Friday, May 01, 2009

Broken promises

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Merkel-ed" went up Feb. 24, 2008.


Barack, for those who forgot, had a real problem respecting Hillary's space. He kept invading it. He kept touching her. It was very patronizing, not unlike Bully Boy Bush attempting to give an uninvited back rub to Germany's leader Angela Merkel.

I thought about that since I blogged last due to something I saw:

Wally and Cedric were writing about Barack and his press conference Wednesday night. I skipped it. I'm not crazy about TV to begin with, let alone about scripted programming posing as 'reality' TV.

But they note that Barack's not sure about the Freedom Of Choice Act and that he says it's not a "high" priority; however, when he was attempting to woo women voters, he was promising that signing it would be the first thing, THE FIRST THING, he did as president if elected.

It wasn't the FIRST THING. Obviously. He's been in office now for over 100 days -- as the press can't stop telling us -- and he's not signed it, he's not pushed on it and now we know it's not "high" on his things-to-do list.

Women just got Merkel-ed again.

Tuesday, I posted "Is it a library in a police state?" here and it resulted in a huge number of e-mails. Many of you were complaining . . . about the library's refusal to call or e-mail you after you'd complained to them.

I'm not surprised that took place. Someone who does not respect the privacy of their patrons is not someone who can rush out an apology.

The e-mails were wonderful and I enjoyed them (Sunny loved them and most of you got a reply from her) and I think it's important that we get the message out that the Dallas Public Library thinks it is okay to allow the police to go through the items their patrons check out. So much for privacy.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 1, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, Steven Green's War Crimes trial continues, Iraqi refugees see little progress, and more.
Monday July 3, 2006, Sandra Lupien broke the news listeners of KPFA's The Morning Show, "Steven Green who is discharged from the army was arrested in recent days in North Carolina and faces criminal charges in connection with the killings." It's the fourth news break of that day's broadcast and Steven D. Green is currently and finally on trial in Kentucky. From the July 2, 2006 snapshot: "Lupien also noted the arrest of Steven D. Green. Green, is 21 and was with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. Friday, in Asheville, North Carolina, he was arrested and charged with both the four deaths as well as the rape. According to the US government press release, if convicted on the charge of murder, 'the maximum statutory penalty . . . is death' while, if convicted on the charge of rape, 'the maxmium statutory penalty for the rape is life in prison'."
November 2, 2006, the US Justice Dept announced Green had been indicted: "A former Ft. Campbell soldier has been charged with various crimes for conduct including premeditated murder based on the alleged rape of an Iraqi girl and the deaths of the girl and members of her family, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David L. Huber of the Western District of Kentucky announced today. Steven D. Green, 21, was charged in the indictment returned today by a federal grand jury in Louisville, Ky., with conduct that would constitute conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated sexual abuse, premeditated murder, murder in perpetration of aggravated sexual abuse, aggravated sexual abuse on a person less than 16 years of age, use of firearms during the commission of violent crimes and obstruction of justice. The potential statutory penalties for conviction of these offenses ranges from a term of years to life in prison to death."
March 12, 2006, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, was gang-raped by two US soldiers while a third shot her parents and five-year-old sister dead. The third soldier, Steven D. Green, then joined the the other two soldiers and took part in the gang-rape before shooting Abeer dead and then attempting to set her body on fire. Though four US soldiers are already serving time for the War Crimes, and were tried in military court, another is on trial in a fedearl court. The United States District Court Western District of Kentucky is the location of the ongoing trial of Steven D. Green who has been described as the "ringleader" and fingered as the one who killed all four, a participant in the gang-rape of Abeer and the one who thought up the criminal conspiracy. Green's attorneys do not dispute it but ask that the 'context' of his actions be considered. The trial began Monday.
Among those offering testimony yesterday were Jesse Spielman and James Barker. Barker was tried in a military court and entered a guilty plea. Barker's testimony followed a court order after Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky Candace G. Hill filed a motion which Judge Thomas B. Russell signed off on and it included: "No testimony or other information compelled under this Order (or any information directly or indirectly derived from such testimony or other information) may be used against James Paul Barker in any criminal case, except a prosecution for perjury, giving a false statement, or otherwise failing to comply with this Order." Wednesday, Anthony Yribe testified and Hill also filed a motion to compell his testimony (which Judge Russell also signed off on). Paul Cortez also confessed to his part in the War Crimes and was sentenced by a military court. Hill has also had to file a motion to compell his testimony (which Judge Russel has signed off on). Cortez has yet to testify.

Jesse Speilman testified yesterday and was not under court-order. Brett Barrouquere (AP) quotes Speilman stating on the witness stand that he wasn't aware what the plan was when he joined Green and other soldiers: "I knew we were going to do something. We'd gone and roughed people up before. It's not all that uncomon."

As Marcia observed last night:

But grasp that he says, "We'd gone and roughed people up before. It's not all that uncommon."
The gang-rape and the murders was apparently uncommon; however, the roughing up of Iraqis, the sneaking off base to rough up Iraqis at night was "not all that uncommon."
It's a real damn shame so little of the country gives a damn about the March 2006 War Crimes or the trial going on right now because a lot is being learned.

