Friday, July 17, 2009

'Poor' Sharon Smith

C.I. here filling in for Elaine who is on vacation. An e-mail came into the public account of TCI ( and I don't know if the guy is a regular reader of Elaine's or what. But he wants to know why Elaine dislikes Sharon Smith or, as he calls her "poor Sharon Smith"? The community loathes Sharon Smith. The community actively loathes Sharon Smith.

Because she's a liar and a damned liar. Because she's a sexist pig.

Short of her apologizing for her behavior, this community will never forgive her. There are some the community just rolls their eyes at but there are others who are on an active s**t list and Sharon Smith put herself there.

She did that in 2008 with her non-stop sexism while pretending to be a feminist. That's when the community turned on her. However, Elaine and I were already talking about the little stunts she was pulling in 2007. Take a CounterPunch article from March 2007 attacking Hillary with the title of "Our Bleach-Blond Thatcher? Hillary's Cojones."

That's not the headline to a piece written by a feminist.

If you can't grasp that, I won't be able to help you much because you've got serious issues; however, briefly, Hillary's a "bleach-blond"? Meow, catty girl. She's calling Hillary a bleach-blond? I must have missed her piece on the careful work done for John Edwards' hair. I'm not talking about the body, I'm talking about the fact that he used a colorist (I assume he still does) to get those browns and reds and all the rest. He uses a colorist who 'paints with all the colors of the wind'. But Hillary's the one 'feminist' Sharon Smith wants to beauty-parlor trash?

Now there's the "cojones" issue.

We've covered this before when calling out Katrina vanden Heuvel. No woman has "cojones." If she did, she'd be considered a freak.

So Hillary's a cheap bimbo (bleach-blond) and a freak.

How 'lucky' feminists were to have Sharon Smith's commentaries.

Elaine could write about this at length.

Turning to Iraq. The following exchange took place between AP's Matt Lee and Robert Wood (spokesperson) at the US State Dept briefing today:

Matt Lee: There are going to be some prisoner exchanges in Iraq. You're going to be turning over detainees that you have, or the military is, to the Iraqis. And I'm just wondering if you’re confident that these prisoners, once they’re transferred, will be well treated or not mistreated.

Robert Wood: Well, Matt, I'm not aware of any additional transfers of prisoners. You might want to check with the Pentagon. But clearly, should there be that type of a transfer, we wouldn’t do so unless we were confident that the rights of these individuals were respected and that they would be treated humanely. But that’s about the best I can tell you because I’m not familiar with this particular group of prisoners.

Matt Lee: On that subject, is that required in the agreement with Iraq, that they guarantee that those prisoners will be treated humanely?

Robert Wood: I don't know that that's necessarily in the agreement, but we certainly had assurances from the Iraqis that people that are turned over will be dealt with humanely. That's what we would expect, and I'm sure the Iraqi leadership feels the same way in terms of how it will deal with individuals. But I don't remember exactly in the agreement. You might want to go back and check, but certainly we’ve been given those assurances from the Government of Iraq about the transfer of individuals to their custody.

We'll end with Lee but moving to Iraqi prisoners. AP is reporting new claims are surfacing of abuse in Iraqi prisions (Iraqi-run):

Iraqi officials acknowledge some abuse and insist improvements are being made. The issue, however, poses a thorny question for Americans: How can the United States transfer detainees into a system where abuse has occurred?
The U.S. military says it sends Iraqi prisoners only to detention facilities approved by Iraq's Ministry of Justice.
However, Iraqi lawmakers, human rights advocates and the Human Rights Ministry claim most of the abuse is not taking place in prisons run by the Justice Ministry, but in those operated by the Interior and Defense Ministries. Prisoners there are generally accused of links to Sunni and Shiite insurgent groups.

Now we're going back to Matthew Lee (AP) who reports this evening that a US State Dept helicopter has crashed in Iraq and a"two crew members were killed" and two more people wounded (all four are unidentified at present).

This is the "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, July 17, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, at least 40 pilgrims are wounded in Baghdad bombings, US war resister Robin Long speaks, increasing tensions between the north and the central government, and more.

This morning the
US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- Three Multi-National Division-South Soldiers were killed when Contingency Operating Base Basra was attacked by indirect fire at approximately 9:15 p.m. on July 16. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4326. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Shortly after the attack, the Iraqi army gave the U.S. military permission to carry out aerial searches northwest of the airport, the area from where the rockets are thought to have been launched, U.S officials said. Troops chased a car to a house, which they searched. A joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol raided another home. Three Iraqi men were briefly detained, the military said."

Violence rocked Iraq as usual today but a lot of it targeted pilgrims.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) explains the pilgrimage "is expected to fill the streets of Baghdad on Saturday in the first major security challenge for Iraqi military forces" with "a limited curfew" being imposed and "thousands of additional Iraqi soldiers and police officers . . . on the streets". Alsumaria reports, "While thousands of pilgrims have poured in to Al Kazimiya to mark Imam Kazem Anniversary (AS), citizens are complaining about closing main roads which is usually caused by religious occasion." Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) observes, "Despite intensive security, some bombers made it through." Turning to the reported violence today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded thirteen pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded eight pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded five pilgrims, another Baghdad roadside bombing which injured five pilgirms, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 pilgrim and wounded six more, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two men, a Falluja roadside bombing which injured nine males who were playing football and a roadside bombing attack on the home of police chief Abdulsalam Khawarm in Anbar Province resulting in the deaths of two of his children and leaving eight more people injured. Reuters notes 1 dead in the Falluja bombing on the football players, a Mosul roadside bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured and a Shirqat sticky bombing injured one police officer.


Reuters notes 1 person wounded in a Kirkuk shooting today and, dropping back to yesterday, one wounded in a Kirkuk shooting as well.

Today on the second hour of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, Diane and the Wall St. Journal's Youchi Dreazen, the Washington Post's David Ignatius and Foreign Policy's Moises Naim discussed Iraq.

Diane Rehm: Alright and let's turn now to Iraq and the latest on violence there, David? You had three American soldiers killed Thursday after insurgents fired mortar rounds into a US base in southern Iraq. You've also got problems with the Kurds. You've got lots of issues still going on even as the US is planning its pull-out.

David Ignatius: This was a week, Diane, that reminded us of the underlying fragility of Iraq. We've gotten in the habit of not paying much attention to it. Our troops are pulling back from the cities under the timetable we agreed to with the Iraqis. And-and, these last weeks we saw in these-these bombings and the political conflicts just how easily Iraq could spin back into a very chaotic situation. Take the bombings that happened on Wednesday. By my count, there were about eleven people killed, something like fifty or sixty wounded. But what was striking was that one of the bombs was in Ramadi -- in the Sunni heartland, the area we thought had been stabilized by our counter-insurgency work. Another bomb was in Sadr City. Another was right in the heart of Baghdad, in Sadhun Street. Those latter two were really going after Shi'ites, the first, in Ramadi, was going after Sunnis. More of these bombings are going to again make Iraqis frightened that they can't be secure without militias and then you're back in the sectarian killing game and you're going to start finding fifty bodies -- dead bodies -- every morning in the morgue.

Diane Rehm: At twenty-seven [after] the hour you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. And what's going on with the Kurds, Youchi?

Youchi Dreazen: In many ways, this is the most dangerous aspect of Iraq right now. You've had recently [June 28th] a standoff between Kurdish fighters and Iraqi national army fighters. Last year there was an incident that did not get much attention here in which US drones that were monitoring a similar standoff saw columns of armed Iraqi army soldiers and columns of Kurdish peshmerga racing towards each other. By the account of everyone who was watching it, bruising for a fight, and they stood down only amidst much mediation by US embassy and military -- as was the case here where there was US mediation. And what you have is this very thorny issue about what will be the boundaries between Kurdistan, what will be the boundaries between Arab-Iraq? How will they divide oil? How will they divide Kirkuk? These issues have been kicked down the road again and again and again. And now they're at the end of the road. They have to at some point be resolved. I think what you've seen is, when the US invaded, there was a status quo that existed under Saddam that was toppled, there was a Sunni-led status quo. Then there was a new status quo that was not sustainable where you had fighting between Sunni and Shia Arabs and the Kurds were kind of left off to their own devices in the north. Now you have a new status quo where the Shia-Sunni tensions are much reduced -- the Arab tensions -- and now their focusing much more again on the Arab-Kurdish tensions that were there under Saddam decades ago.

Moises Naim: And the Kurdish prime minister yesterday said that the Kurdish autonomous region was closer to going to war with the central government than ever before, since 2003, since the US invasion. And that points, as Youchi said, to the tensions about the divisions -- federalism, they're trying to find out what is the divisions of authority, power between a centralized government and a regional government. And this is a region that is quite different in its governance, in its function, in its economy, in its politics, than the rest of the country.

Diane Rehm: And the United States population is certainly concerned as is the Iraqi that what if the violence continues to uptick, gets worse? Do troops reinvigorate, US troops? What do you do?

David Ignatius: Well for the administration, I think there's a recognition that, as we reduce our military presence there, it is inevitable that violence will increase. That's accepted. And it's just a price of our getting out. The Iraqis want us out, we want to get out. So some increase in violence, it's understood, will happen. And the question is: Will the Iraqi forces be strong enough to contain it within acceptable levels? And what's-what's-what's your choke point? If you're President Obama and you're seeing ten people die a day, well, what do you say? Suppose it gets up to fifty, what do you - what do you do then? And that's -- it's-it's grisly. But that's the kind of decision I fear that the-the Obama administration going to have to make about Iraq over the coming year.

Moises Naim: It's very hard to imagine that there's a political environment in the United States that will support a massive increase of troops -- of US troops -- in Iraq. The-the line their will be crossed if Iran becomes very influential country in Iraq. If Iranian influence there which it hasn't seemed to be the case but that will be then the-the political base for it.

[. . .]

Diane Rehm: To Charlie in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Good morning, you're on the air.

Charlie: Good morning. I'd like to go back to the MidEast a little bit in terms of I think that Iraq is a lost cause. I think Sadr, Ayatollah Sadr's militia has only stood down under orders from Iran and under realization that the US military would destroy Sadr City. They will res -- they will resurge and they will take over the south and if -- have this very informal reunion with Iran. The Sunnis were bought off with US money and viagra pills for their ancient sheiks -- and that's the truth, not a joke. And the Kurds, our most loyal allies, are the largest tribe, as far as I know, on earth without a homeland. And I'm afraid that they -- especially with the oil money -- do not intend to be left behind this time. I think also I'd like one more comment, on the Gaza situation again. [. . .]

