The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) reported Friday on a memorial service at Fort Lewis for two Fourth Stryker Brigade, Second Infantry Division soldiers killed last month in Iraq.  --  But readers who rely on the News Tribune for their news coverage have no hope whatever of understanding either the circumstances that had led to the deaths being mourned or the effects that followed them....

1.

News analysis

DEATHS MOURNED AT FORT LEWIS WERE FOLLOWED BY THE KILLING OF IRAQI MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN
By Mark Jensen

** But the News Tribune covered up, and continues to cover up, the connection **

United for Peace of Pierce County
August 9, 2007

The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) reported Friday on a memorial service at Fort Lewis for two Fourth Stryker Brigade, Second Infantry Division soldiers killed last month in Iraq.[2]

The Tacoma paper offered a sanctimonious, lachrymose account of the ceremony:  “’Allow your tears to flow. Tell your stories,’ [Lt. Col. John ] Pettit said. ‘Honestly express your grief.’” A photograph of a tearful soldier accompanied the article.

But readers who rely on the News Tribune for their news coverage have no hope of understanding either the circumstances that led to the deaths being mourned or the effects that followed them. Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s attitude toward the Light Brigade and the News Tribune’s attitude toward its readers are one and the same: “Theirs not to make reply/Theirs not to reason why.”

Mike Gilbert’s account of the Thursday ceremony extends what is by now a well established pattern on the part of the News Tribune of obfuscating what really happened in the aftermath of the deaths of Cpl. Brandon M. Craig of Earleville, MD, and Cpl. Rhett A. Butler of Fort Worth, TX, north of Baghdad on July 20.

While reporter Mike Gilbert noted that one of the soldiers, Cpl. Brandon Craig, “was killed in a bomb strike on the brigade command group’s convoy, one of several attacks by Shiite militiamen in and around Husseiniyah in the weeks following the June 13 bombing of a major Shiite mosque in Samarra,” he did not point out (and the *News Tribune* has never reported) that while the U.S. blamed al-Qaeda for that attack, many Iraqi Shia believe (and not altogether implausibly, according to Prof. Juan Cole) that the U.S. was in some way responsible for the desecration of the ancient holy site. Hence the increased attacks on U.S. forces in the following weeks.

THE U.S. RESPONDED BY BOMBING A RESIDENTIAL AREA

Airstrikes on residential areas in the town where Cpl. Craig died were part of the response of U.S. forces to the attack, the Associated Press reported on Jul. 24.[3]

Steven Hurst reported that “Iraqi police and hospital officials contacted by Associated Press” said that “18 civilians had been killed and 21 wounded in the attacks at 2 a.m. Saturday,” the day after Cpl. Craig’s death. “AP Television News videotape showed wounded women and children lying in hospital beds, and white pickup trucks carrying at least 11 bodies wrapped in blankets to the morgue. Men unloaded the bodies, including several that were small and apparently children. Relatives said the dead were killed in the airstrike.”

The U.S. military blamed its shadowy enemy for these deaths, the names of whose victims will never be reported in the News Tribune. “Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, spokesman for U.S. forces north of Baghdad, said . . . militant gunmen ‘are using civilians as protection and have no regard for the innocent,’” AP reported.

THE NEWS TRIBUNE MANIPULATES THE NEWS >

The truth of what happened in Husseiniyah may be impossible to determine, but we established last month that the editors of the News Tribune manipulated the news about it.

On Jul. 21, McClatchy Newspapers (which owns the News Tribune) published an article presenting various accounts of events. As we showed at the time, News Tribune editors deliberately omitted paragraphs from Hannah Allam’s account in order to eliminate firsthand testimony that the victims of the American raid were innocent civilians rather than insurgents. They also reworked the story so as to highlight a U.S. spokesperson's dehumanizing statement that "[t]he enemy is ruthless and puts no value on human life."

United for Peace of Pierce County has been analyzing the reporting on war, peace, and the military by the News Tribune -- which is, interestingly enough, also the publisher of the Northwest Guardian, Fort Lewis's "authorized" newspaper. Thanks to this ongoing analysis, the results of which will be published later, it can be stated unequivocally that there is nothing unusual about this example of the Tacoma paper’s unconscionable editorial practices.