Steven D. Green received his GED in 2003 and joined the military in February 2005, shortly after his January 31st arrest. He entered the military on a 'moral' waiver and he was discharged May 16, 2006.
Also testifying yesterday was FBI agent Stewart Kelly. Evan Bright is reporting on the trial at his blog. Bright reports Kelly testified that Green told him he "knew you guys were coming" and "looks like I'll be spending the rest of my life in prison" after his arrest. Of Spielman's testimony yesterday, Evan Bright reports:
After the lunch recess, Spielman described entering the house and keeping watch while Barker and Cortez separated 14-year-old Abeer from her family. He agreed to hearing three gunshots and that, after asking Green if everything was okay, Green replied "everything's fine", before letting him see the bodies of Qasim, Fakrhiya, and Hadeel. He said he knew they were dead because there was "blood scattered on the wall & part of the father's cranium was missing." Accordingly, Spielman walked out of that room and witnessed the rape of Abeer. The prosecution lent the model of the Al-Janabi house to Spielman for better clarification of the events and how they happened. When an M14 shotgun was brought out for demonstrative purposes, the court enjoyed a moment of humor as Marisa Ford, holding the weapon, declared "Judge, these have all been rendered safe but since I clearly have no clue what I'm doing," "and you're pointing it at me," (D)Wendelsdorf added. Spielman was confused, "I didn't really know what to do," he said, "It was an unsafe area and three out of my four squad members were involved so I couldn't leave and run back to TCP2." He testified to seeing Green unbuttoning his pants and getting down between Abeer's legs and raping her, after which he took a pillow and put it over Abeer's head and fired an AK47 into the pillow, killing her. At this, the defendant was spotted looking down. He then watched Barker pour a liquid onto her body. While her body was burning, he added clothes and blankets to fuel the flames, "to destroy evidence," he said.
He continued, describing Cortez & Barker washing their chests and genitalia back at TCP2, and how he himself threw the AK47 into the canal. When asked why he didn't turn his squad members in, he "didn't feel right, telling on people [he] served with." He was also fearful of retaliation from his fellow troops.
Evan Bright is in the courtroom and reporting. Considering all the media silence, ALL THE MEDIA SILENCE, that alone is amazing. When you grasp that Evan Bright is an 18-year-old high school student, it's even more amazing. We'll have an interview with Evan Bright Sunday at Third. Of Yribe's testimony Wednesday, Evan Bright reports:
Yribe spoke of Green's "confession" to the crimes, and of Specialist James Barker's hearing the confession but saying nothing, something that the Defense would later play upon. As he spoke of his realization that Spc. Green was telling the truth, Def. Green anxiously bit his nails.
When attorneys asked Yribe why he didn't turn Green in, Yribe murmured, "It was kind of….out of sight out of mind? I didn't understand the gravity of the situation."
During his cross-examination, Yribe was, for the most part, accepting and cooperative. As previously mentioned, Yribe was questioned on Barker's presence during Green's "confession" to the murder. The defense made light of Green's confessing that he and he alone did the murders, with Barker saying nothing and confessing to nothing, even though he had every opportunity to do so. Scott Wendelsdorf(D) pondered, "Is it true that if Green had said nothing to you, these crimes would have gone unsolved?" to which Yribe confirmed.
Unless Yribe's confessing to being the company blabbermouth, he has a highly inflated sense of himself. It's also cute how Green's defense wants to talk 'context' and the 'losses' but never want to take accountability for the worst attack on the platoon, June 16th when David Babineau, Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker were murdered. But then if their deaths were on your hands maybe you wouldn't be too honest either?
They died apparently as a result of what was done to Abeer and her family. That is the claim of their assailants. So Green and company might want to try taking a little accountability for their actions. As for Yribe's claim that the crimes would have gone unsolved if Green hadn't spoken to him? Lie. Yribe did confess to Justin Watt but so did Bryan Howard. When Babineau was murdered and Menchaca and Tuker were missing, Watt came foward with what Howard and Yribe were telling him and others. Justin Watt is the whistle blower who stepped forward. Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reported that as far back as September 2006. From the October 15, 2008 snapshot:
When did it come to light? In June of 2006. Prior to that the crimes were committed by 'insurgents'. Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reported on how Justin Watt (who was not part of the conspiracy) came forward with what he had been hearing. This was while US soldiers Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker were missing and, though the two were not involved in the war crimes, they were the ones chosen for 'punishment' as The Sunday Telegraph revealed in December 2006. Mechaca and Tucker get no special requests to the court. Like Abeer, they're dead. Like Abeer, they were guilty of no crime.
Brett Barrouquere (AP) who has been on the story for close to three years now reports that today saw James Barker continue testifying and that Paul Cortez alos testified. As they did in military courts, they repeated their own involvement in the War Crimes and described Steven Green's role. Barrouquere quotes Barker reflecting on his crimes to the court, "I should have had more sense than that. It was against everything, how I felt, how I was raised. In a way, it was barbaric."
This morning the US military announced: "AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – Two Marines and one sailor were killed while conducting combat operations against enemy forces here April 30. The names of the service members are being withheld pending next-of-kin notification and release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings to 4281 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. CNN observes that April is the deadliest month for US service members in Iraq so far this year, "In April, 18 U.S. troops died in Iraq, according to a CNN count of reported troop fatalities. Sixteen of those troops died in combat." 18 is the current total but it is not uncommon for an announcement or two to surface a few days after the start of the month -- meaning 18 may or may not be the final count for April. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) observes, "Anbar is an overwhelmingly Sunni province that was the center of the insurgency in Iraq until tribal leaders joined forces with the American military and Iraqi government against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other extremists in 2006 and 2007. Since then the province has been one of the more stable in the country." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) provides this context: "The spike in American casualties coincides with a rise in civilian deaths. They come as the U.S. military is retrenching from urban areas, leaving Iraqi security forces in the lead, and as insurgents are stepping up attacks designed to discredit the Iraqi government and the U.S. military." Of the increased violence, Dahr Jamail (at CounterCurrents) explains, "The floodgates of hell have once again been opened, largely as the result of US unwillingness to pressure the Maliki government to back off its ongoing attacks against the US-created Sahwa, which have led to the Sahwa walking off their security posts in many areas, which has been a green light for al-Qaeda to resume its operations in Iraq. In addition, many of the Sahwa forces, weary of not being paid promised wages from the government, as well as broken promises by the occupiers of their country, have resumed attacks against US forces. Again, there doesn't appear to be anything in the short term to indicate these trends will stop."
In other reported violence today . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul "suicide bomber" who took his own life and the lives of 6 others.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a US home invasion in Tikrit early this morning (one a.m.) in which 2 people were killed: Emad Sleman al Sharqi and Arkan Maseer al Sharqi. Tim Cocks (Reuters) reports 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul and 1 "bodyguard of a Kurdish politician" was as well.
Cocks also notes that Maj Gen David Perkins declared at a Baghdad press briefing today that US forces might miss the June 30th departure date on Iraqi cities when it comes to Mosul. That date was not supposed to float in the air. Allegedly the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement ruled/demanded that US troops leave ALL Iraqi cities by June 30th. But the treaty was never the 'binding' document that the US government (past and present administrations) or the press led the people to believe. As Seumas Milne (Guardian) observes today, "Not only does it seem all US combat troops will not after all be pulling out of Iraqi cities by the end of June, but there are persistent US hints that "agreement" may be reached with the Iraqi government to stay on after the announced full withdrawal by the end of 2011. The aggressors are clearly not going to go quietly."
Meanwhile, Zeina Karam (AP) examines life for Iraqi refugees in Syria and quotes Taghrid Hadi stating, "Life here is better. My children can play outside and I know they'll come back. You never know what's going to happen there." Monday Human Rights First issued a press release which included:

Washington, DC -- Only 4,200 Iraqis with U.S. ties have made it to the United States since 2003, though at least 20,000 have applied, and the number of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis may be as high as 146,000, according to a new report issued today by a leading human rights group.

The report, Promises to the Persecuted: The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2008, issued by Human Rights First, examines implementation of this critical legislation. It finds that, despite a Congressional mandate intended to expedite Iraqi refugee processing times, only a small portion of eligible Iraqis have been granted a safe haven in the United States. Based on its findings, Human Rights First urged the Obama administration to examine this issue and clear remaining bureaucratic obstacles to fulfilling America's promise to persecuted Iraqis who worked with the United States in Iraq, as well as to their families.

"Progress has been made since the enactment of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act in January 2008, but it's not enough. Processing times are unacceptably long, and Iraqis seeking safety in the United States can wait a year or more for their applications to move through the system," says Human Rights First's Ruthie Epstein, who authored the report. "We pin the delays on two problems – inadequate staffing and inefficient security clearance procedures. The result is that thousands of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis are stuck in Iraq and other countries in the region, facing danger and destitution. The absence of direct access to the U.S. refugee program in Syria and Turkey, where the need is significant, exacerbates the problem."

According to the report, U.S. officials successfully established processing for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis under an administration that was reluctant to acknowledge the refugee crisis and in the face of significant logistic and security challenges. But the multi-agency programs are still plagued with procedural barriers.

