Thursday, April 30, 2009

US Soldier Who Killed Herself, Mothers Speak of War and Terror

From: Abie Dawjee
The RAIN Newsletter (25-4-09)

U.S. Soldier Killed Herself--After Refusing to Take Part in Torture

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher:  April 23, 2009

 With each new revelation on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo
(and who, knows, probably elsewhere), I am reminded of the chilling story of
Alyssa Peterson, who I have written about numerous times in the past three
years but now with especially sad relevance. Appalled when ordered to take
part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what we would call torture,
she refused, then killed herself a few days later, in September 2003.

Of course, we now know from the torture memos and the U.S. Senate committee
probe and various new press reports, that the "Gitmo-izing" of Iraq was
happening just at the time Alyssa got swept up in it.

Alyssa Peterson was one of the first female soldiers killed in Iraq. A
cover-up, naturally, followed.

Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff, Ariz., native, served with C Company, 311th
Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne. Peterson was an Arabic-speaking
interrogator assigned to the prison at our air base in troubled Tal Afar in
northwestern Iraq. According to official records, she died on Sept. 15,
2003, from a "non-hostile weapons discharge."

A "non-hostile weapons discharge" leading to death is not unusual in Iraq,
often quite accidental, so this one apparently raised few eyebrows. The
Arizona Republic, three days after her death, reported that Army officials
"said that a number of possible scenarios are being considered, including
Peterson's own weapon discharging, the weapon of another soldier
discharging, or the accidental shooting of Peterson by an Iraqi civilian."
And that might have ended it right there.

But in this case, a longtime radio and newspaper reporter named Kevin
Elston, not satisfied with the public story, decided to probe deeper in
2005, "just on a hunch," he told me in late 2006 (there's a chapter about it
in my book on Iraq and the media, "So Wrong for So Long"). He made "hundreds
of phone calls" to the military and couldn't get anywhere, so he filed a
Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] request. When the documents of the
official investigation of her death arrived, they contained bombshell
revelations. Here's what the Flagstaff public radio station, KNAU, where
Elston then worked, reported:

"Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She
refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as
the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the
interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those
techniques have now been destroyed."

According to the official report on her death released the following year,
she had earlier been "reprimanded" for showing "empathy" for the prisoners.
One of the most moving parts of that report is: "She said that she did not
know how to be two people; she ... could not be one person in the cage and
another outside the wire."

Peterson was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi
guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. "But on the night of
September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed
herself with her service rifle," the documents disclose.

A notebook she had been writing was found next to her body. Its contents
were redacted in the official report.

The Army talked to some of Peterson's colleagues. Asked to summarize their
comments, Elston told me: "The reactions to the suicide were that she was
having a difficult time separating her personal feelings from her
professional duties. That was the consistent point in the testimonies, that
she objected to the interrogation techniques, without describing what those
techniques were."

Elston said that the documents also refer to a suicide note found on her
body, which suggested that she found it ironic that suicide prevention
training had taught her how to commit suicide. He filed another FOIA request
for a copy of the actual note.

Peterson, a devout Mormon, had graduated from Flagstaff High School and
earned a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University on a military
scholarship. She was trained in interrogation techniques at Fort Huachuca in
Arizona, and was sent to the Middle East in 2003.

A report in The Arizona Daily Sun of Flagstaff -- three years after Alyssa's
death -- revealed that Spc. Peterson's mother, Bobbi Peterson, reached at
her home in northern Arizona, said that neither she nor her husband Richard
had received any official documents that contained information outlined in
Elston's report.

In other words: Like the press and the public, even the parents had been
kept in the dark.

Tomorrow I will write about Kayla Williams, a woman who served with Alyssa,
and talked to her about her problems shortly before she killed herself, and
also took part in torture interrogations. She observed the punching of
detainees and was forced to take part in one particular tactic: prisoners
were stripped naked, and when they took off their blindfolds the first thing
they saw was Kayla. She opted out, but survived, and is haunted years later.

Here's what Williams told Soledad O'Brien of CNN : "I was asked to assist.
And what I saw was that individuals who were doing interrogations had
slipped over a line and were really doing things that were inappropriate.
There were prisoners that were burned with lit cigarettes."