U.S. TROOPS INFLICTED COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT

Returning to the aftermath of Cpl. Craig’s death: in his article about the memorial service, reporter Michael Gilbert also noted that after Craig was killed in Husseiniyah (also transliterated as Husseiniya or Husayniyah), “The brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment responded by sealing off Husseiniyah on the morning of July 20. Soldiers locked down the town for five days until community leaders agreed to allow coalition and Iraqi forces back in to do what they could to stop the attacks.”

This, of course, is collective punishment, banned by the Geneva Conventions.

On Jul. 25, as food and fuel began to run out in the town, AP reported that mass demonstrations in Baghdad protested the blockade of the town. “Protesters chanted anti-American slogans and burned what appeared to be a hand-drawn American flag as they demanded an end to the blockade, access to the area for government rescue teams, and compensation for families of any casualties.”[4] There were calls in parliament for Prime Minister al-Maliki to intervene to end the crackdown.

The Seattle Times reported on Jul. 26 that on Jul. 24 an agreement “with the citizens of Husseiniyah” was reached “with the aid of Iraqi officials” to “end the blockade and allow Iraqi humanitarian aid to reach the city. In return, local leaders agreed to raze the dirt walls inside the city and try to halt attacks on U.S. soldiers.”[5]

DO ONLY AMERICAN DEATHS MATTER?

As of Aug. 9, 2007, the number of U.S. military who have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion is 3,683, according to the web site Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. About best estimate of the number of Iraqis who have died as of July 2006 as a result of the U.S invasion is 654,965, with 601,027 of those caused by violence -- numbers the News Tribune has never published. Since those figures were calculated more than a year ago and the past year has seen civil war raging in Iraq, the true number is very likely now approaching 1,000,000.

This means that for every death in the U.S.-led coaliton, about 200 Iraqis have perished.

The connection between American deaths in Iraq and the deaths of Iraqis is a fact that is well understood everywhere in the world, except inside the U.S. mediasphere. It is one of the principal reasons why the Americans are generally despised in Iraq and can no longer play any kind of active constructive role in that country. The News Tribune does its readers no favors when it covers up this connection.

--Mark Jensen is a member of United for Peace of Pierce County, and of the faculty of Pacific Lutheran University.

***

2.

TEARS FOR THE FALLEN: TWO MORE SMILES GONE
By Michael Gilbert

** Fort Lewis grieves for corporals killed in Iraq **

News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
August 9, 2007

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/military/story/129053.html

PHOTO CAPTION: A soldier turns away after paying his respects Wednesday to Cpl. Brandon M. Craig and Cpl. Rhett A. Butler in Evergreen Chapel at Fort Lewis. The men served with the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq.]

[PHOTO: No caption; the photo is of Cpl. Brandon M. Craig of Earleville, MD.]

[PHOTO: No caption; the photo is of Cpl. Rhett Butler of Fort Worth, TX.]

The 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division paid its respects Wednesday to the most recent of its soldiers to be killed in Iraq, two men who died three weeks ago in the villages northeast of Baghdad.

The brigade hasn’t lost a soldier since July 20, when Cpl. Rhett A. Butler, 22, was killed by a deep buried bomb that exploded beneath his Stryker near Khan Bani Sa’d.

Cpl. Brandon M. Craig, 25, died the day before when his Stryker was hit by a bomb in Husseiniyah.

The brigade chaplain, Lt. Col. John Pettit, urged the soldiers, family members and friends who attended Wednesday’s memorial ceremony in Evergreen Chapel to talk with others about their sadness at the loss. It’s the way toward healing, he said.

“Allow your tears to flow. Tell your stories,” Pettit said. “Honestly express your grief.”

Now about four months into its 15-month Iraq deployment, the 4th Brigade has lost 17 soldiers, although none since Butler.

The post’s other Stryker unit in Iraq -- the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division -- has lost a reported six soldiers since July 31 to bombings in Baghdad.

The 3rd Brigade had enjoyed a stretch of more than seven weeks in June and July without losing a soldier. It has about one more month left before it’s due to return to Fort Lewis.