"In February at Camp Lejeune, President Obama made a commitment to Iraqi refugees. He declared, rightly so, that the United States has a strategic interest and a moral responsibility to act," noted Amelia Templeton, a refugee policy analyst at Human Rights First. "His commitment should begin with a comprehensive evaluation and improvement of the programs designed to provide escape to the very Iraqis who helped the United States."

Today Seumas Milne (Guardian) observes, "The Iraq war has been a monstrous crime. Based on a false pretext, it has left hundreds of thousands dead, created more than four million refugees, unleashed an orgy of ethnic cleansing and laid waste to the broken infrastructure of a country already on its knees from 12 years of sanctions and a generation of war." Human Rights First [PDF format warning] report notes, "Only a small percentage of the 15, 627 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis who applied directly to the U.S. refugee admissions program and whose U.S. ties have been verified have actually arrived in the United States -- less than 9 percent as of April 22, 2009." The new admissions programs is for those who have assisted the US -- US news outlets, US diplomatic corps or the US military. Elisabeth Witchel (Committee to Protect Journalists) explains:
CPJ supported the legislation, which created a category known as P2 (priority 2) for direct resettlement of Iraqi refugees with U.S. affiliations, including employees of U.S.-based media. The act promised a lifeline to Iraqi journalists, among other eligible groups, who have been targeted and killed in record numbers. However, CPJ shares the concerns detailed in the HRF white paper about the lengthy delays applicants are facing throughout this process.
[. . .]

Journalists applying out of Baghdad have expressed anxiety and frustration to us with unexplained delays and lack of information available to them on the status of their cases. One translator for a major U.S. newspaper submitted her application materials 10 months ago and still has not received so much as an invitation for an interview. She did receive a notice last month requesting she resend some of her documents. She complied and received an auto reply that her case would be reviewed within 10 months. This could mean a 20-month wait before even knowing if she has been confirmed as eligible, let alone the time it takes for the multi-agency security clearance process and Department of Homeland security checks which follow. That is a long time for someone in her shoes.

Like many other journalists and Iraqis at risk for their work, she has moved five times now for her safety; she keeps her occupation secret from family and friends and says she fears discovery every day by militias that consider people who work with Americans to be traitors or spies. Then there is the chance that she will find out after the long wait that she has not been approved. A cameraman for a prominent U.S. television news program was interviewed six months after his application was submitted; he waited another four months to learn that his application was rejected and he must now apply for reconsideration.

It needs to be noted that the process may be a little slower now due to the fact that some journalists (we don't use "media worker" here, they are journalists even if they're 'only' stringers) have been accepted and decided not to leave Iraq. We'll be kind and not provide the link but it was one of the top ten US daily newspapers in the country and it reported on how various Iraqi journalists for their paper were either accepted or in the process and not sure they wanted to leave Iraq. Sahar S. Gabriel is one of the Iraqi journalists accepted via the program. She worked for the New York Times and she posts to the paper's blog since arriving in the US. In her most recent post, she observed, "On March 18, just after my arrival in the United States, four high schoolers were killed in the state of Michigan. DUI, an expression I had heard so much in TV shows and movies. Four lives ended in a reckless accident caused by a moment of irrationality. A bad decision. This was not a terrorist act or a sectarian killing. This was what is referred to as 'stuff happens,' and it happens everywhere around the world."
Other categories of Iraqi refugees have arrived in the US -- a very small number, to be sure. Susan B. Wilson (KCUR -- link is audio) reported Monday on Iraqi refugees in Missouri:
Young boy: It's so much fun to be here because it's like you feel you are in your country. You see a lot of people, you see a lot of people that understand you and people that from your country and like you talk with them and you know what they feel and they know what you feel and I think that's really special.
Susan B. Wilson: And how old are you?
Young Boy: Uh, 12.
Susan B. Wilson: And when did you come to America?
Young Boy: About one year ago
Susan B. Wilson: Oh. And what was it like to first come here?
Young Boy: It was like a challenge for me because I didn't know how to speak English so I had to like have to learn English to know how to speak English to talk with people so people can understand me and I can understand people.
Susan B. Wilson: Well you speak English so well, how did you learn?
Young Boy: I learned it from school.
Nina Berman (Mother Jones) also reported on Iraqi refugees this week and she focused on those in Dallas, Texas where she observed, "Rather than making new lives, they are facing unemployment, eviction and isolation." Berman explains, "Each refugee receives $900 from the State Department's Reception and Placement program for initial resettlement to cover housing, clothing, food and necessities for 30 to 90 days. The money is administerd by 10 resettlement agencies that typically use half of it to cover administration and logistics. . . . Beyond that, refugees can get food stamps and Medicaid for eight months, which is a decline from 36 months when the Refugee Act was passed in 1980." Yes, that is embarrassing, yes, the US government should be ashamed of itself.
A large number of the external refugees are Christians due to the targeting of them in Iraq. Monday Vatican Radio reported on the Iraqi Christians murdered in Kirkuk Sunday.
Lydia O'Kane: Two Christian homes in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk became places of violence on Sunday, leaving 2 women and a man dead. These latest attacks on the dwindling Christian community have left it frightened and also worried about fears of reprisals. The motives behind the attacks remain unclear but police in Kirkuk say the slayings appear to be an attempt by al Qaeda to spark sectarian clashes or scare away the more than 10,000 Christians remaining around the city.
Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako: During the funerals, the church was full by Muslims. The governor, the mayor, the head of the police, the head of the army, the Sheiks [. . .] and also the Imans. And all of them, they condemned such attacks against innocent Christians.
Lydia O'Kane: Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako who condemned the killings said he's received support from other religious denominations.
Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako: After the funeral, they gave speeches about the humanity and the harmony of all the groups in the city. And also I asked Muslims, the Shia and Sunni and other ethnic groups, to be united. To be united and to protect each other in the same neighborhood. I hope that will work.
Lydia O'Kane: In light of the murders round the clock security patrols and checkpoints have been increased around Christian areas in the country including the city of Mosul which has faced the brunt of attacks including a string of bombings and execution style slayings in late 2008 blamed on Sunni insurgents. Iraq's Christians who numbered about one million in the early eighties are now estimated at about half that as families flee warfare and extremists attacks that target their churches and homes. I'm Lydia O'Kane..
Monday also saw Azzaman offered an editorial on the murders which noted, "The killing of [three] Christians in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk has sent shivers of fear in the Christian minority in the volatile northern city of Mosul. A few months ago more than a dozen Christians were killed in Mosul, forcing a big Christian exodus to surrounding villages and towns. Mosul, Iraq's second most populous city is under the control of insurgents fighting U.S. and Iraqi troops. Observers believe the city has emerged as a bastion for al-Qaeda in Iraq. Many of Mosul Christians have returned but some say they now fear for their lives." Eric Young (Christian Post Reporter) reminds, "Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled to neighboring countries and some 750 Christians have been killed in Iraq, according to Archbishop Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk." World Magazine reports on the three funerals held in Kirkuk Monday which were attended by the province's governor Mustafa Abdulraham and presided over by Archbishop Sako whose church the three had attended: "Besides crowds of mourners, Christian clergy from across the city as well as government officials attended the service in the ethnically mixed city, which has repeatedly been forced to delay a referendum on whether it will join the Kurdish government to the north or remain part of the Baghdad administration to the south. A U.N. commission has just completed a report on the region, which sits atop most of Iraq's oil reserves. It calls for a negotiated settlement that leaves the province intact. The outcome of the dispute will go a long way toward determining whether Iraq will continue with a strong centralized government in Baghdad once U.S. forces begin their departure. Many believe the attacks are aimed at undoing current negotiations."
The US has done little (that includes the current administration) to aid Iraqi refugees. Many of the external refugees flee to neighboring countries with Jordan and Syria having the largest numbers of Iraqi refugees. Syria Today reports, "The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and Danish embassy opened a new counseling centre for Iraqi refugees in Damascus on April 29." James Cogan (WSWS via CounterCurrents) notes, "There are 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, 500,000 in Jordan, 200,000 in other Gulf states and upwards of 50,000 in both Lebanon and Egypt. Relief agencies and charities report that after years of exile, conditions for many of the refugees are dire. Whatever money or assets they had has been spent, and in most of the host countries the Iraqis are not legally allowed to work."
In other news, Iraq War veteran and Iraq Veterans Against the War co-chair Adam Kokesh announces he's running for Congress:
Since I was first politically active, people have been encouraging me to run for Congress, including a recent effort to "draft" me to run ( We need rallying points to keep our movement invigorated and growing, and if a run for Congress from my home town of Santa Fe can serve as one, I will gladly step up. In that spirit, I am excited to announce the formation of the Kokesh for Congress Exploratory Committee.