All of this only gains relevance in light of the current debate over whether
those who were "just following orders" in torture routines should be held
accountable today.

Greg Mitchell's latest book is "Why Obama Won." His previous book on Iraq
and the media was "So Wrong for So Long." He is editor of Editor &

Long Time
                        Passing: Mothers Speak about War and Terror
Military Mom & Author Susan Galleymore's
MotherSpeak Book Tour Sunday, May 3 Now Hits
Santa Monica Beach and Downtown Los Angeles 

 Just in time for Mother's Day, a moving portrait of what it means to be a mother in time of war...

Long Time Passing book coverJust Added Santa Monica:
Sunday, May 3rd, at NOON

Arlington West Santa Monica North of Santa Monica Pier, on the beach, Santa Monica, CA 90401



Downtown Los Angeles:
Sunday, May 3rd,
Reception: 2:30pm Event: 3:00pm

With Art, Poetry, and Refreshments!

American Friends Service Commit.-LA
634 S. Spring St., Main Floor, (6th St and Spring) Los Angeles, CA 90014


These events are free and open to the public

Susan Galleymore, the mother of a U.S. soldier, made international headlines by taking the extraordinary and dangerous step of traveling to Iraq to visit her son stationed on a military base in the so-called Sunni Triangle, north of Baghdad.

What she found in Iraq challenged her to continue her journey interviewing mothers in war zones including Iraq, Israel and the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Afghanistan—as well as in the U.S. These powerful first-person stories offer dramatic insight into the impact of war on mothers, families, communities, and cultures around the world. 

Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak About War and Terror gets to the heart of extreme social experiences—war and warriors, mothers and children, communities and cultures—and explores the meaning of courage, fear, and leadership.

Susan Galleymore

Each stop on the national book tour will feature local US military mothers and/or refugee mothers, including those whose stories are told in Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak About War and Terror.

Santa Monica:
  • Author Susan Galleymore's son served in Afghanistan and Iraq. She is South African-born and now based in the San Francisco's Bay Area, Susan Galleymore continues to share the stories of those affected by war as founder of MotherSpeak, as a radio host for Raising Sand Radio, and as a counselor on the G.I. Rights Hotline.
Downtown Los Angeles

Author Susan Galleymore plus:

Southern California Area  Mothers and Others Sharing Their Stories:
  • Rossana Cambron, a member of the San Gabriel Chapter of Military Families Speak Out, whose son is an active US service member completing a tour in Iraq
  • Patty Domay, a local citizen activist who works to oppose military recruiters in her neighborhood.
  • Cole Miller is the Founding Director of No More Victims and co-creator and producer of an award-winning co-environmentally focused radio series, Isla Earth. He travels frequently to the Middle East, and manages the day-to-day operations of NMV.
  • MC: Eisha Mason, Host of KPFK's Morning Review, Assoc. Regional Director, AFSC-Pacific SW Region
  • POETRY: Vivien Sansour, a native of Palestine, poems will include: "Live From Gaza" and "A letter from an Israeli soldier to his mother."

Each event displays Iraqi children's art - sponsored by Iraqi Children's Art Exchange

Book signing with Susan Galleymore follows both events

What They're Saying About Long Time Passing:

"Eloquently presents the universal fear, sorrow, and suffering experienced by mothers whose lives have been profoundly affected by war."Mary Tillman, co-author of Boots on the Ground at Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman and mother of football star Pat Tillman killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

"A heartfelt and gut-wrenching account—a must read for anyone wanting to understand the effects of modern war."Andrew J. Bacevich, Professor of International Relations at Boston University and author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. His son, Andrew, was killed in the Iraq war.

