The Committee to Protect Journalists in New York is thrilled by his release.

He now joins a growing list of journalists detained in conflict zones by the U.S. military for prolonged periods and eventually released without any charges or crimes ever substantiated against them,” said Simon. “This deplorable practice should be of concern to all journalists. It basically allows the U.S. military to remove journalists from the field, lock them up and never be compelled to say why.”

It really is a time to celebrate when a journalist is released from prison. This man had been proven time and time again to be innocent. Finally justice has prevailed. Covering this story for the past few months I have received letters from others trying to free this man. I am happy to see the light beaming brightly as Hussein steps back into the sun.


Bilal Hussein Should Be A Free Man Soon

The story of a journalist for the AP has finally got a bit of good news. An Iraqi judicial panel has dismissed all criminal allegations from Bilal Hussein and ordered his release after a detainment of two years and one day with the U.S. military.

The Federal Appeals Court has granted Hussein amnesty on the allegations that the photographer had improper contacts with insurgents who killed Salvatore Santoro.

In December 2004 Hussein and two other journalists were taken by gunpoint to photograph Santoro’s corpse.

The decision made by the panel demands that Hussein be released immediately by the U.S. unless they can prove he has a connection with something else.

The U.S. military has made allegations that Hussein was in co-operation with terrorists and had bomb making materials in his home.

The Pulitzer Prize winning photographer has maintained his innocence throughout his detention. He states that he was only doing his job in a war zone.

The ruling of amnesty closes the case under amnesty law. Hussein has never been taken to trial by the United States.

“We are grateful for the decision of the Amnesty Council and the Iraqi judges,” AP President Tom Curley said after the ruling Sunday. “We look forward to Bilal’s safe return to his family and to AP.”

Hussein has been in United States custody since April 12, 2006 when he was arrested at the apartment he was staying at in Ramadi. He was eventually transferred to Camp Cropper in Baghdad. He has since that time been allowed visits from defence lawyers, family representatives and representatives of the AP.

In December 2007 the United States military referred his case to an investigating judge who after reviewing the case turned it over to the amnesty panel.

The AP has been following the case of their friend and employee. They have made extensive reports on his case. At no time in their investigation was the man who won a Pulitzer Prize for photography in 2005 found guilty of any activities beyond the normal role of a news photographer.

His detention has been widely reported and drawn protests from rights groups and press freedom advocates.

I, myself have been following his case for several months and am very happy that the light at the end of a long tunnel seems to be shining a little brighter. Hopefully Hussein can soon return to reporting the news by his photography skills.