What about Gaza? This isn't the Gaza snapshot. And by bringing that up, Gaza, it's what everyone quickly glommed on after David's initial remarks on Iraq.

David Ignatius: Well, I think the -- it's too early for me at least to say that Iraq is a lost cause. One interesting fact about Iraq is that our greatest potential problem -- which is Iranian influence, Iranian support for extremist militias, like Moqtada Sadr who the caller was referring to, Iran politically is imploding. That threat, the ability of Iran to destabilize Iraq, is, I think, somewhat reduced, I want to say signifianctly reduced -- becuase of the chaose following the election. And I think you can generalize that to potential Iranian clients all ove. Political parties in Iraq that are supported by Iran must be worrying, "Holy smokes our paymaster are in trouble."

As noted in Diane's discussion, things are very tense between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government.
Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) reports, "In separate interviews, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and the region's president, Massoud Barzani, described a stalemate in attempts to resolve long-standing disputes with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's emboldened government. Had it not been for the presence of the U.S. military in northern Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani said, fighting might have started in the most volatile regions." Quil Lawrence (NPR's All Things Considered) reported this afternoon on the tensions quoting Barzani, "Whoever wants to get ahead in Iraqi politics does so by criticizing the Kurds." On territorial disputes and what may have been an attempt by al-Maliki's government to enroach on Kurdish territories June 28th, Lawrence quotes Barzani stating, "Our problem is that we do not believe there is any political will in Baghdad to solve this problem." Gordon Duff (Salem-News) addresses the June 28th confrontation and offers his opinions:

News stories reporting on this conflict conveniently omit Kurdish history. Our NATO partner, Turkey, that refused to allow US troops access to Northern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, has long been an enemy of our Kurdish allies. If Turkey had joined with the US, the military disaster that led to years of conflict might have been averted. Instead, the US depended on Kurdish armies to defeat Saddam in Northern Iraq.
Reports of Kurdish incursions in and around Kirkuk fail to mention that the Arabs in the region are remnants of Saddam's occupation forces, not residents. The efforts by the Baghdad government to continue control of this Kurdish region is driven by need to control the regions oil revenues and continue to fuel Iraq's massive corruption.

January 31st, 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces held provincial elections. The Kurdish region did not take place in those elections. Their elections take place next week on Saturday. The Economist editorializes on the elections
here. UPI notes of the elections, "A quota established by the KRG sets aside 30 percent of the seats for female candidates." In reporting last week, the New York Times offered a very bad dispatch featuring all the US talking points and nothing resembling journalism -- just a concept of "bad Kurds!" which might make a few people feel better but doesn't really inform anyone. And that was their 'big' piece. Jay Garner called it out in a letter to the paper. Garner is interviewed by The Kurdish Globe today and he notes of the KRG that "

Elizabeth Dickinson: With [US Vice President Joe] Biden as the U.S. envoy for reconciliation in Iraq, what priorities should he be pushing for? Jay Garner: No. 1, a referendum on disputed lands, because I don't think you can ever have a stable Iraq as long as you have an unstable Arab-Kurdish border. No. 2, a resolution on the oil law because it's a thorn in everybody's side. No. 3, continue to exert whatever leverage we have on the Iraqi government to get these things done. Anything that happens here, whether it is Kurds versus Arabs or Shiite versus Sunni -- and those are huge flash points -- is not an Iraqi problem; it's a regional problem. It's huge. It's much greater than Iraq, because if it's Shiite-Sunni you are going to have Iranians on the side of the Shiites and you are going to have the Gulf region on the side of the Sunnis. If it's Arab-Kurdish, you are going to have an ethnic war, and lives will be gone and other countries will get involved because they are going to want to shape how it comes out. I don't think the [U.S.] administration wants to pull out in 2011, run for the presidency in 2012, and have this whole damned thing blow up on them, you know? So it is good that [U.S. President Barack Obama has] appointed Biden; it's good that he's made a special envoy; and it's good that Biden is drilling in on this. Biden is a guy that has studied a long time. He is more thoughtful about this than the other people, and I think that's a good first step. But you've got to have some leverage to execute that. So whatever leverage we have left, we need to make sure that those flash points are solved before we leave.

Garner mentioned the oil law (aka the theft of Iraqi law) and Nouri's sending messages on that today.
Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports that the Oil Ministry's spokesperson Asim Jihad declared today of talk that unions might stop the British Petroleum and China National Petroleum Corporation oil deal (jointly, they were awarded a contract from the puppet government in the oil auction -- that was the only awarded contract from that auction), "The government will protect the companies." 'At all costs' was left implied.

Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Veterans Affairs Disability and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee's joint-hearing with the Subcomittee on Health. Kat covered the hearing last night and noted the discussion on rape victims. That was the first panel, Service Women's Action Network's Anuradha Bhagwati, Wounded Warrior Project's Dawn Halfaker and National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators, Inc and the Texas Veterans Commission's Delilah Washburn. Grace After Fire's Kayla Williams raised an issue during questioning about suicide rates. Asked of the number of females, she explained she didn't know that number and then explained that the military is only tracking the suicides for those on active duty and not the number of suicides among veterans. (Or, at least only releasing the data for those on active duty.) Something to keep in mind as the Los Angeles Times reports: "About 37% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have mental health problems, a nearly 50% increase from the last time the prevalence was calculated, according to a new study published today analyzing national Department of Veterans Affairs data. The study, which examined the records of about 289,000 veterans who sought care at the VA between 2002 and 2008, also found higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression."

Turning to war resistance, last week Robin Long was released from the brig. Today he spoke on
KPFA's The Morning Show "Not for a second do I regret or wish I'd done something different."

Philip Malderi: You're listening to
The Morning Show on KPFA, I'm Philip Malderi. I'm joined in the studio by Robin Long. Robin was in the US army. He enlisted shortly after the Iraq War got under way in June of '03. He was guaranteed by his recruiter that he wouldn't be sent to Iraq but of course those promises were not exactly fulfilled. In 2005, realizing he had made a mistake, he went to Canada and decided to resist serving in Iraq. Canada ultimately sent him back and he went to a navy brig down in San Diego to serve a year in prison. And now he's out. He joins me in the studio. Robin Long, welcome to KPFA.

Robin Long: Good morning.

Philip Malderi: Uh, again why did you decide to join in the first place? Why don't we start there.

Robin Long: You said initially I'd joined in June. I'd actually signed up for the delayed entry program in about February. You know, I'd always grown up thinking I want to join the army and, you know, a lot of people in my family are in the military and I just thought it was something I would do my whole life and so I signed up for the delayed entry program. And shortly after we went and invaded Iraq. And at the time I actually thought, you know, this is the right thing to be doing, you know there's connections with al Q-al Qaeda and there's weapons of mass destruction there but by the time June came when I was actually, I was getting ready to go to basic training in October, but around June, I was talking to my recruiter and said, "Hey, I have-have some moral qualms with what's going on over there." And he, uh, at that time, he assured me that I wouldn't go to Iraq, I'd be sent to a nondeployable post and --

Philip Malderi: And you believed it.

Robin Long: Oh, yeah, I believed it. They-they kept true to their word. I was stationed at Fort Knox for two years but speaking out while I was there, saying stuff, that's when they decided to give me orders to go to Iraq -- the only person in my unit. I don't know if it was punishment or what it was but they, uh, they ended up sending me to a unit that was already in Iraq .

Philip Malderi: They pulled you out of your unit in Kentucky and only you and sent you to a unit that was already in Iraq?

Robin Long: I was --

Philip Malderi: But was going to send you actually?

Robin Long: Yeah, they were - they were going to send me. They were sending me to Fort Carson, Colorado to join up with Second Brigade, Second Infantry and they were already in Iraq at the time so I was just supposed to report there and meet up with them in Iraq. They'd already been there for like four months.

Philip Malderi: So what did you decide to do?

Robin Long: Well I told them when they told me where I was going that, "No, I'm not going to go there. You know, if you're going to give me these orders, I'm going to - I'm going to refuse them. I'm not going to show up at Fort Carson." They said, "Yeah, you are. You're going to show up." Eventually, you know when the time came to hop on the plane, I-I didn't, I didn't get on the plane to go to Fort Carson and it took me about two months to actually decide to go up to Canada. I lived underground in a friend's basement for-for a good two months.

Philip Malderi: So what happened in Canada? Was there a system of support for war resisters?

Robin Long: I initially went up there by myself. I didn't now anyone. I was up there for six months before I even found a group called the War Resisters Support Campaign. There based out of Toronto but they have chapters in cities all across Canada and they help with financial needs, finding you a place to stay. They raise money to-to pay for lawyers and stuff up there so there's like a legal avenue people are trying to do up there by applying for political refugee status and they just kind of help out with everything with that. So.

Philip Malderi: So where did you settle down?

Robin Long: Initially, I settled down in a little town called Marathon, Ontario on the most northern tip of Lake Superior. You don't know cold until you've lived there, negative forty for months at a time.

Philip Malderi: (Laughing) This was -- this was your punishment.

Robin Long: Yeah, you know, nice in summer time but the winter? It's definitely cold.

Philip Malderi: Uh, now, during the Vietnam war, those that can remember it, people who resisted going to Vietnam and went to Canada, the Canadian government of that time protected them and did not send them back to the States to be prosecuted. What changed? What happened this time?

Robin Long: Well, the -- the Canadian people and the majority even of Parliament still want the war resisters, actually all conscientious objectors from any war to be able to stay in Canada. Parliament voted -- has voted twice in the last two years to allow war resisters and their families to stay. But the Conservative government that is in charge -- you know, that Parliament votes on laws and everything, but the government that's in charge has to actually implement the laws. They're just ignoring the votes. And they're ignoring their constituents and what most people want. [C.I. note: No law has been passed. We'll go over that point at the end of the transcript.] So they're just acting like this vote never even happened. So it's really just the Conservatives, a Bush-supporting Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that's changed.

Philip Malderi: And how did they capture you?

Robin Long: The RNC, the Mounties, came to where I was staying and said I had a nation-wide immigration warrant, picked me up and I didn't get hand cuffed or anything, they just put me in the cop car, brought me to the Nelson city cell. I was staying in Nelson, British Columbia at the time. And took about seven days and I was handed over to the US authorities in Blaine, Washington.

Philip Malderi: And then the Army prosecuted you?

Robin Long: Yeah, they, about forty days later, they prosecuted me for desertion with intent to remain away permanently which, uh, has a maximum sentence of three years but, uh, I -- there was no refuting it. I-I had deserted. It's all paper work so to get a lesser sentence, I pled guilty to it and only received fifteen months. The judge -- because there's a pretrial agreement -- the judge what she actually does is she gives you a sentence and whichever's less, what your pretrial or what she gives you, is what you get. So she gave me thirty months and a dishonorable discharge but the pretrial gave me fifteen.

