C.I. here filling in for Elaine who is on vacation. I'll be filling in next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Elaine plans to be back Monday, July 20th. Mike is also on vacation and Ann (Cedric's wife) will be filling in for him until the 20th.
This is from Ramzy Baroud's "Forget The Headlines: Iraqi Freedom Deferred" (Countercurrents):
Iraq headlines will eventually fade away, making space for the new escalation in Afghanistan, also in the name of fighting terror, bringing democracy and all the rest.
The faces of the victims will be hidden so as not to harm our sensibilities, and causality figures will be manipulated, contested and at times blamed on the coward terrorists who hide among civilians. In other words, the US will take the spirit of its Iraq war to Afghanistan, remain in Iraq - as inconspicuous as possible - so as to hold onto its strategic military achievement, and, if necessary, blame both nations for their growing misfortunes.
However, before we take our eyes off Iraq, Americans must remember their own culpabilities in what transpired there. Antiwar activists and people of conscience must not forget that 130,000 US soldiers remain in the country; that the US has complete control over Iraqi airspace and territorial water; that there is not yet a reason to celebrate and move on. Even if one is trusting enough to believe the administration and army’s own account of its future in Iraq, one should recall comments made by Admiral Mike Mullen last February: “Mr. Obama plans to leave behind a ‘residual force’ of tens of thousands of troops to continue training Iraqi security forces, hunt down terrorist cells and guard American institutions.”
That was among the links I attempted to work in to today's snapshot but had no luck. That happens day after day and is nothing new. There are always more things that could go in but space or time prevents that.
Mike asked that I write about that because he said there are a lot of questions about the snapshot coming up in his e-mails.
1) There are always more things that could be linked to than are.
The snapshot's dictated by me to one of three friends. They type it up and e-mail it. Why e-mail? Blogger/Blogspot was scary to them when I started dictating the snapshots. (And other entries.) E-mail they were used to.
Once the e-mail was used, it was noted how easy it was to cross-post at other sites. That's something you just have to take my word on unless you use Blogger/Blogspot. If it's e-mailed, you don't have to go in and work on the spacing.
Most days, I grab the laptop when we're having lunch and go into the e-mail account used to put in links as I return calls from friends. Then I more or less dictate around the links. Some links get dropped because an e-mail can only be around 97K (we usually try to keep it 70) or it will not hit the site ("hit" meaning show up when e-mailed).
2) What happens when the press leaves Iraq completely?
Mike had that question from two of his readers. What happens is more opinion from me. There are many ways to go when that happens. If that happens. I do expect a reduction in reporting but hope that the pull outs we've seen are it for now.
3) What's up with the Congressional hearings?
Whenever that started (2006?) a friend's adult child had just gone to work as a Congressional staffer. The a.c. was bothered by something and asked that I call. I did and the point was that so much goes on in Congress and no one ever reports it. I was fully aware that the DC reporters were a dwindling species. Most papers that used to maintain a DC staff no longer do. The Washington Post has also 'trimmed' their overall staff (as have most papers). But the a.c. was just shocked by how much was not getting covered. (If the UN had been the work locale, that probably would have been even more shocking. Many papers have followed the Los Angeles Times' lead and axed their UN beat.)
So the deal was, tell me about a hearing and I'll work it in. If I mention a hearing in a paragraph or two, I'm going by what a.c. and other staffers are telling me (and sometimes what a friend with a news outlet passes on). If I'm at a hearing, it's much more in depth. I don't think, since early 2007 (maybe before that), we've covered one that I haven't been at. But that would be the tip-off.
We increased Congressional coverage due to cutbacks at other outlets. Ideally, we cover four hearings a month. Generally it's more like eight or nine. But four is the minimum. Remember that Kat usually covers any hearing at her site (covers any hearing in the snapshot). However, sometimes she's more interested in another hearing and goes to it (and covers it at her site).
Wednesday we covered two press conferences at the National Press Club. We were planning to attend US House Rep Patrick Murphy's already when a friend urged us to attend Adm Murphy's as well.
4) Another question from Mike's readers: Does it get boring?
No. It may be boring to read. But the snapshot is never boring due to the fact that I'm pressed for time and rushing and it's just a frantic period. When dictating it, I'm on one cell phone dictating and talking on another to a friend and Ava's got two people waiting on her two cells. Everyone who is calling or having their call returned during the snapshot thinks they're outlet has something that has to go in (sometimes, a friend's calling to promote something at another outlet, in fairness) and most of the time that's not the case. If you're calling me about refugees, for example, it's not making it 99% of the time. That's because when that topic's addressed, I really prefer that we focus in some depth on it. So if a friend pitches refugees, the answer is generally, "Not today, but we can pull it in ___'s snapshot later in the week."
The Congressional hearings are also another reason why it's not boring.
5) What can be covered there?
