Titanic Orphans A Tale of Survival

Original article can be read here; http://news.yahoo.com/photos/titanic-orphans-a-tale-of-survival-slideshow/titanic-orphans-photo-1332875325.html#crsl=%252Fphotos%252Ftitanic-orphans-a-tale-of-survival-slideshow%252Ftitanic-orphans-photo-1332875316.html

Brothers Michel Navratil, 4, and Edmond, 2, were placed onto one of the last lifeboats by their father before the disastrous sinking of the Titanic. Their father did not make it off the doomed vessel, making the two youngsters the only parent-less children aboard the ship. Referred to as ‘Louis and Lola’ in newspaper articles, their mother was eventually located and reunited with her children one month after the catastrophe.

Michel and Edmond Navratil, ages 4 and 2, were traveling with their father to America aboard the Titanic. Their father did not make it off the sinking vessel, leaving the two young boys without a guardian or way to be identified.
Michel and Edmond Navratil, ages 4 and 2, were traveling with their father to America aboard the Titanic. Their father did not make it off the sinking vessel, leaving the two young boys without a guardian or way to be identified.

 

Michel and Edmond Navratil reunited with their mother, Marcelle, in New York City one month after the Titanic disaster. The children's parents had recently separated, and what was supposed to be a weekend stay with their father turned into a trip on the Titanic to start a new life in America without Marcelle.

 

Titanic survivors Michel and Edmond Navratil were referred to in newspaper articles as 'Louis and Lola' before they were identified.
Titanic survivors Michel and Edmond Navratil were referred to in newspaper articles as 'Louis and Lola' before they were identified.

 

Crowds in New York awaiting the arrival of Titanic survivors rescued by the Carpathia.
Crowds in New York awaiting the arrival of Titanic survivors rescued by the Carpathia.

 

 

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Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC. April 4, 2012

Mark C. Toner

Deputy Spokesperson

TRANSCRIPT: 1:07 p.m. EDT

MR. TONER: Just before we get started, welcome to the State Department. And excuse me, I don’t want a BlackBerry interruption. I just realized that. Forgive me. And I also especially want to welcome – we have interns from SCA and NEA here in the building today, or in the room with us today, so welcome to all of you. I don’t have anything at the top.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. TONER: So go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: So the Iranians now say they don’t like Istanbul as a venue. They propose some alternatives. Are you up for considering alternatives? And, if so, I’ve got some suggestions. Would you – (laughter) – Bahamas?

MR. TONER: I don’t think it’s up for us to consider.

QUESTION: Shanghai.

MR. TONER: That would be nice. I don’t think it’s for us to suggest any alternatives. I think what’s happening right now is that the EU’s office of the high representative is continuing to consult and work out the details with our Iranian counterparts on the venue. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. But – well, all that’s well and good, but, I mean, are you still under the – going on the assumption – or is it still your position that these talks should be held in Istanbul?

MR. TONER: Well, again, they’re clearly trying to nail down the venue. Obviously – Secretary spoke about this the other day – it was our understanding or belief that all sides agreed on Istanbul and the dates. We’ve seen, subsequently, some other venues tossed around. But really, the – it’s the high representative offices we need to finalize this.

QUESTION: Sure. Fair enough, but —

MR. TONER: But we’re looking – no, just to finish, Matt – so, I mean, we’re looking to finalize all these details so that we can actually get into talks.

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

MR. TONER: The focus should be on the substance.

QUESTION: For you, for the United States, is the idea of having these – having this meeting in Baghdad or Damascus, is that a feasible – is that a reasonable alternative?

QUESTION: Beijing? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Again, I’m not going to give you a grade on every venue that’s tossed out there.

QUESTION: Well, all right. Let’s just start with Damascus. Do you think that it’s actually feasible for – from a logistical point of view?

MR. TONER: Again, I don’t think we have the time to go through this list. Again, it is the high representative’s lead on this. They’re working with the Iranians to finalize it. We keep hearing different things from the Iranians. Let her office have the lead, talk to the Iranians, nail down these venues. What I think is the most important here is that we get into talks so we can focus on the substance and not the venue.

QUESTION: Well, then is there any place you wouldn’t go?

MR. TONER: (Laughter.) Again —

QUESTION: I mean, Bamako? Where – is there a place that is absolutely —

MR. TONER: No. Seriously, Matt, I mean we’re —

QUESTION: I’m being – trying to be serious.

MR. TONER: Yeah – no —

QUESTION: I want to find out if there is – if there are – if a venue – if the choice of venue could crater this before it even happens because you guys are opposed to it. Now, I mean, frankly, the Iranians suggesting Damascus is a bit ludicrous. And I would think that you could say that from the podium considering what the situation —

MR. TONER: I actually hadn’t seen that. I had seen that they had suggested —

QUESTION: They’ve also suggested Baghdad.

