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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

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General Petraeus's Link to a Troubling Suicide in Iraq: The Ted Westhusing Story

The scourge of suicides among American troops and reservists in Iraq and Afghanistan remains a serious and seriously underreported problem. Last month they hit a new high in the US Army, despite intensive new efforts to prevent them. One of the few high-profile cases emerged six years ago this month, and it involves a much-admired Army colonel and ethicist named Ted Westhusing—who, in his suicide note, pointed a finger at a then little-known US general named David Petraeus.

Westhusing’s widow, asked by a friend what killed this West Point scholar, replied simply: “Iraq.”

Before putting a bullet through his head, Westhusing had been deeply disturbed by abuses carried out by American contractors and unnamed advisors in Iraq, including allegations that they had witnessed or even participated in the murder of Iraqis. His suicide note included claims that his two commanders, Lt. Gen. Petraeus and Maj. Gen. Josephy Fil, tolerated a mission based on “corruption, human rights abuses and liars. I am sullied—no more. I didn’t volunteer to support corrupt, money grubbing contractors, nor work for commanders only interested in themselves.”

One of those commanders: the future leader of American forces in Iraq, and then Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus.

Westhusing, 44, had been found dead in a trailer at a military base near the Baghdad airport in June 2005, a single gunshot wound to the head. At the time, he was the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq. The Army concluded that he committed suicide with his service pistol and found his charges against the commanders unfounded. Petraeus and Fil would later attend Westhusing’s memorial service back in the United States.

In a new interview, Westhusing’s widow Michelle (who lives just up the river from me near West Point) says she wished they had not attended. “I feel like they let him down,” she says. “I feel as if no one was watching out for Ted’s welfare. He was trying to tell them something, and they ignored him. I can only imagine how that felt to him…. Ted very much believed in honor and doing the right thing. I think he was told not to worry about things, to sweep them under the carpet and go home. But Ted couldn’t do that. He wasn’t just a professor of ethics, he didn’t just teach it, he believed it with all his heart.””

Her husband was an unusual case: “one of the Army’s leading scholars of military ethics, a full professor at West Point who volunteered to serve in Iraq to be able to better teach his students. He had a doctorate in philosophy; his dissertation was an extended meditation on the meaning of honor,” Christian Miller explained in a major Los Angeles Times piece.

“In e-mails to his family,” Miller wrote, “Westhusing seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the US had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military.” His death followed quickly. “He was sick of money-grubbing contractors,” one official recounted, and advisors.  Westhusing said that “he had not come over to Iraq for this.”

After a three-month inquiry, investigators declared Westhusing’s death a suicide, although some Web writers would charge murder, without a good deal of evidence.

In 2007, The Texas Observer published a cover story by contributor Robert Bryce titled “I Am Sullied No More.” Bryce covered much of the same ground paved by Miller but added details on the Petraeus angle and allegations of murder.

“When he was in Iraq, Westhusing worked for one of the most famous generals in the U.S. military, David Petraeus,” Bryce observed. “As the head of counterterrorism and special operations under Petraeus, Westhusing oversaw the single most important task facing the U.S. military in Iraq then and now: training the Iraqi security forces.”

Bryce referred to a “two-inch stack of documents, obtained over the past 15 months under the Freedom of Information Act, that provides many details of Westhusing’s suicide…. The documents echo the story told by Westhusing’s friends. ‘Something he saw [in Iraq] drove him to this,’ one Army officer who was close to Westhusing said in an interview. ‘The sum of what he saw going on drove him’ to take his own life. ‘It’s because he believed in duty, honor, country that he’s dead.’ ”

In Iraq, Westhusing worked under two generals: Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, and Petraeus, then a lieutenant general. But Bryce continued: “By late May, Westhusing was becoming despondent over what he was seeing.” When his body was found, a note was found nearby addressed to Petraeus and Fil. It read:

“Thanks for telling me it was a good day until I briefed you. [Redacted name]—You are only interested in your career and provide no support to your staff—no msn [mission] support and you don’t care. I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human right abuses and liars. I am sullied—no more. I didn’t volunteer to support corrupt, money grubbing contractors, nor work for commanders only interested in themselves. I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. I trust no Iraqi. I cannot live this way. All my love to my family, my wife and my precious children. I love you and trust you only. Death before being dishonored any more.

“Trust is essential—I don’t know who trust anymore. Why serve when you cannot accomplish the mission, when you no longer believe in the cause, when your every effort and breath to succeed meets with lies, lack of support, and selfishness? No more. Reevaluate yourselves, cdrs [commanders]. You are not what you think you are and I know it.”

Twelve days after Westhusing’s body was found, Army investigators talked with his widow, who told them: “I think Ted gave his life to let everyone know what was going on. They need to get to the bottom of it, and hope all these bad things get cleaned up.”

Bryce concluded: “In September 2005, the Army’s inspector general concluded an investigation into allegations raised in the anonymous letter to Westhusing shortly before his death. It found no basis for any of the issues raised. Although the report is redacted in places, it is clear that the investigation was aimed at determining whether Fil or Petraeus had ignored the corruption and human rights abuses allegedly occurring within the training program for Iraqi security personnel.”

Since then, the corruption, torture and failed training angles have drawn wide attention although the Petraeus’s role, good or bad, has not.

The writer returned to the case one more time in February 2008 with another Texas Observer article. It opened: “Since last March, when I wrote a story about the apparent suicide of Col. Ted Westhusing in Iraq, I had believed there was nothing else to write about his tragic death.

“But in December, I talked to a source in the Department of Defense who met Westhusing in Iraq about three months before his death. The source, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, was investigating claims of wrongdoing against military contractors working in Iraq. After a short introduction, I asked him what he thought had happened to Westhusing. ‘I think he was killed. I honestly do. I think he was murdered,’ the source told me. ‘Maybe DOD didn’t have enough evidence to call it murder, so they called it suicide.’ ”

I have since gone through hundreds of pages of the FOIA documents, including transcripts of interviews with Westhusing’s widow, friends, colleagues. The Q&A with Westhusing widow is haunting. She claimed that her husband would never commit suicide, and she thought it more possible that “someone would kill him.” While he never mentioned being afraid for his life, she said, “In Ted’s voice, there was a fear. He did not like the night time and being alone in that trailer.”