The focus should be on Iraq. I don't cover hearings on Afghanistan. In addition to Iraq, anything to do with veterans is eligible for the snapshot. There are some hearings I attend knowing nothing will go into the snapshot and some I attend and realize about half-way through that nothing will go in the snapshot.
6) Do I stand up and scream in protest?
No. Others can do what they want. I was a visitor in Congress early in life (as a child) and that wasn't behavior I would have been allowed to take part in then. I'm not interested in it for myself today. People line up to attend hearings and I can usually get around that due to various favors. I'm not going to then say "thank you" by creating a distrubance. (I'm speaking for me and my actions. Others can do what they want and I find many of that activity to be effective. Many, but not all.) I will call out Congressional members I know (and like) in the snapshots. I've called out Lindsey Graham (Republican) for example. I never agree with him on anything but I do know him and he is a nice person (shocking considering some of his views). He's been called out before. I honestly prefer to avoid him when possible because I could do entire snapshots of disagreeing with his points. Most of the Congressional members (not all) that I know are Dems and I do call them out. I did have a friend say recently that I had edited out my "attack" on __ (male senator) because I liked the senator but I did such a "poor job" that I forgot to grab all the sentences. No, that's not what happened. I had called out that senator (loudly). I do like that senator. But what happened was the e-mail size (in draft) was too long. When I'm dictated, it's saved repeatedly in draft because the worst thing ever was when I dictated an entire e-mail and the person I was dictating it too called back a minute after we were off the phone to say that it was lost. (I'm not blaming that person. It was my fault for not asking it to be saved as we went along.) So now, I'll usually say "save" periodically. Then I'll hear it's "__K" big. Which should be good enough but I've got calls on the juggling phones and someone always has a few things that have to go into the snapshot. So that causes a huge leap in the size. When that happens, it's "Okay, pull ___" and "Pull ___" Point. Things are edited out quickly.
What my friend was referring to wasn't an attempt to cover for ___ and I forgot that one sentence remained. I did forget that one sentence remained. But I had that section pulled because it ticked me off (the senator's line of questioning) but it wasn't as important as other aspects of the hearing.
I hope that makes sense and I hope that addresses the questions Mike keeps getting.
This is today's "Iraq snapshot:"
Friday, July 10, 2009. Chaos and violence continues, war resister Robin Long is out of the brig, the New York Times backs Nouri so much they not only attack the Kurds but they also play dumb about a DC meet-up between Iraq and neighbors that the White House is attempting to set up for later this year, a House Armed Services subcommittee questions the budget numbers, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Robin Long has no regrets. John Wilkens (San Diego Union-Tribune) quotes him declaring today, "I wouldn't do anything differently." Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports Robin Long was released from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station's brig yesterday "after serving 12 months of a 15-month sentence." Long is a war resister who self-checked out and went to Canada where he attempted to be granted asylum. Not only did that not happen, he was imprisoned and whisked across the border back to the US in violation of his rights and those of his child -- his child is a Canadian citizen.
Today Robin held a press conference and Wilkens covers it noting Robin stated he would continue speaking out and that "[. . .] I had to do what I felt was right." The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. is the latest book by independent journalist Dahr Jamail. The US Socialist Worker provides an excerpt from the opening of the new book:
The environment in the United States today is not one that can support and sustain a GI resistance movement of significant proportions, giving it enough power to directly affect the foreign policy of the country, as it did so effectively in the Vietnam era. There is much in the military to prohibit a GI resistance movement from growing anywhere near the proportion that helped end the U.S. war in Vietnam. Military discipline is much more repressive than in the past, which makes organizing more difficult. There is less radicalization of the GI movement, as compared to that in the late 1960s and early 1970s; therefore, passive resistance against the command is more common than direct resistance. There is a much lower level of political awareness and analysis among soldiers as compared to that during Vietnam, when there were hundreds of underground newspapers that served to inform troops while criticizing the military apparatus. The all-volunteer military, rather than a draft, is also responsible for stifling broader dissent.
Despite these factors, dissent in the ranks is happening on a daily basis. While overall violence in Iraq has dropped, it is escalating dramatically in Afghanistan, as President Obama begins to "surge" 30,000 troops into that occupation. The overstretched military is in a state of disrepair, full of demoralized, bitter soldiers whose reasons for staying in are based on economics and loyalty to their friends rather than nationalism or patriotism.
These elements, accompanied by the continuing neglect that soldiers experience upon their return home, are driving larger numbers toward dissent.
This is a book about average soldiers and their brave acts of dissent against a system that is betraying them. I decided to focus on the rank-and-file members who actually served in Iraq, rather than those giving the orders from within safe compounds. I believe it is those who have followed the orders who have had to pay the highest price. My main objective in presenting this book is to highlight the reality that oppressed and oppressors alike suffer the dehumanizing effects of military action. For soldiers and war journalists like myself who have lived with this, struggled with PTSD, and reintegrated ourselves into society, a light at the seemingly endless dark tunnel of the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is the possibility of the shifting of these individual acts of resistance into a broader, organized movement toward justice--both in the military and in U.S. foreign policy.
