Saturday, February 11, 2012

The real implications

Sometimes people miss the point because of their politics.  For example, if a little child is shot at school, it's not really the time to launch into a debate about prayers in schools or some other issue.  If a child is shot at school, the topics are: the child, schools and shootings.

Keep that in mind as you read the following excerpt.

"Obama caves in to Catholic Church, religious right on contraceptives" (Kate Randall, WSWS):
President Obama on Friday caved in to pressure from the Catholic Church and the religious right, announcing that religiously affiliated employers would not be compelled to provide access to birth control as part of medical coverage for their women employees under his federal health care overhaul. 
 Obama said the coverage would instead be provided and funded by insurance companies. 
 This announcement, reversing an earlier decision to require employers, including church-affiliated universities, schools, hospitals and charities, to fund free access to contraceptives as part of their employee health insurance plans, represents a blow against the fundamental democratic principal of separation of church and state, laid down in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Obama had already made a major concession to right-wing forces in the rule his administration announced January 20 by exempting churches from the requirement. 
 Obama and his allies tried to present the reversal as a small adjustment that would retain free access to birth control for women employees while addressing the concerns over “religious liberty” of his critics. But the climb-down has vast legal and social implications. It legitimizes the claim that religion can be used by employers to determine benefits available to their employees, opening the door to more aggressive attacks on workers’ rights on the pretext of religious belief.

The last paragraph, what's the point?  Is Randall trying to say, "See, this is an important issue!"  The article does return to the heart of the matter later on.  But it would have been much stronger if it had started with paragraph six ("It took exactly three weeks for Obama to capitulate . . .")

Yes, there are other implications.  But first and foremost, this is an assault on women's rights.

It doesn't surprise me in the least.  I'm not shocked.  I'm not even outraged because I know what a piece of trash Barack Obama is.  (See "Roundtable" from Sunday.  We were talking about how we're not going to be held hostage by threats to our reproductive rights.)   But until Randall can connect the assault to other assaults on women.

They're a political paper, WSWS is.  If they're interested in exposing the truth about Barack, the place to start is with his attacks on women because women remain one of his most important bases.  All women in the US are the biggest potential voting bloc in this country.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 10, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, implications of Iraq are noted in a series by the New York Times, Nouri faces rumors of involvement with the US CIA, veterans suicides get some attention, banks profit off veterans, and more.
"Asking what the United States should do in Iraq today is an awful question," observes Brookings Institution's Kenneth Pollack.  He took part in the New York Times' "Room for Debate" feature yesterday.  We'll note four of the participants, two men, two women.  It's an interesting discussion and their views are highly similar because it's a range of center to right.  There are no leftists involved in the "room for debate."  We should probably underline that.  In what the New York Times bill as their "room for debate," room for actual debate does not include anyone from the left.
One of the most prominent right-wing voices on Iraq in the last two months has been the Hoover Institution's Kori Schake.  In her piece, she argues the White House made various mistakes and Iraq is now splintering, "This is not what Iraqis wanted, not what they voted for. The political culture of Iraq waas trending toward trust beyond sectarian lines, political leaders seeing electoral benefit in reaching across religious communities and emphasizing the achievements of governing." Also from the right is Cato Institute's Christopher Preble who offers, "A small group of 'true believers' who were instrumental in starting the war want to double down on that losing wager.  They assert that a large U.S. presence might forestall a possible civil war, and counteract Iran's rising influence.  In reality, they simply don't know if a U.S. presence would have this effect. But, as before, they are willing to risk the lives of U.S. troops, and the fortunes of U.S. taxpayers, to cover their high-stakes gamble."  The centerist (some would argue right-leaning) Pollack feels that there are methods the US still can utilize, "We still have some capacity to name and shame, although that requires Iraqi leaders who are not shameless.  We still have some things -- aid, weapons, diplomatic clout -- that the Iraqis want, although that will depend on our own willingness to place long-term interests ahead of political expediency and so provide them.  And we still have some ability to shape the region in which Iraq lives, although that requires an American leadership willing to take on the challenges of the Middle East and not flee to East Asia or some other easier part of the globe." 
The non-partisan Institute for the Study of War's Marisa Cochrane Sullivan argues, "United States policy today is focused on maintaining the status quo in Iraq, offering unqualified support for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in the name of stability.  But the status quo is inherently unstable.  Maliki, emboldened by this support, feels few contraints on his actions and has little incentive to compromise." He has steadily consolidated control over Iraq's security and intelligence institutions, and has effectively isolated and fragmented his political rivals.  Even in the current political crisis, Maliki has used questionable and even unconstitutional tactics to remove rivals without reducing American support. At the same time, the Maliki government has committed widespread human rights abuses in its crackdown on political dissent in Iraq. While the United States may feel Maliki offers the best chance for stability, his consolidation of power may make Iraq more unstable as Iraq's rival factions seek other means to check him -- either through politics or ultimately through force."   And we'll note Schake's simillar observations, "First, we must stop turning a blind eye to Prime Minister Maliki's creeping authoritarianism.  Maliki returned from his White House meeting declaring the end of the war and issued an arrest warrant for his vice president. The White House was silent, as it has been on Maliki's earlier unconstitutional arrogation of power and political machinations, such as arresting hundreds of Sunnis and striking candidates from electoral lists.  While it is probably too much to expect the Obama administration to vigorously contest what is occuring in Iraq's internal politics, we ought at least to bear witness."
It's a serious discussion which would have benefitted from some left voices and from some antiwar voices (left, right or center).  In fairness to the paper, there aren't a lot of honest discussions about the Iraq War on the left these days.  Apparently spines were removed by many to assist with easier ass kissing.  Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) notes the sad case of cat got your tongue plaguing a large number on the left:
I, and many others, were in favor of a large demo in DC that year [2008], as we always did, but one of the lead antiwar(Bush) organizations actually told us, since Democrats were in the majority in the House and they were continuing to fund Bush's wars and not impeach him, that a demo in DC would, "embarrass the Democrats."

Now that we have had two years of a complete Democratic tyranny in DC and almost four years of a Democratic regime in the White House, the antiwar movement has continued its tailspin because it was mostly populated by "liberal" Democrats, or other Democratic functionaries like the Communist Party, USA.

A recent poll commissioned by the Washington Post shows, that by a vast majority "Liberal" Democrats favor keeping Guantanamo Prison (53%) camp and torture facility open and the drone bombing campaigns (77%) that their president has increased by at least 300 percent over the Bush years. Unbelievably, "liberal" Democrats also are in favor of the Presidential Assassination Program where Obama can have any American executed by his order, only. Trials? Like John Yoo's Constitution, these anachronisms will soon be considered "quaint."
In Iraq, the political crisis continues. Shihab Hamid (Dar Addustour) offers that national reconciliation is important to the political and social future of Iraq as well as to the security and stability of the country and that all Iraqis should be able to participate because, otherwise, the price paid with millions dead was for nothing. Al Mada notes that Iraqiya has confirmed to them that there are various plans being put forward for the national conference and that, at Monday's meeting, the National alliance offered a working paper, as did Iraqiya and the Kurdistan Alliance. The plan is for the three proposals to be discussed at the next meeting which is currently scheduled for Sunday. Yes, another meeting to make preparations. President Jalal Talabani and Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference since December. It's February. Is it going to take eight months of preparation? Or, more likely, in a month or two is Nouri just going to say that since they've managed this long without one, they really don't need it?

When Nouri returned to Iraq, his war against Iraqiya and Sunnis became more obvious and he began demanding that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his position and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested on 'terrorism' charges. Al Mada notes that Saleh al-Mutlaq is stating that the problems in Iraq remain serious and that he will not return to Cabinet meetings until there is a guarantee that the political proces will be fixed and that the groundwork for a real partnership is in place. He maintains this needs to take place before the Arab Summit which is scheduled to be held in Baghdad currently. Al Sabaah notes that the meeting is scheduled for March 29th and is part of a series of planned visits by foreigners to Iraq -- a list that's said to include UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visiting.  Aswat al-Iraq notes al-Mutlaq is going on a visit, "An al-Iraqiya Bloc MP described the visit of deputy premier Saleh al-Mutlaq's visit to Turkey as personal, not governmental, pointing out that Mutlaq 'should solve his problems internally without any external intervention'."  But while they acknowledge al-Mutlaq's visit, they say another is not taking place, "Al-Iraqiya Bloc's spokesman denied the news of vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi travelling to Turkey, stressing he is present in Sulaimaniya province, Kurdistan."
Meanwhile Pakistan's The Nation offers "CIA to stay in Iraq, Afghanistan: WP"  which refers to Greg Miller's Washington Post report from earlier this week:
The much-feared Central Intelligence Agency is planning to maintain a large and secretive presence inside both Iraq and Afghanistan long after American troops leave those nations, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
In Iraq, where most US troops have already left, the massive CIA presence in Baghdad has been re-purposed. Once focused chiefly on tackling Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgents, the American spies are now "monitoring developments in the increasingly antagonistic government."
In many ways thing have come full circle for the CIA, which had a presence on the ground spying on the Saddam Hussein regime before the 2003 US invasion. Now, having spent the last eight years helping the military prop up the Nurul Maliki government, the agency again finds itself there spying.

It's amazing that foreign outlets can reference the important article but in the US we have so much silence over what Miller reported.   Prensa Latina notes, "The CIA's stations in Kabul and Baghdad will probably remain the agency´s largest overseas outposts for years. According to The Washington Post, this will happen even if they shrink from record staffing levels set at the height of American efforts in those nations to neutralize insurgency attacks."
Still on the topic of the CIA, Nouri is facing rumors that he's cooperating with the CIA or assisting them. Al Mada notes State of Law MP Adnan al-Sarraj has issued a statement denying any involvement Nouri has with the CIA -- presumably current involvement is being denied since Nouri and the CIA had a pre-existing relationship prior to 2003 -- and stating that when Nouri met with US President Barack Obama in December, Nouri made clear that the CIA wasn't welcome in autonomous Iraq. Al Mada notes not only Miller's report for the Washington Post but also Iraqi intelligence sources who have that Iraq's leadership and the CIA have an extensive relationship.
On the issue of violence, Aswat al-Iraq notes, "More than 12 casualties were caused due to clashes yesterday between the Turkish PKK party and the Turkish army in different areas along the Iraqi-Turkish border lines, border security forces reported today." And they note a Falluja sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa (Sons Of Iraq, "Awakening").
"What my clients want to know is why -- when they're living at home or under supervised care -- their veteran suddenly has to have a VA fiduciary at all?" attorney Douglas J. Rosinski asked Congress yesterday.  "My veterans have had decades of family members giving them care and handling their benefits without VA interruption.  Suddenly, VA appoints a perfect stranger -- perfectly unknown to the veteran --  who has never contacted a veteran, who will not contact a veteran and is paid money from that veterans account to withhold the money from the veteran, to place it in bank accounts that they will not disclose to the veteran and they will not even disclose under FOIA [Freedom Of Information Act].  They will redact the veterans own information about his own money from the files they give out.  My clients want to know why, that if there is a need, for a VA-appointed fiduciary, it has to be this stranger.  They want to know why this veteran is told to take all of the veterans finances, all of his bank accounts and ask questions about his CDs [Certificate of Deposit] and whether he owns a boat and what his wife's salary is and where is that salary put and then go into the banks and take all of it and not tell them where it is.  They want to know why VA not only will not correct that when I've had personal discussions with members sitting -- or people sitting -- in this hearing today and then they will not fix that problem? They want to know why VA defends those practices at every turn, in every court, in every discussion?  This is not about numbers and procedures and policies.  My clients don't care about policies and procedures.  They want to know why they have $100,000 in the bank and they cannot afford the medicine that the VA doctors prescribed last month?  They want to know why the power company's in the front yard when they have $50,000 in the bank?  And it takes an emergency motion to the Veterans Court before these people will call the power company and tell them they'll pay $178."
Rosinkski was appearing before the House Veterans Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations yesterday as they held a hearing on the VA's fiduciary system -- where someone's appointed by the veteran or by the VA to manage/oversee/control the veterans benefits.  Rosinski appeared on the second panel and noted, "That's what my clients would like to hear today.  And I did not hear any of that from the prior panel."
The hearing had two panels (and many breaks due to votes on the House floor).  The first panel was the VA's Dave McLenachen (with the VA's Diana Rubin), the second panel was composed of Katrina Eagle with the Veterans Law Office of Michael Wildhaber, Veteran Fiduciary Pam Estes, attorney Rosinski with the Law Office of Douglas J. Rosinski, and Vietnam Veterans of America's Rick Weidman.  We covered the first panel in yesterday's snapshot.  US House Rep Bill Johnson is the Chair of the Subcommittee.  We'll note this exchange.
Chair Bill Johnson: Ms. Eagle, if VA is paying a fiduciary a percentage of a veterans' compensation, only to allow VA to have the final say , then why pay a fiduciary in the first place?
Katrina Eagle: I have many veterans and clients who ask that same question.  I don't understand it myself. I find it ironic that I have several cases where the veteran is paid also [clears throat], excuse me, his Social Security benefits and he has no fiduciary managing his Social Security benefits but the VA finds that he must be appointed a fidcuiary for his VA benefits which also then get sucked into including his Social Security benefits. Moreover, as Mr. Weidman was saying, with respect to veterans who try to get out of the program, I've seen many instances of retribution, so to speak, in that when the veteran applies to get out of the fiduciary program, he is then found perfectly fine with his medical condition, the underlying medical condtion be it physical or often a psychiatric condition, and therefore he [his benefits] is reduced.  And that is encouraging the veteran to say nothing, go along and not question or cause problems.
Chair Bill Johnson: I want to read this paragraph for everyone's attention out of that form we're discussing. It says, "Approval for use of VA funds" -- and this is the 21-4703 that we're discussing -- "VA must approve any use of a veterans VA funds.  You" -- and I'm presuming that's the fiduciary -- "agree to use these funds only as specifically authorized by VA.  You agree to request VA approval for all spending of these funds unless VA has previously authorized the expenditures.  Any questions regarding authorized expenditures should be addressed to the fiduciary activity at the address and phone number on the front side of this form."  Ms. Eagle, in your opinion, should VA remove this paragraph in question of form 21-4703?
Katrina Eagle: Yes.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay, thank you.  Ms. Estes, you mentioned that you submitted the anual report to VA but have heard nothing since.  When is your last date to be informed of the status of this issue?  You said today, correct?
Estes: They told me I had 30 days so I'm assuming -- I took 30 days from the postmark, that would be today.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay.  What results good or bad have you experienced in the fiduciary program.  Now that's -- that's a big question but . . .
Pam Estes: When there is contact, it's fine. They come out and I talk to them and we go over the expenditures and stuff. I don't have a problem there. It's like a black hole. I don't get any return calls when I leave a message. I was afraid to send the accounting because they require originals of everything -- original bank statement and stuff like -- and you're not handing it, you're mailing it so I suspected something like that might happen so we sent it certified and everything.  And I followed up with a phone call saying I did this.  I know I'm supposed to have an audit but nobody came out so I'm submitting it. And so then we got the letter that said I hadn't submitted it at all.
Chair Bill Johnson: So basically, it's miscommunication, lack of communication?
Pam Estes:  They were being -- No communication.
Chair Bill Johnson:  No communication.
Pam Estes: It's no communication.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay.  Ms. Eagle, on the first panel, we discussed VA waivers for fiduciaries.  And if I recall the testimony, they were not aware of waivers being granted for certification or fiduciary qualifications.  Do you have any experience with VA fiduciary requirements being waived?
Katrina Eagle: I do.  And what I find and what Mr. McLenachen was talking about is a fiduciary for the first time will be reviewed, background checks perhaps performed.  What I see happen in all of the cases I have reviewed in assisting the veteran is that if that fiduciary has been at all ever in the VA system as a fiduciary previously, the background check is waived, criminal background checks are waived, etc., etc.  So once he's in, it's good to go.
Chair Bill Johnson: Mr. Rosinski, is the issue of a person with a criminal background being allowed to serve as a VA fiduciary an isolated incident in your view?
Doug Rosinski:   Mr. Chairman, there's no way to tell. As Ms. Eagle just said, they waive all the background checks I've ever seen. And my experience is all they ask is they're asking, 'Check a box, have you ever been convicted and served more than one year for a felony, yes or no?'  So I'll leave it to you whether a convicted felon is going to answer that yes or no.  That is, as far as I know, the background check.  And that is what is waived on top of it.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay. Mr. Rosinski, in your experience and clients you've represented, what is your background of some of the VA fidcuiaries? Have you -- have you seen incidents where fiduciaries have been removed?
Doug Rosinski: The only fiduciary that I know that was removed was the daughter who was taking care of her 81-year-old father and was a registered nurse and had been taking care of her father full time for two decades, had retired from being a nurse to do that.  She took her father to an Alzheimers clinic because he has advancing Alzheimers and VA turned around and fired her as fiduciary and registered a complaint for misuse of those funds because they were not pre-authorized.  I've also -- that's my example of firing.  The issue of qualifications, I had the privilege of deposing two actual fiduciaries in the state of Texas. One was a cabinet salesman who in 2009 got his first fiduciary appointment. In 2011, November 2011, when I deposed him, [he] had 53. He had never heard of a fiduciary until someone suggested that this would be a good job to have since he had had a heart attack.  The other fiduciary there is the full-time, single working mother who said her father had been a VA fiduciary and that's how she found out about the program.
Chair Bill Johnson:  Okay. Ms. Eagle, given the 3 to 5% paid to a fiduciary for administering a veterans account, what purpose would a fiduciary have for hoarding a veteran's money?
Katrina Eagle: I think that the issue of hoarding has nothing to do with how much they're being authorized from the veteran's money on a monthly basis.  The reason they would be hoarding -- and there's two kinds of fiduciaries that I've dealt with.  The hoarding is encouraged by the VA program leadership  because they are to save as much money as possible in case of certain emergencies. Keep in mind that these are monthly recurring benefits. So needing to save $100,000 when the veterans going to get paid $3,000 every month until and unless he passes, there's no need to save that much money.  Second of all, lots of these fiduciaries are banks. It is in their best interest to keep as much money in their accounts as possible.   
Staying with veterans issues, I've noted my opinion on the national parade issue earlier this week (see this snapshot) -- briefly, veterans of the current wars will get the nation's attention for only a short time and there would appear to be more serious issues to address while the nation is paying attention.  (My comments are on a national parade and that's a Congressional issue and we covered in January how Congress de-funded the planned parade some time ago. I've noted that various people -- including a governor -- can stage a local, county or state wide parade.)  We're going to note a few opinons on the issue.  Jerry Maza ( offers:
It isn't like starting a war in Iraq on lies, that Saddam Hussein had WMD when no one, not even the UN's inspector (referee) for nuclear weapons, Hans Blix, could find nary a missile, poison gas, Niger yellowcake uranium, or any secret locales for the stash. There were no goal posts in Iraq. No fighting from your 20-yard line to the 50 and marching down it to a touchdown, a kick for the goal, and your seven points up. The stated purpose of the shock and awe of the linemen was bringing democracy to Iraq. You might as well bring sea bass to a Thanksgiving dinner.
In fact, the last thing on anybody's mind was democracy, given the unilateral and illegal attack on Iraq. Now, who's going to march over that shameful premise? Sorry to say, our brave players were sent on a fool's mission once again. The field had no markers, no big rectangle broken into ten yards ten times. The war was one you had to find, break down doors, terrorize families, looking for the man with the ball, the I.E.D. or hidden weapon, and knock him to the ground. In frustration for often not finding those things, soldiers took it out on innocent viewers of the ongoing chaos. Also, soldiers had to watch their buddies go nuts, over the top, at the atrocities they often had to commit (albeit much like WWII), but mostly back then there were victories and a people were spared from total holocaust. What they learned from it seems questionable sometimes.
Larry Mendte (Philly Post) calls for a parade for Philadelphia's veterans (and for those in surrounding areas -- he's in fact calling for every big city to stage a parade):
I have put together an online petition asking Mayor Michael Nutter for a parade in Philadelphia to honor the more than 100,000 men and women from our area who served in Iraq. Please sign it and then pass it on through emails, Twitter and Facebook. Philadelphia should lead the country on this. The positive national media attention will be well worth the cost. More importantly, it is the right thing to do.
Iraq War veteran Colby Buzzell pens a piece for the Washington Post which focuses more on the bigger problems veterans of the current wars are facing:
While all this arguing is going on, veterans are struggling. In this country, an average of 18 veterans commit suicide every day. The jobless rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is as high as 15 percent. They are trying to find work despite having been labeled ticking time bombs, unable to assimilate back into society, plagued with post-traumatic stress.
Later this month, on an evening like any other in America, nearly 70,000 veterans will spend the night on the street while President Obama and the first lady host a special White House dinner to honor 200 or so hand-picked Iraq veterans from a war that produced more than 30,000 wounded in action. Across the country, on any given night, nearly 5,000 dinner tables have an empty place where a loved one who never came home from the war used to sit.
On the issue of suicides, Michael Moran (Global Post) points out, "Statistics on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, obtained in 2011 through a Freedom of Information Act request by a San Francisco newspaper, found that more than 2,200 soldiers died within two years of leaving the service, and about half had been undergoing treatment for post-traumatic stress or other combat-induced mental disorders at the time."

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


POLITICO notes a new ABC and Washington Post poll in which 83% of respondents state "they approve of Obama's use of unmanned drones against terrorist suspects."  That is disappointing, to put it mildly.

But I am curious about the actual questions.

As I read the POLITICO write up, respondents were asked if they approved of using drones to kill terrorists?  That's different then what's taking place.

Drones are killing innocent civilians.  Hold on a second.  C.I. covered this.

This is from a segment of  The Patt Morrison Show (KPCC) and the guest speaking is Mary Ellen O'Connell who is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Mary Ellen O'Connell: Patt, I've got very serious concerns. It is true that if a drone is used on the battlefield -- and today the United States is involved in armed conflict hostilities in one place only, that is Afghanistan, that is the only place where we can use the current generation of drones lawfully because those drones fire missiles and drop bombs. If we want to do covert operations today, the United States moved to the point before 9/11 where we were not having the CIA involved in lethal operations. After the 1980s, the dirty wars in Central America, we got the CIA out of killing. That also followed, of course, the tragic years of Vietnam in which the CIA was doing a large amount of killing and we didn't think the way that Vietnam turned out was right for our country or right for the world. And then after the compounded problems of the CIA involved in lethal, covert operations, the Congress stopped it. Now what we're seeing today is not only a replay of that failure -- moral and legal -- to have the CIA involved in those kinds of operations but it is exacerbated by the this type of weaponry kills so many people in addition to the target.

If people are asked about the innocents killed by drones, would that have any effect on the polling results?

It might.  So this may be (a) an issue of questions and (b) and issue of the need to educate the public beyond the rah-rah that NPR (among others) gives to the drone program.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 8, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the CIA will remain in Iraq, Tim Arango's report from yesterday continues to dominate Iraqi discussion in the US, several conservatives call the reported decision to scale back the US diplomatic mission an indication of policy failure, Camp Ashraf residents are being told to prepare for a move, Stan catches War Hawk Terry Gross pimping for War With Iran, and more.
After "ALL" US forces left Iraq, a number of Marines remain to guard the diplomatic missions (Embassy and consulates), a number of US service members remain to provide training (Nouri al-Maliki publicly stated that number was 700), Special Ops remain, the FBI remained and the CIA remain.  Today Greg Miller (Washington Post) reports which explains:

The CIA is expected to maintain a large clandestine presence in Iraq and Afghanistan long after the departure of conventional U.S. troops as part of a plan by the Obama administration to rely on a combination of spies and Special Operations forces to protect U.S. interests in the two longtime war zones, U.S. officials said.
U.S. officials said that the CIA's stations in Kabul and Baghdad will probably remain the agency's largest overseas outposts for years, even if they shrink from record staffing levels set at the height of American efforts in those nations to fend off insurgencies and install capable governments.
Although "agencies" have picked up the story and Russia' Interfax and Iran's Press TV as well, US outlets have studiously avoided the report.  Instead they focus on Tim Arango's New York Times report on the US State Dept's Iraq mission.  Yesterday on NBC Nightly News, Richard Engel (link is is text and video) attempted to push the notion that this was a cost-saving measure for the good of the American people, quoting US State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland insisting, "We're trying to do our best to save the American taxpayer money in the way we support our diplomatic personnel."

Aswat al-Iraq reported what US outlets wouldn't last month: "Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr clled his 'resistance' followers to be prepared to face the US Embassy in Baghdad, if they did not stop their breaches. In response to a question made to his followers, received by Aswat al-Iraq, he expressed rejection that US officials walk in Baghdad streets with their weapons."

Now since then, a US helicopter emergency landed in Baghdad (with another transporting the Americans away), reports of F-16 jets flying overhead are coming from the Iraqi Parliament and there is the drone issue which enraged Iraqis last week. Tuesday morning,Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reported that the US is stating that they are only flying planes and drones and helicopters in Iraq airspace to provide protection for the US Embassy in Baghdad (and its various consulates throughout the country). Parliaments Security and Defense wants answers as to exactly what the US is doing in Iraq's skies.

In this climate, a decision may (or may not have) been made. Equally true, we were informed last week that the US and Iraq were back in negotiations regarding the US military presence. If a pull out of diplomatic 'forces' is going to happen, at present, the American people have no idea whether this is happening on its own or as part of the negotiation process for US troops in Iraq.
But Victoria Nuland wants to assert that it's a cost-cutting measure? 
Strange that the billions didn't bother anyone in the administration until after Congress allocated them.   BBC News notes that the US Embassy in Baghdad alone cost $750 million and that the "huge diplomatic operations [. . .] reportedly costs $6bn a year" -- that doesn't count the embassy cost, construction was completed on that back when Ryan Crocker was the US Ambassador to Iraq.  Reportedly?  The current US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, told a media roundtable in November of last year, "We are standing up an embassy to carry out a $6.5 billion program, when you throw in the refugee program as well as the actual State Department budget for 2012, of assistance in support for Iraq on a very broad variety of security and non-security issues.  The direct budget, operating and assistance (to Iraq), was $6.2 billion [and] a little less than $300 million [of] that goes to refugee and displace person programs."  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) observes of the State Dept mission in Iraq, "It has a $6 billion budget, its on airline and three hospitals, and imports virtually all of its food.  Its central fortress, otherwise known as the Baghdad embassy compound, is nearly as Vatican City."  She quotes US Senator Patrick Leahy  calling the embassy "a relic before the paint was dry" and insisting that Congress may have to make cuts in the costs if the White House is unwilling to.  Writing it up for NPR, Eyder Peralta declared, "The Times story [Tim Arango] today as well as the Al Jazeera story from December mention a program run by the embassy, which trains Iraqi police officers. The program cost $1 billion last year and will cost about $500 million this year. Al Jazeera noted that an audit found there's no way to know whether the program is working." Al Jazeera noted that?  No, they didn't.  The error is Peralta's. An audit can only "find" what is there.  It's not an abstract, an audit is basic inventory, addition and subtraction.  No audit "found" what Peralta insists it did.  The Al Jazeera piece was published December 16th.  We're falling back to December 7th and the report we did in that day's snapshot on the House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee hearing -- US House Rep Jason Chaffetz is the Chair of the Subcommittee.
Appearing before the Subcommittee that day were the Defense Dept's Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell, the State Dept's Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel, the acting inspector general of US AID Michael Carroll, the acting inspector general for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Steven J. Trent and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen.
US House Rep Raul Labrador: Mr. Bowen, right now the police development program is the administration's largest foreign aid project for Iraq going forward.  And there's some evidence that the Iraqis don't even want this program. So have you or your staff asked the Iraqi police forces if they need the $500 million a year program that the Obama administration is planning to spend on the police development program?
SIGIR Stuart Bowen: Yes, Mr. Labrador, we have and we reported on that in our last quarterly report noting that the senior official at the Ministry of the Interior, Senior Deputy Minister al-Assadi said "he didn't see any real benefit from the police development program." I addressed that with him when I was in Iraq a couple of weeks ago and I asked him, "Did you mean what you said?"  And his response was, "Well we welcome any support that the American government will provide us; however, my statements as quoted in your recent quarterly are still posted on my website."
US House Rep Raul Labrador: So why is the administration still spending $500 million a year to provide this program?
SIGIR Stuart Bowen: There's a beliff that security continues to be a challenge in Iraq, a well founded belief, I might add, given the events of this week. Killings of pilgrims again, on the way to Najaf, on the eve of Ashura. The focus though on trying to address those problems has been a widely scattered, high level training program involving about 150 police trainers who, as we've seen again this week, are going to have a very difficult time moving about the country.
US House Rep Raul Labrador: So what other problems have you found with the police development program, if any?
SIGIR Stuart Bowen: Several.  Well, Mr. Labrador, we pointed out in our audit that, one Iraqi buy-in, something that the Congress requires from Iraq, by law, that is a contribution of 50% to such programs,has not been secured -- in writing, in fact, or by any other means. That's of great concern.  Especially for a Ministry that has a budget of over $6 billion, a government that just approved, notionally, a hundred billion dollar budget for next year.  It's not Afghanistan.  This is a country that has signficant wealth, should be able to contribute but has not been forced to do so, in a program as crucial as this.
We covered the November 30th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1st snapshot and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions. He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program?  Interviews with senior Iaqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter didain for the program.  When the Iraqis sugest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue."  The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete?  Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it."  She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government.  But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name.  That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States."  He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
Brooke Darby noted that he didn't deny that comment or retract it; however, she had spoken with him and he felt US trainers and training from the US was needed.  The big question was never asked in the hearing: If the US government wants to know about this $500 million it is about to spend covering the 2012 training of the Ministry of the Interior's police, why are they talking to the Deputy Minister?
After 8 years of spending US tax payer dollars on this program and on the verge of spending $500 million, why is the US not talking to the person in charge ofthe Interior Ministry?
Because Nouri never named a nominee to head it so Parliament had no one to vote on.  Nouri refused to name someone to head the US ministry but the administration thinks it's okay to use $500 million of US tax payer dollars to train people with a ministry that has no head?
None of that raised a concern on the part of the US State Dept about spending but we're supposed to believe some magical change of the 'mission' now is the result of concern about spending?
Suadad al-Salhy, Francois Murphy and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) report that Brooke Darby's Adnan al-Asadi is declaring that curbs are about to be placed on contractors in Iraq and he states, "What the Interior Ministry worries about is that there is a giant army of these companies on the streets with their weapons."
The man whose report started it all appeared today on Morning Edition and discussed the article with Steve Inskeep. As Tim Arango explains on the program, the State Dept plan wasn't made, a year ago, in isolation. It was supposed to include a continued strong US military presence. Excerpt.
INSKEEP: So what happened?
ARANGO: It really is a remarkable thing that so quickly after the American troops left that the State Department realized that the embassy that they built is too big, is too costly and the situation on the ground means that they can't get out and do the things that they like to do to justify that cost.
INSKEEP: What do you mean the situation on the ground?
ARANGO: Well, there's two things going on. There's the persistent security problems that prevent diplomats from moving around as much as they'd like. And then what they didn't plan on was how the Iraqis would react as soon as the military left in terms of obstructing what they want to do. They immediately started enforcing customs regulations that the Americans were not accustomed to abiding by. And then there's the situation with the visas. Prime Minister Maliki now - his office has to approve all the visas for Americans. And so it's resulted in these lengthy delays.
INSKEEP: Lengthy delays in even getting the staff into Iraq. And then they have difficulty moving around once they're in Iraq?
ARANGO: Absolutely. There's a new kidnapping threat in the Green Zone. And as such is getting out of the Green Zone to interact with ordinary Iraqis, there's even new security procedures for moving around in the Green Zone which is probably one of the most fortified places in the world.
Repeating, Arango will point out that that the State Dept mission, planned throughout 2011, was supposed to go hand-in-hand with a larger US military presence in Iraq than what it currently is.  Without that, Arango indicates, the State Dept mission was an overreach. Kori Schake served on Bully Boy Bush's National Security Council and she argues (Foreign Policy) that this goes to a foreign policy failure:
It was an odd choice by the State Department to make Iraq the flagship of "smart power," given that the White House has consistently conveyed that President Obama just wants Iraq off the agenda. The president never invested in getting from Congress the resources necessary --- even if the State Department had the capacity to carry out its ambitious plans.
Nevertheless, the State Department's plan for maintaining two thousand diplomats -- protected and supported by 15,000 other civilian personnel -- was a terribly cost-ineffective program fraught with potential for disaster. Outside review of the department's plan by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Commission on Wartime Contracting, and every other outside source highlighted the crucial dependence on mobility that was both vulnerable and reliant on civilian contractors (the majority of them non-American) with the authority to use deadly force. Why the government of Iraq would grant immunity from prosecution to civilian contractors when it denied immunity to better trained military personnel was only one among many questionable planning assumptions.

Conservative commentator Max Boot (Commentary) offers:
So much for a "strong and enduring partnership" that has "our diplomats and civilian advisers in the lead." Those of us who argued for a continuing military presence were deeply skeptical the State Department would actually be able to main a mission of some 2,000 diplomatic personnel supported by an army of 15,000 or so contractors. The size of the task they faced was just too huge, and the State Department lacks the resources the military can bring to the task. Sure enough, the U.S. embassy has been having trouble stocking its vast chow hall and getting its personnel outside its fortified walls.
Turning to the issue of Iraqi women.  Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera -- link is video) reports that though the UN estimates 1 in 5 Iraqi women is physically abused.
Jane Arraf: Sarah doesn't like her children outside. A few weeks ago, she left her husband.  She's afraid he'll come back and kill her.  He'd hit her for years.  But last month, after getting angry with their son, he got out a police baton and started beating him. 
Sarah (translated by Jane Arraf): He said to me, 'Why are you looking at me?," and put his finger in my eye and wanted to pull it out. I ran out of the room and he kicked the door and got to me. With his baton, he beat me hard. When I collapsed and he saw me lying on the floor, he jumped up and down on me and stepped on my head and belly and said, "Die."
Jane Arraf: At the hospital, they told her she had a broken rib. She had photos taken of her injured but her husband told her he'd kill her if she went to the police.  Now she and her four child live with her mother. [. . .]  In a society Sarah where a woman leaving her husband for any reason is grounds for punishmnet, Sarah is one of the lucky few who have relatives willing to take them in. 
Jane Arraf's report is one of three disturbing reports on Iraqi women this week One of the many casualties of the illegal war is the rights of Iraqi women. Rebecca Burns (In These Times) speaks with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq's Yanar Mohammed. Excerpt.

RB: OWFI members have been beaten and sexually assaulted while demonstrating, just like female protesters in Egypt. Why are women targeted in this way?

YM: They wanted us to feel ashamed. Our organization made sure that these demonstrations had a female face. We had our slogans, our banners, which we carried every single Friday. This was not approved by al-Maliki's government. And in an Arab society, if a woman is shamed, she is pushed out of the public arena. They expected that we would go hide in our homes and not show our faces to anybody. The same way in which women are forced to immolate themselves or made the victim of an honor killing, they wanted to force a political dishonoring on us in order to end us politically.

RB: How are the women who have been attacked in Tahrir Square faring today?

YM: All of them are back in the square. But we are very careful as to our whereabouts. Once we see security forces, we leave the square. We are not willing to be tortured again and again.

RB: Are you working to get women elected directly to Parliament?

YM: In Iraq, 25 percent of members of Parliament are required to be women, which is good. But more than half the women in Parliament are from the Religious Right. When we were beaten in Tahrir Square – 25 of us – not a single female Parliamentarian spoke out. In other words, those women are puppets.

Doug Moore (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) reports on a group of attorneys -- 12 Iraqi women and five US women -- who teleconference once a month:

The St. Louis lawyers hope that kind of moral support could help the Iraqi lawyers get women into more powerful positions in the legal system and in government. Islamic laws protecting women are inadequate or not enforced in a culture where men are in charge and women are treated as property. Domestic violence is often considered accepted practice.
[. . .]
[Nancy] Mogab said the ultimate goal is forming a group similar to a women lawyers' association here, and called on the Iraqi women to create a list of goals they want to accomplish.
"Together they will be able to provide a voice whereas a single lawyer can't do that there," Mogab said after the groups' third meeting earlier this month.
Law school classes in Iraq are an even mix of men and women, but there are very few women judges. And those who practice law have little influence in a male-dominated legal system.
Moving to the topic of Camp Ashraf, KUNA reports, "The United States on Tuesday urged the 3,400 residents of Iraq's Camp Ashraf to relocate immediately, as it is 'no longer a viable home for them'. Ambassador Dan Friend told reporters that 'We look forward to the first residents moving from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya in the immediate future,' referring to a new camp the Iraqi government constructed for the Iranian dissidents who have occupied Camp Ashraf for the past 30 years. The camp was under US control until January 2009, when US handed over control to the Iraqi government." Ian Duncan (Los Angeles Times) adds:

Speaking in the European Parliament on Tuesday, Maryam Rajavi, the group's leader in exile, said residents of the camp were willing to move but were "demanding minimum assurances, namely a dignified and humane treatment at the new location."
"The EU, U.S. and U.N. should actively and immediately intervene to prevent turning of Camp Liberty into a prison," she said.
This push follows earlier news this week that some Camp Ashraf residents and their supporters found alarming.   Monday Fars News Agency reported that National Alliance MP Abbas al-Bayati appeared on al-Baghdadia TV. His statements were both explosive and embarrassing for the United Nations. According to al-Bayati, Iraq will be expelling the MEK (Iranian dissident group welcomed into Iraq decades ago). All will be expelled or sent to Iran, declares al-Bayati in direct conflict with what the United Nations has been stating in what will now be seen as stalling statements made by the international body as it attempted to buy time. This bad impression will take hold because al-Bayati denies that the UN has any supervision of Camp Liberty. He states, "No, the camp is under the control of Iraqi government and (the camp's control) has nothing to do with the United Nations. Iraq came to the decision to provide the UN with the reports of the camp and also let them visit the camp."

Though the US media has been ignoring it, you can't visit the US State Dept (I did last week) and not see the Camp Ashraf supporters gathered across from it. The MEK has Iranian-American relatives in this country (a large number in California -- many in US House Rep Bob Filner's district). Following the revolution in Iran, some members of the MEK went to Iraq. When the US invaded, the US military entered into negotiations with the approximately 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf. The end result was that they became protected persons under international law and the Geneva Conventions. Though Nouri has given repeated promised to the US that he would protect the residents, that has not happened. He has twice launched attacks on the camp. They've now relocated to a new camp that some British MPs have described as a "concentration camp." The only defender the new camp (which has no medical facilities and Nouri al-Maliki is refusing to allow medical supplies in) had was the United Nations, which vouched for it so strongly based on a single, brief visit of the unnoccupied camp-to-be. That vouching now appears incredibly misinformed.

December 23rd, Human Rights Watch noted:

Human Rights Watch sent letters on December 15 and 16, 2011, to the governments of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Sweden seeking their support for the appeal by Martin Kobler, the United Nations special envoy for Iraq,to the Iraqi government to extend a December 31 deadline for closing Camp Ashraf. Human Rights Watch also urged the governments to helpensure the safe transfer of camp residents for individual refugee status interviews, and respond quickly and positively to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's call for UN member states to indicate their willingness to accept Camp Ashraf residents for resettlement.
"Resolution of the Camp Ashraf situation requires the active involvement by other major players like the United States and the EU who can play a critical role in resettling Camp Ashraf residents and monitoring to make sure they are safe and are treated fairly," said Frelick.
The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) was founded in 1965 as an armed group to challenge the Shah of Iran's government. In 1981, two years after the Iranian revolution, the group went underground after trying to foment an armed uprising against Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the former Supreme Leader of Iran. After a period of exile in France, most of the group's leaders relocated to Iraq in 1986 and established Camp Ashraf, although its top leadership remains in France.
Human Rights Watch called on all parties to allow international diplomats, UN agencies, and independent observers to be present to monitor every step of the transfer of these residents to a protected transit site, such as the former Camp Liberty at Baghdad's international airport. Human Rights Watch also urged the UN to continue monitoring the human rights and humanitarian situation after camp residents have been relocated to the transit site.
Human Rights Watch previously appealed to both the Iraqi government and the leadership of the MEK to cooperate fully with the UN to ensure the protection and safety of Camp Ashraf residents. Tension and mistrust between the MEK leadership and Iraqi security forces remain high following two violent incidents involving Iraqi security forces that led to the deaths of more than 40 Camp Ashraf residents, in July 2009 and April 2011. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on Iraqi authorities to refrain from using excessive force against Camp Ashraf residents, and for independent and transparent investigations to investigate the two incidents and any crimes committed during them.
The Iraqi government has not opened investigations into these incidents.
The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states that "law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty." The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms provide that law enforcement officials "shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force" and may use force "only if other means remain ineffective." When the use of force is unavoidable, law enforcement officials must "exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence."
Human Rights Watch has also called on the Iraqi government not to return the exiles to Iran against their will, saying they may risk torture or other serious abuse. Human Rights Watch has documented the prevalent use of torture in Iran, particularly against opponents of the government.
As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iraq is bound to apply the principle of nonrefoulement. The UN's Human Rights Committee, which interprets the covenant, has explained this obligation as: "States parties must not expose individuals to the danger of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon return to another country by way of their extradition, expulsion or refoulement."
The Iraqi government has assured Washington that it would not forcibly transfer any member of the group to a country where they face a risk of torture.
In Iraqi government news, Al Mada reports that Nouri al-Maliki is attempting to rally MPs with State of Law (his political slate which came in second in the March 2010 elections) to push through a 2012 budget (yes, the 2012 budget should have been taken care of some time ago). Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) notes that political leaders who attended yesterday prep meeting for a national conference are attempting to map out the post-US Iraq. As for proposed documents, Kurds present stated that the Erbil Agreement already maps out the steps necessary.

Following the March 2010 elections and Iraqiya's first place results, Nouri al-Maliki refused to allow Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) the chance at forming a government that his slate's win guaranteed. Nouri didn't want to give up being prime minister. Because the White House backed him, he was able to bring Iraq politics to a stand-still. Eight months of political stalemate followed during which Parliament met briefly once and that was it. There was no governing of Iraq taking place. Nor any efforts to move forward. (A White House friend has insisted in the last week that the reason the White House backed Nouri was because they needed to get started on negotiations for when most US troops left. That's a nice spin to their decision to back a thug.) Political blocs met in Erbil in November 2010 and the Erbil Agreement was hammered out. It was supposed to do a number of things for all actors involved. However, the minute it kicked in with Nouri being named prime minister-designate, he quickly disregarded the agreement. That's what's caused the political crisis. That's what the Kurds have been demanding Nouri agree to return to -- demanding since this summer. When Iraqiya announced their planned walk out December 16th, they were calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. (The arrest warrant against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi had not yet been issued at that point.)

Nouri (and his sycophants in the US) today like to insist the Erbil Agreement is unconstitutional. (A) They only made that claim after he used it to remain prime minister and (B)they're not legal scholars. The Erbil Agreement was not illegal or unconstitutional. But if Nouri and his pep squad want to keep insisting it was, they should grasp that means Nour's prime minister tenure is illegitimate. Al Rafidayn notes rumors that al-Hashemi has left the Sulaymaniyah villa he was staying in and is now in an undisclosed/unknown location.

Nouri is fearful of February 25th. Wael Grace (Al Mada) notes that the fear is that activists might take to Tahrir Square as they did a year ago. Nouri responded by (a) promising to cut his salary (no one ever followed up to see if that happened), (b) kicking the can -- insisting that he would address corruption in 100 days (100 days came and went and corruption in Iraq remains -- Nouri was saying earlier this month that it was as big a threat as terrorism) and (c) swearing he wouldn't seek a third term (his attorney has declared that promise to be non-binding). Grace speaks to Nouri's thugs that have been occupying Tahrir Square and running off the real protesters. One explains that he's a political activist with State of Law and he didn't get a seat in Parliament. These are Nouri's thugs. We noted that when they first appeared. Grace is the only journalist to pursue the story. If it were in English, it would be all over the internet.

Will the demonstrators show back up Feb. 25th (or more likely the 24th since they were protesting on Fridays after morning prayers)? Maybe so.

None of the demands were met. Basic services have not been met. Unemployment remains high and jobs scarce. People continue to disappear in the Iraqi justice system and more.  An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports that, over the weekend, a generator had to be moved when the landlady refused to allow it to be ket on her land.  Due to wiring issues and other things, the people ended up without electricity for two days.  The correspondent report on the frustration of the Iraqi people:
One of the angry people shouted "why does the government pay budget for the ministry of electricity?  Why does it pay salaries for unproductive employees?" and finally he asked simply "why don't they give us the money to manage our electricity problem instead of wasting money?" The last question was the most important one for me. It reflects clearly the disappointment of Iraqis. Obviously, we don't trust our government and our politicians in general because after even after eight years of collapsing Saddam's regime, our politicians failed in everything. They failed in providing services, they failed in forming a real national government, they failed in protecting Iraq and they failed in saving Iraqis lives. They succeeded only in one thing. They perfectly succeeded in dividing Iraqis.
A year later and all the problems are still present -- and more plentiful than before. The cry that may have scared Nouri the most last year -- remember the regime in Egypt was falling and numerous leaders were worried they would be next -- might have been the one about how they'd turned out to vote in the elections and nothing changed. They had the same prime minister, the same president, the same vice presidents (one, Adel Abdul Mehdi, has since resigned in protest of the corruption and the inability of the government to address it), so what was the point of 'democratic' elections?

16 days until Friday the 24th. Nouri's paranoia is well known. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
On the subject of violence, Aswat al-Iraq reports a Khanaquin Township sticky bombing targeting Sheikh Jabbar Husein claimed the sheikh's life and leaving three people riding with him injured and a Baghdad bombing left three people injured.
At World Can't Wait, Ray McGovern explores a US war on Iran (and gives too much credence -- my opinion -- to what Barack supposedly really, really wants -- stop listening to the people around him, when Samantha Power hyped Jeremy Scahill, that should have been the end of it, the embarassing punking JS received should have ended it for all). Stan makes a far more important catch.  Terry Gross was part of the selling of the Iraq War though she's supposed a lefty.  She not only sold it, she attacked Ehren Watada on her program.  Now she's hoping no one will catch her pimping for a war with Iran.  Stan caught her. She interviewed the New York Times' William Broad about his new book 
The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards.  Terry felt the need to bring up Iran and how it 'wants' a bomb. Broad explained to her slowly and carefully -- when she brought up Iran -- that there was no proof that Iran even wanted to make a nuclear bomb.  After this had been gone over at great length (see Stan's post), Terry does a mm-hmm "So is there an estimate of how far away they are from actually having a bomb?"  She goes back to insisting they want one even though it's just been explained to her that there's no proof of that. 
Yesterday we noted the family of Troy Gilbert. We'll close with more news of what they're enduring as they attempt to rescue their loved one's body.  Ginger Gilbert Ravella tells Brian New (KENS 5 -- link has text and video), "Someday my five kids are going to ask me, 'Did you do everything, did the government do everything to bring Daddy home?' I want to be able answer I did and they did absolutely everything." She is the widow of Maj Troy Gilbert, "During a 2006 mission near Baghdad, Maj.Gilbert was credited with saving twenty Americans under fire when he destroyed a gun truck from his F-16 jet. The Air Force pilot then turned around to attack another truck when the tail of his plane hit the ground."

Those attacking the US service members then took Gilbert's body from the plane. His widow remembers seeing photos of his body and an unopened parachute released by the enemy. In 2007, those who took Maj Gilbert's body released a video using his body for propaganda purposes. How did the US military walk away from this issue? A small amount of tissue was in the crashed plane and this tissue was identified as belonging to Troy Gilbert so the government has declared him found.

KSAT (link has text and video) explains, "However, the military was able to confirm Gilbert's identity using the tissue so his death was listed as 'accounted for.' Gilbert said that meant there is no active search to recover his body. His family says that's simply unacceptable."

Jim Douglas (WFAA -- link is text and video) reported on the issue by speaking to the fallen's parents, Ronnie and Kaye Gilbert, and they explained that they meet with the Defense Dept later this month where they will attempt to convince the military to change the qualification from "body accounted for." Unless such a change takes place, the US government insists that there is no need for a search, that the tissue counts as "found" and, apparently, that the body of Troy Gilbert can be carted all over the world and back and it's of no concern to the US government.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Roberta Flack

Kat's "Kat's Korner: The Sensual Roberta Flack:"

It was 1974 and Atlantic was nervous and desperate. Not least of all because, in the Warner Communications universe, they were competing that year with the newly joined Elektra-Asylum, under David Geffen's leadership, which was hitting big with Carly Simon's Hotcakes, Joni Mitchell's Court & Spark, Bob Dylan's Planet Waves. (Geffen won the wooing of Dylan over Jerry Wexler who was trying to bring him to Atlantic.) And Atlantic needed something they could depend on, something they could market, something they could sale. While the Average White Band was going to give them any bragging rights, they needed something with prestige as well. 1973's Goats Head Soup was still selling and the Stones were already at work on their follow up (It's Only Rock 'n Roll). Roberta Flack had given the label a huge hit in 1973 with "Killing Me Softly With His Song" and was in the studio recording her follow up album. And recording it. And editing it. And still in the studio. Maybe pressure could be put on her to finish things quickly?

Not a chance. Joel Dorn was producing the album, however, the suits' constant demands to hurry up and their need to 'explain'(pressure) how it needed to be a hit led to his walking out on the project. That left it to Roberta to take control and hold it together. She'd spend eight months in the studio on that album which became Feel Like Makin' Love and would make the pop charts, the R&B charts and the jazz charts as well as produce a hit single with the title track. In fact, she'd finish with the lead single first and it would hit number one in August of 1974. But she was still working on perfecting the sound of the album and it wouldn't be released until March of 1975. The next album? It would take her nearly three years before she felt Blue Lights In The Basement was ready. (That album would contain her smash duet with Donny Hathaway "The Closer I Get To You.")

I tell all of that to set that stage and make sure everybody gets that a Roberta Flack album is a rare thing. She's no Emily Dickinson, that Roberta. In fact, she makes J.D. Salinger look positively prolific. Like Halley's Comet in the sky, a Roberta Flack album is a rare thing.

Roberta Flack is back with a new album.  It's been nearly 13 years, but Let It Be Roberta: Roberta Flack Sings the Beatles is a really strong album.  On this album, my favorite tracks are "The Long & Winding Road" and "Isn't It A Pity."  But I do love them all.  The entire album, really.

I started wondering what my favorite Roberta song period was?

I couldn't think of just one.  I thought "Oasis" which has a lilting feel to it.  But I immediately thought, "Wait, I love 'And So It Goes' from that album too."  Maybe "The Closer I Get To You"?  That's a great song and I've always enjoyed it.  Do you know who does an amazing version of it?  C.I.  At the piano, she just recreates that song.  It's really something to hear.

But when I think "The Closer I Get To You," I usually think, "'Making Love' is so unique and so overlooked by so many."

So if I had to go with just one song, it would have to be "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."

If you're a Roberta fan like I am, please make a point to do yourself a favor and get the new album.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, February 7, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, rumors abound that the State Dept is cutting the size of the Iraq Mission. supposedly the US Ambassador to Iraq will change, Iraqiya resumed attending Cabinet hearings, Jill Stein wins a primary, and more.

Today Tim Arango (New York Times) reports that the US officials in DC and Baghdad were reconsidering the size of the US 'diplomatic' mission in Iraq and that "the Americans have been frustrated by what they see as Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag." Jeremy Herb (The Hill) adds, "The size of the State Department's presence at the US embasy in Iraq, the largest in the world, was intended to maintain U.S. influence within the government of Iraq, as well as to counter outside influences like Iran."

The US State Dept is not the only foreign 'force' in Iraq. Or even the only American one. With the CIA, the FBI and Special Ops still in Iraq, with Marines guarding the US Embassy (meaning they are in Iraq still) and the US military 'trainers' (which Nouri has declared publicly is 700 more US soldiers), with 17,000 'State Dept' workers still in Iraq, the occupation continues.

So do the risks. Ted Koppel reported on Iraq in December for Rock Center with Brian Williams (NBC). Excerpt.

Ted Koppel: If those Iranian backed militias were to launch a full scale attack on this consulate, would the US calvary ride to the rescue?

US Ambassador James Jeffrey: We depend upon the Iraqis and if we need security support, we will turn to them and we will tell them, "I've got a problem in Basra and you need to help us.

Ted Koppel: The question is will they?

US Ambassador James Jeffrey: I believe they will.

Ted Koppel: That's what an ambassador has to say about his hosts. This is the man who might actually have to deal with that nightmare, Lt Gen Robert Caslan. General, how are you going to get 1320 people out of there? I mean if you've 24 hours notice that something like this was going to happen, you're telling me the Iraqi government would evacuate immediately? Would get them all out of there?

Lt Gen Robert Caslan: I would argue that we do have, in theater, whether it's in Kuwait or elsewhere in theater, that we fall under the central command, Centcom, and I feel confident that Centcom has the necessary assets to take whatever measures they need to to counter that attack.

Aswat al-Iraq reported what US outlets wouldn't last month: "Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr clled his 'resistance' followers to be prepared to face the US Embassy in Baghdad, if they did not stop their breaches. In response to a question made to his followers, received by Aswat al-Iraq, he expressed rejection that US officials walk in Baghdad streets with their weapons."

Now since then, a US helicopter emergency landed in Baghdad (with another transporting the Americans away), reports of F-16 jets flying overhead are coming from the Iraqi Parliament and there is the drone issue which enraged Iraqis last week. Today,Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that the US is stating that they are only flying planes and drones and helicopters in Iraq airspace to provide protection for the US Embassy in Baghdad (and its various consulates throughout the country). Parliaments Security and Defense wants answers as to exactly what the US is doing in Iraq's skies.

In this climate, a decision may (or may not have) been made. Equally true, we were informed last week that the US and Iraq were back in negotiations regarding the US military presence. If a pull out of diplomatic 'forces' is going to happen, at present, the American people have no idea whether this is happening on its own or as part of the negotiation process for US troops in Iraq. The issue was a large portion of the US State Dept press briefing today that spokesperson Victoria Nuland handled (link is transcript with video options).

QUESTION: The New York Times is reporting that -- quoting U.S. officials as saying that the State Department is considering slashing the number of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq from what it says is about 16,000, including contractors, by as much as a half. Is that true?

MS. NULAND: Well, we saw this reporting just as we were preparing to come down today. First, let me say that with regard to our diplomatic presence, there is no consideration being given to slashing our diplomats by half. What we are doing -- and Deputy Secretary Nides is leading this process -- is looking at how we can right-size our Embassy in Iraq and particularly how we can do more for that mission through the hiring of local employees rather than having to be as dependent as we've been in the past on very expensive contractors. So we're trying to do our best to save the American taxpayer money in the way we support our diplomatic personnel. We're also looking to acquire more of the supporting things for the Embassy, including food supplies, et cetera, from the local economy, so trying to do more locally with local Iraqis and on the local economy and save the taxpayer money. So what ultimate numbers will result from this in reductions in contractors, we don't know yet. This process has just begun, but we are trying to ensure that it is rigorous and that it gets us to a much more normal embassy, like some of our big embassies around the world.

QUESTION: So just talking about the diplomats for a moment, so you're not considering slashing their numbers by a half?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: Are you considering slashing their numbers by 40 percent, by 30 percent, by 20 percent, by 2 percent, by zero? I mean --

MS. NULAND: Again, if we can find efficiencies, we will. Obviously we're still working with the Iraqis on some of the programming that these diplomats are charged with managing. So with regard to whether we may be able to reduce some of the diplomatic staff, we will look at that. But I just wanted to make clear that we have a lot to do in Iraq, so some of these reportings about the level of diplomats is -- were exaggerated.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the number of contractors – are you looking to slash those by as much as a half?

MS. NULAND: We're looking to save the taxpayer money and do the same work as efficiently as we can. I can't predict where this review will come out, but obviously we will brief you fully on it when we get to the end of it.

QUESTION: I can't predict where the review will come out either, but the report is that you're looking to cut the number of contractors by as much as a half. I mean, is that right?

MS. NULAND: Again, we --

QUESTION: That would save the U.S. Government a lot of money. It would cut the amount presumably you're paying for contractors in half.

MS. NULAND: We want to save as much money as we can without sacrificing the quality of the work or our support for our people. So that's what Deputy Secretary Nides is looking at now. It's going to be a bottom-up review. And I can't tell you where it's going to come out, because it's really just started, okay?

QUESTION: Is it not -- does the fact that you are considering this not suggest that the U.S. Government grossly overestimated how many people it would need in Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think what we have here is an embassy structure that was built for a different time and that relied a lot on expensive contracting for a whole range of reasons, some of them historic, some of them security-related. Our judgment now is that we can adapt that for today's Iraq, do our diplomatic business just as well and just as rigorously, but far more efficiently. So that's the task that Deputy Secretary Nides has been tasked with. I don't want to get ahead of what he's going to conclude as he looks at this and as he works with our mission out there.

QUESTION: You're talking about a different time, but the Embassy only opened, I think, in early 2009 or at the -- maybe it was 2008. It's not that long ago. It's only three years ago.

MS. NULAND: Well, we've had a diplomatic presence in Iraq all the way through, and it's waxed and waned. But our view is that it is currently too dependent on contractors. We can do more with Iraqi staff. We can do more on the local economy, and it'll make it cheaper.

QUESTION: When did this start?

MS. NULAND: Deputy Secretary Nides has been working on it informally for a number of months, but he's now put together a real bottom-up review team in the last couple of weeks.

QUESTION: Okay. And then when did the magic light bulb go off of somebody's head that 16,000 contractors might be a few too many?

MS. NULAND: Well, we've been working on rightsizing this mission all the way through as we looked at the transition. Obviously, this is a time of transition for us too.

QUESTION: Where -- do you know where the half figure that Arshad kept alluding to, which is actually in the headline of the Times story but never appears in the body of the story -- where would that have come from, if you know?

MS. NULAND: Sounds like a question for The New York Times, not for me.

QUESTION: Well, no. But --

QUESTION: Toria, it's in the lead of the story, also.

QUESTION: Well, it's nowhere --

MS. NULAND: Guys, I'm going to leave you to dispute this with the Times.

QUESTION: The lead is part of the story.

QUESTION: No, no, no, no. It's not about that. It's just that it came from somewhere. It's not -- but it's not mentioned again. I mean, is it -- is that the optimal?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think I've spoken to this for about the last 10 minutes. We don't know yet where this is going to go on the contractor side.

QUESTION: All right. And then --

QUESTION: Different topic.

QUESTION: One simple one on this. How do you tell the American people that you weren't grossly mistaken here?

MS. NULAND: We have been in the process of transitioning this Embassy from a civilian staff that worked within the context of an entire American footprint that included a very large military footprint, which has been going down. So at a certain point in time, we had diplomatic staff out in many, many parts of Iraq, co-located with our military staff. We have, over the last few months -- as you know very well, Arshad -- been pulling this staff back to consulates. They continue to cover all of Iraq, but they do it in a different lay down than we did it before. The military has traditionally been dependent on a lot of contractor support, some of which stayed to work with us as we move to a civilian structure. So now in the context of getting ourselves to a purely embassy and consulate structure, we are able to take that next step, which is to look at whether contracting is still as necessary.

QUESTION: It's not as if this was a great surprise to you that the number of military was going down. I mean, President Obama campaigned on it.

MS. NULAND: That's right. And this process of looking at the right size of our civilian presence has been going on for many months and this is the stage that we're at right now.

QUESTION: Quick clarification on this. You said that you want to cut down in the contractors. Many of these contractors provide protection and security and so on. And you say that you want to hire local. So would you rely on Iraqis to provide security for the U.S. Embassy? Is that what you're saying?

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to get into, in advance of Deputy Secretary Nides's review and his recommendations to the Secretary, what functions might be able to be done locally. But we're looking at the whole thing.In the back.

QUESTION: Hold on.

MS. NULAND: Is it still Iraq?

QUESTION: Thank you. It's different topic. It's about the Summit of the Americas.

MS. NULAND: Hold on one second. Let me just finish Iraq. I hope finish Iraq.

QUESTION: So, in the story that they're talking about the examples of hardship faced by people at the Embassy included dwindling lettuce at the salad bar, the cafeteria, and the lack of Splenda sweetener for their coffee. Does the State Department consider not enough arugula to be a hardship in Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Frankly, I saw that story, and it was -- looked like some, some wingeing that was inappropriate. Let's put it that way.

QUESTION: Inappropriate on the part of who? Embassy employees?

MS. NULAND: On the part of Embassy employees, with regard to the quality of the salad bar.

QUESTION: Does -- okay. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Thank you.

In addition, Laura Rozen (The Envoy) reports US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey is out of a post and that he may be replaced with Robert Ford who had been the US Ambassador to Syria ("on American and two Iraqi sources told Yahoo News that the Obama administration is considering tapping Ford as Washington's next envoy to Iraq"). This issue was also raised today at the State Dept press briefing.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Ambassador Jeffrey? The same article mentions that Ambassador Jeffrey is going to be stepping down in a couple of weeks. Has he communicated that intent to the Secretary?

MS. NULAND: Ambassador Jeffrey is on a regular diplomatic assignment. It was of a particular duration. Frankly, I don't have at my fingertips here when his assignment is completed. But obviously in the context of regular rotation of ambassadors, when his tour is completed or in the context of his tour being completed, the President will nominate a new ambassador for Iraq, who will have to have the consent of the Senate. So we're not at that stage yet. The President hasn't put forward a nominee yet, and I can't actually tell you what the end of tour date for Jim Jeffrey is. But this is normal and in keeping with the commitment that he made when he took the job.

And the political crisis continues in Iraq. Al-Manar reports that Iraqiya Ministers are attending Council of Ministers hearings again. That doesn't end the crisis. Iraqiya agreeing to attend Parliament sessions didn't end the crisis. Nouri started the political crisis by refusing to honor the Erbil Agreement which ended the political stalemate that lasted eight months following the March 2010 elections when Nouri didn't want to let go of the post of prime minister despite the fact that his State of Law came in second to Iraqiya. The US brokered a deal, the Erbil Agreement, which allowed Nouri to remain prime minister in exchange for other trade-offs that would benefit the other political blocs. Since this summer, Kurds have been calling for Nouri to honor the agreement. Nouri insists that its unconstitutional -- a claim he didn't make when he used the Erbil Agreement to stay on as prime minister.

Though Parliament attempted to be in session yesterday, there wasn't a quorum. Dar Addustour notes that Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman is stating that this was shameful and that he believes some of the MPs who were not present were deliberately attempting to keep the session from taking place.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been saying since December that the way to end the political crisis is to hold a national conference. Al Sabaah notes that participants are stating yesterday's planning session for the national conference -- only the second meeting -- went well and that they agreed to stand united against terrorism and militias, that the process outlined in the Constitution is how disputes should be resolved, that all elementsof Iraqi society must be represented in the political process and that the Iraqi judiciary is a separate and independent body. In a sign of just how much nonsense this whole thing is, Dar Addustour reports that it was again asserted yesterday that Nouri al-Maliki can be prime minister for a third term. For those who've forgotten, this was supposed to be Nouri's second and last term. And, in February of last year, as unrest rocked the region, Nouri declared he would not run for a third term. Since then -- and the distraction of his failed 100 days of 'reform,' his attorney has asserted that Nouri isn't bound by any promise and that no law prevents him from seeking a third term. Little Saddam is well on his way towards lifetime rule.

Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports that Sajida Saleh Hassan was assassinated in Baghdad today. She had been Director of Kazimiya Women's Prison. Her driver was injured in the attack. They also note a mortar attck in Baquba has left twelve people injured. Reuters adds, a Baghdad roadside bombing left two police officers injured, a second Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three more injured, a Baghdad attack on an amry officer's home killed his wife and 1 corpse (police officer) was discovered in Hilla.

We're now going to turn to veterans issues. And there are real veterans issues. There's health care, there's recovering the fallen and so much more. But there's veterans issues and then there's an attitude of entitlement. Grasp real damn quick that the public only cares for so long. About the time they're bored with the politicians using veterans to wrap themselves in the flag, they're bored with the whole damn issue. When that happens significant ground is lost.

And that's not key to this war, it's true of all wars. And politicians know that, especially White House occupants, which is why veterans of every US war or combat deployment have complained and/or protested their treatment by the government. (Click here for the example of President Herbert Hoover's relationship with veterans.) So how about this group of veterans be a smart group of veterans?

The best way to do that is to grasp that your moment in the spotlight is limited and brief outside the Fourth of July and Veterans Day and to realize that's the way it has always been and always will be. That predates the creation of the United States and goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. It is not a plot against you. It's the simple reality that you've bought into the empty praise politicians have given you. You are not gods because you served, you're not even heroes because you served. You may have done something heroic while you served and been decorated as a result (or not) but service alone doesn't make you a hero and that reality was grasped by past veterans. What you are is a veteran. As such, you are owed certain things that were promised to you. You're not going to get them all because, pay attention, no group of veterans in this country ever has. Which is why this group needs to be smart.

Paul Reickhoff can't shut up about a parade. Apparently having grown up singing along with every sixties musical Barbra Streisand ever made, Paul loves a parade. And he ridiculously showed up last week in a variety of outlets (here for Huffington Post) with a bad column whining that, after the Superbowl, the Giants or the Patriots would get a parade.

Let me take a moment here to cloud up and rain on Paul's parade: a sports competition produces a winner and a loser. The winners often get parades.

I'm sorry that Paul can't grasp the obvious, there was nothing won in Iraq. Thank goodness so many Americans made it out alive. But there was nothing won in that illegal war. If a parade were to have taken place, the best time would have been after the fall of Baghdad. Had Bush pulled all the troops out of Iraq then and returned them to the US, the spring of 2003 could have seen a parade.

But there's no win in Iraq. And you have to incredibly uninformed as to the rising violence and the political crisis and so much more to not grasp that Iraq can't be seen as a "win." There's no end zone dance for you to do, Paul Reickhoff. (68NamVet has the best reply to Paul.)

Now you can continue to insist upon a national parade and maybe even get one. (NPR's Talk of the Nation offers a bad program on the topic today -- not every veteran is calling for a parade and some are stating that it is not needed.) But don't think you're going to be applauded around the country for that. The country's in a huge recession and while Barack Obama may try to spend 8.3% official unemployment rate as 'good news,' it's anything but. And the American people are suffering and have been suffering and are about to suffer even more because basic groceries are going up which kicks the price of everything up (that's how the cycle of inflation works). And with people barely holding on the idea that the country needs to spend millions for a parade is not going to go over universally well.

It will go a long, long way towards putting most Americans in the attitude of, "What do they want now?" Even more so than in past wars because there wasn't a draft. As those of us who spoke up for war resisters repeatedly know, the attitude is out there: 'There was no draft, you signed up and you were paid for it.' (In fact, I believe that's what Paul Rieckhoff dismissively said about Lt Ehren Watada.) And now veterans are coming back and a small number are making public fools of themselves. There's Paul prepping for the tugboat scene in Funny Girl as he demands his parade. There's also Darcy Kempa who demonstrates that Richard Daley didn't teach style or substance to his underlings. Kempa writes at PolicyMic that Veterans are having a difficult time getting jobs today because of the "ignorance and arrogance among many Americans."

Notice how I used "some" to describe a tiny number of cry babies who've fallen to the floor and are now throwing tantrums whereas Darcy Kempa believes you describe most Americans as 'ignorant and arrogant' and that's the way to get what you want from them. No, you idiot, that's how you piss the general population. If that's how stupid you are, you have nothing to share in public. Every word out of your mouth hurts veterans because no one ever taught you how to speak persuasively and you think you can snarl and hiss like Richard Daley but seem unaware that nepotism explains Richard's rise, not his personality.

Having called "many" Americans ignorant and arrogant, Darcy Kempa (a man, by the way, maybe having a Jane Austen character's first name has left Darcy feeling he has to be overbearing to prove something), wants to further insult the American people: "There is also the arrogance, or overbearing self-importance, that some civilians hold against veterans."


Don't look for Darcy to start a charm school anytime soon and only an idiot at this point would want to take part in any action with Darcy because he is off-putting, he insults the American people and doesn't even have the good form to say it's just "some" or "a small number," he says "many."

When then-Senator Evan Bayh proposed a burn pit registry, we supported it -- check the archives. I still support. But what we noted about when Bayh was championing it was how long it took to get that for victims of Agent Orange. And we pointed out that right now is the best chance for a burn pit registry. That once the wars wind down, the limited attention they and those who served in them receive, dwindles. And it's a lot harder to fight for a registry afterwards. We noted then that health issues need to be covered -- beyond burn pit issues -- and that this needs to be addressed now.

There is no time to waste -- in the limited amount of time that veterans will receive from the public -- to be embracing a bunch of nonsense. Veterans groups need to be talking to their members and figuring out what the most important things are to membership and pressing for those now. Two years from now, people aren't going to care. They will have moved on with their lives and the attitude will be (as it with each group of veterans), "Are they ever going to stop begging?" Politicans count on that attitude. A number are relieved when that attitude sets in among the public. Because then they don't have to do a damn thing.

Paul Reikoff doesn't know a thing. The VFW actually has members who can talk about this at length (and some of them would favor a parade -- if they felt veterans needs and a parade could both take place, that would be their vote, I'm sure). But in three years, Paul's lonely little column's going to run in less outlets. And, at the rate we're going, we may have a new group of veterans in a new group of wars. And especially when that comes, forget about getting your needs met. Senator Richard Burr fights a lonely battle trying repeatedly every year to bring attention to long standing issues and the media really doesn't care. He continues to fight and good for him. But even when Republicans controlled the Senate (Burr is a Republican) his own colleagues couldn't get it together to support him. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has done heroic and amazing things during the last nine years. That's chiefly due to members like Burr and leadership at the start of that time from Senator Daniel Akaka and now Senator Patty Murray. But look at the Hire Heroes Act that Murray and the entire Veterans Affairs Committee championed and still it needed a push and a push there to get it through the Senate. And that's while the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War were semi on the public's mind.

This is your fifteen minutes of fame to put it most crudely. You need to be prepared to make the demands you want right now. So if that's academic pursuit, better benefits in terms of retirement (medical or otherwise), medical treatment, etc., this is the time to make them. If a national parade is the most important thing to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, then that's what they should be going for. But before they make that decision, someone needs to explain very clearly that Christmas won't come every year. The nation will be Santa Claus once and only once and then they'll move onto something else. And that's not out of "arrogance" or "hatred" or anything else. That is the human condition and it has been the human condition.

And once the public moves on to other issues, you'll quickly realize how rare a Patty Murray or Richard Burr in the Senate actually is. When there's no more strong applause for politicians using today's veterans to campaign off of, watch how quickly they instead rush to another topic that's currently getting media attention. (And, no, the answer isn't "Elect veterans!" Senator Jim Webb is the reason there is no burn pit registry. He felt it would cost the government to much money to assume responsibility for the illnesses. Just as he publicly attacked VA Secretary Eric Shinseki for expanding the number of people recognized as suffering from Agent Orange.)

Across the country, teachers are suffering, schools are being closed down. If you really think this is the climate to insist on a national parade, go for it. But make sure you realize that the next request veterans attempt to make as a unified group may be the one that Americans respond to with a sigh and, "Didn't we just give them a parade? What more do they want?"

and i know what this means
me and jesus a few years back
used to hang
and he said "it's your choice babe
just remember
i don't think you'll be back
in 3 days time so you choose well"
-- "Me and a Gun," written by Tori Amos, first appears on her Little Earthquakes

In the real world, there are real issues and real suffering. A father says, "All we're asking for is: Bring him home." A mother says, "Five years we have been waiting patiently. Patiently waiting for the Air Force and everyone over there to do their business. Find our son." Ronnie and Kaye Gilbert's son was killed in Iraq in 2006 when Maj Troy Gilbert flew overhead assistning US service members on the ground under fire ("credited with saving about 20 American commandos") and flew dangerously low so that not only was he protecting the US service members but to avoid injuring nearby Iraqi civilians. He died in the plane crash and Jim Douglas (WFAA -- link is text and video) reports on how they buried a small, tiny amount of tissue that was in the plane after the enemies carted off Troy Gilbert's body -- a body that they used a year later in a video. The US government has taken the attitude that there's no body to find. They say the tissue allows them to classify Troy Gilbert as "body accounted for." And his parents have to plead with the US Defense Dept later this month to change the classification.

Just last month, in the State of the Union address, Barack declared, "Those of us who've been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn't matter if you're black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you're marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you're in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind." See, politicians love to say words like that. It's their way of absorbing some of the glory of others. But even while Barack was saying it, the Defense Dept was fine with leaving Troy Gilbert's body behind. Don't ever be tricked by the pretty words of politicians. Most care about you only if caring about you at that moment helps them get re-elected.

The Gilbert family's suffering is real and the government needs to address it. Rosie and LeRoy Torres are up to their necks in reality. Patricia Kime (Marine Corp News) reports:

Army Reserve wife Rosie Torres, 38, stood in line Jan. 19 at a Texas Health and Human Services office to apply for assistance with her mortgage, bills and groceries.
Mounting debt related to her husband's medical bills has pushed the couple into arrears; between insurance deductibles, house payments and overages, they owe more than $55,000.
LeRoy Torres, 39, a Reserve captain and former Texas state trooper, was assigned to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, in 2008 and believes exposure to the camp's open-air burn pits left him with debilitating respiratory problems. He can't walk long distances, perform daily tasks or even roughhouse with his kids.
But although he can't work full time, between his drill pay and Rosie's part-time pay, they make too much to qualify for a grant.

Rosie Torres is with BurnPits 360 which addresses the issues of exposure to burn pits and, next week, the first ever Burn Pit Symposium takes place:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deplyoment to Iraq & Afghanistan
February 13, 2012

sponsored by

Office of Continuing Medical Education
School of Medicine
Stony Brook University


Health Sciences Center, Level 3, Lecture Hall 5

Anthony M. Szema, M.D., Program Chair
Stony Brook
Medical Center

This program is made possible by support from the
Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.


* Register with your credit card online at:

* Download the registration form from: and
fax form to (631) 638-1211

For Information Email:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on

Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan
Monday, February 13, 2012
Health Sciences Center
Level 3, Lecture Hall 5

Program Objective: Upon completion, participants should be able to recognize new-onset of lung disease after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast (Honored Guest, Congressman

Tim Bishop

9:00 - 9:30 Peter Sullivan, J.D., Father of Marine from The Sergeant Thomas Joseph

Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.

9:40 - 10:10 Overview of Exposures in Iraq, Anthony Szema, M.D., (Assistant

Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Stony Brook University)

10:10 - 10:40 Constrictive Bronchiolitis among Soldiers after Deployment, Matt

King, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Meharry Medical College,
Nashville, TN)

10:40 - 11:10 BREAK

11:10 - 11:40 Denver Working Group Recommendations and Spirometry Study in

Iraq/Afghanistan, Richard Meehan, M.D., (Chief of Rheumatology and
Professor of Medicine, National Jewish Health, Denver, CO)

11:40 a.m. - Microbiological Analyses of Dust from Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Mark

12:10 p.m. Lyles, D.M.D., Ph. D., (Vice Admiral Joel T. Boone Endowed Chair of

Health and Security Studies, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI)

12:10 - 12:20 Health Care Resource Utilization among Deployed Veterans at the White

River Junction VA, James Geiling, M.D., (Professor and Chief of Medicine,
Dartmouth Medical School, VA White River Junction, VT)


Graduate students Millicent Schmidt and Andrea Harrington (Stony Brook
University) present Posters from Lung Studies Analyzed for Spatial
Resolution of Metals at Brookhaven National Laboratory's National
Synchrotron Light Source

1:20 - 1:40 Epidemiologic Survey Instrument on Exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan,

Joseph Abraham, Sc.D., Ph.D., (U.S. Army Public Health Command,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)

1:40 - 2:10 Overview of the Issue Raised during Roundtable on Pulmonary Issues

and Deployment, Coleen Baird, M.D., M.P.H., (Program Manager
Environmental Medicine, U.S. Army Public Health Command)

2:10 - 2: 40 Reactive Oxygen Species from Iraqi Dust, Martin Schoonen, Ph.D.

(Director Sustainability Studies and Professor of Geochemistry, Stony
Brook University)

2:40 - 2:50 BREAK

2:50 - 3:15 Dust Wind Tunnel Studies, Terrence Sobecki, Ph.D. (Chief Environmental

Studies Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Laboratory, Manchester, NH)

3:15 - 3:45 Toxicologically Relevant Characteristics of Desert Dust and Other

Atmospheric Particulate Matter, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ph.D. (Research
Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

3:44 - 4:15 In-situ Mineralogy of the Lung and Lymph Nodes, Gregory Meeker, M.S.

(Research Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

Continuing Medical Education Credits

The school of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brooke designates this live activity for a maximum of 6 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Turning to the political race for president. It is primary season and Ian Wilder (On The Wilder Side) reports on an important primary in Ohio last Saturday, the Green Party's primary.Ian notes there were four candidates in that race, Roseanne Barr, Kent Mesplay, Harley Mikkelson and Jill Stein and that "Stein scored a very big win [. . .] winning 90% of the vote in a four-way race in presidential balloting." Of those online in this community, Jess and Ann are both Greens. And they discussed the Green Party and the race, along with Trina who supported Stein's recent campaign for governor and Ruth who's supporting Roseanne's run, in Sunday's roundtable. We do try to note third party and independent candidates here because I don't believe less choices is the answer ever. We need a vibrant democracy and you won't get that from two-party rule. But thinking back to 2008, I remember how difficult it was to note independents and third party because sometimes they had nothing and that meant you were accused of ignoring them and blah blah blah. So it's good to know that we have someone we can ignore. As with many important realizations and discoveries in 2011, this one comes via John V. Walsh ( I wasn't taken in by the Rocky Anderson fad when Bush was in office. Walsh documents a War Hawk Rocky Anderson. Anderson praises Samantha Power. That alone is enough to make him dead to this community. Samantha Power is a War Hawk. She uses human rights to justify her war lust. She has no respect for other countries or their sovereignty. And she's Rocky Anderson's ideal. As Walsh establishes through a series of e-mails, there is nothing antiwar about Rocky Anderson.

in these times
rebecca burns
the st. louis post-dispatch
doug moore
aswat al-iraq
al mada
dar addustour
al rafidayn
al sabaah
jim douglas
burn pits
marine corps news
patricia kime
john v. walsh
rock center with brian williams
nbc news
ted koppel