Friday, July 22, 2011

Bernie Sanders

"The Week in Review" (Senator Bernie Sanders):

House Speaker John Boehner on Friday walked out of debt-reduction negotiations with President Obama. Facing an Aug. 2 deadline to keep the government from defaulting on its debts, Obama summoned congressional leaders to an emergency meeting at the White House on Saturday. A deal Boehner left on the table reportedly would slash $3 trillion from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs for working families. Sen. Bernie Sanders had been sharply critical of that package. "Sorry Mr. President. No deal." He particularly regretted that the president put Social Security in jeopardy. "It saddens me very much that the president is going back on his promises," he said. Sanders solution: raise the debt ceiling now to avoid default and take the debate over budget priorities to the American people in 2012. He sized up the situation in interviews with "The Situation Room" on CNN and "News Hour" on PBS.

‘I Agree with Mitch McConnell' As an Aug. 2 deadline neared, Sanders stressed the importance of raising the debt ceiling so the United States can continue to pay its bills and avoid default for the first time in history. In a phrase he probably never uttered before, Sanders embraced a proposal by the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to raise the debt ceiling now and debate what to do about deficits during the 2012 campaign. "Let's take the case to the American people," Sanders told radio host Ed Schultz. Listen to Thursday's interview.

Save Social Security In a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, Sanders focused on Social Security cuts that congressional Republicans and the White House put on the chopping block. Sanders pleaded with the president to keep a 2008 campaign promise to protect the program that helps more than 50 million retirees and disable people. It would be "absolutely wrong" to make Social Security cuts part of a deficit-reduction package when it hasn't contributed a dime to deficits, he said. The program is funded by payroll taxes, not the U.S. Treasury. It currently has a $2.6 trillion surplus. It can pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next quarter century. Watch the speech.

Gang of Six Gang of Six One of worst proposals on how to reduce red ink came out Wednesday from a group of senators calling themselves the Gang of Six. They want massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and virtually every program important to working families, the sick, the elderly, the children and the poor. "While I am sure that they did not get everything that they wanted, I think it's fair to say they won about 80 percent to 90 percent of what they fought for," Sanders said. With only a touch of sarcasm, Sanders congratulated Sens. Coburn, Crapo and Chambliss. John Nichols, writing for The Nation, called Sanders "the one senator who has stood most steadily in defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid-and for fiscally sound budgeting." Read the blog. Watch the speech.

Senate Budget Committee For months, Sanders worked as a member of the Senate Budget Committee on an approach to deficit reduction that matches increased revenue with spending reductions. At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are becoming wealthier and are paying the lowest effective tax rates in modern history, when corporations are making billions of dollars and making nothing in taxes at all, Sanders said at least half of a deficit reduction package should come from ending tax breaks and tax loopholes for the wealthy and large corporations. The committee chairman quietly put forward a proposal that met those guidelines, but it has languished.

Government TransparencyThe Fed The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about $16 trillion in secret loans the central bank doled out during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. An amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Wall Street reform law directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct the study. Sanders highlighted two key findings: 1) the Fed lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest despite serious potential for abuse and 2) the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations. Read more about it in The Washington Post.

Vermont Yankee A federal judge on Monday denied Entergy Corp.'s bid for a temporary injunction in a legal fight over the state's plant. "The ruling is good news for the people of Vermont. The law is very clear that Vermont has the right to close the plant based on economic and other considerations," Sanders said. Read more.

That's the week in review from Senator Bernie Sanders' office.

A great deal is going on in terms of our economy. They're trying to scare the American people into believing (and supporting) false charges so that they can gut Social Security and take that huge sum of money and turn it into a gift for Wall Street.

They've tried to creat this artificial deadline and pretend like it's the end-all-be-all.

That's a trick they probably realized after Bush's efforts to gut Social Security failed. They realized they needed some way to scare people. Unable to attach 9-11 to Social Security, they created another faux 'event.'

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, July 22, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Roy Gutman advocates for the US military to stay in Iraq (will McClatchy speak to him of perceived conflicts of interests?), Raed Jarrar exhibits a new form of crazy, Justin Raimondo calls out a faux peace member, Iraqis take to the streets, and more.
Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with journalist Patrick Cockburn about the propaganda on the Libyan War. Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday. Excerpt.
Kevin Pina: Patrick recently wrote an article called "Remember the Kuwaiti Incubators! Those Libyan Atrocities: Do They Really Stand Up?" which was seen on Patrick Cockburn, welcome to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio.
Patrick Cockburn: Thank you.
Kevin Pina: Patrick, obviously we've seen a lot of propaganda, what people would consider propaganda -- what people would consider propaganda -- around the invasion, the NATO attacks on Libya, everything short of an invasion of ground forces at this point. But now of course in the last week we heard that Gaddafi had to go and just two days ago we've heard a complete reversal by France and now seemingly the United States and the United Kingdom seem to be softening their positions as well. How do we make sense out of all of this?
Patrick Cockburn: Well I think it's easy enough to understand when they started the air war in Libya, they thought Gaddafi would go almost immediately and he's still there months later. So it's really the consequence of failure.
Kevin Pina: Well failure but they seem to have been very successful in terms of pulling the wool over a lot of people's eyes. People thought, you know, that Gaddafi was the Great Satan again and the United States was involved in yet another Holy War to unseat a dictator -- and the United Kingdom as well.
Patrick Cockburn: Yeah, I find it pretty amazing after the experience we've had in Iraq and Afghanistan that the propaganda and the acceptance of propaganda has in many ways been worse. I mean initially this was presented -- the armed intervention -- by Britian, France, the United States and some others -- was presented as purely humanitarian venture. This was to keep Libyans alive. And then this very rapidly transmuted into regime change to getting rid of Gaddafi. And systematically throughout atrocities have been exaggerated. You know, you'll remember the mass rape story that Gaddafi's forces had been told to rape and been given viagra to encourage them? Well this story was on CNN, it was elsewhere, people were shocked by it, I think it was even mentioned by Obama, but this has been investigated very carefully by Amnesty International, by Human Rights Watch in New York who had their people in Libya and they found that there was absolutely no evidence for it. Another story was that mercenaries were being used from the rest of Africa. Again it turned out when that was investigated that people being presented on TV as mercenaries from other parts of Africa were in fact undocumented migrant laborers. [. . .] the people who appeared on television, were later in fact released because whatever they were, they weren't mercenaries. So these propaganda stories appear on television, appear in the media and to a greater degree even when they're wrong, they're never refuted, even when it emerges there's no evidence for them.
Another segment started off promising . . .
Kevin Pina: And next we're going to take a look at the human rights situation in Iraq. After all, what on earth did we fight this war for, what have we spent all of this money for on the war in Iraq if not to bring better government and "democracy" to the Iraqi people? Unfortunately what we're hearing is that the government that has replaced -- the US installed government -- is equally as oppressive as the so-called dictator Saddam Hussein who we released them from. Let's go to this clip from Al Jazzera to set this piece up.
Rawya Rageh: 19-year-old Aya Mohammed has seen it all. Her entire family was killed in an uprising against Saddam Hussein soon after she was born and she recently fled from an abusive foster family. Now after joining Iraq's protest movement, Aya and seven other colleagues were sexually harassed and beaten while protesting in Baghdad's Tahrir Square last month.
Aya Mohammed: Pro-government supporters started calling us "whores" and "prostitutes." Then they began molesting and groping us. Five men restrained me and tried to rip my clothes off. When I approached security forces bleeding and with a broken tooth, asking for help, they said its not their responsibility.
Rawya Rageh: Angered by the attack, activists have waged a campaign demanding an apology from the government. Those who assaulted them, they maintain, were members of the security forces. Street molestation is not common in tribal Iraq and until now women campaigners had not been specifically targeted.
Yana Mohammed (Women's Freedom In Iraq): For the first time this happens in Iraq. We have never heard of it. And at this moment, we are telling the society and especially those in the Green Zone that this is an era of women. They cannot lock us into our houses.
Rawya Rageh: In a report on the June 10th assault against both male and female protesters, Human Rights Watch said Iraqi soldiers not only stood by while Iraqi protesters were attacked but also that some of those abusing the demonstrators were carrying police identification badges.
Joe Stork (Human Rights Watch): It's not every day that thugs with clubs flash their police i.d.s at us. The government needs to find out who was responsible for the assaults and punish them appropriately.
Rawya Rageh: Al Jazeera has requested comment from Baghdad Operations Command but we did not get a response. Not a surprise say activists. The sexual assaults on female protesters is symptomatic of a much bigger problem in Iraq, they say. Writer and radio host Ahlam Al Obeidi was also beaten up in the protests. She says women's rights are being flouted all around the new Iraq -- even in Parliament.
Ahlam Al Obeidi: I asked Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, why make claims about freedom and democracy when women are being attacked on every corner? Why claim there's any change when it's for the worse?
Rawya Rageh: She's calling for an open-ended sit-in in the heart of the capitol until the government investigates the attack against them. Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera, Baghdad.
But after the above, the segment quickly went to Crazy Town. Raed Jarrar's newest lie/fantasy is that reporting on the above, as Rawya Rageh did, is done to argue that the US should stay. Jar-Jar: "These attempts to bring up the crimes of the Iraqi government in the last few weeks are not really about exposing the crimes of the Iraqi government, they are more about justifying a longer US occupation."
Raed is a DUMB ASS.
And that needs to be said because he's now introducing a whole new level of CRAZY into the conversation. As I said in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 and this year, the SOFA didn't mean the Iraq War ended and liars like Raed Jarrar were prolonging the war by LYING and telling people the SOFA meant the end of the war.
And as Dona told Raed at one point when he tried to back peddle on the damage he was doing, Take the damn counter off your site! He has a counter -- it's probably still there -- announcing X Days until the Iraq War is over -- based on the SOFA. He's a stupid, stupid idiot who has done untold damage.
And although he's now apparently an American citizen, he pisses on the Constitution as much Bush and Barack. The SOFA is a treaty. It's an illegal one because it violated the Constitution by refusing to get the advice and consent of the Senate -- this was all established in Congressional hearings in 2008. After Barack's in office, Raed bores the hell out of me and anyone else he can bother by insisting he's doing 'serious' work, he's meeting with House members to get them to sign on to the SOFA. What? Yeah, he wants them to sign off on and support a violation of the Constitution. If that ass took a citizenship test, the United States needs to revamp the citizenship test.
I noted Raed in passing last week when Kevin Pina felt the need to have him on the show. I didn't say anything negative and hoped that since it's been demonstrated HE WAS WRONG ABOUT THE SOFA, he'd have a little humility. But that didn't happen obviously. Now he wants to unleash more CRAZY on this country and Iraq.
His idiotic claim that Rawya or anyone else is reporting on violence to keep US forces on the ground in Iraq? That it's a media plot?
I think he means US media so he'd have to leave out Rawya but if you leave out Al Jazeera, you lose a significant portion of the English language coverage from Iraq. But let's set Rawya to the side. This vast conspiracy? If it existed it would make my days a lot easier. I wouldn't have to repeatedly, in one group after another, explain what happens to Iraqi protesters. Now who's been reporting on that, Raed? Not really the Los Angeles Times. Not really the New York Times. Not really McClatchy Newspapers. The Washington Post did report on it.
If it were a conspiracy, don't you think they all would have? Do you really think that when Iraqi reporters were attacked on February 25th that the New York Times would have been turning in the embarrassing 'some say, Nouri says' piece if they were trying to say "IRAQ'S SENDING OUT AN S.O.S. TO THE WORLD!"?
It must be 'freeing' to do none of the work required to make a charge. You don't have to read the coverage, you don't have to be familiar with it, you don't have to be able to support anything you say, you just blindly make your charge.
Reality: While Raed's beat his little pud in public and insisted "Barack's ending the Iraq War 'cause he's so dreamy and sexy!!" for the last three years, some of us have been calling attention to the realities in Iraq. Raed didn't do a damn thing to draw attention to the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community. Raed hasn't done a damn thing to note the massacres of the Camp Ashraf residents. Despite working with a group that pretends it's a religious group (to be a group of Christians, you have to believe in Christ -- that's non- negotiable, that is the very definition of Christian), Raed's done nothing as Iraqi Christians were targeted.
He can tell us how groovy Barack is. He can tell us what it's like to dream and drool of Barack all night and wake up with his wang stuck to the sheets, but he can't do a damn thing about Iraq. I'm not in the damn mood. I was prepared to let it all just slide by and act as if none of it ever happened. But that was dependent on Raed, at the very least, not starting another harmful wave. But he's doing it again. He's lying and going to Crazy Town. He's trying to start this fear tactic which will mean no one will talk about what bad things in Iraq "because Raed says it's a media conspiracy to keep US troops there!"
I don't have time for his Crazy and Iraq can't afford his crazy.
As he trashed the 'vast media' for their conspiracy to keep the troops in Iraq, he never showed the slightest clue of how little Iraq coverage there actually is. US? There is AP, there is McClatchy, there is the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine and CNN. That is it. NPR doesn't have a reporter permantently in Iraq. Kelly McEvers is pulled out anytime something might be happening elsewhere in the Arab world and sent there.
For Raed to suggest -- as he did -- that Ned Parker is part of some vast conspiracy is just deplorable. In fairness to Raed, he didn't name Ned. Because he doesn't know who the hell Ned is. But he does know that a report was just done on the secret prison. That was Ned Parker's report. And, no, he didn't write it because he wants US troops to stay in Iraq or because he wants them to leave Iraq or because he wants to do a Zodiac chart reading on each of them. He reported on the issue because it's news and because it's the issue he's been reporting on forever. And before he was zooming in on the secret prisons? He was reporting on the realities of the Ministry of the Interior (the third and fifth floor especially) which is of course related to the current scandals. But Raed couldn't tell you that either.
But he can go on the radio and insult Ned Parker's nonstop work on this issue and suggest that Ned Parker has just reported on the secret prison for the first time and did so only because Ned Parker wants to keep US troops in Iraq. That's not only insulting to the fine work Ned Parker's consistently done, it's damaging and we can't afford the damage from Raed again.
Repeating, the know-nothing began (WRONGLY) insisting publicly at the end of 2008 that the Iraq War would be over in 2011 due to the SOFA. Come December 31, 2011, all US troops would leave Iraq. They had to, he insisted, it was in the SOFA.
As I said at one point when I was pissed, when you can -- as I have -- break a multi-million dollar contract with a corporation and walk away without being sued, then you come talk to me about contract law. Until then, sit your tired ass down. And for bonus points, let's see you, as I did, walk away with the money the contract promised you.
Raed didn't know what he was talking about then, he doesn't know what he's talking about now. But he's laying down the party line: PANHANDLE MEDIA SHALL NOT REPORT ANY BAD THINGS HAPPENING IN IRAQ BECAUSE TO DO SO IS TO TAKE PART IN THE MEDIA CONSPIRACY TO KEEP U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ. Fools believed Raed last time, I'm sure many a fool will this time as well. But the ones they're hurting are the Iraqi people. Iraqis who have the guts to protest despite all the obstacles, Iraqis who speak out about the repression under Nouri (aka Little Saddam) need to be heard. They're not as lucky as Raed, they can't run -- with their tail between their legs -- back to the US. You got a serious charge, go into it, establish it. I'll show you how.
Scott Horton: Sounds like it's been a rough time over there in Iraq. You had some reports from a couple of weeks ago about the bombings there. But I think first I'd like to ask you in the context of the recent violence in Iraq, if you could verify that I read it right, that they sort of have made a deal where the Americans have agreed, they're not asking to keep combat troops in the country anymore, just trainers, and that that's basically the loophole in the Status Of Forces Agreement that's going to keep troops in Iraq, that both sides are happy with that and the deal has been made? Do I read that right?
Roy Gutman: I have to be honest, I am not up with the very latest thing of the last 48 hours simply because I've been traveling. There was that possibility though, I know, to have trainers stay on. I think it's inadequate. I think that forces are needed for other purposes and that one should not be satisifed with trainers. That said, my visits to US bases and talks with Iraqis, as well as with Americans, leads me to think that American training is very much prized by the Iraqis and I think the American military really feels it's doing the right thing by carrying on with training. So if that is the deal, it's only partially what needs to be done but it is certainly a very important component.
Scott Horton: Well I guess my question would be is the Parliament representative of the people of the country enough that Maliki and the current government represent the power that would rule Baghdad, would be in charge of the country if America wasn't there helping them or not because if so, it seems like, why would they need American troops, you know?
Roy Gutman: Well, you know, they've had elections. It was in March of last year. A government emerged from that election but it took all of last year. And it is not yet a completed government yet because there is a lot of wrangling at the very top between Maliki and Ayad Allawi who is the other leading politician who actually won more seats than Maliki's coalition but in fact not enough to actually have a majority. So that Parliament is a representative Parliament. No one that I know of has indicated that that election was anything but a real, genuine, fair election and with a minimum of corruption and fraud. So, yes, that's a real Parliament. But now,here's the problem Scott, you get a real Parliament elected with a lot of factions involved and it is very tough to get a bill through that Parliament. Well, look at our Congress, I mean, if you want to look at the debt debate right now. Not an easy thing to get real things done. Why do they need Americans to stay on? Basically it's because the Iraqi army, there was an Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein and it had some very professional officers but on the whole the army was tained by some of the things they did, you know, the use of gas against the Kurds, some of the firing of missiles into Iran, a lot of the things. So the whole officer corps was really tainted by it. with some exceptions. And then the Americans basically dissolved their military. So you have a new institution being created there and it is not easy, it is not fast. And they're training, as I've had it explained to me, was never anything like the kind of training Americans do. They're in a dangerous neighborhood and they recognize that they're not up to speed.
Scott Horton: So this isn't -- you would say then if I understand you right that it's not that the Iraqi army needs the American forces there to keep them as the Iraqi army to prevent internal dissent from taking their power away simply that power is natural enough to them. What they need is specialized training so they can keep other countries from messing with them. Is that what you're saying?
Roy Gutman: Uh - uh, that's right in a nutshell.
Roy continues, he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about especially when he's starts talking 'internal' and 'insurgents.' I've heard what he's describing before. I heard it in 2008 from Joe Biden but Joe knows a thing or two and what Joe was pointing out was that doing this would be CHOOSING SIDES. Roy Gutman has no awareness of that.
And I want to know how Roy Gutman gets to continue to cover Iraq? He shouldn't be allowed to cover Iraq. There are reporters who offered the opposite side of Gutman and were punished. But now every one reading Roy's filings from Iraq knows that Roy feels the US needs to stay in Iraq. How is that shaping his coverage?
Some may insist Roy can be objective. Were it true, that's not the standard. The standard is do your actions provide cause for anyone to question your objectivity?
And the political situation in Iraq is always up in the air. So how does McClatchy justify Roy Gutman's labeling Ayad Allawi "feckless and inept" and "no where near as impressive as Maliki's been"?
And how do you reconcile the praise for Nouri with his secret prisons -- Oh, wait. Roy Gutman never reports on that. Roy Gutman never reports anything uncomfortable for Nouri. Possibly we now know why.
With the interview alone, I've raised questions and documented why. We could do Roy's entire Iraq file. We could do all of his remarks. We could drop back to last year -- want to? -- when Ava and I pointed out his embarrassing appearance on The Diane Rehm Show in June of 2010. From "Media: Let's Kill Helen!"
On things worth hearing, Iraq did surface briefly and accidentally on Diane Rehms's show Friday. Yochi's usual and expected attacks on Iran resulted in Ashraf calling in to correct Yohci's incessant lies. In the process, Ashraf declared, "I think that, for all the reporters, they should be more responsible because what happened in Iraq was because of the reporters. Misinformation and stirring just to get the rage up. "
You just knew Yochi wasn't having any of it. He stopped digging around his asshole with his own tongue long enough to exclaim, "I think all of us who work for a somewhat beleaguered industry would wish that the media was as powerful as to have caused a war. [Roy Gutman is heard guffawing if you listen closely. Shame on him.] There were deep flaws in the reporting pre-war in Iraq. To say that the media caused the war is, I think, a stretch."
First off, Yochi, the economy sucks for nearly everyone, it's a recession, you idiot. Second, the media lied, the media is responsible for helping Bush sell the illegal war. That Roy Gutman's fat ass could be heard chortling on air was disgusting since Roy worked for Knight-Ridder which was the only outlet that refused to play megaphone and actually and consistently do reporting. Shame on you, Roy Gutman. You damn well know better.

Roy of course tried to lie his way out of the above. Insisting that wasn't him laughing (it was him, you can hear it yourself, it was also confirmed that it was him by Diane's staff). (For more chuckles on Roy, see Mike's post here -- killer line "You sort of get the impression that Roy Gutman's spent the last decades covering socials and tea rooms.")
McClatchy's position is not Roy's laughter. McClatchy's official position was represented in the debut of Bill Moyers Journal, "Buying The War" and provided by Warren P. Strobel, Jonathan S. Landay and John Walcott.
Roy rejects that view. Roy goes on the radio with Scott Horton and 'explains' that the US military must stay in Iraq -- a decision that supposedly hasn't been made yet. Readers desperate for independent and unbiased state of Iraq coverage to form their own opinions can still have faith in Roy Gutman's call? I don't think so.
This is the same Roy Gutman, please remember, who made the most siginficant error you can make in print: DISTORTING THE WORDS OF ANOTHER. January 8th of this year -- and we called it out repeatedly -- Roy insisted that Moqtada al Sadr had "called on his followers Saturday to abandon the use of violence" but that's not what he said at all. And McClatchy never issued a correction. Not everyone got it wrong:

In his report of the speech, Jim Muir (BBC News -- video) observed that "he said the resistance goes on by whatever means and so on." (For a text report by Muir, click here.) Here's Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post): "His followers, he said, must continue to focus on fiercely resisting the United States, but perhaps also targeting their own government if it cannot restore services or security and hold to a timeline for a full U.S. military withdrawal by the end of 2011." Does that sound like the end of violence? No, it does not. And here's Ned Parker, Saad Fakhrildeen and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times):

Roy Gutman is a lousy reporter. (And incredibly touchy.) His statements to Scott Horton should get him pulled off Iraq coverage. This isn't debatable. He's not a columnist. He's supposed to be a reporter and the editor in Iraq of the moment. He crossed serious lines and we can document doing that over and over throughout his Iraq coverage.
Some might disagree with me. That's their right. And they may be right. But I didn't say, "Oh, there's this vast conspiracy and everytime you read bad news it's because they're trying to extend the US presence! Case closed!" I offered specific examples.
Roy Gutman advocated a position that no reporter's allowed to do unless they're doing particpatory reporting. His comments were out of line and he should be pulled from the beat. (He actually should be written up for what he said during that interview. He won't be. As Chris Hedges and others can tell you, you're only punished by your newspaper for personal opinions when they go against the Embrace of War.)
But let's address his nonsense which argues that the US must stay in Iraq as "trainers." They won't be "trainers" anymore than "combat operations" ended August 31, 2010. There was a time when Thomas E. Ricks was still a reporter and he would have had a good laugh over Roy Gutman's assertion that US military can be "trainers." (Ricks is for continuing the war, I am only noting that Ricks wouldn't have gone along with that nonsense in his hey day.)
"Combat operations" ended, Barack proclaimed months ago. But in today's news cycle,
Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq's Ahrar bloc member Youssef Attai accused US Forces of carrying out intensified patrols in residential neighborhoods in Diwaniya and arresting citizens without the knowledge of the local government, a source told Alsumaria." Alsumaria TV notes, "US Forces increased military patrols in the regions surrounding its military bases in Babel, Diwaniya and Waset, the US military said. These measures aim to protect US military bases in these regions and around Iraq against attacks by Iran-supported groups, the US military noted."
But Gut Man wants you to believe they can just be "trainers." Trainers with guns. Trainers with the right to defend themselves. Trainers who will do police operations throughout Iraq.
Reality, the US can't afford to keep forces over in Iraq. Ask the American people about the spiraling debt and they say: END THE WARS. Reality, the US can't stay in Iraq forty years to keep Nouri in office until he gets his golden parachute (or bullet to the head -- the latter being far more likely). They had eight years. That was way too many. They're an installed regime that most likely cannot stand its own and it is for that reason that they want the US to stay. It is for that reason that they are (again) asking the US to choose sides in a civil war.
They've had 8 years. This regime is incapable of learning anything other than learned helplessness. It is not the responsibilty of the US to train or WEEN Nouri's regime and it is not worth one US life. Enough US blood has been spilled for that illegal war that didn't bring democracy but damn well put a despot in charge and looks the other way now as he becomes more and more the New Saddam. And I can go out on a libm and say that because it's not much of a limb. Even if Barack's re-elected, there are people will be leaving his administration and making similar points when they do -- for example, people who've always seen Nouri as a despot and won't have any reason to hold their tongue after they're out of the administration.
Roy Gutman's based his opinion (publicly) on Nouri needs this and Nouri needs that. But the reality is that actual independent organizations -- whether it's Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch or even the Carnegie Endowment for Peace -- have documented what Nouri's doing. It doesn't match up with the happy little spin Gut Man gave it.
And while Raed Jarrar thinks that the bad news out of Iraq will insist that the US stays, the reaction should be the complete opposite. Other than supress the Iraqi people, there's nothing left to be done by the US in Iraq. Staying means particpating in the harm of the people. Staying means endorsing attacks -- physical attacks (beatings, kidnapping) -- on journalists who tell the truth that Nouri doesn't want them to. Staying means ignoring human right abuses (continuing to ignore them). The US-installed regime is one of the most corrupt in the world. Why do you think the oil-for-food money vanished? Why do you think Nouri tries to insist it was a US issue?
There has been and will be no progress. The Iraqi people are not represented by their government at all. Their government is made up of hand-picked politicans that got the US stamp of approval (even Moqtada had his usefulness when it came to scaring the Iraqis into submission), these exiles who left Iraq and only returned after the US invaded. They now rule over a people who grew up in Iraq, who lived in Iraq.
You wouldn't stand for that if it happened to you and, unlike Roy Gut Man, I don't look down on the Iraqi people, I don't dismiss this or insist that it is the "political elites and the military elites" of Iraq that we need to listen to.
There has been no progress. There will be no progress. And if Barack's re-elected and he keeps the US military in Iraq, look for him to kick Samantha Power out of his inner circle by 2013 because even he won't be able to pretend she's got wisdom that long. She's selling her usual crap and insisting it's "humanitarian intervention" and that it just needs a little more of that to kick start the whole democracy "bloom" (her term) in Iraq. It is not happening. No roots of democracy can be planted by installing thugs to rule a nation.
Because he's a coward, Raed Jarrar invents a media conspiracy instead of calling out Todd Gitlin. What he falsely accuses the media of (notice, Gutman's advocating for the US to stay, he's not, however, saying "Oh the violence! The violence! The US must stay to end the violence!") is what Toad Gitlin did in his embarrassing piece of trash that justified the Libyan War and tried to provide cover to cop outs like himself. Naturally, when trash floats online it can be traced to Salon. We called it out Sunday. Medea Benjamin called it out Tuesday and, late last night, Justin Raimondo's definitive rebuttal went up. Excerpt.

The last person we need to hear from on the state of the antiwar movement is surely Todd Gitlin, the has-been "New" Left leader now a college professor of something-or-other. After all, it was none other than Gitlin, in the run up to the invasion of Iraq – and the biggest antiwar demonstrations since his own heyday – who took to the pages of Mother Jones magazine and criticized the antiwar movement for not "rebuking" Saddam Hussein. He was appalled at the signs at antiwar rallies calling for "No Sanctions" and "No Bombing." Sure, the sanctions were "a humanitarian disaster for the country's civilians," wrote Gitlin, but –echoing the claims made by Washington – he averred that the Iraqi government "bears some responsibility for that disaster." This was nonsensical back then, and it is even more so now that we know there never were any "weapons of mass destruction," as the US government claimed, and therefore no justification for the sanctions.

And what, pray tell, would an "antiwar" movement that refused to oppose bombing amount to, exactly? What universe is Gitlin living in? The same universe he's living in today – one in which a former antiwar "leader" has turned into a cheerleader for "liberal" imperialism of the sort practiced by his hero, Barack Obama. This is clear from the content of his latest screed, a tract purporting to explain why the antiwar movement is in the doldrums.

Medea's rebuttal included:
He [Todd] leaves out some other daggers to the heart of the movement: grass-roots election campaigns that lured away millions of activists; betrayals by the president and groups like MoveOn who used and abused the antiwar sentiment; craven congressional reps who violate the will of their constituents by continuing to fund war; powerful lobbyists for the war industry who wield enormous power in Washington; and the utter exhaustion that sets in after 10 years of standing up to the largest military complex the world has ever seen.
Raed just pretends like it never happened. While inventing a media conspiracy.
In the real world, Iraqis face enough real threats and don't need to practice 'creative visualization' in order to invent ones. Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh Tweets.
Rawya Rageh
RawyaRageh Rawya Rageh
The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "REAFFIRMATION OF IRAQ'S DIGNITY FRIDAY - Masses of people answering the call to attend the protests despite the fact that that there are a great many strictures and restrictions and the presence of Haliki's hooligans in great numbers armed with clubs and knives as well as guns." They note that security forces in Baghdad are chasing photographers and "confiscating mobiles [cell phones] wherever they are seen!" And that "A short while ago the use of fire arms and bulllets by government forces in Tahrir to stop the burning of the Iranian flag." Revolution of Iraq notes that all but one entrance has been blocked and people are being prevented from bringing in water bottles and that protests are also taking place in Mutanabi. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that Ramadi saw a large turnout as "the Albu Faraj Bridge close to the Speed Way" and that they burned the US and Iranian flags and that "The burning of the Iranian flag came in soldiarity with the Tahrir Youth who were stopped from burning the flag in Tahrir, today, and whose demonstrations and protests were suppressed today with live ammunition." And we'll again note Rawya Rageh.
Rawya Rageh
RawyaRageh Rawya Rageh
Violence was scattered across Iraq today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports 2 people dead in a Baghdad bombing by a store selling alcohol and eight people injured. Reuters notes a Tarmiya bombing which injured six people, a Mosul mortar attack that injured an Iraqi solider, a Baquba checkpoint attack in which 4 police officers and 1 bystander were killed, a Mosul grenade attack injured one police officer, a Mosul armed clash resulted in 1 person dead and two more injured and a doctor was killed in Kirkuk. Lebanon's Daily Star reports 6 Iranian soldiers were "killed in clashes with Kurdish rebels on the boarder with Iraq".
Political Stalemate II continues. Al Mada cites an unnamed State Of Law official for the claim that there will be another meeting at Jalal Talabani's home ('the second in less than a month") in which an attempt will be made to resolve outstanding differences between the parties. Those outstanding differecnes would be the failure of Nouri al-Maliki to abide by the Erbil Agreement which ended Political Stalemate I (the nine month period after the March 7, 2010 elections) and allowed Nouri to remain prime minister. Nouri took what he wanted from the agreement but refused to otherwise follow it.

Those pinning big hopes on the upcoming Jalal House Party should be aware that the other house parties haven't solved anything. In addition, Alsumaria TV observes, "Al Iraqiya List threatens to give a no-confidence vote for Iraq's government and call for early elections in case national partnership fails to be achieved. State of Law Coalition MP Khaled Al Assadi on the other hand accused Al Iraqiya of trying to incite Sunnis under the pretext of political imbalance." Aswat al-Iraq reports that there are doubts that Iraqiya would follow through with a no confidence vote:

The Political Analyist, Issam al-Feily, told Aswat al-Iraq news agency that the pressures, exerted by some political blocs against others are part of a political pressure, confirming that "all political blocs are keen to stay in power and non-withdrawal from it."
"Al-Iraqiya Coalition had been counting highly on the so-called National Council for Strategic Policies (NCSP), because it wanted to achieve something practical from it in drawing Iraq's internal and foreign policies, and when it failed to form the NCSP, al-Iraqiya began to threaten to withdraw from the political process, because in case if it would be formed, it would affect the whole political arena, though it would lead in the end to undermine the current government, due to the existence of more than one party in it, and not the State of Law, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, alone," Faily said.

Aswat al-Iraq also notes, "Aswat al-Iraq: Al-Iraqiya Coalition, led by Iyad Allawi, has called on the Iraqi government to raise a complain at the UN Security Council, about Iranian violations of Iraq's water interests, according to a statement it issued on Thursday." Iran is a topic in Iraq these days for many reasons including the fact that it has entered northern Iraq to attack Kurds it sees as terrorists. Aswat al-Iraq reports of the CIA-backed Goran ("Change") political party in the KRG, "Opposition Kurdish Change Movement Spokesman said that the Iranian atrocities on the Iraqi borders in the Kurdish region are done with the approval of certain circles within the Kurdish authority."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Libyan War

Tuesday on KPFA's Flashpoints Radio, guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Scott Taylor about the Libyan War. Taylor noted that while the media was portraying Gaddafi as being on the offensive, this four month war was, in fact, "one of the biggest David vs. Goliath stories in history." He also noted Gaddafi's ability to turn out large crowds to demonstrate in support of the government indicates that a significant number of Libyans support Gaddafi. (That support most likely was driven up, as Mahdi Nazemroaya has pointed out, by the foreign attacks on Libya.) Kevin Pina noted that the most recent crowd was estimated to be one million.

Taylor noted that despots can't mobilize those kind of numbers, "If they were that hated his secret service would never let that kind of a mob assemble if they realized that they outnumbered the security forces by that number. So I mean obviously it is a little bit more complex than we'd like it to be."

He also pointed out of the so-called rebels, "I don't know what's democratic about taking up arms against your government and then taking tanks and then taking foreign arms as well to wage that."

"Big seat at an empty table" (Scott Taylor, Esprit De Corps):

On July 1, Canada hosted the Royal newlyweds on Parliament Hill and Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed a red and white flagdraped crowd of approximately 250,000.

Earlier that same day, halfway around the world, another national leader was addressing a similar-sized crowd in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. During his lengthy rant of defiance towards the NATO air strikes and Libyan rebels, President Moammar Gaddafi was heartily cheered by a massive crowd, with many waving the green and white flag of Libya.

On July 8, Gaddafi repeated the feat of amassing a huge mob of support in the city of Sabha, almost 800 kilometres south of Tripoli. Virtually no media coverage was given to these events in Canada, as it seems that we are quite content that our air force is bombing a hated dictator in the name of a humanitarian intervention.

I know everyone doesn't say, "Yea! Streaming!" Some can't stream due to computers, some have hearing issues. That's why C.I. always does a transcript of some sort when noting audio. But the above is from Scott Taylor's article on the Libyan War and you can refer to that especially if streaming doesn't help you.

Kevin Pina is guest hosting on Flashpoints Tuesdays through Fridays and he's covering the Libyan War Tuesdays through Thursdays. It airs live at 5:00 pm PST on KPFA.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, July 20, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Ad Melkert 'brief's the UN Security Council on Iraq, Ad Melkert 'mistates' (lies) repeatedly, Jalal Talabani orders a vice president to sign off on the execution orders (his hands are clean!), Senator Patty Murray leads the fight for Vietnam veterans suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, 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. Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday. Excerpt.
Kevin Pina: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, rachets up its bombing campaign in Tripoli, Libya even as negotiations with Gaddafi's government begin in Turkey. On another military front, Libyan government forces repel a coordinated air and land attack by NATO and rebel forces on the oil rich port city of Brega. Our special correspondent Mahdi Nazemroaya explains that this is part of a last ditch military campaign aimed at drawing new borders in what is expected to become a partioned Libya. We now turn our attention back to the ground, direct from Tripoli, Libya, with our special correspondent
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Thank you, Kevin.
Kevin Pina: So obviously there has been a lot going on. There's been negotiations between the so-called rebels and Gaddafi's government. There's talk of Gaddafi stepping down as a result. There seems to be a lot of optimism on the ground there in Tripoli. But there's also been a lot of bombings over the weekend. So bring us up to date.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Alright. Well there was really, really bad bombing over the weekend. It was -- It was -- I'm estimating between 60 to 75 bombs. I could see them from my hotel. My hotel was shaking. And what was very specific and different about the bombings that happened over the weekend was that they were different in the noise that they made and they were different in the color of the clouds and they were different overall. The smoking coming was different. The colors were different. And there was one specific bomb that rose above all the buildings in the skyline which was -- it looked like a mushroom cloud. And this is verified by myself, who saw it, and by a lot of other people. We don't know what this was. People imagine it was probably a bunker buster. It was in two residential areas. It was spread out. But it was concentrated in two residential areas near the Mediterranean Coast in Tripoli. Tajura and Seraj are their names. It started around one -- one o'clock approximately. And it lasted about two hours in Tajura, which is on the Mediterranean Coast from the northern beach. And what was also different about this bombing is people say that there were naval vessels, it was an attack coming from the sea -- aside from planes attacking. And I also saw artillery from the Libyan side. They actually was anti-air craft fire. You could see it from my location. And the bombings were very bad. There was a lot of shaking. All the dogs were barking. Cats were making noises. And the birds were flying. Even, it looked like morning at that point.
Kevin Pina: What do we know about casualties? Were there any civilian casulties or military casualties inflicted?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: There was an attack on a military base. The Libyans themselves have said there was an attack on a military facility. But it also effected civilian areas. The deaths? It's still not clear. They do know that there's a lot of people injured. And there's even claims that they were -- not phosphorus bombs, but something very similar, a substance similar. And the United States and NATO are using a similar substance in a manner to get away with -- in a manner of saying that they are not using phosphorus bombs. So these accusations are coming. And that night, this stench, this burning stench, smoke was everywhere and it was burning people's eyes. Skin would stink and people would have to take showers and they had headaches and back pain. There was physical ailments coming just from the smoke that was blowing. In the morning there was this big white cloud that was very different from the other nights, that covered the city, the part of the city that was bombed. A hospital was heavily effected -- a hospital that's called Al Qalb, which means Heart Hospital, the Heart Hospital, which was a children's hospital and a hospital for heart surgery. This was effected and all the patients had to be evacuated because of the bombing. I spoke to one man from one of the residential neighborhoods in the area of approixmately 250 families that live in flats and it's a very clustered area and they were effected. And all the families had to run onto the south end of the beach. They ran for their lives in panic, some drove. It was a nightmare. It was actually a nightmare. And from my point, far away, my place was shaking. They bombed very heavily and it was going on for two hours plus.
Kevin Pina: Well it seems as if these bombings then, this acceleration of the bombing campaign by NATO seems to have preceeded what were deemed negotiations between the west and Gaddafi's government. What do we know about those?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Okay. I want to point out that when they bomb like this, it's tied to these negotiations because they believe it puts them in a positon of strength. This is something standard the United States and its NATO partners have been doing. Whenever it comes to the point of negotiations, they will bomb very heavily because their belief is that they are in a position of strength, after such a bombing they will push the other side into negotiating. Actually it seems like they are negotiating from a position of weakness.
That's an excerpt. Also on Libya, Kevin Pina spoke with Scott Taylor. Elaine's going to write about that tonight so be sure to check her site. Turning to Iraq . . .
Now it all begins
Or continues to
Spiral down
Spiral down
Look upon the self
Look upon the other
We need a better understanding
Or we'll spiral down
Spiral down
Continue to spiral down
I'm no where near my peace
As you spiral down
-- "Spiral Down" written by Michael Timmins, recorded by the Cowboy Junkies on their album at the end of paths taken
Now it all begins, indeed. John Martin (Courier Press) has one of the most important reports of the week but watch most ignore it. He's writing of the 76th Brigade of the Indiana National Guard and "a Notification of Sourcing" -- what Lt Col Mark Weaver says is "the first step on the road" to official mobilization. And what were they notified of? From the article:
National Guard members from Evansville and throughout Indiana are preparing for possible deployment next year, four years since returning from Iraq.
[. . .]
Indiana National Guard officials were told that the next deployment, if it occurs, also would be in Iraq and would be part of Operation New Dawn.
They're awaiting 2012 orders that, if they come in, would mean deployment to Iraq in 2012. Which would be after -- pay attention -- the media and Barack have said US troops would be out of Iraq -- have said that repeatedly for the last three years.
From one 'mispoken' moment to another, Ad Melkert offered happy spin to the UN Security Council. Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf observes:
The United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq knows very little -- or at least that's what he'll claim should Spain put him on the witness stand. But instead of dummying up in front of the UN Security Council yesterday (click here for video), he was full of 'answers' and 'insight.'
Envoy Ad Melkert: This comes at an important time when the Council will be considering UNAMI's mandate renewal next week. "Are you optimistic or are you pessimistic?" has been the question I have been asked most by many. As we know events tend to shape intents -- at least as much as the other way around. In most of what I've witnessed in Iraq, there is ground for cautious optimism provided that determined leadership in the country and a stronger sense of cooperation in the region with Iraq prevails. In some important aspects, Iraq is at the heart of fundamental changes in the region. The Iraqi sense of government incorporates a power-sharing Constitution guaranteeing participation of women and minorities and nuturing a culture of ongoing Constitutional debate. Regular elections have taken place conducted in line with international standards. While drawn out, government formation has indeed progressed. Meanwhile Parliament is taking an increasingly important role in decision making. And in departure from decades of authoritarian regime negotations between all parties has become the predominant feature of political life.
He was just getting started. But instead of just looking bored like Susan Rice did, let's examine those claims.
* "Are you optimistic or are you pessimistic?" has been the question I have been asked most by many.
In a non-dualistic world, people would admit there were additional choices -- including the most important one: Are you being realistic?
Sadly, Ad Melkert was not. But we do understand, he lies to get a UNAMI mandate renewal. He should be a lot of fun on the witness stand.
* In most of what I've witnessed in Iraq, there is ground for cautious optimism provided that determined leadership in the country and a stronger sense of cooperation in the region with Iraq prevails.
Let's leave so-called 'leadership' within Iraq to the side and focus on "a stronger sense of cooperation in the region". To describe the region as in turmoil would strike many as a plain statement. Syria's only the most recent brush fire. If you're positive evaluation depends on a future reality that doesn't exist at present, guess what, you're positive evaluation is worthless. In fact, what you've actually offered, beneath the lies, is a negative evaluation which could turn positive should events on the ground in the region suddenly do a 180.
* The Iraqi sense of government incorporates a power-sharing Constitution guaranteeing participation of women and minorities and nuturing a culture of ongoing Constitutional debate.
Really? While the Christians at least appear stable within the Cabinet -- which, Ad Melkert 'forgets' is going through changes to strip it down -- the big rumor is that women are going to be the big losers in the Cabinet changes. They're already under-represented as ministers. But now they're going to lose the ministry itself. That's the rumor. We'll see shortly.
What good is "a power-sharing Constitution" if it's never followed? Nouri doesn't follow it. The Parliament didn't follow it in terms of prime minister-designate. For five years now, Nouri has refused to implement Article 140 of the Constituion. You have to be a damn liar to get up in front of the Security Council (where you'll fit right in) and declare that the "power-sharing Constitution" is something to note when it's regularly ignored.
* Regular elections have taken place conducted in line with international standards.
Nouri threw a fit. He didn't like the results. He demanded recounts. He bullied and he intimidated. Ad Melkert 'forgets' what Iraq had in 2010 and what Nouri's proposing to do away with. Next week, Nouri's political slate (State of Law) is set to propose in Parliament that the independent Electoral Commission be stripped. That's the commission that managed to allow the elections to take place with some sense of international standards. If you're going to brag about those standards, you damn well better get honest about the attack on the body that enforced those standards.
While drawn out, government formation has indeed progressed.
He said that with a straight face. The period following the March 7, 2010 elections include 9 months of Political Stalemate I. November 10th, it appeared the stalemate was broken. Nouri was made prime minister-designate shortly after and the Erbil Agreement was going to be honored and he'd come up with a full Cabinet within 30 days of being named prime minister-designate and . . .
Political Stalemate II arrived. To this day, there is not a full Cabinet. To this day, the positions of Minister of the Interior, Minister of National Security and Minister of Defense are not filled. Nouri -- in what most see as a power-grab -- gave himself those positions (this was not voted on by Parliament). And all these months later, he hasn't filled the ministries.
* Meanwhile Parliament is taking an increasingly important role in decision making.
Reality: Nouri has insisted that Parliament can't write bills. He has insisted that only his Cabinet can write bills and that Parliament should take the bills that he writes and vote in favor of them or against them.
* And in departure from decades of authoritarian regime negotations between all parties has become the predominant feature of political life.
Since June, all the political blocs have met at Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's house three times. You could say this is "negotiations between all parties" becoming "the predominant feature of political life." But it's also true that they're meeting due to Nouri's inability to keep his word and implement the Erbil Agreement -- the thing that ended Political Stalemate I; therefore, it can also be said that Nouri's returned "authoritarian regime" to Iraq.
Last week, the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Center's Maria Fantappie (Los Angeles Times) offered an evaluation that was far less rosy than Ad Melkert:
As a stalemate between the State of Law and Iraqiya coalitions continues to paralyze Iraq's central government, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is looking to the governorates to tilt the political balance in his favor.
In the country's south, Maliki is attempting to defend his base from the growing popularity of the Sadrist Trend. Meanwhile, in Iraqiya's northern strongholds of Anbar, Ninewa, Salaheddine, and Diyala, the prime minister is mounting an ambitious campaign to consolidate his hold over Iraq. By attempting to break the link between provincial leaders and the Iraqiya coalition -- his main parliamentary rival -- Maliki is seeking to bind the governorates to Baghdad.
Already, public demonstrations and a deteriorating security situation in these governorates have challenged the credibility of local political leaders, who came to power following the 2009 provincial election. Governors, deputy governors and heads of provincial councils in all four northern governorates have been repeatedly confronted by protesters calling for service improvements. Recent attacks targeting provincial offices in Salaheddine and Diyala have called into question the competence of police and local security officials.
In Iraq today, Reuters notes a Saadiya roadside bombing claimed 3 lives, a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured, 1 suspect was killed in Baaj by the Iraqi military and a Mosul roadside bombing injured a young boy.
Sardonic Iraq War tweet of the week from the New York Times' Tim Arango.
Tim Arango
tarangoNYT Tim Arango
Al Mada reports that Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, authorized Tareq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents, to sign off on death sentences from the Iraqi judiciary and begin the process of waiting for the Ministry of Justice to issue a decree on the execution of five members of the previous regime in Iraq. Dar Addustour also reports Talabani authorized al-Hashemi to sign the death sentences.

If you're not getting why that's news -- you may actually read as opposed to skimming Newser and other superficial sites which repeatedly 'discover' Talabani's 'opposition' to the death penalty and applaud his 'brave' stance. His opposition isn't to the death penalty, it's to his signing off on it. So he orders others to sign the orders. And repeatedly -- check last November -- gets praised for his 'brave' stand by people who don't understand what the hell they're writing about. He's the President of Iraq. If he wanted to end the death penalty, he could refuse to sign off on the orders and he could insist that the vice presidents do as well. Instead, people have been put to death repeatedly throughout the two terms Jalal has been president. People were still executed but Jalal didn't have to get his hands dirty or fight for a supposed belief and so many ill informed and uninformed enabled him in that.

In other news, Al Sabaah reports that Parliament has formed a committee to investigate what some Iraqis are calling a US helicopter attack in Hilla on a plot of land planted with grain. The US did whatever it was doing -- still to be determined, hence the formation of the committee -- on Sunday and Monday and Monday evening is accused of opening fire on the agricultural area.
Honest, we'll cover Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) important report tomorrow and Kirkuk's desire for US troops to stay (and we'll note that article in more detail tomorrow but there's just not room today) and Kelly McEvers (NPR's Morning Edition) report. But right now, we're way over in length and I'm having to edit this in my head. If sections flow less well than usual, that's why. About a third of the dictated snapshot above has been removed.
Ending on veterans issues in the US, HR 2055 is the Military Construction and Veteran Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012. Senator Tom Coburn added an admendment to it which was seen as a slap in the face to Vietnam veterans suffering from Agent Orange. Agent Orange has a long Congressional history and veterans have had to fight to have their illnesses and disabilities as a result of the US military use of Agent Orange in Vietnam recognized. Sadly, last year a number of Democrats joined in the fight against Vietnam veterans. One, Senator Jim Webb, knew he couldn't run for re-election after stabbing veterans in the back. Today, a vote was taken on the amendment and the good news is it went down in flames. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office notes:
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, helped defeat an amendment that would have created a nearly impossible standard that must be met before VA can establish a presumption of service connection based on exposure to Agent Orange. In a speech before the vote, Senator Murray described the amendment as another hurdle Vietnam veterans would have to overcome in their 40 year struggle for compensation. The amendment, which Murray led the fight against on the floor of the U.S. Senate, ultimately failed to be included in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill when Murray successfully asked that the amendment be tabled and prevailed by a vote of 69-30.
"These veterans have been waiting, and getting sicker, and dying for 40 years or more. How much longer do we think they should wait? The time for waiting is over," said Senator Murray on the Senate Floor before the vote. "Vietnam veterans have paid enough for that war. They should not end up paying for our debt. It is us who owe them a debt."
Read the full text of the speech below:
"Mr. President, I rise to oppose the amendment that has been offered by the Senator from Oklahoma that would undo decades of policy on how we treat veterans suffering from diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure.

"And that violates the promise we have made to a generation of veterans.

"Mr. President, the legacy of Agent Orange exposure among Vietnam veterans is one of tragedy, roadblocks, neglect, pain, and then more roadblocks.

"It's the legacy of our military spraying millions of gallons of poisonous herbicide indiscriminately, without thought of consequences, and without any repercussions.

"At the time of the Vietnam War -- and for far too long after it -- the U.S. government neglected to track Agent Orange exposures.

"Then in the decades following the war -- our government stonewalled veterans who developed horrible ailments of all kinds from those exposures.

"And to further compound the problem, for decades our government also failed to fund any research on Agent Orange and other toxins that Vietnam veterans were exposed to.

"These mistakes, these decades of neglect, have a cost.

"It's a cost to veterans and their loved ones, a cost to the government that sent them to war, and a cost to all of us as Americans.

"And it's a cost that, even in difficult budget times, even with our back against the wall, we can't walk away from.

"Now Mr. President, I'm not here to question any Senator's commitment to our veterans.

"But what I am here to question is the standard by which this amendment says they should be treated.

"This amendment says we should change the standard by which we have judged Agent Orange cases for two decades.

"Currently -- Vietnam veterans are presumed to be service-connected when the VA Secretary determines that a positive association exists between exposure to Agent Orange and a certain disease.

"One of the reasons that Congress chose this mechanism is because it was impossible for these veterans to prove that their exposure to Agent Orange caused their cancers or other diseases.

"These veterans were exposed decades ago.

"They do not know where they were exposed, or how much they inhaled.

"However, under the Senator from Oklahoma's amendment, Vietnam veterans would be asked to prove the impossible.

"They'd be asked to prove that they would never have gotten cancer, or heart disease, or any other disease or condition, if not for Agent Orange.

"Vietnam veterans who have diabetes, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and blood borne diseases would be denied care and benefits under this amendment.

"And not only would this be a new hurdle Vietnam veterans could never overcome -- It would change the rules midstream.

"It would treat Vietnam veterans whose diseases have already been presumptively service-connected different than those whose diseases have not yet been positively associated with Agent Orange exposure.

"Now Mr. President, I won't deny that compensation for exposures is a difficult issue and one that we continually have to look at.

"We've grappled with this issue in relation to Vietnam veterans and exposure to Agent Orange.

"And today we continue to deal with this issue as Iraq and Afghanistan veterans come home with illnesses potentially associated with their exposure to toxins released from burn pits and other environmental exposures.

"But ultimately, you have to look at the facts with reason and compassion, and weigh the years of our military's failure to track exposures, the inevitable existence of uncertainty, and the word of our veterans.

"And that is exactly what we have to do here.

"On the one hand, we have thousands of veterans who have come forward and believe their cancers and ailments were caused by an exposure to a known killer.

"You have studies that show veterans exposed to Agent Orange are more likely to have heart disease, cancer, and other conditions

"You have the Institute of Medicine that has recommended giving veterans the benefit of the doubt.

"And you have the Secretary of Veterans Affairs who has decided that we must move forward to provide compensation to presumptively service-connected veterans exposed to Agent Orange for cancer and heart disease.

"On the other hand -- you may have a compelling fiscal case. . . .

"But the Senator from Oklahoma hasn't presented one shred of evidence that Agent Orange does not cause heart disease, cancer, or any condition.

"What has been presented is an amendment that asks veterans to wait until there is more scientific evidence.

"Well, Mr. President, these veterans have been waiting for 40 years or more.

"How much longer should they wait?

"The Secretary of Veterans Affairs decided that the time for waiting was over.

"I ask that we respect and support this decision.

"And that we also remember that -- even in the midst of this whirlwind debt and deficit debate -- we have made a promise to our veterans.

"One that doesn't go away.

"Mr. President, Vietnam veterans have paid enough for that war.

"They should not end up paying for our debt.

"It is us who owe them a debt.

"Thank you."