For more information about the 10-city book tour and to order the book please visit:

Published by Pluto Press (UK)  and distributed by Palgrave Macmillan (US)


Welcome to the Santa Monica installation of the Arlington West Memorial, a project of Veterans For Peace. Find out more about Veterans For Peace here


Presenting the Ash Grove Recordings, Sunset Hall Honors Pete Seeger

----- Original Message -----
From: Ed Pearl
Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 1:54 PM
Subject: Presenting the Ash Grove Recordings, Sunset Hall Honors Pete Seeger

Hi. Here's a an impartial critic on today's /Wolfgang's Vault release of
the Ash Grove tapes. Click on for the
full treatment. And don't miss Pete Seeger's 90th, below this.  -Ed
----- Original Message -----
Subject: FW: Wolfgang's Vault Newsletter 4/28/09 - Presenting the Ash Grove Recordings

I'm forwarding this newsletter from Wolfgang's Vault announcing the availability of numerous sets from some of the multitude of great artists who appeared at the Ash Grove during its 15-year run on Melrose Ave. I remember all of them, and was influenced by all I saw.
In particular, I invite you scroll down and click on "Philip Melnick's Photography". You'll find wonderful shots of many of these artists.
If you look at the shot of Lightnin' Hopkins performing with a bearded white kid playing an old Martin grinning at him - don't be surprised that it's me, in 1967. Then click on the photo of Mance Lipscomb, backstage at UCLA playing with the same kid, clean-shaven, with the same guitar, but wearing a suit and tie - it's me again. I do think that the date, listed as 1967, is incorrect, as the UCLA Folk Festivals were in the early 1960's.
But, no matter. I've lost the beard, put on a few pounds and years, but I remember those moments fondly and well, and I still play the same old Martin, and I continue to honor the music and love the people I met at the Ash Grove those many years ago.
With a smile on my face, humbly, Bernie
This week we are truly honored to announce that music from the historic Ash Grove collection is now available exclusively on Concert Vault! These first 15 previously unreleased gems are some of the most stunning recordings we've ever released. Whether you're into blues, folk, bluegrass, or world music, or simply interested in hearing the roots of rock and roll, the Ash Grove offers you something to dig your ears into. Fifty years ago, the music of the Ash Grove inspired a generation of young artists; today, you can finally hear why.
Lastly, we are proud to present this epic collection of music for download in crystal clear, lossless FLAC format. Just pick up a copy of our snazzy new download manager and you're off to the races.
Cheers, and Happy Listening!
Featured on April 28, 2009
Lightnin' Hopkins Lightnin' Hopkins
Ash Grove (Los Angeles, CA) 6/2/1964
A stunning solo set at the Ash Grove from this legendary master of the blues.
Play this concert in Concert Vault
See Lightnin' Hopkins items at the Vault Store
Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys
Ash Grove (Los Angeles, CA) 5/19/1967
A high energy show from the man credited with creating the classic bluegrass sound.
Play this concert in Concert Vault
See Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys items at the Vault Store
Mance Lipscomb Mance Lipscomb
Ash Grove (Los Angeles, CA) 12/4/1964
This Texas songster embodies the musical culture of the early 20th century.
Play this concert in Concert Vault
See Mance Lipscomb items at the Vault Store
Featured Playlist: Producer's Picks - Steve Rosenthal Featured Playlist: Producer's Picks - Steve Rosenthal
The three-time Grammy winner gives you a taste of what to look forward to from the historic Ash Grove catalog.
Listen to this Featured Playlist in Concert Vault

Philip Melnick's Photography

Starting in 1958, photographer Philip Melnick captured the Ash Grove's historic folk and blues concerts. As the club's first general manager, he worked closely with performers such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Doc Watson, and John Lee Hooker. His photographs serve as a terrific visual accompaniment to our newly released Ash Grove concerts.

See Philip Melnick's Photography
Lightnin' Hopkins Ash Grove 6/2/1964
Merle Travis Ash Grove 12/9/1966
Mississippi John Hurt Ash Grove 7/5/1964
Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys Ash Grove 5/19/1967
Ramblin' Jack Elliot Ash Grove 8/16/1963
Mance Lipscomb Ash Grove 12/4/1964
Clarence Ashley & Doc Watson Ash Grove 5/9/1963
Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers Ash Grove 6/20/1963
Bukka White Ash Grove 8/17/1967
The White Brothers Ash Grove 4/1/1967
Roscoe Holcomb Ash Grove 5/9/1963
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee Ash Grove 1/27/1967
Sam Chatmon Ash Grove 8/24/1967
Kathy & Carol Ash Grove 1/27/1967
Hamza el Din Ash Grove 1/17/1970
Please join us on this Sunday at the Sunset Hall Garden Party at Paramount Studios -- the most enjoyable, relaxing, event that we attend annually .  Please Read Ed Asner's invitation below and the attached invitation for details and inspiration.