MR. TONER: I had seen that they had suggested Baghdad.

QUESTION: But you guys – well, Baghdad, you guys —

MR. TONER: I had not seen Damascus —

QUESTION: You think that Baghdad —

MR. TONER: — seen Beijing.

QUESTION: You said Baghdad last week was a wonderful venue for the Arab League summit. So what’s wrong with it for this?

MR. TONER: Again, it’s not our place right now to weigh in on this process. First of all, it’s not just about the United States. This is about the P-5+1 working together in concert to engage with the Iranians to find a workable venue for these talks to continue or to go – or to begin.

QUESTION: Okay. I don’t – I won’t –

MR. TONER: So —

QUESTION: You’re not going to answer, but I don’t think it’s out of line to ask what you guys think is a reasonable or not reasonable venue.

MR. TONER: And – yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Back to the substance?

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: You said that what’s important is the substance here, right? So if what is important is the substance, isn’t the venue pretty much a matter of indifference? I mean, if you’re – if they’re willing to have a substantive, serious conversation, why should the venue be so hard to pin down? Why don’t you guys just agree to a venue?

MR. TONER: Well, again, it speaks to – it’s not just the United States; it’s the EU, it’s the other P-5+1 partners. There’s timing, there’s schedules, there’s all – there’s a lot of logistics that weigh into this process. So again, it’s not really for us to go out and offer our viewpoint or our opinion. I think what’s best now is for High Representative Ashton’s office to take all of that under consideration, speak directly to the Iranians, nail down the venue, and then we can get into talks.

QUESTION: Do you think the Iranians are playing games with you?

MR. TONER: I truly don’t know. I mean, Toria spoke a little bit yesterday about the fact that – I think it was yesterday – about we tend to hear different things from different parts of the Iranian Government. That’s a

QUESTION for the Iranians. What we’re looking for – we’ve seen an official response that they want to get back into talks, so we’re eager to do that.

QUESTION: And I think Mr. Zebari is quoted as saying – Foreign Minister Zebari is quoted as saying that he is looking for a written response from the P-5+1 to the idea of Baghdad as a potential venue.

MR. TONER: I’m actually not aware of that, so I don’t have an answer for you.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you —

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: The President and the Secretary have both repeatedly said it’s incumbent on the Iranians to prove the seriousness of their intent and the peaceful nature of their program. Bearing that in mind, why would you even negotiate on the venue? I mean, they suggested Istanbul, you’ve accepted. Say you’re showing up on the 13th and if they don’t show up, they fail. Why do you need to go through this whole negotiation?

MR. TONER: Well, again, our intent here is to have productive, ongoing talks. And as you said, we want Iran to come to these talks with a seriousness of purpose, trying to address the international community’s concerns. It is – as I said before, it’s not for us to determine. It’s for the P-5+1, speaking with one voice, to consult with the Iranians, find an acceptable venue. We believed it was Istanbul. We’ve heard other things, but again, it’s unclear who’s speaking with authority within the Iranian Government. So it’s best for us, really, to work through Cathy Ashton, who has the lead on this.

QUESTION: Okay. If they were to back out of Istanbul, their own preferred destination, what would that say about the seriousness of their intent?

MR. TONER: Let’s let that happen. Let’s see how we go forward here. We believe that we can nail down the venue and have the talks on the 13th and 14th.

QUESTION: Mark, why shouldn’t an outsider looking at this view this as somewhat akin to arguing over the shape of the table?

MR. TONER: I mean, that’s – look, it’s fair that venue should not trump substance, and I think I said that. We want to settle the venue issues so we can get to the substance of these talks. But I think that when you consider that – and again, it’s not just about the U.S., it’s not just about Iran, it’s not just about the EU; it’s about a number of different countries and organizations coming to the same table on the same day or days to talk about these issues. There’s some level of coordination that needs to take place there. It’s best that that’s handled through the EU and not through public statements conjecturing this place or how about this place. Let’s let the Iranians talk to the EU, and there’s two point – there’s one point of contact there so that they can iron this out.

QUESTION: And one small last one on this.

MR. TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: It’s hypothetical, but I think you probably can answer it. If these talks do actually occur, will the United States be represented by Under Secretary Sherman?

MR. TONER: It’s been that – that’s been the —

QUESTION: In the past.

MR. TONER: — case in the past, so yes, we expect that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. TONER: That’s it? We’re done? Anything else? Any other —

QUESTION: A different topic?