Philip Malderi: So where did you serve this time?

Robin Long: I served it down in San Diego.

To be clear, Parliament didn't pass a law. Both votes were non-binding. That's why Stephen Harper can ignore them. Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, would be forced -- as would any future Prime Minister -- to follow the two motions passed already if either had been legislation and not a non-binding motion. Why the political parties haven't pushed for a real vote on real legislation may be due to the Senate or higher up. The only one passing anything -- another reason it couldn't be a law -- is the House. Both times that the non-binding motion was brought before a body, it was brought before the House.

Canada has a bi-cameral Parliament with an upper and lower house. The Senate is the upper house and it has never voted on it. In practice, usually the Senate goes along with what the House does becuase the House is directly elected by the Canadian people. The Senate is staffed, not elected. They are rubber stamped by the Governor General of Canada . . . on the say so of . . . the Prime Minister. Meaning, Stephen Harper's recommended people since he was in power. Once recommended, they serve until they retire (with a mandatory retirement age) or die while in office. The bulk of the Senate shouldn't be Harper supporters or even Conservative Party supporters because the last decades -- as far back as the sixties have seen the Liberal Party the primary party in power. So where's the problem in the Senate?

Noel Kinsella. Who is he? He's the Speaker of the Senate. How does someone become the Speaker? In the House, they're elected. In the Senate, they're appointed. In his position, he could refuse to allow a vote or do any number of things. But it's also true that you've got barriers above him. Say the Senate went along with the House (either out of tradition or conviction), you don't have a law yet. It has to be signed off on.

The first who could sign it into law would be Michaelle Jean. She's Queen Elizabeth II's representative. Her posts is Governor General of Canada and the queen appoints her. If a bill passed both houses, Michaelle Jean could allow it to become a law, nix it or leave the issue up to the Queen. Nixing it -- no reason needs to be given -- means no law. Passing it onto the Queen who can say yea or nay. (The Queen also has two years after the Governor General to decide, no, it's not a law. It would be a law throughout that time but the Queen can reverse it.) So if we follow all of that, the ultimate reason why the House does non-binding measures may be due to the fact that they grasp the pressure from the Bush administration and now the Obama administration (which makes their opinions known through an acting ambassador, Terry Breese, because they've not filled the post of Ambassador to Canada) on Canadian officials would also be conveyed to the Queen of England who, having refused to stop the illegal war in 2003 (she could have), wouldn't allow this to become law. While the British are largely out of Iraq (approximately 400 British troops remain), they are still in Afghanistan and have had war resisters. Queen Elizabeth II is not about to go along with that (or give Canadian troops an argument for not serving in Afghansitan). Repeating because England has kept their monarchy (Canada didn't "keep it" -- they remain endentured to England because they never had a revolution which is why Queen Elizabeth is their head of state), Queen Elizabeth could have prevented England from entering the Iraq War. She didn't. It's another reason why you have rumbles of doing away with the monarchy in England.

But Canada has no real independence. If England declares war, Canada has as well, whether they delcare it themselves or not. Which means that while Canada chose not to send soldiers to Iraq, as part of England, they officially are in support of that war. (That illegal war.) And that's the difference that Philip Malderi was asking about: England didn't take part in a war on Vietnam. Not the Indochina War or the later American conflict. That's one reason why Canada could take the stand they did during Vietnam. Also true, a strong prime minister, like Pierre Trudeau, could take that stand right now. The Queen is head of state but Harper is head of government and, in a face off on a popular issue, the Queen might go along. Harper being Harper, such a face off isnt likely to take place.

The above is a very complicated process and one that's very different from the US -- which fought a war to have their independence from England and fought the 1812 war when Canada was being a proxy for England. What's not complicated is that the Iraq War is not ending. There are over 130,000 US troops in Iraq presently. So it was amazing, on allegedly left radio, Philip Malderi tried to declare that the Iraq War was winding down. Well, as a colleague of his on campus said during 2008, "
Phil's no longer just drinking the Kool-Aid, he's drinking the urine." We wished that Phil could have been in Harlem Tuesday night so Carl Dix could have set him straight on the Iraq War (Dix was in a dialogue with Cornel West at Aaron Davis Hall). But Robin Long was present and tried to walk Philip through, "What's going on in Iraq, they say all combat troops are leaving but, if you look at it, they're just changing the name. They're being called the same thing they were being called in Vietnam. They're being called 'advisers' now. And we have 30 permanent bases in Iraq. Just because they're not being called combat troops, there's still a lot of people there."

Turning to TV notes. Tony Blair's appearance at The Hague may be delayed for a bit; however, the War Criminal can be found this week on your TV screen via
NOW on PBS:Once one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the West Bank, Jenin was the scene of frequent battles between the Israeli military and Palestinian fighters, and the hometown of more than two dozen suicide bombers.Today, however, there's been a huge turnaround. Jenin is now the center of an international effort to build a safe and economically prosperous Palestinian state from the ground up. On Jenin's streets today, there's a brand new professional security force loyal to the Palestinian Authority and funded in part by the United States. But can the modest success in Jenin be replicated throughout the West Bank, or will the effort collapse under the intense political pressure from all sides?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."A war criminal, an architect of the illegal war on Iraq, wants to tell the world what our "single most important issue" is and expects to be trusted? Tony Blair belongs behind bars, not on your TV screen. On PBS' Washington Week, Gwen sits around the table with USA Today's Joan Biskupic, the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti (aka The Little Asset Who Could), and Time magazine's Karen Tumulty and Hedda Hopper Lives!' Jeanne Cummings who will continue her efforts to be seen as the tabloids' new Jeane Dixon. Bonnie Erbe sits down with Bay Buchanan, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Tara Setmayer and Amy Siskind 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:
Gun Rush Americans are snapping up guns and ammunition at an increasingly higher rate despite the economic downturn. But as Lesley Stahl reports, the economic downturn, as well as the election of Barack Obama, may be the reason for the run on guns. Watch Video
Poisoned The African lion, already down as much as 85 percent in numbers from just 20 years ago, is now in danger of becoming extinct because people are poisoning them with a cheap American pesticide to protect their cattle herds. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video
Steve Wynn The casino mogul most responsible for taking Las Vegas to new heights of gaming and glitter talks to Charlie Rose about his spectacular success and the eye disease that's slowly robbing him of his ability to see the fruits of his labor. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, July 19, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

nprthe diane rehm show
kpfathe morning showphilip maldari
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gay Liberation Movement

C.I. here filling in for Elaine who is on vacation. Mark Knoller (CBS News) reports that Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, will visit the White House next Wednesday. That got pulled from the snapshot as did other things.

What got added was the section on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It was added when I raised the concerns I was hearing about Don't Ask, Don't Tell with a friend at the White House who told me that, oh, no, nothing was happening on that. You mean this year? Well not this year and not next because, after all, next year is an election year and Dems from conservative district can't risk voting in 2010 to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Me, "So you're saying nothing's happening this week, this month, this year or next year." Uh-huh. I confirmed that with another friend and people can do what they want and believe what they want. But anyone who wants to pretend that the Congress is going to pass this better be ready to admit they were wrong. Because despite Congress supposedly supporting this, it's not coming to a vote and it doesn't have the support of Barack or his 'brain for 2010's elections' David Axelrod.

So Patrick Murphy can speak on the issue all he wants -- and should continue to, maybe it'll spark something in the public which is the only real chance.

As I noted in the snapshot, I didn't plan to cover Susan Page's discussion with Patrick Murphy. I also don't dislike Patrick Murphy. I think Patrick Murphy has done some outstanding committee work and this 'I've only been in Congress two years' modesty isn't needed because he's actually working. There are people in Congress who never do anything and, compared to them, he's already packed in about ten years.

Regarding his effort, Voices of Honor, I had heard a smattering of complaints the day after the press conference. I heard more and more as the days passed. These are valid complaints. And the gym bunny (male) with the org may think trickery's the way to go but I don't think so. If we're doing something or trying to so that all Americans are equal, we don't hide that. And anytime someone does it not only makes future struggles for all groups that much more difficult, it cheapens the struggles.

The Gay Liberation Movement is an actual movement that goes back very far in this country. It predates WWII -- which allowed many LGBTs to come out to a large circle and to relocate. And it cheapens that movement, that long standing, proud movement, to not include fairness in any attempt to win equality.

There has been such a huge, huge transformation in this country as a result of that movement. When Ellen came out at the end of the 90s, it was huge. An openly gay woman was starring in a TV show on network TV (and it was a lot funnier after she came out, don't believe the revisionary history -- the best episode of the year after she came out was probably where she dreams that she lives in a world where gays are in the majority and straights are in the minority -- that was a hilarious episode and it had a lot to say but did so in a very humorous manner). But she's starring and do you grasp that you could even be openly gay on TV or radio just a few decades before?

Let's use Ramon Navarro as an example. He was a famous Mexican actor in American films. He started in silent films and he was in the silent blockbuster of Ben Hur (playing the same role Charles Heston did). He was huge and one of MGM's top money makers even after the switch to talkies. Near the end of 1968, he was brutally murdered by two young men.

The men came to his home with at least one of them -- they were brothers -- intending to get money for sex. Did he intend to put out? That's open to dispute. The older brother had turned tricks before and admitted that in court.

So they get there and they brutally murder Ramon Navarro.

And then in court they each blame the other and claim they themselves were innocent. The prosecution was fierce and they might have both gotten stiff sentences. But the defense suddenly decided to put Ramon on trial.

It didn't matter that he was a wealthy man or a respected man. It didn't matter both brothers had runs in with the law (repeatedly). The only thing that mattered, according to the defense, was that Ramon was gay -- but he didn't use that word in court, now did he? No, you could use any vulgar word back then and he did.

Each brother had their own lawyer, I believe I'm referring to the older brother's attorney. (The prosecution, by the way, now sits on the federal bench.) But Ramon was gay and a "pervert" and he was intending to corrupt the men (at least one of which had already been 'corrupted') so it was a natural response for them to brutally murder, beat to death, Ramon Navarro.

It was even okay that they went there having sought out Ramon, having called him and having suggested sex. He was the corrupter, according to the defense, and that was because he was gay and 'those people' don't have any morals, don't have any ethics, don't care about anything but corrupting.

That trial took place in California. And people felt sorry for those two killers. How sorry did they feel for those killers? The older brother got a writing award from PEN. A writing award. He's a murderer and he's getting an award. And of course they both got out quickly because they were just innocent 'straight' boys and it was all that mean Ramon Navarro, not them.

