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US Papers Tue: GI Kills Five Comrades at Base
Shooting Took Place at Counseling Center, "Iraq: Hold And Build"
By DANIEL W. SMITH 05/12/2009 02:00 AM ET
The story out of Iraq today is the killing of five US service members by one of their own, in a combat stress clinic located at Baghdad’s Camp Liberty. As is usually the case with such events, most papers featured have a prominent story about it. Also, a detainee who gave false data in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq dies in a Libyan prison, and an opinion piece warns of Iraq becoming another “forgotten war”, and collapsing.

From Baghdad
The Camp Liberty killings take the center stage, and are being called the single deadliest episode of soldier-on-soldier violence among American forces since the beginning of the war. So far, there is not a great deal of information being released by the military – the shooter is in US custody, but his identity, and that of the victims, are not being reported, though an AP wire story says the shooter is a male Army Sergeant. The articles invariably (and appropriately) become discussions about PTSD, and how it is dealt with. Defense Secretary gates said, "Such a tragic loss of life at the hands of our own forces is a cause for great and urgent concern." Other instances of “fragging” are mentioned.

The information in all the articles is all about the same, but The Wall Street Journal’s Yochi J. Dreazen and Gina Chon give the most compelling narrative by providing some context for the reader, both of the base and of the health care services provided there.
The area of the shooting is situated in a part of Camp Liberty that is popular because it is across from the Morale, Welfare and Recreation complex and near the cafeteria. A U.S. military official said the soldiers who witnessed the incident or knew the victims are receiving counseling because they are in shock from the incident, but he declined to give further details.

One soldier said he has to take a class about every two months in which mental health issues are discussed. He also said soldiers are assigned a battle "buddy," who is supposed to keep track of how his or her partner is doing and report any problems to the chain of command.
They also spoke to a soldier on the base who “heard several shots fired around 2 p.m. and wondered what had happened.” About an hour later, they write, his platoon leader checked on his men to make sure everyone was accounted for.

Before focusing on disturbing trends in GI suicide, Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post fills in some gaps on the incident.
The gunman was taken into custody shortly after the 2 p.m. shooting at Camp Liberty, part of a sprawling military installation near Baghdad International Airport, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Brian Tribus said. The military did not identify the gunman or shed light on what his motive might have been. Tribus said the gunman's name will be disclosed when and if charges are filed.

..."A lot of soldiers are wondering why," said a senior military official in Baghdad, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We will be asking as leaders: What could we have done? How could we have protected the soldiers?"
Timothy Williams of the New York Times writes of the incident, and then gives a full rundown of other killings of GI-on-GI killings in Iraq. He mentions, as does Londoño in the Post that the US military released information on Monday about another United States soldier who died in Basra on Sunday, after his vehicle was struck by an IED. Also on Monday, Brig. Gen. Abdul Husain Muhsen al-Kadhumi, a high-ranking Iraqi police official in charge of traffic operations, was fatally shot while driving to work in Baghdad.

Gregg Zoroya and Alan Gomez of USA Today do not write much about the incident at hand, but rather contrast such killings with those which occurred in Vietnam.
Most troops in Vietnam were draftees, not volunteers like today, which made for more volatile circumstances, Anderson says. "You just can't relate this (rate of Iraq homicides) to Vietnam," he says.

Troops fighting counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan face enormous stress, says Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and former head of West Point's law of war program. "Every approaching person, every approaching car, every bump in the road can be the means of your death," he says. Still, he says forces in Iraq did not face the internal stressors and home-front issues that troops in Vietnam struggled with.
Stateside
The Washington Post’s Peter Finn reports that a former CIA high-value detainee, who provided bogus information that was cited by the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq war, has died in a Libyan prison, in an apparent suicide. Finn writes an interesting story which speaks to intelligence-gathering, rendition, secret prisons, and torture.

Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, and then “vanished into the secret detention system run by the Bush administration.” Libi was among dozens of former "ghost prisoners" who were in American custody overseas, according to human rights groups and a recently leaked report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
He became the unnamed source, according to Senate investigators, behind Bush administration claims in 2002 and 2003 that Iraq had provided training in chemical and biological weapons to al-Qaeda operatives. ...The Defense Intelligence Agency and some analysts at the CIA had questioned the veracity of Libi's testimony, which was obtained after the prisoner was transferred to Egyptian custody for questioning by the CIA, according to Senate investigators.
Opinion
The oft-referenced Anthony H. Cordesman (of the Center for Strategic and International Studies) writes that the war in Iraq, being “both a perceived "victory" and a war that many Americans and members of Congress would like to forget,” runs the risk of being the “forgotten war” (as we switch back to Afghanistan, which we are starting to remember again). Exiting without a strategy, he says, could lose both the war and the peace which might have followed. Cordesman advocates continued support for Iraq with military advisors, and equipment, as well as assisting with a host of rebuilding needs.
Helping Iraq does not mean pushing it into contracts with American firms or those that are not to Iraq's clear advantage. It does mean giving U.S. firms and teamed U.S. and foreign oil company efforts proper support, and prioritizing open, competitive bidding managed by the Iraqi government. Without this, Iraq cannot find the money to help bridge its ethnic and sectarian divisions, unemployment will get even worse, and young men will turn back toward violence. Iraq will not be able to make use of its past aid, pay for key services such as education and medical care, improve its infrastructure, or attract other forms of investment. In the short term, Iraq has no other options.
Christian Science Monitor, no Iraq coverage.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at ds@iraqslogger.com


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