She reported that her husband had expressed to her the sentiments in his suicide note pretty much verbatim, and was especially appalled by “the treatment of the insurgents.”  This suggests witnessing or knowing about incidents of torture, whether carried out by U.S. personnel (such as civilian advisors) or by iraqis, with our knowledge or even suggestion. She concluded that he had “lost faith in his commanders. He was a moral and ethical person.”

In the documents I didn’t find anything others missed about Petraeus or possible murder (which I contnue to find unlikely). So the case remains a buried footnote to Petraeus’s storied, and supremely influential, career.

Greg Mitchell first wrote about Westhusing in his book So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits and the President Failed on Iraq. His current books and e-books are The Age of WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning.

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The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Monday, June 27

As I’ve done for over seven months, I’m updating news and views on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning all day, with new items added at the top. All times ET. Contact me at epic1934@aol.com. Read about my books The Age of WikiLeaks in print or as an e-book, and Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences as e-book and print. Just out: first e-book edition of my book Why Obama Won, and Lessons for 2012.

5:00  @WLLegal points out:  "In case you were wondering: AP stylebook declares to those who refuse to capitalize the "L," it's "WikiLeaks" http://t.co/d8gWI97 ."

11:15  My story on Gen. Petreaus' link to a high-profile suicide in Iraq, even cited in suicide note. http://bit.ly/iGAQ6V

(:40  Unusual take on the new Thai cables, looking beyond alleged "gossip" to US continuing to back dictator's military.

9:25  People always suggest that I "donate profits" from my recent books to WikiLeaks or to Manning.  When I make a profit I will let you know!  Doesn't help when I offer e-books for 99 cents: http://amzn.to/fafqsK http://amzn.to/eLHPrz

9:15 WikiLeaks has yet another new media partner for the cables, this time in Brazil.

8:05  Protests planned for Assange court appearances starting July 12.  See fun photo takeoff on classic Dylan / Allen Ginsberg  segment in the film "Don't Look Back."   Could be singing, "Julian's in the basement / mixing up the medicine / I'm on the pavement / Thinking 'bout the government.... Look out kid, you're gonna get hit...." 

7:10 @WikiLeaks reviews new play about Assange in Sydney, which opens with him in bed with woman:  New play about Assange is the worst kind of pedestrian garbage. Everyone else: create alternatives http://t.co/I47fOY9"

6:40  NYT op-ed on Obama, the "Untransparent President." 

6:30  Folks, slow weekend, but at least I can announce a two-day sale on my Age of WikiLeaks & Bradley Manning e-books—just 99 cents each! http://amzn.to/fafqsK http://amzn.to/eLHPrz

12:15 Financial Times on latest on 5 film projects on WikiLeaks -- including news of journos getting their "life rights" bought and then limiting cooperatons with other journos trying to interview them about WikiLeaks.

12:10  A review of HaitiLeaks so far.

12:05 LulzSec gone, or just merged with Anonymous

12:00 WikiLeaks: Chinese minister was caught in a 'honeytrap'  in spy / sex scandal.

From late Sunday

@WikiLeaks tweets:  US gays adopt Bradley Manning as hero. Huge banner at San Francisco Pride parade today. Turning Point? http://t.co/ZsnRQvM

Fake WikiLeaks twitter account, from Argentina, has been falsely tweeting death of Hugo Cháavez, setting of

More docs re Cuba, released to McClatchy. Cuban cardinal wanted to close down critical magazine.

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog—Special Weekend Edition!

As I’ve done for over six months, I’m updating news and views on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning all day, with new items added at the top. All times ET. Contact me at epic1934@aol.com. Read about my books The Age of WikiLeaks in print or as an e-book, and Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences as e-book and print. Just out: first e-book edition of my book Why Obama Won, and Lessons for 2012.

SUNDAY * 

8:00 Folks, slow weekend, but at least I can announce a two-day sale on my Age of WikiLeaks & Bradley Manning e-books—just 99 cents each! http://amzn.to/fafqsK http://amzn.to/eLHPrz

7:00  @WikiLeaks tweets:  US gays adopt Bradley Manning as hero. Huge banner at San Francisco Pride parade today. Turning Point? http://t.co/ZsnRQvM

4:40  Fake WikiLeaks twitter account, from Argentina, has been falsely tweeting death of Hugo Cháavez, setting of a buzz.

*SATURDAY*

11:20 More docs re Cuba, released to McClatchy. Cuban cardinal wanted to close down critical magazine.

11:00  After fifty days of attacks, Lulzsec allegedly calls it quits, issues releases, etc. We’ll see.

8:00 Japanese friends, here’s publisher site for Iwanami for new edition of my Age of WikiLeaks. Also at Amazon. They also translated and published my book Hiroshima in America.

9:55 Democracy Now! turns up in a WikiLeaks cable.

9:40 More from Andrew Marshall, ex-Reuters guy, on why he just published his massive Thai Secrets piece.

Late Friday

Video of Nation writers on Democracy Now! today talking about Haiti’s fraudulent election and WikiLeaks.

News of shake-up in Assange legal team finally reaches Wall St Journal. Former lawyers still have no comment, or even confirm former.

If you haven’t caught up with WikiLeaks’s Blackberry app yet.

From my associate Kevin Donohue: the Guardian releases logs of chatroom discussions among hacker LulzSec members, revealing the tensions and personalities inside the group. The Guardian notes that “they turn out to be obsessed with their coverage in the media, especially in physical newspapers, sharing pictures of coverage they have received in the Wall Street Journal and other papers.”