In his latest dispatch, Dahr breaks down the realities about Nouri al-Maliki and his attempts to become the new strong-man:
Let's be clear - Maliki has been supported by the US as the leader of Iraq since his installation. In January 2005, I was in Baghdad for the elections that formed an Iraqi Parliament, which then elected Iraq's first prime minister under US occupation - that man was Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Jaafari wasn't exactly toeing the US/UK line in Iraq, so it wasn't long until then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her UK counterpart Jack Straw rushed to Baghdad to set things straight. Just after their visit, Jaafari was out and Maliki was in. No democracy was involved in this process.
In a recent article titled "Iraq's New Death Squad" for The Nation by independent journalist Shane Bauer, we are provided with an inside view of Maliki's iron fist, which has come in the form of the Iraq Special Operations Forces.
"The Iraq Special Operations Forces (ISOF) is probably the largest special forces outfit ever built by the United States, and it is free of many of the controls that most governments employ to rein in such lethal forces. The project started in the deserts of Jordan just after the Americans took Baghdad in April 2003. There, the US Army's Special Forces, or Green Berets, trained mostly 18-year-old Iraqis with no prior military experience. The resulting brigade was a Green Beret's dream come true: a deadly, elite, covert unit, fully fitted with American equipment, that would operate for years under US command and be unaccountable to Iraqi ministries and the normal political process. The ISOF is at least 4,564 operatives strong, making it approximately the size of the US Army's own Special Forces in Iraq. Congressional records indicate that there are plans to double the ISOF over the next 'several years'."
According to Bauer, control of the ISOF was slowly transferred by US Special Forces to the Iraqis in 2007, but it wasn't put under the command of the Defense or Interior Ministry. Rather, "the Americans pressured the Iraqi government to create a new minister-level office called the Counter-Terrorism Bureau," Bauer writes, "Established by a directive from Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, the CTB answers directly to him and commands the ISOF independently of the police and army. According to Maliki's directive, the Iraqi Parliament has no influence over the ISOF and knows little about its mission."
Untold numbers of politically motivated murders have followed as a result. Regular assassinations and detentions of al-Sahwa (US-created Sunni militia that Maliki had opposed from the beginning) members have been ongoing for years. Last August, the ISOF raided the provincial government compound in Diyala, while backed by US Apache helicopters, and arrested a member of Iraq's main Sunni Arab political party. In December, the ISOF arrested more than 30 Interior Ministry officials who were believed to be opponents of Maliki's Dawa Party. In March, the ISOF arrested a leader of the Sahwa.
As he attempts to become the new Saddam, he does so with the apparent approval and endorsement of the New York Times, hence Sam Dagher's article today allegedly about the Kurish region and their events but told from a Nouri point of view. Well into the article, primarily an article carping about the KRG's proposed constitution, Dagher notes, "Iraq's federal Constitution allows the Kurds the right to their own constitution, referring any conflicts to Iraq's highest court." Though it bothers Nouri, and apparently the paper, the Kurds can do a new constitution, revamp their old one, do whatever they want and it is their right. The unresolved issue of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk is not presented as having anything to do with Nouri. This despite realities including Damien Cave's June 2007 reporting for the paper when he noted, "The future of oil-rich Kirkuk was left in limbo, with Kurds holding out for a referendum scheduled for the end of this year that they hope will grant them control." The issue of Kirkuk was Constitutionally mandated to be resolved by November 2007 (in the 2005 constitution). Not only that but Nouri agreed to the White House's 2007 benchmarks and those benchmarks included resolving the Kirkuk issue. Dahger ignores all of that but does find time to say the Kruds "defended" attempting "to add all of hotly contested and oil-rich Kirkuk Province, as well as other disputed areas in Nineveh and Diyala Provinces." Are they 'adding' Kirkuk if they've long claimed it? Or are they continuing to stake their claim on Kirkuk? Furthermore, the paper is accepting the boundaries set by the central government and those boundaries have always been in dispute, even in Saddam's time. The areas are disputed on both sides. It's not just the Kurds disputing the boundaries. If you're still not getting how one-sided Dagher's article is, please note that in the print edition of the paper, the article is entitled "Kurds Lay Claim To Land and Oil, Defying Baghdad"; however, Australia's The Age re-runs the article and gives it the more appropriate headline "Kurds' new constitution angers US, Iraq." And certainly Dagher's written reflecting something other than Kurdish goals or interests. Apparently those aren't topics to cover . . . even in an article apparently about the Kurdish region. Al Hurriyet notes that some are trying to state that the northern region of Iraq would be better off with Turkey -- please note that 'some' includes those Americans who lied/spun/cheerleaded the US into Vietnam, some of the same losers (including Katty-van-van's deadbeat father) who were part of the "American Friends of Vietnam" -- a front group which, starting in 1955, began openly advocating for US 'intervention' in Vietnam via lies, trickery and deceit.