Of course he was long dead and gone when one brother was arrested, convicted and sentenced for rape and the other for child molestation.

The brothers were pure trash and that was obvious in the Navarro trial. But the defense made the issue Ramon's sexuality and it didn't matter that he had done all this charity work and that he was respected and admired. He was just a ___ (fill in a derogatory word for gay) and so the brothers weren't as guilty as they would have been if they'd done that same thing to a straight person, in fact, the defense argued, their actions were understandable.

Now I'm real sorry that some people are willing to sell out a movement because they just what they want, but that's on them.

You either make the case that it's fair or you don't. Dan Choi makes that case. He points out that this is all because his significant other is Mark and not Martha.

Dignity can't be shoved into a closet. Some don't seem to grasp that. (In any movement. I can think of several feminists who spend the activism on their knees begging instead of standing up and challenging.) If you're short sighted you might get the one thing on your checklist. But in doing so you make it more difficult for everyone else and their needs.

In closing, Ann's filling in for Mike this week and I've been way too swamped to note that at TCI so I'll note it here and hope I have time to note it tomorrow at TCI. Her three posts so far are:

Katyln Tracy
Sonali Kolhatkar forgot the forgotten war
Legal abuses by Bush and Barack

Here's the "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, realities about the 'movement' to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, did Mullen strong arm the Kurds, details emerge about the Iranian diplomats held hostage, and more.

Yesterday's snapshot covered the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing on women veterans health care issues. Senator Daniel Akaka chaired the committee hearing. Kat covered the hearing last night. And? Not a lot more going on. Adam Levine (CNN) filed a strong report and emphasized the GAO:

The report by the Government Accountability Office found wide variation in the medical centers' facilities and programs for female veterans. Investigators visited 18 veterans' facilities and found that basic services, like pelvic examinations, were being provided and that patients had access to female providers for gender-specific care. But the facilities were lacking in some simpler accommodations, such as the configuration of exam rooms and privacy in check-in areas. The department says it is taking comprehensive steps to improve, including programs for primary care and mental health care for female veterans, along with having a female veterans' program manager in each of its medical facilities.

McClatchy's Carrie Williams covered it with an overview of the hearing and Kimberly Hefling (AP) covered the hearing and noted, "Female veterans told the Senate Veterans' Affairs committee that VA workers need to be better educated about combat situations that women face in the two ongoing wars. Beyond privacy concerns, there are other issues as well, they said, such as a lack of child care at VA hospitals and difficulty in finding diaper-changing tables." Today the Committee released the following statement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, held an oversight hearing to outline gaps in VA care for women veterans and highlight strategies to bridge those gaps. Akaka gathered a panel of women veterans and representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Government Accountability Office to share their personal experiences and views on the VA system. The witness testimony yesterday illustrated the gap between the Department's wide array of services for women veterans and the actual experiences of many women veterans.
"VA plans many valuable programs and services for women veterans. However, our witnesses demonstrated that VA must do more than just set mandates -- the Department must ensure that women veterans know about the services available to them and are given assistance to receive them," said Akaka.
Witnesses included:
• Genevieve Chase, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, and founder and executive director of American Women Veterans. During her service in OEF, Ms. Chase was attacked by a suicide vehicle-borne, improvised explosive device (IED) and returned home with symptoms of PTSD and TBI.
• Jennifer Olds, who served during the first Gulf War. She discussed her experiences dealing with Military Sexual Trauma (MST), the difficulties of rehabilitating, and the strengths and weaknesses of the care she received at VA.
• Kayla Williams, who was part of the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 and is currently on the Board of Directors of Grace After Fire. As a soldier with the 101st Airborne Division (Airborne Assault), she came under small arms fire and was mortared -- an experience she shares with other women veterans despite the myth that female servicemembers don't experience combat situations. She testified about VA care from her own experiences.
• Tia Christopher, a veteran and Women Veterans Coordinator for Swords to Plowshares. VA determined she has service connected PTSD associated with MST. She described for the committee the changes she has seen since her discharge eight years ago and the need for additional changes, such as child care for male and female veterans.
• Joy Ilem, a veteran and Deputy National Legislative Director for the Disabled American Veterans. She testified that when she left the service in the 1980s, there was little to no information for women veterans and that she neither recognized herself as a veteran or knew she was entitled to VA benefits for disabilities she incurred in service. Two decades later, Ms. Ilem feels that VA is finally taking steps in the right direction to address the needs of women veterans.
The Veterans Health Care Reauthorization Act (S. 252), Chairman Akaka's omnibus veterans' health care bill that was unanimously approved by the Committee earlier this summer includes provisions to help VA understand why outreach to women veterans is falling short by identifying the barriers women veterans face when seeking care from VA. S.252 would also authorize VA to:
• Implement a program to educate, train, and certify professionals to provide MST-related mental health care (more background
here); • Establish a pilot program to provide child care for veterans who require intensive care and are primary caretakers; • Report to Congress whether there is at least one full-time women veterans' program manager at each VA Medical Center; and • Provide care for the newborns of eligible women veterans.
The Chairman's opening statement, as well as the witnesses' written testimony including the Government Accountability Office's audit of VA health care for women, is available

And we'll revisit the second panel, composed of women veternas:
Grace After Fire's Kayla Williams, Iraq Veteran Project Swords to Plowshares' Tia Christopher, the VFW's Jennifer Olds, American Women Veterans' Genevieve Chase and Disabled American Veterans' Joy J. Ilem, briefly to note Senator Patty Murray's round of questions.

Senator Patty Murray: Ms. Williams, you mentioned that you were both a care giver and a care seeker. You're husband was in the military. I assume that that is fairly common for a woman to be married to a fellow military officer and be in the same position. What can be done to help us care for women veterans who are not only dealing with their own readjustment issues but our dealing with spouse or children as well?

Kayla Williams: I think that it's important that care be more comprehensive. And you're right, the percentages are very high. Among active duty enlisted married female service members, over 50% are married to other service members -- compared to only 8% of their male peers. And my husband and I were both enlisted. I know that the VA is trying very hard to do outreach. I once got a call, for example, asking if I had sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury as part of their outreach efforts to make sure that they're catching everybody. And I said, "No, I didn't but I'm glad you called because my husband did and our family is in shambles right now I don't know how to hold myself together and my family together and keep my job and I'm struggling really hard here. And he said, "Well I can't really help you with that. I'm calling to ask if you've suffered a brain injury." And that's the way that I think that we can try to make sure that we're addressing entire families. If you have one -- if you have a service member who has sustained an injury -- both while they're in the DoD and once they've transitioned to VA care -- making sure that their familiy is being taken care of is an important step. I know The VA does not cover care for family members but if they learn that the spouse is also a veteran, it's important that they take the extra step and reach out and contact them proactively and ask if they need help as a caregiver. And, of course, this does apply to both male and female spouses, it's just the number of female spouses is much higher.

US Senator Patty Murray: I hear a lot from women about the access of child care being a barrier to the VA. You, several of you, mentioned this in your testimony and I don't think a lot of people realize that you tell a woman there's no child care, they just simply don't go, they don't get their health care. Do you for all the panelists, do you think that the VA providing child care would increase the number of women veterans who go to the VA and get the care that they need? Joy?

Joy Ilem: I would say definitely. I think researchers have repeatedly shown this as a barrier for women veterans and that's the frustration, you know? How many research surveys do you have to do when women keep saying this is a barrier to access for care? And I think it was Kayla who mentioned the experience of someone who was told it was inappropriate for them to bring their child with them and some of these very personalized for appointments for mental health or other things -- it may be very difficult but they have no other choice. I think it would definitely be a benefit and we would see an increase in the number of women veterans who would probably come to VA.

Senator Patty Murray: Ms. Williams?

Kayla Williams: I definitely think that usage rates of the VA would increase if women knew that they had child care available. There are a variety of innovative ways that we could try to address the problem of women having to balance their needs of child care with their needs to get services. Among them would be increasing the availability of tele-help and tele-medicine where women don't have to necessarily go all the way to a remote facility and spend four hours trying to get to and from and then be in-care. And there are also opportunities for innovative programs. For example, the VA has small business loans available if they could provide loans to women veterans who want to provide child care facilities near VA facilities, that would be a great way to try to marry these two needs. There are also a lot of community organizations that stand ready and waiting to help that would be happy just given a small office to staff it with volunteers and be able to provide that care for the time that a woman has to be in appointment. I think, as many others have said, the specific solutions may vary by location but there are a lot of innovative way that we could forge public-private partnerships to try to meet these needs.

We'll be covering the topic again tomorrow. If you use the link in the press release from the Committee, you'll not only have their written testimony, you'll also have the option of streaming the hearing. Genevive Chase was on the second panel and she was part of
last Wednesday's Voices of Honor press conference. US House Rep Patrick Murphy is gathering public attention to the need to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Monday he was on the start of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show with USA Today's Susan Page filling in for Diane.

Susan Page: Before we go to our panel, though, we're joined on the phone from Bucks County Pennsylvania by Patrick Murphy. He's the Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania's eight district and an Iraq War veteran. Congressman, thank you for joining us.

US House Rep Patrick Murphy: Thanks so much, Susan, for having me on. I appreciate it.

Susan Page: Now last week you announced that you would lead an effort to get Congress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. What - what would your bill do?

US House Rep Patrick Murphy: Sure. It will repeal the discrimantory practice which is in effect right now: The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy does not allow the gay soldiers to serve openly in the military. And, Susan, the reason why this policy needs to be repealed, uh, right away is because it is hurting our national security. We have let go over 13,000 troops. That's over three-and-a-half combat brigades at a time when our troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and we need every qualified and able-bodied individual to serve in our military.

Susan Page: Now what kind of experiences did you have on this issue when you were serving in Iraq?

US House Rep Patrick Murphy: Sure. Well first, you know, when I was in Baghdad as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, you know, there were obviously gay soldiers [. . .] there were gay soldiers serving with us. You know, it's, people knew it but they didn't talk about it. The fact is that our troops, when they're - when they're in Baghdad or whether they're in Kabul, Afghanistan, they don't care whether you're gay or straight, what religion you are, what color you are, what creed you are, they care whether or not you can fire an M4 assault rifle, whether or not you can kick down a door, can you get the job done. That's the important thing, not what your orientation is.

Susan Page: Now President Obama campaigned last year during the presidential election opposing Don't Ask, Don't Tell so why not have him issue an executive order that would change this policy or lift it?