While I am asking for your financial support in this effort, I want to make it clear that I am willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to raise the standard of our national leadership. If elected, I will not accept the Congressional salary of approximately $170,000, but only the national average income. It is unbearable in these difficult times, for Congress to tell the American people what is best for us economically while they vote themselves another pay raise and burden our children with impossible debt. Enough is enough!

There is a temporary website up now at Please sign up and donate there as we prepare for the launch of a complete site on June 1st.

It is time once again to draw the line between patriots and loyalists. I am a patriot because I am committed to the ideals of liberty and equality this country is destined to achieve, loyal to no false authority. I know that much more than political resistance is required to achieve a paradigm shift, but we can do no wrong standing up for what we know to be morally right. Regardless of my decision, I remain eternally committed to the cause of liberty.
For more than two decades it has been a crime for an undocumented worker to hold a job in the United States. To enforce the prohibition, agents conduct immigration raids, of the kind we saw at meatpacking plants in the past few years.
Today, some suggest "softer," or more politically palatable, enforcement--a giant database of Social Security numbers (E-Verify). Employers would be able to hire only those whose numbers "verify" their legal immigration status. Workers without such "work authorization" would have to be fired.
Whether hard or soft, these measures all enforce a provision of immigration law on the books since 1986--employer sanctions--which makes it illegal for an employer to hire a worker with no legal immigration status. In reality, the law makes it a crime for an undocumented worker to have a job.
The rationale has always been that this will dry up jobs for the undocumented and discourage them from coming. Those of us who served on a United Food and Commercial Workers commission that studied Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids at Swift meatpacking plants across the country learned that the law has had disastrous effects on all workers. Instead of reinforcing or tweaking employer sanctions, we would be much better off if we ended them.
TV notes, Washington Week begins airing tonight on many PBS stations (check local listings) and finds Gwen sitting around the table with Spencer Hsu (Washington Post), Alexis Simendinger (National Journal), David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times). Expect some easy-breezy Cover Girl makeup 'analysis' of Arlen Specter and a ton of bad jokes. (Seriously, expect a ton of bad jokes.) Also on PBS (and starts airing tonight on many PBS stations, check local listings), Bonnie Erbe sits down with Bay Buchanan, Donna Edwards, Princella Smith and Jessica Valenti to discuss this week's news on To The Contrary. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Amazon Crude
Ecuadorians are suing oil giant Chevron, the owner of Texaco, because they say oil drilling in the Amazon jungle by Texaco polluted their fragile environment. Scott Pelley reports.
Reeducating Osama Bin Laden's Disciples
Saudi Arabia, the native country of most of the 9/11 terrorists, says it is attempting to change the mindsets of jhadists formerly loyal to Osama bin Laden through a re-education program. David Martin reports. | Watch Video
All In The Family
The Antinoris have been in the wine business for 600 years – maybe the oldest family business on earth -- reports Morley Safer, from its vineyards in Tuscany, Italy. | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, May 3, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The fawning press

Richard Benedetto worked for USA Today (and its parent company Gannett) as a White House reporter and columnist. He is now a professor at Georgetown.

"Watchdogs are heeling for Obama" (Richard Benedetto, Politico):
A few news outlets, notably The New York Times on April 3, have sporadically noted some similarities between the policies of Obama and Bush, especially in foreign affairs. Yet the media honeymoon continues:
• Rock-star coverage by the TV networks of the president and first lady’s tour of Europe.
• An April 12 puff piece on White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel on the front page of The Washington Post, followed two days later by a similar profile of his deputy, Mona Sutphen.
• A touching April 19 New York Times article, fed to the paper by the White House, on how the president reads 10 letters a day from ordinary citizens who write him.
This is all well and good, as long as we do not forget our function as government watchdog. So far, we have.
B- is a bit generous. C+ is about right. It’s time to start barking.

Everything above is correct. Where is the media? Think about people like Danny Schechter who lie and say they are independent but he spends every day pimping and lying for Barack and treating like he's the first person to ever take a breath. Excuse me, the first man. Danny Schechter is a raging sexist. Therefore, he wouldn't care about the first woman to take a breath. Can you imagine how he would ridicule a right-winger in 2005, a journalist like George Will, who was praising Bush and also had a documentary he was hawking (for profit) on Bush? That's what Danny Schechter does.

It's really disgusting to watch these alleged journalists fawn and make fools of themselves. Lovesick fools making cow-eyes at Barack. It's so digusting.

It never ends and if we don't have watchdogs in the press, what is the point of even striving for a democracy?

It is really getting sickening and we need to grasp this is two in a row that have been turned into heroes we're supposed to worship.

We don't need another hero, as Tina Turner sang.

We need someone willing to work and that's the president and, yes, that's the press.

Yesterday the following community posts went up:

Cedric's Big Mix
Arlen reveals himself!
8 hours ago

The Daily Jot
8 hours ago

Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
It's a Different World than where you come from
9 hours ago

Mikey Likes It!
Debra Sweet, Chuck
9 hours ago

Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude
heroes jumps the shark!
9 hours ago

9 hours ago

Trina's Kitchen
The Feather and Father Game
9 hours ago

Ruth's Report
Paper Dolls
9 hours ago

Oh Boy It Never Ends
9 hours ago

Like Maria Said Paz
Is it a library in a police state?
9 hours ago

Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
The Mod Squad
9 hours ago

I hope you had time for them all. If not, please make a point to read them now.

I will blog next on Friday (I'm always off Thursdays, that's when I have my veterans' group) and I will note some of the responses to last night's post. You are all offended by what that library is doing. (I'm offended as well.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, April 29, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad is rocked with multiple bombings, Congress takes testimony on TRICARE, the United Nations voices grave concerns for Iraqi women, an attack leaves a US soldier wounded in Iraq, Steven D. Green's trial for War Crimes continues, and more.

