Category Archives: Iraq

Welcoming our Troops Coming Home from Iraq

Posted by: Audiegrl

U.S. Army soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division race toward the border from Iraq into Kuwait Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010. The soldiers are part of the last combat brigade to leave Iraq as part of the drawdown of U.S. forces. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo)

Good afternoon,

Shortly after taking office, I put forward a plan to end the war in Iraq responsibly. Today, I’m pleased to report that — thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians in Iraq — our combat mission will end this month, and we will complete a substantial drawdown of our troops.

Over the last 18 months, over 90,000 U.S. troops have left Iraq. By the end of this month, 50,000 troops will be serving in Iraq. As Iraqi Security Forces take responsibility for securing their country, our troops will move to an advise-and-assist  role. And, consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all of our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year. Meanwhile, we will continue to build a strong partnership with the Iraqi people with an increased civilian commitment and diplomatic effort.

A few weeks ago, men and women from one of the most deployed brigades in the U.S. Army, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, returned home from Iraq. The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden were at Fort Drum to welcome the veterans home and spoke about their personal experiences as a military family:

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Our commitment to our troops doesn’t end once they come home — it’s only the beginning.  Part of ending a war responsibly is meeting our responsibility to the men and women who have fought it. Our troops and their families have made tremendous sacrifices to keep our nation safe and secure, and as a nation we have a moral obligation to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.

That’s why we’re building a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs.  We’ve made one of the largest percentage increase in the VA’s budget in 30 years, and we’re dramatically increasing funding for veterans’ health across the board. In particular, we’re delivering unprecedented resources to treat signature wounds of today’s wars—Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Our sacred trust to take care of our veterans goes beyond simply healing the wounds incurred in battle. We must ensure that when our veterans leave the Armed Forces, they have the opportunities they need to further their education and support their families.  Through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, some 300,000 veterans and families members have pursued a college degree.  Others are taking advantage of job training and placement programs.

My Administration will continue to do our part to support the brave men and women in uniform that have sacrificed so much.  But supporting our troops and their families is not just the job of the Federal Government; it’s the responsibility of all Americans.

As we mark this milestone in the Iraq war and our troops continue to move out of Iraq, I hope you’ll join me in thanking them, and all of our troops and military families, for their service.

Sincerely,
President Barack Obama

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Filed under Dr. Jill Biden, Iraq, Military, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, Vice-President Joe Biden

Celebrating Independence Day at the White House and in Iraq

Posted by: Audiegrl

Today, President Obama and First Lady Michelle hosted more than 1,200 military heroes and their families for an Independence Day celebration on the South Lawn of the White House. The “Salute to the Military” USO Concert included performances by The Killers, Cedric “The Entertainer,” and Brandi Carlile, and “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. The evening wraped up with a viewing of the fireworks on the National Mall.

In case you missed it, watch First Lady Michelle Obama’s video message about supporting our military families on Independence Day.

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Celebrating the Fourth of July with Our Troops in Iraq
Written by Dr. Jill Biden

Vice President Joe Biden, center, congratulates a soldier on becoming a U.S. citizen during a naturalization ceremony in Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory, Iraq. Biden's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, left, commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, also attended the event during which more than 150 U.S. servicemembers became U.S. citizens. July 4, 2010. (by Elaine Wilson)

Last night, my husband Joe and I flew to Iraq to celebrate the Fourth of July with our troops. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Independence Day than spending it with Americans who are bravely serving our country.

This morning we participated in a naturalization ceremony for about 150 of our soldiers serving here in Iraq. I was honored to be part of this special day with so many brave men and women who have been volunteering to fight for our country even before they took the oath of citizenship.

U.S. troops take the citizenship oath during a naturalization ceremony in Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory, Iraq. More than 150 servicemembers became citizens in a ceremony attended by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden. July 4, 2010. (by Elaine Wilson)

Afterwards, I had lunch with several women soldiers who told me about their experiences serving in Iraq. Many of them are mothers, and one of them is married to a soldier who is also deployed. They are managing all the challenges of parenting – securing health care, child care and education – while one or both parents are away.

