Saturday, June 18, 2011

Time to send a message

Bill Van Auken's a good writer. I highlight him, others in the community do. I will not highlight an article in the inbox. (The downside to journaling on Saturday? No Sunny to go through the e-mails for me.)

Bill Van Auken's allowed his own personal longings to trump facts and logic. We're not covering the story he's writing about. We made that decision community wide. At present, one person is making a charge, a group is rejecting that charge as false. No one knows what happened.

Bill Van Auken rushes into to defend a weasel. The weasel defend Bill Auken. We do not defend weasels. The weasel has used the charge (not proven to be true) in order to self-aggrandize for much of the week. If there's a need to weigh in, it will be after something's known.

It is so easy to loathe and hate George W. Bush, even now. It's really sick. Bush was an idiot and a War Criminal and thank goodness he's out of office. But we've got a new one in there and all this crap about what happened under Bush really doesn't matter. We don't have time for nostalgia. We need to be fighting for the rights of today.

Bill Van Auken's a grown up, he can do what he wants with his life. But I'm not highlighting that article. I'm also not going to claim that the man BVA's writing about is a 'critic' of the war. That man cheerleaded it, then was against it, then was back to cheering it on, etc. He was forever sticking his wet finger in the air trying to figure out which way the winds were blowing.

We've got real problems and a War Hawk who self-aggrandized last week and wants to play the victim may be of interest to BVA but I don't give a damn.

What do I give a damn about? Many things. Including the war on Libya. POLITICO notes, "Obama chose to adopt the advice of senior members of his own legal team over top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Dept., arguing that U.S. involvement in the NATO operation fell short of 'hostilities,' which would have resulted in Obama having to seek congressional approval to continue American participation in the conflict."

Now that might not be as 'sexy' as what might be a baseless charge of spying under Bush (a charge which isn't even connected to Bush at this point) but people will die as a result of it and that makes it very important to me.

Barack Obama is out of control. The only way to confront this War Hawk now is to note vote for him. Vote Green, vote Republican, vote independent but send a message that a craven, lying War Hawk can not be re-elected.

He thinks he's above the law. He is as dangerous as Bush there. He is far more dangerous in that we don't have a lively opposition to him. We had that to Bush. To Barack? Just a cult, just a Cult of St. Barack, walking around like zombies, testifying to his 'greatness.'

The country can't afford it, the world can't afford it. November 2012, at the voting booths, Americans need to let the world know that the do not embrace War Hawks.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, June 17, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis take to the streets to protest, tensions continue to fester between Nouri and Allawi, in the US, Bob Filner wonders where the VA money is going, US mayors call for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more.
Today was Determination Friday in Iraq as activists take to the streets to demand a responsive government. Protests have been going on in Iraq this year since January. The college students and Iraqi youth began organizing around Friday's a designated day for protest each week. In Baghdad, citizens have turned out in strong numbers and I wish there was much coverage but there's not. For the coverage, we're pulling from Revolution of Iraq and The Great Iraqi Revolution -- so when you see a quoted statement that is linked, the link takes you to one of those two sources, We'll also be working in the rare coverage elsewhere that did take place.

Starting in Baghdad, where "activists flocked to Liberation Square despite government forces harassing them and the checkpoints set around the square" and where "A new game the biggest liar Nouri Al Haliki is playing now. Information indicating that his supporters (supporters of all that is false and lies; supporters of riobbery and corruption) have orders to come out to Tahrir and mix the cards. This is a double edged ploy, of course, that they are either going to give the impression that was Firas Al Jibourie's family who attacked the Rebels or that his supporters will infact again attack the Rebels in Tahrir. We say to Haliki and his supporters that we are ready for them - The heroes of all the Tahrirs in Iraq from the very northern tip to the very southern tip of Iraq will bring you down!"
KUNA reports that the protesters chanted "Friday after Friday, Al-Maliki out" and that, "A group of the protestors read a statement at the crowd, accusing the government of protecting 'the criminals and corrupt.' They also called for recognizing citizens' rights for protesting and abstention from resorting to violence against the demonstrators.
Moreover, they called for a new electoral law to secure equal legislative representation for all political parties." Last Friday, the activists were attacked by pro-government thugs who invaded the square to try to take it over and to stop the legitimate protest going on.

Today "Maliki sends his hooligans to demonstrate in Tahrir while security forces facilitate their route and entry into Tahrir! in the meantime making it difficult for the Rebelling Youth of Iraq to enter Tahrir." Despite those obstacles, "Growing numbers of the Rebel Youth demonstrating in Tahrir calling for the downfall of the government." The pro-government thugs sense they are losing so they attempt to enrage the actual activists. "Maliki's shakawat provoke the Rebels by shouting 'All the people are with you Nourie Al Maliki'!" The pro-government thugs "begin pretending they are demonstrating about the Dujail attack and Firas Al Jibourie - all in order to begin shouting slogans in support of Nouri al-Maliki." When that fails to derail the protests, "Maliki's shaqawat attempt to attack the Rebel Youth and the Rebels stop them, thus making them fail in their attmpt to cause injury and trouble," but the activists are Iraq and "Sunni and Shi'ite brothers" stand side by side.