Gov. Gary Johnson, running for president, takes strongest pro-WikiLeaks stance of any candidate, I think.

For key background, see my books The Age of WikiLeaks in print or as an e-book, and Bradley Manning, Truth and Consequences as e-book and print. Hailed by Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers, etc.

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, June 23

As I’ve done for over six months, I’m updating news and views on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning all day, with new items added at the top. All times ET. Contact me at epic1934@aol.com. Read about my books The Age of WikiLeaks in print or as an e-book, and Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences as e-book and print. Just out: first e-book edition of my book Why Obama Won, and Lessons for 2012.

UPDATE: Here is the Friday edition of this blog.

5:40  Fascinating and surprising NYT piece, via Greenwire, on what WikiLeaks cables show about one of the world's "most wanted" enivornmental bad guys. "New insight into the international tug of war over Pluimers can be found in a diplomatic cable released earlier this year by the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks. That cable, written in 2006 by officials at the U.S. embassy in The Hague, indicates that Pluimers simply has too much influence with high-ranking Dutch officials to be handed over to U.S. authorities."

5:30  David House calls this "the best interview with Julian Assange that I've seen in the past two years: http://t.co/YxgNf8S ."

10:50 From our pal @WLLegal: “DoD Inspector General report on NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake’s allegations leaks to @POGOBlog; vindicates him: http://t.co/jm0dpCw .”

10:05 I’ve been following the saga of Andrew Marshall (left) and his explosive Thai story—just posted last night—and now here is his account of why he did it, including that it “cost me my job at Reuters.”

10:00 Top Dominicans admit charges in WikiLeaks cables true—including buying apartment from drug dealer.

8:30 Glenn Greenwald just up with piece on James Risen of NYT, his subpoena, and “climate of fear” during Obama administration.

8:20 Deaths in Afghan, as mapped by the Guardian, thanks to WikiLeaks.

2:00 More on Barrett Brown exposing US spy program, this time from Australia.

12:05 WSJ has big piece on Inside the Hacktivist Culture.

From late Wednesday

We’ve been hyping this for a few days and now it is here, massive story on Thailand and ill leader, partly based on WikiLeaks cables, by former Reuters ace Andrew Marshall. He’s posted Part I here and already is on front page of the Times of London. More parts to come but best way to follow is via his Twitter feed, @Zenjournalist.

James Risen of NYT (see below for context) suggests Obama’s war on whistleblowers & journalists “will have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press in” US.

ZDnet continues serializing a lengthy dissertation on history of WikiLeaks. Today: how cables helped sparked the Arab Spring.

For key background, see my books The Age of WikiLeaks in print or as an e-book, and Bradley Manning, Truth and Consequences as e-book and print. Hailed by Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers, etc.

We were first up today with news of Barrett Brown’s big scoop (see below) and now he has posted more at the Guardian. “After having spent several months studying those emails and otherwise investigating the industry depicted therein, I have revealed my summary of a classified US intelligence programme known as Romas/COIN, as well as its upcoming replacement, known as Odyssey. The programme appears to allow for the large-scale monitoring of social networks by way of such things as natural language processing, semantic analysis, latent semantic indexing and IT intrusion. At the same time, it also entails the dissemination of some unknown degree of information to a given population through a variety of means—without any hint that the actual source is US intelligence. Scattered discussions of Arab translation services may indicate that the programme targets the Middle East.”

Last week we reported on new legal team for Assange re the Swedish case, and now Tom Hayden here at The Nation talks about it, including interview with the renowned Gareth Peirce (played by Emma Thompson in In the Name of the Father). It seems that there was feeling that perhaps the previous team too strongly attacked accusers and Swedish justices while new team will be more respectful.

A few weeks back we covered intensely here the debut of new film short on Ethan McCord, the “hero” of the “Collateral Murder” video (he rescued the kids in the van for medical care and has been haunted since), and how it won best short at the Tribeca Film Fest. Now our friends @iWikiLeaksMovie present a lengthy Q&A with the director, James Spione, plus video, trailer, and much else, all here.

Alternet’s Rania Khalek does it again, coming out with another WikiLeaks Top Five list, this time outlining WikiLeaks top revelations exposing the merger between multinational corporations and American diplomacy.

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Wednesday, June 22

As I’ve done for over six months, I’m updating news and views on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning all day, with new items added at the top. All times ET. Contact me at epic1934@aol.com. Read about my books The Age of WikiLeaks in print or as an e-book, and Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences as e-book and print. Just out: first e-book edition of my book Why Obama Won, and Lessons for 2012.

UPDATE: Here's the Thursday blog.

8:40  We've been hyping this for a few days and now it is here, massive story on Thailand and ill leader, partly based on WikiLeaks cables, by former Reuters ace Andrew Marshall.  He's posted Part I here and already is on front page of the Times of London.  More parts to come but best way to follow is via his Twitter feed, @Zenjournalist.

5:50  James Risen of NYT (see below for context) suggests Obama's war on whistleblowers & journalists "will have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press in" US 

5:20  ZDnet continues serializing a lengthy dissertation on history of WikiLeaks.  Today: how cables helped sparked the Arab Spring.

3:28  We were first up today with news of Barrett Brown's big scoop (see below) and now he has posted more at The Guardian.  "After having spent several months studying those emails and otherwise investigating the industry depicted therein, I have revealed my summary of a classified US intelligence programme known as Romas/COIN, as well as its upcoming replacement, known as Odyssey. The programme appears to allow for the large-scale monitoring of social networks by way of such things as natural language processing, semantic analysis, latent semantic indexing and IT intrusion. At the same time, it also entails the dissemination of some unknown degree of information to a given population through a variety of means – without any hint that the actual source is US intelligence. Scattered discussions of Arab translation services may indicate that the programme targets the Middle East."

