Friday, July 15, 2011

Assuming the worst

I caught the embarrassing Diane Rehm Show (NPR) for a few seconds today. What a nightmare.

DREAZEN: And I think what this was is not simply a recognition, as I agree with David, that it was sort of a symbolic recognition that a page is turned. But it was also the administration has been very careful to not overstep on this. And it's lead to a lot of criticism. It's lead to accusations the U.S. was leading from behind, deferring too much to NATO, et cetera, et cetera. What's happened now is the administration has calculated that Gadhafi is not just losing legitimacy, but actually on the way out. And they are trying to accelerate and give it that last little push.

REHM: On the way out, David.

IGNATIUS: Well, that's certainly the hope. From the beginning of this crisis, if you've asked the White House what's the strategy here, fellows, the answer is that we're going to squeeze Gadhafi. And his cash resources are limited. And at some point, during this summer, he's going to run out of money. The only caution I'd say to what Yochi rightly says is a growing feeling that Gadhafi is weak, is that I interviewed an emissary from the Gadhafi circle several weeks ago who came to Washington trying to, you know, make contacts, make businesses, as it were. And he said -- and I can't verify the credibility of this, that Gadhafi has, within the country, a lot more money than the U.S. realizes, that he has been hoarding cash, so as to be able to pay bribes to the tribal leaders, so as to be able to pay his mercenaries in anticipation, precisely this sort of moment. I, you know, Yochi and Yochi's sources may be right, but that cash is dwindling much faster than the emissary said. But I just, -- I note that the other side, as it were, says no, we've still got money.

REHM: But let's assume that Gadhafi is dwindling in resources and stature as well. How soon -- based on Secretary of State Clinton's comments, how soon would the rebels likely have access...

"But let's assume that Gaddafi is dwindling in resources and stature as well!" whined Diane.

It's really funny how that is her choice. It's also interesting how she thinks she's provided anything resembling reality on the Libyan War since the war started.

NPR is nothing but a megaphone for the administration. There is no independence there.

You'd think someone as advanced in the years as Diane Rehm would want to salvage their reputation in the final reel; however, she seems more than content too trash her own image.

Circling closer to the truth but never making it is Doug Saunders (Globe & Mail):

Five months after a protest movement to oust Colonel Gadhafi in February turned into an all-out war with military support from NATO, nobody has a clear idea how the war might be brought to an end – and few nations place much trust in the Libyan actors who are promising to end it.

Because it wasn't a real movement, because 'rebels' from Central Casting rarely have a revolutionary spirit and because outside invasions tend to bond a people against a common enemy.

NATO has proven just how corrupt and ineffective they are. I really don't think that was their goal back in March.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, July 15, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, peaceful protesters are again arrested, Human Rights Watch expresses concern over a 'speech' proposal in Iraq, and more.
Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war. Excerpt.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: I want to point out that the rebels never got to the gates of Tripoli. I've looked at some of the reports and some of these news wires which usually use kilometers, the metric system, are using miles now to describe the rebels advances because when you use miles, the distance seems less. Like I see the wording they're playing. And they're using distance to let's say to a city near Tripoli. But anyway, they've not gotten to the gates of Tripoli. They've been claiming other cities have fallen like Sabha and Fezzan or near their environs and the journalists have been taken there. And I actually watch some of these reports from Tripoli because BBC English and BBC Arabic is still here, France's Arabic service is still here. You can watch these things here. And a lot of the journalists making these reports, I happen to see on a daily basis or almost on a daily basis. when I have to go the Rixos Al Nasr which is now the Swiss Inn, it's changed ownership. But this is propaganda, it's war propaganda. And these journalists that are making these reports are either embedded journalists or they're just as bad, the ones in Tripoli that are making these reports. I'd like to point out with regards to Russia, a statement's been made and it originally came from the Russian envoy to Africa, he's now the Russian envoy to Libya. [. . .] And this Russian official is saying Col Gaddafi has a suicide plan for Tripol which is nonsense. He said he met with the Libyan prime minister and Col Gaddafi has a suicide plan. What he's basically disseminating is Washington's propaganda and that's a shame [. . .] There's no suicide plan for Tripoli. Anybody that will come to Tripoli will see that the people here back Col Gaddafi, they back his government and he doesn't need a suicide plan unless they mean that there's going to be a massive bombing here and they want to blame it on Col Gaddafi, which they could do. I would not rule out a massive bombing to try to make Tripoli surrender. And then they'd try to blame the victim. That's what they usually do, the aggressors blame the victim. Reality's turned on its head.
There's another element that Mahdi Nazemroaya might consider. Whether it's Waco or Iraq, claims that the 'crazy' has or will kill their own people have repeatedly been used by the US to justify an aggressive invasion which the government has repeatedly presented as an action they were forced into. Meaning, the talk of a suicide plan may be laying the groundwork for Barack Obama to say, "I know I said we wouldn't have force on the ground, but the Libyan people needed us."
Kevin Pina: And that is the voice of Mahdi Nazemroaya coming to us direct from Tripoli, Libya. You're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Well indeed they have said that Gaddafi has plans to bomb Tripoli, level it to the ground should the rebels threaten to take over it. It's really good that you clarified that. Now they've also claimed that the rebels have reclaimed Qawalish which after Gaddafi forces had taken it and there's back and forth right now between Libyan rebels and Gaddafi forces. What do you know right know about what's actually going on on the ground militarily around the areas around Tripoli?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: They have not advanced here. I'm letting you know. They're going to take the foreign journalists to see Since I've been here, they've taken them to a couple of places, like I said earlier, they've taken to some of these urband centers that they claim have fallent to let them see with their own eyes and report to the rest of the world: This is not true. This is a full media war, it's a psychological war. And they are doing this to make it look like they're winning. Does anybody remember what they were saying about Baghdad? "The tanks are there. The tanks are there." And it took awhile for the tanks to get there . They got there [finally] but they weren't there. And it's not true. They're just saying -- They're just trying to make false propoganda fake victories were there are a lof of losses. The rebels -- There's a stalemate. In fact, they're being pushed back in a lot of places. And since we're on the subject, today is La Fete Nationale of France, the national day of France which is Bastille Day. Nothing was mentioned about Libya in France. They didn't say anything. In fact, I was told that the parade arrangeements were changed. Today was the national day and they were going to make the military the centerpiece but they made the the fire fighers in France the centerpiece. They expected an easy victory and they didn't get it and now nothing is being mentioned about Libya. They're not mentioning anything about Libya and at the same time, the Secretary General of NATO has said that only one person's died, we haven't killed anyone. There's a blackout now about Libya. They're not mentioning much about Libya. And the speech today that was given in France with Sarkozy and not once was Libyan mentioned. They are not mention Libya and the French news did not mention Libya because they are feeling the heat, . Many people in France are opposing the war and in Europe. And I hope in the United States these numbers are rising against the war. And in Canada.
Mahdi Nazemroaya will be back on Flashpoints Tuesday. Flashpoints airs Monday through Friday from five p.m. to six p.m. PST on KPFA (and other stations) ,
ABC News Radio reports, "An American service member was killed Friday in Iraq, bringing the number of those who have been killed or have died in that country to four for the month of July." This makes for 19 US service members killed in the Iraq War in six weeks, 15 last month, 4 so far this month.
As they continue dying, the governments of Iraq and the US continue to explore keeping the US military in Iraq for many years to come. Alsumaria TV reports, "In a statement to Al Iraqiya, Al Maliki noted that Iraq needs to keep a number of US trainers to train Iraqi Forces on newly purchased air, land and naval weapons. The extension of US Forces term in Iraq necessitates a new agreement that should be voted upon by two thirds of Parliament lawmakers, Al Maliki said noting that this is difficult to be attained." Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) notes:

"Iraq needs the Americans for training on the sea, air and ground and sea weapons," he said in an interview with state- sponsored Iraqiya television. "This does not need the approval of parliament," he said.

Nouri is correct, he does not need the approval of Parliament -- we pointed that out in yesterday's snapshot. In part, he doesn't need it because he's made it precedent that he doesn't need it (by renewing the UN mandate at the end of 2006 without the approval of Parliament -- UN mandate that covered the occupation of Iraq -- and again at the end of 2007). Even if he was legally required to have their approval, Nouri's never concerned himself much with legality which is another reason the Iraqi peoples' voice in the 2010 elections should have been honored (which would have meant that loser Nouri not continue as prime minister). UPI reports that Dawa doesn't want US forces to remain in Iraq and they make a point to note that Dawa is Nouri's political party. It is. And it takes its orders from Nouri. Earlier this year, Dawa was full of talk of how they just might expell Nouri. They had every reason to. And yet they didn't. They have no power and they know it. They bask in the refracted light of whatever power Nouri manages to steal. Dawa just knew that Parliamentary elections would mean their true ascension. But Nouri didn't utilize them. Instead he put together a political slate (State of Law). Everytime Dawa could have stood, they chose to crawl or roll over and expose their belly in submission. To pretend that what a weak political party wants has any bearing on this issue is insane.
Dawa sent Haider al-Abadi out to make a statement. He's the political party's statement. Have we forgotten that Nouri has his own spokesperson? Or that he's designated who can and cannot speak for the government? Hint, Haider al-Abadi didn't make the list. The thing about taking a thug and grooming him into a tyrant is that you feed the ego over and over and there's no sense of connection or debt owed. Dawa waited too late to step forward and all they are now is angry child having a tantrum in a store.
Iraq was oh so briefly spoken of on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today and only because US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had visited. By the way, when Diane can't remember on air (as she couldn't at the start of the hour) the outlet that her frequent guest Nadia Biblassy is with, it's really time for someone to step in and say, "Diane, go out before it gets really embarrassing." That little mini-struggle for recall of a basic fact and one that had been reviewed immediately prior to going on air? It's a sign of things to come.
Diane Rehm: All right. Let's talk about the visit of our new Secretary of Defense, Leon, pardon me, Panetta to Iraq. Tell us about it, Nadia.

Nadia Bilbassy: Well, basically this is the first visit. He's going there to nudge the Iraqi government to come up with a yes or no answer as whether they wanted the U.S. forces to stay in Iraq. As you know, this agreement that signed by President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki will expire in December 31st. And it's called the status of forces agreement, known as SOFA. So basically, he's saying, in a very blunt language, like, you have to tell us. Damn it, as he said. He used very colorful language, in complete opposite of the soft spoken former secretary of defense Robert Gates. And they understand the complexity of the situation. The Iraqi government, lead by Maliki has a coalition, shaky coalition, of the Dawa party, of the Sadrist groups, of the Kurdish nationalists. So it's a group together that they have to decide whether they want to keep U.S. forces or not. Now, on the street, I think, the concept is very unpopular. They, basically, were reinforced what they believed, that the invasion of Iraq was to get hold of Iraq's vast oil revenues and to establish a military base in the heart of the Middle East in Iraq. I will -- my guess will be that they will come up with some kind of agreement by the end of the year. But probably, regardless of how many troops will be left, whether it's 10,000 or 15,000, they still need to protect one of the biggest embassy -- U.S. Embassy's in the world, which is in Baghdad. It has 5,000 personnel, intelligence, civil servants, et cetera. So they will have some kind of forces, but also it's a message to Iran that we're not going to abandon the country. It's not going to be your playing field, it's actually -- the U.S. was going to be -- have some kind of presence in Iran.

Diane Rehm: Nadia Bilbassy of Middle East Broadcast Center. Short break, we'll be right back.
And that's all Diane could manage on Iraq. Which is why fewer and fewer military families bother to listen to her show anymore. And, no, she didn't think to note that a US soldier had died today in Iraq. On the subject of Panetta, Al Mada reports rebel rouser Moqtada al-Sadr, has issued another statement, this one directed to US Secretary of Defense and declaring that "we" will turn Iraq into a graveyard for the US. "We"? Moqtada's going to be handling drone attacks from Iran? "We"? It's exactly his inability to stand up and do as he instructs that's eroded so much confidence in Moqtada among his one-time followers.

In 2008, Moqtada's stock was almost this low. Bush, Robert Gates and Condi Rice made a huge mistake in egging on Nouri (who didn't need all that much egging) to go after Sadr's militias. This allowed Moqtada to issue statements --as he always does -- but for the statements to have more meaning than they usually did. Suddenly, in the face of an attack by US and Iraqi forces, his rantings seemed heroic and his stature rose. If the US government wants to fight Moqtada for all eternity, they'll do something stupid like the Bush administration did. If they want to neutralize him, they'll treat him with derision and indifference. If they were really smart, they'd expose a few of the sweetheart deals Moqtada received under the previous admistration (Bush administration). His stock is lower than it's ever been and his credibility can be further undermined. But if they insist upon launching or encouraging Nouri to launch a wave of attacks against his militias, they will allow Moqtada to again become 'voice of the beseiged.'
Besieged describes the Iraqi people. James Denselow (New Statesman) observes:

Yet the shockwaves of the revolutions are being felt in Iraq. Last week, CNN reported Iraqi forces beating and detaining at least seven protestors as hundreds of angry demonstrators gathered on Friday in central Baghdad. Since early February, tens of thousands of protesters have participated in demonstrations every Friday across Iraq. Maliki, like his embattled western neighbour Assad, has approached the demonstrations with his own variety of carrots and sticks. He cut his $350,000 salary in half, plans to reduce the government to 25 ministerial positions by merging the ministries that perform overlapping functions, and has sought to make a constitutional change to ensure a two-term limit to the office of prime minister. What is more, following the initial protests, the Iraqi government announced that they would be cancelling the planned purchase of 18 US-made F-16 fighter planes, instead allocating the money to improving food rationing for the poor.

The sticks meanwhile include standard acts of violence, as well as drafting legislation that Human Rights Watch believes criminalises free speech and Iraqis' right to demonstrate. The authorities have tried to bar street protests and confine them (unsuccessfully) to football stadiums. Meanwhile, several incidents of the security forces attacking and killing protestors have been reported, including a bloody encounter on the 25th of February where 12 people were killed and over 100 injured.

The US appears largely unconcerned by the spread of protests to Iraq, with its focus on ensuring its strategic posture in the country. This cedes space in the battle for legitimacy being waged, mostly through proxy, by the Iranians. The actions of Muqtada al-Sadr in the face of an extension of the US presence will be particularly scrutinised. His group controls 39 seats in the gridlocked 325-member parliament. Last April, Sadr issued a statement promising that "if the Americans don't leave Iraq on time, we will increase the resistance and restart the activities of the Mahdi Army". However it is hard to evaluate the cohesiveness of the once-feared Mahdi Army. The Asaib al-Haq and Promised Day Brigade splinter groups are evidence of Sadr's difficulty in maintaining political control. Indeed, in recent weeks, he appears to have backtracked somewhat from bombastic threats against the US, although what exactly he will do remains an unknown.

It's Friday, there are protests going on in Iraq. Revolution of Iraq reports on the demonstrations noting that police cordoned off protesters in Falluja while, in Baghdad, police made a point to search mobile phones "to provoke protesters" and that two protesters were arrested. Protesters were also arrested in Sulaymaniya For
Revolution of Iraq' Rami Hayali filmed the Baghdad protest. Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated today in Tahrir Square, including government official, to-be-deported flats owners, unemployed persons and NGO activists. NGO activist told Aswat al-Iraq said that the demonstrators demanded eradication of corruption, unemployment and provision of services." Nouri's crackdown on protesters takes place not only in the streets but also behind closed doors. Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) notes:
Yesterday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Iraq is also seeking to restrict speech. While the laws enacted when the US was running the country were unusually liberal for the region, Iraqi politicians have steadily whittled them back into a more authoritarian shape since they took control.
[. . .]
Iraq? HRW says it has a copy of a draft law on freedom of expression that gives the government the power to prevent political protests "in the public interest," a restriction so vague and broad that it would give a sitting government a theoretical veto on all protests. "This law will undermine Iraqis' right to demonstrate and express themselves freely," Human Rights Watch's Joe Stork said. "Rather than creating restrictive laws, the government needs to stop attacks on critics by security forces and their proxies."
Not all the attacks come from Nouri. In northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, Swrkew Zahd Mahmoud is both a martyr to many and an inspiraction for further struggle. Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) reports on the family of the 16-year-old who was killed by Kurdish police while peacefully protesting.
Qaradaxi became an organizer soon after protests kicked off in mid-February, and through sheer weight of presence tried to quell the violence that finally left 10 dead. Photographs show him in the thick of the street fight, trying to convince Kurdish riot police to stop shooting or throwing stones.
As an overhead fan keeps the 100-plus-degree heat at bay, at home, Qaradaxi pulls out discs with video footage that show Kurdish security forces firing with pistols at crowds on the same day – and in the same place – that Swrkew was killed. His son appears in some frames.
Qaradaxi was beaten at times, and tear-gassed to the point of writhing on the ground and choking. But he still went back to speak in the square at the podium – before security forces burned it in mid-April – to "show people that violence does work for us, to motivate people and give them hope."
Who doesn't get targeted in Nouri's Iraq? Other than Nouri himself, very few. Iraq's LGBT community has been attacked, Iraqi Jews, Iraqi Palestinians, residents of Camp Ashraf, Iraqi women, it's a long, long list. Asia News zooms in on Iraqi Christians:
The year 2010 was the worst year to date for the Christian community in Iraq, it has been revealed by the organization for human rights in Iraq, Hammurabi. Many Christians were forced to leave the country in fear of killings and violence of all kinds. The death toll among Christians over the past seven years, according to Hammurabi exceeds 822 people. 629 of them were murdered for being part of the Christian minority. Others were involved in 126 attacks of various kinds and many others have been victims of military operations undertaken by U.S. and Iraqi forces. 13% of victims are women. Among the Christian victims of 2010 there are 33 children, 25 elderly and 14 religious. In 2010 Hammurabi recorded 92 cases of Christians killed and 47 wounded, 68 in Baghdad, 23 in Mosul and one in Erbil.

The director of Hammurabi, named after the Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest known collections of laws in human history, William Warda, said that constant monitoring and documentation show that all the Christian Churches in Iraq - Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syrians, Armenians - have suffered heavy losses in the number of their faithful, all over the country. The decline is particularly strong in Baghdad and Mosul, where Christians are concentrated in greater numbers. Warda said that in one year there were more than 90 Christians killed and 280 wounded, and two churches have been the target of attacks in Baghdad. According to UNICEF, between 2008 and 2010 more than 900 children have been killed in Iraq, and 3200 injured. Children represent the 8 .1% of the victims of attacks in Iraq, where there are an increasing number of attacks against schools and educators.
Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes a Kerbala car bombing claimed 5 lives and left fifteen people injured, a Samarra roadside bombing left one Iraqi solider injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured a police officer, a Kerbala car bombing which claimed 2 lives and left four more people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three more people injured and a Mosul sticky bombing wounded two people.
Yesterday's snapshot noted the first panel of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing on mental health, Mike offered an overview of the entire hearing in "The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing," Ava focused on Senator Scott Brown in the first panel with "Scott Brown asks if it is a staffing issue (Ava)" (at Trina's site) and I covered Senator Richard Burr at Kat's site with "Burr: I'd heard it before, I just hadn't heard it from you." because she was in Hawaii and not at the hearing. The Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is Senator Patty Murray and her office issued the following:


Thursday, July 14, 2011 (202) 224-2834

VETERANS: Senator Murray Chairs Hearing on Gaps in Mental Health Care

Murray hears about long waiting lines and red tape from veterans who have attempted suicide, face chronic PTSD and depression

Hearing comes as VA says that 202,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been seen for potential PTSD at VA facilities through March 31, 2011

WATCH hearing now.

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, held a hearing to discuss access to mental health care services, including waiting times and staffing levels, outreach to veterans, the linking of mental health care to primary care, suicide prevention and problems identified by the VA Inspector General in mental health care.

"In the face of thousands of veterans committing suicide every year, and many more struggling to deal with various mental health issues, it is critically important that we do everything we can to make mental health care more accessible, timely, and impactful," said Senator Murray. "Any veteran who needs mental health services must be able to get that care rapidly, and as close to home as possible. Through its suicide hotline, VA has reached many veterans who might have otherwise taken their own lives. Each life saved is a tremendous victory, and we should celebrate those with VA. But we also have to recognize that these are veterans who reached out to VA. We want to hear about how VA is reaching out to veterans, and how easy or hard it is for veterans to access the care they earned through their service to this country."

At the hearing, Senator Murray heard from Daniel Williams, an Iraq veteran who described how an IED explosion during his 2003/2004 deployment to Iraq led to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) injuries. Williams told the committee how those experiences then led to a suicide attempt in 2004 that was broken up by his wife and local police. He also discussed how his PTSD was received by fellow soldiers, his concerns over the stigma attached to the mental wounds of war, and his frustrations with the mental health care administered by the VA.

The Senator also heard testimony from Andrea Sawyer, wife and caregiver of Loyd Sawyer, who, after being deployed in Iraq, shared similar stories of frustration, including a failed suicide attempt. These two servicemembers, even after attempting their own lives, were met with red tape, wait times for initial appointments at the VA, and additional frustrations in seeking the mental health care they so desperately needed.

The hearing comes on the heels of a number of reports about gaps in mental health care. Two reports released by the IG showed unacceptably high patient wait times and long wait lists and an unacceptable number of veterans who are not contacted by VA between the time they were accepted and the beginning of the program. These reports also revealed that staffing levels for mental health works fell short of VA guidelines.

The GAO also published a recent report on sexual assault complaints in VA mental health units that found many of these assaults were not reported to senior VA officials or the Inspector General. VA clinicians also expressed concern about referring women vets to inpatient mental health units because they didn't think the facilities had adequate safety measures in place to protect these women. And two weeks ago GAO issued a report that found the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury can't adequately account for tens of millions of dollars it spent to improve treatments for the invisible wounds of war.

The full text of witness testimonies can be viewed here.

The full text of Senator Murray's opening statement appears below.

"Welcome to today's hearing to examine how we can close the gaps in mental health care for our nation's veterans. We all know that going to war has a profound impact on those who serve. And after more than eight years of war, in which many of our troops have been called up for deployments again and again, it is very clear that the fighting overseas has taken a tremendous toll that will be with us for years to come.

"More than one-third of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who have enrolled in VA care have post-traumatic stress disorder. An average of 18 veterans kill themselves every day. In fact, the difficult truth is that somewhere in this country, while we hold this hearing, it is likely that a veteran will take his or her own life.

"Last week, the President reversed a longstanding policy and started writing condolence letters to the family members of servicemembers who commit suicide in combat zones. This decision is one more acknowledgment of the very serious psychological wounds that have been created by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an effort to reduce the stigma around the invisible wounds of war. But clearly much more needs to be done.

"In the face of thousands of veterans committing suicide every year, and many more struggling to deal with various mental health issues, it is critically important that we do everything we can to make mental health care more: accessible, timely, and impactful. In fact, according to data VA released yesterday, more than 202,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been seen for potential PTSD at VA facilities through March 31, 2011. This is an increase of 10,000 veterans from the last quarterly report. Any veteran who needs mental health services must be able to get that care rapidly, and as close to home as possible.

"Over the years, VA has made great strides in improving mental health services for veterans. But there are still many gaps.

"As many of you know, just this past May, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that called attention too many of these gaps in mental health care for veterans. And while that ruling has gotten the lion's share of attention, it is one of far too many warning signs.

"Today, we will hear from the Inspector General about ongoing problems with delays in receiving health care for those veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war, like PTSD.

"In one report, published just this week by the IG, several mental health clinics at the Atlanta VA were found to have unacceptably high patient wait times. The report shows that facility managers were aware of long wait lists for mental health care but were slow to respond to the problem. The report also called into question the adequacy of VA's performance measurements for mental health access times across the entire system.

"As the IG noted, the VA only tracks the time it takes for new patients to get their first appointment. This means that since the VA is not tracking the timeliness of second, third, and additional appointments, facilities can artificially inflate their compliance with mental health access times. This is simply unacceptable and must change.

"In another report on veterans in residential mental health care the IG found that an unacceptable number of veterans were not contacted by VA between the time they were accepted and the beginning of the program, and that staffing levels for mental health workers fell short of VA guidelines.

"GAO has also recently published a report on sexual assault complaints in VA mental health units that found many of these assaults were not reported to senior VA officials or the Inspector General. VA clinicians also expressed concern about referring women vets to inpatient mental health units because they didn't think the facilities had adequate safety measures in place to protect these women.

"And just two weeks ago GAO issued a report that found the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury can't adequately account for tens of millions of dollars it spent to improve treatments for the invisible wounds of war.

"Taken together, these reports show very clearly that there is significant work to do to improve mental health care outreach and treatment.

"One way to fill in these gaps, to overcome the stigma associated with mental health care, and to eliminate wait times is to provide primary and mental health care at the same visit.

"In the hearing today, we will hear from Providence Health and Services, which was recently recognized as one of the five most integrated health systems in the country, about how they have integrated mental health services into their medical home.

"I believe we need to look to Providence and those VA programs that work for guidance on making real progress.

"Through its suicide hotline, VA has reached many veterans who might have otherwise taken their own lives. Each life saved is a tremendous victory, and we should celebrate those with VA. But we also have to recognize that these are veterans who reached out to VA.

"We want to hear about how VA is reaching out to veterans, and how easy or hard it is for veterans to access the care they earned through their service to this country. As we will hear today, despite VA's best efforts, veterans continue to experience problems when they reach out to the VA for mental health care.

"I have heard from veterans who have walked in to VA clinics and asked to be seen by a mental health provider, only to be told to call a 1-800 number. I have heard from VA doctors, who have told me VA does not have enough staff to take care of the mental health needs of veterans.

"And I have heard from veterans' families, who have seen first-hand what effects untreated mental illness can have on the family. We are here today to see that this ends. I am looking forward to hearing from all of our witnesses today.

"I hope it helps us to better understand these issues, and to address them so that our veterans can receive the timely, quality care they earned through their service.

"I will now turn to Ranking Member Burr for his opening statement."


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Libyan War

"French government manoeuvres for resolution to Libyan war" (Patrick O'Connor, WSWS):

The French administration of Nicolas Sarkozy appears to be stepping up efforts to strike a deal with the Libyan government aimed at sidelining Muammar Gaddafi and bringing the NATO bombardment of the oil-rich state to a conclusion. The diplomatic manoeuvres reflect the growing crisis confronting the US, France and Britain as their illegal military campaign enters its fifth month without succeeding in its primary objective of forcing regime change in Tripoli.

On Sunday, French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet declared that his government had demanded that the so-called Transitional National Council (TNC), based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, begin talks with the Gaddafi government.

“The position of the TNC is very far from other positions,” Longuet stated, apparently criticising the demand of the “rebels” that Gaddafi quit power before any negotiations. “Now, there will be a need to sit around a table... We [NATO] will stop the bombardment as soon as Libyans speak to each other and the military from both sides go back to their barracks. They can now speak to each other because we are showing them that there is no solution with force.”

I have not heard "Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio" yet tonight. We landed late (I flew back from DC to C.I.'s with Rebecca's daughter) so I'll listen to it later on the archives. But the above does jibe with what Mahdi Nazemroaya was reporting yesterday on Flashpoints.

I really appreciate the coverage Flashpoints has been providing of the Libyan War each Tuesday through Thursday. They really are the only Pacifica Radio program that is providing regular reporting.

Democracy Now! acts like they don't give a damn about the Libyan War. Or like it's not happening. If you want to hear about the Libyan War, Flashpoints has made itself the resource.

I like Mahdi and I hope he's right about the Libyan War almost being over. But the reason I think he might end up being wrong?

He's talking about what he's seeing on the ground. He's talking about logic.

But Barack has never seemed governed to me by logic or realities on the ground.

I feel for the suffering Libyan people who have those overhead bombing raids over and over and I want that war over so I hope Mahdi's correct. But Barack is not a rational player -- as evidenced by his continuation of the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Barack betrays another promise (this time on Iraqi refugees), Nouri continues his war on peaceful protesters, extending the US military presence in Iraq continues to be pushed, and more.
Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war. Excerpt.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: In regards to France, I have to point out that the Defense Minister of France made a statement which didn't please the United States. He said, we're willing to -- essentially, this is what he said -- we're willing to stop if there's political discussion and if Muammar Gaddafi switches his place in the government. It's not a total withdrawal, they're basically saying something symbolic. NATO's running out of steam here, the assessment is that they have 90 days to end this war, Ramadan which is a Muslim holy day is coming up, in September, I believe. [August 1st through 29th is Ramadan this year.] They have to end this war by that time. So they're looking for an exit strategy. This is what all this talk about negotiations is about because if anybody who follows the news and the news wires will see that the Libyan regime, Muammar Gaddafi and his government have been asking for negotiations from the beginning. The African Union has. Venezuela offered to be a negotiator between both sides or a go-between. Everybody has. The Chinese, the Russians have called for negotiations. The people that prevented it were the Obama administration, Mr. Sarkozy in Paris, Prime Minister Cameron in London and NATO. They're the ones who pushed it. And I have to point something out, the Italian prime minister said something very important about a meeting with David Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy. The president of France and the prime minister of Britain both said that the campaign should not end until there is a revolt in Tripoli against Col Gaddafi and his regime. What this signifies is that the intentions of these bombings was to create a revolt. The bombings did not start because there was a revolt, the intention was to create a revolt from the bombings, to make the people get fed up with Gaddafi and to overthrow him to end the bombings. That is what the intention was. That is why there's a siege on Tripoli and Libya. That's why they're bombing civilian sites. And I want to clarify, they bombed food storage places, medical clinics, hospitals, a place for children, a place for Down Syndrome, civilian residential areas, university campuses. These are the types of places they bombed. This was punishment on the Libyan people. And it backfired because it made Gaddafi very, very popular in Libya and across in Africa.
Kevin Pina: And you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and that is the voice of Mahdi Nazemroaya our special correspondent coming to us direct from Tripoli, in Libya. We're discussing the situation on the ground there. Mahdi, I also understand there were some recent bombings again happening over Tripoli. What has, in the last two weeks that you've been there, can you just summarize what has been the overall impact of the NATO bombing campaign on the ground in the capitol of Libya?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well Kevin, there's been so many bombings and overhead flights by NATO war planes that I've lost track. That's the honest truth. They have been flying overhead and bombing. I hear bombings when I'm in the shower, I hear bombings when I'm outside. I hear their planes. It's hard to keep track. It's on the news, the Libyan TV talks about it. The [foreign] journalists here don't really cover it because it's not an issue for them. They're more concerned about making the Libyan government look bad. So they've bombed and this bombing has backfired. Instead of getting the population against the government, it's brought everybody together. It's unified the country. There's a new spirit. There's an actual call for global revolution again in Libya. Libya, for a long time the Libyans saw themselves as the center for global revolution. That's actually in the youth again. So when I talk to people in the street -- and I mean regular Libyans and Libyan society as a whole -- the youth, the elderly, children, people who have nothing to do with officialdom or the Libyan state -- they are in a state of high morale, they are totally against NATO and many of them now support Col Gaddafi -- even the ones who were his political opponents and disliked the man and his family and his son Saif al-Islam now support the man. This has brought the country together and this has backfired on NATO. This has totally backfired on them and it was a very big strategic mistake. The thing is that they thought this would be done in a matter of days, maybe in two weeks, something like that. But it wasn't. It wasn't a walk in the park for them at all.
Kevin Pina: And you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and that is the voice of Mahdi Nazemroaya coming to us direct from Tripoli in Libya. And, Mahdi, we also hear reports that the rebels over the last week have taken several strategic towns and are making a drive towards the capitol of Tripoli and according to a lot of the western reports that we're hearing, their morale is equally high. So in a lot of ways, these two reports, one that we're hearing in Tripoli and the other that we're hearing from journalists embedded with the so-called rebels, are very inconsistent. How do we make sense of this inconsistency?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well let me say that I know some of these journalists and I knew some of these journalists before they left Tripoli, such as the ones in Misrata. I will point out that I personally -- on a personal basis -- question their professionalism, I question their intent in this country, alright? That's from my personal experience with them. In regards to towns falling like Sabha which they claim fell and its environs they took all the journalists who were willing to go to that city in Fezzan, I want to visit that city as well, it's in the south. They said it fell. It didn't. They said the gates of Tripoli had been reached. They hadn't. They've said that neighborhoods have fallen, they haven't. They've said that mosques have been closed, they haven't. I read those reports saying mosques have been closed and there's fighting every night. There isn't fighting every night. There is some fighting. That's true. At Tripoli, sometimes there's one or two people firing out of God knows where but that's only to destabilize this place and it's part of the psychological operation against this country. And I will let you know that there are special forces on the ground in Tripoli and they're here for sabotage and to break the morale here. They want regime change. And I'll tell you, NATO is not going to win this war. This war is unwinnable. And if they invade this country, they're fools.
As Elaine noted last night, Human Rights Watch has issued a report on the 'rebel' forces and how they are "responsible for looting, arson, and abuse of civilians in recently captured towns in western Libya". Click here for the Human Rights Watch report.
Last week, thug and First Lady of Iraq Moqtada al-Sadr was explaining who was to be socially welcomed and who was to be socially shunned. AFP reported that collaborators with the US would be shunned. AFP (and Moqtada) did not note that the US Embassy in Baghdad hopes to pull in the local population as contractors in 2012 and 2013. That would be more difficult if they're threatened and the man who issues fatawas loves to threaten. AFP reported, "Asked about whether Iraqis who had worked with the Americans as drivers, cleaners, builders or in other menial jobs could work with a government led by his movement, the cleric replied: 'yes they can, but not in administrative work,' suggesting they would not rise above low-ranking positions." Current workers are to be shunned and translators are social pariah according to Moqtada.
In today's New York Times, Tim Arango reports that it is these groups Moqtada has labeled undesirables -- "especially interpreters for the military" -- who are now suffering in the asylum process as they attempt to be granted admission to the United States. Arango notes, "Advocates say that the administration is ignoring a directive from Congress to draft a contingency plan to expedite visas should those Iraqis who worked for the United States government" and he notes that from October 2010 (start of the fiscal year) through last June, less "than 7,000 Iraqis have been admitted to the United States." If this trickle continues, Barack will be admitting less than George W. Bush was in his final year occupying the Oval Office. Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) adds, "A special program meant to distribute 25,000 visas to Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government has admitted just 7,000 since it started in 2008, officials said this week. In addition, the U.S. Refugee Admission Program, a global program that also admits Iraqis, will admit about 6,000 Iraqis this year, down from 18,000 in fiscal 2010."
Last April, John Hopkins University's Dr. Farrah Mateen gave a presentation in Honolulu at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. Dr. Mateen gave an overview of the Iraqi refugee population in this video.
Dr. Farrah Mateen: So the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees recognizes more than 40 million refugees in the world today and there are currently more than 30 active, armed conflicts and we know very little about neurological disease in humanitarian emergencies and in times of humanitarian crisis. The war in Iraq actually began more than eight years ago now, March 20, 2003. And the UNHCR recognizes more than 3.5 million persons of concern of Iraqi origin and currently there are more than 2 million refugees who live outside of Iraq. The United States as well as western Europe, Australia and Canada are major recipients of Iraqi refugees today and continue to be. Iraqi refugees often have to seek humanitarian assistance in the countries where they flee to.
Neither Arango nor O'Keefe's article indicate that they attempted to get an answer on what's going on from the person in charge of the US Iraqi refugee program. Candidate Barack Obama swore that if elected president he would provide $2 billion for Iraqi refugees. That has still not happened. What's going on? O'Keefe notes State Dept employees spoken to. But the State Dept isn't over this. This doesn't fall under Hillary Clinton's scope. You'd think it would because she is Secretary of State; however, Barack put the War Monger Samantha Power in charge of many things Iraq including Iraqi refugees. This was made clear by plus-size model and then-White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs on August 14, 2009 when he issued a statement which included:
Further to discussions that took place during Prime Minister Maliki's recent meetings in Washington, President Obama is pleased to announce that Samantha Power, Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council in the White House, will coordinate the efforts of the many parts of the U.S. government on Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), including the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense.
So what happened? Samantha Power was too busy spreading lies about Libya? It was Power who came up with the lie that Libyan women were being raped -- by assailants on goverment provided viagra!!!!! -- and it was her cohort Susan Rice that was tasked with popularizing that lie. When The Problem From Hell's actions demonstrate that the self-described "humanitarian hawk" isn't at all concerned with humanity, you're just left with a power-mad buttinsky craving the blood of others. No, that doesn't sound like someone who should have been tasked with the Iraqi refugee issue.
johnfdrake John Drake
Turning to another member of the administration, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's visit to Iraq this week has not yet resulted in more press covergae than former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' Never-Ending Farewell Tour but give it time. On the trip, he stated that the US military would defend itself against Iran whom Panetta alleges is supplying weapons to Iraqi militias and that it would defend itself against Iraqi militias such as Moqtada al-Sadr's militias. Al Mada reports that Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stated that the US military would not do military operations against al-Sadr. (It's not in the article but I'm told on the phone that al-Dabbagh also declared yesterday that the Panetta is mistaken and no military action against Iran will take place using Iraq as a staging platform as a result of the existing outlines in the SOFA and the Strategic Framework Agreement.) Meanwhile the editorial board of New Hampshire's Sentinel Source observes:
Today, there are still 46,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, some dying in supposedly non-combat roles. And the White House has begun to indicate that it will keep as many as 10,000 there past the end-of-the-year deadline -- if the Iraqi government asks for them to stay. Press reports quote unidentified briefers and foreign diplomats as saying that plans for retaining the troops indefinitely are already under way.
The administration's intention is clear in the open invitation it is waiving in the face of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, hoping for a come-hither gesture.

18 US soldiers have died in the last six weeks. Michael Evans (Times of London via The Australian) notes that fact and points out, "US President Barack Obama's 'final withdrawal' deadline was supposed to be the day when he could tell the American people the war in Iraq was finally over -- not 'mission accoplished' as his predecessor declared prematurely in May 2003, but an end to the large-scale US troop presence there. If the US military is asked to stay, albeit in smaller numbers, the risk is that the troops remaining will become targets.
Ranj Alaaldin
RanjAlaaldin Ranj Alaaldin
by johnfdrake

Al Mada reports that Nouri's coalition partners are stating they are not partners in the talks regarding withdrawal or extension, that they have been shut out of those discussions. It's stated that Nouri is taking over the issue and doing so claiming he's responsible for the security of Iraq. The article reminds that Nouri named himself Minister of the Interior, Minister of Defense and Minister of National Security -- instead of naming people to those posts. These days, the talk is of thinning the government posts. Why are there so many posts?
In part because Nouri lost the election. LOST. Last week, I was a little vocal here and very vocal over the phone to friends with NPR about their inability to file from Iraq. We won't rehash it all right now (right now, no promises about a later date) but in a month when 15 US soldiers died in the Iraq War, they had no report filed from Iraq. Their person in charge in Iraq? They'd sent her all over the Middle East. And we're going to leave it right there for now except to note that I did not attack the person in charge of the coverage. That's Kelly McEvers. This week I gave a link to her report on All Things Considered but didn't include it in a snapshot. Why not?
It wasn't a good report. I was being kind and including a link when asked (actually, when told, "You call me July 4th to gripe about the lack of coverage and now you can't link to it?"). Kelly McEvers 'reported,' "The trouble started in March of last year when the parties of Maliki and Allawi nearly tied in parliamentary elections. Then came months of fighting over who had the right to form a government. Once it was clear that Maliki had a large enough coalition in parliament, and that he would become prime minister, the question was what would happen to Allawi. " I'm not in the mood to be the remedial teacher who repeatedly has to correct the record. What's wrong with those three sentences?
Are they balanced? Hell ____ing no. They were 'nearly tied'? Well who won? Huh? Allawi won. Doesn't matter if you like Allawi or hate Allawi, his political slate won. Not "political parties" by the way. State Of Law -- Nouri's slate -- is a slate, not a political party. Dawa is Nouri's political party.
We're told that Nouri "had a large enough coalition" -- we're not told who won. And NPR has done a very poor job of conveying the winner in that election. That didn't start with Kelly McEvers. That starts the day after the election when Quil Lawrence is on Morning Edition declaring Nouri's slate the winner. It didn't win. And NPR has shown clear and consistent bias in their coverage. Allawi's slate won. If you're recapping, you need to include that detail. Doesn't matter if it was by one vote or one hundred, the race had a winner, it was not Nouri.
Reporting was not Quil declaring Nouri the winner the day after the election. Ballots weren't even counted and Quil was declaring Nouri the winner (based on? Nouri al-Maliki's own polling). Quil never issued a correction. He quickly left Iraq and NPR never issued a correction. This is not a minor point and to Iraqis who have followed NPR's coverage it is outrageous. They did go to the polls and vote. They risked a great deal to do so. Their election had a winner and NPR -- and many other outlets -- have ignored their voice as surely as their so-called 'government' has ignored them. NPR's problem, their inability to note who won that election, did not start with Kelly McEvers so I was just going to ignore the report but since I'm now besieged with voice mails and phone calls about how I've ignored this report, I'm including this here.

The report by McEvers could have been strong but it never will be when it ignores the reality like whose political slate won the election. David S. Cloud and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) explore the domestic terrain in Iraqi leadership when it comes to extension:

At this point, it remains unclear whether Allawi and Prime Minister Nouri Maliki can make peace. Without rapprochement, Maliki does not have the political protection to win parliamentary approval for a security agreement that would allow a small number of American troops to remain in Iraq. Currently, Maliki relies on the political support of anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr to stay in office, and Sadr wants all U.S. troops out at the end of the year.
Members of Allawi's Iraqiya list, meanwhile, wonder why they should support an extended American military presence, when the deal to form a government that the U.S. helped broker in November has not been realized. They see Maliki serving as acting interior and defense minister and feel the U.S. government didn't live up to its commitments.

Nouri's assault on Iraqi citizens continue. AFP notes, "Human Rights Watch called on the Iraqi government Wednesday to revise a draft law it said contained provisions that violate international law. The New York-based watchdog said it had obtained a copy of the draft law, saying it curtailed freedom of assembly and expression, and contravened Iraq's own constitution." Human Rights Watch issued the following today:
Iraq should revise its draft law on freedom of expression and assembly to remove provisions that restrict those freedoms, Human Rights Watch said today. The draft law would allow authorities to curtail rights to protect the "public interest" or for the "general order or public morals," without limiting or defining what those terms encompass.
Human Rights Watch has obtained a copy of the draft law. Those provisions, as well as the proposed criminalization of speech that "insults" a "sacred" symbol or person, clearly violate international law, Human Rights Watch said. The government is pushing for this legislation in a period when physical attacks on peaceful demonstrators and restrictions on journalists have been increasing.
"This law will undermine Iraqis' right to demonstrate and express themselves freely," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Rather than creating restrictive laws, the government needs to stop attacks on critics by security forces and their proxies."
The Council of Ministers said in a statement dated May 16, 2011, that it had approved the "Law on the Freedom of Expression of Opinion, Assembly, and Peaceful Demonstration," in May and submitted it to the Council of Representatives for parliamentary approval. Human Rights Watch spoke with several members of parliament about the draft law who said it had not yet been circulated or introduced. Human Rights Watch called on parliament not to approve the law without revising it to remove the restrictions on rights.
Free Assembly
The legislation would explicitly recognize the right of Iraqis to "demonstrate peacefully to express their opinions or demand their rights" (article 10), but other provisions would curtail those rights.
Under article 7(1), protest organizers would be required to get permission to hold a demonstration at least five days in advance. The request would have to include the "subject and purpose" of the demonstration and the names of its organizing committee. The draft law fails to state what standards Iraqi authorities would apply in approving or denying demonstration permits, effectively granting the government unfettered power to determine who may hold a demonstration, Human Rights Watch said.
Article 12 would permit authorities to restrict freedom of assembly and expression to protect "the public interest" or in the interest of "general order or public morals" without any qualification. The draft law offers no meaningful guidance in how to interpret such broad restrictions and is silent on what penalties protest organizers and demonstrators would face if they gathered without government approval.
The law as currently drafted would undermine guarantees in the Iraqi constitution of "freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration" as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iraq is a state party. The covenant makes clear that restrictions on peaceful demonstrations should be exceptional, and narrowly permitted, only if found to be "necessary in a democratic society" to safeguard "national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." The draft Iraqi law includes some of these restrictions without any of the qualifications.
By granting overly broad approval authority to government agents and allowing them to restrict the right to freedom of assembly under vague concerns for "public morals" and "public interest," and by not limiting those restrictions to those "necessary in a democratic society," the draft law fails to meet the narrow criteria international law allows for limits on the right to assembly, Human Rights Watch said. Protest organizers in Iraq operate in an extraordinarily unsafe environment. In recent weeks, Iraqi authorities have detained, interrogated, and beaten several protest organizers in Baghdad. That makes the proposed requirement for organizers to submit their names when requesting approval for a demonstration a significant threat to their personal security. Protest organizers who wish to stay anonymous should be allowed to do so, Human Rights Watch said. At the very least, the government should ensure that the names of applicants would be classified and restricted to the permit office. The law should be modified to revise this requirement.
"How can the authorities expect organizers to come forward when security forces are not only failing to protect them from violence but in some cases targeting them directly," Stork said.
Free Expression
The law also contains provisions that would criminalize speech, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison. Under article 13, anyone who "attacks a belief of any religious sect or shows contempt for its rites" or publicly insults a "symbol, or person who is held sacred, exalted, or venerated by a religious sect" would face up to one year in jail and fines of up to 10 million dinars (US$8,665.52).The law provides no guidance about what might constitute an unlawful insult.
Iraq's constitution guarantees freedom of speech, and the ICCPR holds that "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression ... to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds." International standards only allow content-based restrictions in extremely narrow circumstances, such as cases of slander or libel against private individuals or speech that threatens national security. Restrictions must be clearly defined, specific, necessary, and proportionate to the threat to interest protected.
Iraqi authorities have taken several steps in recent months to keep protests in Baghdad from public view. On April 13, officials
issued new regulations barring street protests and allowing protests only in three soccer stadiums, though the regulation has not been enforced.
On February 21, Iraqi police allowed dozens of assailants, some wielding knives and clubs, to beat and stab peaceful protesters in Baghdad. During nationwide February 25 protests, security forces killed at least 12 protesters across the country and injured more than 100. On that day, Human Rights Watch observed Baghdad security forces beating unarmed journalists and protesters, smashing cameras, and confiscating memory cards.
On June 10, government-backed thugs armed with wooden planks, knives, iron pipes, and other weapons, beat and stabbed peaceful protesters and sexually molested female demonstrators in Baghdad. Human Rights Watch observed and witnesses said that security forces stood by and watched in several instances.
Yesterday Parliament came back into session. Today? Iraq Oil Report explained:
iraqoilreport Iraq Oil Report
Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured five people, another Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people (including one police officer), a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life, 1 man was shot dead by his Kirkuk home, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier, a Mosul bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi woman and a Mosul armed clash led to 4 deaths and two people being injured.
Moving over to the United States, Elisha Dawkins is an Iraq War veteran who serves in the US military or did until paperwork became an excuse for the government to persecute him. Carol Rosenberg (Miami Herald) reports he accepted a probation deal yesterday which should allow him to remain in the US and in the Navy, "In a surprise, his court-appointed lawyer Clark Mervis notified Judge Cecilia Altonaga that they had accepted the offer late Monday. Details were still secret Tuesday but his attorney said it did not address the issue of Dawkins' citizenship. Separately, the U.S. immigration agency has agreed not to detain him on a 1992 removal order." Susannah Nesmith (New York Times) adds, "Before serving in the Navy, he was in the Army, and both branches believed he was a citizen when he enlisted, as did the State Department when it issued him a passport, in spite of a deportation order dating to 1992." Whether or not Elisha is a US citizen became an issue after the persecution began. Prior to this year, he assumed that, as he had had been told his whole life, he was a citizen. Part of the reason the government agreed to halt any pursuit of deportation is that they can't currently prove he's not a citizen. Brian Hamacher (NBC Miami) explains, "Under Tuesday's deal, Dawkins admitted to checking the wrong box on the application but didn't admit guilt to any crime. The charge is expected to be dropped, with Dawkins performing community service."

Meanwhile Sgt Jore Rodriguez continues his pursuit of justice. While he was training and service, CitiMortgage, in violation of the law and apparently falsifying evidence, foreclosed on his home. Saturday Bob Van Voris (Bloomberg News) reported Rodriguez has filed suit against Citigroup Inc due to the fact that while he doing pre-deployment training in 2006, CitiMortgage attempted to steal his home by filing false paperwork insisting "Rodriguez wasn't on active service at the time, depriving him of protection under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act". Reuters added, "Rodriguez said his property was sold at foreclosure for about $137,900, or $13,400 more than his original mortgage. He said he received no proceeds from the sale. The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of U.S. armed forces members whose homes were foreclosed upon improperly by CitiMortgage from Dec. 19, 2003 to the present." Bob Van Voris also notes, "Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and Morgan Stanley agreed in May to pay $22.4 million to resolve U.S. allegations that they improperly foreclosed on active-duty soldiers. JPMorgan Chase & Co. earlier agreed to a $56 million settlement of claims that it illegally overcharged military personnel on home loans." JPMorgan, of course, didn't just 'agree' to pay large settlement. They were first called to the carpet by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in the US Congress. That was February 9th of this year and we'll note this key moment from the hearing between US House Rep Bob Filner and JPMorgan Chase's Stephanie Mudick.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: Uhm, how many executive vice presidents are there at Chase? Or, let me put it another way, how high are you up in the heirarchy there?

Stephanie Mudick: Uh, I am a member of Chase's Executive Committee which is fewer than a hundred employees at Chase -- at JPMorgan Chase.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: And what does the 100 people do? I mean, that's the highest policy making thing in Chase?

Stephanie Mudick: Uh, there is an Operating Committee which is a group of approximately 20 people.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: How many executive vice presidents are there?

Stephanie Mudick: I don't have the answer to that question, sir, I'm sorry.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: But you'll find out for me, right?

Stephanie Mudick: I will indeed.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: Could you fix things if we need to ask? I mean, you're here on behalf of Chase so I assume that means you can fix things. Can you fix things? I mean, you said you weren't aware of that hotline number [a JPMorgan Chase number to deal with SCRA problems which Julia Rowles testified was just an answering machine passed off as a hotline and one that has now been disconnected for months]. Can you find it out right away? Can you call someone and say, "What's going on there?"

Stephanie Mudick: Uh, together with-with my colleagues -- There is -- I would say --

Ranking Member Bob Filner: Okay, so you can't fix things.

Stephanie Mudick (Con't): -- there are many -- Excuse me, sir. I would say that we try and fix whatever --

Ranking Member Bob Filner: Okay, the Rowles testified that they didn't have any statements for a year, you hadn't cashed their last mortgage check. Can you fix that today?

Stephanie Mudick: Uh --

Raking Member Bob Filner: You said you were going to make them whole. They've brought up several questions. Can you fix that?

Stephanie Mudick: We are trying to fix --

Ranking Member Bob Filner: I don't want a "we." You? Can you fix that?

Stephanie Mudick: I can, together with my colleagues causes changes to be made in our organization. Uh -- and with respect to the Rowleses -- Uh, uhm, you know,,we are trying to figure out how we can come to an agreement --

Ranking Member Bob Filner: Come to an agreement because of a lawsuit. But you said you were going to make them whole. As I read your statement, your average payment to make people whole was seventy dollars. Does that make people whole who've gone through this stuff?

Stephanie Mudick: The-the median payment is $70 and-and let me explain to you how-how we get to that number.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: Because you're just dealing with the amount of interest you overpaid plus some fees, that's all you're dealing with. You're not dealing with any human costs or any emotional costs or any pain and suffering as they would say. You're just dealing with the amount of interest and fees that you overcharged. Right? I mean that's what it says here [holds up Mudick's prepared statement] anyway.

Stephanie Mudick: Congressman, most of the, uh, service members who were impacted by this, uh, are-are not even aware that they overpaid. And in part that's because the amount they overpaid was not-not material to them.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: I can't believe that there's nobody else going through what the Rowles did. But, you know, I mean, you can't make the changes, you're not making them whole. Why should -- You broke the law. Your bank broke the law. Shouldn't someone go to jail for that?
Stephanie Mudick: Uh --

Ranking Member Bob Filner: And who should? Who should? Who's responsible? Are you as the executive v.p. who was given us by the bank to answer for this? Should you go to jail?

Stephanie Mudick: Uh, we are doing a review internally in order to --

Ranking Member Bob Filner: I want to know --

Stephanie Mudick: -- figure out --

Ranking Member Bob Filner: -- who's responsible?

Stephanie Mudick: -- who's responsible for what happened.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: Are you going to tell us who? Are you going to give us a person? Or people? That are responsible?

Stephanie Mudick: Well we will certainly hold those folks who are resposible for this accountable.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: I want to know about you. You broke the law. How are we going to hold you accountable? Are we going to know who did what when?
Late Monday afternoon, the Dow Jones Wire updated a report to note that CitiMortgage finally had a comment to this story that garnered press attention over the weekend: They were looking into the charges. Of course they were. Leigh Remizowski (CNNMoney) reports on the issue:

His home had also been sold at a foreclosure sale, and the affidavit stated that Rodriguez was "not on active duty with any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States or was not protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act," according to the suit.
The law prevents foreclosure proceedings from beginning until nine months after the service member returns from active duty.

Remizowski gets a statement from CitiMortgage that offers more words than they provided on Monday but still says nothing. On the topic of veterans issues, Senator Patty Murray is Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office notes:
FOR PLANNING PURPOSES: Contact: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 (202) 224-2834

VETERANS: Murray to Hold Hearing on Gaps in Mental Health Care

(Washington, D.C.) – Tomorrow, Thursday, July 14th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing to discuss access to mental health care services, including waiting times and staffing levels, outreach to veterans, integration of mental health care into primary care, suicide prevention and problems identified by the VA Inspector General in mental health care.

The hearing will include testimony from:

· Daniel Williams – An Iraq veteran who will describe how an IED explosion during his 2003/2004 deployment to Iraq led to TBI and PTSD injuries. Williams will describe how those experiences then led to a suicide attempt in 2004 that was broken up by wife and local police. He will also discuss how his PTSD was received by fellow soldiers, his concerns over the stigma attached to the mental wounds of war, and his frustrations with mental health care administered by the VA.

· Andrea Sawyer – Andrea is the caregiver and spouse of Sgt. Loyd Sawyer, an Iraq veteran. Andrea will discuss how even after a suicide attempt her husband was force to wait months for an appointment at the VA and how despite having severe chronic PTSD he has often been confronted by other red tape and delays in efforts to get care.

The hearing will also include testimony and questions from the VA's Assistant Inspector General for Health Care who will testify and take questions on investigations the IG's office has done into mental health care challenges at the VA. A full list of witnesses is available

WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee

WHAT: Hearing to discuss VA's mental health care services

WHEN: Thursday, July 14th, 2011
10:00 AM ET

WHERE: Russell Senate Office Building
Room 418
Washington, D.C.