  The Deadline for RSVP'ing is tomorrow Wednesday, April 28th,
because of Special Security at Paramount Studio's Valentino Park.

This Sunday, May 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm
5555 Melrose Avenue at Windsor Avenue - Los Angeles, CA 90038
Phone:  To reserve your space call (323) 962 5277 -- Right now--
By Tuesday April 28th
 (Leave a Message or E-Mail  Wendy Caputo  <>, !!

Edward Asner

April 2009
Greetings Friends!

This is my personal invitation to join me on Sunday, May 3rd at the annual Sunset Hall
Garden Party, Celebrating Agents of Change. It is my humble honor to be recognized by
the free-thinking senior members of Sunset Hall.
I will be there, not to be honored, but to acknowledge and honor all of the senior members of
Sunset Hall. They are true Agents of Change! Since 1923, they have stood strong on issues that
include supporting worker's rights, access to health care for all, immigration reform, civil rights,
and peace and social justice internationally.
As a nation, we cannot hope for change, unless are individually responsible to be agents of that
change! We must speak out for the dynamic changes needed in the U.S. and the world. Today's
free-thinking senior members of Sunset Hall share in that voice for our future as a nation and for
world peace!
We will be acknowledging Pete Seeger's 90th birthday. Ross Altman will be there with a great
tribute performance to celebrate Pete's special day.
As a long time friend of Sunset Hall, I hope to see you there!
Ed Asner

Sunset Hall is a 501-c-3 non-profit organization. Tax ID 951856333
Sunset Hall
1745 North Gramercy Place
Los Angeles, California 90028
(323) 962 5277
Serving free-thinking seniors since 1923

Jan Goodman
(310) 458-7213 or (310) 729-2394

Rich: The Banality of Bush White House Evil

"President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won't vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai."

NY Times Op-Ed: April 25, 2009

WE don't like our evil to be banal. Ten years after Columbine, it only now may be sinking in that the psychopathic killers were not jock-hating dorks from a "Trench Coat Mafia," or, as ABC News maintained at the time, "part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement." In the new best seller "Columbine," the journalist Dave Cullen reaffirms that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were instead ordinary American teenagers who worked at the local pizza joint, loved their parents and were popular among their classmates.

On Tuesday, it will be five years since Americans first confronted the photographs from Abu Ghraib on "60 Minutes II." Here, too, we want to cling to myths that quarantine the evil. If our country committed torture, surely it did so to prevent Armageddon, in a patriotic ticking-time-bomb scenario out of "24." If anyone deserves blame, it was only those identified by President Bush as "a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values": promiscuous, sinister-looking lowlifes like Lynddie England, Charles Graner and the other grunts who were held accountable while the top command got a pass.

We've learned much, much more about America and torture in the past five years. But as Mark Danner recently wrote in The New York Review of Books, for all the revelations, one essential fact remains unchanged: "By no later than the summer of 2004, the American people had before them the basic narrative of how the elected and appointed officials of their government decided to torture prisoners and how they went about it." When the Obama administration said it declassified four new torture memos 10 days ago in part because their contents were already largely public, it was right.

Yet we still shrink from the hardest truths and the bigger picture: that torture was a premeditated policy approved at our government's highest levels; that it was carried out in scenarios that had no resemblance to
that psychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain; and that, in the assessment of reliable sources like the F.B.I. director Robert Mueller, it did not help disrupt any terrorist attacks.

The newly released Justice Department memos, like those before them, were not written by barely schooled misfits like England and Graner. John Yoo, Steven Bradbury and Jay Bybee graduated from the likes of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Michigan and Brigham Young. They have passed through white-shoe law firms like Covington & Burling, and Sidley Austin.