Craig, of Earleville, Md., was remembered Wednesday as an exceptional soldier, even though he was relatively new to the Army, having joined in February 2006.

The brigade’s top enlisted soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, pulled him from the ranks to work on brigade commander Col. Jon Lehr’s personal security detail.

Craig was killed in a bomb strike on the brigade command group’s convoy, one of several attacks by Shiite militiamen in and around Husseiniyah in the weeks following the June 13 bombing of a major Shiite mosque in Samarra.

The brigade’s fire support officer, Maj. Dan Dudek, was critically wounded in the blast. He is recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., brigade officials said.

The brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment responded by sealing off Husseiniyah on the morning of July 20. Soldiers locked down the town for five days until community leaders agreed to allow coalition and Iraqi forces back in to do what they could to stop the attacks.

A fellow member of the brigade commander’s security team told mourners Wednesday that Craig was much loved by his comrades, even though they teased him for his red hair and large head. His nickname: “Pumpkin.”

“Brandon was the type of person everybody loved to be around,” said his friend Spc. David Cooksey. “He was loud, fiery, exciting.”

Craig was likewise much loved at home. Hundreds of mourners with flags turned out to line the streets of his hometown for his funeral procession July 31.

He is survived by his wife, Jodi, an Army specialist in the 23rd Chemical Battalion at Fort Lewis, as well as his parents, Danny and Mary Jane Craig; his sister, Amber; and his brother, Ryan.

Butler, a Stryker driver from Fort Worth, was likewise remembered with affection as someone who always put others in a better mood, no matter the circumstances.

Capt. Bruce Wells, reading from remarks by Butler’s troop commander at his memorial ceremony last month at Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Iraq, said Butler was one of those soldiers his boss could count on to tell him how things were going for the troops.

“He always seemed to be in a good mood, always smiling,” Wells said. “He may not be happy with the work, but he always had a good attitude. . . . He was fun to be around. He was not someone who focused on the negative of the situation.”

Butler joined the Army in July 2004 and the following June arrived at Fort Lewis. He was assigned to the brigade’s 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

He was handpicked to serve as his platoon sergeant’s Stryker driver, soldiers said. He was a proud Texan and liked to kid his buddies from northern states that they were more likely to be pestered by the bugs because they didn’t have good Southern skin.

“He had an infectious smile,” said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Smith. “No matter how dark or bright the day, he was always smiling. He had a laugh that still rings in many soldiers’ hearts.”

Butler is survived by his mother, Sereta Ramsey; father, David Butler; and sisters, Shawna Conway and Shayre Strickland.

3.

SUICIDE CAR BOMBER KILLS 22 IN IRAQ
By Steven R. Hurst

** Suicide Car Bomber Strikes Major Shiite City in Southern Iraq, Killing at Least 22 **

Associated Press
July 24, 2007

http://www.abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=3407634

BAGHDAD -- A suicide car bomber struck the center of a major Shiite city in southern Iraq on Tuesday, killing at least 22 people and wounding dozens as the streets were packed with shoppers and people on their way to work, police and hospital officials said.

The explosion occurred at 9 a.m. in a commercial district in Hillah, according to provincial police. Most of the 22 killed and 66 wounded in the blast suffered serious burns, said Ayad Abdul-Zahra of the general hospital in Hillah.

Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, has been the site of some of the deadliest bombings, including a double suicide attack on March 6 that killed 120 people.

On Monday, U.S. and Iraqi forces blocked access to a town on the northeast outskirts of Baghdad where Shiite gunmen were dug in for a third day behind earthen barriers. Police issued calls for residents to leave the town, and some said they were running out of food and fuel.

The blockade of Husseiniyah came as at least 16 people died when four car bombs rocked the center of the capital. Three of the blasts took place in one 30-minute span, as the relentless Baghdad summer sun pushed temperatures to 115 degrees.

Police, morgue and hospital officials reported a total of at least 59 people killed or found dead nationwide Monday, and the American military announced the deaths of three soldiers and a Marine. At least 3,636 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The continued fighting and deaths of Iraqis and American forces in the sixth month of the American bid to calm Baghdad and the center of the country illuminate the stubborn resistance to a political solution in Iraq, where the government and legislature appear determined to press for sectarian advantage rather than Iraqi unity.