US House Rep Patrick Murphy: Sure. Well first it was an act of Congress that put this all into place, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. And it will take an act of Congress to repeal it. You know, when I was a Democrat -- and I've only been in Congress, as you know Susan, for two and a half years -- you know I used to have a hard time and I used to criticize President Bush when we would pass laws and he would have these executive signing statements that basically would say, "I know Congress passed such and such, but we're going to ignore that part of it." That's not having the proper respect for co-equal government.

And it just got worse, oh so much worse. Patrick apparently believes you're Dumb Ass Stupid and unaware that Barack's doing the same signing statements today -- most recently with regards to the IMF issue in his war supplemental. And there's something really pathetic about the approach he's pushing. I'm not talking about his shameful covering for Barry O. I'm talking about this bulls**t of, "Our national interest!" What does it remind you of because it reminds me of Bette Midler in Big Business at the big stock holder meeting saying that they're appealing to your instinct to "Save your own ass!" It's really pitching it to the lowest, basest argument around and, in doing so, it's telling you a great deal about how the American people are seen. It's disgusting.

How sad that America can't be asked to do anything for equality apparently. I do wonder what that says about how we see ourselves. And, remember, on this issue, we lag behind. We're not leaders. Is that what happens when we're not leaders, we can no longer appeal to people to do the right thing? We have to be selfish and say, "It's hurting this or that?" That's a lousy argument in reality. Now we need the best military? Now? I would assume anyone serving in the eighties or seventies would assume that they needed the best military. I appreciate that Patrick Murphy is speaking of the topic (all that's taking place is speaking -- if the House wanted to vote on this, they already would have, we'll come back to that point) but I didn't "serve with gays and lesbians in the military." I am friends with gays and lesbians and I have family members who are gays and lesbians. It's not an issue that's going to come up every few years at some military reunion for me, it's a regular part of the fabric of human life. And I'm very aware that there is a growing vocal disgust within the gay community over the way this is being presented. Fair is fair, right is right. This is the United States of America and we are all supposed to be equal. Anytime that argument isn't made -- with or without 'oh the money it costs us!', it is heard by an increasingly vocal segment of the LGBT community as, "Your life is too 'icky' for us to defend on the grounds of fairness." That's offensive. And it's all the more so when it comes from a would-be gay-leader assoicated with the campign who an actual gay rights leader refers to as "The self-loathing Bette Midler freak -- who is all for that approach -- and he apparently enjoys seeing himself as 'icky' when getting 'freaky' -- but Gay Pride long ago made self-loathing unfashionable." If you want to get serious, get serious. Playing the economy card isn't getting serious. Playing the scare people with fear ("National security!") isn't getting serious. Now you can include those reasons as part of a tapestry of reasons why the policy needs to be repealed; however, if you're not also making the fairness argument, you're being insulting -- and it doesn't matter if you're straight or gay, you are being insulting to the LGBT community. The Voices org plans to go on tour. They better their act together before they do or plan to play to just straight audiences because I knew about Murphy's appearance Monday and just intended to ignore them (I also thought -- on the same broadcast -- Julian E. Barnes made an ass out of himself -- along with demonstrating he doesn't actually know the law). But I live in the Bay Area and we don't play the Plessy v. Ferguson game with each other out there. Translation, very vocal leaders from that area are complaining and raised the issue. I listened, their complaints and valid and we will cover it.

And here's the big point. Fairness needs to be argued because it is a value. An actual value. One enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. Long after Don't Ask, Don't Tell is gone, the LGBT community and other communities will still need the fairness argument for equality. So no one -- straight, gay, bi, non-sexual, what have you -- benefits when the fairness argument is tossed aside. Is it worth it, though, in the short term, when the US could see the hideous Don't Ask, Don't Tell repealed. Don't Ask, Don't Tell isn't getting repealed anytime soon.

Congress doesn't give a damn about changing this policy. This is a song-and-dance to take the heat of Barack. That's the reality. I will assume Patrick is serious about this issue. Ellen Tauscher was. But the White House doesn't want this. (And I know that from friends at the White House which is another reason we're covering this topic so strongly today.) And it's not happening short of intense pressure (the October rally in DC could apply tremendous pressure). The myth is that Barry O wants to repeal it. And that he's tasked Congress with getting a bill on his desk so he can repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The reality is that House and Senate leadership (Democratic control of both houses) would be putting it to a vote immediately if that's what Barack really wanted. He doesn't want it and the leadership is attempting to bury it. The bill's written, it's called the
Military Readiness Enahncement Act of 2009. Ellen Tauscher introduced it March 3, 2009. It's July 15th. There has been no vote despite the fact that there are 161 sponsors. Now that's the House. In the Senate? Allegedly the issue will be steered by Ted Kennedy. Other than Senator Roland Burris, no one in the Senate has spoken publicly in support of changing it in the last few weeks when it's been a major topic in the press. As for Kennedy leading on it? He has other issues including his own health and promoting his upcoming book. So you have a bill that, if the House leadership was serious, they'd be voting on tomorrow. They're not. The White House doesn't want it and leadership in the House is blocking a vote. (In the Senate there is no action at all.) So, sorry, we're not gong to be silent when the LGBT community is being treated as a concern only out of fear and not out of fairness. That's a short sighted argument and it really is insulting. It wouldn't cut for Civil Rights, it wouldn't cut it for universal suffrage, it wouldn't cut it to end slavery. But someone thinks it's okay to make it the sole argument for ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell? There's an LGBT history moment the country should run from: In 2010, due to national security fears, Don't Ask, Don't Tell was finally repealed. Said Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, "I don't have to like them, I don't have to respect them and you better believe I won't let them marry! But I care about national security so even these 'pervs' get my support." (Sessions didn't say that but it's not very far from what he would say if it passed.)

In the US today, the morning began with news of violence in Iraq. An apparent attack on a police checkpoint in Ramadi, capital of Anbar Province, has resulted in multiple deaths.
BBC News says it was a mini-bus bombing and that the dead number 6 with an additional seventeen injured (dead actually would number seven -- it was a 'suicide' attack). AP adds that the dead include five police officers and notes that a funeral for two other Baghdad police officers -- Hussein Qassim and Jassim Shuwaili who were killed yesterday -- took place today. Reuters notes, "Salah al-Obeidi, a doctor at the Ramadi hospital, said some of the wounded were in grave condition. He said the death toll might rise." As usual the response is 'crackdown' -- closed streets, etc. In other violence today, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad boming "targeting pilgrims" which resulted in 10 dead and another Baghdad bombing which claimed 5 lives and left thirty-four injured.

As the violence continues, word emerges that the US may be sewing more sectarian strife.
Iran's Press TV reports that US Adm Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visit to the oil-rich Kirkuk Monday was "a warning to ethnic Kurds" that they should "forget their dream of annexing Kirkuk".

Last week the US military released 5 Iranian diplomats they'd been imprisoning for over two years.
CNN noted that they returned to Iran Sunday where: "They were greeted at the airport by dozens of cheering men, who placed wreaths around their necks and carried them on their shoulders from the plane to the airport building, Press TV pictures showed. Some in the crowd flashed victory signs, while others took pictures of the returning men." Today Barbara Slavin (Washington Times) reports on US State Dept talk that three of the imprisoned "were held for more than two years even though they had not been involved in anti-US activities and were functioning as diplomats at the time" and that they were held to be hostages in an effort to strong-arm "Iran to reduce its support for anti-U.S. violence in Iraq." That is what is being said and it demands an independent investigation. The US is not supposed to take hostages. Diplomats have a level of immunity that was violated when the five Iranians were held.

When Robert McNamara did the world a favor and died earlier this month,
Democracy Now! aired a roundtable. Historian Marilyn Young (author of many books and recently co-editor of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam) explained of McNamara:One of the legacies is that there is none, in a sense. The first clip that you ran, you could have run it now. About Iraq, several years ago, about Afghanistan today. It's as if it doesn't go anywhere. There is knowledge, and then it's erased in between McNamara should be kind of a morality tale. During his tenure as Secretary of Defense, he initially -- he was responsible really -- for the initial escalation. In 1964, he and Bundy gave -- '65, I'm sorry -- gave Johnson what's called "The Fork in the Road Memorandum," in which they said, "Now, we have really thought this over and we have two choices. We could increase military pressure or we could negotiate." And they strongly urged the increase of military pressure and Johnson went along with that. Not that he was, you know, I think he was a little unwilling, but that is another subject. "One of the legacies," she said, "is that there is none." If you doubt her, you've slept through the news cycle.
Gordon Lubold (Christian Science Monitor) writes that four "Advisory and Assistance Brigades" are being sent to Iraq. These are military troops. But they're "advisory" and "assistance" and not "combat" troops. (As Thomas E. Ricks has noted when fully awake, there is no pacifistic wing of the military.) Lubold is very good at repeating Defense Dept propaganda, but search in vain for any clue that Lubold is educated. Apparently, he's not. Apparently, he's one more glorified general studies major. Maybe it's past time that journalism programs were dropped if this what they produce? A history major reporting the same news today would probably be likely to note that "advisors" in Vietnam just signaled further US involvement. But Lubold's not just unqualified, he's apparently an idiot or a liar. Xinhua reports the detail he leaves out, and it's a pretty big one: "However, they will also conduct coordinated counterterrorism missions." Repeating Marilyn Young on Vietnam and McNamara, "One of the legacies is that there is none."

And there's certainly no legacy of awareness as evidenced by Thomas Friedman and his ridiculous column this morning "
Goodbye Iraq, and Good Luck." Does The World Is Flat And My Ass Is Huge Thomas Friedman really think the US withdrew from Iraq? Does he think that already happened? In the bad column, he retells a joke that a Kurdish leader told Mullens and company Monday in Iraq and then plays I-know-what-the-Kurd-said-but-here's-what-I-think-he-meant. (Apparently, Thomas Friedman was too busy autographing bad books and landfills to ask the man what he meant by his joke.) In his insulting interpretation, the Kurd was stating that Iraqis love to talk and talk about their suffering (which is apparently solely the fault of Saddam Hussein -- in Thomas Friedman's mind -- and has nothing to do with a six-years-and-counting illegal war or ongoing occupation). In the joke, the suffer is making a plea for compensation and has to endure retelling everything that happened to a stranger. Strange -- or maybe not so -- that Friedman didn't interpret the joke as what the average person in Iraq has to do for even a morsel today -- prostate themselves to strangers (i.e. foreigners?) to get ahead? Unlike Friedman, Diana West (Washington Times via Jamestown Sun) is aware that the Iraq War has not ended and she notes in a column today:

The first I heard about what happened to Lt. Col. Timothy Karcher, the last U.S. commander of Sadr City who recently signed over jurisdiction to Iraqis, was from a reader. He e-mailed me about my last column, which argued that "allies" don't declare victory over each other (as Iraq's prime minister Nouri al-Maliki declared "victory" over the United States), and the sooner we realize Iraq isn't our "ally," the better. It also bemoaned the U.S. military's deference to Iraq, quoting top brass beginning with Gen. Raymond Odierno and including Lt. Col. Karcher, in their execution of what I, myself, consider a futile U.S. policy to Westernize Islamic cultures. "I appreciate your fervor and feelings about Mr. al-Maliki's comments, but I must say that your biting commentary regarding the quote from Lt. Col Karcher has driven me to reply," he wrote. "You may not be aware," he continued, "but since signing over jurisdiction to the Iraqis, Lt. Col. Karcher suffered a roadside bomb attack and lost both legs. One of his men, Sgt. Timothy David of Beaverton, Mich. -- a veteran of six tours in Iraq and Afghanistan -- was killed by a second EFP."