Baghdad was rocked by bombings today. Two (
Los Angeles Times, Reuters and Albawaba) or three (BBC, UPI, McClatchy, Xinhua, Washington Post) car bombings exploded in Baghdad's Sadr City. CNN reports the death toll from the Sadr City bombings (they say three) is "at least 45 people" with sixty-eight more injued. Xinhua explains, "The incident occurred in the afternoon when three booby-trapped cars parked at different popular marketplaces in Sadr City neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, detonated simultaneously, the source said." BBC notes, "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says the attacks are the kind of provocation, blame on militant Sunni Islamists, which triggered and fuelled a deadly spiral of sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007." Liz Sly and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) report, "Survivors of the carnage turned their wrath on the security forces, hurling bottles and bricks at the police and army troops until the soldiers fired in the air to disperse the crowd." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) provides this context, "The attack was the deadliest in Sadr City since the Iraqi army wrested control of the impoverished Shiite district from militias last May." He also notes Iraqi police claim "the defused three other car bombs shortly after the blasts." Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The attacks are the latest sign that security gains here are beginning to reverse. Large-scale bombings targeting civilians have been on the rise since March." Reilly points out that over 200 people have died in Baghdad this month thus far and the last time McClatchy shows that happening was March of last year.

In other violence,
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad car bombing left five people injured and two Baghdad car bombings which claimed 2 lives and left eight injured (this is in addition to the Sadr City bombings which they also note), a New Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two, a grenade attack in Kirkuk on US forces which resulted in two Iraqi civilians being shot and four more wounded. CNN cites US Maj Derrick Cheng stating that the US military had been "working with local police to provide micro-grants" when the attack took place and Cheng states 2 "attackers" were dead with two more injured as well, according to Cheng, one US soldier wounded. Reuters adds that Diyala Province roadside bombings claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers (two also left injured) and 2 Mosul roadside bombings (this is in addition to the New Mosul one) resulted in the death of 1 police officer and five Iraqi civilians being injured. Going with CNN's 45 dead in Sadr City, that would mean at least 53 reported deaths in Iraq today. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes 41 is the death toll in Sadr City according to the political party website of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Alsumaria quotes US Brig Gen David Quantock stating that the increase in violence is not due to the release of Iraqi prisoners from US prisons in Iraq.

According to US Major Cheng, one US soldier was wounded today. We'll use that to jump over to a US Congressional hearing this morning. "Today, the Military Personnel Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the organization of the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs," stated Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis calling the hearing to order. Of Health Affairs/TRICARE Management Activity, she noted "we are clearly dealing witha different model than the rest of the Department. We do not know if that is good-different, bad-different, or just different. It is therefore important for us to examine this structure so that we may understand exactly how the organization operates and how that impacts care for our men and women in uniform and isn't really that the bottom line here that we're seeking?" (
Click here for US House Rep Susan Davis' opening statement, non-PDF format -- but not that I'm quoting her remarks and they're not word for word the prepared statement.) Joe Wilson is the Ranking Member on the Committee and his opening remarks included noting, "General George Washington and the Continental Congress understood the necessity of good medical care during the fight for our independence. After suffering a sizeable number of casulities from disease, the Continental Congress established the medical department of the Army in July 1775. Washington then appointed the first Director General and Chief Physician of the Hospital of the Army." That was Dr. Benjamin Church -- a poor choice who was replaced by Dr. John Morgan. Church was a poor choice? He was a spy for the British. Wilson didn't go into that or name Church, I'm just tossing it in as historical trivia and wouldn't have known it if the office of a Dem House Rep hadn't told me after the hearing (when I asked about the trivia). Other triva included that it is "Surgeons General" and not "Surgeon Generals" when you are dealing with the plural. US House Rep Vic Snyder asked and established that.

Appearing before the subcommittee were the following: Acting Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness Gail H. McGinn (DoD, -- PDF formart warning --
here for her opening statement), Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Health Affairs (DOD -- PDF format warning, here), Lt Gen Eric Schoomaker (Army Surgeon General, PDF format warning, here), Vice Admiral Adam Robinson (Navy Surgeon General, PDF format warning, here), Lt Gen James G. Roudebush (Air Force Surgeon General, PDF format warning, here) and Maj Gen Elder Granger (DoD's Deputy Director TRICARE Management Activity, PDF format warning, here). It was Granger's last appearance before the committee who is retiring. From the opening statements, we'll note one section that is of interest and is not in the prepared remarks.

Lt Gen Eric Schoomaker: In a nutshell, the MHS [Military Health System] exist to support war fighters on the battlefield, the Direct Care System exist to deliver military readiness, Private Sector Care supports and fills the gaps in the Direct Care System. If form is to follow function then the MHS should be optimally organized to suport the Direct Care System. I don't believe this is always the case. For example in the budgeting process, Private Sector Care forecasts are considered must pay while Direct Care System estimates are considered "unfunded requirements." The Department's priority has been to fund the Private Sector Care at 100% of projected requirements while many of our Direct Care System needs are not addressed until year end when overforecasted PSC funding becomes available for distribution to the Direct Care System. Since Private Sector Care is often over-programmed , they return money to the MHS and they're seen as "cost containing." Our Direct Care System health care bills are always after the fact and are seen as "cost overruns." This resourcing construct appears to prioritize Private Sector Care over the Direct Care System.

Most veered from their prepared remarks (Robinson brought up San Antonio, for example) but Schoomaker's veer went to the issues raised in the hearing.

To cut down on the "gobbledeegook," US House Rep Vic Snyder gave the witnesses examples so they could speak in specifics.

US House Rep Vic Snyder: The first example is a special-needs kid which I think some of us have talked about before. General Schoomaker, you talked about supporting our war fighters overseas and I think nothing creates more heart ache for our folks overseas than if they have a special-needs kid and the kid is not getting the kind of care that they think they need while they're at a military facility some place. So let's take a kid with either insulin-dependant diabetes or autism or something that requires a fairly intensive amount of help. The second example might be that I think a lot of us have run into over the last several years would be a somebody in the reserve component who is mobolized for active duty for a period of 18 months or so, so there family then goes into the military health care system but may be geographically living in a place, not near a base, not near providers who are used to dealing with TRICARE. So what I would like each of you to do -- and just tell me if I'm off base. It may be the tensions that we were talking about, which you all were discussing, have nothing to do with those examples but how does what you're talking about relate specifically to our men and women and the care that they give and if these are a couple of examples where it may -- it may give you an opportunity to describe how the tension may relate to the actual care that men and women and their families get?