2:05 Last week we reported on new legal team for Assange re: the Swedish case, and now Tom Hayden here at The Nation talks about it, including interview with the renowned Gareth Peirce (played by Emma Thompson in "In the Name of the Father").   It seems that there was feeling that perhaps the previous team too strongly attacked accusers and Swedish justices while new team will be more respectful.

2:00  Brian Stelter of NYT tweets:  "Affidavit by Risen is eloquent explanation of why we need investigative journalists. Must-read: http://t.co/De8acJK ."

1:50  Latest Haiti Leaks report in The Nation:  How elite used police. 

1:45  For key background, see my books “The Age of WikiLeaks” in print or as an e-book, and “Bradley Manning, Truth and Consequences” as e-book and print.

11:45 A few weeks back we covered intensely here the debut of new film short on Ethan McCord, the “hero” of the “Collateral Murder” video (he rescued the kids in the van for medical care and has been haunted since), and how it won best short at the Tribeca Film Fest. Now our friends @iWikiLeaksMovie present a lengthy Q&A with the director, James Spione, plus video, trailer, and much else, all here.

10:45 Alternet’s Rania Khalek does it again, coming out with another WikiLeaks Top Five list, this time outlining WikiLeaks top revelations exposing the merger between multinational corporations and American diplomacy.

10:25 James Risen of NYT invokes First Amendment in response to subpoena in leak case.

10:20 New cables shared with McClatchy and others reveal priests in Venezuela resisted Pope’s efforts to get them to help topple Chavez.

9:00 In another big story today that I have mentioned in past: Andrew Marshall, the former Reuters ace I once interviewed (we’re e-mailing now) is launching his promised massive story on Thailand, based on leaks, later today, said to be 65,000 words… follow him at Twitter @ZenJournalist

7:50 “WikiLeaks trial” in Jakarta postponed for week — vs. two Aussie papers and US Embassy.

7:10 Rumors swirled last night that Barrett Brown, the writer often described as a “spokesman” for Anonymous until recently, had come up with a startling revelation that would appear today in the NYT and the Guardian and maybe elsewhere. I haven’t had time to check yet if anything has appeared in the media so far but this morning’s email (he says to only a dozen reporters) brings this intro from Brown: “The following document will be posted on the Project PM wiki, http://wiki.echelon2.org/wiki/Main_Page, within 24 hours; a shorter summary will go up on The Guardian’s website at some point afterward. This particular e-mail is going out to a dozen or so reporters who I believe to be equipped to run with it. The New York Times and a few other outlets were provided with this last night. Further details concerning the program described may be found by searching through the HBGary e-mails with this viewer: http://search.hbgary.anonleaks.ch/. Any outlet or individual is free to run this in whole or in part. If anyone has any questions, let me know.”

Here’s his opening: “For at least two years, the U.S. has been conducting a secretive and immensely sophisticated campaign of mass surveillance and data mining against the Arab world, allowing the intelligence community to monitor the habits, conversations, and activity of millions of individuals at once. And with an upgrade scheduled for later this year, the top contender to win the federal contract and thus take over the program is a team of about a dozen companies which were brought together in large part by Aaron Barr - the same disgraced CEO who resigned from his own firm earlier this year after he was discovered to have planned a full-scale information war against political activists at the behest of corporate clients. The new revelation provides for a disturbing picture, particularly when viewed in a wider context.” He warns that this apparatus could be used within the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Details to come.

12:10 So what are these Barrett Brown revelations allegedly coming today in the NYT and Guardian?

12:05 US Navy’s response to Manning’s Article 139 complaint, via Manning lawyer. . 'The Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Juan M. Garcia, apparently acting under a delegation of authority, determined that CWO4 James Averhart did not exceed his authority or abuse his discretion when he kept PFC Manning isolated for 23 hours a day in Maximum Custody and under Prevention of Injury Watch. Mr. Garcia’s determination did not address PFC Manning’s amended Article 138 complaint against the current commander of the Quantico Brig, Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes.”

From late Tuesday

More from Kevin Donohue on new cables and Mexico: The Wash Post reports that transnational drug cartels are “carving out new sanctuaries” and muscling their way through the Mexico-Guatemala border into “Central America’s weak states.” According to diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks “Guatemala has only a single helicopter and five pick-up trucks to patrol its entire border with Mexico” — putting both the US and Mexico at risk.

The Guardian with update on arrest of alleged key Lulz hacker—though this role is much disputed.

WikiLeaks responds to the alleged spreading of fear about Bitcoin — see very bottom of this Atlantic blog post.

Assange turns 40 on July 3 and his “WikiMum” (as she is dubbed here) wants a global show of support, maybe even a LiveAid kind of thing…

Been waiting for this: Rightwing Media Research Council releases “study” charging mainstream media ignoring fact that Bradley Manning is gay and that real cause of what he allegedly did was failed relationship and “emotional fragility.” All due to “political correctness.” Concludes by asking the networks: “if they feel compelled to ask ‘why would he possibly do it?’ they are obligated to report all of what they find out, even if it upsets their liberal sensibilities.”

Via @ evgenymorozov New academic paper: “WikiLeaks Affects: Ideology, Conflict and the Revolutionary Virtual” http://t.co/C0x4mkY

From my assistant Kevin Donohue: Getting quite a bit of attention in the Mexican Press: While previous cables released by WikiLeaks showed serious US doubts about the effectiveness former Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chávez, cables released today show that American diplomats believed that Chávez had actually lent a “helping hand” to the cartels while serving as Attorney General in Chilhauaha during the 1990s.

The Telegraph: Lulz allegedly hacks 2011 census. Lulz denies via Twitter—saying they would have advertised it in advance. Then press reports possible Lulz leader, age 19, busted. And Lulz then denies that via Twitter. Wild.