Timothy Karcher is at Walter Reed currently. The attack which claimed Timothy David's life took place June 28th, as West observes, "two days before Iraq's 'victory' celebration".

Turning to England where an inquiry is going into the death of 26-year-old Iraq Baha Mousa in September 2003 while in the custody of British forces.
Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports:Geoff Hoon, the former Defence Secretary, could be called to give evidence at a public inquiry into illegal techniques used by British forces in Iraq to prepare detainees for interrogation. A list of witnesses has yet to be finalised and his name is not believed to be on the latest draft. Asked yesterday whether Mr Hoon would be called as a witness, however, Gerard Elias, QC, counsel to the inquiry, told The Times: "Possibly." A second lawyer said: "It may well be that an application will be made to call politicians. However, it is early days."

BBC News (link has video and text) refers to Baha Mousa's death as "a stain on the British military" and that the abuse also includes abuses such as urinating on prisoners. The abuses are in violation of the Geneva Convention and BBC reports that the inquiry says they will go as high up the chain of command as necessary. Deborah Haynes reports that the UK Ministry of Defence is stating that the abuse was the result of "a lack of trained interrogators" and a 2002 MoD memo states, " "The lack of prisoner handling and tactical questioning-trained personnel within deployed force elements risks the loss of potentially accurate, timely and life-saving information/intelligence during our fighting operations ... The less well-trained our troops are, the greater the chance that they may mishandle prisoners"

We'll close with Debra Sweet's "
The Urgent Need for Decisive and Principled Leadership in the Anti-War Movement" (World Can't Wait):UNITY in the antiwar movement: SAVE these dates: Monday October 5; Saturday October 17; Friday March 19, 2010 I was among the World Can't Wait supporters attending the National Assembly to End the Occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan this weekend in Pittsburgh. Read the proposal World Can't Wait brought. I'm glad to be able to say that out of the Assembly came a vote and intention to support a two-week period of mass, united actions against the occupations from October 3 - October 17, 2009. Based on support of most of the participants, a demand was added to "end war crimes, including torture." This action period includes Monday, October 5 as a mass protest and non-violent civil resistance action in Washington, at the US House offices and the White House to mark the US occupation of Afghanistan, which begun that week in 2001. The period culminates with Saturday October 17th regional and local actions against the wars. October 17 is the 40th anniversary of the famous Vietnam Moratorium in 1969 that Daniel Ellsberg referred to as so huge that it forced Richard Nixon to shelve plans to nuke Vietnam.[. . .] The arguments against March 19, 2010 were that other groups need to be consulted before what is likely the largest antiwar conference of the year decides on a date; and that working people won't take off a week day to protest. As far as I'm concerned, the antiwar movement has collapsed and urgently requires decisive, principled leadership now in order not to become completely irrelevant. So I'm saying, now that we should have the necessary discussion and planning quickly, and get on it!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Adam Levine, Debra Sweet

C.I. here filling in for Elaine who is on vacation. And we're just covering Iraq tonight. Today, Kat, Wally, Ava and I attended the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing on women veterans. It's covered in the snapshot but Adam Levine's "Veterans' facilities fall short in women's treatment standards" (CNN) does a pretty solid job so I want to note that:

The report by the Government Accountability Office found wide variation in the medical centers' facilities and programs for female veterans.
Investigators visited 18 veterans' facilities and found that basic services, like pelvic examinations, were being provided and that patients had access to female providers for gender-specific care. But the facilities were lacking in some simpler accommodations, such as the configuration of exam rooms and privacy in check-in areas.
The department says it is taking comprehensive steps to improve, including programs for primary care and mental health care for female veterans, along with having a female veterans' program manager in each of its medical facilities.

They also found that the tables were feet facing the door. The gyno table. Facing the door. Get the problem? Most people -- men and women -- would grasp it immediately; however, the VA saw no problem. It had to be pointed out to them.

Now there's a development regarding a journalist who was killed at the start of the illegal war. BBC News reports, "A Spanish court has thrown out charges against three US soldiers over the death of a Spanish journalist in Iraq." The journalist is Jose Couso. He was killed April 8, 2003 at the Palestine Hotel when the US military attacked it --despite knowing journalists were staying there. A trial was ongoing but the national court stepped in to overule the presiding judge and say the court was being tossed.

I'm rushing because there's one more speaking thing tonight and it starts in about 20 minutes so I'm just going to close with this from Debra Sweet's "The Urgent Need for Decisive and Principled Leadership in the Anti-War Movement" (World Can't Wait):

UNITY in the antiwar movement: SAVE these dates: Monday October 5; Saturday October 17; Friday March 19, 2010
I was among the World Can't Wait supporters attending the National Assembly to End the Occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan this weekend in Pittsburgh. Read the proposal World Can't Wait brought. I'm glad to be able to say that out of the Assembly came a vote and intention to support a two-week period of mass, united actions against the occupations from October 3 - October 17, 2009. Based on support of most of the participants, a demand was added to "end war crimes, including torture."
This action period includes Monday, October 5 as a mass protest and non-violent civil resistance action in Washington, at the US House offices and the White House to mark the US occupation of Afghanistan, which begun that week in 2001. The period culminates with Saturday October 17th regional and local actions against the wars. October 17 is the 40th anniversary of the famous Vietnam Moratorium in 1969 that Daniel Ellsberg referred to as so huge that it forced Richard Nixon to shelve plans to nuke Vietnam.

Today's "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a death, begging is the new 'employment opportunity' in Baghdad, Jay Garner writes the New York Times, the Senate explores problems facing women veterans, and more.

"Aloha and good morning to all of you," greeted US Senator Daniel Akaka after calling to order the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing this morning. "Welcome to this important hearing on VA's health care services for women veterans. We will be looking at programs already in the works to improve access to and the quality of care and other unique issues facing women veterans. Women veterans are the fastest growing segment of veterans. In 1988, when VA first began providing care to women, they were only 4% of the veteran population. Today the percentage of women veterans is nearing 8% and expected to rise substantially over the next two decades. So it is appropriate that we ask now, 'Is VA meeting the needs of women veterans?'" Appropriate and, as Senator Roland Burris put it, "long overdue." Last week, the
Boston Globe's Bryan Bender wrote of the topic . . . by speaking to one man after another (one female veteran was also spoken to). It's always interesting when the media finally gives attention to an issue effecting women to see whether or not women are allowed to speak? Women spoke to the committee today. The hearing was broken up into two panels. The first panel was composed of the GAO's Randall B. Williamson and the Veterans Affairs Dept's Patricia Hayes. The second panel was composed of women veternas: Grace After Fire's Kayla Williams, Iraq Veteran Project Swords to Plowshares' Tia Christopher, the VFW's Jennifer Olds, American Women Veterans' Genevieve Chase and Disabled American Veterans' Joy J. Ilem.

Akaka is the Chair of the Committee, Senator Richar Burr is the Ranking Member. Burr noted, "North Carolina is no stranger to this growth. My home state ranks 6th in the total number of women veterans with just over 67,000 residing there." And we'll stay with that theme a moment to note a few basics before getting into the witness testimony. Senator Burris declared at the hearing, "Tremendous progress has been made already but I am concerned that only one-third of the veterans health facilities provide for the one-stop approach, an approach which shows the highest level of customer satisfication." By contrast, the outdated approach of the VA demands women go here, go there, go to a contracted physician while male veterans generally are able to go to one facility and have their basic primary health care needs addressed. The
June 3rd snapshot covered the House Committee on Veterans Affairs committee for the hearing entitled "A National Commitment to End Veterans' Homelessness" and Vietnam Veterans of America's Marsha Four addressed the ways homelessness effects women veterans differently than male veterans and she noted "that there are very few programs in the country that are set up and designed specifically for homeless women veterans that are seperate [from male programs]. One of the problems that we've run into in a mixed gender setting is sort of two-fold. One, the women veterans do not have the opportunity to actually be in a separate group therapy environment because there are many issues that they simply will not divulge in mixed gender populations so those issues are never attended to. The other is that we believe, in a program, you need to focus on yourself and this is the time and place to do your issue, your deal. Many of the veterans too come from the streets so there's a lot of street behavior going on. S ome of the women -- and men -- but some of the women have participated in prostitution and so there's a difficult setting for any of them to actually focus on themselves without having all these other stressors come into play." At the May 21, 2008 Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Senator Patty Murray observed that in today's conflict, "Some units, including military police, are using an increased number of females to fill jobs that were traditionally held by male personnel. And because of the conflicts of today, we have no clear frontlines and women, like all of our service members, are always on the frontline -- riding on dangerous patrols, guarding pivotal check opints and witnessing the horrows of war first hand." Murray also noted that despite there being 1.7 million women veterans, for some reason "only 255,00 of those women actually use the VA health care services." Why was that? In her town halls in Washington (state), Murray found out, "Some told me they had been intimidate by the VA and viewed the VA as a male only facility. Others simply told me that they couldn't find someone to watch their kids so they could attend a counseling session or find time for other care." At that hearing, the VA's Dr. Gerald Cross objected to the bill (Murray and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's bill, S. 2799, Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2008) stating that including the child care option for female veterans seeking "mental health care or other intensive health care services at the VA" would "divert funds." Senator Murray pointed out that in his own opening remarks, Cross was observing that lack of child care prevents some women from access "for mental health or other intensive services -- so you identified the lack of child care as a barrier [. . .] but you're unwilling to do anything about it?" Which was the case. And, for the record, the bill, though introduced two years in a row, has never been voted on in the full Senate. This year it has passed the Committee. July 6th of this year, Murray's office noted "that she has included $2 million to begin planning and design of a Women and Children's Center at Madigan Army Medical Center. The Women and Children's Center is necessary to provide health care and services to Fort Lewis' large and growing population of women and newborns. The facility would be the Army's first Women and Children's Center."