The New York Times is so busy shining on al-Maliki, they forgot to tell you about his flare up with US Vice President Joe Biden. Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) explains the paper only "alluded" and didn't explain but Biden issued a call for bringing the Ba'athist back into the political process. Nouri's response was to issue public statements such as this one through his spokesperson "the government will never talk to those whose hands were stained with blood". Publicly stated. Somehow the paper missed that. Somehow the paper forgot to tell readers that. The US ran, under Paul Bremer, the Ba'athists out of the political process in what is termed "de-Ba'ahtification." Part of the benchmarks established by the US White House in 2007 and signed off on by Nouri al-Maliki was to bring the Ba'athists back in -- a de-de-Ba'athification. That has never happened and when Biden pointed out the need for it to, al-Maliki made it clear it wasn't happening. That's a key moment and it's interesting that the paper of record elected not to cover it or that Biden proposed a DC meeting with segments of Iraq including the Ba'athists and Iraqi neighbors to sort out some issues. An Iraqi official states that the vice president "suggested that Arab countries that will participate in the proposed reconciliation meeting in Washington are ready to guarantee that the Baathists will abandon any kind of armed resistance if they are allowed to function as a legitimate political party." Again, huge news and the paper of record 'missed' it..
Today on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Steve Roberts filled in for Diane Rehm. The second hour (international) featured Andrei Sitov (Itar-Tass), Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) and Tom Gjelten (NPR). And we'll note this section on Iraq which covers some of the themes and topics emerging during the week.
Steve Roberts: [. . .] but, Farah, I want to deal with one more development, actually several developments in Iraq, including the more aggressiver assertion of territorial integrity and separateness on the part of the Kurds in northern Iraq. This is not a new story in some ways, it's been a semi-autonomous region for a long time, but some new developments.
Farah Stockman: Yeah. I think the Kurds are-are starting to get frustrated with Baghdad. A lot of the disagreements that have been simmering for years over oil, over the share of oil they should get, over whether the state controlled oil companies should make decisions or whether we should have production sharing agreements and the Kurds are -- and disputed territories. And these questions have been left unresolved for a long time and the Kurds are impatient and saying, 'We need to move forward and resolve some of these.' Whereas I think Maliki's government doesn't appreciate those moves by the Kurds and he's also starting to become an Arab -- kind of an Arab nationalist which is, I think, worrisome for the Kurds. Maliki is starting to position himself politically as an Arab nationalist against the Kurds. And, I think, this is worrisome because the Sunnis were always odd-man-out. It was always the Kurds-were-the-voice-of-reason and they were the ones arguing for the greater good of Iraq and even though they wanted their own -- their own semi-autonomous area, they were still speaking of things in terms of unity with the government and now we're seeing a shift. We're seeing the Shias and the Kurds draw farther apart. I think that's worrisome.
Steve Roberts: And of course the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, was the author, co-author of a plan at one time that would provide for what was sometimes called a soft partition of Iraq.
Farah Stockman: Well -- right. Some people would say that Biden's plan was simply what was already enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution. It depends upon your interpretation of that document, I guess. I think -- I think the Obama administration had hoped to turn its attention to Afghanistan, get away from Iraq and last week they asked Biden to look more closely at Iraq. I think that's a sign that they see Iraq as continuing to be worrisome and that they can't -- they can't just shut it out.
Steve Roberts: In addition, Tom, to the problem of the Kurds, there's the problem of ongoing violence.
Tom Gjelten: That's what I was going to say. It's not just the Kurds. What we're seeing is real sectarian strife returning in Iraq. A lot of violence this week, most of it directed against Shites, and it's coming just as the United States has pulled its troops out of major cities. The big question in Iraq is whether the Iraqi security forces are going to be capable of handling security responsibilities in Iraq. Right now with these rising ethnic tensions, whether it's the Kurds in the north or the Sunni and the Shi'ite populations, I think there's some real concerns.
Farah Stockman: I -- also just to add --
Steve Roberts: Please.
Farah Stockman: I think there's a real danger here for Obama in that we could get stuck with one foot in Iraq and one foot in Afghanistan and not really have the freedom of movement to do any of those two very complicated countries justice.
Steve Roberts: Is there any sense that given the pull-back of American troops and the rise in violence that there's any rethinking about this strategy, Tom, or is the Americans completely devoted to this pull-back whatever instability results?