 

Even After Years of Media Slams: Adults Often Wreck Youth Sports

Hardly a week goes by -- if you pay attention, as I still do -- without an incident of threats, violence, or other unsavory activity at a youth baseball or soccer game, usually involving not kids but adults.   I was surfing TV last night and a cable talk show was up in arms over a mother on Long Island threatening a Little League manager and others when her son did not make the team's travel squad (that's her pictured below).  Often it's a coach attacking an umpire, or a rival coach,  with words, fists or even a bat.   Or setting a horrid example by cheating again and again.

Even at a higher level of ball the adults in authority sometimes ruin it for children.  This past Sunday, my son and I went to the local minor league baseball park, which had just opened for the team's first season, for a game on Father's Day.  Yesterday the game ended with the opposing team's manager nearly getting into a brawl with the umps -- in an area where kids gather for autographs after the game.  The manager?  As a Mets fan, my all-time favorite player -- former Red Sox great Billy Buckner, who blew a ground ball, and the 1986 World Series,  by giving my team a second chance to win.

It's disheartening that so little has changed since my days as a Little League manager (still the only local coach, ahem, to pilot a team here to the Final Four in New York State) and the many pieces in the media critical of adults who wreck youth sports.    A few years ago I wrote a book partly about this, titled Joy In Mudville, an otherwise comic look at coaching my son one season.  Here's a rather timeless  excerpt that relates to parents' misbehavior.

*

The American Psychiatric Association recently sponsored a symposium entitled "Youth Sports: Character Building or Child Abuse?" Youth baseball takes place in a cultural milieu where fistfights between adults can break out on a ball field filled with children. It's the kind of world where an umpire kicks a twelve-year-old catcher out of a playoff game for not wearing a "cup." The catcher was a girl. Coaches, parents, and league officials argued about it for a week. Then the lawyers got involved. Only in America.

 Although our season had ended early, the playoffs rolled on, climaxing in a typical Little League altercation.

The Giants and Rockies would meet in a three-game series to decide the champion. The Giants, coached by a burly Valley Cottage fellow, were heavily favored over the Rockies, managed by a Nyack photographer. It was another hot day at Memorial Park. Starting in the first inning, from near the Giants' bench, the father of one of their players started heckling the veteran umpire on every close call. The ump called time and warned the father to cut it out, but the tall, muscular man said, essentially, "You and what army?" The Giants' manager claimed he couldn't control this guy.

So the ump threw the father out of the game (that is, out of the spectators' section). Easier said than done, without the aforementioned army. Finally, under threat of forfeit, the heckler promised to not say another word to the umpire -- and spent the remainder of the game taunting opposing players, reducing some of them to tears. After all that, the Giants ground out a 10-5 win. When the Rockies' manager said he'd play the next day only if the league sent a board member to ump the game, one of the Giants' parents called him a "wimp."

The issue of adult violence in youth sports becomes scarier every year. Parents assault coaches with far more than words, and "Kill the ump!" no longer is an idle threat. In Riverdale, Georgia, a coach shot a father in the arm after the dad complained that his son was not pitching enough. A T-ball coach in Wagoner, Oklahoma, was sentenced to twelve days in jail for choking a fifteen-year-old umpire during a game. T-ball, incidentally, is a game played by five- and six-year-olds.

The majority of managers control their emotions -- and a lifetime of sports frustrations -- fairly well, but some believe in winning at all costs, leading to what is known as Little League Rage. In a recent article on this subject, The New York Times reported, "Adult misbehavior is becoming a familiar blight on children's games in all sports....Fathers yell at coaches. Mothers belittle players. And umpires are attacked. Game officials have long taken verbal abuse, of course. But now they are shoved and spat on, even stabbed and shot."

The national umpires' association plans to offer members a new benefit: assault insurance. Still, it's getting harder to find umps to absorb threats and abuse for $15 to $25 a game. Youth leagues in Houston, Texas, now require background checks on all coaches. Some leagues have stopped keeping score to dampen competitive flame-outs. A league in Jupiter, Florida, recently became the first to require all parents to take a one-hour "ethics" course.

"Parents and coaches have lost perspective on what sports is about," an official with the umpires' association observes. Consider the following incident: A youth baseball manager in Boca Raton, Florida, was recently charged with disorderly conduct for "mooning" players and fans from the pitcher's mound after his team lost a tournament game. Witnesses said he stood on the mound, yelled at the opposing team, pulled down his pants, and exposed his back side. Then he turned around and did it again. He later told police he was simply bending down to pick up some caps and gloves. "I know my pants are constantly falling down," he explained. "My wife calls it plumber's butt." Good line, but it sounds like his upstairs pipes are leaking.

A couple of years ago, ABC News documented the climax of a typical Little League season in Hagerstown, Maryland, for a two-hour Peter Jennings special. Jennings wanted to find out "what makes Little League so exciting and occasionally terrifying." He certainly got his wish. The league's all-stars -- one of them a very talented girl -- advanced far along the road to a state title. Their manager admitted, however, that he was a "sexist" and didn't believe girls should be on the team or allowed to play Little League at all. "Girls should be cheerleaders," he affirmed. Another manager got thrown out of a game for arguing with umpires, then verbally attacked a league official, leading to a one-year suspension.

The ABC microphones overheard a parent tell his boy, after he struck out in a big game: "When you get home I'm going to get you tonight, because you let me down...I'll get you, buddy." Confronted with this evidence, the father told Jennings that sometimes his son gets lazy and he has to hit him. His wife, sitting next to him, looked forlorn, and told Jennings that she didn't agree with this philosophy. A viewer had to worry about what happened to her when she got home.

One player in the league, a talented catcher, gained a reputation as a troublemaker, harassing opposing players, umpires, and even his own coaches. "He's bad," his father told Jennings, "but not all bad." When the kid got passed over for the all-stars, Dad ambushed the manager, knocked him down and kicked him, then told ABC he was "glad" he did it.

And this all happened at the end of one season in one league.

Looking ahead to another season, I worried about violence, even in our relatively sane league, for I'd heard stories about local coaches and fathers going Duke City out in the parking lot after a game.