Of US journalists, it would be hard to think of one that's spent more time covering Iraq than Jane Arraf whose coverage of the country goes back to CNN and long, long before the latest Iraq War. Today Arraf works for the Christian Science Monitor and Al Jazeera and frequently teams up with McClatchy Newspaper's journalists such as Laith Hammoudi and Sahar Issa. At her Twitter feed, Jane Arraf offered observations on the protests.
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Let's turn to some of today's reported violence. First up, The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "2 members of the Movement to Liberate the South, have been kidnapped by Special Interior Ministry Forces in Basra." Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing claimed 3 lives and left seven people injured, a Garma car bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three people injured and, dropping back to Thursday night for the rest, 1 man was shot dead in Mosul as he left a mosque, 1 man was shot dead outside his Mosul home, 1 Ministry of Electricity employee was shot dead in Baghdad and a Baghdad roadside bombing left one police officer injured.
As the security situation continues to fall apart, the tensions increase between Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister, and other elements in the Iraqi government such as Ayad Allawi. Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports:
The latest crisis was sparked by a spat between the leaders of the two main blocs in the country's "partnership" government, Shia Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and the leader of the Sunni-backed Iraqia Coalition bloc, Iyad Allawi.
On Friday, Allawi charged Al-Maliki with "lying, hypocrisy and deception", saying that Al-Maliki had "depended on foreigners and Iran's support to become prime minister."
Allawi's remarks came hours after pro Al-Maliki demonstrators carried his picture when standing next to Firas Al-Jubouri, a man whom the government accuses of masterminding a massacre of some 70 Shias in 2006 while on their way to a wedding.
The gruesome crime, which included the raping of the women, including the bride, and the slaughtering of the men and children and the throwing of their bodies into the Tigris, was disclosed last month, infuriating many Shias who have demanded the public execution of the perpetrators.
But the incident also raises questions about why the government has waited so long to bring the assault to light and if it is now trying to implicate Allawi in it, especially following rumors that Al-Jubouri is a member of his National Accord Movement.
The disclosure came amid mounting criticism of Al-Maliki, who holds the portfolios of defense, interior and national security ministers in the Iraqi government, as well as that of intelligence chairman, and who has been accused of failing to stop the violence.
Some have suggested that Al-Maliki has filled these ministries and top security posts with his cronies and supporters who are inefficient or corrupt.
The editorial board of Gulf News also underscores the serious problems Nouri is facing:
Standards were set and consequences for failure were announced and yet when the time came for some stock-taking, Al Maliki's inaction has left him facing intense queries for which he would be hard- pressed to provide answers.
Admitting that the 100-day deadline hasn't worked would have been an easy way out. He could have always taken a fresh guard after that. With the Arab Spring touching new heights and with civil society sensing that they have made rapid breakthroughs across countries in the Middle East, Al Maliki can ill-afford to cloak his explanations in ambiguity.
This has been done by setting a fresh four-year plan for each ministry amid claims that 'massive progress' has been achieved in the stipulated 100 days. The opposition obviously does not agree. This is not the time for extreme long-term vision, especially when the route for the short term is littered with roadblocks.
Meanwhile Lara Jakes (AP) looks into the contract workers in Iraq and finds few make a solid living, let alone leave rich. She notes, "With 900,000 Iraqis unemployed, the government has little sympathy for foreigners who have flocked here to take menial jobs as housekeepers or restaurant workers. And, to get here, authorities say immigrants are routinely fleeced by employment agencies who charge thousands of dollars for flights and temporary visas for workers who wind up earning only a few hundred dollars each month." Today on The World (PRI), the issue was addressed. Excerpt:
MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is the World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston. Some 35,000 private security contractors are thought to be working in Iraq these days. That number is expected to increase dramatically as U.S. troops withdraw at the end of this year. Many Iraqis are concerned about that. Contractors have been involved in some controversial, even deadly incidents in Iraq, but they also have legal immunity against prosecution for any crimes they may have committed before 2009. Reporter Jane Arraf joins us from Baghdad. So, Jane, a group from the U.N. was just in Baghdad to discuss the role of security contractors there. What were they looking at in particular?
JANE ARRAF: Well, they were really looking at what sort of rules should be implemented and how it's been going so far. It's actually called the U.N. Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries. Now, these people are not mercenaries they point out, they are private security contractors, but their ranks are really going to grow. As the U.S. military leaves, they're going to have to hire more security contractors to protect the Embassy. And, really what this group wanted to do was a bit of a fact-finding mission. It wanted to talk to security contractors, wanted to talk to the Iraqi government, didn't quite get all it wanted on that front. And, basically come up with some recommendations.
WERMAN: Well, interesting that you mentioned this euphemism as security contractor, they're really mercenaries according to the U.N. Does the U.N. see them as mercenaries?
ARRAF: Here in Iraq it's not so much mercenaries, because they are actually contracted employees. But, there are, as you point out, 35,000 of them, including 12,000 foreigners. The U.N. itself is in a bind, because it's going to have to rely on them after U.S. forces pull out. And, as the head of this working group, Jose Luis Gomez del Prado told us earlier today, there is really a gray area there in terms of immunity from prosecution.
In the US, a new call goes out to end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. CNN reports that in Baltimore today at the Annual Conference of US Mayors, a resolution was passed which "urged Congress [. . .] to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and redirect money spent to support those conflicts to domestic interests." Alex Dominguez (AP) quotes Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stating, "How did we get to a deficit and a debt larger than at any time not only in U.S. history but in human history? We got involved in two wars that, no matter what you think about those wars, we haven't paid for. That we would build bridges in Baghdad and Kandahar and not Baltimore and Kansas City, absolutely boggles the mind."
Daniel Hanson: So I joined the Marine Corps in 2003. Shortly after I was deployed to Ramadi Iraq in 2004. And it was a deployment that started with one of our Marines shooting himself in the head -- just kind of brushed that under the table. And then 34 marines we lost -- throughout the deployment. We had about 400, 450 Marines injured. Came back and, uh, went on leave and that was -- that was that. Started drinking pretty heavy, dealing with nightmares, dealing with things I wasn't really prepared to deal with, I would say. And I think one of the biggest reasons that I dealt with it myself was just because -- I mean, I was in a battalion with a thousand Marines, I don't think people wanted to hear, you know, my whining and complaining. So -- Then shortly after we went on antoher deployment, non-combat which, uhm, uh, just kept on drinking, kept masking my issues with whatever -- whatever would take away any of the pain. Came back and then about six months later my unit was deployed again to Iraq. This time I was in the remain-behind-element so I was kind of able to see the other side of things -- when we would get the casualty reports, we would get the KIAs in and have to notifiy and take beyond that end of things as well. I decided that I was going to get out of the Marine Corps and uh -- But I was persuaded by a good friend, Sgt Major JJ Ellis, to stay in but, on that deployment, he ended up getting killed. I went to his funeral over in Arlington National Cemetery. Then after that, a friend, also in 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, Jonathan Schulze, hanged himself in the basement of his home and that kind of got me twirling out of control just before I was going to get out of the Marine Corps. And then finally on March -- I got discharged in February, 2007. And then on March 23, 2007, my brother -- who is also in the Marine Corps -- he hung himself in the basement of his home. And at that point, I think I decided I was going to do everything I could to avoid pain, that I was going to do everything to deal with it myself as I had been doing for the last three or four years. And I got into drugs, I got into alcohol. I got into whatever it was that would mask the pain that day. Eventually, I tried to kill myself. I ended up in the St. Cloud VA Medical Center for about 48 hours in lock-up. And then I was released and off to do whatever it is that I wanted to do -- which was go back to work because that seemed like the normal thing to do after -- after something like that. And eventually I found myself in and out of jail. I'm not -- And I was getting treated on an outpatient basis for awhile at the VA Medical Center. But when you were as messed up as I was, it takes a lot more than, you know, one or two sessions a week to get through my issues. And so I eventually found my way into the dual diagnosis program to get help. It was mostly to avoid a longer stint in jail for my DUIs. Eventually, I got out after about 30 days. I think I started drinking the next day. About a year later I found myself in jail for, I don't know, the sixth or seventh time and I decided for myself that I was done hurting myself, I was done hurting my family, I was done hurting my children. And I checked into a 13 to 15 month faith-based program that was what changed my life. About a week after jail, I stopped going to work, stopped going to school and I decided that I wasn't going to be very productive unless I got help. And that's what I did at Minneapolis Teen Challenge. It was more of a holistic approach. It was -- I went to the VA once a week to get help in the combat and the military specific issues and then I would stay there, you know, seven days a week. I wasn't able to get any funding through the VA because it was not -- it was not a VA funded program. Therefore, I got backed up on bills, I wasn't able to pay things and eventually filed bankruptcy. So in my dealing with the VA Medical Center, I always felt like I was in control, I was running my own rehabilitation althought I couldn't even, you know, put my shoes and socks on correctly most days. I felt like it was "Whatever I wanted to do Mr. Hanson, whatever I wanted to do that I thought was best for me. Well I thought what was best for me to go and get drunk and get high and forget about all my troubles and forget about all my nightmares.
Iraq War veteran Daniel Hanson was testifying Tuesday to the House Veterans Affairs Committee in their hearing on mental health. A few notes about the above. This is the hearing that I was hoping to get room for all week. (Not the hearing that has a transcript, I wasn't interested in that hearing.) A veteran who also attended the hearing asked me if I wasn't covering it because of Daniel Hanson's attitude towards treatment? The only reason I hadn't covered it was we didn't have room.
But his treatment probably is as important as anything else in the hearing in many ways, so let's discuss that. What works for me is not going to work for you unless we're very similar. People are very different. There is no cookie cutter treatment to help someone towards recovery. For Dan Hanson, a faith-based program worked. That's most likely because he's living a faith-based life. If someone is liviing that sort of life and he or she has a very strong faith, that faith needs to be part of the therapy. It needs to be brought into it. What the VA couldn't provide him with for whatever reasons, he kept searching until it came to him. And good for him for that.
The thing that bothers me the most about his testimony -- and I thought he was very brave to have shared all he did -- is that he's talking about feeling like all the choices were up to him. In the civilian world there might be a likelihood of treatments -- at the start -- being like that. But not all are. And I'm especially surprised that one would be geared towards veterans like that. To use Dan Hanson's life as an example, he was in a lot of pain and he was spiraling out of control. He correctly identifies himself as not having the skills at that point to go beyond what was probably labeled "stinking thinking" in his treatment (the "stinking thinking" that led him into the situation). Especially for veterans, that seems misguided. Just listening to his story, Dan Hanson was managing -- maybe not coping -- and had to grab additional resources (alcohol, drugs) to continue to manage each day. This was in the military. His use of alcohol most likely increased out of the military because there are certain structures within the daily life of the military that would make it much more difficult for him to show up for duty drunk off his as.
And the military structure is something that's instilled in training. The point being, if you're a veteran and you're seeking treatment for some behaviours that are harmful and out of control, you need structure. You need to see that you are part of your treatment and you need to see that you can work your treatment or program. But before you can go anywhere, a sesne of structure has to be imposed upon you by the program.
That's what Dan Hanson did not get from the VA and what he's talking about when he refers to feeling like the VA attitude was: Do what you want, you know best. If you talk to Elaine generically about this sort of topic (she keeps patient confidentiality and never discusses specifics), she would tell you that your life needs some structure and she'd work with you to construct that (with the earliest stages of your treatment being the most highly stuctured). So I'm confused as to how anyone at the VA thought that sort of 'treatment' would help. His life was chaos and felt chaos on the inside which is why he was using alcohol and other drugs to mask what was going on inside. It disturbs me that something so obvious as missed and if was missed with one person, then it's been missed with many. Dan Hanson was very brave to share his story. And his story isn't just a story of 'this didn't work for me but that did.' It's also a story of VA not grasping emotional distress.
He used Minneapolis Teen Challenge. Many of today's veterans are very young but they may not realize that 'teen' addiction treatment centers can often treat them as well because they are actually teen and young adult. Most go up to at least the age of 24 when accepting clients. Of live-in treatment programs, those tend to provide more structure than those geared solely for adults. So that is something that is a resource to any veteran who's 24 or under and relates to Dan Hanson's journey.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair is Jeff Miller and the Ranking Member is Bob Filner. Bob Filner noted that the Committee he had repeatedly lodged complaints about the backlog and he did do that. And it's also true that he and others offered the VA their ear, asked the VA repeatedly, "What do you need?" Time and again, the Committee was told they needed nothing from Congress. I can remember many Subcommittee hearings where Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin would be the Chair and she would specifically ask about the backlog. And she would be told that they didn't need additional employees and that, in fact, additional employees would slow them down because they'd have to pull people away from working claims to train the new employees. So the backlog isn't a minor issue, it's not one that Congress has ignored, it's one that the VA has repeatedly stated was fixed or about to be fixed, etc. And it's not been fixed.
This came up during the hearing on Tuesday when the VA's Dr. Karen Seal spoke of the hiring freeze at her VA when Ranking Member Bob Filner brought up the issue of veterans unemployment and wondered why the VA wasn't hiring veterans for duties such as outreach and interaction.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: I don't mean to interrupt you. Mr. Chairman, I've heard this in several places. There's a hiring freeze. I mean, we have the biggest problem we've ever had. We've given the VA more money than they've ever had. And we keep hearing about hiring freeze. What is going on here? I mean, we're under-resourced you [Dr. Seal] say. I mean, we have increased the VA budget every year for as long as we've been here and it's 60, 70% higher than it was just five years ago. What is going on?
Phil Roe is a House Veterans Affairs Committee Member and he's also a medical doctor. He wanted to explore the faith-based aspect And this probably was the unique part of the hearing because that topic hasn't been discussed at prior hearings I've attended. So let's emphasize Roe and Hanson's exchange.
US House Rep Phil Roe: I want to hear a little bit more about your faith-based, how the program you felt was successful for you. I think that's really important because obviously everybody's different but this clearly worked with you and I think you'd made your mind up too that you were going to change your life. I think it had a lot to do with you also.
Daniel Hanson: Yes, sir. I mean I was at the point where it was either -- I mean, I was on my knees in my jail cell praying. I said, "God, either use me or kill me." And I eventually went to Teen Challenge and the reason I feel that was so effective was it was more of a holistic -- I mean, I was such an immoral -- I used to say "social parasite" -- where, you know, I was a liar, I was an alcoholic, I was a dead beat dad essentially. And when I went into Minnesota Teen Challenge, I was able to deal with ,the moral and not just the things that happened in combat but going all the way back to childhood and some of those issues and get to the heart. And for 13 to 15 months, you know, you're going to get through a lot of the issues. I still have issues, but they are considerably less. I mean, it was physical healing, emotional healing, spiritual healing. It was, you know, mental healing. And it was, like I said, more of a holistic approach of getting help for not just what happened when I was in the Marine Corps but before and after, and the damage I had done, the survivor's guilt. And knowing that what happened happened but I have a future and I have the chance to make the best out of it. And that's what I intend on doing now.
US House Rep Phil Roe: And you've obviously done a great job with that and a real asset not only as a soldier and a Marine but as just a citizen of the country and as a father . And again to the Chairman and Mr. Filner's question, how do you think the VA could use some of the experiences you've had to make it better for other Marines or soldiers or Airmen who have experienced the same thing?
Daniel Hanson: Well I definitely feel that at times, if I would have got the kick in the butt I needed to get into rehab -- where if the VA would have said, "Lookit, either you go to rehab, you get better or, you know, you're not welcome here. Basically, if you don't want to use what we have set up for us then maybe you should use somewhere else. Because if there's people that really want to get help, this place needs to be open for those individuals." And for years, I had great opportunities to get help but I didn't because I didn't want to. And I think that if the VA, you know, instead of a friendship role, took that parent role when I know there's plenty of times my dad made choices where I hated him for it at the beginning but I saw the absolute necessity of it years down the road. I appreciated him much more for it obviously instead of him not parenting me. And it's a wierd analogy to use -- the VA as a parent -- but I just think if the VA would be possibly more assertive in their treatment and saying, "Lookit, you're obviously messed up, you've been through this, you've been through this, you have this police record. It's time to either get help or, you know, find somewhere else to try to get help."
US House Rep Michael Michaud and Daniel Hanson spoke about the need to have knowledge of a variety of programs before you discharge from the military and become a veteran. He spoke about how when he was active duty, it would have been helpful to know about different ways to get help and "to know it wasn't 'weird' or 'weak'" to get help. Michaud noted that on trips to Iraq, he asks what's needed to help with issues like TBI and PTSD and traumas and the brass tells him they have all they need. But a lower ranking official pulled him aside and suggested he speak to the clergy about the issue. He noted he now does that on every visit to Iraq, "And they [the clergy] were telling me that more and more of the soldiers were going to them because they were afraid to seek help from a doctor because they were afraid of what other soldiers would say."
Burials will take place this weekend of US soldiers who died in Iraq. One took place yesterday and Susan Demar Lafferty (Chicago Sun-Times) has the best text report on that funeral:

Flags waved, tears flowed and hundreds of supporters lined roads from Homer Glen to Elwood on Thursday to pay tribute to U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Olivieri, who was laid to rest at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
The Homer Glen resident, remembered as a "great guy" and respected for his military service by those who came out to pay tribute, was killed in Iraq on June 6 along with four others when militants attacked their base.
At a brief and somber graveside military service, Olivieri's wife, Sharon; parents Michael and Jody; and three siblings were surrounded by hundreds of mourners as they sat tearfully in white folding chairs in front of a flag-draped casket.

The worst text report? Homer Glen is a suburb of Chicago. Chicago has two major dailies. While the Sun-Times did their job, the Tribune wasn't up to the task. At three brief sentences, it's practically a Tweet. And if you had written it, you'd be glad there was no byline as well. Video of Lockport High School students watching the procession is here. WGN notes, "Olivier was laid to rest at Abraham Lincoln national cemetery in Elwood. "

Wednesday was the wake, yesterday was the funeral and burial. Bob Rakow (Southtown Star) reports on the wake and quotes Rosemary Koning, a family friend who attended, stating, "I think for the family, it helps to know that people support them. His life was not in vain."

Michael Olivieri died Monday, June 6th in a Baghdad attack along with four other US soldiers. He is one of at least eight US soldiers to die serving in Iraq in the last two weeks.

Susan Demar Lafferty reports, "Sharon Olivieri put her head down on the casket while clutching her husband's flag. The couple were one week shy of their first wedding anniversary when the 26-year-old Olivieri was killed."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The debate

"If This Be 'Isolationism' . . ." (Justin Raimondo,

The mainstream meme emerging from the CNN/Union Leader Republican presidential debate is apparently that everyone went easy on Romney, which makes him, somehow, the “front runner.” Less noticed but more credible – and much more interesting – was what one post-debate analysis by Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl expressed in the form of a question: “Will the GOP nominate a dove?” That was the title, no doubt the work of a relatively fair-minded editor, but Diehl’s take is more ideological:

“Is the Republican party turning isolationist for 2012? No doubt it’s too soon to know–but the responses of GOP presidential candidates to questions about Libya and Afghanistan in Monday night’s debate were striking. None supported President Obama’s decision to join NATO’s military intervention against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi. ‘There was no vital national interest,” said Rep. Michelle Bachmann, summing up what appeared to be the prevailing view.”

The term “Isolationism” was originally coined as an epithet, and the word certainly has about it a troglodytic air: one imagines a cranky old man yelling “get off my lawn” to children passing in the street. Yet that’s an image which surely fits the mood of the American public these days, and certainly they have much to be cranky about – especially when it comes to the conduct of American foreign policy.

I thought it was an interesting column and think you'll agree with me on that. It not only captures some elements of the GOP debate that are not being emphasized, it also underscores how much everything flipped when A Man Called Dope entered the White House.

The press immediately fled Iraq because Afghanistan was where Barack wanted to be. Then the left fled because they confused "Democratic" with "left." So while they were demonstrating that they don't value their own lives (those who become a cheerleading section) or the lives of others (Aimee Allison actually wanted to make a case that children in Pakistan deserved to die by drones because Barack is so groovy to her).

They certainly don't care about peace. If they did, they would be calling out Barack.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, June 15, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, wheeling and dealing continues in Iraq, today was Press Day in Iraq, Robert Gates celebrated by getting bitchy with a US Senator in Congress today, USA Today takes a stand on veterans issues, and more.
"The Post remains one of just a few American newspapers regularly reporting from Iraq, and it's a distinction we take seriously," Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) observes in his column noting he's volunteered for "a seven week assignment to serve as The Washington Post's correspondent in Iraq." When he arrives in Iraq later this week, he'll have missed Press Day which is today. Aswat al-Iraq notes this is the anniversary of al-Zawraa which was "the first Iraqi newspaper, issued during the Ottoman Rule in 1869," 142 years ago. (Trivia note, yesterday was another anniversary -- this one for the US Army.) Suha Sheikhly and Ines Tariq (Al Mada) observe that the creation of the newspaper all those years ago was a strong cultural indicator that Iraq was moving forward beyond tyranny. The paper was originally published once a week, each Tuesday, but quuickly moved to be published twice a week. twenty years later (February 13, 1889), the pubIRIN noted in 2006 that the paper was started in Baghdad. Back then, IRIN was explaining that "the Iraqi Journalists Association (IJA) called upon the government, multinational forces and the international community to offer protection to local and foreign journalists working in the war-torn country."
At the start of this month, Reporters Without Borders was noting, "Reporters and cameramen from local and international satellite TV stations were beaten and detained by the security forces while covering a demonstration in central Baghdad's Tahrir Square on 25 May. Biladi TV reporter Omar Abudl Al-Razak and cameraman Hassan Ghazi, Russia Al-Youm cameraman Hussein Ali Hussein and Ain news agency photographer Akeel Mohamed were repeatedly hit, their cameras were smashed, their mobile phones were seized and they were forced to leave the area. A unit of interior ministry special troops stormed the headquarters of local radio station Sawt Al-Nahda Al-Democratiya on 22 May after it broadcast a programme about the housing crisis and other difficulties being experienced by the population. Founded in April, the station has just filed an application for a licence. Its recording and transmitting equipment was seized."
Earlier this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued "Attack on the Press in 2010" notes in their section on Iraq:

CPJ had urged authorities to focus their efforts not on a special court but on solving attacks on the press, hundreds of which have been carried out with impunity. Of the 145 journalists killed in Iraq since 2003, for example, at least 93 were targeted for murder, CPJ research showed. Iraqi authorities have failed to bring a single individual to justice in these cases, making the country the worst worldwide on CPJ's Impunity Index, which calculates the number of unsolved journalists murders as a percentage of a nation's population.
Aswat al-Iraq quotes the Chair of the Press Division in the Media College of Baghdad University, Dr Hassan Kamel, "This anniversary is taking place amid the continuation of suffering by the Iraqi press, in its search for the truth, despite fact that the democratic transformations in the country had opened a broad gap for freedom."
Dar Addustour reports the Parliament ended their session yesterday with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi presiding over a little over half of the people elected to Parliament. Today they're set to discuss the issue of mobile phone companies in Iraq and why so many Iraqis are suffering from bad phone service. Though some might see that as a minor issue, this is a big issue for many Iraqis. If basic services were sufficient in the country -- electricity, potable water, etc. -- cell phone problems would probably be the highest ranked personal issue for many after lack of jobs. Is it currently a bigger issue than security? No.
And Patrick Markey and Aref Mohammed (Reuters) report that US military helicopters were used today in Basra to fire "on suspected militia fighters" and that the US response "came after seven rockets were fired at U.S. and Iraqi forces stationed at Basra airport." At least one suspect was killed. Aswat al-Iraq notes that three people were wounded as a result of the helicopter fire. AFP adds, "Major General Eddy Spurgin, commander of US forces in the south, said that the helicopter had fired back because American troops retain the right to use weapons in self-defence under the terms of a 2008 security pact with Iraq." Basra was the location for a Monday attack on the police when by a suicide car bomber. UPI reports MP Uday Awad is blaming the US for the Monday attack. They quote him stating, "The occupation is responsible for the weakness of the security in Iraq, in an attempt to strengthen their presence in the country, contrary to the security agreement between Iraq and the U.S."
As those accusations were made today, Marwan Ibrahim (AFP) reports Nejmeddine Karim, Governor of Kirkuk, declared that the US military needs to remain in Iraq, "Keeping the US troops is important to protect the sky and borders of Iraq and to maintain the internal security of the country, because we are witnessing a large danger through the escalation of violence and the fear of sectarian violence." New Sabah pictures what might happen if US forces depart and offers that there is a great chance that local competition then turns into a fierce war with militias competing with one agother to win bragging rights.

Already the tensions between Iraqiya (political slate headed by Ayad Allawi) and Nouri's State of Law slate simmer. The Erbil Agreement was an agreement devised in Erbil (in the KRG) by various political actors in Iraq plus the US. Elections had taken place March 10, 2010. For nine months after the election, there was no progress. So in November 2010, a list of recommendations were agreed upon with the hopes that it would move the process forward. Nouri would get to be prime minister and a National Council for Strategic Polices would be created and Allawi would be named to head it.

Nouri got what he wanted. And then double-crossed everyone.

Allawi has stated that he will not take the post if the council is ever created. It was supposed to be created last November but Nouri didn't keep his word. Nouri also failed to propose a full Cabinet. Currently the security posts are empty: Minister of the Interior, Minister of National Security and Minister of Defense. Nouri is saying he's the temporary head but many are noting this has now lasted for over six months and it appears to be part of Nouri's power grab and an attempt for the Little Saddam to claim even more powers.

Fitting in with that theory is a new report from Aswat al-Iraq which informs that Hassan al-Sunaid ("an official close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki") declared yesterday that Allawi wasn't fit for the position and that it could go to . . . Jalal Talabani (President of Iraq) or . . . maybe . . . Nouri. For those who missed it, this council was supposed to be independent and to provide a check on the prime minister. Now Nouri's goons are arguing that Nouri can head it.

Nouri's leadership has been a very sick joke. In February, as protests in Iraq were starting to really get going, Nouri declared he needed 100 Days. Give him 100 Days and Iraq would see results. Joining him the stay-off-the-streets-don't-protest was Moqtada al-Sadr. June 7th, the 100 Days came to an end. A new poll by Aswat al-Iraq finds that 70% of their "readers believe that the 100-day time table did not achieve tangible progress in the services fields." Meanwhile New Sabah reports that the Sadrist bloc is insisting Nouri can't dare sideline them because he needs them too much. The article notes the meetings that have been taking place between Nouri, the Supreme Islamic Council and two major political parties in the KRG as well as Jalal Talabani's talks with Moqtada al-Sadr.

Marwan Ibrahim (AFP) observes, "Private security firm AKE Group said last week that attacks have been on the rise since the beginning of the year, with violent incidents averaging more than 10 a day in May, up from four to five a day in January." And Basra wasn't the only location for violence today. Reuters notes a Hilla bombing claimed 1 life and left nine people injured, a Rashad mortar attack left ten Iraqi troops injured, 2 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead at a Mosul checkpoint, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead at a Baghdad military checkpoint and a Baghdad roadside bombing injured "two street cleaners and another bomb wounded four people in the same area".
Last week, 6 US soldiers died in Iraq, this week 2 have died. One of the six from last week was Spc Robert Hartwick. WBNS (link has text and video) reports, "Hundreds of people lined the streets on Wednesday to honor a Hocking County soldier killed in Iraq. [. . .] As his body was returned home on Wednesday, residents turned out to pay their respects during a procession that included hundreds of motorcyclists, police officers and firefighters." NBC4's Donna Willis and AP note, "The combat medic's body came home Wednesday, and the community lined the streets of downtown Logan to pay their respects." ABC6 reports, "Hartwick grew up in Hocking County where he attended church at the Gibisonville Mt Olive United Methodist Church. Pastor John Williams told ABC6/Fox28 News' Chris Koeberl Thursday that he remembered Hartwick as a quiet boy who loved the outdoors. The quiet boy returned home to men, women and children standing side-by-side Wednesday, paying their respects to his duty and sacrifice." His funeral is Saturday at the Logan Church of the Nazarene, eleven in the morning.
Another of the six US soldiers killed in Iraq last week was Pfc Michael Olivieri. Thursday is the Homer Glen native's funeral (Homer Glen is a suburb of Chicago). The service will take place at Modell Funeral Homes which carries this obituary at their website:

PFC. Michael C. "Mikey" Olivieri U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, KS, passed away as a result of insurgent fire in Iraq on June 6, 2011. Cherished husband of Sharon Olivieri. Loving son of Michael A. and Jody Olivieri. Devoted brother of Abby (fiance Adam Brook), Ashley and Joe. Dearest grandson of Joseph J. and Adelaide Olivieri, Dorothy and the late Rolland Riegel. Son-in-law of Nyman and Theresa Beckman. Visitation Wed. 2 p.m. until time of evening service 7:30 p.m. at Modell Funeral Home, 12641 W. 143rd St., Homer Glen, where funeral services will be held on Thursday June 16th at 10 a.m. Interment Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Homer Township Public Library in Michael's name to support a silent reading room appreciated. Michael enjoyed music, playing and singing in the band called the Moops. He was an avid Cubs and Bears fan. His sense of humor could bring laughter to all. 708-301-3595 or

The Chicago Sun-Times notes, "Visitation will be from 2 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Modell Funeral Home, 12641 W. 143rd St. Funeral services will be held there at 10 a.m. Thursday. Interment will be at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery." And Michelle Mulins (Southtown Star) reports, "The Homer Glen Village Board on Tuesday night urged residents to turn out in large numbers and wave flags Thursday during the funeral procession for Army Pfc. Michael Olivieri, a resident who was killed last week in Iraq."
Today US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Mike Mullen appeared before Congress. Both are outgoing. Mullen intends to leave this fall and Gates hopes to leave shortly President Barack Obama has nominated Leon Panetta for Gates' post. The confirmation hearing was last week, see "Iraq snapshot," "Brown and Collins ask Panetta," "Claire McCaskill" and "Senate Armed Service Committee Boneheads." This morning Gates told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that he was making his final testimony before a Congressional committee adding, "And this time I mean it." Possibly in reference to his back and forth, in and out of appointed government positions? Or he might have been referring to the The Robert Gates Farewell Tour which has found him repeatedly declaring that he was making his last Congressional testimony . . . only to do so again and again and again. He declared, "Those stop loss in the Army are now over. There are no Army soldiers stop-loss." So in 2006, he promised it would be over the next year and it wasn't and the same year after year until this year. So it took him five years to do what he promised Congress would be accomplished in one.
Gates opening statement bore the finger prints of the White House (including key phrases). While striving for poetry in discussing the military, the remarks came off plodding and obvious. True, some of that may have been delivery and deliverer. Mullen managed to pull off what Gates failed at. But what stood out most as he read his prepared remarks was his assertion at the start -- not in the written testimony submitted to Congress before the hearing -- that the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget "fully funds current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq." No, it does not. It does not because it cannot. Fiscal Year 2012 kicks off October 1, 2011. Though there may be answers by then on what's going to happen in Iraq, there are no answers right now. Will the US military stay in Iraq (under the Defense Dept umbrella) beyond 2011? If so, that's not budgeted for. If not, the budget really doesn't include various contingencies regarding dates. Meaning if all but the troops being shoved under the State Dept's umbrella leave Iraq and take any necessary equipment with them, the leaving process, when it starts, how it's done, itself will dictate costs. At this point the White House hopes the SOFA gets extended. But they don't know it will. And no one knows the costs for Iraq in 2012. That includes Mullen and was established on The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS). Adm Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff, was a guest on Monday night's show.