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just a couple days after the United States announced this reward money for Hafiz Saeed, he very openly called a press conference in Rawalpindi. What’s the U.S. reaction to that? Do you think that the Pakistani authorities should have allowed that, or should they have arrested him?

MR. TONER: Look, just a couple of clarifications about the Rewards for Justice against Hafiz Saeed. I’m aware that he did give a press conference yesterday, made some public statements. Let’s be very clear because I’ve been getting

QUESTIONs all morning, “Hey, if you know where he is, why issue this reward?” Just to clarify, the $10 million is for information that – not about his location, but information that leads to an arrest or conviction. And this is information that could withstand judicial scrutiny, so I think what’s important here is we’re not seeking this guy’s location. We all know where he is. Every journalist in Pakistan and in the region knows how to find him. But we’re looking for information that can be usable to convict him in a court of law.

QUESTION: I thought that information was already out there. The Indians certainly seem to say that they have it.

MR. TONER: Well, the Indians do, and I’d refer you to the Indians and the Pakistanis to talk about their counterterrorism cooperation, but we’re —

QUESTION: Were you ever able to find out how much money the Indians have ponied up for a reward?

MR. TONER: I don’t – Matt, did you ask that yesterday? I’m sorry if you didn’t.

QUESTION: Yes, I did.

MR. TONER: I didn’t – I thought you – I thought we had only gotten the

QUESTION about —

QUESTION: I’m just curious as to why the U.S. taxpayer should pay for this.

MR. TONER: Well, I think we talked about – a little bit about this yesterday. One is that —

QUESTION: I understand. I mean, if you want to join with the Indians in offering some kind of a joint reward, but I don’t understand why the conference down —

MR. TONER: Well, you know how our Rewards for Justice works. It’s a very effective program and it’s not a joint program; it’s something that we do on behalf of the United States.

QUESTION: No, no. I mean, I’m not talking about – I mean, if you wanted to add this to whatever the Indians might be offering, I thought that would make – that would – I suppose that would make sense. I just don’t understand.

MR. TONER: I don’t – I just know that (inaudible) —

QUESTION: And if he’s already been indicted – as Toria said yesterday, if he’s already been indicted, presumably the prosecutors have information; otherwise he wouldn’t have been indicted.

MR. TONER: You’re talking about he’s indicted within the U.S. or indicted —

QUESTION: Anywhere.

MR. TONER: Anywhere. Well, again, I think – look, I think what they’re trying to – we’re trying to get information that can be used to put this gentleman behind bars.

QUESTION: Are you saying that there is no information right now that could – that you could prosecute him for?

MR. TONER: There is information, there is intelligence that is not necessarily usable in a court of law.

QUESTION: So, there – really? There is not – there isn’t information out there that could be used to prosecute?

MR. TONER: I think that the Rewards for Justice announcement speaks for itself, insofar as saying that they’re looking for evidence that can be used against him that implicates him —

QUESTION: Mark —

MR. TONER: — in a court of law.

QUESTION: There’s something I don’t understand, which is —

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: I mean, I went back and I read the Rewards for Justice posting on it, and the reasons given are fairly old reasons, including that he is suspected of masterminding the Mumbai attacks. That was three and a half years ago, right? Why now? I mean, why would it take years to decide to put him on the Rewards for Justice Program?

MR. TONER: Sure. I mean, I – first of all, as you saw with the 9/11 attacks, we don’t ever necessarily – there’s no statute of limitations on these terrorist attacks —

QUESTION: (Sneezes.)

MR. TONER: — God bless you – statute of limitations on these kinds of terrorist attacks. I do know that there are – when we nominate someone for the Rewards for Justice, there is a legal process that needs to take place, or an internal process that needs to take place in order to designate him. I’m not sure how long that process is and how – when it began, but it does take some amount of time. But I also —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) years?

MR. TONER: Not years, undoubtedly.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) forgive me, but it was months, right? So, I mean —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

MR. TONER: Yeah, Cami.

QUESTION: I thought Toria had said yesterday or the day before as well that the Pakistanis were aware of this, and yet we’ve got a statement today from the foreign minister saying that the U.S. must provide concrete evidence if it wants Islamabad to act against it. So it would seem like there’s some confusion on the part of the Pakistani Government as well.

MR. TONER: On the contrary. I think it speaks to the fact of what we’re looking for, which is people to step forward that can provide that kind of evidence that the Pakistanis can then arrest this individual and try him.

QUESTION: But Pakistan’s saying they want the U.S. to provide that concrete evidence.

MR. TONER: I don’t – I’m not aware that they said the U.S. I think that they are looking for usable evidence against him.