Perhaps that's why I always taught our Little League teams to have fun and not worry about hitting home runs. Most coaches say they don't care about winning, and all of us lie, but I rarely pushed the competitive buttons. This led to a mixed record over the years.  Winning is nice -- for one thing, it helps get parents off your back -- but I'd gladly settle for breaking even every year.

Still, I enjoyed being back on a ball field and helping a few kids, while making sure that my son had fun and avoided playing for an evil manager. These are typical reasons dads coach Little League. Even the lunatics don't want their kid playing for another lunatic.

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The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Tuesday, June 21

As I’ve done for over six months, I’m updating news and views on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning all day, with new items added at the top. All times ET. Contact me at epic1934@aol.com. Read about my books The Age of WikiLeaks in print or as an e-book, and Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences as e-book and print. Just out: first e-book edition of my book Why Obama Won and Lessons for 2012.

UPDATE: The Wednesday edition of this blog.

11:10 US Navy’s response to Manning’s Article 139 complaint, via Manning lawyer: “The Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Juan M. Garcia, apparently acting under a delegation of authority, determined that CWO4 James Averhart did not exceed his authority or abuse his discretion when he kept PFC Manning isolated for 23 hours a day in Maximum Custody and under Prevention of Injury Watch. Mr. Garcia’s determination did not address PFC Manning’s amended Article 138 complaint against the current commander of the Quantico Brig, Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes.”

11:00 Barrett Brown revelations reportedly coming Wednesday in NYT and Guardian.

6:15 More from Kevin Donohue on new cables and Mexico: The Wash Post reports that transnational drug cartels are “carving out new sanctuaries” and muscling their way through the Mexico-Guatemala border into “Central America’s weak states.” According to diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks “Guatemala has only a single helicopter and five pick-up trucks to patrol its entire border with Mexico”—putting both the US and Mexico at risk.

5:30 The Guardian with update on arrest of alleged key Lulz hacker—though this role is much disputed.

5:25 WikiLeaks responds to the alleged spreading of fear about Bitcoin—see very bottom of this Atlantic blog post.

5:20 Assange turns 40 on July 3 and his “WikiMum” (as she is dubbed here) wants a global show of support, maybe even a LiveAid kind of thing…

3:25 Been waiting for this: Rightwing Media Research Council releases “study” charging mainstream media ignoring fact that Bradley Manning is gay and that real cause of what he allegedly did was failed relationship and “emotional fragility.” All due to “political correctness.” Concludes by asking the networks: “if they feel compelled to ask ‘why would he possibly do it?’ they are obligated to report all of what they find out, even if it upsets their liberal sensibilities.”

1:25 Via @ evgenymorozov New academic paper: “WikiLeaks Affects: Ideology, Conflict and the Revolutionary Virtual” http://t.co/C0x4mkY

2:05 From my assistant Kevin Donohue: Getting quite a bit of attention in the Mexican Press: While previous cables released by WikiLeaks showed serious US doubts about the effectiveness former Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chávez, cables released today show that American diplomats believed that Chávez had actually lent a “helping hand” to the cartels while serving as Attorney General in Chilhauaha during the 1990s.

9:25 The Telegraph: Lulz allegedly hacks 2011 census. Lulz denies via Twitter—saying they would have advertised it in advance. Then press reports possible Lulz leader, age 19, busted. And Lulz then denies that via Twitter. Wild.

For key background, see my books The Age of WikiLeaks in print or as an e-book, and Bradley Manning, Truth and Consequences as e-book and print.

7:50 Teen arrested for recent Sony hack.

6:30 Glenn Greenwald tweets: “Other than criticize WikiLeaks, has OpenLeaks actually done anything yet? Not asking rhetorically, but genuinely.”

6:25 Waiting for WikiLeaks to release name of Rosy Larsen’s killer.

6:20 Another place at the auction table available for the Assange Lunch. And a new play about him.

From late Monday

New diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show that the Czech government sold surplus Soviet-era ammunition to American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan via private US and Czech contractors. At some points Czech firms were overextending themselves so much that they were forced to buy ammunition from Chinese subcontractors and sell it to the Americans.

From my assistant Kevin Donohue: The Atlantic calls “Nothing Stays Secret” one of the 14 Big Ideas of the Year and The Washington Post’s Dana Priest writes in the July/August Ideas issue that “Washington, for its part, condemned, then investigated, and now may try to haul to prison Assange and his cohorts—a response that proves how little our government understands the technological and social revolution happening all around it…. Forcing the U.S. government to give up its addiction to secrecy in foreign affairs might be a good thing in the long term, although painful in the short term. After all, international relations based on secret-keeping—like relations between people who have something to hide—are inherently fragile.”

ZDnet putting up guy’s dissertation on the history of WikiLeaks in installments. Here’s the early years.

NYT uses WikiLeaks cables to evaluate new GOP prez candidate Huntsman’s tenure as Obama ambassador to China.

Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now! talking about Manning backers risking arrest.

The Financial Times interviews chief WikiLeaks spokesman.

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The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Monday, June 20

As I’ve done for over six months, I’m updating news and views on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning all day, with new items added at the top. All times ET. Contact me at epic1934@aol.com. Read about my books The Age of WikiLeaks in print or as an e-book, and Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences as e-book and print. Just out: first e-book edition of my book Why Obama Won and Lessons for 2012.

5:40 New diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show that the Czech government sold surplus Soviet-era ammunition to American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan via private US and Czech contractors. At some points Czech firms were overextending themselves so much that they were forced to buy ammunition from Chinese subcontractors and sell it to the Americans.

5:35 From my assistant Kevin Donohue: The Atlantic calls “Nothing Stays Secret” one of the 14 Big Ideas of the Year and The Washington Post’s Dana Priest writes in the July/August Ideas issue that “Washington, for its part, condemned, then investigated, and now may try to haul to prison Assange and his cohorts—a response that proves how little our government understands the technological and social revolution happening all around it…
Forcing the US government to give up its addiction to secrecy in foreign affairs might be a good thing in the long term, although painful in the short term. After all, international relations based on secret-keeping—like relations between people who have something to hide—are inherently fragile.”