Tom Gjelten: Well, I think, Steve, one point to keep in mind is that there's less to this pullback than you might think. I mean, the Bush administration -- sorry, the Obama administration makes a big point of there not being after a certain point combat troops in Iraq but what we've seen with the nature of warfare in Iraq is basically everybody who is in Iraq is in the category of combat troops. And the numbers that we're seeing now, we're down to 130,000 but that's, remember, that's only the number that was there before the surge. We're going to see 130,000 or 120,000 throughout the rest of this year. So there's not a major pull-back here.
Michael Schwartz (Asia Times) words it a bit more bluntly:
Unfortunately, not just for the Iraqis, but for the American public, it's what's happening in "the dark" - beyond the glare of lights and TV cameras - that counts. While many critics of the Iraq War have been willing to cut the Obama administration some slack as its foreign policy team and the US military gear up for that definitive withdrawal, something else - something more unsettling - appears to be going on. And it wasn't just the president's hedging over withdrawing American "combat" troops from Iraq which, in any case, make up as few as one-third of the 130,000 US forces still in the country - now extended from 16 to 19 months. Nor was it the re-labeling of some of them as "advisors" so they could, in fact, stay in the vacated cities, or the redrawing of the boundary lines of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to exclude a couple of key bases the Americans weren't about to give up.After all, there can be no question that the Obama administration's policy is indeed to reduce what the Pentagon might call the US military "footprint" in Iraq. To put it another way, Obama's key officials seem to be opting not for blunt-edged, former president George W Bush-style militarism, but for what might be thought of as an administrative push in Iraq, what Vice President Joe Biden has called "a much more aggressive program vis-a-vis the Iraqi government to push it to political reconciliation". An anonymous senior State Department official described this new "dark of night" policy to Christian Science Monitor reporter Jane Arraf in this way: "One of the challenges of that new relationship is how the US can continue to wield influence on key decisions without being seen to do so." Without being seen to do so. On this General Odierno and the unnamed official are in agreement. And so, it seems, is Washington. As a result, the crucial thing you can say about the Obama administration's military and civilian planning so far is this: ignore the headlines, the fireworks, and the briefly cheering crowds of Iraqis on your TV screen. Put all that talk of withdrawal aside for a moment and - if you take a closer look, letting your eyes adjust to the darkness - what is vaguely visible is the silhouette of a new American posture in Iraq. Think of it as the Obama Doctrine. And what it doesn't look like is the posture of an occupying power preparing to close up shop and head for home.
In some of today's reported violence (it's Friday, little gets reported) . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad bombing late Thursday which claimed injured a police officer "and three of his family members".
Moahmmed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Sahwa member ("Awakening" "Sons of Iraq" are other names) shot dead in Baghdad with another injured. Reuters notes another Sahwa member was shot dead in Babil with another left injured. CNN notes two Sawha were killed in the Baghdad attack and they state 75 people have lost their lives in Iraq since Wednesday with two-hundred-and-two left injured.
Yesterday the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Joint Readiness, Air and Land Forces and Seapower and Expeditionary Forces met to take testimony from General James Amos with the Marines and General Peter Chiarelli with the Army. Amos' big news is that all the marines equipment will be out of Iraq at the end of 2010 but not all of the marines. The press has maintained otherwise. We will be out of Iraq, the marines will be," declared Amos, "with the exception of just a few, by this time next year, the equipment will be out of Iraq, being repaired and going to the home stations."
Repaired? With regards to Chiarelli and the army, the big news appeared to be that money was being wasted because military equipment being reset is not also being repaired. This was referred
Roscoe Bartlett: I want to follow up with a question asked by Mr. Forbes, the army's 2010 request for reset is about $11 billion which nearly 8 billion -- 7.9 billion is for operations and maintenance and 3.1 billion for procurement. Now from 2007 to 2010, the O and M portion has been pretty constant at about 8 billion but the procurement portion has dropped to less than fifty percent of what it was in '07. I know '07 was a bit higher than it might have been because we were short in '06. But at just the time when we need more money because of all this reset, now we have less money. And if we're going to justify this on the basis of this new rule that you can't upgrade when you're repairing the equipment than I have a problem with that because what an opportunity we have when it's in there for maintenance repair why can't we upgrade? It seems to me to be very short sighted and I'm wondering why the money wasn't there? Did the army ask for more than 11 billion and 11 billion was all you could get?
Peter Chiarelli: My understanding is no, sir, we did not. We understood with the new overseas contingency operations rules were going to be, that amount, that three-billion-plus in procurement can only be used for washouts or vehicles or aircraft that are destroyed. And for the most part -- although like all these rules, they change -- for the most part, the recap -- or adding on -- is not allowed in FY10 and that drove down the amount of money we needed for procurement.
Roscoe Bartlett: But sir, why not? Isn't it our goal to have a better and better military? To support our people? Why shouldn't we upgrade? And isn't this a very short sighted program?