Lt Gen Eric Schoomaker: Well candidly, sir, from my perspective, both of the cases -- and I'll be interested in hearing what my colleagues have to say -- both of those cases I think are not necessarily confounded by the tensions that we're creating here. In fact, I think that both of them in many cases are a tribute to the far-sightedness and the vision of setting up a TRICARE system as we did 15 years or so ago. In the case of special-needs kids, we have an extraordinary generous benefit which is fairly uniformly applied and, in fact, I think it's resulted in -- in the military health care system being one of the elements of a family's decision with a special-needs child to stay in uniform. So I would have to say that doesn't necessarily -- I don't see my role in executing these programs as being interfered with in any way, shape or form in taking care of special-needs kids. I would have to say the same about the mobilized reserve component -- National Guard and Reserves -- many of whom come from places in this country where we don't have a robust Direct Care System: central Idaho, parts of Montanna, Wyoming. We don't have large, robust medical centers and health services systems. And so having an effective Purchase Care System and a Managed Care Support Contractor that is reaching out and providing care to those families is, I think, that again reflects the far sightedness of a well executed TRICARE program. I'm not taking away from any of that part of it.

Vice Admiral Adam Robinson: I would come at this a little differently. I don't completely disagree with General Schoomaker but I think that the autism and the insulin-dependent diabetic do come into play in this regard. Often -- first of all, the private sector care, the network care and the direct care can both play here. Let's take 29 Palms, I'll just take a Marine Corps base in southern California, very remote location. I'm not going to be able to get network care there. It's going to have to be direct care. It's going to have to be uniform care. Now when I say "I can't get it," there are people that will go there but that's very difficult so I have places in this country that are very difficult to, in fact, get network care. That means I need it in uniform [care]. However, very often there's also been -- and I don't want to get caught in the mire of the gobbledeegook -- but there's also thoughts that very often we on the direct care side and uniform should be be there for very specialized war fighting activities that make us incredibly essential for the battle and for the things that the military system in fact, was built to do. But, in fact, in 2009 we have taken on added responsibilities which include garrison and family care. So my question then is I need pediatric endocrinologists as much as I need trauma surgeons but it may be difficult sometimes to, in fact, get there because of how we have, in fact, looked at what we think we should get from the war fighting versus the non-war fighting situations. Now I'm not suggestiong to you that anyone's denying the Navy or the other services pediatric endocrinologists. I'm just simply saying that there is a tension that does exist because of some thoughts and some assumptions made as to how we really should in fact divy up our uniform versus our network. I'd like to add just one other thing. I'm not going to comment on the reserve component. I think that General Schoomaker's answer is -- would be mine also. I'd only like to say, overseas with our EDIS -- exception developmental instructional programs and also our exceptional family member programs this is also the case because overseas we're not able to, in fact, engage in that war care so if I don't have it -- if I can't either contract it to bring it or if I don't have it in uniform, it's much more difficult to get. And those are just challenges that I must look at. I'm not suggesting that anyone's keeping me from getting there but these are the challenges from an SG's perspective that I must look at.

Lt Gen James G. Roudebush: Congressman, I think you raise a point that really brings out the essence of what we're talking about this morning. There is a role and relationship and it's not "either/or" it's "and." For us in uniform there are in fact places where we are going to need to have in uniform speciality capabilities for family members because family care is mission impact. When our men and women are in harm's way, if they're not confident their families are fully cared for, they will not be focused on what's in front of them and that has mission impact. So family care plays directly into the mission. For us, TRICARE gives us that wrap-around in those circumstances where we may not have the capability readily available for our reserves in areas where we don't have a facility availabe for example. Or for special-needs youngsters, we may not have that readily available within the uniform service. TRICARE gives us that wrap-around capability. And, quite frankly, when you get to speciality care for our youngsters that is rather expensive to make and sustain in uniform. And the more cost-effective solution and clinically effective solution in many circumstances is in fact a contract for that capability and that care through the private sector TRICARE. So it's not "either/or," it's "and" and finding the right balance, each of us within our roles, to get that mission accomplished. So I think you do raise an intersection that's critically important for us to get right.

Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis: Thank you, I'm going to move on. Ms. Tsongas?

US House Rep Niki Tsongas: Thank you. I'm enjoying this testimony and I have to say much of this as a new member as a relatively new member, much of it is new to me. I have to say, many years ago as a child of the Air Force, I needed a very delicate eye surgery and I was in an Air Force hospital in Langley Air Base and then subsequently at Tachikawa Air Base. I received remarkable care and, again, I was with Congressman Wilson in Balad where we did see the remarkable work that you're doing. But obviously we're in a time and an era when health care is far more complicated and far more expensive and it's clear that you're wrestling with both on multiple layers. My question, slightly different though, is we have representatives of the different services and you obviously have different cultures, some times very different needs as a result of the roles you play, and I'm just curious as how this plays itself out given the different tensions that you all have described? Is it another layer to it or is it really not particularly significant?

Lt Gen Eric Schoomaker: Well I'll speak for the Army. I think, ma'am, it's very significant and I think it's why we -- not for parochialism or not because we're looking to build duplication or triplication within -- within the defense health system -- why we insist on executing our programs in each one of our services. Each one of the services -- for very good reasons -- has important differences in how it fights war, in how its military health care uniform members support the deployed force. And that's not to say that there aren't commonalities in some large metropolitan areas, like in the national capitol region or San Antonio, we can't find shared platforms where we can retain common skills, where we can share the opportunities in the greater Washington area where we have 36 or 37 different health care facilities across the three services from Pennsylvania down to Quantico and as far west as Fort Belvoir. We have plenty of opportunities to share those platforms for caring for about a half-million beneficiaries. But when it comes down to ships at sea and brigades in battle, some of the remote sites that General Roudebush and I in the Army have to service, the service cultures are very much a part of this and it's why we, Surgeons General and commanders of our medical forces, want to have a very firm grasp on the execution of these programs.

Vice Admiral Adam Robinson: Each service has a concept of care. I think that as the long war has continued in both Iraq and Afghanistan our concepts of care have actually become much closer together. They've merged. From the Navy's perspective, I'm not speaking now for the Army or Air Force but I don't think they're much different, patient and family-centric care is our concept. It's what we think is important in order to make sure that we can meet the mission. Both the operational -- that is the war mission -- as well as the family and the garrison care mission because we can't separate them out any longer. Since people on the battlefield, men and women can now e-mail and text message family members during an intense encounter, it is no longer the case that I can, in fact not take care of families as I'm also taking care of men and women on the battlefield. We've moved into another era of communication, of technology and of the insistence by the people that -- our beneficiaries that we in fact care for them in a very organized and meaningful way and that's what I think all three services do but we all do it differently -- leverging those things that our service chiefs and the equities of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps must have in order to meet their missions and at the same time making sure that we leave no patient, no family and no member behind.

US House Rep Niki Tsongas: And not to interrupt but do health affairs and TRICARE management acknowledge this in your relationship or is yet one more -- one of those things that is a source of tension?

Vice Admiral Adam Robinson: I think that Health Affairs does acknowledge that. I think that they do in fact understand the differences in the services and how to meet them. I also think that very often the concept of what is important from a patient perspective can sometimes get clouded or get shaded in relationship to the business perspective of efficiencies and effectiveness. Now that's the world that we live in so I'm not complaining to you about that because everyone has to look at costs and has to look at the bottom line that we're trying to get done. The key here in medicine is that patients usally when they're coming to you and they need something to save their lives, they need something that they think is going to be absolutely essential to their well being are not interested in hearing the business rules involved in doing that. My job is to, in fact, take that into account and to balance that out with the needs of the patient.

Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis: General, do you want to comment?

Lt Gen: James G. Roudebush: Just very quickly. At times folks will talk about culture and say, 'Well culture is interesting." I would suggest to you that culture is a signficant part of what we do. We have an all volunteer force. Every soldier joins the Army because he or she is attracted to the mission and the culture. Likewise every sailor and Marine and Air man joins that service because they are attracted to the culture and the mission. Their families are wrapped in that culture. We care for our servicemen within that culture and within that mission ethos. So culture is a big part and, particularly when these men and women are injured or ill, that culture wraps around them and supports them, helps them through that recovery, rehabilitation. And so while some of the -- many of the clinical activities are certainly the same in the Army, Navy and Air Force that wrap around, that family, that team that's caring for them is an important part of the construct and I think that can't be lost in the discussion.

FYI, April is Autism Awareness Month. Ruth has covered that
here, here and here this month. For more information, the Autism Society of America is one resource.

Back to Iraq, a
Sunday attack in Kut continues to make the news. The pre-dawn US raid resulted in two deaths and condemnation from Nouri al-Maliki. US Col Richard Francey spoke to the BBC earlier this week and today tells Alsumaria that the incident "could have been avoided" and that a joint US-Iraqi investigation has been launched. Alsumaria also reports, on the legislative front, "Iraq's Parliament voted to proceed with the secret intelligencer law rejecting the proposal of the legal committee which called earlier to suspend this law." Meanwhile the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq announces their latest report which finds "the overall human rights istuation in Iraq remains a matter of concern." More to the point:

The report shows that gender-based violence remains one of the key unaddressed problems throughout Iraq. Numerous murders of women under the guise of so-called "honour killings" are still being recorded as suicides, the report shows, while in the Northern Region of Kurdistan the practice of Female Gential Mutilation (FGM) remains a tolerated practice.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, whose staff helped compile the report, said "the situation of Iraqi women is extremely difficult. Violent actions are taken against them on a daily basis and I urge the authorities to make it a priority to both improve legislation, and law enforcement in order to protect them properly."

Iraq is also the largest refugee crisis and women and girls who are internal or external refugees are at risk and are often victimized via Iraq's underground sex trade or the sex trade in other countries such as Syria. The US has done a lousy job providing Iraqi refugees with asylum.
Nina Berman (Mother Jones) explores the conditions for some Iraqi refugees who make it to 'safety':

The United States took in a mere 735 Iraqi refugees between 2003 and 2006. Criticized for not doing enough, 17,000 are slated to arrive between September 2008 and September 2009. But the high-minded policy change seems more like another American broken promise. Recently arrived refugees interviewed in Dallas wonder how they're supposed to become self-sufficient on minimal assistance in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Rather than making new lives, they are facing unemployment, eviction and isolation. "The life here is closed," said Lara Yakob, whose husband, an architect in Mosul, has been out of work since he arrived five months ago. His best prospect to date: a tryout in a laundry room. "I think the American government feels that they made bad things for Iraq, so they bring us here. I don't know why they do that if they don't find us a job. This life they start for us, is a very bad life, " said Omar Ibrahim, who arrived in Dallas in 2008 and still is jobless. He lives in a housing complex on the edge of the city, on a tree-lined street off the freeway, near Garland. Around 100 refugee families from Iraq, Myanmar and central Africa share this neighborhood of two-story apartments around the corner from a gas station -- the site of a recent police killing -- a Cash America outlet, aging strip malls and shuttered superstores. His rent assistance stopped after four months, and to pay the bills he had to do the unthinkable. "I called my family in Iraq to send me money," he said. And they asked him, "You are in America, and you are asking us for money?"

A large number of Iraqi refugees are Christians and we'll note them tomorrow. Turning to legal news,
Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi is the 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped by US soldiers in March of 2006 while her parents and five-year-old sister were murdered and then Abeer herself was murdered. Steven D. Green is on trial in a federal court in Kentucky (he was discharged before the War Crimes came to light) for assorted charges including gang-rape and murder. The ones who have confessed thus far have all fingered Green as the ringleader. Time magazine has not ignored the War Crimes. It has covered them here and here. Noting the other trials for these War Crimes so far, Jim Frederick provides a walk-through on what's known going in:

Nursing a hatred of Iraqis stemming from heavy losses their unit had suffered, and fueled by several bottles of Iraqi whisky, they embarked upon a premeditated crime of gruesome barbarity. Donning black long underwear outfits as disguises, even though it was the middle of the day, they traveled a few hundred meters to an isolated farmhouse where they gang raped
Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year old Iraqi girl and murdered her, her parents, and her six-year old sister. The men returned to their checkpoint unnoticed and for months afterwards, the massacre was considered by the Army and locals alike to be just another outburst of the frequent Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence that plagued the area.

Time notes: "Jim Frederick, a former editor at TIME, is writing a book about Green's unit, entitled Black Hearts: One Platoon's Disintegration in the Triangle of Death and the American Ordeal in Iraq, which will be published in Spring, 2010 by Harmony Books." Meanwhile the
Washington Observer-Reporter makes the trial the topic of their editorial and they conclude, "But there are no hardships, military or otherwise, that could excuse an atrocity like this and you can't blame it on a 'lack of leadership'." AP's Brett Barrouquere has long cover this story (three years in a few more months) and he reports Col Todd Ebel's testimony yesterday was that the accused, Steven D. Green wanted to shoot civilians because "the enemy could be dressed as civilians" and that Lt Col Thomas Kunk began testifying today (continues this morning) "about the investigation into the deaths." The hearing continued today and Barrouquere reports that Lt Col Thomas Kunk was on the witness stand and stated he had heard rumors that Green wanted to murder "all Iraqis" so he spoke with him and Green denied that stating that there were 'some' good Iraqis and he didn't wish to harm them.

Meanwhile, as noted in
yesterday's snapshot, Iraq War resister Cliff Cornell entered a guilty plea to desertion in his court-martial at Fort Stewart yesterday. UPI notes that Cliff has been sentenced to one year imprisonment and quotes Cliff's civilian attorney, James Branum, stating, "Cliff is being punished for what he believes, for his comments to the press. Because he spoke out against the Iraq war, Cliff's sentence is harsher than the punishment given to 94 percent of deserters who are not penalized but administratively discharged." Nanaimo Daily News reports Cliff "tearfully read a prepared statement to the judge apologizing for leaving his unit." Across Georgia quotes him stating, "It was wrong for me to leave my unit and go to Canada. I was very anxious about whether I might be asked to do things that might violate my conscience. I felt trapped. I didn't know what to do." Cliff went to Canada in 2005. He sought asylum there repeatedly and was rejected. He was to be deported when he left Canada in February and turned himself in. (Some say he was deported. Due to the order, we won't split hairs on either interpretation.) Travis Lupick (The Straight) gives the background story here. Frenchi Jones (Coastal Courier) explains, "Cornell was stationed at Fort Stewart at the time of his desertion. He was a soldier with the 1st Battalion, 39th Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, and 3rd Infantry Division." Courage to Resist notes that in addition to the year in prison, "The military judge, Col. Tara Olson, also ordered Cliff's rank be reduced to private and for him to receive a bad conduct discharge."