It’s not easy to be away from loved ones – especially over the holidays. So please, take a minute today and give thanks to our military families serving this Nation around the world.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July, and may God protect our troops.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, shares lunch with female soldiers at the Oasis Dining Facility on Camp Victory, Iraq. Biden spoke with the soldiers about their family-related issues and concerns. July 4, 2010. (by Elaine Wilson)

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Fireworks begin as The Killers play on the South Lawn of the White House during the Fourth of July celebration. July 4, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the roof of the White House. July 4, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our brand new section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

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Filed under Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, Iraq, July 4th, Military, Pres. Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, Video/YouTube

Academy Award® Nominated: The Messenger

Ensemble post by: Audiegrl, Geot, and BuellBoy


In his most powerful performance to date, Ben Foster stars as Will Montgomery, a U.S. Army officer who has just returned home from a tour in Iraq and is assigned to the Army’s Casualty Notification service. Partnered with fellow officer Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) to bear the bad news to the loved ones of fallen soldiers, Will faces the challenge of completing his mission while seeking to find comfort and healing back on the home front. When he finds himself drawn to Olivia (Samantha Morton), to whom he has just delivered the news of her husband’s death, Will’s emotional detachment begins to dissolve and the film reveals itself as a surprising, humorous, moving and very human portrait of grief, friendship and survival.

Featuring tour-de-force performances from Foster, Harrelson and Morton, and a brilliant directorial debut by Oren Moverman, The Messenger brings us into the inner lives of these outwardly steely heroes to reveal their fragility with compassion and dignity.

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The cast includes: Ben Foster, Jena Malone, Eamonn Walker, Woody Harrelson, Yaya DaCosta, Portia, Lisa Joyce, Steve Buscemi, Peter Francis James, Samantha Morton, and Paul Diomede

Reviews

IMDB member
“The Messenger has incredible acting by Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Samantha Morton.

The film has a curious flow to it. It begins predictable, yet remains engaging, exposing a heart-breaking consequence of war no family wants to face. Although the news remains the same, emotions run just as deep at each door. Every scene is handled marvelously through subtle performances by the actors. As the film unfolds, the viewer sinks into the complex characters on screen, discomforted by the internal struggles that slowly surface.

The Messenger is a non-linear, character-driven film with exceptional performances but might not be for everyone.”

Did You Know?

Sgt. Brian Scott, who was training to deploy to Iraq at Ft. Dix in New Jersey and was a technical adviser in this film, was subsequently injured in an IED attack in Baghdad.

Two Nominations

Best Supporting Actor~Woody Harrelson
Best Original Screenplay

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Filed under 82nd Academy Awards, Afghanistan, Army, Best Orig Screenplay, Best Sup Actor, Culture, Entertainment, Hollywood, Iraq, Marines, Middle East, Military, Movies, Navy, Politics, Pop Culture, Reserve, Uncategorized, United States, US, Veterans, Video/YouTube, War, Women's Issues, World

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor ~ Woody Harrelson ~The Messenger

Ensemble post by: Audiegrl, Geot, Bluedog89, and BuellBoy

Woody HarrelsonWoody Harrelson’s rare mix of intensity and charisma consistently surprises and delights audiences and critics alike for his work in both mainstream and independent projects. Most recently, Harrelson could be seen in Stuart Townsand’s BATTLE IN SEATTLE with Charlize Theron, Andre Benjamin and Ray Liotta, Brad Anderson’s TRANSSIBERIAN starring opposite Emily Mortimer and Ben Kingsley and Gabriele Muccino’s SEVEN POUNDS starring Will Smith and Rosario Dawson. Upcoming films include THE MESSENGER with Ben Foster for director Oren Moverman and BUNRAKU, directed by Guy Moshe and co-starring Josh Hartnett and Demi Moore. Harrelson recently completed filming on DEFENDOR for director Peter Stebbings, costarring Kat Dennings.