David Letterman: Tell us about troops coming home. Iraq? Up and functioning on its own? Not functioning on its own?

Adm Mike Mullen: Well Iraq's actually doing pretty well. We've still got 47,000 troops there -- that's from almost 200,000 a couple of years ago. We will continue to downsize that footprint. Right now, to zero -- based on the agreement we have with the Iraqis. Whether the Iraqis will ask us for some kind of small footprint in the future is to be determined here in the next few months.

He spoke matter of factly.."Whether the Iraqis will ask us for some kind of small footprint in the future is to be determined here in the next few months." And until you know the size of the "footprint," you can't really budget for it. No one wanted to make that point on the Committee -- Democrat or Republican. Iraq was barely even noted -- despite the fact that in the last 8 days, 8 US soldiers have died in Iraq.
Senator Patrick Leahy: I supported going into Afghanistan for the purpose of getting Osama bin Laden after 9-11. This Subcommittee and all of us here on this Appropriations Committee have been strongly supportive of that. I did not support the invasion of Iraq which distracted us from that goal. Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. We'll be paying for this cost for years to come. We borrowed the money to go into that war -- something extraordinary thing in a war to borrow the money -- continue to borrow the money. At the same time, we gave a tax cut for anybody who makes as much as a member of Congress. So what we said was we'll let our children and our grandchildren pay for these two wars.
And that was pretty much it for Iraq from the Senate. If US troops don't get out of Iraq, be aware that we'll be hearing from Congress that 'we took our eye off the ball in Iraq to focus on Afghanistan -- even after bin Laden was killed!!!' We'll stay with Leahy for a second longer. If Howard Zinn were still alive, he'd grab the exchange for one of his history books (and probably quote from the exchange in at least one essay). What the transcript below won't provide you with is the nasty way in which Gates speak. Picture Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, specifically the Pepsi board room scene.
Senator Patrick Leahy: How long -- How long do we support governments that lie to us, when do we say enough is enough? Secretary Gates, I'll start with you.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: Well first of all I would say based on 27 years in the CIA and four-and-a-half years in this job, most governments lie to each other. That's the way business gets done.
Senator Patrick Leahy: Do they also arrest the people that help us --
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: Sometimes.
Senator Patrick Leahy: -- when they say they're our allies?
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: Sometimes.
Senator Patrick Leahy: Not often.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: And, uhm, sometimes they send people to spy on us. And they're our close allies. So --
Senator Patrick Leahy: And we give aid to them?
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: -- that's the real world that we deal with.
Leahy was referring to Afghanistan. Only. Sadly. You have to wonder if Congress gives a damn when the reports are about this reporter beat up or this NGO activists targeted or any of it at all. At any rate, they were discussing Afghanistan and when Gates leaves, he'll be taking his bitchy with him. (Leon Panetta does not have a history of bitchy. He has not been confirmed to the post but it's a rule of thumb that if you served in Congress, you're an easy confirmation vote. They don't vote against their own.) As Diane Sawyer and the others try to put this glow around Gates, they ignore his most prominent characteristic: His bitchy nature. And it emerged in the hearing and continued to build until, with all the snideness his prarie twang could muster, Gates said, of Afghanistan, "I'm not talking about a Vermont democracy." Leahy's no fool and rightly heard the insult in that remark and snapped, "Neither am I, Mr. Secretary, and you know that!" It was a rare moment of anger from Leahy who is not know for showing anger in run-of-the-mill hearings. (Gates made clear his disdain for Congress in an interview to NPR earlier this month.) As has been the case anytime the two of them appeared before Congress together, it was left to Mullen to try to restore order (and Gates did a nasty little look where he turned his face so far to the side that, for a moment, he looked like he might do a full-on, Linda Blair Exorcist head twist.)
Senator Lamar Alexander did note Iraq when asking about how much money other countries were paying for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Gates insisted it wasn't the case with Libya but with the other two the US bore the bulk of the financial costs. Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, is on the Subcommittee and her office notes these comments:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tough questions regarding some of the all too often overlooked human costs of the ongoing war in Afghanistan during a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget request for the Department of Defense (DoD). Senator Murray also asked how these long-term costs are being factored into the decision to drawdown forces in Afghanistan. During the exchange Senator Murray expressed her strong belief that these costs of war, including the rising rate of suicide among veterans, the lack of access to much needed mental health care, and the increased number of tours of current service members, must be taken seriously by the Pentagon and the White House, particularly in decisions to bring troops home.
"Many of these service members have sacrificed life and limb in Afghanistan and we as a country are going to be taking care of them and their families not just today, not just when they return home, but for a lifetime," Senator Murray said today.

Excerpts from the exchange and the full text of Senator Murray's questions below.

Secretary Gates, last Friday I visited the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and had an opportunity to talk to a number of our wounded warriors, their dedicated providers, and their caregivers.
As you know well, many of these service members have sacrificed life and limb in Afghanistan and we as a country are going to be taking care of them and their families not just today, not just when they return home, but for a lifetime.
As Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I take this issue very seriously and I've been trying to draw attention to this all too often unseen human cost of the war in thinking about how we should consider that as part of our decision in any long-term conflict.
I think you know, the major components of this long-term war include the fact that deaths from suicide among veterans and service members from this war are on par with combat deaths, many of our warriors are facing difficult challenges accessing needed mental health care when they return home, And that many of the service members serving in Afghanistan today are on their third, fourth, or even fifth tours.
So, while we have talked a great deal about costs in terms of rebuilding projects, Afghan aid, and military resources -- I wanted to ask you today what you -- and the Pentagon -- consider to be the biggest costs of this war to our wounded warriors and their families -- particularly those costs that we will be paying for for a very long time and whether that is ever considered or factored in when you're making decisions about drawing down in Afghanistan?

Excerpts from Sec. Gates' response:

"I cannot say that decisions in terms of drawdowns or military strategy are made bearing in mind the costs of the soldiers, and the sailors, and the marines who suffer, it is on the minds of everybody who makes those decisions, but by the same token, it is the nature of war and it is frankly one of the reasons why, as I told an interviewer a couple of weeks ago, I feel I have become more conservative, more cautious, about when you use force because I've seen the consequences up front," said Sec. Gates.
"The costs are exactly as you described, in lives that are shattered, in bodies that are shattered, and in minds that are shattered," said Sec. Gates. "So from our part, in addition to the VA, we have tried to make sure that these funds for these programs have been protected and will be protected in the future."

Excerpts from Adm. Mullen's response:

"Senator, first of all, I appreciate your leadership on this because it has to have a voice. I actually believe we are just beginning to understand this," said Adm. Mullen in response to Sen. Murray's questions. "Leaders have to continue to focus on 'what are these costs' and I thought you said it very well, it is to repay this debt for the rest of their lives and we need to stay with them so that we understand what that means."
"There are time bombs set up that we know are out there, we just don't know when they're going to go off," Adm. Mullen continued. "The relationship that the Pentagon has with the VA and with communities throughout the country has got to get stronger."
"These costs are longstanding, we don't understand them as well as we should… not just for our members, but also for our families, we see that time and time again. Our families have become almost as much a part of our readiness as anything else and it wasn't that way 10 or 15 years ago. Without them we would be nowhere in these wars," said Adm. Mullen.
On hearings, I still hope to note a Veterans Affairs Committee hearing before the week is over. But I was at the Subcommittee hearing above and winning a bet from a friend that Gates would get nasty and bitchy. No one ever reports on that and I'm beyond tired of the hagiography surrounding The Bob Gates Farewell Tour. I also think it says a great deal about how little Iraq is on the lawmakers' minds. Last night, the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley did find Pelley noting the 2 deaths announced yesterday -- 2 soldiers who died in Iraq on Monday and whose deaths were announced yesterday -- as the lead in to a report by David Martin on the toll the wars have taken on military spouses. Others? It'll wait until Sunday. But on hearings we may cover, a friend's passed a transcript of a hearing I did not attend over. I don't cover that committee, I don't care for the Chair. But I agreed to read over it and we may find something in there to use. (If we do cover it, I will note I was not present and I'm using a transcript -- which is supposed to be either already posted or will be posted online at the Committee's website by noon tomorrow.) We're juggling a number of things that need coverage and something's are getting placed on hold and something's there's just not going to be time for.
Today USA Today's editorial board notes of the Department of Veterans Affairs:

The GAO's report describes a dysfunctional security system and identifies 284 sexual assaults at 105 facilities in a three-and-a-half year span. The victims included men and women, employees and patients. Some were being treated for mental illness, substance abuse or post-traumatic stress -- people at their most vulnerable.