QUESTION: All right. To clarify, so —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — the U.S. doesn’t have any concrete evidence at the moment that can implicate him?

MR. TONER: Well, again, I think the announcement speaks very clearly to the fact that we’re looking for evidence that can withstand judicial scrutiny against this individual, information that can be used against him to convict him in a court of law.

QUESTION: And how does the timing of this announcement – does it in any way impact on U.S.-Pakistan relations when the parliament is debating the way forward? Is it –

MR. TONER: No. It has nothing to do with the ongoing parliamentary review. I think Toria spoke to that and de-conflicted it all and said that yesterday. It’s – this is about a process in and of itself, separate and apart from our ongoing bilateral relations with Pakistan. It does, however, speak to the fact that we are in a shared struggle here and that individuals like this gentleman, Hafiz Saeed, are a threat to the region. It wasn’t just six Americans killed. It was scores killed in 2008 attacks in Mumbai. And he’s also – he’s been – his group has been responsible for many attacks in the region.

QUESTION: Is it your kind of no confidence in Pakistani Government?

MR. TONER: Sorry?

QUESTION: It’s a kind of no-confidence vote in —

MR. TONER: Not at all. I think we’re trying to work in concert with the Pakistani Government in order to bring this guy to justice.

QUESTION: If there is – I’m confused. If there is not any evidence, why is this guy a wanted terrorist? If you – I mean, you could put anyone’s face and name up there and say I’ll give you 10 million if you can give me some information that connects them to some attack someplace.

MR. TONER: Right.

QUESTION: Why – there’s – there has to be something out there.

MR. TONER: Well, there is information out there. I just can’t speak to —

QUESTION: But it’s – but it can’t be used in court?

MR. TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: Well, that means that there is not any – that means that there’s – I don’t get it. What kind of information are you talking about that’s —

MR. TONER: Well, it’s based on intelligence, and it’s not —

QUESTION: And that can’t be used in court?

MR. TONER: Not to my understanding, but I can’t talk about it in detail.

QUESTION: But just getting back to the initial

QUESTION, it’s okay for him to be openly giving press conferences and to be goading in the U.S.? I mean, is that —

MR. TONER: He’s free to do that, unfortunately, up to this moment, but we hope to put him behind bars.

QUESTION: Did you do this to try to put pressure on the Pakistanis?

MR. TONER: I just think we are trying to – we have very close cooperation with India. We have very close cooperation – counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan, apart from our recent difficulties in the broader relationship. We’re – the major attack in Mumbai in 2008. There were subsequent terrorist actions undertaken by this group. And we are dogged in our pursuit of these individuals. I don’t know that – this is not to put pressure on any one government, but we wanted to be able to provide Pakistan with the tools that they need to prosecute this individual.

QUESTION: Pakistani president?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: He’s traveling to New Delhi, to India. Basically, it’s a spiritual journey to a shrine.

MR. TONER: That’s right.

QUESTION: So the – do you think this announcement at this time will move the initiative – the narrative back to the anti-militant fight and cooperation?

MR. TONER: Well, difficult for me to say. And certainly, we would refer you to the governments of India and Pakistan as to what he’s going to discuss with the government there when he’s on his trip. But we want to see, obviously, ever closer counterterrorism cooperation. It’s to everyone’s interests.

QUESTION: Just getting back to the –

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — that this is to help the Pakistani prosecutors. Is that – so that’s what this is aimed at, getting him prosecuted in Pakistan, not in India or not —

MR. TONER: Not necessarily. Not necessarily in Pakistan. I think we spoke to that in our Taken

QUESTION yesterday.

QUESTION: Exactly. Which is why —

MR. TONER: But he currently resides in Pakistan, obviously.

QUESTION: So you want the – you are offering this reward for information not so that the Pakistani police will go arrest him or can find him, which they presumably can do now, but so that then they can prosecute him or ship him off to India to be prosecuted or ship him off here?

MR. TONER: I mean, we’re – I think we said yesterday we’re looking for information to lead to his conviction in any U.S. or foreign court of law.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MR. TONER: Please.

QUESTION: Sudan.

QUESTION: Can we stay on (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: Oh, I’m sorry. Sure. I didn’t mean to ignore you. Go ahead. Are you Pakistan, too?

QUESTION: Yeah. In 2000 —

MR. TONER: Okay, we’ll go to you and then —

QUESTION: Okay. In 2009, you – David Headley was arrested and he testified in court in a plea bargain deal on the Mumbai attacks. Is the evidence – if the evidence isn’t sufficient, then what about the testimony he gave, testifying that he was trained by Lashkar-e-Tayyiba to carry out the Mumbai attacks? Is that evidence and not usable? Because it was then used to convict someone else.

MR. TONER: You know what? I’m not conversant on the evidence that he gave in that case, so I’d have to refer you to the relevant law enforcement agencies as well as to the lawyers. I just don’t know if that – if any of the evidence that he gave would be usable. Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you expect the Pakistani Government to move against him? I mean, this guy clearly thinks that he can operate with immunity inside Pakistan.

MR. TONER: I think what we’re looking to do is, as I just said to Arshad, I think we’re trying to, through this Reward for Justice offer, is to, first of all, put this case back and this individual back in the limelight but also to seek out information that we feel would give Pakistani authorities the tools or the wherewithal to prosecute him.

QUESTION: Sudan?

MR. TONER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The talks in Addis Ababa between Sudan and South Sudan, by most accounts, didn’t go very well. South Sudan said that the – that Khartoum’s delegation walked out, but there’s some dispute of that from Khartoum’s side. And at the start of the briefing, South Sudan was saying that it shot down a Sudanese jet. What’s your assessment of how tensions – or how the relations are going right now? What is the United States hoping that the two sides will do?

MR. TONER: Well, we’re obviously very concerned. I did just see that story before coming in here about the shoot down. We’re calling on – clearly, we’re calling on restraint by all – for – on the part of all sides, and we’re very concerned about the ongoing hostilities on the border areas between South Sudan and Sudan. And we call upon the parties to cease fighting and ensure the safety and security of civilians, first and foremost, and then the negotiated solution to grievances under the auspices of the African Union. So they need to get back into these negotiations. And I think as you saw yesterday, the White House announced that we’re going to provide an additional 26 million in emergency funds to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that’s going to help address some of the needs of these refugees caused by the fighting.

QUESTION: Is it your impression the African Union mediation has broken down, or do you still see some hope for that?

MR. TONER: I think we still see hope for it.

QUESTION: Can I stay on Africa?

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Carson and Carter Ham, the AFRICOM chief, are in Algeria today. Just – I was wondering if there’s any readout on, specifically if they talked about Mali or —

MR. TONER: Yeah. I don’t. I’ll get you – I’ll get your readout there. Johnnie’s traveling is pretty hectic and frenetic, but I don’t have an update on his whereabouts, so I’ll get that for you.

QUESTION: Do you have the breakdown of the aid that you suspended to Mali?

MR. TONER: I do. How did you know that? I have a —

QUESTION: Because I haven’t been asking about it for the last few briefs, so no one gave me a heads-up.

MR. TONER: You have been, yeah. I do. Let me make sure I have it in my book. I raced down here to – because I realized I was late. So I’m not sure I have it in my book. But we do have a figure for you. I’ll get it for you afterwards.

QUESTION: All right. I’m very suspicious.

MR. TONER: I know. I’m so sorry.

QUESTION: Oh, I forgot it?

MR. TONER: I’m sure I put it in here somewhere. Hold on.

QUESTION: It’s been ten days. I have it. Dog eat it?

MR. TONER: Hold on. Hold on. (Laughter.) Sorry. My dog ate my – exactly, my guidance. Sorry. If I find it, I will deliver it forthwith. Or I’m going to have my roadie hand it to —

QUESTION: To the rescue.

MR. TONER: But we don’t have the – yes, we do. Yes. Okay. So we’ve determined – thank you – that a minimum of approximately 12.5 million of USAID assistance will be suspended, and we’re continuing to assess the remainder. But we can, at this point, say that a minimum of 12.5 million will be actually suspended.

QUESTION: That’s out of the total 140 something?

MR. TONER: Yes. And that’s comprising 13 programs. That’s correct.

QUESTION: But that —

QUESTION: What were those programs for?

MR. TONER: These activities include building the ministry of health’s capacity to implement health programs, including activities in maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, and malaria, construction of public schools, supporting the government’s efforts to increase agricultural production and building government capacity to spur commercial investment. So as you can see, these are worthwhile programs that are now suspended because that aid is – goes directly to the Government of Mali. So there’s a price to this. I mean, clearly there’s a price, but (inaudible) have a price.

QUESTION: I thought that humanitarian aid was exempted.

MR. TONER: We did, but —

QUESTION: And therefore, I don’t understand why health programs, building schools, and HIV/AIDS programs, all (inaudible) humanitarian —

MR. TONER: We do exempt humanitarian assistance, but I think we’ve been saying that we – any assistance that goes to the Government of Mali would be suspended. And that’s what this hold-up was. We had to kind of look at these pots of money. So the rest of the assistance will continue but anything that was directly going into the government programs and ministries has to be suspended.