Staying with statistics, the VA's Patricia Hayes and the GAO's Williamson both broke down the numbers in their opening remarks.

* Over 1.8 million women veterans (as of October 2008)

* Over 102,000 are veterans of the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War

* 281,000 women veterans received some form of VA healt care in Fiscal Year 2008

* Estimated median age for male veterans 61; for women 47.

Hayes further broke down what the median age of 47 means, that female veterans "are younger and have health care needs distinct from their male counterparts. [. . .] Nearly all newly enrolled women veterans accessing VA care are under 40 and of child bearing age. This trend creates a need to shift how we provide health care. [. . .] Some women report that lack of newborn care and child care forces them to seek care elsewhere." In her written testimony, but not stated in her opening remarks, Hayes noted, "VA has identified that 37 percent of women Veterans who use VA health care have a mental health diagnosis; these rates are higher than those of male Veterans. Women Veternas also present with complex mental health needs, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST), and parenting and family issues." Williamson did make a passing reference to MST in his opening remarks but to round that out, this is a
fact sheet on MST from NOW on PBS:

27% of men have experienced military sexual trauma 60% of women have experienced military sexual trauma 3.5% of men have experienced military sexual assault 23% of women have experienced military sexual assault 11% of women have experienced rape 1.2% of men have experienced rape Service branch with the highest percentage of women reporting sexual trauma: Marine Corps 20% of women seeking care at VA facilities have experienced sexual trauma 1% of men seeking care at VA facilities have experienced sexual trauma 8.3 percentage of women report lifetime PTSD related to MST More than half of the incidents took place at a military work site and during duty hours The majority of the offenders in these cases were military personnel Factors that increase risk of sexual assault for active duty females include presence of officers who condone or allow sexual harassment and unwanted sexual attention

For more information on the topic, the
May 23, 2008 broadcast of NOW on PBS featured a report by Maria Hinojosa (produced by Karla Murthy) on MST. VETVOW is an organization that addresses MST. From today's hearing, we'll note the following exchange.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Dr. Hayes, thank you for your testimony. VA is poised to make some important changes to how care is delivered to women but in fairness, we seem to have a a bit of a disconnect between mandates and what is actually happening. I'm going to ask you a series of questions about this. First, VA has mandated that all VA medical centers appoint a full time Women Veterans Program Manager. Does every VA medical center have one in place?

Patricia Hayes: VA has reported, as you know, that there are 144 out of the 144 sites that have a full time Women Veteran Program Manager. I'm in actively now in the process of verifying that. What we do know that my office has trained -- over the last three months we held three different trainings -- we trained 142 Women Veteran Program Manager over the last three months. We think it's very important to train folks, not take these brand new folks and make sure that they know what they're doing in this plan to develop health care for women.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Dr. Hayes, hopefully you've read the testimony of the second panel. Jennifer Olds details her battle with PTSD and specifically makes a case for cognitive therapy. Congress passed a law last year requiring that these state of the art therapies be available to all veterans. I suppose this is something you need to take for the record, but are all veterans with PTSD able to receive this kind of treatment?

Patricia Hayes: You're right, Mr. Akaka, that I will have to take that specifically for the record in terms of the issues about access to PTSD treatment. I think that, you know, one of the things that was pointed out in the GAO report about where there's access, it's very important that we first ask veterans what they need and that's why it's important to hear from veterans about what their struggles are and to, I think, make sure that we're addressing what that veteran needs in terms of her care. So, for example, there's been a lot of questions about residential treatment and I think when we look at women veterans we have to be aware that, for example, women with children aren't necessarily interested in going off, leaving their children and going to a residential site. So that every time we look at what we have available, we have to make sure we have available for each veteran what she might need -- whether it's intensive outpatient or residential or these tele-health, tele-medicines. Some of our veterans have rated that as very highly successful for them to be in that type of treatment. So we will take the question for the record in terms of the exact issue of where PTSD treatment is available. But I think that it needs to be couched in asking the veteran what they need and that particular issue for this veteran who is very important.

Chair Daniel Akaka: Mr. Williams, your testimony lays out that none of the facilities reviewed had fully implemented VA's policies for women's health care. Could you determine the reasoning behind this non-compliance? Was it funding, lack of training or anything else?

Randall Williamson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's very difficult sometimes to understand the reason uh -- the area referred, for example, on privacy -- assuring privacy of women veterans. Part of its due to facilities in terms of the layout that currently exists -- in trying to convert and modify that. But also, I think part of it comes down to committment at the local level. There's no doubt, I think, that the Secretary and Dr. Hayes and oterhs at the top are very committed to implementing VA policies and improving overall health care for women. But simple things -- as we visited the facility -- simple things that are easy to do like placing exam tables so the foot is away from the door, putting sanitary products in bathrooms for women, those things are easy and if they're not being done, part of that reason may come back to is there a committment at the - at the local level to ensure these policies are done?

Chair Daniel Akaka: Several witnesses on the second panel are quite critical of VA care for women. Let's take these one by one. Do you agree, as most concerned, that some service connected women veterans are without access to VA health care. Miss Williams detailed a lack of understanding on the part of VA providers. Miss Christopher found that community care is easier to access than VA care. And Miss Chase finds that generally VA plays catch up to meet the needs of VA veterans. Dr. Hayes, what is at the root of all these issues and how can we rectify them?

Patricia Hayes: I think that what is at the root of these issues really is a system that has not been responsive to the needs of women veterans. I came a year ago and launched an initiative specifically to make VA more inclusive of women veterans, to establish primary care that meets their needs so that they don't have to come for multiple visits, to make sure we reach out to those who do not have health care -- what research has shown us over and over again is that women don't know that they have VA services but it's not good enough if we reach them but we don't have the right care when they get in our front door. So we have a very intensive effort going on which started, as you saw, last year but is rolling up August 1st with every facility giving us an implementation plan for how to fix primary care for women veterans, how to make the facilities respond to environment of care issues and to develop services going forward that will meet women veterans' needs. And I think that until we do that, until we make sure that it's right, then we begin to reach out to our women veterans and welcome them back we will have a specific initiative which we identified: the need for service connected women to get their health care. And that's the first on our list when we can be sure that there's primary care for them when they walk in the door.

Ranking Member Burr caught a discrenphancy in Patricia Hayes' written testimony and oral testimony. He noted that her written testimony asserted that every facility had a Women Veteran Program Manager but she stated in her testimony that she was in the midst of verifying that, "Which is accurate, do we have them or are you in the process of verifying them?" She stated she's verifying to ensure that it's accurate prompting Burr to ask, "How long does that take?" It shouldn't take very long at all for someone in her position. It's not as if she's going to be told, "Call back." She or her staff dials each of the 144 facilities stating Hayes needs to speak to the Women Veteran Program Manager. The reply then is either to forward her call on or explain why not and if why not is "We don't have one," the count is done right then. This shouldn't take days. It shouldn't even take a full eight hour work day. "I think," she told Burr, "that we want to make sure that the person is full time and that" they are qualified "to do that job." Well, you ask them on the phone, "Are you full time?" You also ask for a resume. And you also check to see if you did, in fact, train them since Hayes claims she's been doing three months of training. She's making this far more difficult than it is and that's either because she's not grasping the task or she's attempting to mislead the Comittee. Burr pointed out that this is a VA mandate and that "I would take for granted that listed in that dictate is 'permanent, full time,' it spells out exactly what program managers are going to do." Burr also pointed out that her written testimony said that they plan to have gynecologists on site at every facility by 2012. "Why is it," he asked, "2012 and not 2009?" She strung some words together but she didn't answer the question. And again, this isn't difficult. You start hiring. The money is in the VA's budget for these positions. You start hiring. Hayes had a lot of words and they said very little.

Senator Patty Murray: Dr. Hayes, as you know, the military currently bars women from serving in combat. We all know, however, that in today's wars there is no front line on the battlefield, we know that women are serving right along side of male colleagues and they are engaging in combat with the enemy. But unfortunately the new reality of this modern warfare isn't well understood here at home including by some in the VA. This knowlege gap obviously impacts the ability of women veterans to receive health care and disability benefits from the VA. What are you doing, Dr. Hayes, to ensure that all VA staff -- both in the VHA and in the VBA -- are aware that women are serving in combat and that they're getting the health care and benefits that they've earned?

A long string of words including that providers are trained but all the staff needs to be "we have a staff sensitivity module" -- excuse me? A sensitivity module? Murray's speaking of basic facts and how they're being imparted. Hayes is talking about sensitivity training. I'm not ridiculing sensitivity training. It exists for many reasons and is needed in the work environment. But we're not talking about that. Murray raised that the DD2 14s are not being documented and that "we have people who say, 'You weren't in combat, you're a woman.'" Hayes says it saddened her that reports of that had emerged. That reports had emerged or that it took place? Murray wanted to know if the VA was working with the Defense Dept to ensure that women veterans DD2 14s were being properly documented and Hayes referred it to a colleague who babbled on. Murray stopped her to get her back on track at which point the woman stated that maybe Congress could help them because they weren't able to note combat experience for women due to guidelines. In other words, the woman always had the answer but only offered it when pressed by Murray.

The bulk of the hearing was the first panel. Moving on to the second panel. "Women need not only more gender specific care," Tia Christopher declared in her opening remarks, "but also care that is appropriate for their needs. It is essential that women who do need inpatient treatment for PTSD, whether combat or sexual assault related, receive care in a safe treatment space. A coed environment can truly be the worst thing for a woman suffering from Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and PTSD. Just having the resources is not enough, again, the quality, quantity and accessibility of that care is vital. For those who are uncomfortable receiving treatment at a VA facility, for whatever reason, funding needs to allotted for culturally competent care within the community." Geneviever Chase testified today. She was also part of
last Wednesday's Voices of Honor press conference. She's also straight because Voices of Honor is gays, lesbians and straight service members coming together to stamp out the discrimination. In her opening remarks today, she explained something many men and women in the Reserves have experienced, "The reserve soldiers I served with were discharged from active service with a five-minute out-briefing and a single sheet of paper listing websites to access for VA services. What I recall from that time was being focused on overwhelming issues like finding a job and figuring out how I was going to make it in a civilian world that had become somewhat foreign to me -- not on the service related health isseus I would face in the months to come or how I would seek care for those issues." Jennifer Olds stated she experienced a similar lack of advise and information regarding what you were qualified for and she emphasized the need to get people into the VA system immediately. Kayla Williams noted several issues in her opening remarks but we'll zoom in on this because only she touched on it in opening remarks, "Other barries may disproportionately affect women. For example, since women are more likely to be the primary caregivers of small children, they may require help getting childcare in order to attend appointments at the VA. Currently many VA facilities are not prepared to accomodate the presence of children; several friends have described having to change babies' diapers on the floors of VA hospitals because the restroom lacked changing facilities. Another friend, whose babysitter cancelled at the last minute, brought her infant and toddler to a VA appointment -- the provider told her that was 'not appropriate' and that she should not come in if she could not find childcare. Facilities in which to nurse and change babies -- as well as childcare assistance or at least patience with the presence of small children -- would ease burdens on all veterans with small children."