Peter Chiarelli: Sir, you'd have to ask the folks who wrote the new rules. Uhm. I-I think that it makes a lot of sense to upgrade when we can. It's kind of like paving a road. Uh, you know, it's better to put the sewer system in before you pave the road. It's-it's not a good idea to, in fact, pave the road and then decide to dig it up to put the sewer system in. So when we have equipment in and are able to do that -- that was a plus and allowed us to recap equipment. But the new rules are that we cannot do that.
Roscoe Bartlett: Well I think Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says that the Congress makes the rules. And, Mr. Chairman [Ortez], I think we need to take a look at that. Thank you very much and I yield back.
Solomon Ortez: Chairman Abercrombie.
Neil Abercrombie: I want to follow up, General, on what Mr. Bartlett just was dealing with when he says the Congress makes the rules. I'm not clear from your answer to Mr. Bartlett. What-what part of what the Congress wants you to do is being thwarted by whomever is making these rules? Who made this rule?
Peter Chiarelli: Sir, my understanding is they come out of OMB
Neil Abercrombie: I'm sorry?
Peter Chiarelli: Sir, my understanding is they come out of OMB. They write --
Neil Abercrombie: So you -- this is very important to me -- you take orders from OMB and not from the Defense Bill?
Peter Chiarelli: I, um, I can only tell you what I know now right now, sir, is the rules -- and I don't question who makes rules --
Neil Abercrombie: Well maybe rules is the wrong way. I'm not trying to be argumentative here at all. But this is serious business because the questions I have have to do with inventory and our capacity to do an accurate inventory so that I can make from -- Mr. Bartlett and I, I should say, because we do this together -- make recommendations to our subcommittee members and the committee as a whole. We try to this in a way that reflects your needs and if you're telling me that -- or telling Mr. Bartlett -- that someone in the Office of Management and Budget is able to countermand, I guess, what we're doing, how on earth are we supposed to make an accurate assessment, let alone recommendation, to follow up on, uh, requests that you're making today, let alone what has been made in the past. I'm not quite sure about your answer. Are you saying that your present -- your present course of action, when you make decisions with regard to the context established by Mr. Bartlett, that you're not paying any attention to the Defense Bill?
Peter Chiarelli: I'm not saying that. I'm saying --
Neil Abercrombie: Then why -- I really need to know what it is that we're dealing with here.
Peter Chiarelli: I can only tell you what the people I trust to put together our request to Congress have indicated to us: In FY10, as a general rule, we are not allowed to recap equipment. And that has brought down the amount of money that we requested for procurement as part of reset.
Neil Abercrombie: So you don't need additional funds? Is that right?
Peter Chiarelli: I am telling you --
Neil Abercrombie: Because we could reallocate funds. Believe me, I've got requests, Mr. Bartlett has requests right now, if your answer is is that you don't need this money and that which was represented to us -- whether I was in the minority or the majority because we've been on this subcommittee for some period of time now -- so those estimates from before were inaccurate?
Peter Chiarelli: Let me be perfectly clear --
Neil Abercrombie: I hope so.
Peter Chiarelli: -- this --
Neil Abercrombie: Because believe me I'll make some recommendations for re-allocations. Absolutely, I will.
Peter Chiarelli: We are in fact able -- with the budget we have and what we've requested to you to do what you asked me to come here and talk about today and that is reset our equipment. That is bring our equipment up to 1020 standards and 1020 standards meaning that it is fully capable to do its mission with minor deficiencies at best. We do not bring it to a recap situation. We are able to reset our equipment exactly as defined with the money we've been given by Congress.
Neil Abercrombie: Okay, if that's the case then, what do -- what system is in place then, whether it's from the OMB or yourself, to accurately asses inventory. The reason that I ask this question, in following up on Mr. Bartlett's observations and inquiry, is that just in shipping containers alone, you read the GAO reports, shipping containers alone, we can't get, our subcommittee staff, is unable to get an accurate answer as to what we need even from containers for equipment because we can't get a handle on your inventory. What inventory process is in place right now? And do you have confidence in it?
Peter Chiarelli: I have confidence in our inventory. I have confidence not only that commanders down range like I was twice maintaining inventory of both their TO and E equipment that they bring over with them plus the troop provided equipment. Uh, we have had many looks at our equipment down range to make sure that accountability standards are high. Uh, and they are. Uh and we feel very, very good that we know what we've got down range and what we will in fact be bringing back and what is in troop provided -- theater provided equipment which they issue to units when they arrive in theater
Neil Abercrombie: So the GAO reports on the capacity for you to accurately assess inventory is incorrect.
Peter Chiarelli: I believe --
Neil Abercrombie: I'll send it to you.
Peter Chiarelli: Thank you, sir.
Neil Abercrombie: And I would appreciate your response. This is a serious question because, again, this involves numbers, including billions of dollars. Believe me, we are looking right now for billions of dollars possibly for reallocation because of other demands. So-so if you don't need this money and you're sure your inventory assessment is absolutely correct seems to me I'm going to have a hell of a lot more flexibility than I thought I had.