The only conclusion is that, despite their protestations, VA leaders -- like Pentagon and military academy officials before them -- haven't paid enough attention to sexual assaults in places under their jurisdiction.

While the VA's health care system is considered generally good, this latest scandal is just one in a series of failures that have beset the department over the years: Long waits for disability claims. Even longer waits for appeals. Lost or destroyed records. Maintenance problems in clinics. Dirty equipment used for colonoscopies. And now, sexual assaults.
It's an editorial worth reading in full and hopefully it'll put some pressure on the VA, force them to become responsive. Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing and the subject the editorial's focusing on. Last night Ava covered the hearing at Trina's site with "A failure of VA leadership (Ava)," Wally covered the hearing at Rebecca's site with "Who's crunching the numbers at VA? (Wally)" and Kat covered it with "What is sexual assault?"

Instead of continuing the hard work of organizing and protesting unjust wars, too many people took the election of politicians with "D"s after their name as their own Mission Accomplished. Instead of continuing direct action, too many were content voting for "their" team and calling it a day, never mind the policies those they voted into office continued once in power.

It's worth recounting just how Democrats have rewarded their antiwar supporters. In 2006, riding public anger over the war in Iraq to take back control of the House for the first time in a dozen years, Democrats had a mandate for change – and then turned around and consistently funded the war they claimed to oppose. The most congressional Democrats have done is offer a resolution requesting a "plan" for ending the war in Afghanistan, all the while dutifully approving the funds to fight it.

We know how Obama has governed after likewise cynically riding antiwar sentiment into the White House.

Once casting themselves as brave opponents of the warfare state, many Democrats have rejected their rhetorical support for peace just as thoroughly as their once-upon-a-time opposition to the Patriot Act. When Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich offered a measure condemning Obama's illegal, undeclared war in Libya and demanding a withdrawal of all U.S. forces within two weeks, he was joined by more Republicans than he was his fellow Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, channeling every right-winger during the Bush years, even claimed lawmakers who opposed the president's unilateral war policy would send the "wrong message" to the U.S.'s NATO allies. The former speaker of the House is seemingly more concerned about hurt feelings than dead civilians, taxpayer money or the Constitution.

Even the recent House vote to block the president from spending funds "in contravention of the War Powers Act" – meaning Libya – received more votes from Republicans than Democrats. Who says elections don't change anything?

Democratic voters who genuinely believe in peace should know that ending the U.S.'s addiction to war requires more than spending a few minutes in the ballot box. The only change voting has brought in recent years is the party approving the money for war and the name of the president requesting it.

medea benjamin

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where are the jobs?

From C.I.'s snapshot today:

Last night Cedric's "Barry's got plenty of ideas -- always bad ones" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! ROUGH WATERS!" went up. That was their joint-humor post. The non-humor posts last night revolved around a theme: write a book you have and that you've selected at random: Mike's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (Pauline Kael's movie critiques), Trina's "Collected Stories" (Tennessee Williams' Collected Stories), Rebecca's "pigs at the trough" (Arianna Huffington book), Kat's "Rock Encyclopedia" (the classic text), Ann's "4 men, 1 woman" (Gore Vidal's Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace), Marcia's "Embassytown" (China Mieville's new novel), Elaine's "Left Bank and Other Stories" (short stories by Jean Rhys), Ruth's "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (novelizations of Disney films in an attempt to increase reading among children -- this is a novelization of a Disney film starring Kurt Russell), Betty's "Lorraine Hansberry: The Collected Plays" (the title says it all but for any who might not place the name immediately, she is the playwright who wrote A Raisin in the Sun) and Stan's "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" (Greg Palast's classic book).

Be sure to read them all because they're all interesting.

"Obama promotes corporate profits in the name of job creation" (Barry Grey, WSWS):

In the face of rising unemployment, a disastrous jobs report for May and a contraction in economic growth in the US and internationally, President Barack Obama made it clear at a meeting Monday with his Jobs and Competitiveness Council that no government measures will be taken to create jobs or provide serious relief for the unemployed.

The meeting was held at the manufacturing headquarters of Cree, Inc., a producer of LED lighting equipment in Durham, North Carolina. After the meeting, Obama gave a speech to Cree employees in which he touted the proposals of the corporate-dominated Jobs Council, which he set up last February as part of White House efforts to shore up business support for his administration following the Democratic debacle in the November 2010 congressional elections.

The photo-op was designed at one level to fool the public into believing that the administration is seriously working to create jobs and put an end to mass unemployment. But the main focus of Obama and other White House officials was to reassure the corporate and financial elite that there will be no retreat from policies of austerity, wage-cutting and deregulation despite the worsening economic and social crisis.

He is a corporatist War Hawk. That's all he ever was. It's not about the working class with Barack. It's not even about the middle class. With Barack, it's all about the extreme wealthy. I do fear very often that we are seeing the end of America right before our eyes. If that is the case, Barack will not be able to hope for a cushy ride to creating a legacy. Nor should he be able to.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, June 14, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, 2 US soldiers are announced dead, a hostage situation takes place in Diyala Province, torture and War Crimes may get investigated in the US, torture and War Crimes may be buried in a British inquiry, the VA stalls, evades and stonewalls a House Subcommitteee, are active duty soldiers be giving the time needed to heal, and more.
CNN and AP both report that the US military has announced 2 US soldiers were killed yesterday. Other than stating the deaths took place in southern Iraq, the military had nothing else to say. Were there any wounded? As we noted yesterday they appear to
be under orders to no longer note when soldiers are injured. The 2 deaths announced
this morning follow last week's 6 deaths. 5 on Monday,: Spc Emilio J. Campo Jr., Spc Michael B. Cook Jr., Spc. Christopher B. Fishbeck, Spc Robert P. Hartwick and Pfc Michael C. Olivieri. Wounded? The military's refused to say but reports vary from five to fifteen. The sixth death was last Pfc Michael J. England on Wednesday. And though the military never bothered to inform the citizens of any wounded, thanks to Ryan E. Little (The Ledger) we know that Spc Charles Lemon was injured in the same Najaf bombing and "lost both legs and suffered other injuries including burns to his body."
to note 5 US soldiers died. It'll be interesting to see if the program makes time to note
the 2 deaths. The Pentagon counts [PDF format warning] 4464 US military deaths from the Iraq War -- that count does not include today's two deaths. After DoD identifies the fallen by name in a news release, the deaths will be added to the count.

In other violence, Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports, "Car bomb and gunfire attacks were reported at government compound in Baquba City, the capital of Iraq's eastern province
of Diyala on Tuesday, local police told Xinhua." Ali al-Tuwaijri (AFP) adds that the
invasion of the government offices "mirrored a similar March raid claimed by Al-Qaeda"
and that "dozens of gunmen involved in the attack [today] in Diyala's provincial capital of Baquba exchanged gunfire with Iraqi security forces, holding them at bay." AP reports that there are possibly as many as 10 assailants in the government compound holding hostages and quotes Nasreen Bajhat stating, "I am trying to call my colleagues and employees in the building but all their mobiles are switched off. The situation now is tense." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that when security arrived, assailants took cover in the government building and that there are thought to be at least twenty-five people injured. Tim Craig and Asaad Majeed (Washington Post) explain that after the car bomb, "More than 20 insurgents armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenads then attacked from both inside and outside the building, according to security officials. After four guards were killed at a back gate, the insurgents raided the building and took a group of civilian employees hostage, the security officials said." Aswat al-Iraq reports, " A joint Iraqi-U.S. force have implemented the operation of cornering the attackers against Diala Council's building and liberating the persons, taken hostage by the attackers, who were disguised as uniformed policemen, a Diala police source said on Tuesday." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) adds that "five suicide bombers attacked the compound of the provincial council [. . .] killing three policemen and four suicide bombers, along with wounding 28 people. Fifteen security members were among the 28 wounded and the rest were eight of the council employees and five civilians, according to a source from Diyala's provincial council comound". Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The Iraqi Ministery of Interior accused al-Qaeda organization of the attack against Diala's Provincial Council building today."

In other news, Dar Addustour reports that a man in Mosul yesterday attempted to set himself on fire before the Nineveh Provincial government offices but police stopped him -- the man is a security guard, he used kerosene in his attempt and he stated he attempted to set himself on fire because he works for the government but someone else got selected ahead of him to become a permanent staff member.