Meanwhile independent journalist
John Pilger evaluates US president Barack Obama's first 100 days:

It is more than 100 days since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The "Obama brand" has been named "Advertising Age's marketer of the year for 2008", easily beating Apple computers. David Fenton of describes Obama's election campaign as "an institutionalised mass-level automated technological community organising that has never existed before and is a very, very powerful force". Deploying the internet and a slogan plagiarised from the Latino union organiser Cesar Chavez -- "Sí, se puede!" or "Yes, we can" -- the mass-level automated technological community marketed its brand to victory in a country desperate to be rid of George W Bush. No one knew what the new brand actually stood for. So accomplished was the advertising (a record $75m was spent on television commercials alone) that many Americans actually believed Obama shared their opposition to Bush's wars. In fact, he had repeatedly backed Bush's warmongering and its congressional funding. Many Americans also believed he was the heir to Martin Luther King's legacy of anti-colonialism. Yet if Obama had a theme at all, apart from the vacuous "Change you can believe in", it was the renewal of America as a dominant, avaricious bully. "We will be the most powerful," he often declared. Perhaps the Obama brand's most effective advertising was supplied free of charge by those journalists who, as courtiers of a rapacious system, promote shining knights. They depoliticised him, spinning his platitudinous speeches as "adroit literary creations, rich, like those Doric columns, with allusion..." (Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian). The San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford wrote: "Many spiritually advanced people I know... identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who... can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet." In his first 100 days, Obama has excused torture, opposed habeas corpus and demanded more secret government. He has kept Bush's gulag intact and at least 17,000 prisoners beyond the reach of justice. On 24 April, his lawyers won an appeal that ruled Guantanamo Bay prisoners were not "persons", and therefore had no right not to be tortured. His national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair, says he believes torture works. One of his senior US intelligence officials in Latin America is accused of covering up the torture of an American nun in Guatemala in 1989; another is a Pinochet apologist. As Daniel Ellsberg has pointed out, the US experienced a military coup under Bush, whose secretary of "defence", Robert Gates, along with the same warmaking officials, has been retained by Obama.

ETAN notes:Groups Urge Meaningful Pressure on Jakarta for Papuan RightsContact: Ed McWilliams, WPAT, +1-575-648-2078John M. Miller, ETAN, +1-718-596-7668 April 27 - Two U.S. organizations concerned about human rights in West Papua today urged the U.S. government "to apply meaningful pressure on the Indonesian government and its security forces... to address long-standing Papuan concerns and grievances." The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) called the new Obama administration's approach to West Papua "hardly fresh." In testimony before Congress last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for supporting West Papua "in its efforts to have a degree of autonomy within Indonesia." "Failure of the U.S. government to think seriously and act responsibly about West Papua, before Indonesia's July presidential elections, risks further deterioration of human rights and communal violence," said Ed McWilliams, a retired U.S. diplomat and spokesperson for WPAT. "Papuans have repeatedly rejected 'Special Autonomy' and... have demanded instead an internationally-facilitated dialogue with the central government to address key issues, including demilitarization of West Papua, an end to intimidation, the release of political prisoners, and the right to self-determination," the groups said. The full statement is below. The U.S. government and Congress should "apply meaningful pressure" for such a dialogue and for "an end to restrictions that prevent the international community from monitoring human rights developments and the welfare of Papuans in the region." Pressure should include conditioning "assistance to the Indonesian military, Brimob, Indonesia's intelligence agencies on real reform [of the security forces], human rights accountability and demonstrated respect for people of West Papua." In recent weeks, their has been an escalation of both peaceful protest and violent conflict in West Papua, which Indonesia annexed in 1969. Since then Papuans have suffered massacres and other systematic human rights violations, environmental destruction, and marginalization in their own land. -30-Joint Statement by West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) on U.S. Policy and West Papua Appearing last week before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, for the first time as Secretary spoke directly about the human rights crisis in West Papua. While candidly acknowledging the "many human rights abuses" in West Papua, Secretary Clinton framed both its problems and their solutions essentially in the same way that the Bush Administration had: She emphasized that West Papua was part of a "sovereign Indonesia," and said West Papua needed support "in its efforts to have a degree of autonomy within Indonesia." For nearly eight years the Indonesian government has pursued its "Special Autonomy" policy for West Papua. This was to have afforded long-denied fundamental rights to Papuans and ended decades of systematic human rights violations, environmental destruction and marginalization. Clearly, the Indonesian government has failed to implement this policy, instead continuing to rely on a security approach. Indonesia's military, militarized police (Brimob) and intelligence agencies continue to terrorize Papuans. These security forces violate fundamental human rights with impunity and collude with domestic and international corporations to deprive Papuans of their land. At the same time, the Indonesian government has drawn a curtain around West Papua preventing or limiting international monitoring of conditions there by journalists, international human rights officials, and others. Recently, it demanded the departure of International Committee of the Red Cross because its officials had met with Papuan political prisoners. The Indonesian government continued denial of essential services health, education and employment, leaving the Papuans to suffer among the worst levels of poverty, mortality and education in Asia. Papuans have repeatedly rejected "Special Autonomy" and -- in massive, peaceful popular demonstrations -- have demanded instead an internationally-facilitated dialogue with the central government to address key issues, including demilitarization of West Papua, an end to intimidation, the release of political prisoners, and the right to self-determination. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration appears to ignore the reality of Papuans' suffering and the urgent need for fundamental change in West Papua. Secretary Clinton's call for a "degree of autonomy" for West Papua is hardly fresh or progressive thinking. Rather than resort to the failed Bush Administration approach of calling upon Jakarta to afford "a degree of autonomy," the crisis in West Papua calls for fresh approach and a genuine commitment to Papuans fundamental rights, including a right to self-determination. A decade ago, the U.S. Government similarly failed to understand the dynamics of the deteriorating human rights environment in East Timor. During that crisis, the U.S. sought only to press the Indonesian military to take more seriously its responsibility to protect human rights in East Timor. Then (and now) the U.S. government failed to understand that the Indonesian military, (as well as Brimob and Indonesian intelligence agencies) bore ultimate responsibility for the death and destruction in surrounding the UN-organized referendum in 1999. Instead of offering stale policy prescriptions, we urge the U.S. to apply meaningful pressure on the Indonesian government and its security forces to press for an internationally-facilitated, senior level dialogue between the Indonesian Government and Papuans, including Papuan civil society, to address long-standing Papuan concerns and grievances. The U.S. government should urge an end to restrictions that prevent the international community from monitoring human rights developments and the welfare of Papuans in the region. The U.S. government should also press for fundamental reform of the Indonesian security forces which continue to violate human rights, are unaccountable before Indonesia's flawed judicial system, and are not fully subordinate to civilian government control. The current administration and Congress should clearly condition assistance to the Indonesian military, Brimob, Indonesia's intelligence agencies on real reform, human rights accountability and demonstrated respect for people of West Papua. etanetanetanetanetanetanetanetanetanetanetanetanJohn M. Miller Internet: National Coordinator East Timor & Indonesia Action Network PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Mobile: (917)690-4391 Skype: john.m.miller Web:

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