Senator Akaka wondered how to get the message out regarding the fact that women veterans are seeing combat. Chase noted that public testimony/sharing, standing up in front of others was one way to get the word out. Williams noted PBS'
Lioness documentary being shown at VAs and Joy Ilem agreed with that. Chase stated that there are many other women "serving outside the wire in combat today" and not just the one specific team documented in Lioness. Christopher noted, "To be quite frank, trainings can be very boring. Whether you're wathcing a power point or a video or listening to someone talk. I mean -- I think for it to be truly effective there needs to be dialogue and it needs to be proactive. And I think a Q&A portion when we train for Swords to Ploughshares, we open ourselves up for questions, we actually refer to it as the uncomfortable questions panel."
Senator Murray wanted to know if the panel "found that this combat experience is reflected in DD2 14s?"

Kayla Williams: My own certainly was reflected in my DD2 14. But I was awared the service medal for my time in Operation Iraqi Freedom. And also, if it ever were to become a question, I also received army medals and the paperwork that supports that details the experiences they were earned for and the way that people can show their experience. But I know that that isn't usually the case, I was just lucky enough that that was true for me.

Genevieve Chase: We, during our -- our -- when we get our DD2 14s it's on there whether or not you served and in what theater. It also states what was your job. And I was also awarded the Combat Operation Badge. That is not an automatic award. It's not an automatic entitlement. And that's submitted by your chain of command and if it's not submitted or the paperwork is lost or doesn't go through then you don't get that as well. And it also isn't a qualifer -- a lot of people don't perceive it to mean that you were actually in combat or directly engaging the enemy. So that policy needs to be changed [. . .] to reflect that women are in fact serving in combat and they are in fact on missions outside the wire. And regardless of whether or not they're going outside the wire [. . .] when you have mortars every day and you have no idea where they're coming from, that's combat.

In Iraq today,
DPA reports a protest in Falluja today of over 200 people rallying "to demand the interior ministry release the city's former police chief, Colonel Faisal Ismail, and his deputy, Eissa al-Sari, witnesses told the German Press Agency dpa." Tim Cocks (Reuters) reports that the KRG is gearing up for their July 25th parliamentary and presidential election. The Kurdish region did not take part in the January 31st elections -- the ones the media was all over for weeks and weeks and insisting they proved something. Usually, they insisted, that democracy was taking root in Iraq. So what does the silence from the US media on the upcoming Kurdish elections -- taking place in eleven days -- say? Dropping back to Sam Dagher's article Friday (click here for critique). A letter on A20 (national edition) of today's New York Times addresses the article:To the Editor:Re "Defiant Kurds Claim Oil, Gas and Territory" (front page, July 10): The Iraqi Constitution, specifically Article 140, requires a vote by referendum to resolve Iraq's disputed territories. To cast this as a "threat" is unfair. The Iraqi Kurds are simply trying to carry out the constitutionally mandated referendum.Furthermore, the Iraqi Kurds are not defying Baghdad in formulating a regional constitution; they are embracing their right to create such a document, which is allowed in the Iraqi Constitution. The Kurds, who represent the most stable and progressive element of Iraq, have made it clear that they desire to be a part of a united Iraqi nation. To allow for a responsible and phased withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, which is the stated policy of the Obama administration, several issues must first be resolved, the most important of which is that of the disputed territories. Only then will a stable and united Iraq be able to thrive. Jay Garner Erbil, Iraq, July 10, 2009 The writer, a retired lieutenant general in the Army, was director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq in 2003.
Campbell Robertson (New York Times) reports:
The Euphrates is drying up. Strangled by the water policies of Iraq's neighbors, Turkey and Syria; a two-year drought; and years of misuse by Iraq and its farmers, the river is significantly smaller than it was just a few years ago. Some officials worry that it could soon be half of what it is now.Why is it drying up? Global warming no doubt impacts as it does everywhere. Robertson doesn't raise that. In addition, neighbors Syria and Turkey grab from the same water supply and have several dams set up. In addition, the infrastructure in Iraq was allowed to decay and was further damaged during the illegal war. In the first year of the illegal war, the paper was writing about the Tigris and the problems with it. Today's problems aren't surprising. And the US bears a larger responsibility for it than the Robertson's article is willing to acknowledge. He's also unwilling to acknowledge how little the US has done. And on what others are planning, we'll just assume he's unaware.Last month, UNICEF, now back in Baghdad, declared the start of a new water and sanitation project that would service an estimated 100,000 Iraqis and is funded with by the European Community (at an estimated cost of $10 million in US dollars).As the river dries, Iraqis lose another water supply -- already a huge, huge problem in a country where potable water has become a thing of the past. The lack of potable water and the start of summer means that the cholera outbreaks are just around the corner. Last year, a UN doctor shamefully blamed Iraqi women for the cholera outbreak. Disgracefully blamed Iraqi women -- who already suffer enough and require no additional burdens 'gifted' to them. Cholera outbreaks take place because there is no potable water. Boiling the water is a safety measure; however, it depends upon having the gas or electricity with which to boil water and it depends upon having access to a stove or other device you can boil water on. Fixing Iraq's sewer and water systems would address the issue. Providing potable water would address the issue. Iraq brought in a ton of money in 2008. Where did it go? It's one of the richest countries in the world when you grasp that it has a population of approximately 30 million (a generous estimate considering the number killed during this war and the number of external refugees). Last year's revenues more than doubled the population. So where is that money?That's a question that will be asked after the US finally withdraws, whenever that is. The item below is from [PDF format warning] the
US State Dept's Iraq report for July 1, 2009 (and you can also find news on the UNICEF item in that).Villages determined to be at high risk for cholera received four solar powered water purification units. The units were provided by the PRT at the request of provincial health authorities as part of an anti-cholera campaign. Villagers will be instructed in unit operations and repairs.

And the river dries up as
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the poverty, "Beggars have become as visible as blast walls and checkpoints in Iraqi cities. Government ministries don't have reliable statistics, partly because those who beg fear official crackdowns on their only livelihood. It's a problem the government has yet to tackle." This happens as the Oil Ministry brags it has "acheived (59.1000) million barrels with (3.378) billion dollars incomes with daily average of (4.400) barrels per day for May and the raise was (686) million dollars. In comparison with April which achieved (54.700) million barrels with (2.692) billion dollars incomes."

Sunday US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill was dangerously close to a roadside bombing.
Mike Tharp and Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) report on attempts to determine the target of a roadside bombing Sunday, "U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the incident is under investigation, stressed Monday that they didn't know whether the bomb was intended to target American Ambassador Christopher Hill. Investigators' arrival on the scene has been delayed by severe sandstorms, one official said." They also quote a PRT head in Dhi Qar Province who asks, "How can you tell foreign investors to come here, when for the first time the ambassador comes and sits down to listen to people and their ideas and you (attempt to) blow him up? These elements are few, but it is now up to Iraqi forces to go get them." The fact that a government investigation is taking place into the bombing makes it all the more shocking that yesterday's State Dept briefing did not even acknowledge the bombing (not Ian Kelly, not the reporters in attendance).

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing which left ten people injured at an internet cafe and a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more wounded.


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack on a Sahwa checkpoint in Baghdad in which 2 police officers were killed and a third was kidnapped, 2 civilians shot dead in Mosul and 1 woman shot dead in a Mosul home invasion.

Last night,
the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died the afternoon of July 13 due to a medical condition. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of deceased service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at . The announcements are made on the Website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD." The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in the illegal war since it started to 4323.

Bob Woodruff (ABC News' The World Newser) blogged yesterday:

Entering from the North, we landed in Kirkuk but because of the sand, we could not even feed our video.
I'm officially inside Iraq for the first time since I was hit and nearly killed by an IED near here 3 and a half years ago. For a long time I had been hoping to return to Iraq. Once the sand settles we will be able to see if and how Iraq has changed.

Woodruff was supposed to do his first report from Iraq (since being injured there) last night on ABC's World News Tonight; however, the sandstorms delayed it and now it's not happening. In January 2006, Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas were co-anchors of ABC's World News Tonight and he was wounded in roadside bombing in Iraq which required extensive recovery work. This is his first time back in Iraq since that bombing. Many journalists have been wounded in the Iraq War and the Iraq War is the deadliest for journalists with
at least 225 killed since the start of the illegal war (we count "media workers" as journalists -- they are anywhere, but especially in a war zone and note that the June 1st death isn't included in Reporters Without Borders count so we're saying "at least"). The journalists most at risk have been Iraqi journalist (and one of the "brain drains" not written of at length re: Iraq is the large number of Iraqi journalists who have fled the country in the last six years). Foreign journalists have also risked a great deal. Along with CBS News' Kimberly Dozier, Woodruff is the most high profile US journalist wounded in the Iraq War. And NBC News' David Bloom was killed in Iraq April 6, 2003. Richard Huff (New York Daily News) explains, "Woodruff endured a year of rehab and wasn't seen on TV until ABC aired a special on his recovery a year later. [Cameraman Doug] vogt, who injuries were not as serious as Woodruff's, still works as a cameran for ABC News."

On ABC's Good Morning America today, Bob Woodruff explained he was already enroute to Afghanistan.
Chris Cumo (The World Newser -- link has text and video) wrote up his on air exchange with Woodruff. Excerpt:

Chris Cuomo: Was it important to you just to be back on the ground in Iraq, and say that I've made it back?

Bob Woodruff: Part of me is really sad by it. Certainly, it's a very emotional time. But, you know, I think that the hope is, the dream is, that I will go back there -- maybe soon, maybe a month later, maybe a year from now. But I do want to go back. I really wish this had not happened, that the sandstorm had not stopped us. I wanted to come back and -- we're not able to see much of anything. But we know that the danger zone, that the violence is way down. There's a lot more hope that this country will return.

bryan benderboston globe
mcclatchy newspaperswarren p. strobelmike tharp
jenan hussein
the new york timescampbell robertsonjay garner
bob woodruffabc newsthe new york daily newsrichard huff