QUESTION: And that – just to confirm, that’s on top of the FMF – this is how much you’re going —

MR. TONER: That’s on top of the – sorry, let me find that for you – the FMF and the IMET programs, which is about 600,000.

QUESTION: So total then we’re looking at what – 13 – a little over 13 million.

MR. TONER: That’s very good math.

QUESTION: (Sneezes.)

QUESTION: And the MCC —

MR. TONER: Sorry. God bless you.

QUESTION: The MCC grants are completely separate?

MR. TONER: I believe so, but I’ll find out.

QUESTION: And Mark —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have a more – when Toria first began discussing this she said that it was approximately 135 to 140 million was the global figure of U.S. aid to Mali. Do you have an exact number for that?

MR. TONER: I don’t. I’ll have to double check on that. I don’t have anything further. I’ll take the

QUESTION. Yeah. Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s meeting with Mr. Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader?

MR. TONER: Well, he was here – hold on one second – obviously in the building earlier today. He did meet with deputy secretary, and that meeting was earlier this morning. And as you note, the Secretary did drop by and greet President Barzani, welcomed him to Washington, and they discussed, obviously, all the issues in the context of the U.S.-Iraq relationship.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Syria?

MR. TONER: Syria.

QUESTION: It looks like the Syrian forces has started withdrawal from quiet city and town, as has been reported. Do you take that as a good beginning or —

MR. TONER: Well, I know you’re speaking to some of the press reports, according to Syrian Government officials —

QUESTION: (inaudible) report.

MR. TONER: I have not seen any independent reporting of any withdrawal, and in fact, what we’ve seen, frankly, is an intensification of artillery bombardments in major population centers like Homs and Idlib. So we’ve yet to be convinced that they’re – have any intention of complying with the April 10 deadline. Yeah. Go ahead. Yeah, Scott

QUESTION: The new arrests in Cuba after the Pope’s visit, some people protesting previous arrests. Any comment on that?

MR. TONER: Correct. And I believe some of these arrests and detentions and harassment predated or were in the run-up to the Pope’s visit. No, we’re obviously extremely concerned about the detentions and harassment of scores of civil society activists during the last two weeks, predating the Pope’s arrival in Cuba. We understand that the wave of detentions that began prior to Pope Benedict’s visit continues with the arrests of dozens of human rights activists and defenders in eastern Cuba in the last couple of days, which is what you just cited. We’re concerned by the Cuban Government’s attempts to silence reporting on these detentions. Apparently there’s been selective shutdowns of human rights activists, cellular and internet connections. We call upon the Cuban Government to release all peaceful society – civil society activists immediately, and we particularly condemn the fact that most of these arrests took place during the Pope’s visit and with the aim of preventing those arrested from attending the public masses that the Pope officiated.

QUESTION: And if I might, Cuba related —

MR. TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: The president of Ecuador says he’s not going to the Summit of the Americas because Cuba is not invited. Any reaction?

MR. TONER: Well, look – and I think Mike Hammer, assistant secretary, spoke to this a couple weeks ago. Of course, he did it in Spanish. But obviously, he was – he said we would like to see widespread participation by the countries of the hemisphere. We believe the summit offers an opportunity for the leaders to discuss issues that concern all of the citizens of the hemisphere, but ultimately it’s each country’s own decision to decide whether to participate.

QUESTION: So you don’t care?

MR. TONER: It’s their own decision. We want to see —

QUESTION: It doesn’t matter to you one way or another if he shows up?

MR. TONER: I think we just said we want to see as broad a participation as possible.

QUESTION: Yeah. But if —

MR. TONER: But —

QUESTION: Right. But if he decides he doesn’t want to come, then it’s not – no skin off your nose?

MR. TONER: It’s their decision. Correct.

QUESTION: No skin off your nose?

MR. TONER: It’s their decision.

QUESTION: You don’t care?

MR. TONER: No skin off our —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. TONER: You’re putting words in my mouth. I simply said —

QUESTION: You said it just then.

MR. TONER: I said we want to see broad participation, but we can’t make the decisions for other —

QUESTION: You’re saying you don’t think that the president of Ecuador is that important that you don’t – he doesn’t need to show up to —

MR. TONER: That is not what I said.

QUESTION: Not what you said? All right.

MR. TONER: That is not what I said. Anyway, any other —

QUESTION: Just quickly —

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the bombing today in Somalia?

MR. TONER: Oh, I do. Yeah.

