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MEDIA FIX and DAYBOOK Return: Special Stephen Colbert vs. Congress Edition

Just back come after jumping the pond to find that a) Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have apparently announced competing Glenn Beckish rallies on the Mall (or is that at the mall?) for October 30—and that Stephen has just delivered typically wacky but biting testimony before Congress on farm workers, which some GOPers on the panel did not appreciate.

After eight days off, DAYBOOK will return this weekend. For now, here's a link to the Colbert vs. Congress appearance, plus the video. GOPers complain here.

And just one of his quips, as usual in the persona of a faux Fox Newsman: "This is America. I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan, and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian." But, kidding aside, Stephen has a good history of support on this issue, even working the fields himself, for one day, to testify how hard it is. 

DAYBOOK Takes a Vacation: See You Soon!

Yes, as we noted yesterday, we are finally taking a week-long, after five months of nearly daily postings.  We'll be back September 25 bright and early, unless we sneak in something before then.  Thanks for your kinds words, links, friending and RTs.  It looks like a riotous autumn as, among other things, mid-term elections loom.  Tea time?  We think not.

It's possible some tweets will appear @gregmitch

We're not quite getting as far as Italy, but I'll leave you with this:

 

DAYBOOK for Thursday: Biden Challenges the Left, Warren Gets Post (Sort of), Tea Party Sinks GOP? And More

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (at the bottom) a music pick. Return for updates during the day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at Twitter. E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size hit middle "A" above right.

THURSDAY ON THE LINKS

Elizabeth Warren gets Obama post -- but only interim.  The claim:     Even she realized confirmation fight right now would be rugged, perhaps even futile. 

Evening Joe:  VP Biden tells Maddow last night:  “One of the reasons I wanted to be on your show is to tell the progressives out there, 'Get in gear, man... There's a lot at stake here and our progressive base, you should not stay home. You better get energized because the consequences are serious for the outcome of the things we care most about.'" Video here.

Are you enjoying the rightwing freakout over established conservatives knocking wacky Tea Party nominee Christine O'Donnell in Delaware?  Here's more "Tokyo Rove" and a long overdue revolt, sez Michelle Malkin.   To get cred back with the right, Rove might have to help out another CIA agent.  

Elsewhere on Fox last night:  Palin urged her to get her message out through the channel—and a few minutes, poof, there she was on Hannity... TPM:   Video of O'Donnell In 2008: claiming Obama Is 'Anti-American..." AOL:   O'Donnell's Linked-In profile says she studied at Oxford—you know, the one in UK, not Mississippi... Rasmussen Poll: Coons Leads O'Donnell By 11, Race Shifts To Dems.

Time magazine's cover out tomorrow shows an elephant peaking out from a tea cup.  See poll results below for a sobering look at actual GOP chances ..... In other elections, good news for Dems:  Sen. Patty Murray goes up by 9% in Wash. 

MIchael Moore with lengthy post reminding readers of the many liberals in the media who backed Iraq war at the start. 

GOOD WILL HUNTING  My new review of  "The Backlash" book by Will Bunch .

***** 'DAY' TRIPPER  Finally, after five months Daybook takes a vacation, starting tomorrow.  We may tweet a little over @GregMitch but beyond that we probably won't see you again until Saturday, Sept. 25.  See you then!

POLLS APART  When a new NYT/CBS poll came out last night, most in the media focused on one pretty predictable finding—Americans now distruct the Democrats but worry about the Repubs even more. Digging into the fine print in the results, one found these numbers, many of which run counter to the usual media story lines: Fewer people say they belong to Tea Party, down from 29% to 19% in 3 weeks; Sarah Palin's favorable rating is down from 23% to 21%, unfavorable up from 40% to 46%, and by a 3-1 margin, people say a Palin endorsement would make them less, not more, likely to vote for a candidate. More: By 71% to 23%, people say invading Iraq NOT worth it;  they back tax hike for rich 53-28; 1 in 3 wrongly believe Obama has raised taxes for "most" Americans.  Finally:  By 54% to 42%, people say they want a "third party." 

THE OTHER "SURGE"   Since 2007, Taliban IED attacks—and deaths—up 400%.  