Harrleson’s critically-acclaimed portrayal of controversial magazine publisher Larry Flynt in Milos Forman’s THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT garnered him Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Nominations as Best Actor. Other highlights from Harrleson’s film career include NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, SEMI PRO, AFTER THE SUNSET, PLAY IT TO THE BONE, THE THIN RED LINE, THE HI-LO COUNTY, ED TV, WAG THE DOG, WELCOME TO SARAJEVO, KINGPIN, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, INDECENT PROPOSAL, WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP, THE BIG WHITE, A SCANNER DARKLY, NORTH COUNTRY, THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFINANCE, OHIO, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION and Zak Penn’s ensemble comedy THE GRAND.

Harrelson first endeared himself to millions of viewers as a member of the ensemble cast of NBC’s long-running hit comedy, CHEERS. For his work as the affable bartender Woody Boyd, he won an Emmy in 1988 and was nominated four additional times during his eight-year run on the show. In 1999, he gained another Emmy nomination when he reprised the role in a guest appearance on the spin-off series FRASIER. He later made a return to television with a recurring guest role on the hit NBC series, WILL AND GRACE.

Woody Harrelson in The Messenger

Woody Harrelson in The Messenger

Balancing his film and television work, in 1999 Harrelson directed his own play, FURTHEST FROM THE SUN at the Theatre de la Juene Lune in Minneapolis. He followed next with the Roundabout’s Broadway revival of THE RAINMAKER; Sam Shepherd’s THE LATE HENRY MOSS, and John Kolvenbach’s ON AN AVERAGE DAY opposite Kyle MacLachlan at London’s West End. Harrelson directed the Toronto premiere of Kenneth Lonergan’s THIS IS OUR YOUTH at the Berkeley Street Theatre. In the winter of 2005 Harrelson returned to London’s West End, starring in Tennessee Williams’ NIGHT OF THE IGUANA at the Lyric Theatre.

A committed environmentalist, Harrelson joined his activism with his film efforts in Ron Mann’s GO FURTHER, a road documentary following Woody and friends on their bicycle journey down the Pacific Coast Highway from Seattle to Santa Barbara.

Along with being a father to his three beautiful daughters, closest to his heart is http://www.voiceyourself.com, a website Harrelson co-created with his wife Laura Louie which promotes and inspires individual action to create global momentum towards simple organic living and to restore balance and harmony to our planet.

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Nominated for Best Actor ~ Jeremy Renner ~The Hurt Locker

Ensemble post by: Audiegrl and Geot

Jeremy RennerJeremy Renner recently starred in 28 Weeks Later, the highly anticipated sequel to 28 Days Later, for director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and co-starring Rose Byrne and Robert Carlyle. He played the heroic soldier Doyle, who goes against military orders to save a group of survivors. Renner also starred in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, directed by Andrew Dominik. In the film, Renner stars alongside Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck in the role of a key member of James’ gang, Wood Hide. He also costarred opposite Minnie Driver in the independent film Take, scheduled for release later this year.

In North Country, Renner starred opposite Academy Award winner Charlize Theron in a fictionalized account of the first major, successful sexual harassment case in the U.S. Renner is at the center of the unfolding drama as miner Bobby Sharp. Renner also starred in the acclaimed independent film 12 and Holding, which was nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards’ John Cassavetes Award.

Other recent credits include the independent film Neo Ned, in which Renner starred opposite Gabrielle Union. Neo Ned was screened at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival and swept the feature film category at the 11th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival in 2006. Neo Ned was awarded Best Feature Film and Best Director while Renner won the Best Actor prize. The film also was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking/Best Feature Film Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival in April 2006, in addition to the audience awards at the Slamdance, Sarasota and Ashland film festivals.