QUESTION: The killing of the —

MR. TONER: No. Thank you for bringing that up, actually. I hope I have something to say about the bombing. I mean, obviously we condemn —

QUESTION: It’s near the Mali —

MR. TONER: It’s – no. Thanks, Brad, for your help. Appreciate it. No, thank you. In answer to your

QUESTION, we’re appalled by the vicious attack earlier today as well as the loss of life. We remain firm in our support for the efforts of the TFG, the African Union Mission in Somalia, and the Somali National Security Forces to return peace and stability to Somalia. And we stand with the people of Somalia as they are trying to build a normal and functioning society. And I think some of you probably have looked at some of the press stories about – that civil society returning to Somalia, and Somalis everywhere had taken pride in the recent reopening of the National Theater as a sign that this normal life was returning to Mogadishu. It was a sign – the theater’s reopening is a result of progress made by the TFG and sacrifices made by AMISOM to bring peace and stability back to Mogadishu since al-Shabaab retreated there – from there in August 2011. So the fact that al-Shabaab chose this shows their true – chose this site for their attack shows their true stripes. They also used young women as suicide bombers. In other places, they impress children to fight their battles. And the four people killed today include a Somali Olympic official, many more injured, including a deputy prime minister and minister of planning as well as a former deputy speaker of parliament. So this is a terrible tragedy for the people of Somalia. Are we done?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:37 p.m.)

DPB #62

Casualties of War – Sami Goes to WWII – 1

Chapter 1: Sami joins the Army

“War is a severe doctor; but it sometimes heals grievances.”
Edward Counsel, Maxims.

It is night-time in an open war field somewhere near the Mediterranean Sea, in the mid of December of 1941. Soldiers were told that it is the Battle Area of Operation Crusader. The heavy noise of rounds of BL 60 Pounder Gun, Short Magazine Lee-Enfield and M1 carbine can be heard frequently as the British soldiers face off with the Japanese, both sides firing at will. With Bristol Bulldogs racing above, and red flares illuminating the skies, the atmosphere is filled with foul smell of gun powder and blood.

Sami is present on this battlefield, fighting alongside his company unit at the British Army. Sami’s platoon is at a secured dugout and awaiting orders. They have been waiting for the past two hours, waiting for the moment when the heavy artillery has been exposed. The company commander is busy scavenging the area with his binoculars.

“What a day today, eh Sami?” Kashif, Sami’s comrade and a friend in the army say.

Kashif: “Who would have thought we had a dinner invitation from the devil this morning. And the main course would be us.”

Sami: “You’re joking! I have yet to meet a person with as big appetite as yours! You could eat up the whole devils army and we included! That too without a burp”

Both Kashif and Sami burst into laughter.

Sami: “Look, the commander is signaling Ahmed, he’s got the phone. I think the time has come.”

“Charlie 5 to Delta Over!” shouts the soldier in charge of communications, operating a MAN Timisioara telephone. He was tasked with the responsibility of updating the company commander and receiving orders.

“Subject Second wave insight! Awaiting orders, Over!” Having the enemies in sight, the company commander had asked the communications officer to request order for launching the attack on enemy. The original mission of this company was to counter attack the enemy foot soldiers after the enemy’s aerial offensive.

Sami lying down on his back takes a deep breath as he prepares himself mentally. It seems as if he had contended himself of the possible and most likely fate. He knows that in situations like these, there are no survivors. Their company is going to take the bulls by its horns literally; they are to intercept and engage a charging army said to be at least double their size. In moments like these, one has a reflection of his life’s precious moments in the span of a second or two. Sami remembers the time not so long ago when he was at his home. It was just a week or hardly ten days ago that he was looking for a job to start making an earning and a new life. He remembers the faces of his mother, his brother Wasi and his fiancé, Nayyara as he reflects on the latest events of life. Nobody was happy for Sami when he joined the Army expect him or so he thought he was happy. In fact it was the compulsion that drove him towards this decision, the compulsion of taking responsibility of supporting his windowed mother, his brother who is a student and compulsion of marrying Nayyara who’s father had been waiting for marry off his daughter to Sami for two years at the least. He had known that he had to marry her since as long as he could remember.  Funny how the actions you take in order to full fill what is expected from you, always results in regret and condemnation; Sami wonders, sitting laid back in his bunker. What else was he supposed to do?  he asks himself. He received the most condemnation from Nayyara father who also his uncle, Abid Sahib. His mother, Raziya Begum was supportive of his decision but he knew better when he looked her in her eyes as he broke the news. Nayyara of course was also not happy with Sami but for different reasons then her Father. Sami drifts down the memory lane as he gets lost in his thoughts.