The Shiite-dominated parliament said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should intervene to end the crackdown by U.S. and Iraqi forces on Husseiniyah. The town is a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and straddles the highway to Baqouba, where U.S. forces are in the second month of a drive to cleanse that region of al-Qaida in Iraq.

State-run Iraqiya television said the Husseiniyah blockade "would have serious consequences on people's lives there."

A 51-year-old woman resident, who would give her name only as Um Bassem, said police, apparently expecting a major outbreak of fighting, had issued calls for residents to leave Husseiniyah if they could.

"My husband offered to take us out and return to protect our house and belongings, but we refused to leave because we would be so worried about him," Um Bassem told an AP reporter in the area. She said food stocks were becoming low.

"We decided to stay home in two rooms at the back of the house. We can't leave because we have valuable things and we fear looters," she said.

Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, spokesman for U.S. forces north of Baghdad, said American and Iraqi forces were now allowing "commercial vendors to bring food to the south of Husseiniyah. Civilians are authorized to walk to these vendors to buy food. Donkey carts may be used, but no vehicle movement is authorized. We are also allowing civilians that need medical aid, to walk to the Hamid Shaub Hospital for free treatment."

Trouble broke out in Husseiniyah when U.S. forces took small arms fire shortly before midnight Friday and ordered an airstrike on the building from which the gunmen were shooting. The military said helicopters fired missiles at the building and three gunmen fled to a second building.

U.S. aircraft then bombed the second structure, setting off at least seven secondary blasts believed caused by explosives and munitions stored inside the building, the military said, adding that Iraqi police told American forces six militants were killed and five wounded.

The military account contradicted reports from Iraqi police and hospital officials contacted by The Associated Press. Those officials said 18 civilians had been killed and 21 wounded in the attacks at 2 a.m. Saturday.

AP Television News videotape showed wounded women and children lying in hospital beds, and white pickup trucks carrying at least 11 bodies wrapped in blankets to the morgue. Men unloaded the bodies, including several that were small and apparently children.

Relatives said the dead were killed in the airstrike. The conflicting accounts could not be reconciled.

Donnelly said militant gunmen "are using civilians as protection and have no regard for the innocent.

"Currently there are berms (earthen barriers) placed to impede movement to/from the city by the militia group, who have fired on CF (Coalition Forces) over the past day(s). The intent of these berms remains unclear, but it is impeding movement in and out of the town for sure," he said in response to an e-mail asking for details.

In Karradah, a predominantly Shiite district in central Baghdad, two of four car bombs exploded nearly simultaneously. A third hit about 30 minutes later. Police officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters, said at least 16 people, including five policemen, were killed.

Karradah, an upscale shopping and residential district, has suffered repeated high-profile bombings, and Monday's attacks occurred despite a five-month-old U.S.-Iraqi security operation aimed at clamping off violence in the capital.

Hassan Sami, a 28-year-old clothing store owner in Karradah, said he was showered by shattered glass that wounded his left arm.

"Nothing was left except the smell of charred flesh mixed with gun powder and wreckage stained with blood," Sami said. "We've been attacked many times before, and the government can't do anything for this area. It only sends its patrols who roam the streets with their annoying sirens without doing anything useful."

Iran's ambassador to Baghdad, meanwhile, confirmed that the United States and Iran will discuss the security situation in Iraq on Tuesday in Baghdad, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

"The composition of the negotiating teams will include ambassadors of Iran and America in Baghdad, as head of the two teams, with observance of Iraqi officials," IRNA quoted Hasan Kazemi Qomi as saying Monday.

The time and place of the second meeting between U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Qomi have not been disclosed.

--Associated Press writers Kim Gamel, Sinan Salaheddin and Bushra Juhi contributed to this report.

4.

SUICIDE BLAST RIPS THROUGH SHI’ITE DISTRICT, KILLING 24
By Sinan Salaheddin

Associated Press
July 25, 2007

http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2007/07/25/suicide_blast_rips_through_shiite_district_killing_24/

BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber struck a busy commercial center in a major Shi'ite city south of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 24 people and wounding dozens as the streets were packed with shoppers and commuters, police and hospital officials said.