5:00 ZDnet putting up guy’s dissertation on the history of WikiLeaks in installments. Here’s the early years.

11:40: NYT uses WikiLeaks cables to evaluate tenure of new GOP prez candidate Huntsman’s tenure as Obama ambassador to China.

11:35 Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now! talking about Manning backers risking arrest.

10:15 The Financial Times interviews chief WikiLeaks spokesman.

9:45 Kim Ives at the Guardian: What the Haiti Leaks really reveal about US role. “The US continues to force its policies and interests on nations around the globe, either through diplomatic intrigues, economic sanctions or outright war. And here is where the WikiLeaked cables may contribute to breaking this infernal cycle of US intervention.”

9:40 Dan Ellsberg calls on US to release the infamous and long hidden “Garani Massacre” video.

9:35 Reports that Lulz and Anonymous have joined forces?

9:30 Our pal, Michael Parenti, a k a ExiledSurfer, interviews ex-WikiLeaks James Ball (who natually has written a book).

1:30 New film “leaked” on YouTube—about hacking and hackers and featuring Adrian Lamo, narrated by Kevin Spacey.

12:00 Assange lunch auction at eBay in final hours…

From late Sunday

How can you resist this @WikiLeaks tweet? Sex, Buddhism and ballroom dancing: WikiLeaks reveals Beijing underbelly http://t.co/SglP3uA

See T-shirt with image used for cover of Japanese edition, coming later this month, of my Age of WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks: Surprisingly few Cubans can name US-backed dissidents.

Wash Post with piece on what US calls in WikiLeaks cable “the Nigerian Taliban.”

See my piece here recalling meeting the late Clarence Clemons in 1972—at Sing Sing. Plus video about that fateful day (also met some guy named Springstein or Springstine or something).

Remembering Clarence Clemons—Early Days With 'The Big Man'

Perhaps you’ve heard, Clarence Clemons, “The Big Man” in the E Street Band, passed away today, a week after suffering a massive stroke, at the age of 69. It’s hard to imagine him silent, both musically and verbally. He could really talk, in both ways.

When I met Clarence and Bruce Springsteen on December 7, 1972—in Sing Sing Prison—I could not have imagined what was to come, for both of them. Bruce had just been inked as a solo act by Columbia Records, another “new Dylan” (especially since John Hammond signed him), but quickly decided to hire a rocking band of Jerseyites, plus transplanted Virginian Clemons. Clarence was huge and hugely friendly as I got to know him over the new few years, backstage at many a club gig and concert, in the studio and running around the Jersey shore. He was not only the big man in the group but the wild man, a party in motion, and with tales of having played with James Brown, no less. Unlike Brucie, he liked his weed and wine, and always flirted with my girlfriends. No crime, no foul.

Now, to Sing Sing, in a nutshell. For nearly all of the 1970s, I worked as the #2 editor at the legendary rock/political magazine Crawdaddy. One day in early December 1972, I got a call from a fast-talking chap named Mike Appel, inviting me to a promo gig for his client, someone named Bruce Springsteen. Actually, I knew the name somewhat because Billboard had reported that a kid had been signed by John Hammond at Columbia who just might be “the new Dylan”—a claim that had doomed many before him. I had mentioned this in an item a few weeks earlier, spelling the kid’s name “Springstein.”

Anyway, the invite was modestly intriguing and then Mike mentioned that the gig was in… Sing Sing Prison, an hour or so up the river from Manhattan. Well, I’d always wanted to step inside The Big House (as a visitor, anyway), and always had a weakness for those “new Dylans,” so I accepted, as did my friend and top editor, Peter Knobler.

So we showed up on the morning of December 7, 1972, under an overpass of the West Side Highway and climbed into the band’s van, where we learned that besides Peter and myself, not a single other member of the New York rock world had accepted the invite.

Off we went. Space prevents a full account of that amazing day at Sing Sing (you can watch my video about it here), but suffice to say, Clarence saved the day after the cons did not take a liking to folk-rocking Brucie at first. We thought they might even rush the stage, and not in a good way. But Bruce wisely pushed the Big Man out front and cycled into an epic fifteen-minute version of “Them Changes.” The crowd settled in for a set of R&B with Clarence as the focus. An inmate even jumped on stage and instead of whipping out a shiv he took out a tiny sax — and proceeded to jam with Clarence and Bruce.

That night I attended the band’s first real New York gig at Kenny’s Castaways. Bruce played solo for twenty minutes then said, “Let’s bring up the band.” Clarence blew the roof off. Then we got a test pressing of Greetings from Asbury Park. We were so knocked out—a favorite moment was Clarence’s solo on “Spirits in the Night” — that Peter, with my help, produced a 10,000-word piece for our next issue titled, “Who is Bruce Springsteen and Why Are We Saying These Wonderful Things About Him?”

Later Crawdaddy produced the first cover story on the kid, and Bruce and Clarence remained buddies for years after.  I fondly recall the day we challenged the E Streeters to a softball game in Jersey.  They took the game seriously at that time and had bought the best equipment and shirts.  Clarence, a former athlete who had tried out for a couple of pro footballs teams, or so he said, naturally was their slugger.

Peter even managed Clarence for awhile and the Big Man played his wedding. Best wedding music ever. Thanks for that, and “Jungleland,” all the laughs and all the rest, Big Man.

Contact me at epic1934@aol.com. My current books : "The Age of WikiLeaks" in print or as an e-book, and "Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences"  as e-book and print.