“Abid! Are you listening? Aye Abid! Come down here, your nephew has found a job by the grace of Almighty ALLAH! Come down, Sami has brought sweets for everybody!” Raziya Begum is ecstatic as he announces Sami’s new job in the house, standing at the staircase and calling upon her brother in law, Abid. Sami is sitting in the lounge nearby the staircase with box of local sweets and confectionaries on the table.

Abid and his wife Shamima come down the stairs.

Abid: “Adaab Bhabhi. What happened? Bhabhi, you look extremely happy, Masha ALLAH!”

Raziya Begum: “Aray didn’t you hear me? My Sami has found work by the grace of ALLAH. He has got a government job now. Insha ALLAH he will be earning his independent money from now on!”

Abid: “Really? MashaALLAH MashaALLAH! ALLAH has listened to our prayers!”

Shamima: “Yes, this is the best news that one could ever wish for! Shukar ALLAH!”

Raziya Begum: “Aye Shamima, don’t get me started, ALLAH has bless us. I had been praying all the time and finally my prayers have been answered.”

Shamima: “Without doubt, without doubt! We all had been praying. Thanks to ALLAH. My mannat1 has been fulfilled.”

Raziya Begum: “Come, and have some sweets. Sami has brought sweets for us. It is first job and MashaALLAH such a reputable job. He has joined the Army.”

Abid Sahib and Shamima Bibi look awkwardly as each other hearing this as Raziya Begum reaches for the sweets for them. Abid Sahib did not like the English and his fore-fathers were known to fight against the British forces in the past. He’s disapproval of Sami’s new job is now evident on his face and Shamima looks on with a worrying face.

Raziya Begum: “What’s wrong Abid? Why have you put on a glum face?” Meanwhile Nayyara also comes down and joins the family. She finds the atmosphere in the room has turned sore for some reason.

Abid: “I am sorry to hear that Sami has joined the white men’s Army. I am not happy to hear this at all.”

Raziya Begum: “Abid? What are you saying?”

Abid: “Bhabi, We all had high hopes for Sami. Did he give even a moment’s thought to the honor of his fore-fathers before joining the British army? Did he not bother to even think about his great grandfather Rasheed Ullah Khan before serving these evil English rulers? The same people who used to bow down in front Rasheed Dada.”

Sami gets up from his place and moves towards his room in aggravated mood.

Abid waves to Sami to stop: Sami! What will you get out of fighting the white man’s war? If you survive you will be called the English poodle, and if you die, you will die a dog’s death! You can never be a Ghazi or Shaheed (Martyr) fighting the white man’s war!”

Sami annoyingly listens to his uncle, without uttering a word. Nayyara is standing at the bottom of the stair case, listening to her father’s arguments with misery on her face.

Abid: “Look Sami my son, do not get upset, we have all that the Almighty has given us. You should make your family proud and always think about the name of your father and his father’s before making decisions in your life. Your younger brother looks up to you; you should be a role model for him. What is the benefit of doing something which will give you nothing back except of shame in front of your own people?”

Shamima Bibi intervenes to de-escalate the emotions: “Abid sahib, what are you saying? Sami has always made us proud and insha ALLAH will live up to all expectations.”

Raziya Begum is not impressed by Abid’s arguments: “Abid Khaan, Sami has finally got a job after much toil and here you are being ungrateful? He has been accepted as a Soldier in the service of British Royal Army and I will not hear any of this non-sense! They run the government here. You cannot deny or change that fact or can you?”

Sami: “No Amma, Chacha saab is right. This service is really a disgraceful job. I had better offers from our good relatives, the Bajwas. Bajwa sahib asked me to look after his cattle and clean cow dung at the barn. Or how about your cousin’ offer; he was kind enough to offer me a place in his home as a house keeper and offered extra benefits if I could cook as well.”

Abid: “Sami that is no excuse for you to join the Army. Think about your family’s honor!”

Sami: “Chacha saab, where is this honor that we hear so often about? Why can’t I see any honor in this old broken house, broken chairs and doors? You cannot afford to send Nayyara to school and don’t know whether your two sons will be able to continue their education next year. Honor will not fix Furqan’s damaged eye. Tell me Chacha saab, why can’t I see the Honor of our fore fathers? Maybe because there isn’t any left….”

Abid sahib cannot believe the audacity of Sami to utter such words.

Sami: “ …nothing left except us and our miseries. Honor won’t give me a job Chacha sahab. This opportunity is for the betterment of our family. With time, I can fix everything. People will truly respect me now because I am a soldier. They won’t think about offering to clean cow dung out of pity of this… invisible family honor.”

Abid did not expect such words from Sami. He moves up towards his room with a disgusted face and slams the door behind him. Sami also leave the common room and goes outside the house.

As the days go by, Sami had formally joined the Army and reports daily at the Army training center.