Jeremy Renner as Staff Sergeant William James in The Hurt Locker

Jeremy Renner as Staff Sergeant William James in The Hurt Locker

Renner’s other credits include A Little Trip to Heaven, in which he starred opposite Julia Stiles; The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, directed by Asia Argento as adapted from the critically acclaimed novel by J.T. Leroy; Lords of Dogtown, for director Catherine Hardwicke; and the independent film Love of the Executioner, written and directed by Kyle Bergersen.
In 2003, Renner was seen in the action hit S.W.A.T. opposite Colin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson. But the role that put Renner on the map and earned the actor an Independent Spirit Award nomination was his unforgettable portrayal of a real-life serial killer in the indie film Dahmer.
With a background in theater, Renner keeps his acting chops in shape by performing in plays throughout the Los Angeles area. Recent credits have included the critically acclaimed “Search and Destroy,” which he not only starred in but also co-directed.

Between film and theater, Renner finds the time to write, record, and perform his own brand of contemporary rock. He has written songs for Warner Chapel Publishing and Universal Publishing.

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Shoshana Johnson Pens Her Story In “I’m Still Standing”

Posted by guest contributor: Shanti

Shoshana Johnson poses for a picture in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010

Shoshana Johnson poses for a picture in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010 (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“In March of 2003, when Operation Iraqi Freedom was only days old, world headlines were made when a U.S. army convoy was attacked in the city of An-Nasiriyah en route to Baghdad. Several soldiers were killed and others were taken prisoner.

Jessica Lynch became the face and name associated with this tragedy, but another female soldier, Shoshana Johnson, was also wounded and captured in the ambush. A video of Shoshana being interrogated by her captors was soon broadcast on Spanish-language television and then picked up by American media. Shoshana had become the first black female prisoner of war in United States history. She was held for twenty-two days.

When Shoshana returned to the United States, she received numerous awards for her valor, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Prisoner of War medals. She appeared on news networks and national television shows such as Oprah, Ellen, The Tonight Show, and Larry King Live, but she was bound by a military gag order. She was unable to discuss what really happened in Iraq — until now.

Shoshana holds nothing back in this harrowing account of an ordinary woman caught in an extraordinary circumstance. She reveals decisions made by higher-ups that may have led to the capture, describes the pain of post-traumatic stress disorder, and shares the surprising story of how a specialist in a maintenance company ended up on the front lines of war.

Divulging personal emotions and frustrations while raising fresh political issues, I’m Still Standing is the never-before-told and much anticipated story of the headline-making ambush, capture, and rescue described with the exceptional bravery and candor of a single mom and soldier who became an American hero. Source

CNN’s Larry King Live ~ Transcript of Interview with Shoshana Johnson aired February 2, 2010

KING: We welcome Shoshana Johnson back to LARRY KING LIVE. She is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She and other members of the 507th Maintenance Company were taken captive March 23, 2003. She was held prisoner 22 days. Author of a terrific new book I’m Still Standing; From Captive US Soldier to Free Citizen, My Journey Home.”

Before we get into this, what do you make of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell controversy?

SHOSHANA JOHNSON, FORMER POW: Silly. If men and women want to serve in our military, I really don’t care who they want to sleep with. It’s all about serving your country.

KING: So you would repeal it?

JOHNSON: Yes, definitely.

KING: It’s been seven years since you were a POW. Do you think about it a lot?

I'm Still Standing by Shoshana JohnsonJOHNSON: Still. Very much so. The conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq is still in the media, so it’s hard to forget.

KING: How were you caught?

JOHNSON: During an ambush, vehicles were disabled. Basically, it seemed like the whole city of Nazariyah came out and participated in the ambush. I was shot and — shot and caught, basically.

Read the entire transcript here
Read a sample chapter

Shoshana Johnson tells her side of the story to Matt Lauer of The Today Show

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Shoshana Johnson actually said she wanted to tell her story, because there were a lot of distortions and half truths about the details of her capture. She wanted to set the record straight. I appreciate Shoshana’s resolve and passion for not only surviving the trauma of being a POW, but her courage and drive to THRIVE.~Shanti

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BBC Airing Guantánamo Guard/Detainee Reunion

Posted by: Audiegrl

“He would say, ‘you ever listen to Eminem or Dr Dre’ and… I thought how could it be somebody is here who’s doing the same stuff that I do when I’m back home”~~Former Guard Brandon Neely

Brandon Neely, center, was a Guantánamo Bay guard, and Ruhal Ahmed, left, and Shafiq Rasul were prisoners.

Brandon Neely, center, was a Guantánamo Bay guard, and Ruhal Ahmed, left, and Shafiq Rasul were prisoners.

Why would a former Guantanamo Bay prison guard track down two of his former captives – two British men – and agree to fly to London to meet them?

BBC News/Gavin Lee~~”You look different without a cap.”

You look different without the jump suits.”

With those words, an extraordinary reunion gets under way.

The journey of reconciliation began almost a year ago in Huntsville, Texas. Mr Neely, 29, had left the US military in 2005 to become a police officer and was still struggling to come to terms with his time as a guard at Guantanamo.

He felt anger at a number of incidents of abuse he says he witnessed, and guilt over one in particular.

Highly controversial since it opened in 2002, Guantanamo prison was set up by President George Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to house suspected “terrorists“. But it has been heavily divisive and President Barack Obama has said it has “damaged [America’s] national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda“.

Mr Neely recalls only the good publicity in the US media.

The news would always try to make Guantanamo into this great place,” he says, “like ‘they [prisoners] were treated so great’. No it wasn’t. You know here I was basically just putting innocent people in cages.”

The prisoners arriving on planes, in goggles and jump suits, from Afghanistan were termed by then US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as the “worst of the worst“. But after getting to know some of the English-speaking detainees, Mr Neely started to have doubts all of them were fanatical terrorists.

Mr Neely was 22 when he worked at the camp and left after six months to serve in Iraq. But after quitting the military his doubts about Guantanamo began to crystallize. This led to a spontaneous decision last year to reach out to his former prisoners on Facebook.

Released in 2004, after being held for two years, Mr Rasul and Mr Ahmed and another friend from Tipton had been captured in Afghanistan on suspicion of links to the Taliban. The three said they were beaten by US troops although this was disputed by the US government at the time.

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But what were the pair doing in Afghanistan in 2001?

They explain that, being in their late teens and early twenties at the time, they had made a naive, spontaneous decision to travel for free with an aid convoy weeks before a friend’s wedding, due to take place in Pakistan.

Mr Ahmed admits they had a secret agenda for entering Afghanistan, but it wasn’t to join al-Qaeda.

Aid work was like probably 5% of it. Our main reason was just to go and sightsee really and smoke some dope“.

Does their former prison guard believe them? Yes, says Mr Neely, who says he thinks it was a case of “wrong place, wrong time“.

Both sides are beginning to bond, yet towards the end, Mr Neely has a confession of his own. It threatens to destroy the mood of reconciliation.

He is deeply ashamed of an incident in which he “slammed” an elderly prisoner’s head against the floor.

Mr Neely recalls that he thought he had been under attack because the man kept trying to rise to his feet. But weeks later he discovered the prisoner thought he was being placed on his knees to be executed and believed he was fighting for his life.

Mr Ahmed is speechless, then evidently conflicted as he wrestles in his mind with whether or not he can forgive. Eventually, he says he can.

But should Mr Neely be prosecuted for his actions? Mr Ahmed pauses again.

He’s realized what he did was wrong and he’s living with it and suffering with it and as long as that he knows what he did was wrong. That’s the main thing.”

Afterwards, each say they had genuinely found some sort of closure from meeting. The sense of relief in all their faces speaks volumes, and they leave the meeting closer to one another.

Their story will be featured on the documentary Guantanamo Reunited on BBC Radio 5 live on Thursday 14 January at 2200 BST.

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