The blast occurred at 9 a.m. in Hillah, according to provincial police, who said the driver of the tow truck detonated his explosives in the middle of the Bab al-Mashhad district. Iraqi troops cordoned off the area while fire engines and ambulances rushed to the scene.

Eassam Rashid, 32, was selling vegetables at his stall when the blast sent shrapnel over his head.

"I heard a tremendous explosion followed by a fireball," he said. "Then, nearby cars were set ablaze one by one, and I saw four or five people struggling to get out of their burning cars."

Most of the 24 killed and 69 wounded in the blast sustained serious burns, said Ayad Abdul-Zahra of the Hillah general hospital.

Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, has been the site of some of the deadliest bombings, including a double suicide attack on March 6 that killed 120 people.

The attack came a day after at least 16 people died when four car bombs rocked the center of the capital. Three of the blasts took place in a 30-minute span.

Police, morgue, and hospital officials reported at least 59 people killed or found dead nationwide Monday, and the American military announced the deaths of three soldiers and a Marine. At least 3,636 members of the US military have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The continued fighting and deaths of Iraqis and American forces in the sixth month of a U.S. effort to calm Baghdad and the center of the country illuminate the stubborn resistance to a political solution in Iraq.

The government and legislature are under heavy U.S. pressure to overcome sectarian differences and agree to measures aimed at promoting national unity as Americans are engaged in a fierce debate over calls to bring U.S. troops home.

Hundreds of demonstrators, meanwhile, marched in the predominantly Shi'ite district of Shaab in northern Baghdad to protest a U.S.-Iraqi barricade of Husseiniyah, a town on the capital's northeastern outskirts that is known as a Shi'ite militia stronghold. Police issued calls for residents to leave the town, and some said they were running out of food and fuel.

Protesters chanted anti-American slogans and burned what appeared to be a hand-drawn American flag as they demanded an end to the blockade, access to the area for government rescue teams, and compensation for families of any casualties.

The Shi'ite-dominated parliament has said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should intervene to end the crackdown by U.S. and Iraqi forces on Husseiniyah. The town is dominated by the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and straddles the highway to Baqubah, where U.S. forces are in the second month of a drive to cleanse that region of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

State-run Iraqiya television said the Husseiniyah blockade "would have serious consequences on people's lives there."

5.

FORT LEWIS TROOPS FACE SHIITE MILITANTS
By Hal Bernton

Seattle Times
July 26, 2007

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003806330_lehr26m.html

A Fort Lewis brigade in Iraq has been battling Shiite militias in Husseiniyah, where a bomb blast last week claimed the life of a soldier and triggered a tense standoff as U.S. troops set up a blockade around this city on Baghdad's northern outskirts.

While U.S. military commanders -- and President Bush -- have in recent weeks spotlighted the threat of Sunni extremists linked to al-Qaida, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division officials say they have been waging a separate campaign against the Shiite militias who have laid ambushes from behind dirt walls.

"Overall, I think al-Qaida is the major problem, but I have Shiite extremists that cause me problems and kill my soldiers," said Col. Jon Lehr, brigade commander, in a telephone interview Wednesday with the Seattle Times.

Lehr said the Shiite extremists' attacks have included the use of explosively formed projectiles, known as EFPs. U.S. military officials allege those explosives have come from Iran.

The brigade set up a blockade to restrict traffic in and out of the city. Over the weekend, the Army also launched a helicopter attack that killed at least six Iraqis in Husseiniyah.

U.S. officials said the dead were insurgents.

Iraqi residents say the dead came from two Shiite Muslim families who lived in an area controlled by the powerful Mahdi Army militia, according to McClatchy Newspapers. The bodies pulled from the rubble were parents killed with their children in the middle of the night, those residents said.

On Tuesday, with the aid of Iraqi officials, the brigade brokered an agreement with the citizens of Husseiniyah. The brigade agreed to end the blockade and allow Iraqi humanitarian aid to reach the city. In return, local leaders agreed to raze the dirt walls inside the city and try to halt attacks on U.S. soldiers.

"I am cautiously optimistic," Lehr said. "But we will not let our guard down."

--Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.