Judge Bybee's résumé tells us that he has four children and is both a Cubmaster for the Boy Scouts and a youth baseball and basketball coach. He currently occupies a tenured seat on the United States Court of Appeals. As an assistant attorney general, he was the author of the Aug. 1, 2002, memo endorsing in lengthy, prurient detail interrogation "techniques" like "facial slap (insult slap)" and "insects placed in a confinement box."

He proposed using 10 such techniques "in some sort of escalating fashion, culminating with the waterboard, though not necessarily ending with this technique." Waterboarding, the near-drowning favored by Pol Pot and the Spanish Inquisition, was prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II. But Bybee concluded that it "does not, in our view, inflict 'severe pain or suffering.' "

Still, it's not Bybee's perverted lawyering and pornographic amorality that make his memo worthy of special attention. It merits a closer look because it actually does add something new - and, even after all we've heard, something shocking - to the five-year-old torture narrative. When placed in full context, it's the kind of smoking gun that might free us from the myths and denial that prevent us from reckoning with this ugly chapter in our history.

Bybee's memo was aimed at one particular detainee, Abu Zubaydah, who had been captured some four months earlier, in late March 2002. Zubaydah is portrayed in the memo (as he was publicly by Bush after his capture) as one of the top men in Al Qaeda. But by August this had been proven false. As Ron Suskind reported in his book "The One Percent Doctrine," Zubaydah was identified soon after his capture as a logistics guy, who, in the words of the F.B.I.'s top-ranking Qaeda analyst at the time, Dan Coleman, served as the terrorist group's flight booker and "greeter," like "Joe Louis in the lobby of Caesar's Palace." Zubaydah "knew very little about real operations, or strategy." He showed clinical symptoms of schizophrenia.

By the time Bybee wrote his memo, Zubaydah had been questioned by the F.B.I. and C.I.A. for months and had given what limited information he had. His most valuable contribution was to finger Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the 9/11 mastermind. But, as Jane Mayer wrote in her book "The Dark Side," even that contribution may have been old news: according to the 9/11 commission, the C.I.A. had already learned about Mohammed during the summer of 2001. In any event, as one of Zubaydah's own F.B.I. questioners, Ali Soufan, wrote in a Times Op-Ed article last Thursday, traditional interrogation methods had worked. Yet Bybee's memo purported that an "increased pressure phase" was required to force Zubaydah to talk.

As soon as Bybee gave the green light, torture followed: Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times in August 2002, according to another of the newly released memos. Unsurprisingly, it appears that no significant intelligence was gained by torturing this mentally ill Qaeda functionary. So why the overkill? Bybee's memo invoked a ticking time bomb: "There is currently a level of 'chatter' equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks."

We don't know if there was such unusual "chatter" then, but it's unlikely Zubaydah could have added information if there were. Perhaps some new facts may yet emerge if Dick Cheney succeeds in his unexpected and welcome crusade to declassify documents that he says will exonerate administration interrogation policies. Meanwhile, we do have evidence for an alternative explanation of what motivated Bybee to write his memo that August, thanks to the comprehensive Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainees released last week.

The report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: "A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful." As higher-ups got more "frustrated" at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, "there was more and more pressure to resort to measures" that might produce that intelligence.

In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration's ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee's memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) "Downing Street memo," in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." A month after Bybee's memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on "Meet the Press," hyping both Saddam's W.M.D.s and the "number of contacts over the years" between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.

But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus "intelligence" from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.

Last week Bush-Cheney defenders, true to form, dismissed the Senate Armed Services Committee report as "partisan." But as the committee chairman, Carl Levin, told me, the report received unanimous support from its members - John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman included.

Levin also emphasized the report's accounts of military lawyers who dissented from White House doctrine - only to be disregarded. The Bush administration was "driven," Levin said. By what? "They'd say it was to get more information. But they were desperate to find a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq."

Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to "protect" us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from "another 9/11," torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House's illegality.

Levin suggests - and I agree - that as additional fact-finding plays out,
time for the Justice Department to enlist a panel of two or three apolitical outsiders, perhaps retired federal judges, "to review the mass of material" we already have. The fundamental truth is there, as it long has been. The panel can recommend a legal path that will insure accountability for this wholesale betrayal of American values.

President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won't vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don't need another commission. We don't need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation's commitment to the rule of law.