Dar Addustour also notes
that Parliament is meeting today and among the items on the agenda are the second reading of an anti-smoking bill. Really? The country has no Minister of the Interior, no Minister of Defense and no Minister of National Security. When Nouri was named prime minister-designate in November, per the Constitution, he had 30 days to fill his Cabinet or lose the post of prime minister-designate. Instead of following the Constitution, the Parliament moved Nouri on over to prime minister. All this time later, Nouri's still not filled those three Cabinet positions. And, you may have noticed, violence just keeps increasing in Iraq. Not the best time for all three of your security ministries to remain without a leader.
In other reported violence today, Reuters notes 1 army lieutenant-general was shot dead in Baghdad, 2 Iraqi soliders were shot dead in Baghdad, "the manager of the legal department of Baghdad provincial council" was shot dead in Baghdad, 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul and, dropping back to yesterday, 1 military officer was shot dead in Kirkuk.
Yesterday Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) reported that "U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash" and that "federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error." New Sabah notes that Iraq holds the US government responsible for the theft "under the 2004 legal agreement" while the US is insisting Iraqi officials must have stolen it. Justin Fishel (Fox News) reported this afternoon that "Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen said he never said that $6.6 billion in missing money was swiped." Bowen is quoted stating, "What we concluded in our previous audits is that it's been virtually impossible to account for what happened to that money." Charles S. Clark (GovExec) quotes Bowen stating the audit is "ongoing" and "no one has said the money was stolen." Bowen appeared this afternoon on Patt Morrison (Patt Morrison's self titled program on KUOR -- link has text and audio) and wanted to stress first that the money wasn't tax payer money, it was the oil-for-food money. He was very clear on that and I thought that was very clear yesterday but since he did have to clarify that there may be confusion on the issue. It is oil-for-food money which is why, in yesterday's snapshot, we dropped back to February 9, 2005 for this floor statement from US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:

"While Congress busies itself about how $2 billion was illegally diverted to Saddam from the U.N.'s Oil-For-Food Program, it would also be instructive to find out why it was apparently administration policy to let Saddam Hussein earn four times that amount through illegal oil shipments.
"Before Congress gives another $80 billion for the war in Iraq, the American people would find it instructive for Congress to ask what happened with the unaccounted-for $9 billion which also came from Iraq oil proceeds.
"Madam Speaker, before the war, Iraq was about oil. As the war continues, it is about billions in unaccounted-for oil revenues which the U.S. had custody of, responsibility for; and now nobody knows nothing."

Patt Morrison noted that all of this money being shipped over and transferred and passed around in physical cash seemed strange since, as she pointed out, you can transfer money to an account with a cell phone. Bowen stated that this was a disturbing feature and one he tried to address from the start because it was so hard to track. (The late US House Rep Ike Skelton made a point of holding hearings to highlight the problems with doing this all in cash and how there was no accounting system that could track it.) Patt Morrison noted that "we don't know" in answer to where the money went could not be comforting to the Iraqi people and Bowen agreed but wanted to make another point.
US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen: And this is not a new finding, let me underscore that, Patt. As I said, our first audit in 2005 concluded that, a follow up audit of another nine billion last summer reached similar conclusions and we're now conducting a third audit following up on the issues raised by our recommendations -- that is the need to track what we've now identified -- about 6.6 billion. The Pentagon says it can track about 2.8 billion of that and to see what happened to the other 3.8.

Still on the topic of money, Al Rafidayn reports that yesterday the Integrity Commission announced that their work had resulted in 479 convictions (out of 627 cases brought) between January of this year to May ( a 217% increase from the total number last year) and that they had seized $49 million.

Moving over to the US, Adam Zagorin (Time magazine) reports, "It has been nearly a decade since Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi prisoner known as 'the Iceman' -- for the bungled attempt to cool his body and make him look less dead -- perished in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib. But now there are rumbles in Washington that the notorious case, as well as other alleged CIA abuses, could be returning to haunt the agency. TIME has learned that a prosecutor tasked with probing the CIA -- John Durham, a respected, Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney from Connecticut -- has begun calling witnesses before a secret federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., looking into, among other things, the lurid Nov. 4, 2003, homicide, which was documented by TIME in 2005." Mark Memmott (NPR's The Two-Way) cites NPR's Carrie Johnson to note that "war crimes and torture charges" are being discussed. The Daily Mail adds, "Much of the attention surrounding al-Jamadi's death has focused on the actions of interrogator Mark Swanner, who questioned al-Jamadi in a prison shower room before he died. Al-Jamadi's head was covered by a hood. His arms were shackled behind his back and bound to a barred window. That way, he could stand without pain but if he tried to lower himself, his arms would be painfully stretched above and behind him. A military autopsy declared al-Jamadi's death a homicide but an internal CIA investigation found that Swanner never abused al-Jamadi, according to a former senior intelligence official familiar with the findings." AFP contacted the prosecutor's office and his spokesperson Tom Carson stated, "This is an ongoing investigation." And therefore, they can't comment. In England, an ongoing investigation into abuse of Iraqi detainees has been taking place. Murray Wardrop (Telegraph of London) explains, "The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) was established last year to take statements from around 140 Iraqi civilians who claim they were abused by British service personnel between 2003 and 2009." Wardrop notes that attorney Phil Shriner with Public Interest Lawyers states that, in all that time, only one of his many Iraqi clients has been interviewed. Angus Crawford (BBC) quotes Phil Shriner stating, "It's been a complete and utter shambles, it must have cost the taxpayer millions."
In related news, Melina Milazzao (Human Rights First) shines a light on the biggest obstruction to helping the victims of torture:

Once again, the Obama administration shirked its legal and moral responsibility to ensure torture victims are provided an enforceable remedy when it advised the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear a case brought by Iraqi detainees tortured by private military contractors at Abu Ghraib.

The case, Saleh, et al. v. Titan Corporation, et al., is a civil suit brought by 250 Iraqi detainees for torture by U.S. private contractors CACI and Titan (now L-3 Services). The two companies were retained to provide interrogation and interpretation services at Abu Ghraib, the infamous Iraqi prison that the Department of Defense (DoD) reported was the site of "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" of Iraqi prisoners committed by Americans under the authority of Americans. Army investigations implicated private contractors in the torture and abuse of detainees held there. While 11 soldiers were convicted on detainee abuse charges, no contractor was ever criminally charged.

In September 2009, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the civil case on the ground that contractors involved in combat activities on a battlefield should be protected from lawsuits. The victims appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Human Rights First submitted an amicus brief arguing that the decision by the D.C. Circuit to immunize the criminal conduct of private military contractors is incompatible with the United States' international legal obligations, including its obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) to provide "enforceable" or "effective" remedies to victims for acts of torture and serious abuse.

Before deciding whether or not to hear the case, the Supreme Court asked the U.S. government, which is not a party to the suit, its opinion or interest. Human Rights First sent a letter to the Acting Solicitor General urging the government to advise the Court to hear the case and reverse the decision that denies victims a remedy.

The Acting Solicitor General, however, did the exact opposite.

In the US, jury selection began in Houston yesterday in the case Jamie Leigh Jones has brought against Halliburton. Today, attorneys presented opening arguments. Jones was working as a KBR contractor in Iraq when she was gang-raped. When she attempted to address the crime, KBR responded by imprisoning her and it took a member of the US Congress (Rep Ted Poe) sounding alarms to force KRB to release her. After Jamie Leigh Jones came forward, other women began coming forward noting they had been raped, sexually harassed or sexually assaulted while working for KBR - Halliburton. Nathan Koppel (Wall St. Journal's Law Blog) explains, "Jones was a clerical worker for KBR at a Halliburton office in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone and claims she was drugged and raped by several co-workers in her company barracks bedroom. She also alleges she was placed under armed guard and held in a 'prison-like container' for hours after reporting the alleged attack." Joe Consumer (The Pop Tort) notes some of the achivements Jones can already take pride in, "But Jamie has achieved even more. "Due in part to Jones' case, federal lawmakers in 2009 approved a measure prohibiting contractors and subcontractors that receive $1 million in funds from the Department of Defense from requiring employees to resolve sexual assault allegations and other claims through arbitration." "

Despite these activies and more activies, the US government continues to give KBR contracts -- cost-plus contracts despite KBR's accounting 'problems.' Last week, the Commission on Wartime Contracting held a hearing Commission Co-Chair Michael Thibault noted that KBR is still not up to date on their billing paperwork and, as a result, there's been no audit since 2003. The US government has paid KBR - Haliburton millions and millions over the last 8 years and there's no accountability and there's no check on the funds. KBR gets to do whatever it wants, whether it's attempt to cover up rapes or attempts to overcharge the US tax payer. KBR's infamous burn pits have sickened and killed US troops and US contractors -- and contaminated Iraq and harmed who knows how many Iraqis -- but the White House is still signing new contracts with KBR. Of course, if Iraq had a functioning government with a real prime minister, they could ban KBR immediately. They could make it a condition that KBR clean up every burn pit they'd made in the country and pay for the health care and treatment of the Iraqi population effected by the burn pits. If KBR refused, Iraq could forbid the company from operating on its soil.
Turning to the US Congress. We have to hearings but we'll probably only have room for one today. So let's drop back to yesterday. Monday afternoon, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a hearing. On what? Last week, Ava reported on some very disturbing developments discussed in a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing "Sexual assaults at the VA (Ava)." As Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray noted, the Government Accountability Office had just released "very disturbing information about sexual assaults among veterans in in-patient mental health and other programs." The veterans she referred to were assaulted within the VA, while attempting to obtain care and treatment, they were sexually assaulted. The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health is Chaired by Ann Marie Buerkle. We'll note this from her opening statement at yesterday's hearing.
Subcommittee Chair Ann Marie Buerkle: As a registered nurse and domsetic violence counselor, I have seen firsthand the pervasive and damaging effects sexual assault can have on the lives of those who experience it. Last week, the Government Acountability Office released a deeply troubling report entitled "VA Health Care: Actions Needed to Prevent Sexual Assaults and Other Safety Incidents." GAO found that between January 2007 and July 2010, nearly 00 sexual assault incidents including 67 alleged rapes were reported to VA police. Many of these alleged crimes were not reported to VA leadership officials or the VA Office of the Inspector General in direct violation of VA policy and federal regulations. The findings of the GAO are disturbing for many reason. Foremost, they represent a betrayal of trust by a system that was designed to treat our veterans at their most vulnerable time. The gross failure of VA leadership to protect the safety and security of our veterans and VA staff and systematically report and respond to sexual assault and safety incidents is a contempt of justice. It also requires immediate action. This is not the way to run a health care system and it is certainly no way to treat the men and women who sacrificed so much on our nation's behalf.
To telegraph how serious the House VA Committee -- not just the Subcommittee -- was taking this issue, not only did Subcommittee Chair Buerkle and House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller introduce HR 2074, Miller also attended the hearing (he does not sit on the Subcommittee). HR 2074 is the Veterans Sexual Assault Prevention Act. It was introduced by Buerkle on June 1st and reads: "To amend title 8, United States Code, to require a comprehensive policy on reporting and tracking sexual assault incidents and other safety incidents that occur at medical facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs." Click here to read the bill in full.
Miller noted, "In the past week, some have dismissed these allegations, comparing the size of the VA system and the number of allegations to the private sector. Let me be very clear on this point: There is no comparison. Just one assault of this nature, one sexual predator or one veteran's rights being violated within the VA is one too many and is absolutely unacceptable. If we need to do more to protect our veterans and VA employees, we will." Ranking Member
VA is doing a very poor job in many areas. Most of all it is doing a very poor job when it comes to reporting to Congress, when it comes to appearing before them. This really started to become noticeable last year and has only gotten worse this year. On the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, this unacceptable behavior is most often called out by Senator Richard Burr. For his admonishing the VA last week, see Kat's "Senator Burr" and you can also search her site for additional reports on Burr (Kat usually emphasizes him when she reports on the Senate VA Committee) and you'll see this is not a one hearing problem. This is a pattern and it's really unacceptable. Ranking Member Burr and Committee Chair Murray have attempted to communicate that to the witnesses before them (and Ranking Member Burr and former Chair Daniel Akaka attempted to last year as well). If the message is getting through to the witnesses, they're not carrying it back to VA. That was evident in yesterday's hearing with the first panel. The panel was composed of GAO's Randall Williamson, VA's Joseph Sullivan and VA's William Schoenhard. We're noting an exchange. I'm referring to Jeff Miller as "US House Rep" so that there's no confusion as to who was chairing the Subcommittee hearing but, as already noted, he is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
US House Rep Jeff Miller: The [GAO] report covers '07 to July of 2010. Can you tell me what the statistics are from July of 2010 to today of sexual assaults that have been reported within the system?
William Schoenhard: Uh, sir, we do not have that information available here today but we will provide that to you.
US House Rep Jeff Miller: Would it have been a reasonable expectation that somebody might be asking that question?
William Schoenhard: Uh. We. Uh. Had not anticipated that question but we do have the information. We can provide that to you in short order, sir.
US House Rep Jeff Miller: If you would, for the record, so that we can make sure that all members have the answer to that question. When can we expect it?
William Schoenhard: Uh. We would provide that, sir, within three weeks.
US House Rep Jeff Miller: Three weeks?
William Schoenhard: Yes, sir. I want to make sure that we have all the information together in a complete way. We will try to provide it sooner.
US House Rep Jeff Miller: I hope that you have all the information together and that it won't take you three weeks.
This hearing was specifically called by Subcommittee Chair Ann Marie Buerkle in response to the GAO report. The witnesses knew that. Why in the world would a question about sexual assaults after the period covered in the GAO's report throw the VA? They were not prepared for the hearing unless their point was to stall. This is unacceptable. They do this over and over. The VA avoids providing any hard data in these hearings over and over. Why? Because the reporters are present. If they can provide the figures after the hearing, the reporters have packed up and moved on. Which means, if they don't have to answer it in the hearing, there's a good chance it won't be reported.
If this is an accident, it is a freakish one since a pattern has clearly emerged. Miller was clearly surprised to be told that the VA witnesses had arrived for the hearing without that information. He was also surprised when he was told that they had the information, but it would take three weeks to get it to Congress. Why? If they've got the information, it should be delivered to the Subcomittee within 24 hours. It's a spreadsheet, you input the numbers. No one's asking them to devise a new system of measurement or invent a new graph. They just have to plug in the numbers.
If you're not getting how much stalling and evasion is taking place, please note that it was pointed out that money allocated for securing VA properties was being spent elsewhere. It was noted by members of the committee.
US House Rep John Runyan: Mr. Schoenhard, the GAO found a number of facilities that were understaffed. Specifically there was one that, by criteria, there was supposed to be 19 and there was only 9 on hand. Why have you not been able to staff these facilities fully?
William Schoenhard: Uh, Congressman, that's a very important question because we need to be fully staffed with police coverage and that is part of what I am seeking to understand in, uh, our current survey of our field. Uh, I want to understand better what the retention and the recruitment difficulties are with that and see what steps need to be taken to address those.
US House Rep Jon Runyan: Do you -- that was going to be my next question. Do you have an idea of retention problem? Is there a major turnover within the system?
William Schoenhard: There is turnover which varies, sir, by facility and uhm that too is what I want to get a better sense of. [. . .]
He wants to get a better sense of it? The Deputy Under Secretary for Health Operations and Management for the VA should have already had a sense of it before he showed for the hearing. In addition, the economy's in the tank. How do you have problems hiring people? Equally true, from 2008 through 2010, the House Committee repeatedly asked all VA witnesses if they needed anything, additional resources, anything. They were repeatedly told that nothing was needed.
If a VA is understaffed, the VA, high up in the VA, should be aware of that and should be addressing it. If a sexual assault is reported at that VA and it is under staffed, the VA should have had their own emergency meetings to address that and should have arrived in Congress with answers. They didn't provide answers. They begged off repeatedly.
Last night Cedric's "Barry's got plenty of ideas -- always bad ones" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! ROUGH WATERS!" went up. That was their joint-humor post. The non-humor posts last night revolved around a theme: write a book you have and that you've selected at random: Mike's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (Pauline Kael's movie critiques), Trina's "Collected Stories" (Tennessee Williams' Collected Stories), Rebecca's "pigs at the trough" (Arianna Huffington book), Kat's "Rock Encyclopedia" (the classic text), Ann's "4 men, 1 woman" (Gore Vidal's Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace), Marcia's "Embassytown" (China Mieville's new novel), Elaine's "Left Bank and Other Stories" (short stories by Jean Rhys), Ruth's "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (novelizations of Disney films in an attempt to increase reading among children -- this is a novelization of a Disney film starring Kurt Russell), Betty's "Lorraine Hansberry: The Collected Plays" (the title says it all but for any who might not place the name immediately, she is the playwright who wrote A Raisin in the Sun) and Stan's "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" (Greg Palast's classic book). We're closing with this important news from Scott Kimball (Iraq Veterans Against the War):
If you were to take a trip down Ft. Hood street in Killeen, you would encounter the same sites of any military town. You would see pawn shops and title loan businesses. You would come across shady car dealerships and rent-to-own stores. All of these estabishments are in the business of exploiting service members. However, the most exploitative establishment in Killeen is not a for-profit entity. It is the Fort Hood command.
Operation Recovery organizers have been talking to Ft. Hood soldiers and collecting their testimony. One common thread is clear: the Ft. Hood command has been negligent in upholding soldiers' right to heal. So far we have collected hundreds of pledges from service members and their families. We have listened to their stories of their experience with trauma and the lack of response or concern from the military.
Perhaps most concerning is the fact that soldiers have been briefed not to talk to us. It seems that General Campbell has chosen to ignore our concerns rather than deal with them. Since he has chosen to not be a partner with us in correcting these wrongdoings, we must do it ourselves. That is why we are down here. We will only be able to uphold soldiers' right to heal when we stand up for ourselves. Each day we become larger and more organized. We are learning from our mistakes and making small victories. Even if it seems so very far into the future, our day will soon come.
Join us in our fight for the rights of service members and veterans. When divided, we have no power; when together, we are unstoppable. It has only been a couple of weeks into our deployment and we are already a force to be reckoned with.
Join the growing GI rights movement! Stand with us and fight for change!