One Year Ago: First Questions Raised About Bradley Manning–Adrian Lamo 'Chats'

The Bradley Manning case returned to the public eye this week, with the appearance of his friend David House before the federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va. probing possible prosecution of WikiLeaks and leader Julian Assange. House refused to answer questions, but later reported that all of the queries concerned Manning. He added, however, that he believed a prime focus of the feds is establishing a direct link between the soldier (now jailed at Leavenworth in Kansas after a long stay in near-solitary confinement at Quantico) and Assange.

The Manning court martial still is not set, so he has now spent 13 months in prison pre-trial.

Despite that, most Americans are still not well aware of the events leading up to Manning’s arrest, and why his supporters believe that he was unfairly “set up” for arrest or in any deserves mercy due to the unsavory way it went down. As it happens, the first questions about this were raised exactly a year ago, in a column by Glenn Greenwald at Salon covering Wired’s publication of excerpts from the “chat logs” that led to Manning’s arrest. Most of his concerns raised then remain valid today. This an excerpt from my current book Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences (e-book here and print here.)

*  * *

On June 18, 2010, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald arrived with an impassioned, lengthy probe on the “strange” and “mysterious” Lamo/Manning story, based on a week of research and interviews with both Adrian Lamo (on tape) and Wired editor Kevin Poulsen (via e-mail).

“A definitive understanding of what really happened,” Greenwald warned, “is virtually impossible to acquire, largely because almost everything that is known comes from a single, extremely untrustworthy source: Lamo himself.” But he charged, “Lamo, who holds himself out as a ‘journalist’ and told Manning he was one, acted instead as government informant, notifying federal authorities of what Manning allegedly told him, and then proceeded to question Manning for days as he met with federal agents, leading to Manning’s detention.”

Readers who had followed only the sketchy mainstream reports on the case might have muttered “huh?” upon reading that. But Greenwald had done his homework. He traced the odd meeting up of Lamo and Manning, and Lamo’s past associations with Poulsen. For one thing: “Lamo typically sought media publicity after his hacking adventures, and almost always used Poulsen to provide that publicity.” Poulsen “out of nowhere” wrote the piece in May which Manning read, the one that profiled Lamo and mentioned his recent treatment for mental health issues.

But Greenwald also pointed to “the bizarre aspects” of this case: “Why would a 22-year-old Private in Iraq have unfettered access to 250,000 pages of diplomatic cables so sensitive that they ‘could do serious damage to national security?’ Why would he contact a total stranger, whom he randomly found from a Twitter search, in order to ‘quickly’ confess to acts that he knew could send him to prison for a very long time, perhaps his whole life? And why would he choose to confess over the Internet, in an unsecured, international AOL IM chat, given the obvious ease with which that could be preserved, intercepted or otherwise surveilled? These are the actions of someone either unbelievably reckless or actually eager to be caught…”

Greenwald admitted that the series of events was not completely implausible, but added: “Still, the apparent ease with which Manning quickly spilled his guts in such painstaking detail over an Internet chat concerning such serious crimes—and then proceeded to respond to Lamo’s very specific and probing interrogations over days without ever once worrying that he could not trust Lamo—is strange in the extreme.”

He disclosed that in his phone interview, Lamo said “he told Manning early on that he was a journalist and thus could offer him confidentiality for everything they discussed under California’s shield law. Lamo also said he told Manning that he was an ordained minister and could treat Manning’s talk as a confession, which would then compel Lamo under the law to keep their discussions confidential…. In sum, Lamo explicitly led Manning to believe he could trust him and that their discussions would be confidential—perhaps legally required to be kept confidential—only to then report everything Manning said to the Government.

“Worse, Lamo breached his own confidentiality commitments and turned informant without having the slightest indication that Manning had done anything to harm national security. Indeed, Lamo acknowledged to me that he was incapable of identifying a single fact contained in any documents leaked by Manning that would harm national security.”

Greenwald declared that, if anything, Manning was a hero, and reproduced this Manning quote from the chat log related to the Iraq video: “god knows what happens now—hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms—if not, than we’re doomed—as a species—i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens….”

Lamo had told Greenwald, “I’ve always considered myself a pretty hard leftist. And for me to go out and sit down with investigators from the department of the Army was a massive and aberrant departure from what I would normally do.” He also called Manning “heroic” for releasing the Iraq video, while deploring the other alleged leaks.

Still, Lamo was unhappy with Greenwald’s post, explaining, “I politely explained the events of the Manning case. Little or none of my explanation ended up in the finished article. What parts did, were spun like a tweaker on payday.”

But Greenwald’s main concern going forward was for Wired to release the full text of the chat logs. He pointed out that the Washington Post had quoted parts which Wired had not published, “proving” that Wired was withholding more than just personal issues and national security secrets. “Lamo gave Wired the full, unedited version of his chat logs with Manning,” he observed, “but Wired published only extremely edited samplings of it….

“[I]n his interview with me, Lamo claimed that all sorts of things took place in the discussion between him and Manning that are (a) extremely relevant to what happened, (b) have nothing to do with Manning’s personal issues or sensitive national security secrets, and yet (c) are nowhere to be found in the chat logs published by Wired. That means either that Lamo is lying about what was said or Wired is concealing highly relevant aspects of their discussions. Included among that is Manning’s explanation about how he found Lamo and why he contacted him, Manning’s alleged claim that his ‘intention was to cripple the United States’ foreign relations for the foreseeable future,’ and discussions they had about the capacity in which they were speaking…

“From the start, there were countless bizarre aspects to Lamo’s story which Poulsen never examined or explored, at least not when writing about any of this. I see no reason to doubt Poulsen’s integrity or good faith. Still, in light of the magnitude of this story on several levels and his long relationship with Lamo, Kevin Poulsen should not be single-handedly deciding what the public is and isn’t permitted to know about the Lamo-Manning interaction.”

(Note: Greenwald, near the end of the year, wrote another influential column calling for release of the full chat logs. Wired refused to do that, but disclosed that there was nothing in the unpublished sections that directly linked Manning to Assange.)

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