Peter Chiarelli: Uh, we too understand the tru-tremendous fiscal re - crisis that our country has gone though. The economic situation. And one of the reasons why there's no question as long as we can reset our equipment we understand because of fiscal requirements it may be in the best interest of our country as a whole to cut back on the amount of recap we're doing so it did not seem odd to me --
Neil Abercrombie: Okay, excuse me. In the fiscal interests, is that the basis? Are you in conversations with these folks at OMB?
Peter Chiarelli: I have not, sir.
Neil Abercrombie: Who would have had these conversations?
Peter Chiarelli: It would have taken place at the Office of Secretary of Defense, OSD.
Neil Abercrombie: So the Secretary of Defense is saying that you need -- at least from my calculations here -- approximately 2 billion dollars less than you said you needed previously with regard to reset on the basis of -- what was the phrase you used? Fiscal discipline or fiscal necessity?
Peter Chiarelli: We understand that we all have to be very, very careful with the dollars that we spend. And, uhm, people have made a decision that we will not recap equipment in FY10. That seems to me to be understandable.
Neil Abercrombie: Okay, it's understandable, yes. Do you think it's good policy?
Peter Chiarelli: If-if-if I had the ability to recap equipment, if we had the money to recap equipment I think it would make sense --
Neil Abercrombie: That's not the question I asked. Do you think you need the money to recap? In you professional judgment, that's what we're asking for today, not from a politician appointed in the OMB. I'm asking for your professional judgment today with regard: Do you need money to recap?
Peter Chiarelli: If I had the ability to recap, I would recap for all the reasons I have stated.
Neil Abercrombie: You think the policy then of not being able to do that which is reflected in your -- in the numbers that are given to us -- is not good policy?
Peter Chiarelli: I-I-I can't say that and I won't say that. And I won't say that because I understand that the people who make those rules, make those decisions, have to take many other things into consideration. And that is why --
Neil Abercrombie: Yes, they have to take into consideration what we say is in the Defense Bill because we're reflecting -- we are trying to reflect -- I'm trying to help you here. Because, believe me, if you give me this answer, I want to know, and right now what you're telling me is is that -- is that in your professional judgment the-the rules or the-the policy or the-the-the admonitions that you've been given or the directions that you're operating under reflects your professional judgment of what the necessities for the army are right now.
Peter Chiarelli: If I had the authority and the ability to recap, I would. I --
Neil Abercrombie: Okay, thank you. If Congress gives you the authority under the Defense Bill then that would reflect your professional opinion that you could use at least 13 billion dollars a year rather than 11 billion --
Peter Chiarelli: I can't -- I can't give you those numbers.
Neil Abercrombie: Well okay. You don't have to -- well, those are the numbers we have been given previously.
Peter Chiarelli: Previous years?
Neil Abercrombie: Yes.
Peter Chiarelli: I'd have to go back and ask the -- we just don't go --
Neil Abercrombie: I won't go further. Mr. Chairman, this is serious business. We're under the gun here in the Defense Bill to make accurate numbers and put them forward for everybody to consider and now we have to make a decision whether OMB does this because, what the hell, we don't need a committee here if-if-if somebody down in OMB, this is a political appointment. It's all political appointments and if we're going to do it on the basis of-of what somebody else decides in the executive is-is a budget number as opposed to what our obligation is which is to provide for you and the people who serve under you and under your command then we have a real dilemma here. I have a real dilemma because I can't accurately, I cannot in good conscience say to Chairman Ortiz or to the other members that we're giving a number that adequately responds to what you believe to be in your professional judgment a necessity. Understand my motivation here?
Peter Chiarelli: I hope you understand mine. I-I understand also that you have to take many other things into consideration when putting together our budget. That's all I'm saying to you.