AMERICAN HERO?  Part 2 of my story on U.S. soldier who chose suicide after refusing to go along with torture, hasearned wide attention, thanks for the links and RTs.

TODAY's LAFF

Bill Clinton to appear on The Daily Show tonite, wonder if he'll be asked to comment on how the Dems will screw up opportunities to beat fringe Tea Party candidates, as per:  

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Tea Party Primaries - Beyond the Palin
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

 

TODAY's MUSIC

As we noted yesterday, our old pal, Orleans frontman (and Crawdaddy contributor) Rep. John Hall faces a tough fight in upstate New York against GOP primary winner who has a lot of dough and is not certifiably insane.  Maybe this will help give him the "Power" to win—from the fabled MUSE concert that he helped organize, here with Carly Simon and other stars.   

 

Tea for the Tiller, Man: A Review of Will Bunch's "The Backlash"

Will Bunch’s excellent new book The Backlash couldn’t be more timely, given the primary election results this week and the recent Beck rallies, anti-Muslim protests, Palin tweets, and Tea Party wackiness. Consider the subtitle: “Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama.”

Bunch calls this backlash “a gathering force that came out of nowhere, seemingly before the echoes of Obama’s inauguration address had even stopped reverberating against the granite boundaries of the National Mall.” At first many considered the growing mob little more than “dead enders,” but how times have changed—yes, they are dead enders but there are so many more of them. 

A longtime reporter and Attytood blogger at the Philadelphia Daily News, Bunch was well-positioned to comment this week on the surprising primary results in neighboring Delaware, with the Palin lite (if that is possible) candidate, Christine O’Donnell, winning the GOP Senate nod—therefore dooming the party to defeat in November, allegedly.

His book is so prescient it opens with a lengthy look at Castle getting harassed in 2009 by an elderly Birther. It turned into a YouTube classic, but Bunch gives us much more than the play-by-play. Poor Castle never imagined he’d  lose to an anti-jacko wacko in a Senate primary.

Bunch, author most recently of a fine Reagan biography titled Tear Down This Myth, spent months tracking conservative reactions to the Obama win, not just staying at his computer but (being an old shoe leather reporter) also attending meetings and rallies, from Kentucky to Orlando to Phoenix—and, of course, Delaware. So we get up-close looks at Birthers, gun nuts, Tea Partiers of various stripes and levels of sanity, Oath Keepers, Ayn Randers, Ditto Heads, Ron Paulists, a paranoid cop-killer (Richard Poplawski), and even a far-right congressman (Paul Broun).

And, of course, a good deal of Beckism, including a handy mini-history, plus profiles of “Beck zombies” (paging Woody Harrelson!). Somehow Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds also figures prominently in the Beck narrative.

Helpfully, we also follow the (right-wing) money, and the ties that bind are fascinating. One outlet has the almost endearing url, Hugewadsofmoney.com.

Beck and Palin, Bunch charges, “are merely at the top of a broad pyramid of entrepreneurs—an ever-swelling list that ranges from emailed-crazed peddlers of ‘Impeach Obama’ T-shirts and bumper stickers or ‘tea bag’ jewelry, to televangelists and conspiracy DVD merchants, to the sellers of a growing list of survivalists products like ‘heirloom seeds’ in indestructible canisters and backpacks full of freeze-dried foodstuffs.”

Along the way, Bunch steps away from the grassroots activists to rip “media superstars whose ratings grew in proportion to their ability to scare regular Americans, the other hucksters making a quick buck on that fear, and the political opportunists quick to embrace radical and often bogus ideas to keep their elected positions.” So read this book now, but know that it will remain relevant well into the next election cycle.

Next up: A look at another profile of the New New Right, Markos Moulitsas’ controversial American Taliban.

  

DAYBOOK for Wednesday: Tea Party Winner in Delaware Hurts GOP, Gingrich Harms USA, Colbert & Dylan, More

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (at the bottom) a music pick. Return for updates during the day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at Twitter. E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size hit middle "A" above right.

WEDNESDAY'S WINNERS

Daffy Tea Party (and Sarah Palin) fave Christine O'Donnell upsets Rep. Mike Castle in GOP Senate primary in Delaware—and party's leadership so appalled it says it won't help her in fall race, likely tossing seat to formerly underdog Dem. Even Karl Rove on Fox knocks her, then gets attacked by the right. Update: CQ says Castle will not endorse O'Donnell.

Rachel Maddow unearthed Christine O'Donnell on MTV in 1996 pushing her anti-masturbation views (including, If a guy pleasures himself, what good am I?). Plus,  she is on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect in 1998, below. She's billed as a "Christian activist," but he greets her onstage with a whisper, "Thanks for the underwear." 

Where's the left?  Every one of the thirty-four House Democrats who voted against healthcare reform made it through primaries unscathed. But progressives did score big win vs. Swett in NH Dem primary race for Congress. 

So much for anti-incumbency media line: Larry Sabato notes that  417 Senators  & Reps. have been renominated, seven lost (98 percent won).

Rep.  Rangel wins contested primary, heading for victory in November.  Wild man Tea Party fave Carl Paladino with upset win in GOP primary for governor, faces Andrews Cuomo… GOP Senate primary in N.H. still too close to call.  Much more on all the results here from Wash Post…  Still the one?  Daily Kos poll shows our old pal Rep. John Hall in tough fight now as sane, well-funded GOPer wins primary.

Jon Stewart last night pointed out that Bill O'Reilly can't even get the name of Andy Griffith's Mayberry girlfriend right. 

THE GAGA DOLL  Maureen Dowd: In the age of Lady Gaga, Newt Gingrich is simply gaga in his linking Obama to foreign birth and foreign views—and putting America "at risk"…  Andy Borowitz tweets:  "Newt Gingrich calls Obama 'Kenyan'? Tough talk for someone born in Moronia."

AMERICAN HERO?  Part 2 of my story on US soldier who chose suicide after refusing to go along with torture. 

BOMB SIGHTS  Terrific NYT story about photographers and cameraman in secret unit who covered  atomic bomb blasts, some  risked lives, with lots of multimedia in this package.  Also see my recent probe here of shocking cover-up of films from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

KNOCKING, ON STEPHEN's DOOR  Princeton historian Sean Wilentz endures Stephen Colbert's taunts about Bob Dylan in discussing his new book.

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sean Wilentz
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

 

CONNING THE CANDIDATES  Fun piece on mischievious-makers who bedevil political candidates by buying up internet domain names that suggest  their names.

BITS & PIECES  If you missed Bill Clinton hitting Rachel Maddow for calling him a great "Republican President."....Not about pet goats, one hopes: New children’s book  coming from President Obama… Good piece:   On Jeffrey Goldberg, Israel and Iran. 

TODAY's LAFF

Although getting strong competition from the current Tea Party, the Disney version remain the wackiest.

 

 

TODAY's MUSIC

More from the band Beirut, here with guest singer from Grizzly Bear: "A plague on the work house, a plague on the poor, now I'll beat on my drum until I'm dead." 

 

Part II: The Soldier Who Chose Suicide After She Refused to Go Along With Torture

Tomorrow marks the seventh anniversary of the death of Spc. Alyssa R. Peterson in Iraq. Yesterday, in Part I of this article, I described how, appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that likely involved what most would call torture, Spc. Peterson, 27, refused, then killed herself a few days later, on September 15, 2003, with her own rifle.

Of course, we now know from the torture memos and the US Senate committee probe and various press reports, that the "Gitmo-izing" of Iraq was happening just at the time Alyssa, a valuable Arabic-speaking interpreter, got swept up in it. When she objected, she was reprimanded, according to the official report. Then she chose suicide.

Yesterday's article concluded with a comment from Peterson's brother, and a few quotes from former Sgt. Kayla Williams, another Arabic-speaking interpreter who Peterson sought out for advice shortly before her death. But because Alyssa's suicide note and contents from her journal have not been released, we can't say for certain what factor or factors led directly to her death.

Chelsea Russell, who studied Arabic with Peterson at a military facility in Monterrey, California, told me that she found Alyssa to be an especially "sincere and kind person" but she had come to question her Mormon faith a few months before getting shipped to Iraq. "I believe that Alyssa was at a crossroads at the time of her death," Russell added. " I don't know if she had strong emotional support in Iraq. Questioning her own religious beliefs, her military colleagues, and her part in the war may have been too much for her."

Arabic-speaking Kayla Williams, now out of the Army, described how she had been recruited to briefly take part in over-the-line interrogations. Like Peterson, she protested torture techniques—such as throwing lit cigarettes at prisoners—and was quickly shifted away. But she told me that she is still haunted by the experience and wonders if she objected strongly enough.

Williams and Peterson were both interpreters—but only the latter was in "human intelligence," that is, trained to take part in interrogations. They met by chance when Williams, who had been on a mission, came back to the base in Tal Afar in September 2003 before heading off again. A civilian interpreter asked her to speak to Peterson, who seemed troubled. Like others, Williams found her to be a "sweet girl." Williams asked if she wanted to go to dinner, but Peterson was not free—maybe next time, she said, but then time ran out.

Their one conversation, Williams told me, centered on personal, not military, problems, and it's hard to tell where it fit in the suicide timeline. According to records of the Army probe, Peterson had protested, and asked out of, interrogations after just two days in what was known as "the cage"—and killed herself shortly after that. This might have all transpired just after her encounter with Williams, or it might have happened before and she did not mention it at that time—they did not really know each other.

Peterson's suicide on September 15, 2003—reported to the press and public as death by "non-hostile gunshot," usually meaning an accident—was the only fatality suffered by the battalion during their entire time in Iraq, Williams reports. At the memorial service, everyone knew the cause of her death.

Shortly after that, Williams (a three-year Army vet at the time) was sent to the 2nd Brigade's Support Area in Mosul, and she described what happened next in her book. Brought into the "cage" one day on a special mission, she saw fellow soldiers hitting a naked prisoner in the face. "It's one thing to make fun of someone and attempt to humiliate him. With words. That's one thing. But flicking lit cigarettes at somebody—like burning him—that's illegal," Williams writes. Soldiers later told her that "the old rules no longer applied because this was a different world. This was a new kind of war."

Here's what she 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.

"They stripped prisoners naked and then removed their blindfolds so that I was the first thing they saw. And then we were supposed to mock them and degrade their manhood. And it really didn't seem to make a lot of sense to me. I didn't know if this was standard. But it did not seem to work. And it really made me feel like we were losing that crucial moral higher ground, and we weren't behaving in the way that Americans are supposed to behave."

As soon as that day ended, she told a superior she would never do it again.

In another CNN interview, on Oct. 8, 2005, she explained: "I sat through it at the time. But after it was over I did approach the non-commissioned officer in charge and told him I think you may be violating the Geneva Conventions.… He said he knew and I said I wouldn't participate again and he respected that, but I was really, really stunned…"

So, given all this, what does Williams think pushed Alyssa Peterson to shoot herself one week after their only meeting? The great unknown, of course, is what Peterson was asked to witness or do in interrogations. We do know that she refused to have anything more to do with that after two days—or one day longer than it took for Williams to reach her breaking point.

Properly, Williams (left) points out that it's rarely one factor that leads to suicide, and Peterson had some personal problems. "It's always a bunch of things coming together to the point you feel so overwhelmed that there's no way out," Williams says. "I witnessed abuse, I felt uncomfortable with it, but I didn't kill myself, because I could see the bigger context. I felt a lot of angst about whether I had an obligation to report it, and had any way to report it. Was it classified? Who should I turn to?" Perhaps Alyssa Peterson felt in the same box.

"It also made me think," Williams says, "what are we as humans, that we do this to each other? It made me question my humanity and the humanity of all Americans. It was difficult, and to this day I can no longer think I am a really good person and will do the right thing in the right situation." Such an experience might have been truly shattering to Peterson, a once-devout Mormon.

Referring to that day in Mosul, Williams says, "I did protest but only to the person in charge and I did not file a report up the chain of command." Yet, after recounting her experience there, she asks: "Can that lead to suicide? That's such an act of desperation, helplessness, it has to be more than that." She concludes, "In general, interrogation is not fun, even if you follow the rules. And I didn't see any good intelligence being gained. The other problem is that, in situations like that, you have people that are not terrorists being picked up, and being questioned. And, if you treat an innocent person like that, they walk out a terrorist."

Or, maybe in this case, if an innocent person witnesses such a thing, some may walk out as a likely suicide.

Part I of this story here.

Greg Mitchell is the author of nine books, including So Wrong for So Long, on Iraq and the media, which includes several chapters on soldier suicides. E-mail: epic1934@aol.com

 

DAYBOOK for Tuesday: Eliz Warren Gets Job? Marty Peretz Humbled? Buffalo Springfield Again? And More

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (at the bottom) a music pick. Return for updates during the day.   Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at Twitter. E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size hit middle "A" above right.

TOPPERS FOR TUESDAY MORNING & AFTERNOON UPDATES

Report:  Elizabeth  Warren to get nod this week -- but only interim?  Then Politico says White House denies.  But Huff Post bolsters.

Bob Herbert:  How can we have a true recovery when middle-class has no money to purchase much of anything?

New Jon Stewart profile in New York mag.  He says he watches mostly sports on TV so his head won't  "explode" but "downstairs" staffers watch "every minute of Fox News."  And it shows, in last night's latest blast re: Terry Jones and the "ground zero mosque."

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Islamophobiapalooza
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

 

Marty  Peretz offers only partial apology for his bigoted anti-Muslim comments, so Nick Kristof smacks him again.

Famed Civil Rights Movement photographer Ernest Withers unmasked as FBI informant during 1960s and 1970s.  

My new piece:  The U.S. soldier who committed suicide after she refused to take part in torture.

BOMB SIGHTS  Terrific NYT story about photographers and cameraman in secret unit who covered  atomic bomb blasts, some  risked lives, with lots of multimedia in this package.  Also see my recent probe here of shocking cover-up of films from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

THE DEVIL'S RIGHT HAND  That's what Steve Earle called it, and may now apply to the hype over the GOP's "Young Guns."   Their rollout P.R. plans start now for book, see description  here.  

ON THE CAN-PAIN TRAIL   Huff Post on "five progressives running strong" in GOP swing districts.  Among them,  our old buddy Rep. John Hall in New York.  However, "strong" does not mean "landslide," and tough fight remains......GOP chair in Delaware got death threat for not backing Tea Party candidate... More on that hot Delaware Senate primary here.....  Jerry Brown apologizes for jab at Bill Clinton over Lewinsky affair.   

ZOMBIE LAND?  Man in his obituary attacks Obama....The New York Times reviews our pal Will Bunch's book on rightwing in Obama era,  "The Backlash." .....The Onion goes after the "sway" of the  "pinkfaced" Glenn Beck. 

BOB & BUBBA  Saan Wilentz on Colbert tonight to talk about his new Bob Dylan bio.   Tony Blair on The Daily Show, with Bill Clinton due on Thursday.

NOTHING ABOUT PET GOATS, ONE HOPES   President Obama plans new children's book.

BITS & PIECES  V.A. deal hurts millions of vets? ....      L.A. Times:   al-Qaeda surging again in Iraq.... Death toll now 14 in Kashmir due partly to protest over USA Koran burning controversy. ... St. Pete Times: "Skateboarder steals Quran, thwarts burning"

TODAY's LAFF

Latest Auto-Tuning the News mixes new Weezer tune with recent epic orations from Obama, Rep. Rangel and Rep. Weiner plus a little Ron Paul for good measure.

 

 TODAY's MUSIC

For What It's Worth:   Amazing and unexpected--a Buffalo Springfield reunion, first time together since 1968. 

 

 

Remembering the US Soldier Who Committed Suicide After She Refused to Take Part in Torture

With each revelation, or court decision, on US torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo—or the airing this month of The Tillman Story and Lawrence Wright's My Trip to Al-Qaeda—I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who died seven years ago this week. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what most would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, on September 15, 2003.

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

Spc. Alyssa Peterson was one of the first female soldiers who died in Iraq. Her death under these circumstances should have drawn wide attention. It's not exactly the Tillman case, but a cover-up, naturally, followed.

Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff, Ariz., native, served with C Company, 311th Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne. She was a valuable 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 September 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. 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 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."

The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been "reprimanded" for showing "empathy" for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: "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."

She 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.

The official report revealed that a notebook she had written in was found next to her body, but blacked out its contents.

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. It did not emerge.

Peterson, a devout Mormon—her mother, Bobbi, claims she always stuck up for "the underdog"—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, reportedly going in place of another soldier who did not wish to go.

A report in The Arizona Daily Sun of Flagstaff—three years after Alyssa's death—revealed that Spc. Peterson's mother, 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.

Kayla Williams (left), an Army sergeant who served with Alyssa, told me me that she talked to her about her problems shortly before she killed herself. Williams also was forced to take part in torture interrogations, where she saw detainees punched. Another favorite technique: strip the prisoners and then remove their blindfolds so that the first thing they saw was Kayla Williams.

She also opted out, but survived, and is haunted years later. She wrote a book about her experience in the military, Love My Rifle More Than You.

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."

When I wrote a piece about Peterson last year, her brother, Spencer Peterson, left a comment:

Alyssa is my little sister. I usually don't comment on boards like this, and I don't speak for the rest of my family (especially my folks), but I think she probably did kill herself over this. She was extremely sensitive and empathetic to others, and cared a lot more about the welfare and well-being of the people around her than she cared about herself.… Thank you to everyone for your continued support of our troops and our family. Alyssa's death was a tremendous loss to everyone who knew her, and we miss her sweet and sensitive spirit. No one is happier than I am that (many of) our troops are coming home from Iraq, and I pray that the rest of our brave soldiers return home safely as soon as possible. Support our troops—bring them home!

Kayla Williams told me me she spoke with Alyssa Peterson about the young woman's troubles a week before she died—and afterward, attended her memorial service.

So what, in Williams's view, caused Alyssa Peterson to put a bullet in her head in September 2003 after just a few weeks in Iraq? And why were the press and the public not told about it? Much more from Kayla and another woman who served with her, in Part II of this article tomorrow. Here's a moving slide show with narration by Alyssa's mom.

Note: Part II now posted.

Greg Mitchell, former editor of Editor & Publisher, has written nine books, including So Wrong for So Long, on Iraq and the media, which includes several chapters on soldier suicides in Iraq.  E-mail: epic1934@aol.com   Twitter:  @GregMitch

DAYBOOK for Monday: Gingrich Boosts Birthers, 'NYT' Reporter in Gaza Pulls Out, Peretz Pounded, Green Day Live, More

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (at the bottom) a music pick. Return for updates during the day.   Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at Twitter. E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size hit middle "A" above right.

MONDAY MORNING  WORKOUT -- PLUS AFTERNOON UPDATES

2 Afghans shot and killed Sunday protesting Koran burning in USA..... "Non-combat" U.S. troops in another shooting incident in Iraq, this time no one killed.  Soldiers there object to media depictions of end-of-combat.....  L.A. Times:   al-Qaeda surging again in Iraq..... From  Nick Turse -- "Afghanistan on Life Support." ...

Newt Gingrich says Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview .    Crucial context here from Kevin Drum.  UPDATE:  Press spokesman Robert Gibbs says it's just Newt's way of boosting the Birthers (or is that Birchers?) again.

New Jon Stewart profile in New York mag.  He says he watches mostly sports on TV so his head won't "explode" but "downstairs" staffers watch "every minute of Fox News." 

You remember the concern expressed when it emerged that the son of  NYT's Middle East bureau chief Ethan Bronner had joined the Israeli IDF?  Many worried about biased reporting, or at least the appearance of same.  Now we learn that the paper's longtime Gaza correspondent stopped working in June because of the dangerous position the Bonner move put her in.  Must reading from Nieman Reports  here. 

Shock poll:  Tea Party candidate ahead of GOP shoo-in MIke Castle 47-44 for Delaware Senate contest (primary tomorrow), if she wins would give Dem candidate great chance at victory .  Meanwhile, GOP chair in the state gets death threat for failing to back Tea Party candidate... 

A  "tea-had" coming?  NYT on Palin-Beck ticket in 2012, or as one protester put it, "Lipstick and Dipstick." The Guardian separately saw signs of Palin, at least, running ....  Albert Pujols hitting .200 since appearing at Glenn Beck rally, as Cards drop out of race.

My new piece:  The U.S. soldier who committed suicide after she refused to take part in torture.

'RACIST'  PERETZ  James Fallows: no other major mag has had editor say something like what Marty Peretz said (in this case, anti-Islam bigotry)  w/o having to resign.  Nick Kristof's great slam at Peretz, and more, was most popular piece at NYT on Sunday.... Jon Chait defends Peretz, and Spencer Ackerman, who also worked at TNR, responds, Are you kidding me? Everyone there knows Marty is a racist.   UPDATE:  Peretz offers only partial apology, Kristof smacks him again. 

MORE ON MOSQUE & MUSLIMS  Rick Hertzberg:  Yes, move the mosque--right to Ground Zero, not just near it. ... Newspaper apolgizes for giving prominent coverage -- for end of Ramadan. 

NOT DARK YET   New Pew survey finds, yes, public loves to get news online now but use of "old media" remains steady.   One in ten of those under-30 say they read NYT--online.

DON"T HOLD YOUR BREATH  Eric Boehlert asks, Will Neil Cavuto have the decency to apologize to the First Lady today? 

OLIVER'S TWIST?   Oliver Stone wonders as new Wall Street about to open: Is greed still good?  Good line: He has to be himself because "everyone else is taken."

THOMAS IN THE TANK ENGINE  Clarence Thomas's wife rips "elites" at Tea Party rally in D.C. on Sunday --when her very sheltered husband is one of the most powerful figures in USA.

BITS & PIECES   Another WIkiLeaks release coming and it will be enormous....   Tom Morello on New Orleans, music, tragedy and hope....The Guardian:  that guy in Kentucky killed  five after got mad about way wife cooked his eggs.  Having shotgun at hand helped.

TODAY's LAFF

Before we let pastor Terry Jones slink back into the muck and ooze after his 15 minutes of you-know-what, we wanted to make sure you caught the parody commercial that trumpeted the Koran bonfire that never got lit:

 

 

TODAY's MUSIC

Got to get to this before the month is half over: Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends," live.

 

Yale Democrats Drop Support for Screening of Pat Tillman Film—After Gen. McChrystal Is Hired to Teach There

This evening I'd just returned from watching the excellent and important new documentary The Tillman Story when I came across some startling news: a group of young Democrats at Yale University had canceled  its support for a screening of the film at the campus tomorrow after former US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has just agreed to teach a course at the school this fall.

You see, McChrystal is identified in The Tillman Story (and earlier in various news probes) as a willing participant in the cover-up of how the soldier died. Mary Tillman, mother of Pat, has called Yale's hiring of the general  "insulting."

The Yale Democrats have explained their move by blaming it on the framing of a post-screening discussion that aimed to discuss McChrystal's role in the cover-up, given his upcoming arrival on campus. One would expect such a discussion given the recent reports of his hiring. Event organizers usually pray for such a local angle. But Ben Stango, president of the offended organization, told the campus paper, "The Yale College Democrats do not attack war heroes. We do not attack members of the Yale faculty."

In a phone conversation with me, Stango said that statement had been taken out of context. "The real issue," he said, "was the event not turning into an attack that was aimed at raising press for the film." He pointed out that his group did not have control over the post-film discussion. However, the panel, he said, was to be comprised of the film's drrector, a film studies professor (who has endorsed the Yale Democrats dropping their sponsorship) and Stango himself, so it's hard to imagine how it could have turned into a "Bash McChrystal" forum. 

Mary Tillman told the New York Daily News that McChrystal's "involvement in the tortures at Camp Nama and in the cover-up of Pat’s death has never been satisfactorily scrutinized. The House Armed Services Committee failed to vet him properly in the spring of 2009. The fact that Yale wants to employ him to instruct courses on leadership is extremely insulting and unsettling."

According to the Yale Daily News, key topics in the general's seminar include:  "Role of a Leader,” “Coping with Failure,”  “Making Difficult Decisions” and “Loyalty, Trust and Relationship.”

Meanwhile, the Army Times reveals that no Army or Air Force bases will be showing The Tillman Story, opting instead for… The Expendables. 

For an interview with the film's director, see one of my earlier posts on the movie here.

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