That was pulled from yesterday's snapshot because there wasn't room. Monday a bad article about women veterns and the large increase in the number who become homeless appeared, Bryan Bender's "More female veterans are winding up homeless" (Boston Globe) -- an article on how women veterans are falling through the cracks because their specific issues and problems are not known and/or addressed -- an article where all the 'experts' were men. No one apparently noticed that incongruity. Bender was not tackling a just-breaking story. From the June 3rd snapshot, when US House Rep Bob Finer chaired the House Committee on Veterans Affairs committee for the hearing entitled "A National Commitment to End Veterans' Homelessness:" The number of women veterans who are homeless is rising. [Vietnam Veterans of America's Marsha] Four observed, "There certainly is a question of course on the actual number of homeless veterans -- it's been flucuating dramatically in the last few years. When it was reported at 250,000 level, two percent were considered females. This was rougly about 5,000. Today, even if we use the very low number VA is supplying us with -- 131,000 -- the number, the percentage, of women in that population has risen up to four to five percent, and in some areas, it's larger. So that even a conservative method of determinng this has left the number as high as [6,550]. And the VA actually is reporting that they are seeing that this is as high as eleven percent for the new homeless women veterans. This is a very vulnerable population, high incidents of past sexual trauma, rape and domestic violence. They have been used, abused and raped. They trust no one. Some of these women have sold themselves for money, been sold for sex as children, they have given away their own children. And they are encased in this total humiliation and guilt the rest of their lives." About half of her testimony was reading and about half just speaking to the committee directly.\
Marsha Ford is only one of the experts on the issue Bender could have spoken to but didn't. Congress has found many women capable of speaking on the issue in the last two years. Since the press seems unable to (and since the Feminist Wire Daily can't even notice that women aren't 'experts' in Bender's article) perhaps the press could pay attention on July 14th when the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds their hearing Women Veterans: Bridging the Gaps in Care? Or possibly July 16th when the House Armed Services Committee holds their hearing Eliminating the Gaps: Examing Women Veterans' Issues? Were they to do so, they might discover that, no surprise, there are many, many women who can speak to issues effecting women veterans and they might realize how insulting -- in a story about how women's own issues are ignored by the VA (including being a single, primary caregiver for a child) -- it is to pen an article on women veterans while bringing in 'expert' males to talk about their problems as if to say: No one can follow the issue when a woman speaks. It's the equivalent, in conversations, of a man interrupting a woman to tell her story 'for her' because he can do it so much better because, apparently, an addition groin weight somehow helps in 'translation.'
Turning to film, The Hurt Locker opens today in San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Oahu, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Minneapolis, Denver, Toronto and DC. The amazing film directed by Kathryn Bigelow is winning raves all over. Ann Hornaday's "'Locker' Serves as Iraq Tour De Force" (Washington Post):"War is a drug," writes Christopher Hedges in the epigraph that precedes "The Hurt Locker." Someone else described war as "interminable boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror." Director Kathryn Bigelow comprehends both those observations and conveys them in this captivating, completely immersive action thriller. "The Hurt Locker" just happens to be set in Iraq in 2004, but, like the best films, transcends time and place, and in the process attains something universal and enduring. "The Hurt Locker" is about Iraq in the same way that "Paths of Glory" was about World War I or "Full Metal Jacket" was about Vietnam -- which is to say, utterly and not at all. "The Hurt Locker" is a great movie, period. From Mick LaSalle's "'The Hurt Locker' shows Bigelow's skill" (San Francisco Chronicle):She uses handheld cameras in "The Hurt Locker" not to make viewers dizzy or to instill excitement that isn't there but to create a subtle sense of being alongside the characters. Her camera doesn't shake. It breathes. It pulses. The camera becomes the viewer's eyes, not those of a spastic cameraman. Through such intuitive means, Bigelow takes an audience from the opening credits into a state of fierce attention and total empathy within about 60 seconds. Notice how quickly Bigelow conveys the charm and humanity of Guy Pearce, a soldier called upon to neutralize a bomb in the movie's first scene. Notice also how the direction and Mark Boal's screenplay inject a workaday quality into this tense moment. Throughout "The Hurt Locker," the human element is central, so that whenever something happens, it feels personal.
Turning to TV, this week on NOW on PBS:
This week, NOW talks directly with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the international community's envoy to the region and an architect of the plan. We also speak with a former commander of the infamous Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin about his decision to stop using violent tactics, and to residents of Jenin about their daily struggles and their hopes for the future.To Blair, the Jenin experiment can be pivotal in finally bringing peace to the Middle East. He tells NOW, "This is the single most important issue for creating a more stable and secure world."This show is part of Enterprising Ideas, NOW's continuing spotlight on social entrepreneurs working to improve the world through self-sustaining innovation.Next week NOW on PBS reports from inside the Israeli Defense Force to get the Israeli perspective on peace in the Middle East.Next week NOW on PBS reports from inside the Israeli Defense Force to get the Israeli perspective on peace in the Middle East.That begins airing tonight on most PBS stations as does Washington Week which finds Gwen sitting around the table with James Barnes (National Journal), Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) and Deborah Solomon (Wall St. Journal). Bonnie Erbe sits down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Kay James and Genevieve Wood on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all three PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Kill Bin Laden The officer who led the army's Delta Force mission to kill Osama bin Laden after 9/11 reveals what really happened in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, when the al-Qaeda leader narrowly escaped. Scott Pelley reports. Watch Video
Eyewitness Lesley Stahl reports on flaws in eyewitness testimony that are at the heart of the DNA exonerations of falsely convicted people like Ronald Cotton, who has forgiven his accuser, Jennifer Thompson. (This is a double-length segment.) Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, July 12, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
nprthe diane rehm show
the boston globe
the new york timessam dagher
the washington postann hornadaymick lasalle60 minutescbs news
pbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs